Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Jung's Red Book and Blue Diamond


Get ready for a new front to open in the Jung Wars. The imminent publication of Jung's Red Book - kept locked in a Swiss bank vault for nearly half a century - will ignite both the admirers and the detractors of the great explorer of the unconscious. In this large, leather-bound volume, begun in 1914, Jung recorded his conversations with Philemon (a daimon who appeared with bull horns and a kingfisher's wings) and his wild adventures in a teeming multiverse of gods and spirits. In his late confessional work Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung said that it was Philemon "who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche...At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a real personality. I went walking up and down the garden with him." Through the Red Book, we can enter more deeply into raw experiences of this kind, which its translator suggests are the "nuclear reactor" that powered his later life's work.
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Some will seize on Jung's dialogues and sermons, embellished with stunning drawings and paintings, as evidence of a giddy descent into madness, or the delusions of a wannabe neo-pagan messiah. Others will handle the Red Book like the codex of a long-lost holy scripture. The translator of the Red Book promises (as reported in the New York Times Magazine) that its publication will "wipe out all the biographies [of Jung], just for starters."
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A facsimile edition of the Red Book is being published by Norton and the book itself will be on display at the Rubin Museum of Art in lower Manhattan for several months from October 7th. I'm looking forward to examining both, and to learning more about the shamanic depth of experience that fed Jung's work, and his perilous walk along the razor's edge between madness and high creativity.
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In the meantime, I'm been rereading Jung's collected Letters. He gets better as he gets older and more and more conscious of his mortality, many years after he compiled the Red Book. He rips into patients who insist on maintaining dependency on him or any analyst, and threatens to break with those who won't make a real effort to develop and integrate their dream imagery through active imagination.

There's a poignant moment, a month after he nearly died after a heart embolism late in 1946, when he is writing in bed, in pencil, to an English Dominican priest (Victor White) of a dream that gives him hope - a bluish diamond in the sky that is replicated in a quiet round pool. I love the quiet simplicity of that image, free of the stormy complexities of the earlier "confrontation with the unconscious" that he described for the world in Memories, Dreams, Reflections and for himself in the Red Book. The blue glow of a diamond in the sky, replicated in an inviting pool. Picturing this, I find a lovely space opening for imaginal healing, the kind of space many of us could enter and use.

15 comments:

Worldbridger said...

I find it hilarious that the various scholars, students, critics and devotees of Jung for the most part fail to see that they are reacting not to Jung, but to an archetype that he represents.

So the scientists, who have him pegged as the archetype of the wise, sober scientist will hate to see the mad shaman emerge.

Those who love the crazy wisdom in Jung will embrace the book.

How many will see themselves in the dialogue?

For me Jung is the consummate artist, and I applaud his willingness to venture into the woods, and to record for us where his journeys took him.

A bit like you Robert.

Savannah said...

I very much enjoyed reading this discussion Robert, thank you! The razor's edge between delusion and high creativity... Hm... that's usually where things get interesting, on the bridge between the worlds on either side of that inevitable controversy. I'll keep an expectant eye out for the Red Book...

Robert Moss said...

Worldbridger - I certainly admire the Jung who was willing to thread those dark woods, and bring back gifts; and was also the lifelong quester, experimenter and wordsmith who never remained content for long with any of the models of reality he made. So the real Jung will elude those who make of him a target or a liturgy.

Savannah - Always grand to hear your voice!

diane said...

Robert,
I'll keep my eyes open for all of this and will savor a good read.

Your beautiful description of the diamond imagery reminded me of the diamond I discovered last week when we journeyed into our "advisor stones". I became small, so very tiny, but had to become even more minute to enter through a cave-like archway within which the diamond glowed. Later when I used crayons to depict it, I found myself choosing the colors blue and green, although not distinctly recalled from the journey. A lovely diamond - mostly blue - emerged on the page and seemed to emanate a soothing quality. I wouldn't be surprised had I lingered longer in that hidden cave within the stone, I might have discovered a pool of water - a water mirror - and thus a double diamond. I'm looking forward to playing with this imagery! Thank you

Leanne said...

Hi Robert, I chanced upon this information about the Red Book only the other day and for some reason thought of you so find it interesting that you have posted this (perhaps only in my mind). It will be wonderful to glimpse into those sacred parts of this amazing man that have been held back for so long. I have long been fascinated with his journey and having recently dreamt of him have found that connection even stronger of late. Leanne.

Robert Moss said...

Diane - Sounds like you have found a portal and a plan for some wonderful further imaginal journeys.

Leanne - I would love to hear your dream of Jung. Many dreamers have encountered some version of Jung - the man or the archetype or an aspect of themselves that has something in common with him or aspires to be like him - over the decades. I had a series of dreams of Jung 22 years ago, when I was engaged in a rather stormy passage in my own "confrontation with the unconscious". In the first dream in the sequence, he was busy laying stones, perhaps for a wall, in a hilly landscape where vines were growing. He did not seem overly pleased to receive a visitor! In a later dream in the sequence, in a similar landscape but a much earlier time, I met ancient Europeasn shamans who were eager to get some information from me - then discussed the phenomenon of the ancestors consulting the living with Jung (who reported similar experiences in his own books and journals).

Sylvie said...

Great! It's wonderfull to have the Red Book edited!
I feel very happy for the world seems ready to receive this gift! How many time will it be exposed in New york? Lucky are you!
I remember a dream I had when I was younger: I was in a room with a coffin right in the center.
suddenly,I saw Jung emerging his head from his coffin and was laughing,laughing... And then he gave me a little wooden doll (like these ethnic african dolls representing the dead person ) the inside was hollow and filled with a special oil. And there was the word "cinnabar"(I didn't understand the signification)
When I think of jung, it is like being with a loving grand-father...I feel joy inside my heart...
Thank you for this post.Sylvie

Robert Moss said...

Sylvie - I love your dream of Jung popping out of the coffin, laughing. The African figurines are very interesting in the context of Jung's visit to East Africa, where he entered a landscape and native rituals he was certain he "knew" from thousands of years before. Lauren van der Post has some interesting thoughts on this in his short personal biography of Jung. "Cinnabar" sets me thinking about the I Ching - which Jung studied deeply - and Taoist accounts of astral travel where (as I recall) "cinnabar" is the color or essence of levels where it is possible to meet immortals and bring back higher knowledge.

Worldbridger said...

Here's some information about cinnabar as the Chinese see it.

The mineral cinnabar, or mercuric sulfide, is formed when mercury and sulfur combine. In alchemical traditions the world over, these two substances are considered indispensable, regarded as the ultimate expression of yin and yang, the masculine and feminine principles. Cinnabar represents the transformational process or alchemical marriage, the connunctio, the recombining of the masculine and feminine to create new life.

Savannah said...

Sylvie ~ To add to Robert's comment, cinnabar - other than a being used as a mineral pigment - is also applied in traditional Chinese medicine (to treat insomnia amongst other things...). It's also sufficiently toxic my practitioner friend swats me off if I attempt to come within five feet of her samples... seems like the perfect symbol of that fine line between medicine and poison, creative healing and madness. I suppose it reminded me because the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water in Five Element acupuncture are often correlated with Jungian archetypes.

Robert Moss said...

Savannah and Worldbriger - I like these two takes on cinnabar, which would both have appealed to the author of "Mysterium Coniunctionis." While I'm tempted to pull down that book from the Jung shedlves in my library, and also my little collection on Taoist "crane-riding" (shamanic journeying) to "cinnabar heavens" I'll have to resist since other assignments call.

Leanne said...

Dear Robert,
My recent dream of Jung came while I was reading a book on his trip to East Africa. It was a dream with no visuals, an experiential dream which communicated in feeling but not in pictures. Jung explained to (or gave) me the sum total of all his knowledge. It was 2 lines that meet. I drew it as the letter L. I awoke refreshed and feeling revitalised as if something incredibly amazing had been given to me. A knowing is the closest I can come to trying to explain an experience that felt really inexplicable.
I had an interesting moment while doing my earlier post, I remembered reading a comment on Jung that he has altered some of his theories since he has passed and I was going to include that but I couldn't remember if you had said it or Seth had (so I left it out). Now I will put it out there, if it wasn't in one your books it was Seth.....
But still such food for thought...
Leanne.

Robert Moss said...

Leanne - Your dream impression of the L-shaped mind (I'm playing with the image of convergence of two planes) is intriguing. I feel quite sure that Jung has continued his work and expanded his understanding of the unus mundus in the larger reality he now inhabits, and that his intelligence becomes accessible, from time to time, to those who give their best to studying and growing the Self.

Sylvie said...

worldbridger and Savannah and Robert, thank you,thank you for sharing...it 's very interesting to receive new insights..
Today I felt: why not search in google with the words:
"jung, doll, africa" ? I was very surprised to learn that Jung,when he was a precocious and lonely boy ," his only friend was a black doll sculpted hiden in the attic (his great secret) symbolic double which "gives him the satisfaction to possess something than nobody coudn't reach and know...thanks to it , he wrote, I felt confident et the disturbing feeling of division inside me disappeared."
I can connect the symbolic meaning of the cinnabar as this feeling of beeing connected, reunified.Now I understand this dream as a message of profound healing for I also felt a great deal of solitude during my childhood and early life,and Jung with the dreams path was the lighthouse to the reconciliation with my life.

lael said...

I dreamed of Jung few years back while in the midst of reading Deirdre Bair's biography of him aloud to a friend who'd suffered a stroke. He sat astride a horse in the middle distance holding before him a sign that read "Guide." This was a none-too-subtle dream visitation from a thinker and writer about whom I've long felt an illogical ambivalence verging on aversion. Despite the overlaps in our interests and the profound, positive impact he's had upon me and my world, I've avoided reading his books. I hope I let go of my resistance to Jung and receive the guidance he offers me whether from his writings or, as I would prefer it, from future dream interactions. The Red Book, less filtered as it is by his conscious mind, seems like a perfect possible starting point for this.

It's interesting to me that I welcome wholeheartedly and joyously my other two dream gurus: Bob Dylan and Harpo Marx. I have the idea to honor and welcome more wisdom and guidance from all three by posting photos of them near my sleep space.

Thank you for your books, Robert. I forgot to mention you as a third guru who just recently visited in my dreams only to leave my apartment due to messiness. I've picked it up in the interim and am ordering other aspects of my life more as well. I hope to study with you in a waking state sometime soon. Many thanks.