“Your Hell is made up of all the things that you always ejected from your sanctuary
with a curse and a kick of the foot.”
Carl Jung, “The Red Book”
The second chapter of Liber Secundus is entitled “The Castle in the Forest.” It is illustrated by a painting of a castle on water surrounded by dark blue hills. A crescent moon illuminates the scene. Jung loses his way in a dark forest, which is an allusion to the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy (“In the middle of our walk of life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”) He comes across the castle and decides to ask for lodgings for the night. The owner of the place is an elderly scholar, who is talking to Jung distractedly, awaiting the first opportunity to return to his books.
Jung is assigned a room, where he retires and gets lost in his reveries. One thought in particular is extremely persistent, to his utter dismay. He considers it a vulgar, worn-out romantic idea but cannot suppress the thought that the old man is hiding a beautiful daughter somewhere in the castle. In his egoic pride and elitist intellectualism, Jung sees himself as someone better than the common folk who would be interested in such “hackneyed nonsense” and “empty fantasies.”
Soon a pale heroine appears and scolds him: “You wretch, how can you doubt that I am real?” Jung is struck by her pure soulful beauty, which he perceives to be out of this world. All she says to him runs contrary to his previous thoughts. She tells him that fairy tales, which he had just mocked, have more “universal validity” than novels. She adds: “Only what is human and what you call banal and hackneyed contains the wisdom that you seek.” It seems that he has been looking for the highest truths about the human essence in the wrong places. Now the blade of Jung’s irony turns against the scholar, whose soul he perceives to be starved:
“Therefore you see those old scholars running after recognition in a ridiculous and undignified manner. They are offended if their name is not mentioned, cast down if another one says the same thing in a better way; irreconcilable if someone alters theirs views in the least. Go to the meetings of scholars and you will see them, these lamentable old men with their great merits and their starved souls famished for recognition and their thirst which can never be slaked.”
From the point of view of the soul, the scholar leads an external life – he does not live for himself and his soul but he lives “for outer things,” which in his case are “outer thoughts.” He has detached himself from life and has become lost in the object of his studies.
Jung laments that by pursuing “everything rare and uncommon… everything ordinary in me suffered harm without my noticing it, and it began to hanker after life, since I did not live it.” By burying himself in his books, like Faust before him, he had lost touch with the world soul, personified by the ethereal night visitor. Despite his original scornful tone, Jung manages to convey the divine feminine presence beautifully in this chapter. Before disappearing, she passes on greetings from Salome. She has brought along luminosity and grace, and also spurred Jung on to ponder the mysteries of the feminine and the masculine in relation to the soul.
The scholar’s daughter made him realize that “you can hardly say of your soul what sex it is.” The task of the soul is to “accept their own other.” Only then will “the white bird of the soul come flying.” Jung calls this soulful undertaking going “beyond the gendered.” The two genders should strive to meet on a human level, as individual human beings and not as stereotypical gendered projections. Completeness means accepting one’s feminine and masculine side. Here we witness the birth of Jung’s theory of anima (the feminine part of man’s psyche) and animus (the masculine part of woman’s psyche). Jung goes on to advise men to put on women’s clothes so that they can achieve “freedom from women” by connecting with their own inner feminine. Sanford L. Drob speaks in this context of “a post-gendered consciousness.” (1) Yet this is the state that even our modern times have not reached yet, though much has changed in respect of attitudes to gender since Jung’s times. The Red Book is considered prophetic, anticipating the shifts in consciousness that were to come to pass in the more distant time horizon.
(1) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus