Archive for February 21st, 2011

The Red Book

“Great is he who is in love, since love is the present act of the great creator, the present moment of the becoming and lapsing of the world. Mighty is he who loves.”

C.G. Jung The Red Book

I return from Zurich, Switzerland where I went to see a museum exhibit of Carl Jung’s Red Book. The Red Book was created by Jung almost 100 years ago. It records in image and word his encounter with the unconscious, which occurred after the ending of his friendship and collaboration with Freud. Seeing the images and reading the words of this encounter, I am left with a tremendous respect for Jung. It required considerable courage to consciously enter into this relationship with the great unknown. Yet, he did and the world is the great beneficiary of this intense and meaningful journey. We tend to forget that no road map existed when Jung carried out his engagement with the unconscious. He was flying solo down into the depths of psyche and recognized that this was a journey that he had to take.

Jung later stated that all of his psychological concepts came from this early engagement with the unconscious, which he so beautifully recorded in the Red Book. I believe this is what makes Jungian psychology so unique. For our picture of the structure and dynamics of the psyche actually arose from his direct experience of the psyche. We can be thankful that Jung’s Red Book provides us with a map into the unknown realm of psyche.

The exhibit at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich includes not only the Red Book, but paintings and sculptures by Jung. One is immediately struck by the energy that was required to create these works. We see paintings of country scenes from 1901 to 1905, one of which was painted on his honeymoon. We see pencil sketches of evolving mandalas from 1917. We see him testing his calligraphy style for the Red Book. We see the original black notebooks in which he first recorded his dreams and visions, where his handwriting appears perfectly clear, indicating the care with which he documented his experiences. Thanks to special donations we also see some of Jung’s wood carvings from this time. There are beautiful many armed figures often exhibiting a primitive fierceness that reminds one of African art. And yes, there is the Red Book itself carefully contained within a glass case. Everything about the book: its lettering, its binding and its weight indicates a care and purpose in its creation.

After circling around the exhibit a few times I am left with one question: where did Jung find the energy to create all of this? For at the time he was creating these works of soul and art, he was also seeing patients, raising a family and carrying out the creation of his psychological understanding.

I am thankful for those involved in making this exhibit available. I was greatly moved by the exhibit and also renewed in my commitment to carry out my own personal journey into the unconscious.

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