Reading The Red Book (6)

Salvador Dali, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus”

The second part of Chapter IV of The Red Book is entitled Experiences in the Desert. Jung continues the intimate dialogue with his soul. He says he wants to be near her and to be alone with her. He expresses his longing and hope that the soul will heal his “doubt, confusion and scorn” by offering him comforting shade. But the soul scolds him: “You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother. I am not your mother.” She tells him one more time to be patient and not pleasure-seeking because things will not fall ripe into his lap, as he expects. In order to reach the truth he needs to empty himself of intentions and desires. The truths of the soul can be hard and bitter. Jung reflects:

“How little we still commit ourselves to living. We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law. We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life. We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light. How can we presume to want to know in advance, from where the light will come to us?”

Jungian psychology has been criticized for the lack of a clear method, but this is exactly what can be regarded as its strength. The agenda of the therapist’s ego, wielding his or her infallible methods, is so much smaller than the reality of the soul. Enlightenment will not come to those who seek it, we are reminded by Sanford L. Drob in his interpretative guide to The Red Book. He adds a comment:

“…the individuated or self-realized individual is one who thinks, feels, and acts from a center in his psyche that is guided by, but does not originate with the conscious ego. If we become too caught up in our plans and intentions, we will be blind to the experiences and opportunities that come from the “other,” i.e. from the outer world, and, especially, from the unconscious.”

It seems as if the soul is instructing Jung like a Zen master would to empty his mind and be open to possibilities. But he cannot quite accomplish it, and he confesses to still being full of scorn towards himself, to which the soul replies with a question:

“Do you still not know that you are not writing a book to feed your vanity, but that you are speaking with me?”

Addressing the issue of Jung’s declared self-hatred, the soul speaks in paradox: “Scorn cannot challenge you if you are not vain to the marrow of your bones.” This sharp retort foreshadows the Jungian theory of narcissism. Nathan Schwarz-Salant is an author of the book called Narcissism and Character Transformation : The Psychology of Narcissistic Character, which offers a detailed analysis of this disorder viewed from the Jungian perspective. There he quotes from Jung’s little known Nietzsche Seminars:

“If you fulfill the pattern that is peculiar to yourself you have loved yourself, you have accumulated, you have abundance; you bestow virtue then because you have lustre, you radiate, from your abundance something overflows. But if you hate yourself, if you have not accepted your pattern, then there are hungry animals, prowling cats and other beasts in your constitution which get at your neighbors like flies in order to satisfy the appetites which you have failed to satisfy. Therefore, Nietzsche says to those people who have not fulfilled their individual pattern that the bestowing soul is lacking. There is no radiation, no real warmth: there is hunger and secret stealing. … You see that degenerating sense which says ‘all for myself’ is unfulfilled destiny, that is somebody who did not live himself, who did not give himself what he needed, who did not toil for the fulfillment of that pattern which had been given him when he was born.”

According to Jung, self-hate is a result of rejecting the Self – not opening oneself to the greater order and reality of the unconscious, where the unfulfilled potential lies. By speaking to his soul Jung realizes that vast territories of his psychic life have been lying dormant, their destiny unfulfilled.

The final considerations of the chapter have to do with cleverness, which is the domain of the spirit of the time versus wisdom, which characterizes the spirit of the depths and has the quality of simplemindedness. The following lines are quite striking:

“Because of this, the clever person mocks wisdom, since mockery is his weapon. He uses the pointed, poisonous weapon, because he is struck by naive wisdom. If he were not struck, he would not need the weapon. Only in the desert do we become aware of our terrible simplemindedness, but we are afraid of admitting it. That is why we are scornful. But mockery does not attain simplemindedness. The mockery falls on the mocker, and in the desert where no one hears and answers, he suffocates from his own scorn.”

Yet Jung is not completely ready to leave his “cleverness,” but he would rather like to become “a clever fool,” who has been able to combine cleverness and wisdom. The final words of this section of Liber Novus are quite optimistic. Jung declares that he has managed to overcome scorn and the desert is therefore becoming green. Gold and green dominate in the image that accompanies this chapter.

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

Reading The Red Book – part 4

Reading The Red Book – part 5

Reading The Red Book – part 7

Reading The Red Book – part 8

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

3 Responses to Reading The Red Book (6)

  1. Cherry Jeffs says:

    I’ve been quietly reading your blog for so many years and it’s always fascinating and illuminating.

    This idea of fulfilling our own pattern is something I’ve been coming across everywhere I turn lately. It reminds me of the old (Oscar Wilde?) addage, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

  2. lampmagician says:

    Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:
    “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

    ― Carl Jung
    ❤ ❤

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