Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Liber Novus . . .

In person, it's truly inexplicable. I've been told this before, I have read about it in the New York Times, but in person it is so much larger, heavier, more amazing and more unbearably captivating than I realized.

I received The Red Book as a gift for Christmas but did not have it in my hands until the morning of January 1st. Upon opening its cardboard box and then the plastic covering, I sat with it for hours as my first act of 2010.

What is amazing about this book is not only that it is an illuminated manuscript of the kind that no one creates anymore, nor that the art alone is incredible, but the story, the translation, the journey that the book charts is truly remarkable. Captivated, all I could think was that this book is truly going to change the world. Certainly, there are those who cannot understand how "psychology" can hope to genuinely change the world, but those individuals put Jung in the wrong category. His genius was spiritual, religious, psychological, scientific, literary and artistic. This work, the Red Book, also known as Liber Novus, The New Book, is a contribution for any and all scholars of analytic psychology as it expresses Jung's thinking and concepts in entirely different language, language inherently imbued with soul, and not so academic. I wish the translation itself were in a more story book form, however, because it should be read by the masses, not as an incredible historical document, but as The New Book, a story about how to bring soul back into the world, a world that Jung knew in the fiber of his being needs soul more than anything else.

There are endless gems to be shared from this book, each line may rival that of any book ever published. I'll begin with one. Though . . . as I begin to transcribe it, it's clear that anything removed from the whole loses the energy with which it captivates when it is part of the flow. . .

Here, for just a few lines, is a section in which Jung seems to have seen, experienced, our time -- or a time that lies in our future. Terrified, overwhelmed, he writes, as if to us:
I felt the burden of the most terrible work of the times ahead. I saw where and how, but no word can grasp it, no will can conquer it. I could not do otherwise. I let it sink again into the depths.
I cannot give it to you, and I can speak only of the way of what is to come. Little good will come to you from outside. What will come to you lies within yourself. But what lies there! I would like to avert my eyes, close my ears and deny all my senses; I would like to be someone among you, who knows nothing and who never saw anything. It is too much and too unexpected. But I saw it and my memory will not leave me alone. (p. 306)
I am drawn to Jung's work because I believe truly that his insights into the human soul offer us a way to heal suffering and ameliorate the world completely, not in small pieces here or there, but totally if we can grasp what he learned. This is not just elite academia. One of his insights, perhaps his most core, is implicit in the same section from which the above quote was pulled. I will write more on that next time.

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