Reading The Red Book (8)

“But how does the mind free itself of its accumulated violence, cultured violence, self-protective violence, the violence of aggression, the violence of competition, the violence of trying to be somebody, the violence of trying to discipline oneself according to a pattern, trying to become somebody, trying to suppress and bully oneself, brutalise oneself, in order to be non-violent – how is the mind to be free of all such forms of violence?”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, via

JMW Turner, “Apollo and Python”

In chapter VI of The Red Book (Liber Primus), which is called Splitting of the Spirit, Jung’s descent into the underworld and confrontation with his shadow continue. The spirit of the depths commands him, “Climb down into your depths, sink!” He is still at the desert surrounded by monstrous beings, who have attached themselves to him. He says:

“I have evidently taken on a completely monstrous form in which I can no longer recognize myself. It seems to me that I have become a monstrous animal form for which I have exchanged my humanity.”

Jung feels indignation at his soul for trapping him in such darkness but the soul replies with a riddle: “”My path is light ” and “My light is not of this world.” Jung cannot stop raging because he is not yet ready to accept the existence of “another world.” He has lost his footing in the reality he has known thus far but he has not been able to establish himself in the new, wider world of the spirit. In his interpretative guide to reading The Red Book, Sanford L. Grob points to Jung’s ambivalence  about the existence of “another world,” which is similar to the realm of Platonic ideals. At times Jung would criticize any statements regarding the actual existence of the archetypal reality as non-empirical. Nevertheless, he frequently emphasized that the imprints of that reality can be seen everywhere in the world. The very word archetype comes from the Greek word “archē, ” beginning”, and typos, ” imprint.”

Throughout the chapter, Jung’s anger and confusion grow. He feels “transformed into a rapacious beast,” full of rage towards “the hero and the prince.” The title “splitting of the spirit” refers to what he calls “the civil war within:”

“I myself was the murderer and the murdered. The deadly arrow was stuck in my heart, and I did not know what it meant. My thoughts were murder and the fear of death, which spread like poison everywhere in my body.”

On the one hand, he identifies with the desire to murder the hero, on the other hand the hero symbolizes his old ego structure, which has to die to open the way to richer and deeper psychological reality, which would encompass the shadow and a relationship with the spirit of the depths. A cause of the hero’s death is presented:

“The God becomes sick if he oversteps the height of the zenith. That is why the spirit of the depths took me when the spirit of this time had led me to the summit.”

When he was embarking on the journey of The Red Book, his worldly success and all the trappings of fame were not authentic to Jung any more. In one of the footnotes to this chapter a significant quote of Jung is revealed. In 1917 during a discussion at the Association for Analytical Psychology, he said:

“The hero-the beloved figure of the people, should fall. All heroes bring themselves down by carrying the heroic attitude beyond a certain limit, and hence lose their footing.”

Th masculine hero archetype seems to have lost his footing in our still patriarchal culture. And what is left now of the Roman Empire, upon which the sun was said to never set? The value of Jung’s vision was its prophetic quality due to his sensitive feel of the collective pulse. He was born at the sunset, when the sun – the consciousness – steps into the netherworld to find renewal and rebirth. But before rebirth occurs, “the sun makes its way through the pitch black of the night sea, battling chaos and extinction, threatened by the vast, eclipsing coils of the primal serpent Apophis…” (1)

The sunset is a moment when the opposition of light and darkness is palpable even to the least poetic of us:

“Sunset is variously depicted as the surrender, union or tension between the relatively fixed solar element and the watery, changeable element, signified by the ascendance of twilight and the waxing and waning moon.” (2)

Bringing together of the opposites, their tension, their union, their eternal dance, was the great achievement of The Red Book and of Jung’s life and work.

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sunset – Long Island”


(1) The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, ed. by Ami Ronnberg, ARAS

(2) Ibid.

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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 6

Reading The Red Book – part 7

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

Reading The Red Book – part 14

Reading The Red Book – part 15

Reading The Red Book – part 16

Reading The Red Book – part 17

Reading The Red Book – part 18

Reading The Red Book – part 19

Reading The Red Book – part 20

Reading The Red Book – part 21

Reading The Red Book – part 22

Reading The Red Book – part 23

Reading The Red Book – part 24 

Reading The Red Book – part 25

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