Reading Jung’s Red Book

I’ve never read a book before that made my desk shake and tremble when I set it down.  That caused a minor atmospheric disturbance in my study every time I opened and closed the cover.  That required several changes of physical posture to view the contents of each page.  That should be considered, due to its alarming weight, a hazard to children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

My ambivalence starts here.  The florid design and gargantuan size of The Red Book by C.G. Jung (edited by Sonu Shamdasani) insists that we take this work Very, Very Seriously.  But we have to ask, is this how Jung wanted his unfinished private collection of fantasies and paintings to be presented to readers? 

He plainly did not want to publish it during his lifetime.  He left no clear directive one way or another about its fate after his death. 

By not expressly forbidding its posthumous publication, and by sharing the original text with his inner circle of family and friends, Jung indicated some willingness to make The Red Book a part of his public literary corpus. 

I doubt, however, that he would have felt comfortable with the grandiosity of this back-breaking tome, which literalizes to an almost absurd degree the metaphors of prophecy and revelation he used to describe his “confrontation with the unconscious” during the years 1913-1930.


2 Replies to “Reading Jung’s Red Book”

  1. ha – a good reminder to not take ourselves so seriously. I bet Jung would have cringed at the egotistic size of this volume, but then again he was a big fan of medieval folios….

    I have read only a fraction of the Red Book, but it is clearly a well-edited work meant for a wider audience than his usual dense prose. I think he did hope it would be read widely, considering its style that reminds me of a Nietzschian philosophical memoir. I like the images, but I don’t have a spare bible stand in the house, which seems to be the only way to really read this thing, on a pedestal.

  2. There’s lots of great material here, and it’s too bad the physical and financial barriers to access will prevent many people from getting to know The Red Book.
    The post above is a draft of the first section of a presentation I’m making at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting next week in Atlanta, Georgia. The Psychology, Culture, and Religion group is sponsoring a panel discussion of The Red Book, and my task is to say something about the role of dreams.
    More posts to come….

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