Red Book Diary – 1

Personal Equations, Tribal Equations

My copy of Jung's Red Book arrived 10/14.  I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but I wanted to start compiling a journal of reactions, reflections, analyses, and so forth.  And I wanted to do this as I was reading rather than after . . . thus the "diary" descriptor of the post title.

First, confessions.  Although I remain suspicious and even rather worried that the publication of the Red Book will be made into a(nother) counterproductive phenomenon by the spiritualistic drive or disease of Jungians, that it will become a totem object that is placed on a pedestal or in a museum exhibit and not truly interacted with or employed at its deepest (and most tribal) levels . . . I also have a touch of the fever.  I'm not sure if it is exactly the same in my own case . . . but it isn't exactly different, either.

For me, the Red Book is also perhaps an object of transference representing a kind of Holy Grail (as author, Sara Corbett, of the New York times article on the Red Book's publication called it).  I'm not really sure what other Jungians want "their" Red Books to be.  A new touchstone that returns them to the source of their tribal religion?  A way to reach out and touch the robe of Jung the prophet?  A demonstration of Jung's mystical pedigree?  Another labyrinth of bliss-following to get lost in . . . now that the real world has encroached more and more?

Those are the cynical ways of looking at it.  I also have selfish motives (for the invitation of cynicism).  Primarily (in the selfish classification, at least) is that I have developed a fairly unique reconstruction of animi (anima and animus) process or work over the last 20 years . . . from the very beginning of which I had felt that the experiences I was recording and the interpretations of these experiences I was constructing were potentially a substantial contribution to Jungian psychology.  I knew enough about the Red Book (mostly from Memories, Dreams, Reflections) to suspect that it recorded a very similar set of experiences for Jung.

Part of that belief in an accord is a matter of transference that drove my own individuation process for years and indoctrinated me into the Jungian tribe in my late teens.  But there are also rational reasons for suspecting such an accord.  Namely, Jung's professional writing on the anima, it has always seemed to me, belies his deep psychic participation with that inner figure.  I always saw it as a strange expression of self-conflict that Jung would write so critically about the anima while also having devoted the many years and tremendous energies to an "anima project" like the creation of the Red Book (which is, of course, a much edited and revised text . . . as editor, Sonu Shamdasani's extensive footnotes superbly illustrate).

My own anima experience was not filled with all the "signature Jungian" conflicts and resistances that Jung's was.  My inclination was simply to dive right into the anima's gravity.  And that (a kind of falling in love, perhaps) never led to any delusion, psychosis, lapse of ethics, or other decay.  Delusion, psychosis, lapse of ethics, and decay (which I like to call the "dissolution experience" of individuation) were certainly my bedfellows at the time I was doing my anima work, but the anima never encouraged these things.  I now attribute those slips and temptations to the Demon.  But I was also much younger and less "socialized" than Jung during this process.  I was (properly, I believe) an adolescent.  It was not a "mid-life crisis" situation for me.  I say "properly", because I have since come to understand the animi work as a function of late adolescence . . . which is postponed until midlife for most moderns as well as in the confusion of the Jungian model (which is too spiritualistic, not naturalistic enough).

As I formulated my animi theory (in recent years) and tried to discuss it with Jungians, I found that they were not able to understand it.  It was foreign to them . . . and my deviations from Jungian doctrine were met with resentment.  Other than its basic foreignness, I came to see that the animi theory I was arguing for was upsetting to conventional Jungians because of a dangerous implication it made: that conventional Jungians were essential "not initiated", that their experience of the numinous unconscious has been non-transformative . . . any indication of transformation being a kind of facade or worship artifact of totemic objects.  This observation would have it that, for conventional Jungians, individuation itself is a totemic object . . . not a lived experience.

This possibility did not occur to me until I saw how put out and/or perplexed many Jungians were by my revisioned animi theory.  It seemed to me that this gut reaction was brewing away in some of them even as they did not recognize what it was about "me" that disturbed them.  But the deep implication of my revisioned animi theory is that, if my theory is correct, it follows that much of Jungian "mysticism" and individuation is a sham.  I have not yet found any evidence that would contradict my revision of anima theory . . . but it is hard to test.  As with Jung, my ideas on this did not come from textbooks, but from personal experience.  My personal creative and professional struggle has largely been a matter of trying to trust my own experience . . . and my interest in science, rationalism, and skepticism has extensively evolved out of my own (often Demonic) self-examinations, self-trials, and self-tortures.

Through all of that, I had more reasons to think and feel that my revisionary theories were credible and useful than the contrary.  When I realized a mistake, I revised my theory.  And I have revised my theory a lot . . . but through all of that, a thread of consistency has remained.  Many of the initial observations and interpretations of my anima work experience have held up, at least as foundations for more complex and "adult" theory-building.

The Red Book, therefore, represents to me a kind of opportunity to demonstrate 1.) the credibility of my theory for someone other than myself (and more importantly, for Jung, whose psychology, healthy and diseased, is the foundation of our Jungian tribal identity), and 2.) that my criticisms of Jung's and Jungians' anima theories, my claims that there is a "Jungian Disease" or complex that veils this issue for us, can be substantiated through the analysis of Jung's anima work text.

As for it being a kind of "Holy Grail", if the Red Book does lend itself to my transference projections, and I can make my arguments clearer through the use of this text, there is a chance of aiding a kind of "rejuvenation of the Father" who is fed from that Grail.  Not a return to fundamentalism, but a kind of alchemical reinvention of the "Old King" into the "New".  I of course don't mean a new totem or figurehead for the Jungian tribe, but a way of revaluating and revisioning Jungianism that is an effective healing or treatment of the Jungian disease . . . a Good Medicine.

It is hard for me to separate my selfish desires to be awarded some kind of identity and status by the Jungian tribe (in whose shadow I've found myself exiled) . . . where I mean basic acceptance and the offer of tribal rights or humanness, the right to survive within the tribe, not any kind of grandiose status . . . from my more archetypal and Eros-driven sacrificial drive to help rejuvenate the damaged Jungian system of valuation.  The former is an egoic desire, the latter a Self-driven reorganizational process which is more collective or tribal than personal.  The former addresses my own feelings of impotence without a tribal credentialing (or while dissociated from the tribe's Eros), while the latter is a potential movement of tribal Eros that I have been able to glimpse and find a way to participate in.  Even as there is a great deal of potential for alignment between these two drives, I have found myself in deep self-conflict over this issue . . . attempting to extract the egoic desires from the process so they don't too badly damage what seems to me to be a healthy treatment of the tribal Eros by the reoganizational and instinctual Self system.  And much more than I would have liked, I have failed to make this extraction and differentiation successfully.

Part of this is due to insurmountable odds and resistance of the Jungian tribe.  I work against participation mystic and tribal/totemic religiosity as an "agonist".  And this agonism constellates archetypal dynamics in the relationality between myself and other, more conventional Jungians.  The more resistance I meet, the more difficult it is to extract my egoic selfishness and derailing desires from the potential rejuvenating process I am glimpsing.  Perfect balance here is impossible, and my inability to be perfect (and feeling that I must be in order to make a useful contribution to Jungian tribal treatment) allows a space in me for the Demon to occupy.

So there is perhaps a bit of refreshment in this "Holy Grail" for me as well . . . in the sense that it gives me a task in which to be more useful to the tribe.  And here, with this text, all Jungians are placed on an equal footing.  Equalized by not-knowing.  We are all getting into some never really explored realm of our ancestral psychology here.  And I very strongly suspect that we will find our conventional interpretive theories and dogmas not adequate to the task of bringing Jung's experience recorded in the Red Book into better focus or transmuting the stuff of the Red Book into any kind of elixir for the Jungian tribe.

It isn't Jung that the Red Book offers a chance to reinvent . . . this chance is afforded to Jungianism.  If we will have to devise new ways and means of understanding the Red Book, this invention will also serve the larger reinvention of Jungian thinking.

But on the skeptical side, I doubt this will happen.  Jungians have shown themselves almost entirely incapable of functional self-reckoning or collective self-treatment.  It is a safer bet that Jungians will simply muddle the Red Book with their projections and fantasies, rendering it inert, sapping its soul, its reorganizational potential.  Still, I am hoping against predictability that this trend will somehow be overthrown.  And if such an overthrow is to occur, I would happily contribute whatever I could to the revolution.

This diary will collect my wanderings and wonderings about the Red Book.  I will attempt to reflect and analyze it in terms of both my own personal equation and the Jungian tribal equation.  I don't know what to expect.  I don't currently have great hopes that anything will come out of the Red Book for Jungians.  And I suspect that I stand to benefit even less.  But it is at least a viable opportunity to institute change.  The publication of the Red Book is a serpent's venomous bite on the Jungian tribal heel.  If it doesn't kill us, it will make us stronger.