I Fell in Love with The Red Book by Carl Jung
I just received The Red Book by Carl Jung and it might be the most amazing book I have ever held in my hands. The book is entirely made by Carl Jung himself. Each page is handwritten in calligraphy with illuminated letters, accompanied by colorful illustrations. I had seen some of his sketches before, but here the artwork is so beautiful, meticulous, vibrant, organized, intricate, profound, deep in meaning and symbology.
I am so struck that, in some ways, I see myself in his art. Visually I feel that he is the closest ‘brother artist’ I could have.
Carl Jung took years to compose The Red Book in which he relates his visions, dreams, imaginations and experiments with his unconscious. Carl Jung is clearly a master figure of western psychology and culture. What shocks me a bit is that so many of the topics he explored and studied are still so taboo today.
Our mainstream rational culture still pays little attention (even often discounts) the validity of most subjective experiences like the ones he explored.
I wonder if one of the reasons why The Red Book was not published earlier is connected to this observation. If the retelling of his esoteric experiences were to be published too soon, would this have discredited all his other scholarly contributions to the budding field of psychology?
Carl Jung himself was concerned about this. Cary Fink who worked for him (transcribing Liber Novus in 1924-25) mentions in a letter to him, “Jung was concerned that he would be seen as a lunatic and lose his credibility ‘not only as a scientist but as a human being’ if the book was to be published.”.
The Red Book is considered his most important work and Carl Jung said in 1957, not long before he died:
“The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.”
The Red Book finally came out of a family private collection and was published in 2009. This true master with a scientific mind ventured beyond the parameters of his academic field, a true artist of life in the deepest sense of the word.
In one of his experiments talking to ‘a voice’ in his mind he recounted:
I said to myself ‘what is this I am doing. It certainly is not science, what is it? Then a voice said to me ‘That is art’
Jung refused to consider the paintings of The Red Book as ‘art’. To him it was a process he calls symbol-creating which was most important to him to decipher the irrational nature of the unconscious. When I lead workshops for individuals or in organizations I am always fascinated by this symbol-creating process. A lot of the magic happens during conversations that I facilitate once the artworks are done. It is incredible to hear what is revealed from each drawing or painting. In these conversations each person has insights that come up which are a ground for very deep learning and growing. I have this experience with my own symbol-creating works. Often a painting will continue to teach me different lessons and provide new insight, many years after it was created.
I invite you to join one of my future workshop online or in situ. Sign up for my newsletter (which I only send twice a year) to receive the announcement of next events. I look forward to our symbol-creating time together!