On C.G. Jung and the Red Book

Shortly after Spring Equinox I stumbled onto an odd statement that mentioned the psychiatrist C.G. Jung and a series of visionary experiences he had documented in something he had created called The Red Book“.   (And here is another good overview link from BoingBoing.)  Containing an extensive record of his psychic adventures, images and mandalas, it had only been published in 2009.   I was struck with curiosity and immediately began to investigate.

I was aware of “what” C.G. Jung was and his impact on modern psychology but I did not know “who” he was.  I knew only what I might have learned in a basic psychology course and even then I would consider myself rusty.  I knew he had dubbed the term synchronicity and had an important influence on some of the more revolutionary thought concerning inner experiences. I knew that he had worked with one of my favorite of oracles, The I Ching. In investigating what was called the Red Book totally caught me off guard while at the same time shoring up several different levels of my personal foundation towards psychic activity.

Within the Red Book, Jung chronicled his adventures with what he dubbed “active imagination.”  Different from most forms of reflection and meditation, these encourage one to enter into a reflective, quiet state with the full intention of making some form of contact with the entities of your Unconscious.  In short, he was doing what shaman’s call “entering the Underworld” or the Dreamtime of the Australian aborigines.  The Red Book was kept from the public and academia for fear it might put an ill light on his his professional work.  In these days such a thing, though not unheard of, would still place a psychologist in a different vein.  During Jung’s time it could have easily ruined him and all of his groundbreaking work in the eyes of not only the public but academia as well.

Unfortunately, the Red Book is currently quite expensive and going for around $150 on the internet.  What is not expensive are copies of his other work!  I looked for his book that he had written expressly on active imagination but it was not in my local bookstore.  There were a few by other authors but I wanted information from the original source.  I wanted to read HIS words, no one else’s.

What was, however, was a copy of “Memories, Dreams and Reflections.”  It proved to be the right choice.   I highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in inward (or outward) journeying for it is almost entirely what his life was about.  He says as much in the initial pages of the book!  It showed me how his work was the initial springboard that propelled my other hero, Joseph Campbell and his work into the Hero’s Journey and mythology.  What is the most interesting is how Jung, throughout the book, oftentimes states dream encounters or active imagination journeys which he feels were aided by an “outside intelligence.”  It was these journeys that caused him to press further and state terms and theories concerning the Universal Unconscious.

What surprised me more was to learn that Jung, later in his life, dove headfirst into the study of alchemy and gnosticism.  His personal  library was considered to be one of the most thorough collections of antique alchemical wisdom and lore!  Alchemy is something I am coming towards slowly and it’s depths, frankly, intimidate me!  There is truth there, however, and I’ll sail those shores eventually.

Discovering that one of the original cornerstones of modern psychiatry was, in fact, a shaman was incredibly grounding for me and my own life!  I’ve been researching Jung and taking his theories and placing them over my own work, my own meditations.  After more research on the web and through reading, I went through a handful of active imagination sessions.  (You could call them conscious lucid dreaming sessions.)  When successful I cannot stress enough how powerful they were upon me.  However, there is a warning for these sessions.  They are not to be taken lightly and it is recommended they be done with the utmost respect and care.  When you do you tap directly into the mysteries and flow of your personal Unconscious and the denizens that live there!

After a few very intense sessions, I decided to dowse for more wisdom and learned that a break was necessary before continuing.   In short, as I began to gaze into the Underworld it, in turn, began to gaze back!  I’ve come to learn that this is all part of the process and integration, the hero’s journey, but it was, nevertheless, shocking.

During this time, I took a break from writing on this blog.  I did not stop intentionally, mind you, but it became increasingly difficult to put into words what I was experiencing.  These experiences though internal began to also ring and resonate on the outer world as well.  It has taken me many months to work with the information and education given, to sort things out, to understand how it might be worked with and, finally, to come somewhere close to verbalizing them.

What I have found is that they interlock and mesh wonderfully with psychic/energy work.  In fact, they ARE psychic/energy work.  My reading and work with it has given a new clarity to my third eye, my visualizations, my communication with Spirit and Nature.  When I read of others having meditations and inward visualized journeys I can see the same anchors, cues and symbols found in active imagination sessions.  I want to yell, “Get ye a copy of  ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections!’ ”  What is the most rewarding is knowing that although MOST of the time we are simply having a deep and immersed conversation with ourselves there are times we are, most definitely, speaking to something outside our the realm of our physical senses.

And, so, this is where I have been since Spring.  I hope to post at least one of my active imagination sessions but I will not post many.  They are to be considered personal treasures, revealed to few, and I intend on holding that promise.  However, it might help to give an example of the type of experience one can have when doing them.

I will be posting more on tarot, oracles and nature work soon enough.  My work with Jung has only underscored my love of the symbolism in the cards and what they can communicate not only to yourself but in broadening one’s connection to the spiritual side of Nature.  Now that the most recent stage of the deeply personal voyage has slowed I can hopefully share more with you, the reader.

As I am fond of saying from time to time, “The past is simply prologue.”  Thanks for reading along and more to come!

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