Saturday, December 05, 2009
Jung's Red Book
Weighing in at $195, this is probably a Christmas present or a reservation at the library but, fifty years after it was completed, Carl Jung's Red Book, or Liber Novus, has been published. I came across a reference to this a few months ago, oddly enough and now here it is: the world is full of coincidences.
Jung delayed publication of this work because it is so highly personal, and so highly charged. The fear, as Kathryn Harrison describes it in her NY Times review, was that 'anyone who read it might conclude what Jung himself first suspected: that the great doctor had lost his mind.'
What is presents is a series of pictorial representations of the waking dreams which beset him in 1913 and which convinced him he was 'menaced with a psychosis'. I find the idea of this fascinating: Jung seems literally to have suffered the sort of spiritual breakdown which fuelled the Modernist movement. He saw these visions as prophesies, a link between his own unconscious and world affairs. Isn't it easy to look at The Waste Land, for example, and see it as much the same thing?
There appears to be a strong element of gnostic thought in Jung's beliefs (as there is in Modernism in general). Of individuation, for example, Harrison explains: '“Individuation” is the word Jung used for the integration of conscious and unconscious required for a person to reach psychological wholeness, an evolved state of being he did not consider within the reach of every person.' This chimes directly with the gnostic interpretation of the spark of knowledge which resides in each of us, but which only a very few of us are capable of uncovering.
Anyway, it looks like a fascinating book.