carl gustav jung

︎Painting, Psychology   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

Renound for his work on the collective unconscious and archetypes, C.G Jung eventually founded Analytical Psychology, a branch of psychoanalysis that grew from the theories of Sigmund Freud.
After what started as a dymanic friendship between the two, it soon deteriorated as Jung found Freud’s theory of repressed memories too limiting, preferring instead to explore the creative potential found in dreams, para-psychology and world religions.

For Jung, the Archetype (also known as Collective Unconscious) consists of recurring images or motifs that are used by the mind as building blocks for reality, which could also ne the function of myth.

A simple observation of this has been postulated, whereby a child living in a city would have nightmares about monsters and wild animals, as opposed to the immediate threats of city life, such as burglars, wealthy sociopaths or Reality TV personalities.
For Jung this would have indicated that the images of our dreams are a very real mental residue, emanating from the historicity of our species, and manifesting in our minds. (Scientific developments relating to this phenomena have been discussed by Rupert Sheldrake in the ‘Trilogies on the Evolutionary Mind’).

In 1913, Jung took a train from Zurich to Schaffhausen, and during the journey was struck by a vision of great calamity. What he would later call a 'Waking Vision'.
He was so moved that the second time he took the train, he had the same vision, except this time there was a voice that accompanied it. The voice said "look clearly, all this will become real.”

Jung did not know whether the voice was indicating a calamity that would befall the outer world, or if indeed it was referring to the inner world of his thoughts. The latter came to be true.
When Jung was thirty eight years old, he suffered what would now be referred to as psychosis (alought technically the psychosis was not so severe as to render Jung incapable of social interaction, and would be more akin to a mid-life crisis), and for the next sixteen years, he would embark on a very personal journey into his own mind, recording daily hallucinations into his journal.

He considered this journal to be central to all his other works, and he called it the Libre Novus (The New Book, also known as The Red Book).

Jung did not know whether the voice was indicating a calamity that would befall the outer world, or if indeed it was referring to the inner world of his thoughts.


The Red Book was approximately one thousand pages of hand drawn, water colour illustrations and meticulously crafted typographic layouts; a kind of manuscript of his psychosis.
By creating the book, Jung was able to navigate his feelings of isolation, brought on by his break with Sigmund Freud and the effects of WWI, and by doing so touched upon the visual nuances that were contained in his idea of the 'archetype'.
When Richard Wilhelm, a close friend of Jung, and translator of Taoist texts, presented him with a copy of The Secret of the Golden Flower, he was struck by some of the similarities between his drawings and the themes displayed in ancient mandalas.

Jung's curiosity regarding the commonalities of spiritual and religious stories (mythos) gained momentum, as he delved further into the worlds of esoteric teachings and alchemical symbolism, in order to bring back themes from his personally obscure visions, and place them into the applicable world of psychoanalysis.

Jung once wrote that "Anyone who uses modern psychology to look behind the scene not only of his patients’ lives, but more especially of his own life—and the modern psychotherapist must do this if he is not to be merely an unconscious fraud—will admit that to accept himself in all his wretchedness is the hardest of tasks, and one which it is almost impossible to fulfil.
The very thought can make us sweat with fear. We are therefore only too delighted to choose, without a moment’s hesitation, the complicated course of remaining in ignorance about ourselves while busying ourselves with other people and their troubles and sins…
There are countless people who can do this with impunity, but not everyone can, and these few break down on the road to their Damascus and succumb to a neurosis. How can I help these people if I myself am a fugitive

“By creating the book, Jung was able to navigate his feelings of isolation, brought on by his break with Sigmund Freud and the effects of WWI, and by doing so touched upon the visual nuances that were contained in his idea of the 'archetype'.“

In Timaeus, (360 BC), Plato described the world as “a single living creature that contains all living creatures within it.” He gave this concept the name Anima Mundi, or ‘World Soul’. This idea gained wider popularity in the 1960’s, when purported inventor of the Microwave and NASA consultant, James Lovelock, developed the Gaia Hypothesis.

Gaia, in greek mythology, is the poetic personification of Earth, who was brought into existence by Chaos (greek for chasm, yawning or gap). According to the poet Ovid, Chaos resembled a shapeless heap of material, and from this shapeless heap, Gaia came into being, preferring order over disorder. In a very simplistic fashion, this sums up the notion of Lovelock’s hypothesis.
Earth is a complex interacting system, preferring order over disorder, and this produces regulatory effects on the biosphere. Although the theory has many critics, it was simulated as a computer program developed by Lovelock in 1983, called Daisyworld, with outcomes that supported his claims.

The idea that the world itself, in all its particulars, has a soul, has been reborn countless times, and in recent years this concept has been utilised in schools of Archetypal Psychology - an approach popularised by Jung.

As in Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis, Jung used the poetic substrate of images as environments to detail natrually regulating systems. By developing a relationship or a familiarity with these environments, we can begin to create an exchange, and thus generate equilibrium between ourselves and how we act and derive understanding from the world.

In the writings of James Hillman, for example, this is not just a philosophical and mystical notion, but one that has deep rooted and very tangible effects in fields such as urban planning. For Hillman, every place has a soul, or a mood, and it is this that effects the moods of people. A city, with its underground transport system, its escalators and elevators, it's tall buildings and mirrored windows, reflect back at it's inhabitants a packaged product of individuation.

For me this is where the breakdown occurs, and the process of 'active imagination' cannot be fully realised. Our insecurities bounce off the reflective surfaces of our cities, and for some individuals, the imagination has no room to plant, express or study itself. Like Jung, we must endeavour to embody both our ideals and our ills, for the acknowledgement of one and not the other leaves us merely judgemental.

Being able to articulate the contradictions that arise within an individual’s psychological makeup in terms of imagery and stories was essential to Jung’s theories.
The Red Book was Jung’s way of nurturing his ideas about the structures of the mind, exploring and archiving psychological themes as images that appear broadly and consistently across the history and evolution of the world’s religions and philosophies.

In terms of Gaia theory this overarching regulatory system is also a helpful metaphor to think about when confronted with transition or sudden changes to perceived stability. In his essay on how Analytic Psychology relates to the poet, Jung stated;

Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthrals and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever-enduring.“

Further Reading ︎
Sonu Shamdasani Introduces The Red Book
Human Ecology essay, Archetypal Psychology.
Alan Watts on Carl Jung
The Wisdom of The Dream Vol 3 A World of Dreams