Carl Jung’s Descent Into The Underworld


In The Holy Grail Of The Unconsciousness, an article appearing in the the September 20th, 2009, New York Times’ Magazine section, Sara Corbett describes the fascinating and unknown history surrounding Liber Novus (L), the unpublished work of Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961), the founder of Analytic Psychology. These are the handwritten pages of the thinker as he descended into what has been described as severe psychosis for six years.

redbook-copyThe text is also known as The Red Book and was penned in German and ornately described as “pages of thick cream-colored parchment, filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils evoking images of medieval times.” Release date is October 7, 2009.

The drama surrounds the reticence of the Jung family, unsure for decades of what to do about publishing this unusual book, fearing it will adversely impact Jung’s legacy. Some who have read it claim it is intensely private and describes it as either the descent of Jung into the underworld of insanity or a transcendental diary of a man chronicling his search by defining his innermost soul.

Over the course of his life, Jung came to see the psyche as inherently spiritual. There is no doubt his thought was greatly influenced by Eastern mysticism, also adopted by The New Age Movement and Theosophy – the school of thought generated by H. B. Blavatsky who wrote Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. Reincarnation and karma have traditionally been fundamental to Eastern thought, often seen as “on the fringe” by the Western academic world, as was  Jung, especially considering mythology and paganism are also themes threaded throughout his work.

AUSTRIA FREUD ANNIVERSARYEarly on, Jung was a disciple of Sigmund Freud but later wound up as his chief rival. Freud contended that the subconscious was a collection of repressed desires that could be interpreted, classified as pathological and treated in analysis. Jung had a much broader sense of analysis than did Freud, describing it more as a soul’s trans-formative experience then a form of treatment. His approach took him to the border of mystical philosophy and, some say, over the edge into divine madness.

The publication of his Red Book, kept under lock and key for decades by his children and grandchildren, may reveal new insights on the schism between the two foremost thinkers of the Twentieth Century. Some of his descendants have claimed that it’s too private, containing so many unsavory descriptions, part of what could be his dementia, while those from the mystical community might see it more as his unfolding soul’s search as he confronts his dark side. This may change how history views Carl Jung. In any event, it should be an interesting read.

For more information on C.G. Jung, visit this web page.