Cross Cultural Symbolism in C.G. Jung’s Red book



Jung’s lifelong interest in the myths of cultures around the world was broad; he provided introductions to accounts as disparate as Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching, the Chinese book of oracles, and Gustav Neihardt’s translation of the autobiographical account of a Lakota elder, Black Elk Speaks. He also had a passion for Medieval manuscripts, especially illustrated alchemical texts. In this webinar, we explore the cross-cultural symbolism embedded within the text and artwork recently published in the Red Book, and speculate upon the dynamic interaction between what Jung was drawing from the Collective Unconscious through his dreaming and painting, and the large body of world mythological and religious symbolism which he was exploring during his waking life.

What did Jung incarnate through the Red Book?

– His own personal dreams and inspirations?
– A powerful breakthrough of the collective unconscious?
– A clinical lapse into near psychosis during a difficult time?

Dr. Curtiss Hoffman, renowned anthropologist, dives into this question as he explores the various forces underlying Carl Jung’s Red Book.  Dr. Hoffman brings his scholarly expertise as an anthropologist to thoroughly examine cross-cultural elements In this incredible text.


Dr. Curtiss Hoffman is a professor in the Anthropology Department at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1978. While he is primarily an archaeologist, he also has a strong interest in myth, religion, and psychological anthropology, and has developed and taught courses in Myth and Culture, Symbol and Society in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Anthropology of Religion, Myths and Peoples of the Ancient Near East, and Culture and Consciousness. He has been a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams since 1997; serves on its Board of Trustees; and has frequently presented papers on a variety of subjects, including the present one, at the annual I.A.S.D. conferences. Most recently he has undertaken the composition of a cantata based upon the “Incantations” section of the Red Book in the original language of the Gilgamesh Epic, Babylonian Akkadian, all of the thematic material for which derives from Dr. Hoffman’s dreams.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will be able to describe the cross-cultural influences which Jung utilized in his production of the Red Book images.
  2. Participants will be able to discuss the interplay between the Collective Unconscious and waking life imagery in Jung’s life, as well as their own.
  3. Participants will able to discuss anthropological research to depth psychology.

Outline of Talk:

I. A brief introduction to Jung’s approach to the Collective Unconscious, both in terms of his theoretical writing and his personal experiences
II. A comparison between the Red Book and the Medieval El Llibre Vermell, both text and illustrations.
III. An exploration of additional cross-cultural symbolism in the Red Book:
.    A. The incipit page
.    B. The first dream
.    C. The death of Siegfried
.    D. Elijah and Salome
.    E. Images of the domed temple
.    F. The “Izdubar” sequence
.    G. Atmavictu
.    H. Mandalas
.    I. The Golden Flower and the end of Jung’s work on the Red Book
IV. Conclusion: Where did the images come from?


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