Musings on Carl Jung’s Red Book

By Ted Bickford

Carl Jung’s Red Book is an imaginary trip through time and space in search of his “soul”. It is an extensive inner journey through cultural history and natural history in which he wanders for days alone on a desert, then engages in dialogue with numerous fantasy figures.

The first ones he encounters are recognizable Old Testament religious characters. These are shortly replaced by a series of pagans with whom he converses, journeys, has adventures, argues, struggles and cooperates. They are all unknown to him to begin with. He is intrigued to find out as much about them as he can, why they have appeared to him and what they could possibly mean to him. Who are you? Why are you here? These are the questions he asks each of them.

Finally this assemblage of pagans coalesce into one figure, a wise old man from pagan Greek mythology named Philemon. It is with Philemon that Jung has the most meaningful and productive conversations. It is Philemon who guides Jung in the search for his soul.

Pagans have a Nature-based spirituality. There is one God up there but there are many Gods down here. It is this theme that runs throughout the Red Book, the quest for a Nature-based spirituality. Jung travels back through cultural history and natural history and discovers his soul rooted in pagan gods and Mother Earth.

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