Thursday, December 17, 2009
Alchemy and Narcissism and The Red Book
This book is different from Jung's other books.
He writes that this is the book that started the whole Jung thing. Everything he wrote after The Red Book was an echo of the Red Book, of the experience he has within these pages.
This is not a book about mystical experience. This book is his mystical experience. In it he uses the writing and art as transformative tools in moving across the gap in the mind between conscious and unconscious aspects of the self. The writings and mandalas guide him, show him what he needs to see, believe, think and surrender to. This is art without vanity. It's his journey into his soul. After The Red Book, Jung strove to make sense of what had happened within him.
I think it's funny how we so easily take our sanity for granted, meaning, more often than not, we just assume we're perfect and don't need to do any more "work." People don't attempt to understand what's going on, or what has happened within us. Recently I've been learning a lot about how narcissism denies itself. A person can be entirely caught up in him/herself and not know it. And blame everybody for everything they've got going on that's wrong. We know these people. More often than we'd like to admit, we are these people.
As countercultural icon, a psychotic, a dreamer or madman, Jung and his legacy, bear the burden of one who strove to overcome narcissism. Egotists have no patience for non-egotists because the ego only wishes to preserve its hold on reality. Jung's work challenges this hold. The Red Book throws down a serious gauntlet in the modern age: the mystical journey is not a thing of the past, of long lost prophets and flying nuns, and this is a map of how to do it. This is the man's alchemy of himself.
Lately, I've been thinking about how maybe all the sacred texts work together as a ladder out of the self, out of the blindness of narcissism. I've been thinking that perhaps "ego" and "the self" are ways of saying "narcissism." And alchemy, as buddhism, as Christianity, as Kaballah, as Judaism, as Hinduism, as Islam, is the means of overcoming it. And, thinking of the immense Red Book, religion stripped of affiliation, I think of how treacherous it is.