The Red Book Summary – Carl Jung’s most Fascinating Book


Throughout this summary of Carl Jung’s Red Book, the main ideas of one of Jung’s most important and fascinating books are summarized. As Carl Jung himself indicated in his autobiographical work Memories, Dreams, Reflections, all of Jung’s most important ideas had their origin within the fantasies and dreams depicted within the Red Book: “All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams which began in 1912.” (p.192)

This becomes even more interesting when we consider that the Red Book was not available to the public until many years after Jung had died. As the editor of the Red Book, Sonu Shamdasani, observed, Jung’s Red Book had an important influence without it even being published: “There can be few unpublished works that have already exerted such far-reaching effects upon twentieth -century social and intellectual history as Jung’s Red Book.” (p.193)

This is the case because Jung’s Red Book was the main source of Jung’s ideas, whereas Jung’s ideas had a major influence on the world of psychology, while also having a broader cultural influence: “Jung and Freud are the names that most people first think of in connection with psychology, and their ideas have been widely disseminated in the arts, the humanities, films, and popular culture. Jung is also widely regarded as one of the instigators of the New Age movement.” (p.193) As a result, it is undeniable that the Red Book can be seen as one of the most important books in psychology.

Moreover, the content of the Red Book itself is in many ways unique and controversial. Essentially, throughout the Red Book, Jung is interacting with his own unconscious, which appears to guide Jung at an important time of his life. Some readers might see in this content only the delusions of a man going through a psychosis, while others find the content extremely inspiring and eye opening.

Jung himself recognized this as well and observed later that the difference between his undertaking and a psychosis is not that big, the difference mainly being that Jung managed to integrate his insanity: “The reason why the involvement looks very much like a psychosis is that the patient is integrating the same fantasy-material to which the insane person falls victim because he cannot integrate it but is swallowed up by it.” (Collected Works 14, 756)

Whatever one’s opinion, however, it appears undeniable that there exist a separate unconscious world of dreams and fantasy, which we hardly understand. Jung spend several years of his life actively exploring this unconscious world and from it he acquired more insights than he could write about during the rest of his life.  

Jung began the process of writing the Red Book in 1913, when he began an experiment on himself which lasted until 1930, an experiment characterized by a confrontation with the unconscious. As Sonu Shamdasani indicated, Jung conducted this experiment by switching off his conscious mind: “In retrospect he recalled that his scientific question was to see what took place when he switched off consciousness. The example of dreams indicated the existence of background activity, and he wanted to give this a possibility of emerging.” (p.200) Hereby all sorts of irrational and chaotic content began to immerge and the acceptance and integration of the irrational and chaotic within the self became the main theme throughout the Re Book.

Jung first recorded his fantasies in the Black Books, before eventually copying them into a book called Liber Novus, or, as it is also called, the Red Book. Besides copying the fantasies from the Black Books, Jung also added commentary describing the significance of the fantasies. In this sense, the Black Books can be seen as a personal documentation of Jung’s fantasies, whereas the Red Book can be seen as a document intended to be read by others.

Jung, however, never published the contents of the Red Book (or the Black Books), and only a few people close to him knew of its existence. Even though Jung considered publishing the Red Book, as I have also written in my Book; Carl Jung and the Rebirth of the Soul, Jung may have decided against publishing it because it’s rather irrational contents might harm his scientific reputation.

Throughout this summary of Carl Jung’s Red Book I summarize the most important discoveries Jung made while writing the Red Book. Besides paraphrasing the content of the Red Book, I also quote Jung directly on many occasions.

As you can see in the picture below, there exist two editions of the Red Book; a reader’s edition and a huge hardcover which includes pictures of paintings and drawings made my Jung while writing the Red Book. For this summary of the Red Book I have used the hardcover edition.

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Spirit of the Times and the Spirit of the Depths

At the beginning of the Red Book Jung makes a distinction between two spirits, the spirit of the time and the spirit of the depths. The spirit of the time judges everything based on its usefulness and value and changes with each generation, its most important values are reason and knowledge.  The spirit of the depths, however, as observed by Jung, although usually hidden from the world of consciousness, is much more powerful and lasting.

The spirit of the depths essentially forms the undercurrent to everything that is happening, has happened, or will happen. Accepting the spirit of the depths as a force to be reckoned with required Jung to sacrifice some of his beliefs regarding science and his own knowledge: “The Spirit of the depths has subjugated all pride and arrogance to the power of judgment. He took away my belief in science, he robbed me of the joy of explaining and orderings things, and he let devotion to ideals of this time die out in me. He forced me down to the last and simplest things.” (p.229)

Jung found it hard to accept or understand the inexplicable and irrational and therefore kept returning to reason and knowledge, the spirit of the times. As such, Jung did not want to sacrifice his knowledge and reason, but the spirit of the depths argued that some sacrifice would be necessary if Jung wanted to complete his task: “Sacrifice is the foundation stone of what is to come. Have you not had monasteries? Have not countless thousands gone into the desert? You should carry the monastery in yourself. The desert is within you. (p.230)

Hereafter Jung slowly started to accept the reality of the spirit of the depths, however, as you will see throughout this summary of Carl Jung’s Red Book, Jung continued to struggle to detach himself from his knowledge and reason.  

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Rebirth of the Soul

Subsequently, Jung started to be presented by visions, of which the first one appeared in October 1913, during which Jung saw an immense flood which spread across Western Europe. Jung did not understand this vision and when it reappeared two weeks later, Jung worried that he might be going insane.

Eventually, however, when the first World War broke out in 1914, Jung understood what his vision meant. Jung observed that these visions commenced at a significant moment of his life, a moment at which he had achieved everything he had wished for, at least in the external world/spirit of the times: “I had achieved everything that I had wished for myself. I had achieved honour, power, wealth, knowledge, and every human happiness.” (p.232)

However, Jung could not enjoy his accomplishments for very long, since he discovered that, within his internal world, something important was missing: “Then my desire for the increase of these trappings ceased, the desire ebbed from me and horror came over me.” (p.232) Jung did not yet understand the spirit of the depths, however, after realizing that his visions regarding the war were valid, he turned towards the world of the soul: “My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak, I call you – are you there? I have returned, I am here again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you, I am with you.” (p.232)

Jung continued to argue that he was happy to return to his soul. He argued that one must live one’s own way, and Jung’s own way had guided him now to his soul. According to Jung, he had always been judging his soul and had turned his soul into a ‘scientific object’, which made sense when living in accordance with the spirit of the times.

The spirit of the depths, however, forced Jung to see his soul as a self-existing entity, with which he had lost connection: “From this we learn how the spirit of the depths considers the soul: he sees her as a living and self-existing being, and with this he contradicts the spirit of this time for whom the soul is a thing dependent on man, which lets herself be judged and arranged.” (p.232)

As a result, Jung came to realize that he had to turn inwards to discover his soul: “He whose desire turns away from outer things, reaches the place of the soul.” (p.232) However, if the initial emptiness is too powerful, then the task may fail and the connection with the spirit of the depths may be lost forever:

“If he does not find the soul, the horror of emptiness will overcome him, and fear will drive him with a whip lashing time and again in a desperate endeavour and a blind desire for the hollow things of the world. He becomes a fool through his endless desire, and forgets the way of his soul, never to find her again.” (p.232)

The soul cannot be found in the material things of the world, instead, in can only be found within: “He will run after all things, and will seize hold of them, but he will not find his soul, since he would find her only in himself.” (p.232) Desire is not necessarily the problem, as Jung observed, instead, desire should be turned inward instead of outward, and in this way, desire can be controlled by the individual, instead of desire controlling the individual: “He could find his soul in desire itself, but not in the objects of desire. If he possessed his desire, and his desire did not possess him, he would lay a hand on his soul, since his desire is the image and expression of his soul.” (p.232)

Jung then continued to express how glad he was that he had once again found his soul and that he was sorry that he had ignored his soul for so long. Jung stressed that his dreams had been important messages from the soul and decided that he had to pay more attention to his dreams and the images which they represent.

Jung argued that, in order to live in accordance with the spirit of the depths, one must live one’s own life and think for oneself: “You will say: “But I cannot live or think everything that others live or think.” But you should say: “The life that I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.”” (p.233)

Jung argued that one might not do so in order to flee one’s self, however, since your self is always with you, this is not possible. Through the spirit of the depths Jung also learned that he was serving a child, the child being his soul: “I had to recognize and accept that my soul is a child and that my God in my soul is a child.” (p.234)

Jung, however, continued to find it hard to completely trust his soul. It felt to him as if he was being faced with meaninglessness and as if all the knowledge he had was no longer useful to him for an understanding of this new world he was facing. Jung found it strange, however, that he could not trust his own soul, whereas he easily trusted other people. As a result, from this moment onwards, Jung decided to trust his soul completely.

Moreover, Jung came to the realization that the feeling of meaninglessness which overwhelmed him was normal, because it belongs to the world as well: “If you take a step toward your soul, you will at first miss the meaning. You will believe that you have sunk into meaninglessness, into eternal disorder. You will be right! Nothing will deliver you from disorder and meaninglessness, since this is the other half of the world.” (p.235)

As Jung argued, order and meaning grow out of meaninglessness and disorder. Therefore, as Jung realized, true meaning is created by combining order and chaos: “You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.” (p.235)

Carl Jung and the Rebirth of the Soul

In case you are intersted in Carl Jung’s Red book you may also enjoy reading my own book ‘Carl Jung and the Rebirth of the Soul’. This book contains a detailed exploration of the most important ideas and concepts developed by Jung. The book focuses on how the recently published Black Books and Red Book shed a new light on these ideas and how they may be helpful in the 21st century.

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Desert

Hereafter Jung wrote down that his soul had led him into a desert, the desert being his own self. Jung realized that he had cultivated the spirit of the times in his self (the external world) but that, by neglecting his soul, his soul had remained an empty desert (the internal world). Jung observed that, in order to enter the world of the soul, one cannot be focused on external events, other people, or even one’s own thoughts.

After focusing less on events, other people, and his own thoughts, Jung came to the desert of his soul. In order to cultivate this desert, Jung indicated that one’s desire and creative force must be directed inwards: “If your creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.” (p.236)

This requires patience, and for many this is too demanding, as Jung observed. Therefore, those who fail at this task, return to the external world, and remain a slave to their thoughts, external events, and other people. This does not mean that Jung argued that one should live without these things, instead, one must prevent becoming a slave to these external objects, hereby a healthier relationship with the external world can be developed: “He whose soul is a garden, needs things, men, and thoughts, but he is their friend and not their slave and fool.” (p.236)

Jung continued to struggle in the desert of his soul. Jung’s soul argued that he was too impatient and that intentions and desire were limiting him: “You are full, yes, you teem with intentions and desirousness! – Do you still not know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?” (p.236) As a result, Jung wrote the following: “We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light. How can we presume to want to know in advance, from where the light will come to us?” (p.237)

According to Jung, it took him 25 nights in the desert before he could speak to his soul as an independent entity separate from himself.  Jung observed that the spirit of the times is full of cleverness and that one cannot free oneself from this spirit through more cleverness and knowledge. Instead, Jung observed that one must accept that which cleverness hates the most, simple mindedness. The supreme meaning is found therefore, by combining cleverness with simple mindedness, whereby cleverness can conquer the world and simple mindedness the soul.  

Through the hardships Jung experienced while wondering through the desert of his soul, Jung came to the realization that he had to murder the God within himself: “If men kill their princess, they do so because they cannot kill their Gods, and because they do not know that they should kill their Gods in themselves.” (p.242)

Jung’s new God had to be different from his old one: “I understood that the new God would be in the relative. If the God is absolute beauty and goodness, how should he encompass the fulness of life, which is beautiful and hateful, good and evil laughable and serious, human and inhuman? How can man live in the womb of the God if the Godhead himself attends only to one-half of him?” (p.243) However, such knowledge might lead to hell, according to Jung: “Hell is when you know that everything serious that you have planned with yourself is also laughable, that everything find is also brutal, that everything good is also bad, that everything high is also low, and that everything pleasant is also shameful.” (p.244)

Jung observed that, if one were to go into the self, it might appear as if one is removing him or herself away from society and the collective. However, according to Jung, if the individual is not in tune with the self, he or she can also not truly benefit the communal: “If we are in ourselves, we fulfil the need of the self, we prosper, and through this we become aware of the needs of the communal and can fulfil them.” (p.245)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: Elijah and Salome

Eventually Jung became aware of an image in which Jung started to interact with two figures, Elijah and Salome, who are accompanied by a black serpent. Elijah was one of the prophets of the Old Testament.

At the same time, through the interaction it becomes clear that Salome, who is blind, is the daughter of Elijah. Salome tells Jung that she loves him, however, according to ancient stories, Salome was responsible for the death of John the Baptist. As a result, Jung does not understand why Salome and Elijah are together: “What my eyes see is exactly what I cannot grasp. You, Elijah, who are a prophet, the mouth of God, and she, a bloodthirsty horror. You are the symbol of the most extreme contradiction.” (p.246)

Jung came to believe that Elijah and Salome are representatives of two principles, forethinking and pleasure. According to Jung, both cannot exist independently of eachother, instead, each individual needs both. However, since one cannot be in forethinking and pleasure at the same time, one must take turns between these two.

The serpent is the third principle, which represents this changeability: “It is always the serpent that causes man to become enslaved not to one, not to the other principle, so that it becomes error.” (p.247) Despite needing both principles, Jung observed that one always has a preference for one of these principles: “Some love thinking and establish the art of life on it. They practice their thinking and their circumspection, so they lost their pleasure. Therefore they are old and have a sharp face. The others love pleasure, they practice their feeling and living. Thus they forget thinking. Therefore they are young and blind. [as is Salome]” (p.247)

In this sense, Elijah and Salome, who appear incompatible at first, form indeed an extreme contradiction, but also an important union: “Those who think base the world on thought, those who feel, on feeling. You find truth and error in both.” (p.247) As a result, the serpent represents an important symbol as well: “The way of life writhes like the serpent from right to left and from left to right, from thinking to pleasure and from pleasure to thinking.” (p.247) Although the serpent therefore represents this contradiction, it also forms a necessary bridge between both principles.

Jung continued with the argument that those who focus too much on thinking lag pleasure, however, since these individuals still have feeling, it does not develop and becomes ‘rotten’: “He who prefers to think than to feel, leaves his feeling to rot in darkness.” (p.248) The same is true for those who focus on feeling and pleasure; their thinking is left in the dark and starts to ‘rot’.

For this reason, the thinker will only become more suspicious of his feelings, since his feelings are indeed negative and underdeveloped. Similarly, one who feels will come to despise his thinking, since his thoughts are not well developed.

These thoughts made Jung realize that he did indeed love Salome: “It had become apparent to me that I loved Salome. This recognition struck me, since I had not thought it. What a thinker does not think he believes does not exist, and what one who feels does not feel he believes does not exist.” (p.248) Therefore Jung concluded the following: “May the thinking person accept his pleasure, and the feeling person accept his own thought. Such leads one along the way.” (p.248)

Jung observed that he himself was a thinker and had therefore been ignoring a part of himself by only focusing on the thoughts which he understood: “Therefore you love reasonable and orderly thoughts, since you could not endure it if your self was in disordered, that is, unsuitable thoughts.” (p.250)

As a result, Jung indicated that he had been pushing all thoughts which did not fit these criteria away from him. However, these more chaotic thoughts still exist: “Thoughts grow in me like a forest, populated by many different animals. But man is domineering in his thinking, and therefore he kills the pleasure of the forest and that of the wild animals.” (p.250)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Red One

After conversing with the figures of Salome and Elijah, Jung enters into a conversation with ‘The Red One’, who Jung immediately identifies as the devil. Eventually, however, The Red One turns into joy, and Jung recognizes that the devil and joy are connected: “The devil is an evil element. But joy? If you run after it, you see that joy also has evil in it, since then you arrive at pleasure and from pleasure go straight to Hell, your own particular Hell, which turns out differently for everyone.” (p.261)

Similar to the previous interaction with Salome (feeling) and Elijah (rationality), Jung observed that it is important to find the right balance between seriousness and joy:

“Through my coming to terms with the devil, he accepted some of my seriousness, and I accepted some of his joy. This gave me courage. But if the devil has gotten more earnest, one must brace oneself. It is always a risky thing to accept joy, but it leads us to life and its disappointment, from which the wholeness of our life becomes.” (p.261)

The pursuit of joy can be dangerous according to Jung because it can lead to pleasure which can, in turn, lead to blind desire. As such, Jung argued that one must pay attention as to whether one’s pleasure is beneficial or not: “If you take a piece of joy from the devil and set off on adventures with it, you accept your pleasure. But pleasure immediately attracts everything you desire, and then you must decide whether your pleasure spoils or enhances you. If you are of the devil, you will grope in blind desire after the manifold, and it will lead you astray.” (p.263)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Anima and Animus

In a following fantasy Jung finds himself in an old castle where he has found lodging for the night. Jung cannot sleep and starts to imagine that the old owner of the castle is hiding his beautiful daughter within the castle. Jung cannot stand that such an imagination comes to him since it merely represents a bad story for a novel.

Jung’s bad novel becomes reality when a girl is suddenly standing in his room: “Have I held the men of my time and their taste in such contempt that I must live in Hell and write out the novels that I have already spat on long ago?” (p.262) As such Jung starts to worry that his soul is merely filled which such stories.

After interacting with the girl, however, Jung decides that she might be real and asks how he can help her. The girl responds by saying that Jung’s decision to take her seriously is already enough. Jung responds by saying that the unoriginal novel now turns into more of a fairy tale. To this the girl indicates that fairy tales are extremely valuable: “The fairy tale is the great mother of the novel, and has even more universal validity than the most-avidly read novel of your time. And you know that what has been on everyone’s lips for millennia, though repeated endlessly, still comes nearest the ultimate human truth.” (p.262)

Since Jung notices that the girl is clever, he asks her where ultimate truths can be found, since Jung had not been searching for them in fairy tales: “I found it very strange to seek them [ultimate truths] in banality. According to their nature, they must be quite uncommon.” (p.262) The girl responds by indicating that it is exactly in what Jung considers banal, that the highest truths can be found. Hereupon the girl brings Jung the greeting of Salome and disappears again.

Following this interaction, Jung commences a discussion on masculinity and femininity, here it is also clear how Jung’s Red Book influenced his later thoughts, in this case on the Anima and Animus. According to Jung, each man has a certain femininity in himself (the Anima), and each woman masculinity (the Animus): “You, man, should not seek the feminine in women, but seek and recognize it in yourself, as you possess it from the beginning. It pleases you, however, to play at manliness, because it travels on a well-worn track.” (p.263)

The same applies to women, according to Jung: “You, woman, should not seek the masculine in men, but assume the masculine in yourself, since you posses it from the beginning. But it amuses you and is easy to play at femininity, consequently man despises you because he despises his femininity.” (p.263)

This is a similar argument as Jung made with regards to feeling and thinking, those who think despise their feeling because it remains undeveloped, whereas those who focus on feeling despise their thinking for the same reason. Jung argued that the opposite sex can be found in one’s soul, and as long as one does not recognize this, Jung observed that one will remain a slave to what one actually requires within one’s soul: “You are a slave of what you need in your soul. The most masculine man needs women, and he is consequently their slave. Become a woman yourself, and you will be saved from slavery to woman.” (p.263)

This does not mean that a man should become a woman and a woman a man, instead, it means that one should accept the opposite sex within oneself: “The acceptance of femininity leads to completion. The same is valid for the woman who accepts her masculinity.” (p.264) According to Jung, this brings one closer to one’s soul: “As a man you have no soul, since it is in the woman; as a woman you have no soul, since it is in the man. But if you become a human being, then your soul comes to you.” (p.264)  

In another fantasy Jung learns that he must accept the reality of death: “Joy at the smallest things comes to you only when you have accepted death. But if you look out greedily for all that you could still live, then nothing is great enough for your pleasure, and the smallest things that continue to surround you are no longer a joy. Therefore I behold death, since it teaches me how to live.” (p.275)

After accepting the reality of death, Jung indicated that his thirst for the deepest knowledge had increased severely. He also came to realize that all his ideals were essentially worthless, for they are just a part of the spirit of the times: “He who believes he is really living his ideals, or believes he can live them, suffers from delusions of grandeur and behaves like a lunatic in that he stages himself as an ideal; but the hero has fallen. Ideals are mortal, so one should prepare oneself for their end.” (p.276)

As such, if one identifies oneself too much with these fleeting ideals, as soon as the ideal comes to an end, you yourself will as well, according to Jung. Therefore, Jung, trough the writing of the Red Book, freed himself from many of his ideals: “The ideal is also a tool that one can put aside anytime, a torch on dark paths. But whoever runs around with a torch by day is a fool. How much my ideals have come down, and how freshly my tree greens.” (p.276)

After rejecting his ideals, Jung continues his way, which is now taking him to the East: “Neither good nor evil shall be my masters. I push them aside, the laughable survivors, and go on my way again, which leads me to the East. The quarrelling powers that for so long stood between me and myself lie behind me.” (p.277)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: Izdubar

In another fantasy, while on his journey to the East, Jung comes across a giant called Izdubar, who is heading in the opposite direction, from East to West. Although Izdubar is a powerful giant and Jung is at first afraid of him, it turns out that Jung is more dangerous to Izdubar, than Izdubar to Jung.

This is the case because Jung ‘poisons’ Izdubar with scientific knowledge: “What you call poison is science in our country we are nurtured on it from youth, and that be one reason why we haven’t properly flourished and remain so dwarfish.” (p.278) Izdubar is lamed by Jung’s scientific truths and argues that the truths spread by the knowledgeable people from his realm do not act as poison: “You call poison truth? Is poison truth? Or is truth poison? Do not our astrologers and priests also speak the truth? And yet theirs does not act like poison.” (p.278)

As a result, Jung concludes that there must be two kinds of truths: “Our truth is that which comes to us from the knowledge of outer things. The truth of your priests is that which comes to you from inner things.” (p.278) Jung continues to argue that we had no choice but to accept the poison of science, for otherwise we would be lamed as well: “Now you perhaps see that we had no choice. We had to swallow the poison of science. Otherwise we would have met the same fate as you have: we’d be completely lamed, if we encountered it unsuspecting and unprepared.” (p.279) Jung further indicates that the poison of science is so strong that it has even killed the Gods: “The poison is so insurmountably strong that everyone, even the strongest, and even the ternal Gods, perish because of it.” (p.279)

Izdubar and Jung continue to discuss these issues, Jung indicates that, as a result of science, we have lost the capacity to belief, and that words are all we have left. Jung indicates that he finds this hard as well and that therefore he is heading to the East to find what we are lacking: “For that reason, I’ve set out to the East, to the land of the rising sun, to seek the light that we lack. Where then does the sun rise?” (p.279)

Jung did not want to leave Izdubar behind to die and decides to take him back to the East, where he came from. However, since Izdubar is a giant, Jung could not take him back easily. He decides to convince Izdubar to accept that he is not real but merely a fantasy, as a result, Izdubar becomes light and Jung can carry him easily. This provided Jung with the following insight: “This tangible and apparent world is one reality, but fantasy is the other reality. So long as we leave the God outside us apparent and tangible, he is unbearable and hopeless. But if we turn the God into fantasy, he is in us and is easy to bear.” (p.283)

In this case Jung’s God was Izdubar and Jung managed to take him with him in the form of an egg: “Set the egg before you, the God in his beginning. And behold it. And incubate it with the magical warmth of your gaze.” (p.284) Eventually the egg hatches and Jung realizes that, while his God is rising, Jung is becoming weaker.

As a result, all of Jung’s energy went to his God and Jung became powerless and stuck in the dark. Jung observed that in such a state it is easy to follow the God blindly wherever he goes or to persuade others to follow the same God. However, Jung indicated that, at such a moment, it is necessary to accept one’s emptiness and, instead of a futile attempt to rise to heaven with one’s God, one should descend into the dark underworld: “The right way is that we accept emptiness, destroy the image of the form within us, negate the God, and descend into the abyss and awfulness of matter.” (p.288)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Underworld

Hereafter Jung became aware that he had entered the underworld. Jung stressed again that, since he wanted to give birth to a God, evil was necessary as well: “Because I wanted to give birth to my God, I also wanted evil. He who wants to create an eternal fullness will also create eternal emptiness. You cannot undertake on without the other.” (p.289)

According to Jung, the inner world can only be fully reached after the acceptance of evil: “He who does not want evil will have no chance to save his soul from Hell. So long as he remains in the light of the upper world, he will become a shadow of himself. But his soul will languish in the dungeons of the daimons. This will act as a counterbalance that will forever constrain him. The higher circles of the inner world will remain unattainable for him.” (p.289)

Eventually, while navigating the underworld, Jung comes upon a woman standing next to the body of a dead girl. The woman asks Jung to take out the liver from the dead girl’s body. Jung refuses, however, the woman responds by saying that she is the soul of the dead girl. Jung reluctantly does what the woman asks and takes out the liver.

The woman then asks Jung to perform ‘the healing act’ by eating a part of the liver. Jung eventually does what he is asked and eats a part of the liver. Hereupon the woman throws back her veil and they have the following conversation:

S: “Do you recognize me?”

J: “How strangely familiar you are! Who are you?”

S: “I am your soul.” (p.290)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: The Imitation of Christ

In a following fantasy Jung has entered a library. The librarian asks Jung which book he is looking for, whereupon Jung responds that he is looking for Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. Hereby Jung contemplates the idea of the imitation of Christ.

Jung argues that, instead of imitating the life of Christ directly, one should imitate the life of Christ in the sense that Christ lived in His own life focusing on His own individual uniqueness: “If I am truly to understand Christ, I must realize how Christ actually lived only his own life, and imitated no one. He did not emulate any model. If I thus truly imitate Christ, I do not imitate anyone, I emulate no one, but go on my own way, and I will also no longer call myself a Christian.” (p.293)

Hereafter Jung is arrested and put in prison. He is, however, allowed to take the book with him to his cell. While in prison, Jung enters the place of his feeling, which, as opposed to the place of his thinking, has remained unfamiliar to him. Here Jung concludes that he has found Christ: “I leave the spirit of this world which has thought Christ through to the end, and step over into that other funny-frightful realm in which I can find Christ again.” (p.295)

Jung is unfamiliar with this world and therefore writes the following: “And suddenly to your shivering horror it becomes clear to you that you have fallen into the boundless, the abyss, the insanity of eternal chaos. It rushes toward you as if carried by the roaring wings of a storm, the hurtling waves of the sea.” (p.295)

However, within this abyss, Jung observes that there is still a quiet place within everyone’s soul: “Where everything is self-evident and easily explainable, a place to which he likes to retire from the confusing possibilities of life, because there everything is simple and clear, with a manifest and limited purpose.” (p.295) However, as soon as one breaks through the wall of this place, Jung observed that a flood of chaos will inevitably flow into this quiet place. This chaos is not empty or dead but filled with life and ‘figures’: “Chaos is not single, but an unending multiplicity. It is not formless, otherwise it would be single, but it is filled with figures that have a confusing and overwhelming effect due to their fullness.” (p.296)

Jung described what these figures are:

“These figures are the dead, and not just your dead, that is, all the images of the shapes you took in the past, which your ongoing life has left behind, but also the thronging dead of human history, the ghostly procession of the past, which is an ocean compared to the drops of your own life span. I see behind you, behind the mirror of your eyes, the crush of dangerous shadows, the dead, who look greedily through the empty sockets of your eyes, who moan and hope to gather up through you all the loose ends of the ages, which sigh in them. Your cluelessness does not prove anything. Put your ear to that wall and you will hear the rustling of their procession.” (p.296)

As such, removing that wall is not for everyone. Jung continued that one should wrestle with these mysteries and the dangerous shadows in solitude, for no one will be able to help the individual overcome what he or she has to overcome in him or herself: “Live the life of the day and do not speak of mysteries, but dedicate the night to bringing the salvation of the dead.” (p.296) Jung decided to accept the chaos of all these mysteries and hereupon the following happened: “I accepted the chaos, and in the following night, my soul approached me.” (p.298)

Jung’s soul made him aware that all of his foundations are based on madness and that he had to accept this madness: “Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.” (p.298) According to Jung’s soul, if one does not accept madness, one can run the risk of becoming its victim. Reason is used as an attempt to make rules for the individual, however, according to Jung’s soul, life itself is illogical and filled with madness and has no rules at all. As such Jung is once again pointed to the relative valuelessness of knowledge, which he had held in such high regard before: “What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.” (p.298)

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: Hell and the Shadow

Jung hereafter realizes that he is lost and filled with chaos. He learns that he is in Hell. After Jung indicates that he is lost, a stranger’s voice responds by saying that there is no need to find a way now. Hereupon Jung observes the following: “The way, or whatever it might be, on which people go, is our way, the right way. There are no paved ways into the future. We say that it is this way, and it is. We build roads by going on. Our life is the truth that we seek. Only my life is the truth, the truth above all. We create the truth by living it.” (p.299)

Through all of this Jung comes to the realization that one must accept the lowest within oneself, since no one else will: “Who should accept the lowest in you, if you do not? But he who does it not from love but from pride, selfishness, and greed, is damned.” (p.300) Accepting the lowest (The shadow) will be hard, but it will be the first step in healing one’s self: “Insofar as I accept the lowest in me […] and thus fall victim to the confusion of chaos, the upper shining sun also rises. Therefore he who strives for the highest finds the deepest.” (p.300)

If one does not face the lowest in oneself and accept that it is also a part of one’s self, Jung observed that one will come to believe that the lowest comes from the outside, even though it is just as much a part of the individual. If this happens, then the individual will come the see the lowest within one’s self within others, and will start to fight others, instead of confronting the same lowest within one self: “You think that the other [the lowest] comes somehow from without and you think that you also catch sight of it in the views and actions of your fellow men which clash with yours. You thus fight the other and are completely blinded.” (p.301)

In case one does the opposite, Jung observed that the following will happen: “He who accepts what approaches him because it is also in him, quarrels and wrangles no more, but looks into himself and keeps silent.” (p.301) In relation to this Jung observes that one can only know oneself, knowledge beyond oneself can be detrimental: “Remember that you can know yourself, and with that you know enough. But you cannot know others and everything else. Beware of knowing what lies beyond yourself, or else your presumed knowledge will suffocate the life of those who know themselves.” (p.306)

Hereafter Jung’s soul tells him the following: “Why are you looking around for help? Do you believe that help will come from outside? What is to come will be created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfil the way that is in you.” (p.308)

Although this may sound as the easiest option as well, it is, in fact, more difficult than following another’s ‘way’: “He would rather devise any trick to help him escape, since nothing matches the torment of one’s own way. It seems impossibly difficult, so difficult that nearly anything seems preferable to this torment.” (p.310) According to Jung, some people even choose to love others simply to avoid a confrontation with themselves: “Not a few choose even to love people for fear of themselves. I believe, too, that some commit a crime to pick a quarrel with themselves.” (p.310)

As a result, Jung questions how many people must still suffer, before everyone sees that the real enemy is not without, but within: “What suffering must be brought upon humanity, until man gives up satisfying his longing for power over his fellow man and forever wanting others to be the same. How much blood must go on flowing until man opens his eyes and sees the way to his own path and himself as the enemy.” (p.310)

In order to come closer to one’s self, Jung argued that one must pay attention to symbols:

“The symbol is the word that goes out of the mouth, that one does not simply speak, but that rises out of the depths of the self as a word of power and great need and places itself unexpectedly on the tongue. It is an astonishing and perhaps seemingly irrational word, but one recognizes it as a symbol since it is alien to the conscious mind. If one accepts the symbol, it is as if a door opens leading into a new room whose existence one previously did not know.” (p.311)

If, however, one does not accept the symbol, the way to the inner world is lost, and one will once again be exposed to the perils of the external world.

Carl Jung’s Red Book Summary: Philemon

Since Jung did not yet find what he was seeking within himself, he decided that he had to become an apprentice. For this he decided to turn to Philemon, a retired magician. Jung tells Philemon that he wants to learn from him about the black arts. Philemon initially claims not to know anything about what Jung is asking him. It becomes clear that Philemon is worried that Jung will make fun of him, since no one any longer believes in magic and therefore considers it best if his secrets are buried with him: “It would be better if everything were buried with me. It can always be rediscovered later. It will never be lost to humanity, since magic is reborn with each and every one of us.” (p.313)

Eventually Philemon becomes convinced that Jung is genuinely interested, because he does not let reason come in the way of believing in magic. Philemon therefore decides to explain magic to Jung, however, the first lesson Jung learns is that magic does not follow the same logic as ordinary understanding and that it cannot be comprehended.

Hereafter Jung concludes that magical practices cannot be learned and that magic cannot be understood because it represents the opposite of reason; unreason. As such, where there is a lack of reason, magic is necessary, however, where there is sufficient reason, there is no place for magic: “Where reason abides, one needs no magic. Hence our time no longer needs magic. Only those without reason needed it to replace their lack of reason.” (p.314)

However, at the same time, those who have broken down the wall within themselves and are now exposed to the chaos within, need magic, according to Jung, to understand the incomprehensible within: “We recognized that the world comprises reason and unreason; and we also understood that our way needs not only reason but also unreason.” (p.314)

As such, Jung concludes that magic represents the following: “The practice of magic consists in making that what is not understood understandable in an incomprehensible manner.” (p.314) Jung continued by indicating that magic arises when the doors to chaos are opened. One cannot teach magic, but one can teach the road that will eventually lead to chaos:

“Magic is a way of living. If one has done one’s best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place. One cannot say what the effect of magic will be, since no one can know it in advance because the magical is the lawless, which occurs without rules and by chance, so to speak. But the condition is that one totally accepts it and does not reject it, in order to transfer everything to the growth of the tree.” (p.314)

Hereafter Jung comes to understand Philemon’s secret: “Now I know your final mystery: you are a lover. You have succeeded in uniting what has been sundered, that is, binding together the Above and Below.” (p.315) After uniting the above and below Satan comes into contact with Jung. Satan is not happy with the unification, whereas Jung says he is glad to have stopped to everlasting dispute between the two.

Subsequently Jung is visited by the Cabiri (ancient mythological figures), who greet Jung as being the masters of the Below. They request Jung to destroy a knot with a sword. When Jung questions why he must do so, the Cabiri respond: “Then you will no longer be your brain, but will exist beyond your madness.” (p.321) Jung strikes the knot and hereafter concludes that he has become the master of his own self.

A metaphor which Jung uses for this is that he has built a tower on a high mountain, which is there for everyone to see, but only a few will grasp its meaning: “Only he who finds the entrance hidden in the mountain and rises up through the labyrinths of the innards can reach the tower and the happiness of he who surveys things from there and he who lives from himself.” (p.321) According to Jung, his tower is as big as it is because he built it from what is Above and what is Below. However, at the same time, because Jung recognized the evil within himself, he became immune to the influence of the devil: “So I took away from the devil the possibility of influence, which only ever passes through one’s own serpenthood, which one commonly assigns to the devil instead of oneself.” (p.323)

Eventually Jung meets Salome and Elijah again. Elijah offers Salome to Jung, who refuses because he thinks Salome should be free to do what she wants. Eiljah and Salome indicate that they are sad since they are without their serpent.

Jung responds that the serpent has been with him in the underworld all that time. Subsequently, the serpent turns into a white bird and flies to heaven. Here the bird fetches a golden crown which he gives to Jung. Salome is extremely excited about the grown, however, she does not want to tell Jung why and leaves Jung to find it out for himself.      

“You cannot at the same time be on the mountain and in the valley, but your way leads you from mountain to valley and from valley to mountain.” (p.265)

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