Poll: Source of Jung’s Red Book

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34 Responses to Poll: Source of Jung’s Red Book
  1. Donald R Ferrell PhD
    February 14, 2013 | 4:36 pm

    The personal crisis that played a significant role in Jung’s “encounter with the unconscious” revolved primarily around his loss of Freud and his love affair with Sabina Spielrein.

    • Jane Petit-Moore
      February 14, 2013 | 8:53 pm

      I agree. The woman Salome represents Jung’s inner struggle

      • Rebecca Peterson
        February 17, 2013 | 7:06 pm

        Isn’t the Sabrina Spielrein “affair” the Cronenberg version/fantasy of reality? My understanding is this was not supported by any letters, documents, witnesses (unlike Toni Wolff’s relationship for example).
        Croneberg being Cronenberg, after all.

  2. Bonney
    February 14, 2013 | 4:39 pm

    all of the above

  3. Valerie Harms
    February 14, 2013 | 4:45 pm

    I think he felt troubled within himself and took the time to go with the images where they led. The Red Book is the result of that particular time.

  4. Breuer Ruth
    February 14, 2013 | 4:47 pm

    all of the above

  5. Patrick Carroll
    February 14, 2013 | 4:53 pm

    I believe that the Red Book is a record of a new, powerful spiritual connection that transcends the collective unconscious. It was a channel that opened due to all of Jung’s previous work and experiences, a direct connection to a higher level of consciousness that exists in a different, non-human dimension.

  6. Stuart Sherman
    February 14, 2013 | 4:59 pm

    It is an oversimplification, but I believe in some measure true that the collective, mythic, or archetypal imagery of the Red Book are the affect-images expressive of Jung’s experience of the profound disruptions in his professional and personal/family relationships at that time in his life – although not understood or emphasized as such by him. So it is “a powerful breakthrough of the collective unconscious,” as well as his “personal dreams and inspirations” – but these are not independent of the interpersonal crises, and related crisis in self-image and understanding that he was experiencing.

  7. William John Meegan
    February 14, 2013 | 5:02 pm

    Personally, I believe the single most important influence on Jung RED BOOK and his collective works is what he calls an ‘insight’ he had around 1902-1903 (I may be off on the year). I believe he mentions it in his MEMORIES DREAMS AND REFLECTIONS (I haven’t read that book in a quarter of a century): however, this so-called ‘insight’ was I believe a ‘vision’ because he says that he tried to explain that idea (insight) in the next sixty years in his collective works. I know personally that such a vision is possible because it has guided me throughout since June of 1978. It is this account of that insight that attracted me the writings of Jung. He wouldn’t call it a ‘vision (which lasted probably a nanosecond)’ because he was a professional psychiatrist and a scientist and he would have lost credibility in the eyes of the academic and scientific communities to use such mystical terminology in regards to his own psyche.

    • Henry Reed
      February 14, 2013 | 5:30 pm

      Interesting comment.
      I’d like it if you’d find the reference in Memories… I’d like to read that ….
      I think I have had the same experiences as you describe and they continue to guide my research

      • William John Meegan
        February 15, 2013 | 1:53 am


        I have tried to find that quote in Memories but am unable to: maybe someone else that reads this can remember the source material. I do remember the quote because I coincided with other persons in past times that similar experience: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Mary Baker G. Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, Bill Wilson (Co-founder of Alcoholic Anonymous). So you can see that immediately upon reading that quote I reference it with other material that reinforced it.

        It may have been in a letter he wrote someone or one of his student quoting him. I just can find the source.

  8. Christina
    February 14, 2013 | 5:04 pm

    The relationship between Freud and Jung came to a close which lead Jung to ever more deeply look at himself more closely. The Red Book I believe is his attempt to document his descent and ascent into the inner workings of his Soul. When he retired to “The Tower” and stopped seeing his patients and seeing his family seldom, he was forced to look deep within himself for answers, questions and understanding. The Red Book is an outstanding representation of a man with a brilliant mind and the creative devices at his fingertips to document a very troubling thing for anyone to do. The deep recesses of the mind is a scary place, but with the proper tools is can be battled. I have my own copy and Im happy I spent the money of this masterpiece.

  9. Norm Bosse
    February 14, 2013 | 5:27 pm

    All the above. It’s hard to see how it could take place without (1) and (2).

    (3) may be just a different way at looking (1) and (2).
    Not necessarily invalid, just different.

  10. Henry Reed
    February 14, 2013 | 5:28 pm

    When I read the Red Book, especially his encounters in active imagination, what I see is my students doing the same thing, having the same questions about the reality of it, etc. The difference is that Jung didn’t have teachers and books to reassure him of the meaningfulness of what he was doing. He had to face the ambiguity of the “psychosis” question given the understandings of the time, understandings that persist to this day–witness the choices on the poll. Certainly his crisis played a role, but today, understanding the dynamics, the students demonstrate similar out put as the Red Book relative to their personal “mini crisis” once the underlying chaos theory is explained to them in terms of the redeeming value of embracing the shadow. I believe that all of what Jung did in the Red Book is reproducible today by dedicated explorers, what would be missing would be the incredibly heroic act he did to forge ahead so very much ahead of his time, to be able to think outside his grandchildren’s paradigm’s box…. we are still trying to integrate the concept of the “reality of the psyche,” mostly by talking about it rather than sitting down together in search of the experience.

  11. Mary Coelho
    February 14, 2013 | 6:05 pm

    I don’t think you should separate big dreams and insights occurring in the consciousness of an individual from a breakthrough in the collective unconscious. So it is not appropriate to allow only one item at a time to be checked -the first two items are both of primary significance. I can’t judge about near psychosis but as we know crisis can provoke breakthroughs.

  12. Mary Coelho
    February 14, 2013 | 6:11 pm

    I don’t think you should separate big dreams and insights occurring in the consciousness of an individual from a breakthrough in the collective unconscious. So it is not appropriate to allow only one item at a time to be checked – the first two items are both of primary significance. I can’t judge about near psychosis but it is widely recognized that a personal crisis can provoke breakthroughs.

  13. Elaine Molchanov
    February 14, 2013 | 6:16 pm

    The Self that is seeking connection to the soul of
    modern man. Jung’s break with Freud, his breakdown, our collective breakdown all provided an opening for this new transformational energy to come through to Jung and, in time, to us.

  14. Mary Newton
    February 14, 2013 | 6:39 pm

    I agree with the responders above who say the choices you offer are just different aspects of the same basic phenomenon — like the blind men feeling the elephant. You find similar experiences among shamans, mystics, saints and madmen the world over throughout history. Jung’s uniqueness lay in his response to his experiences, not the experiences themselves.

    • Marta
      February 14, 2013 | 8:54 pm


  15. Joanne Garner
    February 14, 2013 | 7:32 pm

    My understanding from his own writings and that of other commentators who knew him well, is that all four sources combined, together with his own curiosity, prompted his extensive work on what has come to be called the Red Book. It was written over a significant period of time too, and the various sources waxed and waned in priority as he allowed himself to go deeper into his Unconscious and emerge on ‘the other side’.

  16. Marta
    February 14, 2013 | 8:54 pm

    All of the above seems like the most accurate answer. Wish it had been on the survey… :-(

  17. Anne Sackman
    February 14, 2013 | 9:28 pm

    I don’t know. The rich symbolisms and intensity of Jung’s experiences direct my attention as an artist to the psychic inner enchanted realm of creativity and the diversity of experience it offers. Jung’s was, and is, one of the great minds of the ages.
    The characters in Red Book seem to react as if they are part of Jung’s personal dream life. Yet, as we all know, the collective unconscious can and does occasionally express itself in our dreams, for example a premonition surfacing in a dream. In what state of being was Jung finding his inspirations for the content of The Red Book? Was the material intruding into, and/or distorting his experience of his everyday waking life?

    • Juliet Da Luiso
      February 15, 2013 | 12:11 am

      I believe all of the factors listed played a role in Jung’s Red Book. We might call it a mid-life
      crisis supersized. His willingness to deal with his
      personal pain led to a great breakthrough.

      Juliet Da Luiso

      February 15, 2013 | 8:21 pm

      Anne is touching upon a crucial element, I think — the artist in Jung (which he himself feared, realizing his work might be trivialized if regarded as “art”). But the Red Book gives us no direct access to Jung’s experience. It is consciously revised material, glowingly, reverently crafted as his own illuminated manuscript, and therefore presented as a sacred text. The questions given us here itemize only a psychological perspective. As sacred art, the Red Book will always give MORE than is dreamt of in psychology. Among other things, Jung sets out in the Red Book to “write back” to Thus Spoke Zarathustra, although he knew he couldn’t do it: “Nietzsche did this better than you,” he admonishes himself(Red Book, footnote 65). At the same time as reacting against the perception of himself as an artist, Jung downplayed the notion of an artistic elite, because he wanted everyone to produce work upon the same continuum, using the image (whether verbal or visual or both) as the building block for insight into the psyche. The authentic response to the Red Book is therefore not to drop psychological grids over it. It is to work upon creating our own sacred texts.

  18. Curtiss Hoffman
    February 14, 2013 | 10:47 pm

    Previews of coming attractions – since I will be giving the webinar on this subject in a couple of weeks, I thought I would throw in another alternative: that Jung was influenced by the symbolism of many cultures to which he was exposed in waking life. I’ve visited his house and seen his extensive library, which included many of the books with these sources in them. But as for the “primary” source, I will have to opt for “all of the above”!

  19. Wyldr
    February 15, 2013 | 3:21 am

    As a “traveler/journier” into the realms of non-ordinary reality, it is not at all strange that Jung would be able to locate into those realms where Teachers are ready to assist in whatever manner we desire. In other cultures, this journey is called the Way of the Shaman, Dreamtime, and by other labels. The destinations in these realms are not all the same, but the symbolism, information revealed, and personal teachings are no less than profound. Because Jung became aware of the reality of realms such as the collective unconscious and others, I would be surprised if he had not learned how to encounter helpful Beings in the “Realms of Other” or whatever label is appropriate. Such experiences are not generally available to those hemmed in by the 5 senses, and the answer choices given here reflect such narrowness of thinking. This type experiences are common among indigenous peoples the world over, especially the spiritual leaders of these groups, and in the “modern” world, one can learn from experienced teachers how to access such realms with the intention of learning about oneself.

  20. Prof J Paul De Vierville
    February 15, 2013 | 3:35 am

    Yes, “all of the above,” as well as “the awe of all the below.”

  21. Barbara james
    February 15, 2013 | 9:14 pm

    All of the above. Jung was on his personal journey of his own psyche…I see him as a “psychonought”…into the collective unconscious and returning to us with his perspective and connections with the universal psyche….I am forever grateful and so are my clients…Ken Wilber is continuing in and expanding Jung’s pathways,,

    Barbara James

  22. Nancy Solomon
    February 16, 2013 | 12:04 pm

    What is the primary source material for Jung’s Red Book? I believe the answer has to be his dreams and his courage to explore their imagery. To work with this imaginal material, he developed active imagination methods that others continue to use. His images, dreams, and exploration became the bedrock for many of his ideas, such as, the shadow and the collective unconscious. The Red Book itself is only Jung’s red book. Making it was Jung’s personal path to universal human concepts. Others can make their own explorations, can make their own blue book, green book, or orange book, but this Red Book is only his. Because he made it, we have a unique window into the bedrock for Jung’s concepts that he developed in words and practice for several decade beyond.
    Nancy Solomon

  23. Bev Rosevear-Kaho
    February 16, 2013 | 11:03 pm

    I think the creative impetus for Jung’s collection of mystical works in the Red Book may have also had something to do with his exposure to travel and other cultures – many ancient or ethnic cultures celebrate, recognise and integrate the unconscious/ mystical more readily into daily life and are more comfortable accessing and crossing the boundaries than the Western culture is. And of course psychosis is about transcending boundaries (of reality). Some of Jung’s paintings have a resemblance to Van Gogh’s at a troubled time of his life. Stress can precipitate altered reality in the individual if severe, and of course we can say the systems for stability in Europe were collectively entering a phase of breakdown at the time.

  24. Rebecca Peterson
    February 17, 2013 | 7:15 pm

    I believe he was grappling with the face of evil; in the light of the visions of the destruction of Europe and the immanence of WWI, he had the courage to look closely at aeons of war, of violence–at the shadow of the collective, the history of humanity in its darkest moments. He might not have known exactly what he was getting into when he first said “yes” to his soul’s offer to show him what was under those waters, but he continued on. Would that we have the courage to face the demons in today’s world. What have we wrought.

  25. Bill Bragard
    February 21, 2013 | 4:41 pm

    Today he would have been given powerful antidepressants and the book would never have been written. He would have descended his tower and popped a few “Soma” tablets and all would have been copasetic. Kurt Vonnegut wrestled with inner demons and couldn’t write when he was on anti depressants, so instead he wrestled with taking them. He is recorded as being always surprised at how a simple tablet would take the emotions(and ability to create) away.

  26. Guadalupe Kirklin
    February 27, 2013 | 9:24 pm

    The Red Book of Carl Jung, according to my understanding of the reading, it is both the product of his personal and spiritual connection with his unconscious and the collective unconscious. It was the product of his very own science and theory that allowed him to survive his inner chaos and the dark forces of the unconscious, and the “live, materia prima.” The Red Book is a vivid example of the process of individuation as he theorized and practiced it on his own and his patients. Thus, the Red Book is an “empirical experiment” emerging from the depth of the underworld, that which connects the above and below, cosmogonic love, spiritual awakening, transformation and the life of the psyche. It is ultimately not an attempt to psychopathologize his or anybody’s own experience and myth, nor pathologizing the experience of re-encountering the own soul and even God. A tendency that is commonly found in modern days is to deny and get rid of such a spiritual awakening with sedatives and psychotic medications. Man is defined according to who he is himself in a particular time and environment and his own ancestry.

  27. George Hogenson
    December 17, 2013 | 8:47 pm

    Sorry to do a self-promotion here, but in 1983 in my book, Jung’s Struggle with Freud, I argued that Freud’s system of interpretation created unique difficulties for anyone who, once having bought into the system, was now trying to escape from its internal workings–in part due to what the philosopher, Hans Blumenberg calls a paratheory within the primary theory. Jung’s problem then was to come up with a means of dealing with his own process of self-analysis–which is what I think the so-called confrontation with the unconscious really is–that did not fall prey to Freud’s system. He was, of course, already part way there with Psychology of the Unconscious, and he correctly saw that the argument there would undermine the relationship to Freud, but he had, from the beginning, argued that Freud’s system was at best incomplete.

    Regarding the actual content of the Red Book, it is fairly obvious that he is drawing on and substantially reworking material with which he was familiar from his reading and perhaps travels as the final composition of the book progressed. We will have to wait for the publication of the Black Books to get a more complete picture of how he got to the final version, but the final version is a very finished product. I do think that the actual practice of the medieval calligraphic composition of the book is perhaps more important than has been assessed as yet, but that will have to wait for further comment.

    On specific characters, such as Salome, there are various opinions. Stanley Leavy, a distinguished psychoanalyst, who edited the Freud journal of Lou Andreas Salome, wrote a piece in The Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1964 titled “A Footnote to Jung’s ‘Memories'” in which he argued that the Salome of the RB, which Jung had mentioned in MDR, was actually a reference to Frau Lou, who was, of course, one of the more extraordinary figures of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Lou Andreas Salome commented on Jung’s behavior at the final meeting with Freud in very negative terms, but one could also imagine Jung feeling that those who remained loyal to Freud were in some sense blind.

    Finally on Cronenberg, I recommend listening to the comments of Helena Bessil-Morozow on Andrew Samuels’ web site. To grossly oversimplify a very sophisticated commentary, she makes the argument that Cronenberg is committed to proving Freud right by showing Jung in the clutches of sexual desire. Her comments are very provocative and well worth listening to. The link to the set of commentaries is:


    George H.

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