Red Book (Jung)

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Red Book
Red book cover with yellow or gold text: 'THE; RED BOOK; LIBER NOVUS; C.G.JUNG; EDITED and INTRODUCED by SONU SHAMDASANI'
Author Carl Gustav Jung
Original title Liber Novus ("The New Book")
Translator Mark Kyburz, John Peck, Sonu Shamdasani
Publisher Philemon Series, The Philemon Foundation & W. W. Norton & Co.
Publication date
Pages 404
ISBN 978-0-393-06567-1
OCLC 317919484
150.19/54 22
LC Class BF109.J8 A3 2009

The Red Book, also known as Liber Novus (Latin for New Book), is a 205-page manuscript written and illustrated by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung between approximately 1914 and 1930, prepared for publication by The Philemon Foundation and published by W. W. Norton & Co. on October 7, 2009. Until 2001, his heirs denied scholars access to the book, which he began after a falling-out with Sigmund Freud in 1913. Jung originally titled the manuscript Liber Novus (literally meaning A New Book in Latin), but it was informally known and published as The Red Book. The book is written in calligraphic text and contains many illuminations.


Jung was associated with Freud for a period of approximately five years, beginning in 1907. Their relationship became increasingly acrimonious. When the final break came in 1913, Jung retreated from many of his professional activities for a time to further develop his own theories. Biographers disagree as to whether this period represented a psychological breakdown.[1] Anthony Storr, reflecting on Jung's own judgment that he was "menaced by a psychosis" during this time, concluded that the period represented a psychotic episode.[2]

Jung referred to the episode as a kind of experiment, a voluntary confrontation with the unconscious.[3] Biographer Barbara Hannah, who was close to Jung later in his life, compared Jung's experiences to the encounter of Menelaus with Proteus in the Odyssey. Jung, she said, "made it a rule never to let a figure or figures that he encountered leave until they had told him why they had appeared to him."[4]

About the Red Book, and the process which yielded it (called by Jung active imagination), Jung said:

The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.[5]


The work is inscribed by Jung with the title Liber Novus (The New Book). The folio size manuscript, 11.57 inches (29.4 cm) by 15.35 inches (39.0 cm), was bound in red leather, and was commonly referred to as the "Red Book" by Jung. Inside are 205 pages of text and illustrations, all from his hand: 53 are full images, 71 contain both text and artwork and 81 are pure calligraphic text.[6] He began work on it in 1913, first in small black journals, during a difficult period of "creative illness", or confrontation with the unconscious, and it is said to contain some of his most personal material.[7] During the sixteen years he worked on the book, Jung developed his theories of archetypes, collective unconscious, and individuation.[8]

The Red Book was a product of a technique developed by Jung which he termed active imagination. As Jung described it, he was visited by two figures, an old man and a young woman, who identified themselves as Elijah and Salome. They were accompanied by a large black snake. In time, the Elijah figure developed into a guiding spirit that Jung called Philemon (ΦΙΛΗΜΩΝ, as originally written with Greek letters). Salome was identified by Jung as an anima figure. The figures, according to Jung, "brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life."[3]

The Philemon figure represented superior insight and communicated through mythic imagery. The images did not appear to come from Jung's own experience and Jung interpreted them as products of the collective unconscious.[citation needed]

Publication and display[edit]

Until 2001, Jung's heirs refused to permit publication of the book and did not allow scholars access to it.[9] Until September 2009, only about two dozen people had seen it.[10] Historian Sonu Shamdasani, an employee of the Jung heirs and their advisor in the handling of unpublished Jung material, and Stephen Martin, a Jungian analyst, created the Philemon Foundation in order to facilitate publication of Jung's works.

Ulrich Hoerni, Jung's grandson and manager of the Jung archives, decided to publish it after three years of persuasion by Shamdasani.[10] W. W. Norton & Company was preparing an edition of the Red Book in its original German, with English translation and extensive footnoting. In 2007, DigitalFusion scanned it, one-tenth of a millimeter at a time, with a 10,200-pixel scanner.[10] It was published on 7 October 2009.[11]

The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City displayed the original book and Jung's original small journals from 7 October 2009 to 25 January 2010.[8] The Red Book exhibit was also at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from April 11 – June 6, 2010. A series of Red Book Dialogues with celebrities and psychologists such as Albert Maysles, Jack Dorsey, David Byrne, Charlie Kaufman and others was also hosted at the Rubin Museum of Art.[12] The Red Book was on display at the Library of Congress from June 17 – September 25, 2010.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shamdasani, Sonu (2005). Jung Stripped Bare By His Biographers, Even. ISBN 1-85575-317-0. 
  2. ^ Storr, Anthony (1996). Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners and Madmen, A Study of Gurus. p. 89. ISBN 0-684-82818-9. 
  3. ^ a b Jung, Carl Gustav (1961). Aniela Jaffe, ed. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. pp. 178–194. 
  4. ^ Hannah, Barbara (1976). Jung: His Life and Work. p. 115. ISBN 0-87773-615-4. 
  5. ^ Jung 2009, back cover.
  6. ^ Jung 2009, p. 1. Several of these are reproduced in Aniella Jaffé's book, C.G. Jung: Word and Image. Jaffe, Aniella (1979). C.G. Jung: Word and Image. pp. 66–75. ISBN 0-691-01847-2. 
  7. ^ Hayman, Ronald (1999). A Life of Jung. p. 175. ISBN 0-393-01967-5. 
  8. ^ a b "The Red Book of C.G. Jung". Rubin Museum of Art. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  9. ^ Bair, Deirdre (2003). Jung: A Biography. p. 745. ISBN 0-316-07665-1. 
  10. ^ a b c Corbett, Sara (2009-09-16). "The Holy Grail of the Unconscious". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  11. ^ Corbett, Sara (2009-09-21). Carl Jung's Secret Book. Trustees of Boston University (WBUR On Point). Event occurs at 25:00. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  12. ^ "The Red Book of C. G. Jung Programs The Red Book Dialogues". Rubin Museum of Art. 
  13. ^ "The Red Book of Carl G. Jung: Its Origins and Influence: June 17–September 25, 2010". Library of Congress. 


External links[edit]