Red Book Lecture 2      February  2-16


Welcome all and especially newcomers to the second chunk of the RED BOOK.  


As Robbie compares Jung’s experiences of image both as metaphor and as an embodied experience, we are presented with a great challenge. How to be with the Red Book both from Jung and Robbie’s perspectives in a state of Negative Capability-- being in the unknown without going right to meaning even, and, especially when an insight comes.

There is the great example of the desert and how Jung at first is experiencing it as an embodied state and then almost immediately is pulled to meaning-- desert as soul.

Robbies says:

“The Spirit of the Depth is teaching Jung to be a phenomenologist.  How to wait on images... to get into their true becoming and then he can find the seeds for them and find what they are doing and who they are.  If we want to honor him we have to try to move through this material without understanding.  And of course, Jung fails miserably and so will we.”


So then the question comes:  What are we to ‘discuss’ in this forum as we endeavor to be in the ‘waiting’, experiencing the Red Book and what Robbie and each other have to say, as an environment, a place?

Well Janet asked me a question this morning when we talked about this: “What was your experience as you listened to this section?”

I told her I had spread out the big Red Book on my bed along with the little one and as I listened I took notes and stopped the recording, re-listened to parts ....  then I worried oh ,oh,  I was trying to make meaning, but no, I really felt like I was diving into the experience in a deeper way than the last time I listened.  I was thrilled, confused, excited, and worried.

So let’s continue on as we go slowly, waiting, being with the discomfort of not knowing and share what that is like for us and perhaps noticing other places where Jung (and we) go to metaphor, to embodiment and back again.



 Chris and Janet

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  • Ric,

    It is striking that you remembered that scene from the Odyssey from 50 years ago, but it is also striking that it must be an archetypal pattern, and as you suggest, if we bring it into consciousness, can we now ride the unconscious seas, as we do each night & day, and possibly see it's recurrence... I imagine each of these mythologems are, as Jung observed, feeling tone complexes in the psyche. Someday we will uncover their source. However, whether thru nurture or Nature, these memes are as important to our psychic wellbeing as the proteins, enzymes & amino acids that perpetuate our physical existence. How true ~ man does not live on bread alone...

    • Robbie,

      Led by a child's hand
      Is this living without a prefrontal cortex? Or, is this putting it in your pocket for a while? In sports, music, writing, painting, there is a place like this where the conscious self is put away and the act becomes an experience. These are moments when one might look back after the experience and say - What was that? ...and be changed unconsciously by the experience...become something other than what one was before. Is that what's going on here?
  • When I made reference to Ulysses & Nausicaa, I left the bread crumb pointing to Wikipedia -
    I was hoping that some of you would follow it and I like what came from it.
    My impression was: Here was Odysseus, after 20 odd years of war and wandering, naked and helpless.
    He encounters his soul, Nausicaa. He is completely at her mercy. He trusts her to take care of him.
    The qoute from the critic nails it: She gave birth to him... The child is reborn...
    It was so fitting for the passages we had read in TRB.

    I am so amazed at the outpourings I read here...

  • Hi Ava, your way of phrasing it is beautiful. I take the statement as a reminder that the inflation of ego based life is unreal and that we must experience the death of the ego in a complete way which includes our physical death at some point in order to find our spiritual life and that this consciousness directs us to a focus on our inner life as the source of meaning.

  • Hello All, Thank you for your beautiful posts. I am struck by the chaotic feeling to this section...chaos, physical death, pus, ego death, death of meaning all being linked in ways that are difficult to separate when entering into any aspect of this complex of phenomena on an experiential level. I am struck by the need to be still until what is there can be seen and a path through it sensed or chosen. I am in a life transition at present and working to maintain and create meaning and order out of the chaos but also aware that it is no longer an option for me to push the chaos down in order to live in the world of the ego that to some degree has died for me. My dreams indicate a search for purpose and meaning with a need to protect rather than consume life. Two people in my life, somewhat removed from me but close enough to emotionally impact me have committed suicide over the past month. Both brilliant middle aged men whose ego path came to an end and perhaps in the ensuing complex that includes physical death somehow came to enact that, to feel that this was the culmination of their path, and I wish I could have been there, that I could have told them that they needed to wait amidst the death for a path of life to emerge. This is the model Jung gives us...he adds the waiting for path of meaning to emerge from the experience of ego death. Not that he is unique for this since others from Jesus to Camus have expressed this in myriad ways but by lending inner imagery to the experience he provides new insights and points of reference for the sufferer. The bleakness contains hope within its dark images which we will never see if we do not go there. I went to a beautiful but somewhat depressing Ash Wednesday service last night--a time of connecting with our eventual physical death so that we can go through that experience of death and be transformed by it. The text was a challenging one from the story of the death of Lazarus....Jesus was told that the friend he loved was very ill and so he waited two days to come to him (so he could die). But then he came to be present to the death experience and hopefully we can do the same for each other and for our friends and acquaintances. It is loving presence that sustains us through the experiences of this life but the inner experience is still one of being alone and developing our own loving presence that is able to respond to inner death and chaos.

    • Thank you Constance. I find solace in your entry...

    • Hi Constance:

      I too went to a mass in NYC last night for Ash Wednesday, listened to beautiful ethereal music, and received ashes.  As the priest placed the ashes on my forehead, he intoned as he had for each of the receivers in front of me:  "You are dust and to dust you will return."  I accepted it on outwardly, but thought to myself -- Are you sure?

      What I believe is different now.  Had he said this, I might have left feeling as if the ritual were relevant:  "You are light and you are dark and during this time of mystery and wonder --the depths of darkness before a new light is revealed -- you have the opportunity to come closer to your soul's longing."

  • Welcome Ric and welcome Djin, Peacock and Dragon,

    Thank you for sharing about yourself.  Looking forward to the magic that comes out of the bottle!

    Not to worry about my name,

    Janet Fortess

    There are two editions to choose from:

    The Red Book facsimile edition

    ISBN-13:  9780393065671       ISBN:  0393065677
    Pub Date:  2009

    The Red Book A Reader's Edition

        Hardcover   December 2012   ISBN 978-0-393-08908-0


    Below will take you to all the information you need about the forum and purchasing the lectures.

    For information about purchasing the 20 digital recordings/CD’s of the lectures contact:

    WHAT: Consists of 20 pre-recorded lectures of 1.5 hours each; an 90+-page study guide created by Robert 's colleague, Jill Fischer; This writ…
  • Note: This is a long post. In the bottom right corner of this reply box are 3 diagonal lines.  You can put your mouse on them and make the box bigger.  I just keep discovering things!  Best to you all,  Janet

    The rainbow/ oil shimmering on water/ peacock tail invites a splay of responses to many of the recent posts on the Forum. Each way the light glances on the oil reveals the colors anew.

    What am I experiencing?  dreams: old shit uncovered under a bed; the Dalai Lama rests his head on my shoulder over my heart and hears my heart beat, an authoritative man who knows slaps a map showing the trajectory of the missing man journeying east and knows where he will emerge; flowers blooming in snow.

    An example of working in Embodied Imagination with Chris: dream Janet is ashamed of uncovering the old shit, how could it be overlooked for so long—experienced as heat rising, teary turning away in the upper body in aversion.  The transit (revealing of its nature from within) into the old shit is surprising:  its nature is dark, quiet and about completion.  It is felt in the lower body with a deep “huh” as dark, essential gravity.

    I want to invite sharing of sublime and positive images (as well as the horrifying and disturbing ones) from dream, waking dream or memory that may be evoked by our shared community with Jung’s images.  And I remind us all that the ego evaluation of an image may not be what the image itself reveals when “waited upon”. 


    Thank you Chris, for daring to share yourself and your detailed description of pus which like an image in a dream might express its nature in ways that don’t make us want to heave.

    David Richardson—many backed up responses to your posts:

    1.About the Toni Wolff track which you began -- as it ran its course I thought of Nor Hall speaking about gossip (from Old English godsibb, from god and sibb, the term for the godparents of one's child or the parents of one's godchild, generally very close friends).  How our talking about this affair is a wanting to be intimate with or bless or touch or speak about the divine in the human.   This doesn’t take away the moral dilemma it might raise for each of us.

    And the whole realm of dream interpretation—whether or not it justifies certain actions in the waking world--comes up.  What happens when we interpret dreams as if there is something to know? As someone steeped in Embodied Imagination, “waiting upon the image” is very different or as Robbie says in lecture 2  ”The way the desert works on you is a very particular experience…before you try to say this is a condition of my soul.  You don’t know.  You don’t know anything…You know shit, nothing, nothing, nothing.  As you are in this environment knowing nothing then something new can emerge in this environment, in this spirit of place.”

    Yet haven’t we all experienced some kind of message or precognition or visitation in a dream that seems to demand being taken literally? 

    Some paradox.  I feel much uncertainty, mystery, doubt (a la Keats) about being with the imaginal and it is some comfort to know Jung struggles with this too.


    2. About absurd:  Well, it took me to browsing Camus. Forgive a bit of meandering lest we assume Camus speaks only of utter despair/meaninglessness.

    In his preface to the 1955 edition of The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays:  Camus writes: “The fundamental subject is this: it is legitimate and necessary to wonder whether life has a meaning; therefore it is legitimate to meet the problem of suicide face to face.  The answer, underlying and appearing through the paradoxes which cover it, is this: even if one does not believe in God, suicide is not legitimate.  Written fifteen years ago, in 1940, amid the French and European disaster, this book declares that even within the limits of nihilism it is possible to find the means to proceed beyond nihilism…Although “The Myth of Sisyphus” poses mortal problems, it sums itself up for me as a lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert.”

    He speaks of an “absurd sensitivity” not an ”absurd philosophy”—it is not a conclusion but a starting point.

    “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth.  They are inseparable It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness.” p..90

    3. shards—I can’t recall all your comments re shards. When I saw the  image The Red Book was open to at the Rubin Museum I experienced being shattered/pierced by the shards in the upper circle—their iciness, sharpness, asymmetry. I felt I was “in for it”. (see the picture in Chris’ Jan 18 post in Lecture 1 or page 135 in the facsimile edition & related to the end of Chapter XIX Liber Secundus “The Gift of Magic”)

    4. I appreciated your comment: Robbie you’re a great storyteller.  My first time with the lectures, I showed up for story hour with Robbie.  This time through I’m working it!


    Ann Yoemans: I’m reposting this link along with the pages where the words are found for new comers and all who might not have understood every word Jung spoke in his richly accented English.

    Here is a rare recording of "C.G. Jung Speaks to his Soul" which I found very moving:  It was played at Sonu Shamdasani's introduction to the Red Book at the Rubin Museum in New York. October 2009.  A search for Sonu Shamdasani + you tube will lead you to more of his talk.

    The words being spoken are found in The Red Book:

    Facsimile Edition  p. 232 [1}
    Reader's Edition Refinding the Soul p 127 second paragraph.


    Michael Harkins:    

    I always like references to the Odyssey as I live in Ithaca!

    Best graffiti ever in women’s bathroom here:  Ithaca is the place Odysseus came back to that Penelope never left.

    I’m not versed in Nietzsche so I looked up the quote you offered and found you’d left off the last 2 words.  96. One should part from life as Ulysses parted from Nausicaa-- blessing it rather than in love with it.

    Nausicaa accidentally sees Odysseus naked, offers him clothes, sends him to her parents’ court where he tells of his journeys and is given the ships that take him home. So there is a potential erotic current as well as a motherly one.  She later marries Odysseus’ son.  

    This made me wonder how this quote speaks from the Spirit of the Depths? Perhaps it points to a thinning of the ego perspective, a move toward detachment/not knowing, a blessing—letting go rather than a loving—grasping? 

    Nietzsche quotes  

  • Hello and checking in here for this round.


    Thank you, Robbie, for tracking in the second lecture the movement from metaphor to embodiment in Jung’s writing of his desert experience.  I might have missed the subtleties of his language.


    I was very struck by his being told by his soul, “Wait”.  And I fully resonate with what he said in response: “ I heard the cruel word.  Torment belongs to the desert.”  I experience the difficulty, and sometimes-cruel torment, of this kind of waiting and find that folks that I guide in nature-based soul encounters also have great difficulty with the waiting.  I am reminded of lines from the East Coker sections of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:

                I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

                For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

                For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

                But the faith and love and the hope are all in the waiting.

                Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

                So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.


    I am also reminded of the kind of pacing that I have learned from your style of dream work, Robbie – the moving slowly with speed.  From this perspective, the waiting is not a passive waiting.  Rather it is an active waiting for me.  The active aspect might at first be my longing/grief cry, a courtship of some kind.  Sometimes this longing is all that I have, which I have come to realize is a blessing in itself, an essential ingredient of the alchemy.  Sometimes there is an encounter with an other, followed by another kind of waiting that includes engagement with the being or energy encountered, such as dialogue or embodiment.  Often when I make a movement toward engagement, I am too quick to move onto to the next engaging move on my part.  I neglect the waiting.  There is an art in this dance of waiting and engagement that, for me is applicable across many spectrums of relationship.  I get into difficulty in my human relationships in the same way as in my relationship with my soul when I neglect the waiting.  I like Eliot’s lines that speak of how the stillness shall be the dancing.


    I thought that perhaps the metaphorical desert of which Jung is speaking at first is what happens when one is not “waiting” but rather thinking, lost in thought or the world of men and things.  In that case, the torment he assigns to this desert is the call to cruel waiting.  It is when he “waits” that the desert comes alive with all of its physical and place reality, filled with beings and energies to be embodied.

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