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The Red Book by Carl Jung

Janet Piedilato

On Wednesday October 7, 2009 the long awaited publication of The Red Book by W. W. Norton was celebrated by a series of events in NYC that commenced with the opening of an exhibit displaying the original C.G Jung masterpiece. There are no words to do justice to either work; the original or the newly published. For while the original Red Book in place beneath a glass cube in the lower level of the Rubin Museum brings to mind a medieval opus on alchemy, its pages sacred with glorious calligraphy and beautiful illuminations, the exquisite W. W. Norton The Red Book, available for mere mortals to possess and to savor at leisure, is a treasure beyond all imagination. One need only open the pages to see why this great work took so long in coming for indeed every care was taken to faithfully reproduce the pages of the original. The Red Book is magnificent on every level, something to be experienced and enjoyed like a good companion who imparts wisdom in different ways at different times yet who remains constant in accompanying one on life’s journey through joy and sorrow.

Of all the week-long offerings which I enjoyed perhaps the most revealing was the introduction of The Red Book at a lecture in the New York Academy of Medicine. While described as a “lecture” it was really more of an experience of the book. As the larger than life The Red Book filled the huge screen at the front of the hall, as the audience was literally held in trance watching the turning pages and glorious illuminations, Sonu Shamdasani read poetic segments of Jung’s writings. There was not a sound in the hall as all sat transfixed.

The incomprehensible works magically; magic works incomprehensibly.

The touchstone is being alone with oneself. This is the way.

Listen to the soul, to the Gods…. but do not be their slave…

And listen we did. Our response gives testimony to the power of The Red Book. This is not just a beautiful book of illuminations. It is a transformative text; it is alchemy of the soul……One could compare this experience with that of an initiate of the Ancient Mysteries. The screen stilled at the end of the presentation and we were returned to the red cover. Sonu Shamdasni now quieted. Silence continued to fill the hall until slowly awakening from the trance a little trickle of applause began, like wind gaining momentum across a field of golden wheat, quickening and gaining force propelling each to rise and yield the standing ovation it deserved…The Red Book by G. J Jung; no longer hidden in the depth of the vaults but available to work its magic on all of us. I feel so fortunate to have a copy in hand to enjoy over and again. It is a book that shall continue to lead us to new places. The collective experience of that Hall demonstrates its power. The Red Book: Do not miss out on this. It is magnificent.

The Red Book is on display at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City through January 25, 2010.

Janet Piedilato is a transpersonal psychologist, a complementary health care consultant, and an ordained minister.  She holds a doctorate in biology from New York University and a doctorate in transpersonal psychology from Saybrook Graduate School. She took her herbalist training at David Winston's Center for Herbal Studies. Janet holds the distinction of being the first woman practitioner to present shamanic ritual at the Harvard Divinity School Conference on Reinterpreting Shamanism. In private practice she creates complementary therapies incorporating natural supplements as well as psycho-spiritual techniques. Janet is the founder of Immaginal, a company that grew from her practice of creating scent memory experiences during relaxation therapy protocols. She resides at Temenos, an environmental sanctuary, co-founded with her husband and soul mate, Iggy.

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Comments (2)
  • I’ve recently read it. Don’t know how I could have waited so long, should have read it long ago. This book is glorious. I hardly need to comment on the content, as Jung’s magnum opus is clearly of mythical proportions. And reality certainly matches the myth. Aside from the content, the presentation is outstanding. High quality color copies of his journal entries are provided in original form throughout the first half of the book, and translations and editor commentary are provided in the second half. The binding, printing and color quality are all museum grade, and I consider this an investment-quality purchase. This is by far one of the most important pieces of psychological thought, and offers a rare glimpse into a brilliant man’s thinking on a highly abstruse concept.

    — Helen Burns on February 23, 2010

  • Dear Janet, Thank you for reviewing this book.  I’ve been involved in a reading group with several other Jungian analysts for the past several months and we are reading it out loud.  The profound spirituality that Jung is trying to access, as well as the shadowy influences that he relates, offer so much for our contemplation and show us why we need to hold both spirit and shadow, not just one or the other.  We have been so taken by the text that we have begun to put together training in the deeply transpersonal dimensions of Jungian analysis.  By the way, I think that Sufism is probably closer to Jung’s psychology than some of the other great traditions.  It is sad he did not have the opportunity to explore it in as great a depth as he explored Buddhism and Hinduism.

    — Bryan Wittine on June 26, 2010

11 November 2009

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