The Red Book

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 10/05/2013

Every step closer to my soul excites the scornful laughter of my devils, those cowardly ear-whisperers and poison-mixers. 
In 1913, at the age of thirty-eight, Jung experienced a horrible "confrontation with the unconscious". He saw visions and heard voices. He worried at times that he was "menaced by a psychosis" or was "doing a schizophrenia". He decided that it was valuable experience and, in private, he induced hallucinations or, in his words, "active imaginations". He recorded everything he felt in small journals. Jung began to transcribe his notes into a large red leather-bound book, on which he worked intermittently for sixteen years.

Reflecting on this time, Jung contrasted himself to Nietzsche, who experienced a similar flood of images during the composition of his Thus Spake Zarathustra, and subsequently began to slip into a full blown psychosis from which he never recovered. But whereas

Nietzsche concluded that “God is dead,” Jung responds with the concept that God can be rediscovered and reborn in the psyche, i.e. as a psychological experience, as an archetype. Dante’s influence can be felt as well in The Red Book,with the overall narrative arc of a descent into one’s more or less private underworld on a quest to redeem one’s lost soul. Jung felt tremendous pressure to understand these visions, so much so that he contemplated suicide if he failed (he kept a loaded revolver in the night table drawer)

The Red Book has also been hailed as the “nucleus of his later works” and the raw material that led to many of Jung’s most influential psychological theories, one can find the following theories, some in their application and others just being conceived: the collective unconscious and the archetypes, personality types, amplification, compensation, active imagination, inflation, projection, reflection and individuation.

The book starts with apocalyptic visions involving the complete destruction of Europe by vast floods, a sea of blood, they are followed by by two visions involving the death of the hero. The first is The body of a young hero floats in a stream with a bloody wound on his head; next, a black scarab passes when of them where Jung kills the Germanic hero Siegfried. Jung explains those visions as he had been ambitious, arrogant, successful, but at a price. Living the myth of the young hero (Freud's heir)  no longer suited him, for he had given away his own path in the process and had lost his soul. In Jung’s particular case, he had spent the first half of his life developing the functions of intuition and thinking, leaving those of feeling and sensation neglected and undeveloped. He needs to kill this archetype in himself in order to regain his soul. The scarab is a sign of transformation.

Next appears Jung's anima ( Archetype for the male subject's openess to emotionality either as a seductress immature anima or a wise and guiding spirit mature anima), it appears as a blind Salome begging for Jung’s attention and affection, the anima her is Jung's soul who Jung needs to love and accept, he does confess to loving her and his interaction with her leads to the restoring of her sight in the end. She appears with her father Philemon the guiding wise old man who is based Ovid's Metamorphoses tale, Baucis and Philemon were an old couple who were the only ones in their town to welcome disguised gods Zeus and Hermes, so they were chosen by the gods to survive the great flood for their hospitality and on Goethe’s Faust, Part Two, in which the old couple are murdered by Mephistopheles when they block Faust’s development project without Faust’s knowledge or approval (an act that induces tremendous guilt in Faust and that plays a part in the redemption of his soul).

In Liber Secundus, in the opening episode, “The Castle in the Forest,” Jung envisions himself in a medieval castle as a solemn, serious tower guard who spies a red knight approaching. They debate the virtues and shortcomings of Christianity and Judaism, the red knight criticizes religion for its solemnity and Jung eventually calls him the devil. But the knight insists that he is really, in fact, a personification of Joy. He argues that one should learn to dance through life, and Jung stuffily replies that dancing is really just for mating or to re-enact antiquated customs, the red knight counters that one can also dance for joy. Suddenly, Jung’s clothes burst into leaves.

In the analysis of this episode, Jung reaches an understanding that Joy is not merely a symptom of madness or lust, but an expression of life. Jung realizes that in dancing, he is continuing his integration and development of his inferior feeling side opposing his intellectual ans serious ego high up in the tower. In the end “greening” is just an early stage of growth—much more development needs to take place in his feeling and relationship.
Through my coming to terms with the devil, he accepted some of my seriousness and I accepted some of his joy…It is always a risky thing to accept joy, but it leads us to life and its disappointments, from which the wholeness of our life becomes”
In the next episode “The Castle in the Forest”, Jung is alone in a dark forest where he loses his way. At a medieval castle, he meets an old scholar, absent-minded and rude, but finally has his servant give Jung a room for the night. The scholar’s beautiful daughter comes to visit Jung in his bedroom, she says she has been waiting so very long for someone to liberate her. He tells the maiden that he thinks she’s just a cliché of the imagination due to the clichéd fairy tale setting. The maiden counters that fairy tales come nearest to human truth and that she is a real person. The Predictable trivial life, she explains, has cursed her. Paradoxically, she says the romantic and fabulous and cliché-ridden that he would mock contain the humanity that eludes him in his abstract thinking. To his surprise, Jung feels pity for her and tells her that he believes her. She asks if he loves her, and he replies, curiously, that he does but he is already married. Still, his serious and compassionate response liberates her from her imprisonment. Incredibly, he now feels liberated and thanks the maiden, who tells him that she sends greetings from Salome.

In the analysis of this episode, Jung stresses the need for one to integrate the anima (romantic and fabulous and cliché-ridden) and animus (rational thinking). He complains of scholars who were preoccupied and wrapped up in their own abstract, overdeveloped thinking and always crave for attention and recognition in the outer world and becoming offended if their names are not mentioned enough or their work not recognized. In essence, Jung implies, they all have such a maiden imprisoned by an old scholar of a father. She has waited so long to be liberated, but her needs are regarded as unimportant, superficial, and clichéd by the overdeveloped thinking father/scholar mind. Such men typically put down feeling and relationship, or, at the very least, ignore it and deny its reality, allowing it to pine away in vain in a castle tower.
The thinker’s passions are bad, therefore he has no pleasure…He who prefers to think than to feel, leaves his feeling to rot in darkness.  It does not grow ripe, but in moldiness produces sick tendrils that do not reach the light
In the episode involving the giant Izdubar, Jung travels East where he encounters a giant. The giant, seemingly invincible and arrayed in full battle gear, is called Izdubar, an older name for Gilgamesh. Jung, in using his reason and intellect to explain the nature of the natural world as well as of the giant’s being, reduces all of its power in moments. Jung becomes aware too late of the tyranny of reason and intellect in their tendency to strike down and poison other modes of thinking, such as the visionary, the magical, and the imaginative. Jung desperately seeks a way to revive him as he lies dying at Jung’s feet. The giant is too large and heavy for Jung to carry, but it occurs to him that he might alter the giant’s size if he conceives of him as a fantasy. The giant suddenly shrinks down to the size and shape of an egg, and Jung is able to put him in his pocket and carry him to a place where he might be able to revive him. Jung chants a number of incantations and revives Izdubar, yet he realizes that as the giant’s powers increase, his own decreases. Apparently, Jung must reach a workable relationship with the god, neither destroying it with his intellect, nor sacrificing completely his own ego in the realization of its seeming insignificance when confronted by the archetypes. This is Jung’s attempt at resurrecting God (whom Nietzsche declared dead) as a psychological phenomenon, as an archetype with an inner reality with which one can develop a deeply emotional relationship.

In the next episode, Jung finds himself in a dark wasteland. Looking down, he sees a dead child, her skull partially crushed and bloodied. A shrouded woman commands him to eat the child’s liver. Repulsed, Jung is outraged at the suggestion and at the entire situation, but when the woman says she is the soul of the child, he feels compelled to obey her. Disgusted, he carries out the macabre ritual only to have the woman lift her veil and announce that she is really Jung’s soul. Jung interprets the vision, noting that the child is really the image of God. The god must be sacrificed in order to re-claim the psychic energy projected onto it and re-claim his own life and to break free of inflation with an archetype (possession by a god). Jung cites the ritual of communion as a means to this end, the eating of the Savior’s flesh and drinking of his blood healing the soul in the ritual of the mass.
God is not dead. Now, as ever, he liveth
In the next episode, the Cabiri emerge from the depths. They are gnome-like deities from ancient Greece, they were known to supply creative ideas and consciousness but could also interfere with consciousness. The Cabiri announce that Jung is now their master but that he should not delude himself that he can control living matter, which is their realm. They say that living matter and creativity emerges on its own, slowly, and cannot be “pulled up” by the intellect and will. The Cabiri give him a sword they have made for him and tell him it is the means of overcoming his madness. They show him his own brain, in which they say he is too entangled and engrossed. Being lost in his own brain is the source of his madness. The Cabiri pile themselves creating an image of a brain. They say they are Jung’s brain and he must cut them down with a sword. If he does this, they will live through him. He does as they wish. Jung then describes a great tower which was built by the Cabiri; he says they built it from the energy of the guts, not from human thoughts.

At this point, Jung reflects that he began this entire journey because he could not live with himself. In the final section of The Red Book, called Scrutinies, Jung develops this idea of becoming a person he can live with. He begins by relentlessly criticizing his own waking personality, or “I” personality, enumerating in detail all of its shortcomings and failures and threatening it with torture and punishment, seeking to make it more aware of its own vices. Jung’s soul visits him late one night. Soon, there is a knock at his door. It is an enormous crowd of the dead; Jung notes that the dead know no more than the living and seek completion, resolution, redemption for their unfulfilled lives. Jung fears that he can’t trust his soul’s interpretation of this episode; luckily, Philemon shows up just then and before preaching to the dead, he reinforces Jung’s suspicion of the soul:
“Fear the soul, despise her, love her, just like the Gods. May they be far from us! But above all, never lose them! Because when lost they are as malicious as the serpent…Cling to the soul with love, fear, contempt, and hate, and don’t let her out of your sight. She is a hellish-divine treasure to be kept behind walls of iron and in the deepest vault”
His soul is not the figure to guide him through the episode of his encounter with the dead; rather, it is Philemon. Contrast this with Circe’s role in instructing Odysseus on how to summon and interact with the dead in The Odyssey or Beatrice instructing and sending Virgil to see Dante through the Inferno. In each of these cases, the anima is in the positive instrumental role of establishing and developing a relationship to the dead (the unconscious). In Jung’s case, he does not seem to trust his anima with this task, nor does he present her as being very trustworthy. He summarily dismisses Baucis because he needs Philemon’s connection to surviving catastrophe, ignoring the fact that they survived as a couple because of their deep love for each other.
'From that time on, the dead have become ever more distinct for me as the voices of the unanswered. unresolved and unredeemed.'
Philemon now preaches his seven sermons to the dead who visit each night. He provides gnostic teachings that include the importance of incorporating sex with spirituality, etc. At the end of his teaching, Jesus appears and Philemon stresses to Jung that he must sacrifice for his own path of individuation as Jesus did for his that is the proper way to interpret and follow Jesus’ message. Jung later visits Philemon in his garden and finds that Jesus has also arrived at the garden as one of Philemon’s guests but not Salome, Baucis or any representative female figure. Philemon welcomes Jesus and says his brother (Satan) is already there; he notes that the two have much in common via the serpent and are inseparable. Philemon says he needs Jesus in his garden and asks what gift he has brought. Jesus replies, “the beauty of suffering and sacrifice”, as a metaphor to those struggling with their own individuation.

Whether or not Jung, after The Red Book years, ever succeeded in fully integrating and developing his anima remains a subject of debate. At the very least, it seems clear that he made some progress in the second half of his life following the completion of The Red Book. In his autobiography, composed near the end of his life, Jung commented:
For decades I always turned to the anima when I felt that my emotional behavior was disturbed, and that something had been constellated in the unconscious. (MDR, p. 187-188) 
The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to bring them into relationship with consciousness. That is the technique for stripping them of their power… to realize them in actual life. (MDR, p. 177-192)
Perhaps The Red Book served in part as a wake-up call from Jung’s psyche to break from his hero inflation and devote more time to the anima. At the time of its composition, we get an in-depth view of Jung in transition, not yet matured into the benevolent wise old man, the personification of Philemon that he came to be known as, but a middle-aged man struggling in his great experiment upon himself to find and develop his own soul.
I indignantly answered, “Do you call light what we men call the worst darkness? Do you call day night?”
To this my soul spoke a word that roused my anger, “My light is not of this world.”
I cried, “I know of no other world!”
The soul answered, “Should it not exist because you know nothing of it?

In the original journal account of the revelation (Black Book 6) Jung himself is the voice speaking the Seven Sermons to the Dead. In the version transcribed into the Red Book manuscript, Jung gives Philemon as the voice speaking the Sermons. Interestingly, a few pages later, on the last page of the Red Book manuscript, Philemon is identified with the historical Gnostic prophet Simon Magus. When Jung subsequently transcribed the Sermons for printing as an independent text, the Sermons were attributed pseudepigraphically to yet another historical second century Gnostic teacher, Basilides of Alexandria.

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