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Carl G. Jung Red Book (Liber Novus)

The Jung Red Book, by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, aka Liber Novus (The New Book), soon to be released from Norton ( here on Amazon
, $195? Really? Oygh.. NYC psychoanalysis fees in book form?), which will be on display at the Rubin Museum of Art starting oct. 7, has a longwinded explication in the NYT magazine today.

Its an interesting story if you havent followed the famous “lost books” saga of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Wilhelm Reich, amongst others: Carl G Jung, the archetype psychoanalyst who is the hero of mediums and symbologists, kept a private diary now called “The Red Book”, in which he, in much less interesting language and style, ‘suffered’ through a trope better identified with Goethe, August Strindberg, Swedenborg, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, and Alfred Jarry… although its doubtful he suffered the poverty. FTA:

Working at Zurich’s Burghölzli psychiatric hospital, Jung listened intently to the ravings of schizophrenics, believing they held clues to both personal and universal truths. At home, in his spare time, he pored over Dante, Goethe, Swedenborg and Nietzsche.

What happened next to Carl Jung has become, among Jungians and other scholars, the topic of enduring legend and controversy. It has been characterized variously as a creative illness, a descent into the underworld, a bout with insanity, a narcissistic self-deification, a transcendence, a midlife breakdown and an inner disturbance mirroring the upheaval of World War I. Whatever the case, in 1913, Jung, who was then 38, got lost in the soup of his own psyche. He was haunted by troubling visions and heard inner voices. Grappling with the horror of some of what he saw, he worried in moments that he was, in his own words, “menaced by a psychosis” or “doing a schizophrenia.”
[ full article ]

The whole take on Jung, which has supported a niche market amongst the wealthy on their journeys into the deep mystical psyche, gets him a lot of flak historically, but there is a precedent for the experience. Jungs misfortune, like that of Reich, seems to be mostly based in the fact that he was in the wrong field. Science, which shares many empirical methodologies and ontologies with psychoanalysis in terms of questioning, reason over monadic experience, etc, turned to psychology and now to realtime MRI scanning of schizophrenic brains. Still, the Red Book sounds pretty interesting, mostly because it is said to contain many pages of brightly colored paintings and art, illustrating the various moments of Jung’s liver-eating-nesses.

The real question here is, what is the root of the genre? How derivative is Jung as the ‘Red Book’ author? An interesting idea. For example, can it match the visual drama of Blake, or the literary power of Emanuel Swedenborgs Heaven and Hell [1758]?

By 1744 he had traveled to the Netherlands. Around this time he began having strange dreams. Swedenborg carried a travel journal with him on most of his travels, and did so on this journey. The whereabouts of the diary were long unknown, but it was discovered in the Royal Library in the 1850s and published in 1859 as Drömboken, or Journal of Dreams. It provides a first-hand account of the events of the crisis.

He experienced many different dreams and visions, some greatly pleasurable, others highly disturbing. The experiences continued as he travelled to London to continue the publication of Regnum animale.

Swedenborg’s transition from scientist to mystic has fascinated many people ever since it occurred. It has been asserted that Swedenborg lost his mind, suffering some sort of mental illness or nervous breakdown.[link]

…and furthermore,

Swedenborg’s theological writings have elicited a range of responses. Toward the end of his life, small reading groups formed in England and Sweden to study the truth they saw in his teachings and several writers were influenced by him, including William Blake (though he ended up renouncing him), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, August Strindberg, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Baudelaire, Adam Mickiewicz, Balzac, William Butler Yeats, Sheridan Le Fanu, Jorge Luis Borges and Carl Jung.

Clearly, more research is indicated. However, whether or not its an important question to question is another question. My take is that it looks like a beautiful and extensive take on the Swedenborgian/Blake-ian book of the soul, wherein art and writing attempt a transmutation with the lived experience of increased psychological depth.

Perhaps the real question is, would CG Jung have made a better author than psychoanalyst, had he taken the route of a man of literary/artistic endeavors rather than suffering the slings and arrows of being called a pseudo-scientist, as the historical debate has indicated…

Also from the same article, nice side take on families of important figures:

Stephen Joyce, James Joyce’s literary executor and last living heir, has compared scholars and biographers to “rats and lice.” Vladimir Nabokov’s son Dmitri recently told an interviewer that he considered destroying his father’s last known novel in order to rescue it from the “monstrous nincompoops” who had already picked over his father’s life and works.


September 16, 2009
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