Red Book

May 26, 2010

The Red Book, also known as the Liber Novus ( Latin for A New Book) is a mysterious book. Written between 1914 and 1930 by  Carl Jung it is almost 100 years old but has only been shown publicly since 2009. The Red Book contains the story of a man who enters midlife, loses his soul and finds it again. Or how Miranda July puts it

think of it less like a book and more like your diary during the part of your life when you were going through such darkness you thought it would never end. Remember that?! You wrote in your diary a lot during that time because on some level you knew that each demon, each nightmare you survived was transforming you in a way that would always matter. The book is about how Jung recovers his soul, recovers meaning in his life through enabling the rebirth of the image of God in his soul.

So why has it only been available to scholars recently? Apparently the book was written when Jung fell out with fellow analytic psychologist Sigmund Freud, which some say was partly caused by a psychological breakdown. Some of the very few who had a chance to read it said it to be fascinating yet worrying and the work of a psychotic. Jung produced the book using a technique called Active Imagination, with figures appearing that, for Jung, brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life. So potentially it is dangerous and freighting, but to me it sounds fascinating.

Until 2001 Jung’s heirs refused to permit publication and only after persuasion by different scholars was it finally published in 2009.


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