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Prophecy, Divine Madness and Psychology

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I am a Jungian.

What, union?

No, not union, Jungian! Have you ever heard of Carl Jung?

Oh yes, I read about him in psych 101. Yeah, he is the guy who was connected to Freud, his heir apparent.

Not really -- he had his own ideas all along and a good example of that is his Red Book, which he called Liber Novus, the new book. This is the book that is taking the world by fire! Imagine a psychology book by one of the grand masters on the New York Times bestseller list and in its 6th printing. There have been articles written on it in the New York Times, The Economist, Wall Street Journal. What is happening here? Depth psychology hits the mainstream. There must be a very good reason why. Perhaps the time is right for a new way of looking at human nature. With the economic collapse and wars spotting the globe, I think we humans are not doing such a good job pretending we are civilized.

C.G. Jung worked on this book from 1913-1930. First he wrote his dreams and visions in his journals, The Black Books, then proceeded to dialogue with the inner figures to get to know them and the energy they represent within himself. (The inner world of the psyche is as real as the outer world of reality. Those inner figures frequently show up in different forms as outer figures in our lives. If we work on the inner ones, we change our patterns of behavior in the outer world.) In 1913, Jung was depressed and felt that something important was missing from his life. This is frequently why people begin analysis. He decided to study the workings of the unconscious. Having worked with psychotics for years, he saw that they frequently had what seemed to be mythic fantasies, without any knowledge of myth. Curious as he always was, he began an in depth study of comparative religions and mythologies. With this as the background of his descent, he was armed with a broad understanding of the language of the psyche.

Into The Black Books poured his visions and active imaginations. (He took no substances to stimulate his visions, by the way.) His visions were vivid and intense. You can read them yourselves in The Red Book. He had eight visions that showed blood flowing across Europe, dead bodies pilled up, devastating scenes of destruction. He thought he was falling into a psychosis-- until World War I broke out in August 1914. Then he realized the dreams were not personal at all, but were prognostic of what was to come. For him this was an example of the existence of the collective unconscious. Jung, of course, was relieved that it was not personal but deeply saddened by the devastation that was descending upon Europe.

During the war he continued to explore his psyche. His rational scientist side had been prominent in his life throughout his school and professional years, and gives voice to this element of himself as "The Spirit of the Times" in The Red Book. Another forgotten side of himself, referred to as "The Spirit of the Depths," summonsed him down into an exploration of his inner world that led him to that important missing part of himself, his soul. Through great travail and suffering, Jung descended into "hell" much like Dante and Faust. His was a hero's journey in search of wholeness.

Jung was a pioneer with the fortitude and determination to explore the nature of the psyche, the source of change and development he later called individuation. He recognized that it is an inherent aspect of human nature. The psyche consists of opposites that need to be reconciled to achieve the wholeness of our personality. The ultimate opposites are good and evil, which all humans share with "God" (the essence of wholeness), and consciously acknowledging them is the only way to prevent the destructive half of the pair from falling back into the shadow, into unconsciousness, and potentially being acted out without our conscious participation. This is what happened in the Great Wars and seems to be rampant in our world today, as well. We, as individuals and societies, project the despicable aspects of ourselves onto other individuals and societies and hate them for it. When will we learn to be responsible for all of ourselves, both good and bad parts, all sides of all opposites? Jung struggled with his and hoped we would do the same. I find it interesting that "Jungian" is frequently mis-heard as "union," which is actually what he was most interested in, the union of opposites!

In The Red Book are Jung's dreams, visions, active imaginations and layers of commentary that are accessible to all of us. It is written in calligraphic writing with 60 original gauche paintings, much like a medieval illustrated manuscript. From this material, Jung developed his theories on typology, archetypes, collective unconscious, active imagination, religious function of the psyche, Self and more. He spent the rest of his life trying to make sense of it. When you read it, you are pulled down as a companion and witness to his struggle to find his lost soul and regain his life. This is what many of us have experienced in our own lives. It is rich and real--as real as anything you will ever experience. It is no wonder the book it red--it is the burning hot fire that brings with it the light of consciousness.

"Prophecy, Divine Madness, and Psychology" is the title of a lecture Dr. Sonu Shamdasani will be giving on The Red Book in Los Angeles on April 23rd. He is the editor of The Red Book and Philemon Professor of Jung History at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London. Philemon is one of the prominent figures in The Red Book, Jung's inner wise old man. The Philemon Foundation, a non-profit that supports the publication of all of C.G. Jung's unpublished writings, is named after him. We honor him and are guided by him. Check us out at And see the real The Red Book at the Hammer-UCLA Museum in Los Angeles in April, along with a series of dialogues on the book.