I'm really enjoying this new book from my colleague at Fielding Graduate University. In the past, I've thumbed through the pages of Jung's Red Book and been both puzzled and amused by the tangled and oddly beautiful work that I found. Although I've dabbled a bit in Jung's work over the years, I don't think I understood much about the Red Book, from my perspectives as a clinical and cognitive-perceptual-developmental-neuro-scientist (puzzled), or as an integrative psychologist (amused).
Drob's book provides a schema for understanding and interpreting the Red Book, or at least the written part of the book. And while this schema links the Red Book to other works of Jung, Drob has shown that The Red Book may have considerable relevance for contemporary psychology. The book, according to the author, is psychology's "compensatory dream," ripe with important messages for contemporary psychologists. Our current field, with its focus not just on science but scientism, often ignores and even dismisses its philosophical, literary, spiritual origin. (Note: For other compelling challenges scientism, see the recent work of John Smythies, another author I recommend highly. See, e.g., Smythies' short essay The Fight For Truth.)
After reading the preface and introduction, I skipped to the last chapter, titled "The Red Book and Contemporary Psychology," and found gold. Now I'm gradually going through the Red Book again, with Drob's insightful Interpretive Guide in hand.
Here are a few essential quotes from the last chapter, which have helped motivate me to take a deeper look at Jung's Red Book, and Drob's Interpretive Guide:
"...Jung often spoke of dreams as compensating for a one-sided conscious standpoint... What conscious attitude on the part of psychology does The Red Book challenge or serve as a compensation for? To answer this question, we need to think in rather broad historical manner about the developments in psychology since Jung's death in 1961. In the past 50 years psychology has become increasingly scientized, far more so than in Jung's own time, and the practice of both psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment has become increasingly medicalized ... What Jung, in the Red Book, refered to as the "spirit of this time" (the scientific, hyper-rational mode of thinking) is, within the discipline of psychology, gaining a stranglehold on the academy and profession."
"The Red Book's compensatory message, however, is that while the pursuit of rational, scientific psychology is important and justified, it risks leaving out other of psyche's voices that must be heard. This point, made discursively in Psychological Types, is made narratively, artistically, and experientially in The Red Book. Jung's idea is that our quest to attain a full perspective on the psyche or soul must be initiatedd from positions that are not only rational and scientific, but also experiential, intuitive, and imaginative, and, in short, inclusive of the whole man. A psychologist, one might be inclined to say, must not only pursue psychological knowledge, but must also be open to the lived experience, imaginative possibilities, and artistic and spiritual pursuits that complement and give live to that knowledge. This not only means that psychology should reopen its boundaries to other disciplines, including those that are artistic and literary, but that it should also consider the possibility that things of great significance can be better or only expressed in modalities such as music, art, and literature that are neither scientific nor rational in the narrow sense of the term. Jung's use of mandalas and other paintings as a vehicle for achieving and expressing "wholeness" is a case in point."
"Indeed, Liber Novas might be a virtual nightmare for the new and growing field of "positive psychology."
"The Red Book, like some prehistoric insect preserved in amber, has the power to strike us as virtually "new," and perhaps for this reason, shake us from our routinized ways of thinking and living."
Fielding Graduate University, UC-San Diego, and Center for Integrative Psychology