The Red Book Ends in Mid-Sentence

Christopher Lane, Ph.D.
Carl Jung’s Frightening Demons
Was Jung’s visionary phase due to mental illness or an existential crisis?
Christopher Lane, Ph.D.
Published on May 13, 2010

One reason for the enigma surrounding Carl Jung’s Red Book is that he never got around to finishing it. The haunting book ends mid-sentence, just after its author concedes, “My acquaintance with alchemy took me away from it . . .” It’s a tantalizing end to a book full of riddles.

Jung’s unfinished sentence isn’t the only reason mystery has surrounded the book for decades. As Arnie Cooper notes in “Jung Confronts His Demons,” a fascinating article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Jung’s manuscript and paintings about communing with deities and demons (his own and those of others) were kept “in a locked cupboard in [his] Kusnacht house in the Zurich suburbs after his death in 1961.”

In 1984, Cooper continues, the manuscript “was transferred to a bank.” Norton published it in translation only last October, almost exactly a half-century after its author had died. The book’s editor and translator, Sonu Shamdasani, had spent five years trying to decipher and interpret the manuscript, and a further three trying to persuade the Jung family to allow him to publish it. (More)

I found the tone of this article disturbing — it essentially stigmatizes and diminishes Carl G. for possibly being “mentally ill” and even puts him in a DSM V category. (Note that the author of the article is a professor of literature, and not a clinician.)

I have no doubt but that Jung was essentially went nuts for a while. (Note that “nuts ” is not yet a DSM V category.) It was only through this close encounter with the Unconscious that Jung became so knowledgeable about the nature of psyche. He became one of the most extraordinary wounded healers of all times.

Mentally ill? Probably, when he started his journey. Extraordinarily sane by the time he finished.


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