In discussing some of the ideas reflected in the Red book, Jung looks into his own dream experiences for around one full year. In some of his dreams, it appears a really important figure during all his work, the figure of Philemon, flying through the sky, carrying keys, one opening the door, entering the mysterious world. The whole book is about that, about entering that mysterious world, allowing that duality of conscious and unconscious to merge, becoming the One.
In the book the theme of prophecy is present. According to his writings, the primary meaning of the prophet is that of a being in contact with the divine, being an interlocutor of the deity. A prophet predicts individual events and predicts them in the psyche. Prophets foretell the future also. Carl Jung believed he had received illumination and that by working in alchemy he could communicate his visions. In one of The Red book’s chapters, the writer speaks about the shadow of the image of god, in which he states that the terrestrial reflection is inaccurate. The image of god as a Christian god makes no sense to him.
The author believed this book to be a transformation of himself, a process of changing and of reaching the unconscious. In his writings he stated many things, such as that the supreme meaning is in the details, as the devil also, or that the supreme meaning rested in irony. He thought that the unconscious comes and goes, creating this image of nonsense, and that this should be dealt with humour.
The red book is a visionary book, opening and amplifying passages as it goes. The author foresaw World War I and II. As an example, in the chapter refining the soul, it appears the vision of the flood, which is a clear comparison to those wars. His writings look at finding the soul, to find the journey to the author’s own soul. He turned the soul into a scientific object. In this dialogue with his soul, Jung searches for the god-soul. He saw the soul in images of men and then on his own.
The ancients lived on mythological archetypes. Jung believed those archetypes to be based on collective unconscious inheritance, which even though seemed not to make much sense, it was based on that underworld of the unconscious.
In the chapter the definition of the soul, prompted by the spirit of depth, there is a dialogue about men and their souls. It becomes the accomplishment of every man to have a dialogue with their soul, to be able to accomplish wisdom. There appears two spirits: the spirit of the times (the consensus reality, the ego world) and the spirit of the depths (which influences the spirit of the times) and which is in diametrical opposition. This duality brings up the dual spirit of the death versus the spirit of this time, in which we find the interaction of this psyche of the outer ego and the archetype of the inner soul. The archetypal force is dark, disturbing, hard to experience and to accept, but perseverance makes men free and liberate them from their conscious death. The way to truth is only to those without intentions. When we have an agenda, we think it is needful. When we have a preordained agenda, then the agenda is not ready for the coming and understanding of the psyche. Simplemindedness conquers the soul, cleverness conquers the world but not the soul, because of intention. Men needs to take life without intention to be able to reach their souls and to bring up this godly soul in fusion with the conscious.
In the chapter the scent into hell into future, Dr Jung speaks of the death of the hero. This murder of the hero is the tendency of regicide. It is bringing the archetypes into the public arena. People are trying to kill the ruler, the hero, their brother, the other. Instead of killing their own ego, they go to the outer world and kill the hero, their neighbour or their king. The author believed these outside events not useful and seemed to repeat themselves over and over again. War and bloodshed brings collective behaviour, transformations and sacrifices. This is when collective transformations ripen. This goes against the way into liberation of the soul. The murder of the hero is a vision meaning that people should kill gods inside them, instead of looking into the other. The slain of the hero eventually gives birth to the self himself. It is required first of your self-esteem, to be aware of the feelings that govern it, and then slain, diminish it, together with the ego, for the deep inner self to manifest. All the Yogas, monastic life, etc, are aimed at diminish this.
A new god is acquired when one manages to descend into the darkness and acquires knowledge of the evil. This is the new god ambiguity or the ability to survive in both worlds, in the light and in the dark. The new god is a compound of dark and light life. It is part of your inner soul and your conscious. The new god is part of the self, compound of conscious and unconscious, female and male, dark and light, it has to include everything. We need to become an indissoluble wholeness, the self.
Dr Jung believed that ethical monotheist religions imitate the external. They are lacking authenticity, as they don’t look at the inside. In the story of Elijah and Salome, in which Elijah is a prophet, but an uncommon one, the author defines the latter as a living archetype, a historical figure and an archetypal image. Salome in the other hand is the anima, blind, and symbol of the unconscious. Salome loves the ego, because she wants to come to life. None of the characters are symbols, they are real archetypes as such. There is a third character, named the serpent, who is the earthly essence of man and which is not conscious. The trinity is formed by those three characters: Elijah, Salome and the serpent. The symbol of the serpent appears not just as one, but as two also. The struggle of the two serpents is seen as the struggle of duality. The unconscious struggles with the light even though needs from it. In another chapter of the red book, the serpent becomes a dual being but in comparison with another animal. The conduction happens, in which a serpent, which symbolises water, fuses to a lion, symbolising fire. The resolution of this chapter is that a transforming initiation is on the go, where Jung interprets opposites conjoining. Salome reacquires her sight. Then it all changes, when Salome is not unconscious anymore, when the lion and serpent conjoin, fire and water conjoin. This is the moment when Jung is not Christian anymore but becomes Christ, the inner god flourishes on him.
We must turn inside-full view and thoughtful, to have the ability to look at ourselves, because only that way can the psyche express itself. We need creative events, radical events, inner focussed, to reach our souls. Jung writes about the divine madness when referring to the inner soul, The ancients had images of the divine, which they reflected on their mythology. These images seemed to be of a madman at times. This is what Jung believed to be the world that we had to conquer. The world of the soul is the world of a madman scientific knowledge and judgement from past times. If you entered the world of the soul, you might look mad, as strange things happen in your soul, difficult to comprehend. However, the author thought this to be a required process to go through to become your real self. The aim of the writer is the overpowering of the spirit of this time through the spirit of the deaths, the fusion of both spirits.
At the beginning of chapter 2 we find a dialogue between the castle man and the red horse men. The red one recognises himself as joy. The castle man reflects Jung’s moment in time of his transformation. The writer is concerned that to be a pleasure seeker, you cannot be an intellectual. The red one is an image of the pleasure expressed on nature, the nature which forms part of the unconscious. After this we read a second tale, the castle in the forest, in which an old scholar living in a castle receives a visitor. In that castle there is a beautiful princess hidden in the castle. There is a dialogue between the princess and the visitor. A great initiation happens in which Salome recovered her sight. An animal figure appears having romantic feelings. This chapter is about how men projects the feminine soul into women and vice versa. In the adventurous the author experiences what a dreamlike is in his soul. Following the romantic the author reaches the awkwardness and ordinariness of life. Jung understood and expressed that human beings were not able to live continuously on that mysterious world, they had to come and go as the intensity and the toughness of the experience was hard to deal with.
In chapter three, named the one of the lowly, Jung encounters the rogue, someone of bad character. The lowly lost his eye, so he had one direction thinking. He had lived a sordid beautiful life, ending on a sordid beautiful death. The commentary about this chapter is related to the relationship of the individual and the collective. Jung was convinced that the collective is inferior to the individual. The lowly represents the mass. The collective has some growth, certain progression, but slow. Jung believed that most important was to individualise and to search for your soul. The collective soul must die for the individual soul to arise.
In the story of the anchorite, Jung finds himself in an inhospitable desert of Egypt, where monastic life is found. There he meets an anchorite, a person that has retired from normal life, an individual that stays on his own, not on monastic communities but on a solitary life. The solitary man is reading a book again and again, always the same book, finding different meanings all the time. This is unlike a scholar such as Jung, who reads all the time different books. The anchorite offers three different types of food: dates, bread and water, food that is given to the dead. The setting in the dessert is important. The solitary loves it because offers everything he needs, the sun, the food. What it seems to be a poor life, in reality it is not. This is a similarity with Egyptian thinking, which states that we shouldn’t worship to words. Describing in words the world around us or our deep inner souls has great limitations. We are ruled by a chattering class: journalists, writers, politicians with their speeches. We don’t acquire real knowledge by them, but distraction. The anchorite reflects what is to be a gnostic, a person that cultivates the inner soul. Jung tries to recognise himself in a way with Christians, but sees the anchorite more as a Gnostic follower.
Chapter six narrates about death, the transformation of it. People collectively raise for death. They are preparing themselves from their birth to the moment when they will die. He believed that there is also something unacceptable about birth. The cycle of death and birth repulses Jung. The aim must be to overcome the birth and death cycle. The phoenix is born from the ashes. The spiritual awakening puts an end to this cycle. Then we could raise to a life that is different. It is an event of gnosis, a different way, away from this dreadful life and death cycle. The desert shows a way to overcome this cycle, a way to jump out of this wheel.
After looking at the cycle of the two horrors of death and birth, view that is connected to the first world war, Jung writing continues with chapters seven to eleven. In these stories, he finds a monk and a red garment man. The monk, who has inhabited the Nile, having all this time a solitary life, decides to visit Rome, where he connects again with humanity. The anchorite travels to the big city and after drinking wine, meets the red one. In this part we find Jung encountering Christianity, the anchorite and the bible. Jung sees the earlier temples (Christianity and the daemon), none of them having anything to offer him. The anchorite gets contaminated by the world. The red one gets also contaminated by the world. The outer world enters their nature.There is a live, followed by lots of humans, in which human beings become chameleons, changing continuously to live on earth. Instead of doing that, humans would be better off by living from their own internal force, like the sun, that gives light but does not suck it. Jung believed that there was no need to change colours like chameleons, you could be your own force.
Jung also introduces the two truths, the one from the outer world and the one from the inner world. It is important to mention that Jung wrote in a period of materialistic science. It was the time of rationalism, the times of the birth of science, a time when religion declined. There existed therefore at this time this duality of: in one hand the divine and in the other the men from the West. Jung believed fire to be the uniting agent, a hearth where one gathers, as something that stimulates the mythological mood. The fire unites this duality, the scientific thought and the inner archetypal soul. Alchemy is seen as the steady symbolic agency, a mythological and scientific reality. Reason as a creative world made the mythological world inactive, but it hasn’t died. Rationalism is seen by Jung as pollution, taking imagination out of life. The mythic hero still lives on us. How we may heal the god? Jung nourished the wounded mythic reality, imagination, mythic poetry, by analysing his dreams and entering on their symbolism. All of this to unleash the creative soul the writer believed existed on him.
It is prudent to keep alive the god, we should aim to heal the deity. Internalising the god image makes the rescue job possible. Reality is different from ordinary reality. It is a mistake that we make reality too physical. The objective reality is too heavy to deal with. The God reality is to be treated as imagination, instead of objectifying it. Jung takes the pantheons, the gods, the mythology, rediscovering them within us. The archetypal reality loses its luminosity, so there is an effort to be made to visualise it. The inner reality is antagonistic to the outer reality and therefore the latter kills the gods. The enlightenment, Jung believed, was in a way poisonous, because their followers did not believe in previous spiritual thinking. Jung felt that the thinking coming from the East was beautiful. The East gave the author the imaginative part, the divine part of himself. He thought that the creature of imagination is able to make the divinities real within us.
The mind becomes fixed on power, but there is other than power, there is life. There is other than physical life, the spiritual, it is the life that god is. Nature is playful and rotten. The world embraces both parts. Carl Jung revived the spiritual essence of the culture and gave to it a new life, giving to it some salvation. Jung restored spirituality, restoring the real reality, profiting the spirit, bringing back a reality that was about to die.
The author also speaks about the concept of the sacrificial murder or the necessity of confronting certain circumstances, certain energy in the psyche which is pretty horrendous, but necessary in our development. If we want to grow up into the light, we have to grow downward into the darkness, Jung believed that by sacrificing a child, which symbolises a part of himself, he brings up his unconscious to light. We need to sacrifice an aspect of ourselves to regenerate the god that is in ourselves. When we sacrifice something, we take it from the mundane and put it into the holly. The reborn god is us, our self. When we sacrifice our personality, the lesser self become fused and becomes more responsible and pure, so it cures, allowing the divine self to be born. This divine power is a primordial force. We have the example of Christianity, in which by eating flesh and blood we become sanctified. It is the acting of sacrificing for receiving the divine, which is the same concept brought out here by the author. Sacred elements of blood and flesh brings the divine on us, but this can be grasped just in symbols.
In another story of the book, the divine fall, Jung crosses a door into a library, where a librarian appears. In this story we see Jung wanting to reach the mysterious. The writer, who up until that moment had been following science, recognises that religion fills some gaps. This chapter tells about the deepness of religion. The librarian appears as an intellectual who rejects spirituality. The librarian follows authors such as Faust and Nietzsche. Jung sees those authors’ truth as agitated and provocative, but being only good for those souls still needing to free the inner forces of their souls in themselves.
Jung viewed religion as a communing of internal realities. The author believed a liberation from Christianity to be an illusion, that this dogma was so rooted within ourselves that a liberation wasn’t possible. He believed that Christianity was within ourselves, and Christ was the way not the objective, it was an archetype, the paradigm of the individuated ego. The writer believed that religion can only be replaced by other religions. He believed that every single religion is a reflection of the ante-ceded, it is the endeavour to come together. The meaning of the ante-ceded religion is integrated onto the next one. He infers that religions are based on collectively created archetypes which are part of our inner souls.
In the chapter the second night, an ongoing movement of the soul continues. The holly way and the one Jung wants to follow appear on the story. He, who does not unleash the animal inside him, treats his brother as an animal. Live your animal, then you will treat your brother correctly. You will redeem all the rooming dead trying feeding on the living. Do not turn anything you do into law, since that is hubris to power. Practices such as fasting and purity are mind sufferer practices and therefore cause evil to arise. The mind as mental obsession brings evil. We must follow the life of expansion of consciousness, and those who do not aim at it, are dead.
Jung also comments on the reconciliation with the shadow. The shadow is dark, primitive, yet important for the balance. When the god enters your world, relieves your god of all absurdity and releases all his weaknesses, bringing the shadow in. Humans become balanced when this duality is understood and accepted. The shadow needs to be accepted by the ego and this is a process that each human being needs to go through. When you have perfected yourself, you have balanced that ego-shadow duality. Beyond this there is the source, the source from what all begins, from which everything returns, the divine ground from which all trees grow.
Coming back to the subject of prophecy, Dr Jung sees a prophet as a human being that becomes a man-piece of the deity, prophecy therefore meaning an out terrance inspired from super natural source and also a glance into the future. Jung dialogued with his soul few years before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, as if he foresaw the Great war coming. The author mentions three prophesies: war, magic and religion. Regarding the first one, the two world wars were causally connected to each other. Oppressive regimes such as Germany, Russia or Cambodia, showed the horror of this fratricide, rebellion, etc, which shook Jung and the world. The writer believed that those wars related to human beings’ lack of inner soul reach. Secondly and regarding the encounter with magic, Jung believed magic to be a gift. There was an increasing intellectual interest with magic, with areas such as the occult. It appears at the time a movement of people following these areas of study. This was a time when people started experimenting with drugs, such as mescaline extracting it from peyote. There were these two areas of study which contradicted themselves, magic and rationalism. There is a dialogue between Jung and his soul. Magic requires always sacrifice and this means that it might require by the author something previous. The real progress of the individual and the collective always needs to draw from both polarities. With Christianity, the path followed just the light, not the dark, but this leaves aside one part of the energies. If we leave one part of the unconscious aside, we won’t progress, and to unleash that part, we would need magic. Magic affects you first, to then transfer it to your neighbour. Great is the power of the way and the nature of the way is magical. The ultimate objective that a magician has is to overcome the forces of nature, both internal and external, and to triumph. Lastly and regarding religion, new religions in paintings, images, bygone languages, gnostic codices… appear as the heralds of new religion. War, magic and religion bring at the same time chaos and bind of it. Jung expects in 800 years the One to come and he expects war, magic and religion to rule before the One comes.
In chapter 20, titled the way of the cross, it appears a rather gnostic scene of the crucified saviour on the cross, where the serpent is turning white. By entering the form of the One that sacrifices himself in the cross, the serpent changes the colour. The symbology behind this, is the crucifixion of the self, the crucifixion of a part of your self. The black serpent symbolises the serpent of my way, the willingness of the individual psyche to live his life of individuation. The meaning of the way to individuation is that upon sacrifice of the old personal self, it starts a life of intuitive movement forward, a life of painful authenticity against many difficulties. It is painful to be yourself. A great deal of pain is required to overcome that unconscious pain, but it is authentic. Real authenticity is difficult to know and to grasp. Within a magical life the real starts happening, but not from your intellect, but because of the mystery coming from your own unconscious.
In the chapter named The Magician appears the figure of Philemon, a character who was an inspiring figure for Jung. In this book, he appears in his primitive form. In primitive mythology Philemon is known as an ancient greek name, pictured at times as a poet, and who was part of a fictitious story from Rome of two characters who were rejected hospitality, and in exchange the gods sent a great flood.
In Jung’s chapter, Philemon is an old magician with whom Jung argues. Philemon tells Jung that if he wants to learn magic, he must abandon his logic and sequential reason. Magicians have always been kind of tricksters, answering questions with other questions. However, magicians have always been important figures. We need magic to receive or to invoke the message or the communication of the incomprehensible. Philemon is characterised as a master of wisdom and love, a being of stupendous mystery. Jung sees Philemon as the master of disguise. The god within needs to be recognised and discovered. Unless we do something, this god remains dormant. Philemon is a helper and we learn from him to awake the god on us.
Prophesies exist in and out of ourselves. The three prophecies mentioned above are within ourselves. War is an internal conflict. As soon as we enter the way to individuation we are entering a war within us. Magic is also an internal process in which we entry into contact with the collective unconscious. As that contact occurs, life becomes magic, it contains synchronicity. We should look at magic, but without using logic or reason to understand it, just looking at what it is, magic. The new religion mentioned is of the gnosis of the inner god, an internal process of god search.
In the conclusion final chapter, few ideas arise about the whole book. Philemon reveals himself as much more than being a magician. This magical personality is one of much importance. It appears to be a guide into our inner self. The serpent appears as throughout the book, being a part of his soul.
The interaction of the opposites, the issue of the relationships between opposites is key on Jung’s red book. The principle of the conjunction of the opposites, which is used in alchemy, is an idea well documented in the Red book. Jung did not come to the studies of alchemy yet when he wrote this book, but he most surely started understanding that through alchemy was able to communicate the material of this book. Besides, Jung thought that human conscious is more than the brain. An excessive valuing of the brain needs to be avoided. One must overcome the brain and its madness. The brain is the creation of Maya (Hindu for illusion), an instrument of the consciousness, and the way to overcome it, is to rise a kind of conscious superior to the material. Many followers continued and studied spiritual areas such as occultism, the astral body, the function of consciousness outside the body. All these subjects looked at the spiritual part of us, not at the physical, which seems to go on the same line as the author’s arguments.
In the conclusions, the author again explains the story of Elijah and Salome, but differently characterised. Using this story, the psychologist speaks of the archetypes and their need to express themselves. But Jung does not want them to possess him. He wants them just to be part of his consciousness. The relationship to Salome and Elijah has changed. The author’s rejection of Salome is seen as the capacity to control archetypes, to have a psychological control over them. In this last story, Jung aims at having Salome out of his mind. To do that, the serpent asks Jung to sacrifice, to go to the beyond, to the unconscious. The serpent then changes into a bird. Salome is Jung’s anima, and the anima wants to be activated. But Jung rejects it and the serpent thinks that this needs to come from a higher level. The serpent then turns into a bird: a dual power, the one serpent that goes down to earth, the other aspect being the bird, with a different wisdom, the wisdom of the over world. The energy over the under and the over world, the duality of the human psyche, is reflected in this story. When you endure the process of conjugating the duality, it becomes something better.
Lastly, in the king and son story a paradox occurs. First, there are mystical and magical transformations through internal conflict. Then the self takes over, not trying to make it look better, just allowing authenticity to take over. His son and his new self, the son as the divine being, brought to Jung the fusion of these two. The god is on us but different from the ego, so it comes but then it goes back. But we know it will return on a different form. The greater self comes forth with an initial birth but then goes, having a different form when it comes again. So we have also this image of an inner god that comes and goes in different forms, fusing itself with our conscious to liberate us from the physical reality and from the illusion that does not allow us to see the real world.
Based On Dr Carl Jung’s Red Book lectures by Dr Stephan Hoeller.
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