Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Visiting the Red Book in NYC

I returned home late last night from a trip to New York City to see Jung's Red Book at the Rubin Museum, a spot which should really not be missed on any trip to the city.

After running into a professor in the cafe (also having flown-in from California), my four classmates, my mother and four other family members, perused the Jung exhibit. I walked into the basement room a bit short of breath. There, in that room, is Jung's magnum opus, out of hiding for the first time in 50 years. I stood in front of the book in awe, the book open to a brilliant painting and his words written in beautiful calligraphy. Along the sides of the wall were his original sketches for many of his mandalas in the book, as well as his "black books," the books in which he recorded the original explorations of his psyche before documenting them so carefully in the Red Book.

Later in the afternoon, I attended a conversation between a poet and an analyst-in-training. I enjoyed the simple, free exploration of the image (seen above from page 55), but found myself thinking about how much is lost by focusing on the images instead of Jung's written word.

Throughout most of the discussion of the Red Book in the media, the focus has been on the exquisite look and feel of the book. The images are captivating, but they cannot be separated from Jung's writing. In fact, while it might be somewhat heretical to say, I would undoubtedly choose the text over the paintings if I had to make a choice. Perhaps this says something about my typology more than anything else, but the story that Jung tells, the journey he takes us on, may rival anything else he ever wrote and should absolutely not go unacknowledged by those who find themselves captivated by the beauty of the book itself. I long for a smaller version of just the translation that I can carry with me to the coffee shop or the couch to read with ease.

As I posted earlier, I want to record this wonderful quote here again. The Red Book's translator and introducer, Sonu Shamadasani, expressed succinctly the importance of the book for all of us.
The overall narrative of the book is how Jung recovers his soul, recovers meaning in his life through enabling the rebirth of the image of God in his soul.

In so doing, he created a psychology that created a vehicle for others to regain meaning in theirs.
The Red Book is an exploration towards understanding how to recover soul, in our own lives and in the world. A book that was well worth the journey to the other side of the country to see.

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