Carl Jung’s Hand-Drawn, Rarely-Seen Manuscript The Red Book

Despite his one­time friend and men­tor Sig­mund Freud’s enor­mous impact on West­ern self-under­stand­ing, I would argue it is Carl Jung who is still most with us in our com­mu­nal prac­tices: from his focus on intro­ver­sion and extro­ver­sion to his view of syn­cret­ic, intu­itive forms of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and his indi­rect influ­ence on 12-Step pro­grams. But Jung’s jour­ney to self-under­stand­ing and what he called “indi­vid­u­a­tion” was an intense­ly pri­vate, per­son­al affair that took place over the course of six­teen years, dur­ing which he cre­at­ed an incred­i­ble, folio-sized work of reli­gious art called The Red Book: Liber Novus. In the video above, you can get a tour through Jung’s pri­vate mas­ter­piece, pre­sent­ed in an intense­ly hushed, breathy style meant to trig­ger the tingly sen­sa­tions of a weird phe­nom­e­non called “ASMR” (recent­ly the sub­ject of a This Amer­i­can Life seg­ment). Giv­en the book’s dis­ori­ent­ing and often dis­turb­ing con­tent, this over-gen­tle guid­ance seems appro­pri­ate.

After his break with Freud in 1913, when he was 38 years old, Jung had what he feared might be a psy­chot­ic break with real­i­ty as well. He began record­ing his dreams, mys­ti­cal visions, and psy­che­del­ic inner voy­ages, in a styl­ized, cal­li­graph­ic style that resem­bles medieval Euro­pean illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts and the occult psy­chic jour­neys of Aleis­ter Crow­ley and William Blake.

Jung had the work bound, but not pub­lished. It’s “a very per­son­al record,” writes Psy­chol­o­gy Today, “of Jung’s com­pli­cat­ed, tor­tu­ous and lengthy quest to sal­vage his soul.” Jung called this process of cre­ation the “numi­nous begin­ning” to his most impor­tant psy­cho­log­i­cal work. After many years spent locked in a bank vault, The Red Book final­ly came to light a few years ago and was trans­lat­ed and pub­lished in an expen­sive edi­tion.

Since its com­ple­tion, Jung’s book—a “holy grail of the uncon­scious”—has fas­ci­nat­ed artists, psy­chol­o­gists, occultists, and ordi­nary peo­ple seek­ing to know their own inner depths. For most of that time, it remained hid­den from view. Now, even if you can’t afford a copy of the book, you can still see more of it than most any­one else could for almost 100 years. In addi­tion to the whis­pered tour of it above, you can see sev­er­al fine­ly illus­trat­ed pages—with sea ser­pents, angels, runes, and mandalas—at The Guardian, and read a short excerpt at NPR.

And for a very thor­ough sur­vey of Jung’s book, lis­ten to the lec­ture series by long­time Jung schol­ar Dr. Lance S. Owens, who deliv­ers one set of talks for lay peo­ple and anoth­er more in-depth set for a group of clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists. Above and below, you can hear the first two parts of Owen’s more gen­er­al lec­ture on Jung’s “numi­nous begin­ning,” a book, “unlike any­thing in the mod­ern age; a work com­plete­ly with­out cat­e­go­ry or com­par­i­son.” Vis­it the Gnos­tic Soci­ety Library site to stream and down­load the remain­ing lec­tures.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Famous Let­ter Where Freud Breaks His Rela­tion­ship with Jung (1913)

Carl Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in Rare Inter­view (1957)

Carl Jung’s Fas­ci­nat­ing 1957 Let­ter on UFOs

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • jdp says:

    You write:
    “After his break with Freud in 1913 … he began record­ing his dreams, mys­ti­cal visions, and psy­che­del­ic inner voy­ages, in a styl­ized, cal­li­graph­ic style…”
    I don’t think that’s accu­rate.
    The note­books he kept dur­ing that peri­od, called the Black Books, were writ­ten in ordi­nary cur­sive. The con­tent of the Red Book was based (per­haps only in part) on the Black Books.

  • Ana Julia says:

    Me gus­taria cono­cer más acer­ca de la evolu­ción espir­i­tu­al del alma

    que el desar­rol­la .Gra­cias



  • suzanne says:

    I won­dered the same thing

  • Andy says:

    Because he is a jack­ass😂

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.