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The Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung

The Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung

April 28, 2024

For more than 80 years, the texts that shape the Red Book They remained under the care and care of the heirs of Carl Gustav Jung until their publication in 2009.

For some it is the most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology, the New York Times after its publication he called it "the holy grail of the unconscious", and today we can speak of this as the work that marked all the later work of Carl Gustav Jung and that gave birth to his analytical psychology: The red book.

  • You can acquire the Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung through this link.

The meeting of Carl Gustav Jung with Sigmund Freud

In the year of 1913 there was a turning point in the life of Carl Gustav Jung (among other things, especially marked by intellectual separation with Sigmund Freud). To this day, what happened to him has always been the subject of discussion and controversy between Jungian analysts and other psychoanalysts . This episode has been called in various ways: a creative illness, an attack of madness, a narcissistic self-deification, a mental disturbance close to psychosis, a process of reunion with the soul, etc.


The point is that, during this period, Jung conducted an experiment with himself that lasted until 1930 and that he later recognized as his "confrontation with the unconscious" . The "confrontation" was narrated and portrayed in his work "The Red Book" that remained unpublished for more than eighty years was described by Jung as the work that led to the development of a "technique to get to the bottom of internal processes. ..] translate emotions into images [...] and understand fantasies that mobilized him underground "and that he later called active imagination.

Jung started the book by recording his fantasies in the so-called "black books" that he revised later, complementing them with several reflections. Finally, he transferred these texts, along with illustrations, to a book in red called Liber Novus.


Almost a century of mystery

For most of his friends, colleagues and even his own relatives, the Red Book was always surrounded by mystery, because Jung was always jealous of his work. He only shared his intimate experiences written in the book with his wife Emma Rauschenbach and a few other people he trusted. In addition, he left his work with the book unfinished in the year 1930, trying to retake it again in 1959, despite which the epilogue remained unfinished.

Although Jung evaluated his publication, the most he showed of it while working on it was Seven Sermons to the Dead, printed and given by the author himself to a few acquaintances in the year 1916. The reason why he did not decide to publish the Liber Novus was simple: the work was still unfinished .

Although Jung maintained that the book is an autobiographical work, he was reluctant to publish it in the complete works on the grounds that it was not of a scientific nature. After his death in 1961, the legacy of the book passed into the hands of his descendants, who, knowing that it was a unique and irreplaceable work, decided to keep it in a bank safe in 1983. After an extensive debate among the collaborators of his complete works and the group of heirs of Jung, in the year 2000 that its publication was authorized .


Finally, the book was published in 2009. Among the reasons that convinced the heirs to publish this work, is the fact that it was the subject that shaped all his later work and the development of analytical psychology.

The "holy grail of the unconscious"

All of Jung's later work is derived from the ideas presented in this book. Jung it reflects almost in a prophetic and medieval way the study of the unconscious that he himself addressed in a symbolic way during those years . It is because of the abstract of the subjects treated in this work that the book has a very marked structure.

The parts of The Red Book

In its published version, the work is divided into three parts: Liber Primus, Liber Secundus and the Scrutinies.

In the first, the Unconscious symbolic experiences lived by Jung from November 12 to December 25, 1913 , where the figure of the hero understood by Jung takes place as his superior psychic function that has to be killed by him so that his counterpart resurfaces and initiates the process of individuation, but not before encountering other archetypes like the anima, the old wise man, the sun god, etc.

In the liber secundus (elaborated from December 26, 1913 to April 1914) the successive encounters are narrated with other symbolic images that are usually characters with which Jung interacts promoting the awareness of processes and dissociated functions of Jung's personality, and with this opening the possibility of achieving the transcendent function.

Finally, Escrutinios (that originally was not written in the notebook of red covers) and that he wrote between 1914 and 1916 It has a less "poetic" content and much more complex than the previous books , since it provides keys and annotations of Jung himself for the understanding of his experiences in the previous books.

The consecration of his theories in the wake of the book

Jung wanted to develop a psychological model based on the visions narrated in the book, which became a great odyssey because it was difficult for the scientific community to accept. Despite the fact that Jung's personality was always shaped by pseudosciences such as alchemy, astrology, I ching, etc. Jung always strived to create a unifying theory between the role of the mind and physical phenomena.

The red book it is testimony of these efforts, in addition to matter of study essential for any person interested in analytical psychology .

Bibliographic references:

  • New York Times article
  • Article of Psychology and Mind on the Daimon or creative impulse developed by Jung
  • Jung, C. G. (2012). The red book. Buenos Aires: The Thread of Ariadna.

Carl Gustav Jung & The Red Book (part 1) (April 2024).


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