Thursday, May 19, 2011

Red Book Mondays

        Monday is Red Book day. The reading of Carl Jung’s extraordinary book is a ritual, repeated weekly. I sit in my large chair with the huge book (12" x 16" and 9 lbs) across my lap, and my laptop balanced on the wide arm of the chair, and enter Jung’s mysteries, revelations, horrors, and prophecies. I begin with his words, some of which I copy, and then immerse myself in the paintings, which are not mirrors of what 
I’ve read, but windows into the psyche’s symbols. 

      I read one short chapter at a time
and I never look ahead.  I follow the book chronologically,  and of course I do not know what will come next, and neither did Jung when he wrote it. 
The Red Book is the record and self -interpretation of Jung’s journeys using active imagination, a journey where he encountered both the sublime and the sinister. At the beginning he is a scholar-scientist, egotistical, ambitious, and concerned with the world’s opinion. 
He reminds me of Dante, at mid-life, lost in a dark wood, his soul demanding a place for herself. When he finishes his very private, (finally published) Red Book, all that he encounters within himself, all of what he will call archetypes & anima, all the darkness he will name Shadow, the process he will call individuation, will appear in his written theories and consulting room.

From the beginning I respond to Jung by taking phrases from the Red Book that I find particularly inspiring or jolting and write short poems - expanding, denying, struggling, adding my own imagery to his. At first it felt audacious to respond to Jung - now it is simply what I do on Red Book Mondays.

“I am the holy animal that stood astonished and cannot grasp the becoming of the God”
How privileged and peaceful 
the dear ox and the donkey 
in the manger  Since animals are sinless  they may Witness
Sometimes   in ivory    oils   
or stained glass 
the ox and the donkey stand close  
smile down on the newborn   
Even the kneeling kings  the wise men  
step aside
The Image: The Opening of the Egg
He bows before the egg
the power    rises 
becomes a canopy  of fire and flametears
falling like raindrops
in the jadewalled chamber

“He who had been pressed into the core of the beginning rose up”
And so the universe might have begun
a collapsed black star  infinitely dense
exploding into a trillion holy suns

But if the soul dips into radiance, she becomes as remorseless as the God himself….
Margaret of Cortona   Christ-bitten  ecstatic 
starved thornwhipped body
She lies on the cold bare floor on Easter mornng
begging to feel His wounds
unable to Rise


  1. One day, I will have to read the Red Book, establish rituals, find the universe.

  2. Or just make the time :-)

    Hi Leah. I'm a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, and came across your insightful and inspiring blog through the most recent edition of the Buzz e-zine. As I consequence of your blog, I have now started my own journey through the Red Book, to relate my active imagination experiences, dreams and insights to Jung's personal journey into the Underworld.

    I've attempted to subscribe to your blog, though the Feedburner website is throwing an error: "FeedBurner could not find the subscription."

    My email address is

    Could you please check if you received the subscription?

    Thanks and regards,


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