Last fall I read an article in the New York Times about Dr. Carl Gustav Jung’s Red Book, Liber Novus, which the family had finally allowed to be published. Most people who have studied Jung know of the Red Book and I personally use red covered-journals myself to record dreams and visualizations.
The Wild Hunt said on Sept. 20, 2009, “In 1913 Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, experienced a prolonged “confrontation with the unconscious” where he daily wrestled with visions, heard inner voices, and explored his own vast dream-scape for six years. Beginning just before World War I, and ending shortly after its close, his inner turmoil echoed the chaos erupting all around him. During this time Jung didn’t merely experience these events, he rose to meet and catalog them, and created a legendary never-printed (and never-finished) chronicle of his underworld journey called “Liber Novus” (“New Book”) in the process. “Liber Novus”, or “The Red Book” as its become known due to the work being done in a large red notebook, became legendary amongst Jungians, described alternately as holding “infinite wisdom” and being “psychotic” by the few who ever got a glimpse of it. Now, after many years, the heirs of Carl Jung have agreed to allow this lost text to see print for the first time."
I was immediately on the hunt to find the best price on this book and was put off by its $130 cost, frugal person that I am. Instead, I popped it up on my Amazon wish list and hoped for the best. Darned if a gigantic package didn’t appear beneath my son Tony’s Christmas tree for his mom. I had no idea Liber Novus was large (16” high x 11 1/2” wide, 10 lbs.) so I was astounded when I opened it.
Here is a photo of Mollie and the book on my bed as she lays nearby patiently now as I read a few pages per night.
Having long taught and used Dr. Ira Progoff’s National Intensive Journal, who was a follower of Dr. Jung, I could immediately find a lot of influence on Ira that probably came from Liber Novus and previously published Jung works.
When I first opened my present, I was stunned as I knew Amazon had run out of them long before Christmas. Besides, it couldn't be a book--too big and heavy. Tony got it from another bookseller and surprised me. I began thumbing through it and I obviously had not done my homework because I gasped, “You ordered the German version and I don’t read German.” In actuality, the original Liber Novus comprises the first half of the book—in color as Jung wrote it, along with his paintings and drawings of his dreams and his unconscious images. It is in English in the second half of the book.
I am awe struck with this book but just started really delving into it this weekend. It will probably take me a year to finish it but my art journaling and journal keeping in general has been affirmed by having access to this incredible book. Instead of forcing myself to read, I am reading thoughtfully and slowly, taking time to gaze into space and think. Ultimately I imagine my own journal will begin to reflect what I am learning about Jung and his ground-breaking psychological work.
What I need to do, I think, is put out word that I would like to start a study group locally because I get so much more out of a text when it is read and discussed communally. Do any of you have Liber Novus or belong to study groups?