Robert Bosnak: The Context of the Red Book

On June 5, I participated with twenty-five other people in an online talk by Robert Bosnak about The Red Book.

Bosnak is an elder Jungian analyst, one of the best. He is knowledgeable, articulate, insightful. (In my personal experience with him in another online group, I also found him quite intuitive, genuine and humble.)

One of the first things Bosnak talked about was the context of the Red Book, that it was begun in response to a series of dreams that made Jung wonder whether he was “doing a schizophrenia”:

It happened in October of the year 1913 as I was leaving alone for a journey [he was on his way to visit his mother-in-law in Schaffhausen, where the Rhine creates a famous waterfall] that during the day I was suddenly overcome in broad daylight by a vision. I saw a terrible flood that covered all the northern and low-lying lands between the North Sea and the Alps. It reached from England up to Russia, and from the coast of the North Sea right up to the Alps. I saw yellow waves, swimming rubble, and the death of countless thousands.

The vision lasted for two hours. It confused me and made me ill. I was not able to interpret it. Two weeks passed then the vision returned more violent than before, and an inner voice spoke. ‘Look at it, it is completely real, and it will come to pass. You cannot doubt this.’ I wrestled again for two hours with this vision but it held me fast. It left me exhausted and confused. And I thought my mind had gone crazy.

From then on the anxiety toward the terrible event that stood directly before us kept coming back. Once I also saw a sea of blood over the northern lands.

In the year 1914 in the month of June, at the beginning and end of the month, and at the beginning of July, I had the same dream three times…


Jung was considerably relieved when he came to understand that he was dreaming not about his personal unconscious and personal life, but about the “spirit of the times” — what was happening within the culture.

These were “prodromal” dreams — dreams that foretell of illness before it is recognized. Usually the term is applied to personal dreams; in this situation, the dreams were about the illness and direction of the European culture….

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5 Responses to Robert Bosnak: The Context of the Red Book

  1. Wow, brings to mind my many dreams of the ‘red wave’ and the countless tidal wave and drowning dreams I have had/still have. I have tended to think it was just my personal unconscious but have started to feel lately that they are connected to something much larger (hence my current research) I always ‘knew’ that I would see great catastrophe in my own time. One dream in particular was of absolute chaos, of shattered steel structures and falling sky-scraper structural foundations. The only thing that came close many years later were the images I saw on TV during 9/11, possibly more for the emotional content and what that event actually signified for Western culture, because it is the destruction of that culture I always thought I was seeing in my dreams too.

  2. Has this dream became of image that you have drawn? One of the participants in Bosnak’s talk suggested that we are going through similar apocalyptic times as Jung experienced; Bosnak said although this may be the case, his intuition suggests it is not so…. Sure are a lot of apocalyptic movies….

  3. I have made some forays into the image with collage and drawing, but never finished it. I suspect though that its apocalyptic aura has permeated my work (paintings) for years.

    In my ‘constructed’ collage image the figure of the Minotaur has appeared (a bit like the fish in the cave) – given my views on the patriarchy, capitalism and Western culture this is no surprise. My rational mind agrees with Bosnak that apocalyptic thinking is a reflection of the individual psyche and the usual accompanying concerns of ego and mortality etc, however, my intuitive sense tells me that we are in a period of greater change than is usual in a human lifetime.

  4. I did some collage and drawing work with it, in which the Minotaur appeared, not surprising if you think about the patriarchy, capitalism etc. My rational mind tells me the dream was personal, but my intuition tells me we are living in a time of great, even catastrophic change. The original dream appeared in my childhood, so I have lived with the ‘threat’ of apcocalypse, though not imminent, all my life.

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