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Showing posts from December, 2009

Why I Love This Stuff

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Next to my bathtub I have three reading choices. A long outdated (Madonna and A-Rod) People magazine, a more recent issue of Yoga Journal, and The Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by Lyndy Abraham. This third thing is the one I reach for. It's not a New Age thing at all. It's this woman's Doctoral Thesis at Cambridge University and to write she she ventured into the depths of the Vatican's secret libraries and cruised the coffers of ancient memory to dredge of these defitintions of things I never used to think about. Things like: alembic/limbeck, the red dragon, albification. I read this book with remarkable pleasure. For me, it's like reading the poems of Shakespeare. . . only maybe even better. I feel this is my own private world, a book few others venture to pay nearly $40.00 for on Amazon (used: $29.45). It's a language I share with these ancient minds. . . women and men who influenced great poets and composers. . . Goethe. . . Rilke. . . Jung. . . they

Why the Red Book is Red

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In Alchemy, there are many symbolic systems. Often, a practitioner would create his or her own system. These would possess a variety of properties. The symbols are polyvalent, an understood and accepted fact, so that once a practioner "knew" the basic structure of the alchemical process one could read another's work (often rendered in artwork) without being confounded. It was also understood that the process is reiterative and in constant flow (why detachment is necessary--one is never "finished") so a reader or viewer would not expect the writer or artist to deliver the information in a sequential manner. A third property of the systems involves concealment. While the information begged to be shared, it could only be shared in a way that would reveal its content only to one's peers. These were not breadcrumb trails for strangers but rather records maintained for safe-keeping. One writer described the alchemical knowledge as "a secret set afloat

Alchemy and Narcissism and The Red Book

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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. Recent

The Red Book

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Last week I went into Malaprops with my daughter. We had some time to browse prior to a reading I was doing at Posana. I bought some Moleskins for a workshop group for the following day, some pens. I bought my daughter a pair of journals, one for her and one for a friend. I was paying for it all when I saw it. The Red Book. The secret book by Carl Gustav Jung, sealed away in a chilly Swiss bank for a century and now sitting before in all its red immense glory, beckoning to me. Not saying "buy me, buy me, buy me" (though I knew I would) but rather "open me, open me, open me." Let me tell you a thing about me and books. When I took a group of my boy students (as their teacher at a boys' boarding school) to go see the Dead Sea Scrolls in Charlotte five years ago, by the time I exited the exhibit, they'd all found new girlfriends and had bought them sodas. I had spent that long looking--no: gazing--into the strange cases built to house them, complete with