Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jung's Red Book: Refinding the Soul, pp. 231-2

Jung’s comments in this section of Liber Primus on “this life” are significant, as they distinguish him from the Gnostics, whose notions permeate much of his thought during this period. The Gnostics held that this world was worthless and irredeemable, and spoke of an inner realization that propels one beyond this cosmos. Indeed, in the Seven Sermons to the Dead, Jung made such typically Gnostic proclamations as “Weakness and nothingness here, there eternally creative power. Here nothing but darkness. There wholly sun” (see Segal, The Gnostic Jung, p. 193). But in Liber Primus Jung takes precisely the opposite point of view: “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…all other ways are false paths” (RB, 230). This perspective, which Jung maintained as he matured, is much more Kabbalistic than Gnostic. Indeed, Jung much later wrote about being in accord with “a tract in the Lurianc Kabbalah (where) the remarkable idea is developed that man is destined to become God’s helper in the attempt to restore the vessels which were broken when God thought to create a world” (Letter to Erastus Evans, Jung, Letters, 2, 175). Indeed, Jung's interest in this world helps to refute the accusations made by Buber and others that Jung substitutes an interior, monological, Gnostic vision of God for a dialogical, world-engaging one.

Jung continues to struggle with the scientific status of psychology: “I had to accept that what I had previously called my soul was not at all my soul but a dead system” (212)

Jung makes some interesting comments on desire: “He whose desire turns away from outer things, reaches the place of the soul…He becomes a fool through endless desire…If he possessed his desire, and his desire did not possess him, he would lay a hand on his soul, since his desire is the image and expression of his soul” (RB 232). Desire, according to Jung, is the “image and expression of the soul.” It would be interesting to place Jung’s comments on desire (both here and elsewhere) in the context of both eastern and western ideas on this topic, from Buddha, to Hegel, to Lacan). For Jung in The Red Book, as for Hegel and Lacan, the soul is found in desire itself, and not in the play of the objects of desire.

Jung’s comments on the image. i.e. “The wealth of the soul exists in images, announces a long tradition in analytic and archetypal psychology that has recently been a subject of great controversy.

For more on Jung's views on Gnosticism and the Kabbalah, see my forthcoming book: Kabbalistic Metaphors: C. G. Jung and Jewish Myusticism, to be published shortly by Spring Journal Books.

Next: The Soul and God


  1. The final conclusions, as recorded in the
    letters between Jung and Pauli, indicate
    their belief that the "natural numbers" are
    a tangible connection between the spheres
    of matter and psyche. As Jung said: "it is
    here that the most fruitful field of further
    investigation might be found."
    See "atom and archetype." 1932-1958

    This story of an incredible 'synchronicity'
    was commented on by senior researchers
    at Princeton University.

    "such is the nature of reality, that anyone
    can experience that which is least understood."

  2. Interestingly. J. N. Findlay argues in his Plato" The Written and Unwritten Dialogues that Plato held that the eide (the Ideas) are numbers, and that numbers are the key to unlocking the nature of the universe. Jung himself was something of a Platonist, and it is understandable that he would be attracted to this idea.

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  4. This book sounds intriguing. I think I'll order it.


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