Thursday, October 1, 2009

Notes From The President and Editor

Dear Friends of The C.G. Jung Society of Vermont,

Exciting news in the Jungian world recently broke into the collective with the publication of an article on Jung’s soon to be published Red Book. Entitled The Holy Grail of the Unconscious, it was featured as the cover story for the September 20th edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine Section. Adding to the excitement was follow-up coverage the next day on OnPoint, the NPR live interview show featuring the journalist, Sarah Corbett, author of the Times essay and David Oswald, a Training Analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute – Boston (who, I am pleased to say, just happens to be one of my instructors).

Over the years there has been much speculation about the Red Book, the mysterious journal hidden away by Jung’s heirs in a Swiss bank vault far below the Zurich streets. Begun in 1913 following his split with Freud, and developed over a twenty or so year period, the Red Book chronicles Jung’s journeys into the depths of the unconscious. The psychic material he retrieved, in Jung’s words, “psychic material which is the stuff of psychosis... but is also the matrix of a mythopoeic imagination which has vanished from our rational age” (MDR, 188) - amazing and wild imaginings and powerful and potent images of a fantastical nature - became the foundation of an “entirely new and radically different orientation” (Jaffe, 66) in psychoanalysis.

Jung’s psychology, which he named Analytical Psychology to differentiate it from Freudian psychoanalysis, is an approach based on the recognition that the unconscious psyche is something more than a repository for repressed personal material as Freud would have it. Jung’s approach recognizes and works with the understanding that the unconscious is far greater than the personal, that it is a structural layer of the human psyche, and contains inherited wisdom stretching back to the primordial beginnings and in which all humanity shares. Jung named this greater shared psychic sphere the Collective Unconscious and over almost a half century attempted to describe and understand its workings as the guiding force in human behavior and individual development. It is his greatest contribution to science and, unfortunately, so misunderstood by most scientists and non-Jungians.

A thorough reading of Jung’s writing collected in over twenty volumes, numerous essays, his autobiography, and radio and film interviews shows that Jung understood the enormity of his discovery and the responsibility he carried in bringing it to light. No wonder he kept his Red Book private, as did his heirs, at least until now. As a scientist who attempted to build a sturdy and durable bridge between science and religion, Jung was consistently devalued by both, as was his work. To scientists he was alternately a mystic and a madman; to religionists, a scientist psychologising the divine. The folio-size Red Book is not “the holy grail of the unconscious” as the NYT’s sensationalistic title cheaply pronounces. It is Jung’s scientific self-experiment into the darkness of the unconscious. His courageous journey brought him to the edge of madness--not beyond it, as some, ignorant of Jung’s method and approach, are so fond of pronouncing. The images and imaginings that Jung consigned to the Red Book carry his central message about psyche and psychic process: value your inner life, attend to your dreams and nurture your creative self. Dreams, active imagination, drawing, painting, clay, play and other creative activities are the varied avenues to dialogue with the unconscious. Why would we want to do this, you ask? We do this because the ego is only a tiny light shining in the immense darkness of the unconscious. When we open ourselves to the products of psyche - to dreams, for instance - we enlarge our personality and become more of who we are meant to be.

Always sensitive to his critics and wanting to reach the broadest audience possible, Jung wrote about the “widening of consciousness” in different ways. Below are two such examples; very different in style, they are complementary explanations of the same phenomenon. You be the judge which rings most true for you:

There arises a consciousness which is no longer imprisoned in the petty, oversensitive, personal world of the ego, but participates freely in the wider world of objective interests. This widened consciousness is no longer that touchy, egotistical bundle of personal wishes, fears, hopes, and ambitions which always has to be compensated or corrected by unconscious counter-tendencies; instead, it is a function of relationship to the world of objects, bringing the individual into absolute, binding, and indissoluble communion with the world at large (CW 7, 178).

“But why on earth,” you may ask, “should it be necessary for man to achieve, by hook or by crook, a higher level of consciousness?” This is truly the crucial question, and I do not find the answer easy. Instead of a real answer I can only make a confession of faith: I believe that, after thousands and millions of years, someone had to realize that this wonderful world of mountains and oceans, suns and moons, galaxies and nebulae, plants and animals, exists. From a low hill in the Athi plains of East Africa I once watched the vast herds of wild animals grazing in soundless stillness, as they had done from time immemorial, touched only by the breath of a primeval world. I felt then as if I were the first man, the first creature, to know that all this is. The entire world round me was still in its primeval state; it did not know that it was. And then, in that one moment in which I came to know, the world sprang into being; without that moment it would never have been. All Nature seeks this goal and finds it fulfilled in man, but only in the most highly developed and most fully conscious man (CW 9i, 95).

I asked Chessie Stevenson, a Jungian Analyst with a practice in Waitsfield, and a board member of JSVT, to share her thoughts about the Red Book and she graciously complied with the following:

It is to Jung’s great credit as a scientist that he dared personally to explore the liminal space between genius and madness as even a cursory look at The Red Book will illustrate. The artwork is meticulous and compelling. A prolific writer, navigator of a new psychology and philosophy, ever curious about the human condition, Jung and the Jung family have given the world a true present.

We will keep you informed about happenings associated with the publication of the Red Book. For a current list of Jungian-sponsored lectures and events, go to the This Month section. We will be running submissions regarding Jung’s journal once it is published. Until then, you can read the NYT article, The Holy Grail of the Unconscious, and listen to the OnPoint interview by clicking on the links below. Also listed is the link to the Philemon Foundation, the publishers of the Red Book.

Also in this October edition of the e-journal we offer you in the Essay section a another scholarly work by Sue Mehrtens which continues her exploration of the archetype of the apocalypse (we still are experiencing formatting problems as will be evident when you read the essay, our apologies). In News From… Luanne Sberna, wearing her Membership Coordinator hat, pens a gentle reminder to members regarding membership renewal. In Profile, Luanne changes hats and shares with us her interview with David Joy, a man long associated with Burlington College and noted not only for developing that school’s Transpersonal Psychology Program, but for keeping Jungian courses in the curriculum (we are also experiencing formatting problems with this interview and will attempt to correct them shortly). Emily Murphey has submitted two poems, to be found in The Arts section and, in This Month we list both the fall semester schedule of The Jungian Center in Waterbury as well as a list of events associated with the publication of the Red Book. Although these events are not Vermont-based, we thought they were of enough interest to our readership to publish them.

This is a full issue this month. We hope you enjoy it. As always, your comments are welcome and you are invited to post them in the Post Comment box at the end of each feature. Other comments or questions can be sent to me using the contact information listed below. Enjoy!

With best regards,

Stephanie Buck


(802) 860-4921

Referenced Works

Aniela Jaffe, ed., C.G. Jung: Word and Image (1979). Princeton: Bollingen Series.

C. G. Jung, (Aniela Jaffe, ed.), Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1965). NY: Vintage.

________. The Function of the Unconscious. In Two Essays in Analytical Psychology (CW 7. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen.

________. Psychological Aspects of the Mother Complex. In The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (CW 9i).

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