Jung's Red Book: Healing the Faustian Ego



Craig Chalquist, PhD

Is Jung's recently published Red Book really an account of the rebirth of a new God
in the soul? Or is it rather a preparation for and testament to the rebirth of
images of the divine long repressed but finally breaking through?
And what does the book have to say to our troubled time?

 

The good and the beautiful freeze to the ice of the absolute idea,
and the bad and hateful become mud puddles full of crazy life.
--C.G. Jung,
Red Book


In the summer of 1914, C.G. Jung, psychiatrist, worried that he was losing his mind.

He had been worried about this since October of 1913, when during a train ride he suffered a terrifying vision of flood waters pouring over most of Europe. The vision repeated itself on the ride back, and a third vision followed: of a red glow in the north that suggested rivers of blood. These visions prompted Jung to analyze himself in earnest while keeping a journal. He could not be of help to his patients (he reasoned) if he were "menaced by a psychosis."

In 1914, Jung began copying his journal writings into the first draft of what he called Liber Novus, the New Book. In addition to inner visions from the journals, this new document, eventually known as the Red Book, also contained commentaries on--"amplifications" of--this visionary material, written not as diagnoses but as sermonlike expositions. Jung had been reading Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, and its tone influenced him strongly.

Because he wanted to take his inner experiences seriously as he worked on them, he wrote them in calligraphy and added ornamented borders and haunting paintings. The final work resembles an illuminated manuscript, its content something on the order of the Divine Comedy meets Steppenwolf.

As Jung worked on the Red Book, World War I broke out. When he heard the news, Jung thought immediately about his visions of the prior year. He was not crazy, then, but tuned into the global calamity in ways he could not fully understand. "Because I carried the war in me," he wrote, "I foresaw it." But how? And what did these visions indicate about the relationship between the personal psyche and the collective, a relationship totally ignored by psychiatry and psychology?

Begun as an attempt at self-analysis, withheld from publication until late in 2009, the Red Book goes far deeper down the rabbit hole than even Jung foresaw. Delving into years of inner journeying, it explores internal linkages between the personal and the transpersonal, provides a stage upon which deep forces in the unconscious can personify as imaginal characters, undermines conventional thinking about religion's role in the psyche (and vice versa), and unfolds a multidimensional map of how psychopathology and spiritual experience interconnect.

By doing all this, the Red Book offers a three-part case study in the healing of the Faustian ego: the willful, arrogant, hubris-ridden ego that believes itself master of a world now in decline.


Book 1: Liber Primus

The first section of the Red Book opens with a Latin inscription from Isaiah: "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" The passage goes on to describe the coming Messiah, swerves into John 1:14--"And the Word was made flesh...." etc.--and finishes with Isaiah again talking about greening deserts and the blind regaining sight.

Here we go at last:

If I speak in the spirit of this time [wrote Jung], I must say: no one and nothing can justify what I must proclaim to you...I have learned that in addition to the spirit of this time there is another spirit at work, namely that which rules the depths of everything contemporary. The spirit of this time would like to hear of use and value...But that other spirit forces me nevertheless to speak, beyond justification, use and meaning.

It will be evident to the reader that in Jung, conventionality and the voice of depth were in conflict. He went on:

The spirit of the depths took my understanding and all my knowledge and placed them at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical.

Much of Book 1 reads this way; only later do we learn that a lot of it was spoken by Philemon, Jung's name (borrowed from Greek myth) for his inner Wise Old Man. At this, the start of the journey into the depths, Jung is still in a state of identification with such figures of his unconscious, and modern psychiatry cannot help him because it holds the personality as a unity. Along the way he will differentiate himself from these vocal figures by allowing them to speak and even to mentor him. As this occurs, the tedious intonations give way to a much more human voice.

The preaching is laced with provocative thoughts: for example, "The image of God throws a shadow that is just as great as itself." Even in Jung's time factionalists were finding religious justifications for going to war in the name of their God. When Jung wrote this material, taken from his journals, the First World War had not yet broken out.

And so onward. Reporting that at age 40 he had acquired everything he wanted in life, including knowledge, wealth, and reputation, the future author of Modern Man in Search of a Soul finds his own as he moves deeper into the interior world of active imagination. "What words should I use," he asks her when she appears to his inner eye and ear, "to tell you on what twisted paths a good star has guided me to you? Give me your warm hand again, my almost forgotten soul." Jung would refer to her later as the anima, the feminine component of the masculine mind.

At first he thinks she is God contacting him from within, but he eventually recognizes her as a figure from the psychic depths who speaks through dreams he must write down. "The meaning of this act was dark to me. Why do this?" He persists anyway, sensing its importance. To his soul he confesses, "I limp after you on crutches of understanding." He does not trust her. But he enters the door she opens and confronts--chaos. "Disorder and meaninglessness," he reminds himself, "are the mother of order and meaning," a core idea of what we now know as Complexity Theory. She leads him out into the desert.

The psychiatrist who had lost his soul dislikes the desert and begins complaining loudly. His soul replies, "You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother. I am not your mother." When he persists, she admonishes, "You are pleasure-seeking. Where is your patience?" She also calls him "vain to the marrow of your bones."

In retrospect her scoldings are not difficult to fathom. After marrying the second-wealthiest woman in Switzerland, Jung had engaged in numerous affairs, some with his own patients. Reported to be bullying, egotistical, and prone to tantrums, he cared little about the impact of his words and actions on other people. By growing up with a weakened father who had secretly lost faith in God and a mother who was in and out of mental hospitals, Jung had learned to shield the resulting narcissistic wounding by manipulating people into admiring his genius and willfulness. In short, Jung's upbringing had left him intellectually brilliant but emotionally immature: a common occurrence in a culture largely devoid of wise male role models.

His salvation was a rock-bottom earnestness about self-knowledge served by a natural gift for thinking psychologically and a natural curiosity about what the imaginal figures wanted to say on their own behalf. As his soul acknowledges later in the journey, he has a strong heart. After twenty-five nights in the desert, Jung admits that she has given him "hard but salutary words."

Next, he finds himself underground near a crystal glowing like a red, subterranean sun. Sickening streams of blood flow by. It is December 12, 1913. "....In the depths of what is to come lay murder. The blond hero lay slain." This seems to anticipate not just WW I but WW II as well, the latter ignited by hawks who worshipped the "blond beast." At the same time, Jung is describing the death of his own identification with the hero. But it would be culturally and historically (and archetypally) incorrect to confine this wound to him. The muscular heroic attitude at large in the West must die to release the forces of healing--and to stop men from sacrificing each other instead of killing the enemy within. "If the hero in you is slain," Jung explains, "then the sun of the depths rises in you...."

Sure enough, a vision comes over him of murdering the legendary German hero Siegfried. In 1925, Jung would describe this vision and wonder out loud what had constellated this figure, who seemed to him ridiculous and "exaggeratedly extraverted": in other words, a personification of his own narcissism. Narcissists never like to see that side of themselves and go to great lengths to deny it. Those who go in for the guru mantle often start by ranting about eliminating the ego.

With Siegfried out of the way (Sigmund had been ejected the year before), Jung begins to suspect that the God-image he felt rising from the depths could not be only good and loving and beautiful. To do justice to the complexity of life, it must be complete: bright and dark, lower and higher, awful and delightful, "masculine" and "feminine." This God would not require imitation or discipleship and would in fact scorn them. But for this God to be celebrated fully, the heroic posture of the all-conquering master of the world must die.

In the next vision, Jung, who is still underground--in a volcano crater, appropriately enough--encounters three figures: an old man who resembles a prophet, a beautiful maiden, and a black snake at their feet. "I am Elijah," the man explains, naming the prophet who raised the dead and ascended into heaven, "and this is my daughter Salome." She is blind. Jung recognizes her as the dancer who asked for the head of John the Baptist. Eventually she will ask for Jung's as well by criticizing his tendency to intellectualize. Little wonder that Jung takes an immediate and fearful dislike to her. When he calls the pair a symbol of extreme contradiction, the old man replies, "We are real and not symbols."

This was a turning point for Jung and for depth psychology. Up to now Jung had subscribed more or less to the standard psychiatric thought of his time (and ours) that whatever characters we fantasize or dream are "mine," parts of a single self. These figures insisted otherwise, and they clearly acted from perspectives very different from Jung's. What if they were right? Would that mean madness? But if Jung were mad, temporarily or otherwise, how could he manage to write books, treat patients, attend conferences, meet with new doctors, maintain a family, answer letters, write them, and stay on top of such a busy schedule?

Jung would call these two figures by various names: Wise Old Man and anima, Predetermination and Pleasure, Logos and Eros, Elijah and Soul, Philemon and Salome, and even Simon Magus (the legendary founder of Gnosticism) and his mate Helene, a reincarnation of Helen of Troy. Whatever names they go by, from this point forward Jung begins to realize that "there are things in the psyche which I do not produce": that the depths carry living figures alien to the conscious mind. Figures that knew Jung all too well, and whose perspectives would have been lost had he tried to assimilate these figures into ego-consciousness instead of holding psychic space for ongoing dialog.

Thoughts grow in me like a forest, populated by many different animals. But man is domineering in his thinking, and therefore he kills the pleasure of the forest and that of the wild animals.

On the following night, Salome refers to herself as Jung's sister. When he asks who their mother was, she replies, "Mary," which gives him pause.

Jung's work has been considered redemptive on many levels: its restoration of the culturally severed tie between personal and sacred experience; its tending of the collective face of "inner" psychic material; its willingness to take this material as it presents itself instead of reducing it to trauma or biology....Given these and other aspects of his achievements, Jung might be thought of as making creative use of the archetypal energies of the Redeemer. At this stage of his career, however, he seems to have suffered from a Christ complex relatively common to narcissistically wounded men. Such men tend to alternate between self-idealization and fear of what others think of them. In a later vision, the daughter of a librarian, having offered herself to affair-prone Jung only to be told, "I am already married," will remark, "So--you see even banal reality is a redeemer." In another vision featuring a one-eyed tramp who is about to die, Jung admits that "I look around to make sure that no one is listening to me talking with a former convict."

After watching a black snake and white snake (Doubt and Desire?) battle for supremacy while marking each other, Jung is contemplating the Cross when he finds himself squeezed by the black snake. As it bears down on him, he pleads for help from his soul while stretching out his arms in the posture of crucifixion. Perhaps the wise serpent, whose knowledge resulted in Adam and Eve being banished from Eden and unconsciousness, is squeezing the Christ out of Jung, who no longer finds himself able to reduce it to allegory.

Once it has, Jung notices Elijah glowing with heavenly light: the Wise One, not Jung, is the true light-bearer. Salome beholds it rapturously, kneeling, her eyes now open, as Jung, compressed and deflated by these encounters, creeps away into the night squeezed, dried out, and deflated.


Book 2: Liber Secondus

Jung finds himself guarding a tall tower, his body clad in green garments, a hunting horn hanging from his shoulder. A rider in red approaches. Upon closer inspection, Jung decides that the rider is the devil. They strike up a conversation in which the One in Red makes fun of Jung for being a Christian of the type who takes the scriptures literally. Wouldn't it be better to dance through life instead of being so serious? As they converse, the rider's red color changes to become softer, like flesh, and Jung's green blossoms like a tree in spring. Transformations of the ego often parallel transformations of the unconscious. (One day Merleau-Ponty would seek to ground the natural act of perception in what he called "the flesh of the world.")

In a sharply contrasting vision, Jung follows footsteps downward and meets an anchorite praying in the Libyan desert. The anchorite warns him against believing too much in words. Other visions follow: of Helios the sun god shining brightly; of Death in a wrinkled black coat revealing to Jung the sea of blood to come; and of the anchorite and the Red Rider now in each other's company as Jung, his green clothes leafing, asks them why they now travel together:

Anchorite: "What can be done? Even the devil is necessary, since otherwise one has nothing that commands a sense of respect with people."

Devil: "Well, I need to come to an arrangement with the clergy, or else I will lose my clientele."

Jung:

But I was no longer the man I had been, for a strange being grew through me. This was a laughing being of the forest, a leaf green daimon, a forest goblin and prankster, who lived alone in the forest and was itself a greening tree....I had absorbed the life of both my friends; a green tree grew from the ruins of the temple...

This tree would show up in a dream at the end of Jung's life, the roots glowing with alchemical gold. Nature imagery never strayed far from Jung's deepest thoughts about the psyche. His observation that at bottom psyche merges with world marks him out as a grandfather of ecopsychology.

"I talk with trees and the forest wildlife, and the stones show me the way" --the way leading over black and white paths up a mountainside, where Jung encounters a horned giant with an axe. This is Izdubar, the gigantic Assyrian hunter also known as mighty Gilgamesh, destroyer of forests. When told he cannot reach the sun because the world is round, Izdubar smashes his axe and accuses Jung of poisoning him. Jung's reply is somber: "Oh Izdubar, most powerful one, what you call poison is science...When I see you, however, it seems to me as if we are all somewhat poisoned." What can replace what science has condemned as superstition?

As the lamed god lay dying, Jung realizes that because Izdubar is an imaginal being, Jung can save him by shrinking him to the size of an egg. He places the egg in his pocket and goes on his way, thankful he has understood how to convert a once-literal deity into a fantasy.

After chanting over the egg to incubate it, a reborn, transformed god rears up out of it, luminous and full of fire. Jung feels himself correspondently drained of life force. He is now in Hell, where he sees a maiden holding a line tied to a fish hook stuck in the eye of a ruffian who tried to kill her, a marionette with a broken head, and a dead little girl whose liver he must eat in a sacrificial rite that restores some of his vitality, a bizarre communion recommended by his soul, She who would appear as a girl in other dreams.

Back in the library, Jung decides he wants a book and, to his surprise, selects Thomas a Kempis's The Imitation of Christ. This choice elicits comments from various inner figures aware of his Christ complex. The scholar in the library tells Jung that "it's just a religion." The cook in the scholar's kitchen thinks Jung is a pastor. As they talk, a crowd of Anabaptists--Radical Reformers who take scripture literally--rushes through the kitchen like birds. They are headed for Jerusalem; "But it seems we have no peace, although we died in true belief." Police then take Jung to a doctor who diagnoses him with a bad case of "religious madness," adding, "You don't have any insight into your illness yet" when Jung protests that he feels just fine despite all these pointed criticisms of his imprisonment in a restrictive Christian mentality. In retrospect it's astonishing how much of this inner criticism echoes James Hillman's attack upon "unconscious Christianism" and psychological monotheism of the type that undermine the psyche's natural pluralism and polycentricity. [Per personal communication April 2010, Hillman had not been through the Red Book until its 2009 publication.]

Jung's soul visits him in the madhouse: "Words, words, do not make too many words. Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it?" The professor calls him "quite a character." Although no Mad Hatter appears, a fool complains about Jung, "My God, why does my family always shut me in with crazy people? I'm supposed to save the world, I'm the savior." When the sun rises, Jung sees that it's a cross with a serpent draped languidly over it.

But then a tree rises from the sea, reaching into the heavens. "I couldn't find the way," Jung says in bewilderment to an attendant, who responds, "You don't need to find the way now." THE Way, THE Truth, THE Path have all become problematic for Jung, because too confining and insufficiently diverse for life's complexities. Jung awakens from this dream-inside-a-vision and finds himself back in the kitchen with his soul. He looks down at his book, at a sentence about finding rest in the Lord, and finds every word followed by a question mark.

In the next scene, however, a change is afoot. Caught up in a play taking place in Klingsor's magic garden, Jung finds himself cast as Parsifal, finder of the Holy Grail, but instead of doing anything heroic, he takes off his armor, washes himself in a stream, puts on his ordinary clothing, and walks out of the play. "I rise and become one with myself." This seems promising. Assailed by the inner cast of characters, the savior complex loosens somewhat.

On January 22, 1914, Jung asks his soul to plunge down into the depths. From floods below he hears her voice: "Will you accept what I bring?" She offers him "old armor and the rusty gear of our fathers," much of it instruments of war; "painted stones, carved bones with magical signs," human hair, animal skins; fratricide, torture, sacrifice, war; and, lower still, "the treasures of all past cultures, magnificent images of Gods, spacious temples, paintings, papyrus scrolls," and stories told down through ages: a psychic world so huge that Jung, whose work anticipated evolutionary psychology and psychohistory, does not see how to accept it all. From this he learns that he must limit himself, rein in his ambition, and tend a smaller garden.

Among Soul's other boons--three of which he calls "prophecies": the misery of war, the darkness of magic, and the gift of religion--she hands him a rod of black iron shaped like a serpent, with pearls for eyes and a gold bangle around its neck. In exchange he must give up "solace": the comfort of company with his fellow beings. This bitter medicine will have to be swallowed more than once. Jung's later correspondence reveals that his sense of solitude extended to the end of his life.

In search of magical instruction, Jung comes upon Philemon, who he learns is actually a magician, and Baucis, the magician's wife. Philemon offers baffling instruction, counseling him to give up reason and consistency if he wants to learn the art of magic. (The inner figures, with which Jung spends a large amount of his time arguing, consistently criticize him for escaping into words and intellect.) Jung begins to understand what is required of him. "I sought to grab hold of you and tear it out of you," he tells Philemon, "since the Christians have learned to devour their God. And how long will it take for what happens to the God also to happen to man? I look into the vast land and hear nothing but wailing and see nothing but men consuming each other."

Going his way again, wiser after each bruising encounter, Jung encounters his soul, this time in the form of a serpent, and plays a flute to enchant her into speech. "Religion is still tormenting you, it seems," she points out. "How many shields do you still need?" Under his clothing Jung is wearing chain mail. "Well, what is it with morality? Have morality and immorality also become one today?"--a stunning criticism of his simplistic slamming together of the opposites, an ego move. "You even deny Faust, who walked calmly past all the spectres." (As described in the book Storied Lives, Faust was Jung's personal myth.) She tries to bite into his heart but is blocked by the coat of mail over it.

The devil too makes fun of the defensive use of Jung's "opposites": "This smells of monism. I have already made note of some of these men. Special chambers have been heated for them." Here Jung admits that something unexpected has come up: after the opposites were united, "nothing further happened...Life turned into a complete standstill." The devil is unsurprised: "You are blinded fools, a brashly impertinent people. Why didn't you stay out of trouble? How do you mean to understand the ordering of the world?" It's as though the inner cast knows what Jung does not suspect: that what he perceives as divided universals are actually symptoms of psychic splitting. The image that accompanies this part of the text displays a fortified castle.

In later work Jung writes that when the ego has exhausted its efforts, the unconscious should be left to itself to do further work. The Cabiri now appear: gnomes who labor like dwarves under the earth. "You want to pull up with your own force what can only rise slowly....Spare yourself the trouble, or you will disturb our work." Jung takes the hint and takes a break from inner journeying for a while. (Hillman would criticize psychoanalysis one day for trying to dig every stone out of the quarry: “But what about the quarry?”)

Upon his return the Cabiri give him a sword for cutting "the knot that entangles you": namely, his brain. Both brain and sword come from Mother Earth, the gnomes explain; "the entanglement is your madness, the sword is the overcoming of madness."

Jung: "What will happen if I strike?"
Cabiri: "Then you will no longer be your brain, but will exist beyond your madness"--in other words, disidentified with his thinking function and its rationalizing intellect.

He strikes his brain (separatio!) and finds himself on new land facing a tall iron tower built by the Cabiri. "Just as a tower surmounts the summit of a mountain on which it stands," Jung records, "so I stand above my brain, from which I grew" and which grew, like all we know, from the planet on which we evolved. He now feels able to approach the serpent-soul again.

She is in Hell, where she notices a man who was hung for poisoning his wife and parents. He did it, he says, to honor God. As for his wife, she is down there too; "We only speak together here and there, and only about trivial things..." When Jung asks the serpent what this means, she says the hanged man is a good example of the colorless impersonality of Hell. (Does she refer to Jung's marriage?) She then criticizes Jung for his inability to reconcile personal life with absolute life:

Jung: "Can't one unite these opposites?"
Serpent: "They are not opposites, but simply differences. Just as little as you make the day the opposite of the year or the bushel the opposite of the cubit."

When she tells him unexpectedly that they have "balanced the opposites and married," Jung promptly assumes he has accomplished a great work. She quickly points out that this is only the beginning: "You really ought to make much higher demands." She also chides him for believing he can "grasp me and embody me." (One cannot integrate an archetype.) Nevertheless, he deserves a reward for all he has done and been through....

....at which Elijah and Salome reappear. Elijah graciously offers to give her to Jung.

Unfortunately, he is still stuck in conventional literal-mindedness. He refuses, again on the grounds of already being married. "You helpless man, how ponderous you are," sighs Elijah at this sudden reactivation of Jung's Christ complex. "Is her healing not your doing?" She can see, which indicates that the operation of relatedness in Jung has grown more conscious and effective. In spite of this, he remains afraid of "being entangled by love," and he is still suspicious of her.

She insists she wants to bring him joy rather than further sacrifice--"Why still crucified?"--but he will not budge, forcing her to ask: "What is wrong with you?" Perhaps an unresolved narcissistic weakness allergic to real intimacy. "Insofar as you give," he tells her distrustfully, "you demand." The same suspiciousness contaminated all of Jung's romantic relationships with women.

The serpent becomes a bird and flies to heaven, where it finds a discarded gold crown with the words Love Never Ends engraved on it. As this occurs, Jung finds himself stretched between sky and land, suspended like the Tarot Hanged Man. Finding this painful, he asks his soul for help, but she can't do anything: "How can I? You are hanging too high." His rejection of her has manifested in an agonizing split. Now he must help himself.

And so he hangs for three days and nights, "weary wth struggling after the incommensurable." A black raven comes by and calls Jung an ideologue. Satan also appears, sneering, "See what comes from the reconciliation of opposites! Recant, and in a flash you'll be down on the greening earth." Jung wishes the white bird would return, but Satan goes on mocking him: "Reconciliation of the opposites! Equal rights for all!" Through such encounters Jung would learn that real reconciliation between "higher" and "lower" must arise spontaneously from the depths of the psyche, an operation he eventually named the transcendent function.

With the third day over, Jung returns to earth, to complain about feeling locked up in the tower constructed for him.

While he ponders the necessity (as he sees it) of separating from love and "the mother"--as he had argued the hero must do--the serpent approaches and, taking pity on him, tells him a story of a king who was forced to hand the crown over to his son. To be a creator, she informs him, referring to the deep psychological work still ahead of him, you must become a child again. More: he must pair up with the mother. "The creator needs the mother, since you are not a woman."

He is aghast as the hubris of his Faustian overidentification with the creator god dawns on him. "This is a terrible truth. I thought and hoped that I could be a man in every way." The thought that he must remain a child for the sake of the work humiliates him, as does the idea that the work will grow larger than he is, a son he must crown and let go of. "A salutary antidote," she answers, "against ambition." And perhaps against any preoccupation with goals like health and wholeness. Such heady goals bypass the question of what calls out from within fragmentation and imperfection.

Asked where Jung might still "take hold of the incommensurable," she curls herself into knots, a serpentine parody of Jung's mental state (for he still has not learned to quit grasping for transhuman heights), and gently mocks, "Do not ask after the morrow, sufficient unto you is the day." More gently: "Let everything grow, let everything sprout; the son grows out of himself."

And so Jung places the crown on the head of the son, who is also the god Jung incubated in the egg....who is also the Great Work he must alchemize from Gilgamesh giantism into the Philosopher's Stone of depth psychology. "No man binds the Above and Below together," he realizes at last: only the Work itself can do that.

Releasing the son/god/opus to make its own way, Jung falls into despondency. "Without him I would fall apart, but my life went on with him. My love remained with me." "You have remained with immortal company long enough," his crowned son tells him. "Your work belongs to the earth."

With that the son soars heavenward, and Jung, on the ground and alone with himself, thinks about the opus awaiting him.


Scrutinies

This third and final section of the Red Book opens with Jung speaking to what he calls his "I."

Its main flaw, he states, is that "you have no correct self-esteem." Rather than giving rise to self-compassion, this observation forms the leading edge of a ruthless self-criticism in which Jung takes the "I" to task for its pride, ambition, craving for power, desire for appreciation, vengefulness, and other narcissistic faults. Gradually, he reports, the pleasure in lashing himself fades.

When his soul appears again, she informs him that she (like Sophia saved from her fallen state) has returned to the Above where she belongs. Predicting dire happenings, she cautions Jung to remain on his path: "Your way goes toward the depths." A month later the First World War begins. Interior sacrifices having been left unmade, literal ones leave bodies on the battlefield.

As reported in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the dead now visit Jung, demanding his attention and his blood. They were restless, they said, because they were seekers who had not found what they had sought. To teach them, Philemon appears and preaches seven sermons to them on what they had not learned while alive: the nature of individuation, the superiority of experience over belief, the presence of Abraxas, a god-image that unites all conceivable opposites, and the folly of substituting divine multiplicity with a single overarching God: "In doing so you produce the torment of incomprehension, and mutilate the creation whose nature and aim is differentiation. How can you be true to your own nature when you try to turn the many into the one?"

The soul and the crowned son had both emphasized connection to the earth. To Jung Philemon explains what we would now interpret as the ecological dimension of human failure:

These dead have given names to all beings, the beings in the air, on the earth and in the water. They have weighted and counted things...What did they do with the admirable tree? What happened to the sacred frog? Did they see his golden eye? ...Did they do penance for the sacred ore that they dug up from the belly of the earth? No, they named, weighed, numbered, and apportioned all things. They did whatever pleased them...Yet the time has come when things speak."

Things of the earth that bear witness to human mistreatment of the earth, as the new field of terrapsychology records. Furthermore, had men atoned for the ox and the trees and the frogs, (Philemon went on), they would not have lifted their hand against each other. Social, psychological, and ecological destruction emerge together; for as we now know almost a hundred years after Philemon's words to Jung, alienation from self and alienation from nature represent two sides of one dire pathology.

In a later visit, the old Wise One prophecies a return to sense and sanity:

The earth became green and fruitful again from the blood of the sacrifice, flowers sprouted, the waves crash into the sand, a silver cloud lies at the foot of the mountain...The stones speak and the grass whispers.

With that he kisses the earth and disappears.

Later, Jung's soul--or was it actually Sophia now, more goddess than psychic function?--returns from realms above to explain the cosmology of the Seven Sermons, the nature of Abraxas, and Jung's connection with that god through her. Through love, Jung comes to understand through this gnostic education, he can put on his true "stellar nature" ("the body of stars" in Gnostic terminology).

Still later, Philemon approaches wearing an earth-colored robe and says he has caught a fish. Jesus himself appears, or rather his ghost does, a lean figure pale and bloody. Philemon thanks him at length for his sacrifice, which has enabled everyone to take the burden of salvation on themselves: "The time has come when each must do his own work of redemption. Mankind has grown older and a new month has begun." At this Jung looks up and sees that the place where the shade of Jesus had stood is empty.

Here the relentless force and press of inner events ease and shift to a slower tempo. The initiation seems to be winding down: inevitable, perhaps, given all that Jung has learned and unlearned.

"The Gods want you to do for their sake," the soul announces to him in a late vision, "what you know you do not want to do." He is not surprised. "They want their goals to be fulfilled," he states, "but what about mine?" Startled, she realizes that Jung has passed beyond unconditional obedience. This time his opposition lacks petulance and reactivity, deriving instead from a mind standing firmly in its center. Not even heaven can tell him how to be himself. All this evokes the later Jung insisting that one cannot relinquish taking responsibility for one's ethical stance toward the archetypal world.

His soul rises to relay this news, and returns to report, "The Gods give in. You have broken the compulsion of the law." The exchange from now on will be on even terms. Jung feels grateful to the devil-within for helping him step back from the divine agenda long enough to decide for himself how best to engage it.

In a final act, Jung is walking in the shade of a summer garden when he meets Philemon and Christ. Philemon welcomes Him to the garden, whereupon Christ's shade replies, "Oh Simon Magus or whatever your name is, are you in my garden or am I in yours?" Philemon states that they are in his garden, and that Christ may find accomodation with him and Baucis. They granted hospitality to the terrible serpent, and now they will grant it to the Risen One.

Christ suspects deception, Simon Magus having been a notorious trickster, but Philemon reminds him that "your nature is also of the serpent." The shade agrees, having at last become an imaginal figure rather than an idealized savior. "I bring you," replies Christ, "the beauty of suffering. That is what is needed by whoever hosts the worm."


Summary: Beyond the Faustian Ego

Although tremendous images from the unconscious bubbled up in Jung's awareness for the rest of his life, the onslaught stopped around the time WW I did. Jung was stationed at Chateau d-Oex as part of his mandatory Swiss military duty when he began drawing mandalas: symbols of wholeness that offered pictures of deep psychic activity. These images led Jung to his conception of the Self, the archetype of totality and final goal of individuation.

Jung did not finish the Red Book. Alchemy soon took his interest from it, and the development of Analytical Psychology demanded an extraversion of much of his energy. In old age he tried to write an Afterword, but it too broke off. Yet the work carries no feeling of being half-finished. Perhaps the resistance Jung felt to completing the work was akin to losing interest in a journal after the writer has passed beyond the struggles contained within it. Returning to them would feel like an unnecessary regression.

Jung never healed entirely from his narcissistic wounding, his mistrust of women, or the "religious mania" (as Jung's imaginal doctor put it) of his obsession with monotheizing (unifying). Even so, Jung's heroic journey through and beyond the Underworld healed him enough to arm him with new humility, deeper insight, and fresh "magic" tools that served him well until the end of his life. Others before him had made the descent, with comparable psychic pummelings, but it remained for Jung to provide a contemporary language for such overpowering encounters. With this language he rebuilt the bridge connecting human with divine internally, which is to say, psychologically. "God approaches man," he wrote, "through symbols."

Did Jung give rebirth to a new God-image in his soul? No new myths present themselves in the Red Book. Its discussions of the Self, a unitary concept Jung took from Nietzsche and elaborated, restrict themselves to ancient imagery like Abraxas, Jung's Gnostic code word for the felt union of the Christian God with Satan, higher and lower, crown and serpent, into a deeper and more comprehensive if mysterious whole. The rebirth of the divine that plunged Jung into hell renewed God-images repressed into cultural and personal unconsciousness by millennia of monotheistic religion and centuries of scientism. With them had gone the verdant nature imagery that sprouted in Jung's imaginal garments and took root in Philemon's sermons.

What Jung did do was dream the sacred imagery onward, taking his own later advice by giving updated form to the fruits of direct experience. Furthermore, Jung pushed past literalistic interpretations of myth by grounding his encounters with the divine in internal experience. Literalism is the letter that kills the spirit, imagination the word that brings it back to life, revivifying the soul as consciously directed fantasy, at last unchained from dogma and doctrine, melts the crude vessels of religion down into storied spiritual experience.

It makes sense that the Red Book would finally be published in a time of warfare and global crisis. The narcissism it depicts was not that of Jung alone, but of psychiatry and psychology, of modernity, of a civilization cut off from its natural roots--its "animal" as he put it. Where Faust the alchemist sold his soul to the devil in exchange for carnal frenzy and mechanized might, our world-girdling civilization has altered the elements, the atmosphere, and life itself through the anti-alchemy of mutating toxins and genetic manipulation. The type of ego consciousness responsible for all this cannot tolerate anything wild, uncomfortable, or imperfect; it must clean, cleanse, fix, and solve instead of allowing what arises to open up and move from within.

Mired in its own attempts to work on, toward, around, and though, the Faustian ego remains walled off from inner and outer nature except in rare individuals who make their own heroic descent into the depths. For them, the Red Book tells the inside story of Jung's painful evolution as he sat with what pinched and bothered him long enough to let it share its soul. In the wound, he found, was the voice of the divine, ever calling into presence a more spacious and heartfelt relatedness to an animate world, one whose creatures, liquids, fires, and minerals speak on their own behalf to anyone with ears to hear.


Chalquist.com