The following month, on a train journey to Schaffhausen, Jung experienced a waking vision of Europe being devastated by a catastrophic flood, which was repeated two weeks later, on the same journey.
Commenting on this experience in 1925, he remarked:
“I could be taken as Switzerland fenced in by mountains and the submergence of the world could be the debris of my
This led him to the following diagnosis of his condition:
“I thought to mysel£ ‘If this means anything, it means that I am hopelessly off”‘
After this experience, Jung feared that he would go mad.
He recalled that he first thought that the images of the vision indicated a revolution, but as he could not imagine this, he concluded that he was “menaced with a psychosis.” ~Introduction, The Red Book, Page 198
On July 28, Jung gave a talk on “The importance of the unconscious in psychopathology” at a meeting of the British Medical Association in Aberdeen.
He argued that in cases of neurosis and psychosis, the unconscious attempted to compensate the one-sided conscious attitude.
The unbalanced individual defends himself against this, and the opposites become more polarized.
The corrective impulses that present themselves in the language of the unconscious should be the beginning of a healing process, but the form in which they break through makes them unacceptable to consciousness. ~Introduction, The Red Book, Page 201
A month earlier, on June 28, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was assassinated, by Gavrilo Princip, a nineteen-year-old Serb student.
On August I, war broke out.
In 1925 Jung recalled, “I had the feeling that I was an over-compensated psychosis, and from this feeling I was not released till August 1st 1914.” ~The Red Book Introduction, Pages 201-202
Years later, he said to Mircea Eliade:
As a psychiatrist I became worried, wondering if I was not on the way to “doing a schizophrenia,” as we said in the language of those days …
I was just preparing a lecture on schizophrenia to be delivered at a congress in Aberdeen, and I kept saying to myself:
“I’ll be speaking of myself! Very likely I’ll go mad after reading out this paper.”
The congress was to take place in July 1914-exactly the same period when I saw myself in my three dreams voyaging on the Southern seas.
On July 31″r, immediately after my lecture, I learned from the newspapers that war had broken out.
Finally I understood.
And when I disembarked in Holland on the next day; nobody was happier than I.
Now I was sure that no schizophrenia was threatening me.
I understood that my dreams and my visions came to me from the subsoil of the collective unconscious.
What remained for me to do now was to deepen and validate this discovery.
And this is what I have been trying to do for forty years. ~Carl Jung, Combat interview , C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 233-34·
In 1955/56, while discussing active imagination, Jung commented that “the reason why the involvement looks very much like a psychosis is that the
patient is integrating the same fantasy-material to which the insane person falls victim because he cannot integrate it but is swallowed up by it. ” ~Introduction, The Red Book, Page 202.
Liber Novus is of critical significance for grasping the emergence of Jung’s new model of psychotherapy.
In 1912, in Transformation and Symbols of the Libido, he considered the presence of mythological fantasies-such as are present in Liber Novus-to be the signs of
a loosening of the phylogenetic layers of the unconscious, and indicative of schizophrenia.
Through his self-experimentation, he radically revised this position: what he now considered critical was not the presence of any particular content, but the attitude
of the individual toward it and, in particular, whether an individual could accommodate such material in their worldview.
This explains why he commented in his afterword to Liber Novus that to the superficial observer, the work would seem like madness, and could have become so, if he had failed to contain and comprehend the experiences.201
In Liber secundus, chapter 15, he presents a critique of contemporary psychiatry, highlighting its incapacity to differentiate religious experience or divine madness from
If the content of visions or fantasies had no diagnostic value, he held that it was nevertheless critical to view them carefully. ~Introduction, The Red Book, Page 215.