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Carl Jung’s Red Book at the Rubin Museum of Art

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October 19, 2009   ·   9 Comments

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Waking from wild and fantastical dreams, I try my hardest to write down all their details, attempting to unveil the hidden meaning within for myself. Yet, if I had lived before the 20th century, I may have been revolted and troubled by the images conjured up during sleep. In the early 20th century, Carl Jung revolutionized the world of psychology by founding analytical psychotherapy, pioneering the idea that the exploration of the psyche, including dreams, could lead to greater self-understanding.  It is little wonder that the man himself attempted to make sense of his own interior world through what he called “active imaginations” and penned The Red Book, now on display at the Rubin Museum of Art until January 25, 2010.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.


I first read of the exhibition of The Red Book at the tail end of a fascinating feature article in the New York Times Magazine of September 20th detailing the book’s history and its road to publication. Jung’s most intimate of memoirs – digitized, magnificently reproduced and annotated (and now on sale) – had lain in vaults of the Jung family since the great psychotherapist’s death. It was only after perseverant convincing by Sonu Shamdasani, historian and soon-to-be Red Book editor, that the family chose to share what is regarded as the most influential unpublished work of modern psychology.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

The excitement at the exhibit at the Rubin Museum of Art was palpable. The intimate display unveiled the process behind the creation of The Red Book, revealing the evolution of imagery, preliminary notes as well as finished illustrations. Two copies of the 205-page book itself (or at least the digitally reproduced and annotated version of it) is also on display for perusal.  You can hold the book, flip through its pages and immerse yourself in the mysteries of its creation.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

The book is something of an illuminated manuscript, with text written in elegant calligraphy and illustrations very attentively and elaborately produced (amazingly by Jung himself!). The book is nothing short of a work of intense meditation. The Rubin exhibit reveals a very rich exploration of personality and spirituality that they aptly call the “creation of a new cosmology.” The imagery reveals an amalgam of mythology, philosophy and religion from around the world. Jung created uninhibited diagrams and illustrations culled from his very learned mind, ranging from mandalas, to hieroglyphic-like languages to giving form to imagined figures.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Reprinted from The Red Book by C. G. Jung (c) Foundation of the Works of C. G. Jung. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

In observing these images, I felt that I was peering into Carl Jung’s rich interior life, full of imagination and creation. Ultimately, the display of The Red Book captivates the audience more by the inner logic of the work than the artistic value of the elaborate illustrations. Regardless, The Red Book seems to have captivated the fascination of its readers since it unearths new territory to discover the mind of Carl Jung himself. And, indeed, with the publication of a long hidden book written by one of psychology’s greats, the fascination and discovery has only just begun.

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9 Responses to “Carl Jung’s Red Book at the Rubin Museum of Art”

  1. […] View original here:  Carl Jung's Red Book at the Rubin Museum of Art […]

  2. It is an idea of particular value for Jungian theory as represented, for example, by the late work, ‘On the nature of the psyche’ (JUNG 8). In this work one gets the impression that with this concept Jung had reached the limits of his scientific picture of the world. Indeed, it is as if he had made a final supreme effort to open up yet another realm of the mind, rendering it accessible for future research.

    CT Frey-Wehrlin 1976

    Yet during the last several centuries of scientific thinking, the notion that one could know something about the future based on a dream, vision, or sensory impression has been a clear marker for mental illness rather than knowledge.

    Lorenz, Helen 2006

    “as any change must begin somewhere, it is the
    single individual who will experience it.” Jung.
    (man and his symbols).

  3. […] Carl Jung’s Red Book at the Rubin Museum of Art […]

  4. Elna Nugent says:

    Jung’s persistent explorations of his unconscious are chilling at the same time they are ennobling. Good God , how many would consciously dare it? Dreams and visions are usually thrust upon us , ready or not . This book is far more than genius. I have the Book of Kells which I bought in Dublin years ago. It is a mind boggling artistic enigma. But this art is different. It seems to encapsulate the antiquity of the soul. The writing is a magnum opus that burdens as it enlightens. I am left in a state of wonder.
    God Bless,
    Elna

  5. […] There are some lovely large images on this page: Carl Jung’s Red Book at the Rubin Museum of Art. […]

  6. I concur with your comment Mr.Laurence. This is precisely the conclusion of my 50 year investigation of the perplexities of meaningful coincidences (synchronicities). My findings are being published in three weeks – see Amazon – see my website – meaningful-coincidences.com

    The key to understanding the intracies of synchronicities I believe is not by accessing the contents of the collective unconscious – rather it is b y way of the conscious working in concert with the personal unconscious activating a persons’ unique creative process.

  7. As a priest, therapist and student of Jung for 40 years, I just stand in awe of his work and his genius. I have little to add to the articulate comments above… insightful and sincere, all of them.

    It is Jung who has opened up for me what I believe to be the true meaning of the life, sayings and actions of Jesus. He was an expression of the evolution of human consciousness. He came in “fullness of time”… a time when enough people had developed a depth of consciousness sufficient to discern and distinguish between the Conscious and the Unconscious. So they understood Jesus when he said such things as, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”… or, “As a man thinkest in his heart, so he is”… or, from one of the Gnostic gospels, “Man if thou knowest what thou doest, thou art blessed; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the law.”

    Human consciousness is still evolving today, and will continue to evolve… even in this time of mass culture and the “lowering of the mental threshold.” No less than Jesus represented in his day, Jung represents in our day the occasional leaps forward which occur in that evolutionary process.

    It is still a gamble of the colossal magnitude whether the human race will destroy itself before the wisdom of the Unconscious prevails… or whether collective consciousness will be transformed and made wiser, to the saving benefit of all. Let us pray for the latter.

  8. […] 17, 2010 · Leave a Comment I was recently lucky enough to see Carl Jung’s Red Book which was at The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC, on display for the first time ever. It has recently […]

  9. […] and penned The Red Book, now on display at the Rubin Museum of Art until January 25, 2010. – http://www.theartblog.org/2009/10/carl-jungs-red-book-at-the-rubin-museum-of-art/ Gefällt mir:Gefällt mirSei der Erste dem dies […]

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