'The Red Book': A Window Into Jung's Dreams The journal,16 years in the making, in which psychoanalyst Carl Jung documented his inner life was long hidden. After a painstaking translation and reproduction, it is finally available to the public.
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'The Red Book': A Window Into Jung's Dreams

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'The Red Book': A Window Into Jung's Dreams

'The Red Book': A Window Into Jung's Dreams

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

When the psychiatrist, Carl Jung died in 1961, he left a legacy equal to that of his mentor, Sigmund Freud. He also left behind a book. Jung worked on it for 16 years. It contained the Genesis of his ideas. He referred to it as the "Red Book," after its red leather cover. It was never published until now. The massive volume was on sale for a half of the $200 and the original is on display for the first time ever.

Karen Michel has the story from New York.

KAREN MICHEL: The trailer for the "Red Book," the book, not the film - should there be one - calls it the most anticipated publishing event of the year. The jumping (unintelligible) makes you (unintelligible) Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford in the next spring. Instead, we got an ominous clip of Carl Gustav Jung (unintelligible) in time.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Mr. CARL JUNG (Psychiatrist; Author, "The Red Book"): The only real danger that exists is man himself.

NORRIS: Jung, it seems, also thought there was a danger that people would think him mad after seeing the "Red Book's" sometime psychedelic paintings.

Daniel Baumann is Carl Jung's great, great grandson and president of the Jung Institute.

Mr. DANIEL BAUMANN (President, Jung Institute): It is definitely not a book of a person, which is crazy. Definitely not.

NORRIS: Still, in a 1959 interview, Jung acknowledged that was open to interpretation.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Mr. JUNG: My relation to reality was not particular (unintelligible) variance with the reality of things.

NORRIS: Jung's version of reality is reflected in the "Red Book's" many dialogues with the mythical characters of his dreams and waking fantasies, its own ornate calligraphy and painting reminiscent of the middle ages and books of hours. All of it was hand on at night after his clerical work, his writing, his teaching, and time with his family.

Mr. BAUMANN: Its something which is, I would say, very personal, a very, very personal testimonial of a journey, of an inside journey of a person. We have to be careful on that. So I said, hmm, should we put protect that?

MICHEL: Baumanns thoughts echo those of other family members. Ever since Jungs death in 1961, two months after Daniel Baumanns birth, the heiress kept the Red Book hidden away ultimately in a Swiss bank vault. Outside of the family, only a very few people in Jungs close circle saw the book. A mystique surrounded it even for Baumann.

Mr. BAUMANN: I never saw it, the many things which were taboo within the work that he did, and Red Book one of that.

MICHEL: Jungian scholar Dr. Sonu Shamdasani had seen a few facsimile pages made during Jungs lifetime. Shamdasani was eager to see all of it and wanted to translate the volume into English. It took him three years of visits to the family to convince them that it would be okay for the book to be brought out of hiding. It took him another 13 years to translate it and write more than a thousand footnotes.

Professor SONU SHAMDASANI (Professor, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London): This has lasted longer than the Trojan War.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MICHEL: Because this is no simple narrative, its Jungs voyage of discovery into his deepest self.

Prof. SHAMDASANI: The overall, say, narrative of the book is how Jung recovers his soul, recovers meaning in his life through enabling the rebirth of the image of God in his soul. In so doing, he created a psychology that created a vehicle for others to regain meaning in this.

MICHEL: Jung began his process of self-discovery very young, as he recalled in 1959.

MR. JUNG: In my 11th year, on my way to school, it was just as if I had been walking in a mist and I stepped out of it and I knew I am. I am what I am. And then I thought, what have I been before? And then I found that I had been in a mist, not knowing to differentiate myself from things. I was just one thing among many things.

MICHEL: Nearly 30 years after that childhood revelation, Jung had a bookbinder make a 12-by-16-inch red leather-covered volume filled with thick, blank pages. Into this, he poured explorations into himself. The first words are, the way of what is to come. He goes on to quote from Nietzsche, Goethe, Dante, the Old and New Testaments. Among the mythological characters he creates to help him find his is a stern face, white-bearded man with enormous wings. Jung described them as kingfishers wings and called the man Philemon.

Martin Brauen is the chief curator at the Rubin Museum of Art where the Red Book is on display. Swiss like Jung, he studied the images and the texts.

Mr. MARTIN BRAUEN (Chief Curator, Rubin Museum of Art): Philemon seems to be a wise man who seems to give Jung good advices. Jung describes some visions, some real visions with dead people with blood appear here and there. And very often, he comes to a conclusion at the end of a passage and Philemon is giving him the correct interpretation.

MICHEL: On page 50 of the book is a painting that looks like a pattern found in an Eastern rug. The background is a Chinese red with squiggles of green and yellow and blue that resemble Arabic script.

Translator Sonu Shamdasani reads through the incantations Jung wrote in the center of the painting.

Prof. SHAMDASANI: Christmas has come, God is in the (unintelligible). I prepared a rug for my God, expensive red rug from the land of mourning.

MICHEL: Jung never actually finished the Red Book as his great, great grandson Daniel Baumann explains.

Mr. BAUMANN: It was only one last word written, which is moglichkeit, possibility, and the sentence stops within that. So I like that very much also on the symbolic level. We can go on, possibly.

MICHEL: And if its not possible to get to the Rubin Museum in Manhattan to see the original Red Book or afford the $200 to buy the translation, theres always the trailer on YouTube.

For NPR News, Im Karen Michel in New York.

(Soundbite of music)

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