Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Following The Red Book dream

Several boxes of my journals are stacked in the garage. I probably should burn them sooner than later—I’m not getting any younger. Those journals go back to my high school days. I really should burn them. But, they come in handy once in while. On those occasions, when life circumstances cause me to spend considerable time in deep reflection, I often wander through my old journals—looking for dreams. Thumbing through pages looking for when the unconscious was prompting me to be aware or to go on a journey. One such dream appeared a few years ago.

I was walking through a vast ancient library, much like the library at Trinity College, Dublin. The walls were high, filled with great books. I walked down the hall of ancient and rare volumes and turned into a corridor where the lights were very dim. Along one side of the mahogany wall was an inset. A bright light shone from the glass case. When I got to the case I saw a red book. I knew the title was in an ancient language that I didn’t understand. A curator came and lifted the red book out of the case and gave it to me. I could tell the book was very special. But, I didn’t want to look in the book. I felt it would lead me into a frightening place. The curator insisted I take the book.

In the fall of 2013 I began to discover the meaning of that dream. A friend who is a Jungian therapist recommended I take a close look at C.G Jung’s The Red Book. I have subsequently purchased both the illustrated copy (made available in 2009) and the reader’s edition (released in 2012). Recently, I finished the reader’s version (and the in depth preface and countless footnotes) for what I know will be the first of many times through. I have spent hours studying Jung’s mandalas and paintings in the illustration copy. I am just getting started.

Beginning in 1913 Jung engaged in a self-experiment with the “confrontation of the unconscious.” He recorded his fantasies, visions, and dreams, first in several black notebooks. Then in a red leather book using calligraphy, he transcribed his experiences including his personal art. In 1930 he left the experiment and the book unfinished. Jung died in 1961. While it was common knowledge the book existed, it was kept from publication. In 2000 the family trust decided to enlist experts to prepare the book for publication.

I have read Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Man and His Symbols, Psychological Types, Answer to Job, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, several papers including “Introduction to the Religious and Psychological Problems of Alchemy,” and am now working my way through Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Dreams, and Alchemical Studies. All of this reading and study became much clearer after diving into the deep end of the unconscious through The Red Book.

I have no interest in reviewing Jung’s books or writing my own book on his work. There is no need for such a monumental effort that has already been well documented by many who are vastly more qualified than me, a simply devotee of Jung. My desire is to simply offer my reflections about the impact of Jung’s work on my life. I do this in order to follow out the direction of my dream a few years ago; a dream that I did not know the meaning until my friend pointed me in the direction of Jung’s The Red Book. Both, I believe, appeared in my dream before I knew of the book’s existence. More to follow.