Carl Jung’s Surreally Illustrated “The Red Book” Documents The Therapist’s Psychospiritual Journey

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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)

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Livio Scapella’s Haunting Sculptures Of Shrouded Ghosts Will Chill Your Bones

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The sculptor Livio Scapella‘s shrouded figures seem to be in eternal conflict with their materiality, trapped like lost souls within the confines of stone. In this strange work, titled “Ghosts Underground,” the artist uses the aesthetic dialogue normally associated with classical Renaissance masters, establishing the suggestion of movement within the frozen busts; necks contort, and mouths hang open as if to speak. Visual weight is distributed uncomfortably, and like Michelangelo’s Prisoners, Scapella’s figures yearn for escape, gasp for air.

Like a moving, writhing funeral shroud, the fabric is rendered with the utmost delicacy and softness, affording the busts a ghostly significance, as if they were invisible men and women defined only by the cloth in which they are contained. Like those caught frantically between life and death, the haunting figures seemingly do battle with the elements of the natural world and its order. As they strain against stone, they are powerfully anchored by spectacular quartz and amethyst held steadfastly to their chest. Like an external representation of the soul or spiritual self, the burdensome yet magnificent gemstones lie cradled within the airy fabric above the heart.

In a particularly powerful diptych, the “white soul” sits beside the “black soul;” where the white soul rests, embracing her permanent and immobile fate, the black soul strives against eternity, his mouth open in a frightful scream. The male, art historically associated with the intellectual and rational, is in turmoil; the female, on the other hand, becomes unified with nature and with the elements from which she is constructed. Within each of us lies this powerful duality: will we succumb to death or will we struggle to escape it? Take a look. (via Hi Fructose and Juxtapoz)
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Katarzyna Majak’s Portraits Of Modern Witches

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Katarzyna Majak‘s “Women of Power” photography series captures the faces and dress of earth-worshipping Polish women who are powerful among their particular spiritual sectors. The vast majority of Poland’s people (90%) are practicing Catholics. When Christianity was introduced to Poland a few centuries ago, it erased most traces of paganism, witchcraft, and shamanic traditions. The women Majak photographs – ranging in age from their 30′s to their 80′s – represent the very small minority of Polish women who practice alternative spirituality. For many of these women, this series depicts their first public display of power. They “practice a wide range of spiritual paths and spiritual systems. A few are traditional healers (so called ‘whisperers’ who mix religion with primeval superstitions to heal and remove spells using prayers) whose traditions survived on the Belarusian border. Some are women who had grandmothers who could ‘see’ or were herbal healers and who are working to revive what would otherwise be dead traditions.”

Porter Contemporary, where Majak’s work was featured in 2012, writes, “When asked what being a witch meant to one of the subjects in the series, she replied ‘A witch is a woman of knowledge who takes a broom and sweeps to cleanse the world.’” (via feature shoot)

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