Reading The Red Book (12)

I. “You may call us symbols for the same reason that you can also call your fellow men symbols, if you wish to. But we are just as real as your fellow men. You invalidate nothing and solve nothing by calling us symbols.”

II. “To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. If you want to create yourself then you do not begin with the best and the highest, but with the worst and the deepest.”

“The Red Book,” chapter X (Liber Primus)

George Frederic Watts, “She Shall Be Called Woman”

Chapter X of The Red Book, Liber Primus is called “Instruction.” Jung’s visions and his involvement with the unconscious is becoming deeper and more intense. He describes the following image:

“I am standing in the rocky depth that seems to me like a crater. Before me I see the house with columns. I see Salome walking along the length of the wall toward the left, touching the wall like a blind person. The serpent follows her. The old man stands at the door and waves to me.”

“She is my own soul,” Jung will say about Salome later. Her blindness, her association with the serpent and the fact that she is walking towards the left, all means that she personifies his anima, the part of male psyche, which is in touch with the unconscious. During his first encounter with Salome, described in my previous post, Jung saw Salome as a sensual dancer, who asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist. He disparaged her (“Was she not vain greed and criminal lust?”) and could not fathom why the Prophet claimed that she was his daughter, equal to him in wisdom. But now Jung’s defenses are melting, he says he feels “more real” in the company of Elijah and Salome, though at the same time he admits that his head is heavy as lead, and he is lost in his ignorance. Yet he perseveres and follows the pair into the house. This is a decisive moment of a breakthrough.

Inside, Jung has a complex vision:

“I stand before the play of fire in the shining crystal. I see in splendor the mother of God with the child. Peter stands in front of her in admiration-then Peter alone with the key-the Pope with a triple crown-a Buddha sitting rigidly in a circle of fire-a many-armed bloody Goddess-it is Salome desperately wringing her hands-it takes hold of me, she is my own soul, and now I see Elijah in the image of the stone.”

Y.G. Srimati, Mahakali

Jung is flooded with archetypal images, which means that the desperation of his anima – wringing her hands at his rigidity – has borne fruit. He sees Salome as the dark goddess, most probably Kali. Easter and western symbols co-exist in his vision, as well as darkness and light, good and evil. Once again we can appreciate how the visions of Liber Novus are at the root of Jung’s axiom of “the coincidence of good and evil in the archetypes of God and the Self,”  as Sanford L. Drob put it in his interpretative guide to reading The Red Book.

Openness to the unconscious means being able to let the chaos “break the dams,” says Jung. Free-flowing contents of the unconscious will bring about transformation; it is transformation, not exclusion, which is “the way of life.” Elijah says to Jung:

“… your thoughts are just as much outside your self as trees and animals are outside your body.”

We do not possess our thoughts, Jung explains, but they grow in us “like a forest,
populated by many different animals.” Rigidity, one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness breed exclusion, preventing the development of personality. Developing the Self, which is nothing else but one’s inner divinity, is only possible when an individual embraces his or her shadow; it is also vital to connect to the anima in the case of men or animus in the case of women. Finally, one should work to include the underdeveloped functions of personality, for example a thinking type would do well to embrace the feeling function, and so forth.

Salome tells Jung that she is his sister, while Mary is their mother, which makes Jung one with Christ.  Christ, says Jung, symbolizes the mystery of transformation, which brings about “the passing over into a new creation.” However, merging with inner divinity carries the risk of inflation. As Jung says, “I am in danger of believing that I myself am significant since I see the significant.” Staying humble and becoming one with God may seem like a paradox, but is the only way to keep one’s sanity. Jung emphasizes that he does not become the symbol but rather “the symbol becomes in me such that it has its substance, and I mine.” Complete merging with the unconscious is impossible; the ego must retain its own substance rather than being vanquished. The vision ends with Jung seeing a powerful lion leading the way for him. After feeling weak at the beginning it seems that he is growing into his power, acquiring regal attributes.

This chapter of The Red Book brings an extraordinary development in Jung’s connection with his anima, personified here by Salome. He goes beyond seeing her as a purely sexual object towards recognizing her as Sophia, personification of wisdom. At the end of the chapter Jung quotes from the non-canonical Gospel of the Egyptians, which should be distinguished from the so-called Gnostic Gospels of the Coptic Gnostic Library of the Nag Hammadi. The Gospel of the Egyptians was widely used in Egypt. It has not survived in its entirety; all we have are fragments and quotes. It contains dialogues between Jesus and Salome:

“… each fragment endorses sexual asceticism as the means of breaking the lethal cycle of birth and of overcoming the alleged sinful differences between male and female, enabling all persons to return to what was understood to be their primordial androgynous state.” (1)

This is a radical departure from the highly sexual image of Salome from the previous chapter. Here she is Jesus’ disciple. In the (canonical) Gospel of Mark, Salome was one of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. The Gospel of Thomas, which belongs to the Gnostic Gospels, mentioned that Jesus had female disciples, notably Mary Magdalene and Salome, while the four canonical gospels recognize only male disciples, referring to women somewhat dismissively as just Jesus’ followers.

Mary, Mary Magdalene and Salome at the grave of Jesus – Eastern Orthodox Icon (via Wikipedia) “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.” ―Mark 16:1–2


(1) Ron Cameron, The Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospel Texts

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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 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

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

Reading The Red Book – part 26

Reading The Red Book – part 27

Reading The Red Book – part 28

Reading The Red Book – part 29

Reading The Red Book – part 30

Reading The Red Book – part 31

Reading The Red Book – part 32

Reading The Red Book – part 33

Reading The Red Book – part 34

Reading The Red Book – part 35

Reading The Red Book – part 36

Reading The Red Book – part 37

Reading The Red Book – part 38

Reading The Red Book – part 39

Reading The Red Book – part 40

Reading The Red Book – part 41

Reading The Red Book – part 42

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1 Response to Reading The Red Book (12)

  1. lampmagician says:

    Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:
    “Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his Notebooks: “It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places in which … you may find really marvellous ideas.”
    ― C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols
    With thanks for continuing this wonderful description 🙏💖🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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