Reading The Red Book (7)

Luis Scafati, Illustration to Kafka’s Metamorphosis

I. “The spirit of the depths is pregnant with ice, fire, and death. You are right to fear the spirit of the depths, as he is full of horror.”

II. “You thought you knew that abyss? Oh you clever people! It is another thing to experience it.”

Carl Jung, The Red Book

Chapter V of The Red Book is entitled Descent into Hell in the Future. It starts ominously, “In the following night, the air was filled with many voices.” This particular chapter has a more visceral tone, marking the watershed between preparation and actually plunging into “a dreadful deep.” It also includes more illustrations than previous chapters, which also marks the transition from intellectual verbal speculation to the realm of primordial images. The spirit of the depths allows Jung to experience the underworld.


Seized by fear, Jung descends into a dark cave along “a gray rock face.” He proceeds still deeper, to a lower cave with black water on the bottom. At that moment he catches a glimpse of the red stone, which he knows he must reach. He also sees a dead body on the surface of the water: “the bloody head of a man on the dark stream.” There is also a black scarab floating there and “a red sun, radiating through the dark water.” The red sun shines in the depths while “a thousand serpents crowd around, veiling the sun.” As the night falls, “thick red blood springs up.”


This passage foreshadows chapter VII – “Murder of the Hero.” Jung later identified the dead man as Siegfried, the dragon slaying hero of the Germanic mythology. In a dream of 1913, described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung shot Siegfried with a rifle. That is how he himself interpreted the dream:

“Siegfried, I thought, represents what the Germans want to achieve, heroically to impose their will, have their own way. ‘Where there is a will there is a way!’ I had wanted to do the same. But now that was no longer possible. The dream showed that the attitude embodied by Siegfried, the hero, no longer suited me. Therefore it had to be killed.“

Arthur Rackham, “Siegfried’s Death”

Jung’s task was to find a new psychological adaptation because identifying with the male hero no longer served his soul. How much can his interpretation of his own dream be trusted has been a subject of debate. Some researchers have pointed out that Jung left the personal element out of the equation. Sabine Spielrein, his early patient and lover, shared a fantasy with him that she would like to bear him a son called Siegfried. Another interpretative angle could be connected with Jung’s premonition of the world war and the German role in it.

The scarab is of course a reference to the Egyptian god Khepri, who transcends “the boundaries of darkness and underworld, [emerging] with the rising sun. His name means “to come into being.” But “Khepri’s blackness also suggests that it is an invisible force that upholds solar energies.” (1) Along with the image of death – the dead hero’s body, scarab is the symbol of rebirth, which will come after the solar ego consciousness descends into the unconscious.


The symbolism of the red stone, the ultimate goal of the alchemical opus standing for the integration of the soul, was analyzed by me here. It seems that Jung’s vision of the underworld condenses the entire alchemical process: from the nigredo to the creation of the red stone. Thus, the soul offers Jung hope that his suffering will bear fruit.

Before he follows the thread of his visions further, Jung makes an invocation to his soul, further rejecting the intellectual judgement in favour of “divine astonishment”:

“Keep it far from me, science that clever knower, bad prison master who binds the soul and imprisons it in a lightless cell. … I want to go down cleansed into your depths with white garments … Let me persist in divine astonishment, so that I am ready to behold your wonders. Let me lay my head on a stone before your door, so that I am prepared to receive your light.”

In the subsequent passage Jung considers the theme of divine madness. He says, “if you enter into the world of the soul, you are like a madman, and a doctor would consider you to be sick.” He defines divine madness as “the overpowering of the spirit of this time through the spirit of the depths.” He also explains that balance is crucial in the sort of soul work that he has been dedicating himself to. He explains that during the preceding twenty-five days he served his soul by night while by day he served the spirit of our time. In this way, he did not descend into utter madness. The footnotes to The Red Book offer here a magnificent quote from Plato’s Phaedrus about madness: “provided it comes as a gift of heaven, [it] is the channel by which we receive the greatest blessings.”

In the following passage Jung explains what the slaying of the hero signifies – the birth of new life out of torment and suffering:

“If the hero in you is slain, then the sun of the depths rises in you, glowing from afar, and from a dreadful place. But all the same, everything that up till now seemed to be dead in you will come to life, and will change into poisonous serpents that will cover the sun, and you will fall into night and confusion. Your blood also will stream from many wounds in this frightful struggle. Your shock and doubt will be great, but from such torment the new life will be born. Birth is blood and torment. Your darkness, which you did not suspect since it was dead, will come to life and you will feel the crush of total evil and the conflicts of life that still now lie buried in the matter of your body.”

Criticism of the hero ideal is deepened in the final section of that chapter, where Jung juxtaposes the “everlasting ascent” of the hero with the concept of “incapacity,” which is as important for the psyche. In his guide to The Red Book Sanford L. Drob emphasizes that it is important that the hero “surrenders a portion of his control to the powers of the underworld.”


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

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 8

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

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A Visit to the House of C.G. Jung

We are in the grip of another heatwave here in Switzerland, “the relentless beating heat” described famously in The Great Gatsby, while the Sun has just entered the sign of Leo. We are also on the eve of C.G. Jung’s birthday. I had an amazing opportunity today to visit the house in Küsnacht, Zurich, where Jung lived with his wife Emma and their five children. The house has now been partly turned into a museum. I highly recommend you book a visit if you are ever in the area. The tours are given to small groups (we were ten) and the guide was the Jung family member. The feeling the visitor gets while walking around the hall, the dining room, the library, the veranda and Jung’s study, where he saw patients, is very intimate. It is not allowed to take any photos of the interiors, but the ban does not pertain to the garden surrounding the property, where the visitors are welcome to spend as much time as they want. I was very happy that photos were not allowed because we were able to sink into the experience without the usual distraction of clicking cameras or people posing for photos.

The part of the house which is open to the public looks almost exactly as it used to in Jung’s time. The other part of the house is still occupied by Jung’s family members and it is not open to visitors. We were a small international group, who seemed to be deeply interested in Jung’s work, judging by the questions that were asked. This was not a usual museum visit, but something much more touching and memorable.


Upon entering the house through the famous door with the iconic inscription in stone “vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit” (called or not called, God will be present), we saw two portraits of Carl and Emma taken in the year of their engagement. He was 27, she 20. Importantly, Emma was not only the mother of his children but she was also his intellectual partner in every way. She wanted to go to university but her father, a wealthy industrialist, forbade it. She compensated for that in later years, when she hired private tutors to learn ancient languages, politics and philosophy. She also saw her own patients and published books.

Emma and Carl Gustav

We then proceeded to the salon or the living room full of family photos and featuring an extraordinary decorative green tile stove. Emma fashioned it for Jung while he was away in the army. It was adorned with symbols, notably a magnificent Zodiac and a striking figure of a pelican on top of it. The Pelican was also the name of the boat that Jung used extensively, being an avid sailor. The pelican was also one of the most important symbol in Jung’s life. The legend says that the mother pelican would wound herself by striking her breast with the beak in order to feed her starving children with her own blood. I was struck by a large number of goddess images in the household, especially the virgin with child. Other beautiful ornaments included souvenirs from his journeys, such as African masks, skulls, figures of Buddha, and many others religious artifacts.

The dining room made quite an impression by its sheer size and the wonderful view of Lake Zurich. We were told that Jung enjoyed spending evenings there sitting on the sofa in the corner, smoking his pipe and reading Agatha Christie novels. We proceeded to the magnificent winter garden, which was adorned by the statue of Homer immediately visible upon entering.

Jung and Homer

The highlight of the visit was of course the library with a magnificent collection of alchemical books that have been digitalized recently ( and Jung’s study, which is a small dark room, where he also saw his patients. On the staircase leading to the library our attention was caught by a drawing, which was included in The Red Book. It shows a fortified tower on the shore of a sea, a medieval town and a large ship on the horizon. This image goes back to Jung’s childhood in Rheinfall, when he had a vision described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. While walking to school along the river Rhein, he saw a large ship, which was a very unusual sight on the river. His imagination ran wild and he suddenly found himself in a medieval town:

“On the rock stood a well-fortified castle with a tall keep, a watchtower. This was my house. … There was an uncommonly attractive library where you could find everything worth knowing. … the … raison d’être of this whole arrangement was the secret of the keep, which I alone knew. … Here I had an equally inconceivable apparatus, a kind of laboratory in which I made gold.”

An image from The Red Book

Jung’s vision was to make his family home look like an ancient building but the architect and his wife did not share this desire, so he had to come to terms with building a contemporary looking house. But when he decided to erect his tower in Bollingen he was the only one who made all the decisions about its design.

The study where Jung created The Red Book is a very small, dark room, which does indeed bring to mind an alchemical lab. Colourful delicate light filters through stained glass windows. There is a faint but notable smell of tobacco. This was a place where no distractions were tolerated and the only room in that side of the house with no view of the lake so that the attention can be kept on the work. The guide told us that Jung allowed only two reasons to be disturbed there: war or fire.

Jung in his study

The house was not only the place of deep concentration but it also pulsated with life. We saw numerous children’s toys, board games, and we were told the whole family frequently went camping together, which was not a usual practice of the Swiss at the time. Food was extremely important; we were told that the family employed a cook. It was also quite interesting for me to find out that Jung and his wife made a deal of their lifetime by purchasing the land adjacent to the lake. Right now these sites are worth tens of millions of francs, while in Jung’s time the rich preferred to build their houses on the hills because the areas next to the lake were teeming with mosquitoes.

You can find a few photos here and also here: . I am also including some of the ones that I took below.





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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

Reading The Red Book – part 9

Reading The Red Book – part 10

Reading The Red Book – part 11

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Reading The Red Book (5)

“The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them.”

C.G. Jung, The Red Book

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Red Hills with White Flower”

Chapter IV of The Red Book is called “The Desert.” Since ancient times, the desert has drawn mystics and visionaries, who wanted to retreat from the world to find themselves. In his Dictionary of Symbols, Cirlot described the desert as “the most propitious place for divine revelation.” The desert is also the domain of the everlasting spiritual power of the sun, at its most radiant. Jung says in this chapter that “to find their soul, the ancients went into the desert.” It was a place where “the abundance of visions” came. Jung calls them “the fruits of the desert” and “the wondrous flowers of the soul.” But these rewards are delivered only to those who survive the exposure to the cruel, arid climate there.

The soul shows Jung that his self is “a barren, hot desert, dusty and without drink.” Living too much “in men and events,” not cultivating the inner landscape, has resulted in the place of his soul being “desolate and unfruitful.” Having devoted his life to cerebral pursuits, he forgot that “no culture of the mind is enough to make a garden out of your soul.” At this point Jung realizes that the world of the soul can only be entered by he who has completely become his self, “who is neither in events, nor in men, nor in his thoughts.” The task is to direct the creative force inwards – to the place where the soul dwells. Only then will the soul become green and bear fruit. But this is a slow process. The following passage is a call for soulful authenticity, which can grant ultimate freedom to an individual:

“Nobody can spare themselves the waiting and most will be unable to bear this torment, but will throw themselves with greed back at men, things, and thoughts, whose slaves they will become from then on. Since then it will have been clearly proved that this man is incapable of enduring beyond things, men, and thoughts, and they will hence become his master and he will become their fool, since he cannot be without them, not until even his soul has become a fruitful field. Also he whose soul is a garden, needs things, men, and thoughts, but he is their friend and not their slave and fool.”

Sanford L. Drob reminds us that while creating The Red Book Jung developed the technique called active imagination, which is “a process that begins with a passive observation of images, scenes, and figures as they emerge into awareness from the unconscious, and is completed through the active engagement with them…” The desert is the right place to start the engagement with the unconscious thanks to the lack of external distractions.

Towards the end of chapter IV Jung ponders the power of words in soul making:

“When you say that the place of the soul is not, then it is not. But if you say that it is, then it is. Notice what the ancients said in images: the word is a creative act. The ancients said: in the beginning was the Word.”

The meticulous calligraphy of The Red Book lends gravitas, even holiness to all the words that Jung chose. Like in stone engravings, there is little room for the non-essential. The Words thus created have enormous weight, both spiritual and material. The mysticism of language has accompanied every major religion: besides The Gospel of John quoted above by Jung, it is worth mentioning the Hindu Nada Brahma (the Sound is God) or the creative vibration of AUM. In Fundamental Symbols, The Universal Language of Sacred Science, the great symbologist René Guénon wrote:

“… the world is like a divine language for those who know how to understand it.

… if the world is the result of the Divine Word offered at the beginning of time, then nature in its entirety can be taken as a symbol of supernatural reality.”

The image accompanying this chapter shows a figure clad in white confronted with a snake in the desert. This is an echo of the image from the chapter Soul and God (part 3), which depicted a white dove and a black snake. Here the body of the snake encircles the image, as the figure steps inside the ring. Confrontation with the unconscious begins.

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 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

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Reading The Red Book (4)

Thomas Cole, “The Titan’s Goblet”

“Look into your depths, pray to your depths, waken the dead.”

C.G. Jung, “The Red Book”

The chapter entitled On the Service of the Soul contains a dire warning: soul work is not a light endeavor. Jung describes his fear and trepidation as to whether he should follow in the footsteps of his soul. The supernatural understanding, which the soul offers, reaches way beyond the human measure. Jung laments:

“I limp after you on crutches of understanding. I am a man and you stride like a God. What torture!”

The rational aspect fails when confronted with the soul, at least initially:

“If you take a step toward your soul, you will at first miss the meaning. You will believe that you have sunk into meaninglessness, into eternal disorder. You will be right!”

 Especially when the ego approach was fixated on meaning an order, a confrontation with the soul will bring “the dark flood of chaos with it.” The depths of the soul can be horrifying. This chapter of The Red Book reminded me very much of the following passage from Tao Te Ching:


The enlightened path appears dark, and advancing on this path may seem like retreating.

The greatest virtue appears empty, and the greatest purity appears tarnished. The most magnificent virtue seems insufficient, and firmly established virtue seems frail. Real virtue is fluid and changeable.”

(translated by Robert Brookes, Kindle edition)

Jung resists the soul and wants to return to the rational light of day but the spirit of the depths does not let him – he is “forced back into himself.”  He reflects on the necessity of virtue in soul work in a passage parallel to the quote from Tao Te Ching above:

“If your virtues hinder you from salvation, discard them, since they have become evil

to you. The slave to virtue finds the way as little as the slave to vices.”

Here Jung seems to be saying that any rigid attitude, even if it is regarded as a virtue, estranges one from the soul. In Tao Te Ching “te” is what is usually translated as “virtue.” It is a linguistically complex word in Chinese. It may mean something close to virtuous deeds or the embodiment of the Way (tao). It means being authentic in relation to one’s inner essence rather than the external demands.

There are no straightforward prescriptions on how to follow the path of the soul. The following quote from The Red Book is baffling at first because it suggests that soul work does not always mean serving the soul passively:

“If you believe that you are the master of your soul, then become her servant. If you were her servant, make yourself her master, since she needs to be ruled.”

If the conscious attitude is too biased towards serving the soul, an opposite approach should be developed. Here an important tenet of the Jungian psychology is formulated: the unconscious performs a compensatory role to the conscious approach.

The relation between the unconscious and the conscious creates a divine child:

“If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.”

Thus Jung begins his descent into the fertile chaos of prima materia – “the raw material for creation,” as Sanford L. Drob puts it in his interpretative guide to The Red Book.

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

Reading The Red Book – part 3

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

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Reading The Red Book (3)

Morris Graves, “The Chalice”

In the chapter Soul and God Jung continues to dialogue with his soul. He regrets that it has taken him so long to find her. Looking back on his life’s events, he sees the soul behind all of them. He writes:

“I found you where I least expected you. You climbed out of a dark shaft.”

The soul possesses a deus-ex-machina quality: it appears seemingly out of nowhere and changes everything. It resides in the underworld, like Hades who emerged out of the depths to kidnap Persephone. The soul sows and reaps where the ego does not reach:

“Where I sowed, you robbed me of the harvest, and where I did not sow, you give me fruit a hundredfold. And time and again I lost the path and found it again where I would never have foreseen it.”

The soul dwells in the blind spot of the ego. Jung compares his soul to a child and to a maiden, because his conscious ego is masculine and mature. He also seems to suggest that the soul is God, which is a parallel with the Hindu concept of Atman:

“If you are boys, your God is a woman.

If you are women, your God is a boy.

If you are men, your God is a maiden.

The God is where you are not.”

The notion that the soul always compensates for the one-sidedness of the egoic approach is one of the fundamentals of Jungian psychology. Jung believed that the unconscious of the woman had a masculine imprint (the animus) while the unconscious of the men was feminine (the anima). What makes us complete is what we oppose or what we are unaware of. In the unconscious dwell the unlived parts of our psyche, which long to be liberated; though the ego resists it:

“It appears as though you want to flee from yourself so as not to have to live what remains unlived until now.”

One of the most important passages of that chapter deals with dreams, which are defined as the “guiding words of the soul.” Jung is looking for the right words in order to express the soul’s message symbolically:

“Oh, that you must speak through me, that my speech and I are your symbol and expression! How should I decipher you?”

The language of dreams is hard to decipher but according to Jung it is dreams which “pave the way for life.”

The final crucial aspect of the chapter is the juxtaposition between the knowledge of the heart and scholarly knowledge. As Jung says:

“The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth.”

Then he repeats the message from the previous chapter about the necessity of living life to the full; here understood as expressing all the aspects of one’s Self unreservedly:

“But how can I attain the knowledge of the heart? You can attain this knowledge only by living your life to the full. You live your life fully if you also live what you have never yet lived, but have left for others to live or to think.”

Finally, Jung declares his total surrender to the dictates of the soul:

“I am as I am in this visible world a symbol of my soul, and I am thoroughly a serf, completely subjugated, utterly obedient.”

The next chapter will expand on the idea of the service of the soul.

In his guide to reading The Red Book, Sanford L. Grob wrote:

“… Jung wavered between two conceptions of knowledge, a Platonic/Gnostic conception, in which one can achieve certainty or gnosis through an intuition of essences (e.g. the archetypes), and a dialectical or constructivist one, in which all so-called truths must be complemented by their opposites and in which so-called ‘knowledge’ is always colored by the ‘personal equation’ (or psychology) of the knower.”

On the one hand, if one stands firmly on the grounds of gnosis and proclaims himself or herself the bringer of Truth, it may result in fundamentalism. As Sanford reminds us, Jung described Hitler as a dangerous servant of the whispers of the unconscious. On the other hand, the exaggerated relativism breeds cynicism or nihilism. As Jung would say, one-sidedness usually leads to distortions; one should rather withstand the tension of the opposites. The notion of coincidentia oppositorum, the coincidence of opposites played a crucial role, in Jung’s later thought, whose seeds were sown while creating The Red Book.


The image opening the chapter just discussed is a striking one: white dove above, black snake below. The letter S stands for die Seele – the Soul. The image carries within the yin and yang dynamic and the tension between the opposite parts of the soul: the celestial (from the heavens) and the chthonic (from the underworld).

Reading The Red Book – part 1

Reading The Red Book – part 2

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

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Reading The Red Book (2)

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Red Poppy”

Chapter 1 of The Red Book bears the title Refinding the Soul. “I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you, I am with you,” says Jung, addressing his soul. He says he has achieved every earthy dream he can think of and yet, at the age of 40, he feels unbearable inner longing. Now he wishes to ascend to solitude and reconnect with the soul he thought he had known because it had been the object of his scientific pursuits. He realizes that “my soul cannot be the object of my judgement and knowledge” because it is “a living and self-existing being” which cannot be judged and whose circumference cannot be grasped.

He also ponders how to reach the place of the soul. The most striking words seem to be these: “The one thing I have learned is that one must live this life.” That resonated with me strongly, and I saw a parallel with what Ram Dass said in one of his talks. He said that in order to become nobody, which is the goal of spiritual pursuits, one must first become somebody. I understand it as establishing yourself in the ways of this world – through the usual activities called upon us by “the spirit of our times” (see part 1 to read more about this). Jung strongly emphasizes that there is no other way to spirituality but this, i.e. the engagement with the world. The divine can be reached only through this life, and all other ways are “false paths.”

But after becoming somebody the next step is to “turn away from outer things.” There is emptiness in “a blind desire for the hollow things of the world.” The soul lies within while the outer world can be distracting. Here Jung draws a distinction between the world and the images. He says that the images constitute the wealth of the soul. A person poor in the material sense but who possesses the image of the world through their rich, imaginative and soulful inner life, in fact “possesses half of the world.” Conversely, “he who possesses the world but not its image possesses only half the world, since his soul is poor and has nothing.” Images are soul nourishment, says Jung. They are not less real than worldly objects.

The image of the white dove opens this chapter as the symbol of the soul. The background is green with lush red flowers at the bottom to juxtapose the sensual with the spiritual aspect.

Reading The Red Book – part 1

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

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The Scapegoat

Francisco Goya, “The Witches’ Sabbath”

Chapter 16, verses 20-22 of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, speaks of the scapegoat ritual:

“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”

New International Version

Rene Girard is famous for developing the concept of the scapegoat mechanism in philosophy. For him the Old Testament story described “the process of collective discharge.” In this ritual aggression is channeled to the outside and peace is restored in the community.


In depth psychology the concept of the scapegoat complex was developed by Sylvia Brinton Perera in her book The Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of Shadow and Guilt. I have not read the book yet, but I have recently come across  a paper partly based on Perera’s ideas. It was written by a depth psychologist George McGrath Callan. You can read it here – it is quite outstanding.

“Ancient rites and ceremonies of atonement were meant to excise the diseases and evils of the community to wipe away or purge sin through sacrifice, which would magically transfer the evil and guilt to another an animal, object or person. Disposable guilt. The scapegoat ritual restored the sense of wholeness to the community and its relationship to a single patriarchal divine figure. Often it was the ugly or deformed person, the sinner or the criminal who was chosen to be sacrificed always someone who possessed some strong attribute of otherness from the agreed upon aesthetic or ethical standard” says Callan. “To cast or project blame is to protect ourselves from our own shadow,” he also adds.

Further he states:

“I suggest that the story of Azazel is a primary mythos of the global culture, and very particularly, the current American culture, so dominated by attitudes of righteousness, so ready to attribute blame so unconscious of the need for atonement for its long empirical history. It is a complex gone wild in the European, American and Global psyche.”

Though in modern times we do not perform human sacrifice or ritual killing on the scale known in the past, we are quick to judge and expel certain individuals out of the community. In this way, we feel guiltless and we can “turn to our ego ideal and reestablish our place among the chosen,” adds Callan.

In the following passage he traces the biblical source of the scapegoat complex:

“Azazel was originally a pre-Hebraic goat god honored by herdsmen. He was connected to nature religions, and so was bound to the feminine, to the instinctual, and to sensuous beauty. … He had a particular affinity for mortals. It was believed that he provided women with recipes for cosmetics and revealed to mortals the secrets of war. These were two divine treasures not intended to be passed on to mortals. Aggression and vanity were the prerogative of the god. The historic Yahweh was a complex god. He was both an angry and destructive deity and a god of compassion and faithfulness to his people. As Yahweh transitioned to an all loving god, the myth of Azazel, by necessity, changed as well. Someone had to take the rap for the dark aspect of the divine. … As religions separated their divinities from aggressive and erotic instincts, associated with sexuality, seduction, weaponry and war, Azazel became an adversary of Yahweh, and was further distorted by Jewish patriarchs in much the same way that Christians mutilated the images of pagan figures. We can see here where the divine figure has been split off from a significant aspect of his nature.”

The earth, feminine and sensual goat god had become the lecherous devil incarnate.

Aphrodite riding on a goat (apparently her favourite mount)

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Reading The Red Book (1)

1.“It is not an uncommon experience to feel somehow changed after reading The Red Book.”

Stanton Martin

2.”The years … when I pursued the inner images were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this.”

C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

3.“You should carry the monastery in yourself. The desert is within you. The desert calls you and draws you back, and if you were fettered to the world of this time with iron, the call of the desert would break all chains. Truly; I prepare you for solitude.”

From the Prologue to The Red Book

An image from The Red Book

When I moved to Zurich in autumn of 2010 the first cultural event I attended was a newly-opened exhibition at the Museum Rietberg, which celebrated the groundbreaking moment in the history of depth psychology – the publication of Jung’s Liber Novus, commonly known as The Red Book. The book was created by Jung between 1915 and 1930. It is a misconception that he descended into madness or psychosis in order to write it. No doubt, for those who are sensitive to its vibrations, the book appears as a revelation from beyond. But it is important to remember that it was a fruit of Jung’s mysterious nocturnal activity. During the day, he continued to see patients, give lectures and even serve as an officer in the Swiss army.

In the Prologue to The Red Book Jung reflects on the nature of two spirits that have been moving his life – “the spirit of this time” and “the spirit of the depths.” The former is concerned with daily practicalities, conventions and being of use. The latter goes beyond the “belief in science” and teaches spiritual knowledge (gnosis) that goes beyond space and time, escaping the confines of daytime logic. One gets seized by the spirit of the depths, just like Jung’s soul was seized by eternal ideas. He confesses in the Prologue:

“I resisted recognizing that the everyday belongs to the image of the Godhead. I fled this thought, I hid myself behind the highest and coldest stars.”

Perhaps to protect his scientific reputation, Jung never decided to publish The Red Book in his lifetime. After his death in 1961 the manuscript was moved to a bank vault in Zurich, where it remained for decades. I have recently felt an enormous pull to study The Red Book in more detail. Though I have read it before, I feel like at this point in my life it will hopefully bring new revelations.  In his wonderful interpretative guide to The Red Book, Sanford L. Drob made a very striking statement in the Introduction:

“While Jung raises many questions in Liber Novus, he answers few, as he tends to circle around the problems that concern him and try out various possibilities.”

It is so because Jung’s prose is moved by the spirit of the depths; it invites the reader to join the quest whose path leads within. This does not mean following Jung as a prophet. As Jung says in the Prologue:

May each one seek out his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community.”

Perhaps the most important message that can be taken from the Prologue is that each of us carries the instruments of our salvation within. I find the following two further quotes from the Prologue key:

“Do you not know that you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you?”

“The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.”

Since the visual and the verbal aspect of Liber Novus are inseparable, another great source that I consulted while reacquainting myself with The Red Book was The Red Book Hours: Discovering C.G. Jung’s Art Mediums and Creative Process by Jill Mellick, who focuses on Jung’s lifelong dedication to visual arts. I realized how devoted Jung was to his creative process and how self-sufficient in his endeavor. Mellick reminds us:

“In the late Middle Ages, a team of specialists divided the intensive, prolonged labor required to illuminate a manuscript; a scribe wrote black minuscules; a rubricator designed and rendered majuscules; an illustrator painted designed majuscules, decorations, and images; and often a separate illuminator added the precious metals that gave the manuscript their name. Jung became his own scribe, rubricator, illustrator, and illuminator.”

Apparently, a master calligrapher could not believe that Jung has done the whole Red Book calligraphy single-handedly.

In her book Mellick also includes the account of Hugh Milstein, who was in charge of scanning the manuscript for publishing purposes.  Here is how he recalls the experience:

“It was late November, 2007.

The book was seeing oxygen for the first time in a long time. As it was opened, the pages started curling. While the curling has a scientific explanation – humidity and age – … the phenomenon was still uncanny: as though someone was turning the pages one by one.

You could sense what everyone was thinking: another dimension of human experience was happening. I could never quiet the thought that Jung himself was turning the pages. And who was I to say he wasn’t? But it’s at least accurate to say that the pages were moving independently. They were moving for whatever reason we care to think they were moving.

The pages had luminosity. When I was working directly with the book, I noticed how vibrantly the gold and greens were reflecting under the light!”


The Red Book – the original

The opening image of The Red Book

The opening image of Jung’s Prologue contains the first of his paintings – the letter D from “Der Weg des Kommenden” (“The Way of Things to Come”). It shows a small town by the lake and a typical church with a steeple. Sanford L. Drob muses:

“Mountains and fair weather clouds can be seen in the background, and an ancient or medieval sailing vessel drifts close to the shore. The masted vessel, which seems suitable for a lone adventurer, signals the beginning of a journey, one that will take Jung into the primitive depths and the astral heights. This scene, which is peaceful, indeed idyllic, in the center, has much that is troubling around its edges – a harbinger of things to come. Astrological objects and symbols range across the sky, and below there are strange, perhaps primitive, plants and corals in a dark lake. The staff of the letter “D” contains a flaming cauldron, and a serpent wearing a golden crown rises high above it.”

In the introduction to Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung wrote:

“What we are to our inward vision, and what man appears to be sub specie aeternitatis, can only be expressed by way of myth. Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science.”

Sanford L. Drob wonders about the accessibility of The Red Book and whether Jung’s “unique experience can be generalized to others.” Is it just a private, ultra-esoteric account, as some critics have stated, or is it in fact “an effort to engage the problem and paradox of comprehending the universal in the particular,” as Drob thinks. This question will be answered differently depending on whether you have heard “the call of the desert” or whether the writings of Jung have never captivated you.

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


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Moon Art

I saw an exhibition today devoted to the history of artists’ engagement with the Moon, from the Romantic era to the post-war period. My attention was captured by numerous works of art – some of them very atmospheric, as is fitting for the subject. Here is my subjective list of what to me appeared as the most outstanding pieces of the exhibition.

1. Darren Almond’s photographs of 4000-year-old Scottish standing stones. The stones are positioned in a way that suggests a thorough knowledge of the moon cycles. The caption describing these photographs said:

“The mysterious beauty of these stones quite understandably evokes associations with the rocky deserts of the Moon. Although water is considered to be the origin of life, it is primarily rock that tells us the origin of the universe and thus of life.”

Darren Almond, “White Cube”


2. Photographs by Edward Steichen which used the moon as the source of light were really outstanding.


3. Marianne von Werefkin, a Russian- German-Swiss expressionist painter, is undeservedly less famous than other (male) Expressionists such as Munch or Kirchner. Her life was marred by a toxic love affair with Alexej von Jawlensky, who was also a painter, though much less talented than her. She is quoted as saying, “so that he wouldn’t feel jealous as an artist, I hid my art from him.” To find out more about this outstanding and sadly forgotten figure, look here:


Marianne von Werefkin, “Police Sentinel in Vilnius”


Marianne von Werefkin, “Ice Skaters”


4. Max Ernst, “The Twentieth Century”


This is quite a haunting image, as the Moon is the only natural object there. Although the description under it said that it is in fact a tribute to the technological progress, it does not feel like one.

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