Red Book: To image or not to image


from The Red Book W.W. Norton 2009

In the online talk by Jungian analyst Robert Bosnak, he said he deliberately chose not to talk about the images. Sonu Shamdasani the translator of the text, took a similar tack and essentially didn’t even look at the images for the first four years.   Are these guys afraid of their numinosity or something?

I find this totally surprising, something I would not have thought of or even considered for very long as a good idea.

To me, it is the images that convey the power of the Red Book. They reach the Unconscious much more directly, more powerfully than any of the words. They are much more primordial; they bypass the intellectual defenses and generate a much Closer Encounter of the Jungian Kind.

I think approaching from just the words is a very left-brained, linear approach. I think the present culture is making a shift into a more right-brained, image way of seeing things — witness the popularity of YouTube.

To leave the images out of the consideration is to ignore the soul of the Red Book….

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3 Responses to Red Book: To image or not to image

  1. I couldn’t agree more, just check with James Hillman and Henri Corbin on the Imaginal realm.

    These guys are completely missing the point but were probably instinctively acting from self preservation (of their egos at least) And I also agree, that theirs was a left-brained ‘masculine’ approach – believing the rational mind can control everything. Just confirms how afraid people are of the unconscious, except it’s not something you can hide from forever. If they have now seen the images in the Red Book then they are in for a psychic roller coaster ride I reckon. Maybe when they die all those apocalyptic demons will come into consciousness……which is what the Buddhists reckon. I think I’d much rather try and face them while I am still ‘alive’ and have an easier transition if that’s possible.

  2. I don’t honestly know about the apocalyptic demons, but having cross-referenced with Eastern practices I think this might be the case. I can only say that I think this is what happens from my own experiences as an artist who has/is still trying to paint this stuff, perhaps in symbolic and more abstract ways. And food? Perhaps, maybe by simply bringing more images into being, random things that come into consciousness like active imagining and dreams, just following an image when it bugs you for some reason. I have never been that successful in painting the actual ‘vision’ because it is a 3D experience and for me non-anthropomorphic, which means that I don’t work directly through the human archetypes, though of course they are there, projected as ‘real’ people in my life I guess. Ultimately, my art practice is based on the idea that the process of making these images, even, or perhaps particularly, in symbolic form, triggers an alchemical process in the psyche. All part of the Imaginal field that Hillman talks about. It’s been a life’s work, since I was 15, an artist by default rather then by design. And definitely not art art for art’s sake….but I think I may need another couple of lives to unravel it.

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