the red book


From 1914 until 1930, C. G. Jung recorded, revised, rewrote, recopied and painstakingly illustrated what he considered “the numinous beginning” from which all the rest of his work derived. “The Red Book,” or as Jung called it, “Liber Novus,” consisted of some 200 parchment pages of meticulous calligraphy and visionary paintings collected into a huge folio bound in red leather. While its content, either whole or in part, was made available to a handful of colleagues and patients, its publication was postponed until now, nearly 50 years after his death, because Jung feared the book’s potential impact on his reputation. After all, anyone who read it might conclude what Jung himself first suspected: that the great doctor had lost his mind. Jung began what would become “The Red Book” shortly after he had fallen out with Freud, each unable to accept the other’s understanding of the unconscious. Though Jung agreed with Freud’s basic theory that the unconscious mind existed beyond the reach of consciousness and yet influenced human behavior, he believed Freud’s conception of it as a dark vault of repressed urges and denied emotions was incomplete and unnecessarily negative — too focused on neurosis. The 1912 publication of Jung’s “Psychology of the Unconscious,” which had grown out of his psychoanalysis of the heroes and heroines of “mythology, folklore and religion” made the two doctors’ differences of opinion public, and the Zurich Psychoanalytical Society, with which Jung was actively involved, broke away from Freud’s International Psychoanalytic Association.

more from Kathryn Harrison at the NYT here.