Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part IIa

From the Red Book

From the Red Book

If you had read Part I of this two-part article, you were undoubtedly expecting “Part II” to appear here without the little ‘a’ attached. The reason for this incomplete follow-up is that I still have more reading and thinking to do.

Nonetheless, I have something to say after having spent seven days reading and taking notes from Jung’s books, including some of The Red Book, and also from books about Jung or influenced by Jung.

A brief, preliminary report:

  • C.G. Jung was born in 1875,  a gifted shaman in a culture which did not recognize such talents and abilities as useful or, probably, even proper. He hid his talents and proclivities from others.
  • He lived in a Swiss town where his family was, economically and socially, relatively poor. As a schoolboy he was perceived as different and socially excluded.
  • At around age eleven he gained a sudden insight, due to overhearing his father express concern for young Gustav, which broke him away from his childish pursuits and attitudes. He began a life of scholarship and inquiry concerning both the world at large and the nature of his own internal processes.
  • Around the same time Jung became aware of two personalities residing within him, which he later labeled “personality no.1” and “personality no.2”–his outer and inner selves, roughly speaking. 
  • Around the time of his confirmation in the Lutheran Church (his father was a minister), he was struggling with the concept of God, whether he might have blasphemed, and what God might want of him. He came out of this feeling he had discovered an aspect of God which the church was ignoring or had overlooked, and that he had a special insight.
  • He was ambitious and needed to excel and be influential in life, but was uncertain as to the best path until he fixed, first, on medicine, then psychology, then psychiatry.
  • He married a wealthy and intellectually gifted woman; this solved his issue with poverty and, I assume, to an important degree with respect to his social standing.
  • He became an acknowledged “number two” to Sigmund Freud which got him on the road toward the professional recognition he sought.
  • He developed, independently from Freud, his own views and work goals that he carefully and assiduously cloaked with the name of “science”.
  • Upon breaking with Freud he was ready to pursue, internally (i.e., inside himself–his “personality no.2”), the ideas, feelings, and insights he had gained from constant self-examination and from clinical findings in his patients. The Red Book was a result of this pursuit.

What am I trying to accomplish here?

crazy-egg4I’ll answer this in summary form, then offer a small essay on how I arrived at this point.

  • Will the dream content (“material”) arising from the collective unconscious, in dreams and otherwise, be similar in people from widely different cultures and geographical settings, e.g., Borneo vs the Siberian tundra?
  • Is psychology a science? Is psychiatry a science? Does it matter either way? Which of these disciplines did Jung practice? What is the difference between them?
  • In that the unconscious cannot be understood by rational analysis, how can we trust what has been written and otherwise explained about it, by anyone?
  • In that Carl Jung was a specific “type”, in his own system of psychological typology (INF-“Idealist, Healer, Counselor”, per Keirsey), is being one of these types more conducive to achieve an understanding and/or integration of one’s unconscious?
  • Must I analyze my dreams to successfully integrate my conscious mind with my unconscious, to individuate?
  • In that I am “type” INT (“Rational, Architect, Mastermind”, per Keirsey), will I be able sufficiently to understand what Jung experienced and taught?
  • Is it fair or proper to call Jung a “shaman” as I have done at the beginning of this article?

Also, I need to better understand the nature and function of the anima in men and the animus in women.

One of the characteristics of my “type” is that I need to make sense out things–how does it work; will it work? I am already convinced that there is no rational “sense” to the workings of the unconscious, particularly the part that Jung labels “collective”. Yet, what  Jung writes makes sense to me Perhaps it is the intuitive faculty we both share that bonds me to him and his views of man-in-nature.

Please stay tuned for “Part IIb”, the conclusion of this quest.

How I got to this point

jung-red-book-dragon-jungcurrentsUpon learning of the The Red Book through some reading last year, I felt compelled to learn more about it, especially about the images it contained. I found many of the images on the Internet. I needed to make my own book, feeling that the real one would not be available to me, so I copied and printed the larger-size images and put them in a binder. This was pleasing but not satisfying. I started to fantasize about buying the book via the Internet, but found the price and shipping charges prohibitive.

A short time after this, late last year, I was walking with my friend Eric on Drottninggatan (“Queen Street”) after having had our semi-regular fika and conversation in downtown Stockholm. I was telling him about my current obsession when I suddenly remembered that I had actually seen The Red Book in a shop further up this street some months ago, before I had learned about it in my reading. We found the remembered bookstore (Vattumannen), and there was the book prominently displayed on a high shelf. I was allowed to view it in the presence of an employee. After a few minutes of carefully turning the large and heavy pages, I knew I had to have the book even though it cost 1,500 Swedish Crowns (around $230).

2013-02-25 gröndal-06

The Guest House in Gröndal

This still wasn’t enough. I needed to be with the book, alone, for a significant period. I needed to experience, possibly, some of what Jung experienced during his plunge into his own unconscious. I thought of my friends near Uppsala who had once before allowed me to use their guest house for a writing retreat. They readily agreed and I scheduled my week for a few months later.

Prior to the “Jung retreat” I began re-reading many of my books which were about Jung. or influenced by Jung. But I discovered I had no books by Jung, except for Seven Sermons for the Dead which is also included in The Red Book and Answer to Job, an early work. Something I saw recommended two of his last books: Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a memoir dictated to and edited by an associate; and, Man and His Symbols, containing articles by Jung and other psychologists. I bought them and started reading his memoir a week before the retreat.

2013-02-25 ron in gröndal with sheri and svanteI made many marginal notes and underlinings in the memoir before my week of retreat, but didn’t finish the book. I brought the memoir, and all the other books I felt relevant to my interest in Jung, to the guest house and began to make notes from it in a large notebook. The further I read in the memoir, the more I felt it was the right thing to prepare me for The Red Book. After I finished it, I quickly re-read Colin Wilson’s biography of Jung, Lord of the Underworld, looking for some perspective on the memoir. I now saw Wilson’s biography of Jung as superficial in many respects, and that it wasn’t quite complete. I felt, therefore, there might be some value in augmenting Wilson’s observations with my own.

As I read through the Introduction to The Red Book, again making notes, I saw that the writer of the Introduction viewed it desirable to first read Jung’s memoir. I now saw that I had made the right decision to preempt my planned reading of The Red Book by continuing to read the memoir to completion. 

By the end of my planned stay in the guest house, I hadn’t quite gotten to read the last portion of The Red Book, the part that contains the English translation of Jung’s words in the book. So, I reckoned I would choose another time, at home, to do this reading.

From all my reading in the guest house, I felt much better qualified to understand anything that would follow in my studies of Jung, in and out of The Red Book.

I decided to read the other book, Man and His Symbols, to further prepare me for the remainder of the reading in The Red Book. It already is answering some of the questions I have formulated.


ADDENDUM, posted one day later (13 March 2013):

Upon further consideration, there will be no “Part IIb” to this multipart, too-lengthy essay on Jung’s Red Book and his other writings. Here’s why:

I am using my rational faculties to suck up facts and opinions in an orderly attempt to understand a non-rational, non-orderly thing: the human unconscious, or the right brain (or right lobe of the brain), or the subjective mind—and the contents of this entity: dreams, visions, nameless/unnameable things.

This exercise of my rational faculties, which are inherently strong and well-developed over their 76 years of use, is presenting a barrier to the exercise of my non-rational faculties—those presumably found in the areas hypothesized and inadequately named, above. I need to develop this area of my ‘self’ in order to perform the creative writing I keep telling myself I want and need to do.

I’ve learned enough through Jung, and life, to know there is a reservoir of stuff waiting to be tapped for my creative writing—and greater fulfillment in life.

I harken back to an insightful poem I wrote seven years ago:

Intellect & Soul

My intellect has been
My shield and my sword

My soul, retarded by this protection,
Has gained its voice over time

Now Soul says to Intellect:

I will not submerge you
I still need you as a partner

If you can relax and allow it

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 Mind, The Self and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part IIa

  1. Rich Homa says:

    As Midnight Louise says, “The way to be noble is to let others be as noble as they can be”. May our intellects attain that kind of nobility.


  2. Pingback: Metanoia | Cultivating the Corpus Callosum

  3. I read Answer to Job in my early 20s. It was maybe the first book by Jung I read. It had a strong impact on me.

    Liked by 1 person

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