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.

Jung and Foolish

What would Carl Jung say about the current state of political discourse in America? The Rabbit’s been rereading the founder of analytical psychology’s The Undiscovered Self in preparation for Liber Novus, a “new” book which records Jung’s middle age conflict or, in pop-psychology parlance, mid-life crisis. Undiscovered is one of Jung’s most political texts (the Rabbbit here admits to being only a casual reader of Jung’s work) and we were only a bit astonished to find him speaking across a half-century to post-millennial America and the psyche of tea-party extremism.

The parallels  seem prophetic (indeed, the book’s first line is, “What will the future bring?”). Jung cites “physical, political, economic and spiritual distress”  as he describes the modern condition. He seems to be speaking directly to our time and its irrational politics when he states, “Rational arguments can be conducted with some prospect of success only so long as the emotionality of a given situation does not exceed a certain critical degree. If the affective temperature rises above this level, the possibility of reason having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies.” Is there any question, with the screaming of August giving way to the racism of autumn, that we’ve exceeded that “affective temperature?” Jung even seems to explain the numbers of shrill and mindless protesters which spring from the 20 per cent that still support discredited conservative policy (as opposed to valid, rational  conservatism; the discredited are known as “Republicans”). “Such individuals are by no means rare curiosities to be met with only in prisons and lunatic asylums,” he says. “For every manifest case of insanity there are, in my estimation, at least ten latent cases who seldom get to the point of breaking out openly but whose views and behavior, for all their appearances of normality, are influenced by unconsciously morbid and perverse factors.” Is that what we’re seeing today? A breaking out of latent insanity?

The extreme right as well will find much to quote in The Undiscovered Self, especially in regard to Jung’s declaration that the state is increasingly depriving the individual of  “the moral decision as to how he should live his own life…”  There’s even a line which seems to describe Islamic (as well as Christian and right-wing) terrorists: “Everywhere in the West there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready…”  But it must be remembered that Jung is writing in the throes of the Cold War and it becomes apparent as one reads on that he is talking of  life in the Soviet bloc and in terms of East/West rivalries. Indeed, he cites the dangers of religious fanaticism present in the West (read “the Christian right”) and says that the West “unfortunately (has) not yet awakened to the fact that our appeal to idealism and reason and other desirable virtues, delivered with so much enthusiasm, is mere sound and fury.”

This short, easily-read text, updated in 1958 to reflect the consequences of the Hungarian uprising, has much to offer modern times, especially regarding our need for spirituality and the political surrogates rising up to replace it. The Undiscovered Self speaks to us with communal as well as personal relevancy. Can we expect the same of  Jung’s upcoming, personal  account of his descent into creative madness? We may never know. Set to be released in early October, The Red Book as it has come to be known, carries a list price of $195. Sometimes the price of knowledge, especially self-knowledge, is too dear.–Cabbage Rabbit