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'The Red Book': A Window Into Jung's Dreams

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The first words of Carl Gustav Jung's Red Book are "The way of what is to come."

What follows is 16 years of the psychoanalyst's dive into the unconscious mind, a challenge to what he considered Sigmund Frued's — his former mentor's — isolated world view. Far from a simple narrative, the Red Book is Jung's voyage of discovery into his deepest self.

The voyage began at age 11. "On my way to school," Jung recalled in 1959, "I stepped out of a mist and I knew I am. I am what I am. And then I thought, 'But what have I been before?' And then I found that I had been in a mist, not knowing to differentiate myself from things; I was just one thing among many things."

Thirty years later, Jung had a bookbinder make an enormous volume covered in red leather into which he poured his explorations into himself. These explorations included some psychedelic drawings of mythical characters of his dreams and waking fantasies — explorations that Jung feared would make people think him mad.

It took Jungian scholar Dr. Sonu Shamdasani three years to convince Jung's family to bring the book out of hiding. It took another 13 years to translate it.

And still, the Red Book remains incomplete. The last word Jung wrote in the Red Book is "moglichkeit," or possibility.

From its hiding place in a Swiss bank vault, the original Red Book is now on display for the first time at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan, and the translation of the massive volume is at book stores for a hefty $200.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Karen Michel