Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jung's Red Book

The new movie, A Dangerous Method, examines the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud who began as friends, but then over time fought bitterly over the fundamentals of psychology, psychiatry and role of the psychotherapist. Freud generally viewed the unconscious mind as a warehouse for repressed desires, and Jung viewed the psyche as an inherently more spiritual and fluid place. His central tenets — the existence of a collective unconscious and the power of archetypes — have seeped into New Age thinking while remaining more at the fringes of mainstream psychology. When Carl Jung embarked on an extended self-exploration , where he said he "switched off consciousness", the result was a large, illuminated volume called the The Red Book. The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons, as he loses his soul and then finds it again. In Jung's view a successful life was all about balance. If our lives erred too much in one direction, our unconscious would compensate for the inequality. The book was never published during Jung's lifetime, though a few friends and disciples were allowed to examine it in a Swiss bank vault. Apparently Jung felt it was too personal for publication and he did use some of the text in other published works. In 2009 Jung's heirs decided to publish a complete facsimile and translation and we have three copies at the library. It's a huge book, resembling a medieval manuscript, with Jung's handwritten text and drawings.

If you just need a beginner's introduction to Jung, check out The Essential Jung, introduced and compiled by Anthony Storr.

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