Dream On

Viewing the original of C.G. Jung’s The Red Book may be more affordable–if not as convenient for some– than buying a copy. With computer and refrigerator repairs forcing the Rabbit towards the almighty credit limit (oh, the cruelties of the Technological Vortex!), it’s unlikely I’ll be purchasing the facsimile edition released by W.W. Norton & Company in October that lists for $195 (Amazon has it for a mere $114.07 though it’s currently out-of-stock ).  The original, currently on display at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan can be viewed for a mere $10 (students/seniors and “artists”, $7) through February 15. It then travels to the Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum for a spring showing before landing at the Library of Congress (the Hammer currently hosts 207 of  R. Crumb’s original drawings for The Book of Genesis, a showing well worth the cabbage, through February 7).

Edward Rothstein’s enlightening review of the Rubin’s show in last Friday’s New York Times gives those of us without the purchase price or an upcoming trip to New York tantalizing insight into what the book holds. Read in conjunction with Kathryn Harrison’s  review of the dual-titled work (it’s also known as Liber Novus, the name Jung gave it), we’re given a fair sense of what’s to be gained from its pages.  As the title of the Rubin show suggests, The Red Book is Jung’s attempt at  a new, personal cosmology.   Rothstein says that Jung’s text has “all the trappings of antique authority and stentorian consequence” and that he presented it “as a Newer New Testament.”  Jung’s mythology seems largely baffling in that it is his own. As Rothstein points out, “…the lure of the book comes not from within, but from without, not from what it deciphers, but from what it signals about our own mythological predilections.”

This gave the Rabbit something to wiggle his ears over.  Reading Jung’s Dreams, I had a hard time connecting the images and symbols discussed with those learned in literature class and readings of Joseph Campbell. It was impossible to relate them directly to what I believed was meant by the collective consciousnss. But when examining one’s dreams, it isn’t about specific symbols shared by all cultures and individuals. It’s the act of dreaming in symbols, with certain shared principles, that makes it collective. I realized I’d been wrong all these years (one of the dangers when these kinds of things are read in isolation) and finally understood what Jung meant in Dreams when he writes, “The symbols of the process of individuation that appear in dreams are images of an archetypal nature which depict the centralizing process or the production of a new centre of personality” (Introduction to “Individual Dream Symbolism In Relation To Alchemy”).

This is exactly what has always perplexed the Rabbit when examining his own dreams. They seemed derived from experience (of course!) and unrelated to accepted, reoccurring symbols. It was this “individuation” that seemed to invalidate what I had dreamt. Jung’s serious acceptance of his own dream symbology, indeed a “Newer Testament,” suggests that a certain amount of ego (if the popular conception of that that term can be used in a discussion of Jung) is needed to give the analysis of dreams the recording and examination of dreams–your dreams–the importance it deserves. This is what (if the Rabbit may confide) I lacked. One must develop their own new testament (lower case intended…still having overt  ego problems).  Suddenly, it seems very meaningful that there was a roaring stream far beneath the arched bridge en route to a Hollywood hotel from which I prevented one of my most troubling students from falling into, especially in light of all the other streams that flow through my sleep. Sometimes, a seemingly small but critical revelation will change one’s entire understanding. Who needs The Red Book when my old copy of Dreams needs to be re read? —Cabbage Rabbit

UPDATE: The Red Book jumped into the New York Times Book Review Best Sellers extended list for December 13th at number 18 bu has since fallen to 34th. Pretty amazing for a book that cost $195.

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