Reading The Red Book (3)

Morris Graves, “The Chalice”

In the chapter Soul and God Jung continues to dialogue with his soul. He regrets that it has taken him so long to find her. Looking back on his life’s events, he sees the soul behind all of them. He writes:

“I found you where I least expected you. You climbed out of a dark shaft.”

The soul possesses a deus-ex-machina quality: it appears seemingly out of nowhere and changes everything. It resides in the underworld, like Hades who emerged out of the depths to kidnap Persephone. The soul sows and reaps where the ego does not reach:

“Where I sowed, you robbed me of the harvest, and where I did not sow, you give me fruit a hundredfold. And time and again I lost the path and found it again where I would never have foreseen it.”

The soul dwells in the blind spot of the ego. Jung compares his soul to a child and to a maiden, because his conscious ego is masculine and mature. He also seems to suggest that the soul is God, which is a parallel with the Hindu concept of Atman:

“If you are boys, your God is a woman.

If you are women, your God is a boy.

If you are men, your God is a maiden.

The God is where you are not.”

The notion that the soul always compensates for the one-sidedness of the egoic approach is one of the fundamentals of Jungian psychology. Jung believed that the unconscious of the woman had a masculine imprint (the animus) while the unconscious of the men was feminine (the anima). What makes us complete is what we oppose or what we are unaware of. In the unconscious dwell the unlived parts of our psyche, which long to be liberated; though the ego resists it:

“It appears as though you want to flee from yourself so as not to have to live what remains unlived until now.”

One of the most important passages of that chapter deals with dreams, which are defined as the “guiding words of the soul.” Jung is looking for the right words in order to express the soul’s message symbolically:

“Oh, that you must speak through me, that my speech and I are your symbol and expression! How should I decipher you?”

The language of dreams is hard to decipher but according to Jung it is dreams which “pave the way for life.”

The final crucial aspect of the chapter is the juxtaposition between the knowledge of the heart and scholarly knowledge. As Jung says:

“The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth.”

Then he repeats the message from the previous chapter about the necessity of living life to the full; here understood as expressing all the aspects of one’s Self unreservedly:

“But how can I attain the knowledge of the heart? You can attain this knowledge only by living your life to the full. You live your life fully if you also live what you have never yet lived, but have left for others to live or to think.”

Finally, Jung declares his total surrender to the dictates of the soul:

“I am as I am in this visible world a symbol of my soul, and I am thoroughly a serf, completely subjugated, utterly obedient.”

The next chapter will expand on the idea of the service of the soul.

In his guide to reading The Red Book, Sanford L. Grob wrote:

“… Jung wavered between two conceptions of knowledge, a Platonic/Gnostic conception, in which one can achieve certainty or gnosis through an intuition of essences (e.g. the archetypes), and a dialectical or constructivist one, in which all so-called truths must be complemented by their opposites and in which so-called ‘knowledge’ is always colored by the ‘personal equation’ (or psychology) of the knower.”

On the one hand, if one stands firmly on the grounds of gnosis and proclaims himself or herself the bringer of Truth, it may result in fundamentalism. As Sanford reminds us, Jung described Hitler as a dangerous servant of the whispers of the unconscious. On the other hand, the exaggerated relativism breeds cynicism or nihilism. As Jung would say, one-sidedness usually leads to distortions; one should rather withstand the tension of the opposites. The notion of coincidentia oppositorum, the coincidence of opposites played a crucial role, in Jung’s later thought, whose seeds were sown while creating The Red Book.

bookred..liber1f_small

The image opening the chapter just discussed is a striking one: white dove above, black snake below. The letter S stands for die Seele – the Soul. The image carries within the yin and yang dynamic and the tension between the opposite parts of the soul: the celestial (from the heavens) and the chthonic (from the underworld).

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

Reading The Red Book – part 12

Reading The Red Book – part 13

This entry was posted in The Red Book by C.G. Jung and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reading The Red Book (3)

  1. lampmagician says:

    Thank you No 3 😉 ❤

  2. I would love to read The Red Book in its entirety. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s