Jung's Red Book: A Healing Perspective
Three years ago, UPS dropped off a very large package from Amazon.com. The item was a facsimile edition of Jung’s Red Book. For nearly six decades, his heirs had kept the book under lock and key, unavailable even to scholars.
Finally, in 2009, after years of negotiations and painstaking preparation, the book was released to the public.
Carl Jung was the celebrated founder of analytical psychology. You never hear of any talk of a Jungian approach to bipolar, but the story of his Red Book is very instructive to our recovery.
Soon after his acrimonious split with Freud in 1913, Jung experienced a dark period that he referred to as a “confrontation with the unconscious.” He saw visions and heard voices, and described his altered state of mind as “doing a schizophrenia.”
In the course of his healing, he sought to cultivate these breaks from reality in much the same way a shamanic practitioner might enter into a super-conscious state. Part of the exercise involved recording his impressions in exquisitely rendered gothic script, replete with dazzling illustrations, in a journal bound in a red cover.
The work evolved over a 16-year period, ending in 1930.
The overall impression is that of looking at an illuminated Medieval Bible. The book is a work of art, worthy of any museum.
His journal entries document a broken man working to become whole, and - in large part - succeeding. The illustrations draw from Christian and Eastern and pagan themes. This is vintage Jung through and through - archetypes and symbols, reconciliation of opposites, connection to something greater than the conscious self, a search for meaning.
Fast forward to three years ago. Once the book arrived, I realized I had no decent spot to display it. I went on Craigslist and found a special stand and set it up in my living room. Thus, every day of my life for the past three years has found me face-to-face with Jung and his fantastic world.
Every several days - or when I remember - I will turn the book to a new page, a new reminder:
We are all of us on a journey, our own personal one. Often, it seems doomed to end in disintegration and despair. The bigger picture is we are working toward integration and wholeness.
We flip the page ...