They say that among the pages of Carl Jung’s Red Book (or Liber Novus) lies the alchemy of a mind that aspired to travel to the underworld to redeem his soul. We are faced with an enigmatic and fascinating intellectual legacy, for many the holy grail of the unconscious, the work of a madman who at a given moment came to repudiate humanity.
If there is a mystery still to be solved in the world of psychology, it concerns the manuscript written by Carl Gustav Jung between 1914 and 1930. Unfinished work, a book halfway between the prophetic, mystical and psychological element, which presents a series of terrifying illustrations in which the deities are confused with ancestral demons.
Few have attempted to give a logical and rational explanation of what the father of analytical psychology claimed to narrate with his Liber Novus . Yet, perhaps he had no pretensions, perhaps we should not look at a scientific and objective gaze at all at a work that in reality could only be a cathartic exercise, a personal therapy with which to give free rein to the demons that occupied his mind in a phase of crisis. existential. Perhaps this is the key.
However, after Jung’s death, his family jealously preserved the manuscript, keeping it under lock and key in a house in Kusnacht, on the outskirts of Zurich. No one was to have access to the book, not even the scholars and fellow Jungians. Later, in 1984, the Red Book was kept in a bank. It took until 2009 to witness its publication, with the permission of Jung’s nephew, Ulrich Hoerni. A long-awaited event that left experts and laymen almost speechless and breathless …
Carl Jung’s Red Book, the work of a mind in crisis
Here is one of the paragraphs from the first chapter of Carl Jung’s Red Book . If you know Jung’s bibliography, but have not yet approached this work, it is good to anticipate that you may be surprised and contradicted, as well as feel that you have a world of wild moments in your hands. The appearance of this book is that of a bible of the sacred and the profane, bound in red leather and with cream-colored parchment pages flooded with gold letters.
It is important to note that at the time of its publication, many Jungians such as Andrew Samuels were quick to specify that Jung did not suffer from any mental disorders. There are also those who declare that the work is nothing more than the result of a psychotic outburst that arose after one of the discrepancies between Jung and Freud.
It is not so. In reality, what Carl Jung felt was a profound personal crisis also linked to a new stage in his life, the one from which his intellectual evolution arose. Jung began drafting the manuscript in 1914, coinciding with the onset of World War I, at which time the Swiss psychiatrist experienced a profound disappointment with humanity and a crude skepticism towards the scientific rationalism of his time.
The cathartic goal of the Red Book
The Red Book is first of all a personal diary. The difficulty encountered when trying to untangle the complex web of symbols, codes and self-alchemy contained in it is the obvious impossibility of shelling or dissecting the mind of one of the greatest representatives of the dream world.
Jung explored his own psyche, his relationship with the unconscious and the profound architecture of which he professed himself a privileged explorer. He used the psychonautical technique to give vent to his imagination and shape the various pages; through meditation he allowed images to flow and give life to illustrations accompanied by descriptions.
It was in this way that a series of archetypes emerged that he would develop at a later time, as well as his darker universes, that shadow that at times we would not want to recognize as ours, but which is still part of our being.
A curious and wonderful fact about the very first publication of the Red Book in 2009 were the testimonies of some patients of Carl Jung. They, unlike others, understood the purpose of this work.
While some were banned by this literary ocean populated by trees of wisdom, reptilian brains, devouring dragons and the kundalini serpent, others remembered a piece of advice that Dr. Jung used to give them:
A wise advice from a great master whose shadow, in the form of an intellectual legacy, delights us and still amazes us.