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Primary matters from the jungle of the unconscious
, 14 Dec. 2009
This review is from: The Red Book: Liber Novus (Philemon) (Hardcover)
Primary matters from the jungle of the unconscious
It all began on 12 December 1913, in C.G. Jung's Study in his imposing house on Seestrasse in Küsnacht, Switzerland. His psychological-scientific experiment of his confronting the unconscious took Jung into its spell. Retrospectively, in his biographical notes Memories, Dreams and Reflections (1961) he said that, it was an experiment which was done with me. Here we find the root of his psychotherapeutic motto: `We live and we are being lived.' The main thing is: never against the unconscious. In this time of Advent, the medical doctor, psychiatrist and son of a reverent (1875-1961) sat down at his desk and, as he said: let myself fall. The result we are now able to read and see in these intimate and private notes. We participate in Carl Gustav Jung's investigations of the processes of the collective unconscious.
Here we deal with an extensive and playful phenomenology, beyond the then established academic psychology. Jung's own psychology, as it was emerging, concerns itself with inner processes in the form of dreams, imaginations, visions and second sights -- experiences that can be made in the rich field of human experience. For him, these inner experiences were the source of the soul's individuation process. I did not realise that my soul cannot be the object of my judgement and knowledge; but instead, my judgement and knowledge are the objects of my soul. As a medical doctor and skilled healer of the soul, Jung made himself into both master and servant of the soul and its transformation in his Self. The pictures and imaginations which he drew and wrote down in the Red Book, often in a language akin to Augustine and Nietzsche, he later defined, after he had encountered the alchemists in 1928 and the Secret of Chinas Golden Flower, as the "Collective Unconscious" and its Archetypes. From now on, every evening the by then 38 year old family man and father wrote down and drew his imaginary dialogues, dream explorations, pictures and thoughts in a total of six in black leather-bound notebooks. The "Red Book", now published, is a folio book bound in red leather, and includes, as Aniela Jaffé, co-editor of Jung's biography remarked, the same fantasies in refined form and language and in calligraphic gothic script, in the fashion of middle age handwritings.
The Red Book is divided into two parts. Liber Primus with 11 chapters and Liber Secundus with 21 chapters. Liber Primus begins with the way of that which is to come and makes its first stop in the rediscovery of the soul. Then follows Soul and God, thoughts on the service of the soul, the desert and experience in the soul, as well as one's own descent through hell towards the future. It continues with the splitting of the spirit, the murder of the hero, and God's conception. The mystery -- of Meeting, Teachings, and Solution-- ends this first part. Liber Secundus opens with the pictures of those mislead. The Red One makes his appearance and leads to the castle in the forest. One of the Lower Ones follows, the Anachoret shows himself in all his splendour. Death leads this journey across the ruins of ancient temples. First Day. Second Day. The incantations lead to the opening of the Egg. Hell is visited and sacrificial murder is being told. The holy foolishness is followed by Nox secunda to Nox quarta. The last chapters on the three prophecies, the gift of magic, the way of the cross and of the magicians, make the chalice of primal matters of Jung's life work to spill over. The trials conclude with his afterword from the autumn 1959.
I have worked on this book for 16 years. Encountering Alchemy in 1930 took me away from it. ... Then the content of this book found its way into reality. I could no longer work on it.. The Red Book with its 180 pages of facsimile is a pleasure, although one does have to get used to the writing. Jung's drawings are beautiful. His dreams are the leading waves of his soul. Here is a taste: The spirit of the depth has submitted all pride and haughtiness to judgement. HE took all the faith in science away from me, robbed me of the joy of explanations and classifications, and extinguished my commitment to the ideals of this time. HE forced me down to the last and simple things. The desert and monasteries inside us. One thing I have learnt is that we have to live this life. This life is the way, the long- searched for journey towards the ungraspable, which we call Godly. There is no other way. All others are erroneous paths. The experiment of active imagination with and within oneself is a risky technique to trace inner events to their very basis. The question arises: Should such an unfinished, intimate and private book be published at all? C.G. Jung rightly hesitated, as he as a right of protection of his "interio intimo meo". His only son Franz (1908-1997) respected his father's will from 1958, in which he expressed his wish that the Red Book should remain within his family. The famously rich distillations can be found in Jung's many books after 1928, which this great scientist of his own soul has written for us all. His earlier short textual publications of excerpts from the Red Book, like in his autobiography, where OK with him. Unfortunately, his grandchildren have decided to give in to the relentless urgings of a historian of psychology, S. Shamdasani, London, that the Red Book should be allowed to be published. In his introduction, he who has in his previous slim publications expressed his loathing of renowned C.G. Jung scholars, with his invective poisoned pen, uses a self-referential dogmatic tone. This is not the watershed publication he wants readers and the informed public to believe. It is not a new beginning, for that has happened 80 years ago.
There is no need to rewrite the history of psychotherapy or even Jung's biography. There is no need for an either/or, for or against. The publication of the Red Books is an 'and'...for many dedicated Jungians a welcome, even if so not necessary, addition to their collection. Many well known C.G. Jung scholars and biographers, like James Hillman, Deirdre Bair and Andrew Samuels, for whom the life and work of Jung is very dear and important, reach insights and conclusions very different from those of the editor. As far as I am concerned, it would have been much more inspiring as well as true to soul-making, if Jung's grandchildren had allowed their Grandfather his voice. In his chapter Confrontation with the Unconscious, in his autobiography, he had already written down the best of all introductions to his Red Book. Sometimes it is more valuable to listen to a grandfather who knows his ways about in the depths of the soul, instead of falling for a pompous historian who is only interested in his own fame, and this unnecessary publication. In fact, C.G. Jung finds a dogma ... a confession which is out of the question, which is only set up where one wants to suppress doubts once and for all. That has nothing to do with scientific judgement, but merely with a personal drive for power. The private sphere of the late C.G. Jung fascinates enormously. Nevertheless we do not need to know everything and all. What we need above all is our own depth psychological treasures of experience.
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