On Jung’s Red Book, Part 4

On Jung’s Red Book, Part 4

Faust and Gretchen, by Pedro Américo (1843–1905)


Jung begins to affirm the importance of living one’s individual life. Those who attempt to live by the example of another always fall into error. One must take up one’s cross daily and live one’s own life, for this is the way of salvation. Jung writes:

. . .who knows the way to the eternally fruitful climes of the soul? You seek the way through mere appearances, you study books and give ear to all kinds of opinion. What good is all that? There is only one way and that is your way. You seek the path? I warn you away from my own. It can also be the wrong way for you. May each go his own way.

Laws and teachings held in common compel people to solitude, so that they may escape the pressure of undesirable contact, but solitude makes people hostile and venomous. Therefore give people dignity and let each of them stand apart, so that each may find his own fellowship and love it. Power stands against power, contempt against contempt, love against love. Give humanity dignity, and trust that life will find the better way.1

There was a problem with those who followed Jung’s teachings. They were beginning to follow him instead of living their own lives. Jung, here, begins to warn against following anyone else but oneself, or rather what some call “the still, small voice” on the inside. That is the soul. I believe the Divine is connected to the soul, as well as the entire inner universe, what we call “the spiritual,” for lack of a better term. Jung told his students to never become Jungians, but they did, anyway.

In the next section, called Refinding the Soul, Jung begins to talk about the turning-point in his life. In his first forty years, he had achieved all a man could wish for: “honor, power, wealth, knowledge, and every human happiness.”2 He then admits that his “desire for the increase of these trappings ceased,” and he was overcome by “horror.”3 The visions had begun. The plunge downward into death. Jung believed the second half of life to be  the “shadow side of life.”

A point exists at about the thirty-fifth year when things begin to change, it is the first moment of the shadow side of life, of the going down to death. It is clear that Dante found this point and those who have read Zarathustra will know that Nietzsche also discovered it. When this turning point comes people meet it in several ways: some turn away from it; others plunge into it; and something important happens to yet others from the outside. If we do not see a thing Fate does it to us.4

He would face very dark shadows, indeed. Jung begins calling to his soul:

My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak, I call you – are you there?

But one thing you must know: the one thing I have learned is that one must live this life.

This life is the way, the long sought-after way to the unfathomable, which we call divine. There is no other way, all other ways are false paths. . .Give me your hand, my almost forgotten soul. How warm the joy at seeing you again, you long disavowed soul. Life has led me back to you. Let us thank the life I have lived for all the happy and all the sad hours, for every joy, for every sadness. My soul, my journey should continue with you. I will wander with you and ascend to my solitude.” 5

One finally recognizes, if one is listening to one’s soul,  that one’s entire life, all the positives and negatives, all the happiness and sadness, all the joys and pains, have been part of the individual fate, one’s own life, to bring one to this present moment. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. I believe he meant that his teachings of looking within oneself will lead to the kingdom of God, and one’s own personal heaven. There is , however, a heavy price to pay. One must traverse the fires of hell before tasting the delights of heaven. The Red Book is Jung’s experience of his inner hell. The way to the Divine is laden with many pitfalls, consisting of serpentine pathways through the darkest underground places one can imagine. Every person’s journey is different, though. Some experiences are more severe than others, depending, it seems, upon the contributions one will make to humanity. Jung would contribute much.

A person must recognize that he or she has lost one’s soul in order to find it, to rediscover it. Jung writes, “I had to become aware that I had lost my soul.”6 Why would one lose the soul? A focus on outward things, things of the everyday world, will steal the soul away, if one is not very careful. This is why Jesus taught his disciples to pray in secret. Shutting oneself away in prayer and meditation keeps one in touch with the soul, and the kingdom within. Many times, however, our everyday lives overcome us. In our attempt to survive this world, we forget our inner world, especially in the first half of life when we are trying to establish ourselves and our careers. We must watch and pray, as it is written. Vigilance must be maintained, lest the soul be forgotten.

He whose desire turns away from outer things, reaches the place of the soul. If he does not find the soul, the horror of emptiness will overcome him, and fear will drive him with a whip lashing time and again in a desperate endeavor and a blind desire for the hollow things of the world. He becomes a fool through his endless desire, and forgets the way of his soul, never to find her again. He will run after all things, and will seize hold of them, but he will not find his soul, since he would find her only in himself.

You can see this on a daily basis. People chase after all sorts of things to find fulfillment. Some become obsessed with sports teams, Hollywood celebrities, and many other worthless pursuits. And those who run and operate our world want this for us so that we will never become aware of the crimes they are committing behind our back, and with our tax dollars. Delving into one’s soul brings light and truth. The last thing our rulers want is for us to become aware of truth. The most important thing, however, is for us to “nourish the soul, otherwise you will breed dragons and devils in your heart.”7


Works Cited

Jung, C.G. The Red Book: Liber Novus. Edited by Sonu Shamdasani. Translated by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Sonu Shamdasani. Norton, London: 2009.



  1. Jung, The Red Book, p. 231
  2. ibid.
  3. Jung, The Red Book, p. 232
  4. Jung, The Red Book, n. 32, p. 232
  5. ibid.
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.

This post has been read 2186 times!

2 thoughts on “On Jung’s Red Book, Part 4

  1. Thanks, Steve. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do this all the way through? It’s going to take awhile, but that’s okay. It will be worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eighteen − sixteen =