Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Parabola - JUNG’S RED BOOK: Life After Depth

Cool - I still want to get a copy of the book, but it'll have to wait for now. This excellent article comes from Parabola.

JUNG’S RED BOOK: Life After Depth

Abraxas, © Jorge M Machado

JUNG’S RED BOOK: Life After Depth

By Claire Dunne

The knowledge of death came to me that night….I went into the inner death and saw that outer dying is better than inner death. And I decided to die outside and live within….I turned away and sought the place of the inner life! —C.G. Jung, The Red Book

The Red Book, an epic chapter in the life of C.G. Jung, is now available to us fifty-eight years after his death. This fabled volume bound in red leather, which Jung initially called Liber Novus (New Book), echoes a medieval manuscript in its calligraphic text and richly toned symbolic paintings. It reveals a process that was primal in its energies and labyrinthine in its journey, one that became the genesis of his psychology. "The numinous beginning that contained everything", he wrote of it in 1957, four years before he died.

Cary Baynes, a former patient who was asked by Jung to transcribe the text, called it a "record of the passage of the universe through the soul of a man." It records the search, experiences, and initial findings of a man who at age forty had, by his own account "achieved honor, power, wealth, knowledge and every human happiness," yet had somehow lost his soul.

"Meine seele, meine seele, wo bist du?" "My soul, my soul, where are you?" Jung writes in the Black Book series that preceded and was elaborated upon in The Red Book. In his introduction to The Red Book, editor and translator Sonu Shamdasani, a London-based historian of psychology and psychiatry, sets this potent work within the context of Jung’s time and life.

It began in 1913, the year Jung broke with Freud. Inner experiences were drawing Jung into a way of being not primarily dependent on intellect. There were dreams he didn’t understand and then a repeated and dramatic sign–a daylight vision of horrific floods, Europe devastated, rivers of blood, and an inner voice that said: "It will come to pass."

"I thought my mind had gone crazy," wrote Jung. He undertook a psychological self-examination but became stuck. To tap into underlying material, he devised a "boring method" that evolved into "active imagination," which was to become a keystone of his psychology as a means of accessing and penetrating fantasy. From late 1913 to mid-1914, he recorded a relentless avalanche of inner openings, images, and dialogue, material to be worked on as Jung’s "most difficult experiment."

Often these experiences occurred at night in his library, following a day’s work with patients and dinner with family. He sometimes did yoga-type exercises to quell emotional turmoil and empty his consciousness. He then went into the spontaneous fantasies that appeared, as if entering a drama, engaging in conversations with its characters. But he remained uncertain of the meaning and significance of their content. Mental illness was a recurring fear.

"Finally I understood," he wrote in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I. His early symbolic pre-cognitions had been given terrible form. Understanding gave Jung the courage to begin a handwritten draft of his Liber Novus. He transcribed the Black Book material, adding further interpretations of each episode, and often combining these with a lyrical elaboration.

Here are some snapshot impressions of the book that may yield the skeleton of its content. Inner battles take place. In the prophetic opening the Spirit of the Depths spars with the Spirit of the Times in him. The contemporary and changing thinking of Time constantly has to give way to the immemorial and shaping future contained in, and arising from, the Depths.

A spiritual message emerges, a new way for the time we live in today, with Jung becoming the task, interpreter, and bearer of it. The teaching is of a new God image–an immanent God who is in everything big and small, dark and light. The paradox in this holds that "the highest truth and the absurd is one and the same thing." Moreover, "the melting together of sense and nonsense produces the supreme meaning"; and "if you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child." The task is to hold the opposites together, "the goal is not the heights but the center"–the center or Self which can be said as "God in us."

Jung came to believe that "You should be…not Christians but Christ, otherwise you will be of no use to the coming God." He realised he needed to live all of life in him, God spirit and human animal, together in unity.

In Jung’s personal journey his feminine Soul voice battles with him to recognize and balance his own opposites. There is a peeling back of distrust, scorn, judgment, pride, defiance, doubt, confusion, rage, and fear. The need to develop patience—a waiting, enduring, receiving mode as the feminine (or anima) within—is put to him. He discovers that thinking and feeling need each other.

Jung has to face what least he wants to—symbolised as desert, hell, murder, and more, till "nothing human is alien to me." Opposites, he realises, are brothers: "the other is also in you." Soul counsels acceptance of solitude, the inner loneliness of knowing, uncertainty of path or goal, and fear and possibility of madness as part of his journey. "I believed…soul knows her own way….perhaps no one will gain insight from my work. But my soul demands this achievement….I should be able to do this just for myself, without hope–for the sake of God."

Jung carves his own path, insisting "my path is not your path" and, "to live oneself is to be one’s own task." The fantasies deepen in a spiraling journey of recurring, evolving patterns. The horror and the positive aspects of collective human history unfold before him. Soul insists he accept it all. "I feel the things that were and that will be". He initially recoils at the enormous task ahead. "Futurity grows out of me; I do not create it, and yet I do."

A transformative image of black snake appears, winding up, becoming white, and emerging through the mouth of the crucified Christ.

"To give birth to the ancient in a new time is creation," he writes.

"We need it [magic]… to find the way that we are unable to conceive." Looking for inner help, Jung is "apprenticed" to Philemon, a "guru" figure that first appears in dream as a winged man bearing four keys, and then as the archetypal Magician. From him, Jung learns about objective reality beyond the personal. He risks the letting-go that is needed to bring together powers that conflict in the soul of man into a true marriage. Reason and understanding must unite with unreason and magic. Unity brings an apparent standstill that is "the forbearing life of eternity, the life of divinity." Yet his inner guidance reveals that the personal "life has yet to begin." This section ends with: "the touchstone is being alone with yourself. This is the way."

Another section opens with a devastating self-criticism of the "shadow" side of his state. "If I tame you, beast, I give others the opportunity to tame their beasts." Jung is encouraged by Soul to "be unwavering and create" while a haggard male inner image tells him, "you must bleed for the goal of humanity." As World War I savages on, Jung asks his Soul: "Which depths do you require me to advance to?" The answer "Forever above yourself and the present."

For nearly a year, the voices of the depths fall silent. Jung writes a draft of his Liber Novus. Then the voice of Philemon returns. "Self-willing is not for you. You are the will of the whole….Draw nearer, enter into the grave of God. The place of your work should be in the vault."

The dead appear to his inner vision and Soul declares "The dead demand your expiatory prayers." Jung reluctantly accepts. Soul announces that the "the ruler of this world" demands the sacrifice of Jung’s fear because he has "been summoned to serve him." "Why must it be me?" protests Jung. "I cannot. I don’t want to."

"You possess the word that should not be allowed to remain concealed," declares his Soul.

Philemon, who Jung had felt as "the presence of the good and the beautiful," now appears in priestly robes and gives "Seven Sermons to the Dead," a kind of Gnostic creation myth, including humanity’s role in it.

From Pleroma, unmanifest, infinite, eternal, in which "there is nothing and everything,, arises differentiated levels of Creation that are permeated with Pleroma. Pairs of opposites, which are balanced and void in Pleroma, appear as separate in created beings, eg., good and evil, sameness and difference. The striving at bottom is for "your own essence" as being.

Everything "created and uncreated" is Pleroma itself, the totality of being. The first manifestation devolving from Pleroma is Abraxas, a god forgotten by mankind, whose state of being is "effect," a paradoxical "improbable probability and unreal reality." It is "force, duration, change" at once. The next level of manifestation is more definite. God is creation. God is in essence "effective fullness" while Satan, his opposite, is in essence "effective emptiness."

Then there is a multiplicity of gods that act as either heavenly gods that "magnify," or earthly gods that "diminish," the four principal ones being Sun God, Eros, Tree of Life, and Devil. Spirituality and sexuality, "daimon manifestations of the gods," are opposites of the same spectrum, celestial in spirituality, earthly in sexuality. Man and woman "stand under the law" of both in differing ways.

In the last of the "Seven Sermons," Philemon reveals that man "is a gateway through which you pass from the outer world of Gods, daimons, and souls into the inner world; out of the greater into the smaller world." In this world "man is Abraxas, the creator and destroyer of his own world," who has a star as his own "guiding God."

Much later, Jung told a colleague that the "Seven Sermons to the Dead" were a prelude of what he had to communicate to the world. They are the skeletal nucleus of Jung’s psychology including individuation, the conflict of opposites, and the co-creation of man with the godhead.

Yet, the journey of The Red Book continued on. Philemon had a further teaching about man: "You, being, are the eternal moment." Death as shade, and celestial mother in mantle of stars, also appear, requiring further sacrifice from Jung before he can give birth to his stellar child. Jung realizes that "only fidelity to love and voluntary devotion" lead to "my stellar nature, my truest and most innermost self, that simply and singly is."

Finally, a shade (Christ) enters. Philemon kneels to "my master and my brother," telling Christ "your work is incomplete" while man merely imitates his life. "The time has come when each must do his own work of redemption."

By the end, clear lines are drawn between personal Jung and the inner beings that have appeared throughout, including Elijah, Salome, and earth spirit Ka, in addition to Philemon. There is a final tussle with Soul as Jung refuses unconditional obedience to the gods. He insists that man is no longer "slave" to them, though "They may devise a service in return." After initial outrage the gods agree. Soul tells Jung: "You have broken the compulsion of the law." Christ (as shade) offers a final word as gift. In accepting light and dark together: "I bring you the beauty of suffering."

In 1916, while on military duty, a series of twenty-seven mandala images came to Jung. The first depicts a multilevel relationship of microcosm with macrocosm. Abraxas, "lord of the physical world," is at the bottom; Phanes, golden winged "divine child," is at top. Over time Jung transcribed his work into calligraphic form on parchment, illustrated the text, painted dramatic symbolic images of his journey and inserted it all into a six-hundred-page folio bound in red leather.

Patients recall seeing it, open, on an easel in his library. Jung counseled them to create their own kind of Red Book as a method of dealing with their particular inner processes. Christiana Morgan recalls Jung saying "You can go to the book, turn over the pages and for you it will be your church–your cathedral–the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal….for in that book is your soul."

He stopped work on The Red Book in 1930 when the impact of a Chinese alchemical text, The Secret of the Golden Flower, brought him "undreamed of confirmation" of his ideas, and the link between East and West. In 1959, a single handwritten page was added to the book by Jung, reaffirming its contents: "I always knew those experiences contained something precious." It ends in mid-sentence.

The Red Book continues to offer us profound insight into the processes of life, into Jung and his work, and into the need to honor our own inner lives in our own way.

The Red Book is published by W.W. Norton at a list price of $195.00.

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