Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II

I will spend one week alone in the country, in a comfortable guest house lent to me by a friend living near Uppsala, Sweden, reading and immersing myself in the book by the renown psychologist Carl Jung, Liber Novus (Latin for ‘New Book’), or The Red Book as it is presented in English. I’ll explain more fully, below.

I intend to take notes and write whatever may come to mind during this happening, but I cannot predict the outcome—I don’t know what to expect by my diving into the psyche of Carl Jung.

The worst case is that I may have a psychotic break. If this should happen, my friend and her husband live close by in the main house. Also, I will send a text message to my wife in Stockholm every evening informing her of my status.

Why would I even contemplate such a possible outcome? Here is an edited excerpt from Wikipedia’s listing on The Red Book:

Carl Gustav Jung was associated with Sigmund Freud beginning in 1907. Their relationship became increasingly acrimonious. When the final break came in 1913, Jung retreated from many of his professional activities for a time to further develop his own theories. Biographers disagree as to whether this period represented a psychological breakdown. Anthony Storr, reflecting on Jung’s own judgment that he was “menaced by a psychosis” during this time, concluded that the period represented a psychotic episode.

Jung referred to the episode as a kind of experiment, a voluntary confrontation with the unconscious. Biographer Barbara Hannah, who was close to Jung later in his life, compared Jung’s experiences to the encounter of Menelaus with Proteus in the Odyssey. Jung, she said, “made it a rule never to let a figure or figures that he encountered leave until they had told him why they had appeared to him.”

About the Red Book, Jung said:

Carl Gustav Jung, 1875 – 1961

The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then. (Source)

So, I expect an adventure—an internal one which I cannot describe until I may experience it, and even then may not have words sufficient to communicate it to others. But I will try.


I have been reading about Jung, and reading some of his works (translated, of course, from the German), starting around 50 years ago when I was in university (Berkeley, California). I became superficially aware of his theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious and felt he was on to something. But, I was not pursuing a career in psychology and let the interest lie until I might be able to pursue it later.

Near the end of my career I became aware of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological profiling instrument for normal people, based in Jungian psychology. A consultant to my hospital performed this profiling for my management team to help us deal with some communication problems. It worked.

As I prepared for retirement from employment in the middle of my 66th year, intending to return to management consulting which I had occasionally done in my 40-year career, I attended a workshop to become qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI. I was successful.

In the ten years since I stopped being an employee and having more discretionary time than ever before, I have read several more books by and about Carl Jung (see next section), and have written three articles which mention or focus on his findings and teachings:

In Preparation for the Seven Days


Before I go on retreat I will re-read all the books I have collected by and about Jung and his theories:

That’s it.

I intend to post a subsequent article, Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part II of II, about whatever I realize from this inner adventure, within the limitations of mere words on a page.

Wish me luck.

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Archetypes, Consciousness, The Self and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II

  1. bmsecond says:

    As posted to a skeptic forum….


    On the nature of “God” in Archetypal Reality….

    In the early years of the last century, CG Jung, (psychiatrist) had Einstein as a dinner guest on several occasions. There was something in the conversations that led Jung to think about “psychic relativity” – i.e., the ability of “mind” to transcend space and time. So Jung credits Einstein for that implanted thought.

    Many years later, (1932) Jung met the physicist Professor W. Pauli, an associate of Einstein, ( It was Einstein who nominated Pauli for the Nobel Prize, which Pauli received in 1945, for discovering the neutrino particle). The letters between Jung and Pauli, were published under title, “atom and archetype” – 1932 to 1958….

    The main thrust to Jung’s idea of a pre-existent psyche, is the nature of ‘number’ as the most primal archetype of order in the human mind. And as Pauli said:
    “our primary mathematical intuitions can be arranged before we become conscious of them.”

    Since the remotest times men have used number to establish meaningful coincidences, that is, coincidences that can be interpreted.

    There is something peculiar, one might even say mysterious about numbers. They have never been entirely robbed of their numinous aura. If, so a textbook of mathematics tell us, a group of objects is deprived of every single one of its properties or characteristics, there still remains, at the end, its number, which seems to indicate that number is something irreducible.

    The sequence of natural numbers turns out to be unexpectedly more than a mere stringing together of identical units; it contains the whole of mathematics and everything yet to be discovered in this field.

    Number, therefore, is in one sense an unpredictable entity.

    It is generally believed that numbers were invented, or thought out by man, and are therefore nothing but concepts of quantities containing nothing that was not previously put into them by the human intellect. But it is equally possible that numbers were found or discovered.. In that case they are not only concepts but something more-autonomous entities which somehow contain more than just quantities.

    Unlike concepts, they are based not on any psychic conditions but on the quality of being themselves, on a “so-ness” that cannot be expressed by an intellectual concept.

    Under these conditions they might easily be endowed with qualities that have still to be discovered. I must confess that I incline to the view that numbers were as much found as invented, and that in consequence they possess a relative autonomy analogous to that of the archetypes.

    They would then have in common with the latter, the quality of being pre-existent to consciousness, and hence, on occasion, of conditioning it, rather than being conditioned by it.

    Jung: “man has need of the word, but in essence number is sacred.”

    The Problem:

    There is no such animal as metaphysics………Arthur C. Clarke
    Dreams are junk science……………………..Alan Dershowitz
    Prophecy is a lost art…………………………Carl Sagan
    It’s a glorious accident……………………….Stephen J. Gould

    Ref material:

    Synchronicity-an acausal connecting principle, Jung….
    “Atom and Archetype” 1932-1958, letters, Jung/Pauli
    Nostradamus’ Star, google

    “as any change must appear somewhere, it is the
    single individual who will experience it.” Jung….


    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Dear ‘bmsecond’,

      All this is very interesting and, I feel, useful in contemplating in advance of my retreat. I will pursue the references you cite.

      An immediate response is that what we perceive and name as ‘number’ may be just part of the entity or force that is being imagined, perceived, or revealed. Our labeling it as number and operating within the constraints of this naming, may be limiting our perception of what we may be seeking, consciously or unconsciously.

      Another notion: music may be an equally apt metaphor (or better?) for ‘that which is sought’, especially since what qualifies as music (not noise) contains numbering systems.


  2. Eric Gandy says:

    Not being at all familiar with Jungian thinking, I think however that reading a load of Jungian (or other mind-influencing) literature before retreating to your retreat may influence your mind in a way which could form a barrier to other thoughts and experiences. This reflection is linked to my reading of Arthur Janov’s books on primal therapy, where the breakdown of barriers to one’s emotions is at the centre of the initial theraputic process.

    What would happen if you went on a retreat with just your usual or normal package of inner thoughts and experiences for company, I wonder?




    • Ron Pavellas says:

      I need to look into Janov, now that you’ve presented his name to me. I have heard of Primal Therapy, but cannot say I know it beyond that there was a temporary fascination for it by certain Silicon Valley types I associated with in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


  3. dianabuja says:

    Looking forward to your experience – and I-ve downloaded the 3 pieces that you wrote to review. Jung for me is a bit of an ambiguous figure…


  4. dianabuja says:

    Intersting question. Need to think about that. and get back.


  5. Pingback: Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part IIa | Cultivating the Corpus Callosum

  6. Pingback: Interview with Carl Gustav Jung | CLINICAL HYPNOTHERAPY

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