If you’re familiar with ideas about art therapy, the intersection of Eastern and Western spirituality, personality attributes and assessments like Myers-Briggs, New Age philosophy, or Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey,” you have Carl Jung to thank. Best known for his work in psychotherapy and psychiatry and as the founder of analytical psychology, (distinct from Freud’s psychoanalysis), during his life, Jung also contributed to a beautifully illustrated personal journal between the years 1914-1930 known as The Red Book, or Liber Novus (Latin for New Book). This journal chronicles a deeply personal voyage of self-discovery that Jung did not wish to be published while he was alive for fear that the book could ruin his professional and personal life, and that people would think him mentally unstable. However, it’s the belief of Jungian scholar Sonu Shamdasani that Jung intended for this work to eventually be published. Shamdasani points to the fact that Jung’s journal is addressed, “dear friends,” and that that he would often lend the journal to friends and patients during his lifetime. After Jung died in 1961, his heirs were reluctant to release the contents of the book, and kept it stored away in a bank vault in Switzerland. It took Shamdasani 3 years to convince his heirs to allow The Red Book to be published, and an additional 13 years for the entirety of the calligraphic text to be translated from German to English.
Published in 2009, The Red Book contains Jung’s self-explorations, representing the source of many of Jung’s theories regarding the collective unconscious, archetypes, psychological types, and the process of individuation. “The overall theme of the book is how Jung regains his soul and overcomes the contemporary malaise of spiritual alienation. This is ultimately achieved through enabling the rebirth of a new image of God in his soul and developing a new world view in the form of a psychological and theological cosmology.” Accompanying the calligraphy of Jung’s text are incredibly controlled surreal illustrations of psychologically and spiritually thematic images.
Art critic and Huffington Post contributor Peter Frank considers The Red Book a great work of art, writing, “It is an endlessly fascinating and staggeringly luxurious artifact, a thing of beauty and of magic. It could pass for a Bible rendered by a medieval monk, especially for the care with which Jung entered his writing as ornate Gothic script. It just happens that his art is dedicated not to the glory of God or king, but to that of the human race.” Frank also identified the presence of a small egg within every image included in The Red Book, explaining that “the egg starts to give off light and then to explode out.”
Jung writes at one point in The Red Book, “There is only one way, and that is your way. You seek the path? I warn you away from my own. It can also be the wrong path for you. May each go his own way. I will be no savior, no lawgiver, no master teacher unto you. You are no longer little children. … May each seek out his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community. Men will come to see and feel the similarity and commonality of their ways.” You can read the entirety of The Red Book as an ebook over at the Internet Archive. (via npr and independent)