|One of my favorites|
A few weeks ago I opened Carl Jung’s Red Book and I have since been glued to it with a force I understand not.
He has touched in me a new fiber. I feel that there is another way to find our center, and that he was a pioneer of going down the rabbit hole into finding it.
He worked on the book, originally a handwritten manuscript, for 13 years, and well aware that he would probably be scorned and laughed at by academics of the time including himself. (see photo excerpt below)
In the pages he details his conversations (fantasies/active imaginations) with characters that appeared to him, from the unconscious. He talks about his descent into the mystery, his quest for “individuation” or what we call “yoga” (uniting unconsciousness and consciousness).
Let me tell you, I’ve not been able to put the enormous book down.
He believed that every person just by virtue of existing has a “mythology” a set of symbols that belong to the way in which his or her experiences and nervous system are put together, and it is through the images of this mythology that an individual can connect to the underlying forces that can lead her to the Self, to Center, to Yoga, to Individuation, to Enlightenment.
Not only that, he also believed it is a personal responsibility of every person capable of doing so (i.e. not afflicted by neurosis or diseases of the mind) to become a whole human being. Tall order. I am intrigued.
Jung had a vision in 1913 which both made him fear for his sanity and that, in reality, became a prediction of events to come:
“…In October , while I was alone on a journey, I was suddenly seized by an overpowering vision: I saw a monstrous flood covering all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. When it came up to Switzerland I saw that the mountains grew higher and higher to protect our country. I realized that a frightful catastrophe was in progress. I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood. This vision lasted about one hour. I was perplexed and nauseated, and ashamed of my weakness”
This premonitory vision of the imminent World War I lead him to believe that there is also such a thing as a “collective unconscious” as well as a personal one, which we all have, and that encompasses our own symbols and mythologies. In the same way, once tapped into, we can probably also connect to the collective mythology, the siddhis that yoga speaks of, the super powers of, for instance, being able to see the future.
Shortly after that vision, thinking it was possible that he could be going mad, he started working with his visions, treating himself so to speak, and co-creating the Red Book. It turns out he was far from crazy. He was perhaps the sane-est person of last century.
I say co-creating because the book is not just his work. It is the work of his consciousness that showed up and was willing to listen, to do the work, on one hand, and, on the other, that of the “spirit of the depths” (as he calls it) which talked to him in the form of visions.
|An excerpt on the topic of mockery…|
He considered this his most important work:
“The years…when I pursued the inner images- were the most important time of my life. Everything else is derived from this… My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me…”
Every night he would go to his Tower, (yes, he had one of those) and after the work for the day with patients was done, he would then embark in journeys of conversations with beings that came to him. He then recorded what he obtained, pieces of wisdom, aha! moments (like when he understood that it is in the banal that we learn from ourselves), lessons learned, etc.
These were not merely fantasies of the day-dreaming type, where you can stop at any time and re-run them for a better outcome in your mind. No. He was a scientist after all, so he had rules.
|It’s Huge and heavy, click on the image
to see it in Amazon with more customer photographs
For example: a patient once told him while recounting a visualization that a lion had approached her and then transformed into a boat and vanished into the sea. Nonsense! replied Jung, if a lion approaches you, you get a reaction, something happens, you get scared, it does not just simply transform into a boat and goes off to the sea. All the rules of reality applied, the images were treated as events.
Then the meaning of such imaginations/images/dreams would be given energy by way of painting them.
|Found myself looking at this one for a while|
As the energy went into them, his imaginations became more powerful and frequent, and as he acted on what he learned from this processes then trust was established between the forces of his conscious and his unconscious.
Isn’t this what we seek in yoga? To unite our actions in agreement with our own deepest truth? to become detached from the influences that the “spirit of the times” impose on us (you must own a home, have a college degree, be certified, be approved of, have credentials etc), and connect rather with the “spirits of the depths”?
Sometimes he would have this red leather book in his studio and when patients came for consultation (he had an average of 7 a day and continued serving in the military as well while he created the book), he would show them pages, share with them his findings and so on.
I am learning much from it. I have a post coming up with those things that seem like gems to me!
|The original Red Book.
Until early 2000 It was kept in a vault in Switzerland
The descendants of Jung had kept the original Red Book in a vault in Switzerland and only recently agreed to open it and let it be scanned for translation and publication.
Meaning that the book slept for almost a hundred years, away from the public eye, and not for our eyes to see.
It was finally published in 2009 and although I knew about it I could not really get myself to pay over 200 dollars for it. So I forgot all about it… But now at a bit over 100 and with the thought crossing my mind again I decided to go for it, and it has proven enormously satisfying.
“At 15″ by 12 inches and nearly 10 pounds, the physical size and weight of the book serve as a warning: once a reader decides to follow Jung into his unconscious, it will be some time before the tour is over… ” says New York Times writer Kathryn Harrison in an article published right after the book came out.
Sonu Shamdasani is the editor and one of the translators, who has also curated the first presentation in New York City back in 2010. He is here introducing the book in a series of short YouTube Videos. Below is the first one, for the whole series click here.