Reading The Red Book (24)

Chapter XI of Liber Secundus is called The Opening of the Egg. Having sung his incantations, Jung kneels on the rug and carefully opens the egg. Completely healed, Izdubar appears in front of him. The god relates what his experience had been inside of the egg:

“I was ancient and perpetually renewing myself-/ Falling from the heights to the depths,/ and whirled glowing from the depths to the heights-/hovering around myself amidst glowing clouds-/ as raining embers beating down like the foam of the surf, engulfing/ myself in stifling heat-/Embracing and rejecting myself in a boundless game/ Where was I? I was completely sun.”

Camille Pissarro, “Sunrise on the Sea”

Izdubar had become one with the Sun; like the Sun he now sees all and knows all. (1) Like the Sun, he had made a night journey into the depths of the nadir and has ascended towards the zenith, symbolizing his perpetual renewal. (2) Izdubar now emits a radiant light that Jung’s eyes “cannot grasp.” Jung compares himself to the mother, who had given birth to a god:

“I became his nocturnal mother who incubated the egg of the beginning. And he rose up, renewed, reborn to greater splendor.”

Bringing Izdubar back to life as an unblemished, radiant solar deity has deprived Jung of his own life force, however:

All my force was now in him. My soul swam like a fish in his sea of fire. But I lay in the frightful cool of the shadows of the earth and sank down deeper and deeper to the lowest darkness. All light had left me. The God rose in the Eastern lands and I fell into the horror of the underworld. I lay there like a child-bearer cruelly mauled and bleeding her life into the child, uniting life and death in a dying glance, the day’s mother, the night’s prey.”

Gustave Moreau, (detail from) “Suitors” (an unfinished painting showing a scene from The Odyssey – triumphant Athena above the bodies of murdered suitors)

Perhaps what Jung is saying here is that reaching divine perfection comes at a terrible price – the shadow will claim those who dared to look divinity in the eye. Jung is left “powerless and groaning,” with the empty eggshell as the only reminder of his divine encounter.

One of the leitmotifs of Jung’s psychology was the co-existence of light and darkness, good and evil in all beings, including the gods. In this chapter Jung says:

“The God suffers when man does not accept his darkness.”

The radiant god is not separate from “monstrous serpents of eternal emptiness.” This is why “if the God draws near, your essence starts to seethe and the black mud of the depths whirls up.” For Jung, the divine is not just “good;” it comprises wholeness with all its opposites.

Jung proceeds to explain why evil is a necessary part of life. He says:

“So long as you persist with the standpoint of the good, you cannot dissolve your formation, precisely because it is what is good. You cannot dissolve good with good. You can dissolve good only with evil. For your good also leads ultimately to death through its progressive binding of your force by progressively binding your force.”

What Jung seems to be saying here is that rigidity is alien to life. When the ego clings to what it perceives to be good, when we are following a certain rigid pattern, which we consider good and orderly, life becomes mechanical and neurotic. (3) If we do not recognize the transformative force and the importance of evil in our lives, it will overwhelm us, thus creating “terrible suffering.” By rejecting evil we also reject our humanity. Jung warns:

“… we make desperate attempts to follow the God into the higher realm, or we turn preachingly and demandingly to our fellow men to at any rate force others into following the God. Unfortunately there are men who allow themselves to be persuaded into doing this, to their and our detriment.”

This explains the numerous atrocities committed in the name of religion.

The images accompanying the chapter are very striking. The image on page 71 represents three intertwined snakes. The crimson background reminds us of the Red One – the devil, who instilled a new lease of life in Jung in chapter 1 of Liber Secundus. The intertwined snakes seem to symbolize the incarnated soul, which has embraced the life in matter, on the earth, where the inferno of passions is forever writhing like the snakes on Medusa’s head.

The closing image on page 72 has quite a hypnotic impact. Sanford L. Drob muses:

“It is a mosaic composition in which a series of six conical beams of light … point up and down over a largely black field, punctuated by small yellow lights. The viewer may have the sense that it is deep night, that his back is against the wall, and he is on the verge of being caught in one of these searching beams. … the contrasts between the darkness and saturated colours suggests a melding together of oppositions. Indeed, it is such a melding together that results from the journey into hell that Jung is about to undertake.” (4)

Notes:

(1) Juan Eduardo Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, Routledge: London, second edition, p. 317

(2) Ibid., p. 318

(3) Compare these ideas with Krishnamurti’s lecture on rigidity: https://jkrishnamurti.org/content/how-one-bring-about-order-oneself-without-any-conflict

(4) Sanford L. Drob, Reading The Red Book: An Interpretative Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, Spring Journal Books 2012p. 121

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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 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 25

Reading The Red Book – part 26

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8 Responses to Reading The Red Book (24)

  1. litebeing says:

    Very timely and informative post on divinity, and nature of dark and light. I enjoyed the art, especially the first image by Pissaro. It is quite familiar to me, hehe 🙂

    blessings, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hehe, a shameless theft it was 😉 Nice to hear from you – I hope you are enjoying your art course.

    Like

  3. lampmagician says:

    Thank you! Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff Japp says:

    “Perhaps what Jung is saying here is that reaching divine perfection comes at a terrible price – the shadow will claim those who dared to look divinity in the eye.” This is so true. Everything has a price, or as I try to stress to my kids, everything you do has an effect on the world. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Interesting, I was watching a show last night and they were talking about how Odin had to sacrifice his eye in order to receive the gift of prophecy. Seems even the gods are not immune to having to pay a price. Hope you are well, and thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As ever, Monika, I really enjoyed the depth of this post. It reminded me of a favourite poem of mine, which I shared on my blog some years ago – I thought you and your readers might like to read an extract from it…

    ‘…The descent into darkness harbours its own deep, creative purpose… The Scottish poet Christopher Whyte, born with several planets in Scorpio, expresses that purpose with profound eloquence in this extract from his poem Rex Tenebrarum (King of Darkness), an English translation by the poet himself of a poem written in Scottish Gaelic…’

    “……How heavy the earth is above the seed
    that struggles and thrusts, looking for nourishment
    from the sun, and showers to freshen it!
    But if it wasn’t rooted in the darkness,
    in a warm, enclosed place filled with worms,
    it could do nothing with air or light…..

    King of the darkness, king of the world,
    when I saw two faces in the mirror
    superimposed, made one, I understood
    that you have to be reconciled.
    Unless the sapling knows
    where its roots are sunk, and the whole
    plant admits that life
    and nourishment come from darkness;
    unless it has unequivocal
    love for what bore and raised it
    how can there be a rich
    summer flowering for our hopes? “

    Liked by 1 person

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