In his recently released Red Book, a body of work Carl Jung immersed himself in for nearly 17 years, Jung
reveals the deep introspective nature of what he ultimately considered an
archetypal “descent.” He documented this journey to the Underworld in
tremendous detail and accompanied many of the entries and topics with
beautifully detailed drawings. If you haven’t had a chance to view the Red
Book, I highly recommend you find a way. It truly has the feel of a sacred
book, not unlike many of the ancient alchemical tomes and other holy books that
have endured for centuries.
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending a teleseminar on the Red Book facilitated by Dr. Michael
Conforti of the Assisi Institute. Dr. Conforti, a Jungian analyst who offers
ongoing sessions on the Red Book, has a wealth and depth of knowledge about
Jung, archetypes, dreams, and the Red Book especially.
>During the session, the group focused on Jung’s metaphor of the desert and how the soul seeks to survive the
journey, often encountering divine madness. The madman, as Dr. Conforti pointed
out, can often say whatever he wants and no one pays attention, but what is
madness? What we label madness in our culture is often based on visions and
ideas that arise from a certain kind of truth. Madness introduces chaos, but it
also removes the barriers that traditionally limit us, allowing something new
to emerge. When the floodgates of the psyche let loose and one is taken over by
something bigger than the ego self, by the unconscious, or what Jung called in
the Red Book “the spirit of the deep,” the levies do not hold.
Sometimes madness is just what we need; it is the moment when we access the energy that allows us superhuman
strength, or the capacity to ride a wave and write passionately all through the
night. It is the power that drives our dreams, fuels lovemaking, and powers
deep meaningful ritual. When we are in the grips of the complex of the madman, the
otherworld has broken through and transported us “somewhere else”. And though
Jung would never condone not taking responsibility for one’s actions during
such a state, he makes it clear how important to embrace madness when it comes,
for it is “divine” and it comes of its own accord.
In the end, recognizing and embracing divine madness is part of life. We must be open to engage what is
frightening, what is dark, what makes us anxious in order to be balanced and
whole. When the rational world no longer makes sense, when images and thoughts
are coming from somewhere “else” (from soul), it is then that patterns begin to
appear and synchronicity happens. It is then that truth emerges and the way is
opened for individuation and growth of the self to occur.
Big thanks on my part to Dr. Michael Conforti, a gifted teacher whose compassion and depth of feeling is
conveyed in stories and everyday situations he uses to illustrate material that
might be otherwise hard to grasp. Dr. Conforti has offered an amazing weeklong
conference in Italy every summer for that past 20+ years. I attended last year
and can’t say enough about how how much value I took away from the event—not to
mention the wonderful setting! The theme in 2011 is “Transcendent Wonder”. See
the Events section on Depth Psychology Alliance to attend a virtual open house
and to get information, or email Assisi@together.net. Dr. Conforti also teaches
courses on Dreams and on Archetypal Pattern Recognition based on his book,
Field, Form and Fate.