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The Red Book

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist by Titian, c 1515 (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome)

On the night when I considered the essence of the God, I became aware of an image: I lay in a dark depth. An old man stood before me. He looked like one of the old prophets. A black serpent lay at his feet. Some distance away I saw a house with columns. A beautiful maiden steps out of the door. She walks uncertainly and I see that she is blind. The old man waves to me and I follow him to the house at the foot of the sheer wall of rock. The serpent creeps behind us. Darkness reigns inside the house. We are in a high hall with glittering walls. A bright stone the color of water lies in the background. As I look into its reflection, the images of Eve, the tree, and the serpent appear to me. After this I catch sight of Odysseus and his journey on the high seas. Suddenly a door opens on the right, onto a garden full of bright sunshine. We step outside and the old man says to me, “Do you know where you are?”
I: “I am a stranger here and everything seems strange to me,
anxious as in a dream. Who are you?”
E: “I am Elijahls7 and this is my daughter Salome.”
I: “The daughter of Herod, the bloodthirsty woman?”

E: “Why do you judge so? You see that she is blind. She is my daughter, the daughter of the prophet.”
I: “What miracle has united you?”
E: “It is no miracle, it was so from the beginning. My wisdom and my daughter are one.”
I am shocked, I am incapable of grasping it.
E: “Consider this: her blindness and my sight have made us companions through eternity.”
I: “Forgive my astonishment, am I truly in the underworld?”
S: “Do you love me?”
I: “How can I love you? How do you come to this question? I see only one thing, you are Salome, a tiger, your hands are stained with the blood of the holy one. How should I love you?”
S: “You will love me.”
I: “I? Love you? Who gives you the right to such thoughts?”
S: “I love you.”
I: “Leave me be, I dread you, you beast.”
S: “You do me wrong. Elijah is my father, and he knows the deepest mysteries. The walls of his house are made of precious stones. His wells hold healing water and his eyes see the things of the future. And what wouldn’t you give for a single look into the infinite unfolding of what is to come? Are these not worth a sin
for you?”
I: “Your temptation is devilish. I long to be back in the upper world. It is dreadful here. How oppressive and heavy is the air!”
E: “What do you want? The choice is yours.”
I: “But I do not belong to the dead. I live in the light of day:
Why should I torment myself here with Salome? Do I not have enough of my own life to deal with?”
E: “You heard what Salome said.”
I: “I cannot believe that you,·the prophet, can recognize her as a daughter and a companion. Is she not engendered from heinous seed? Was she not vain greed and criminal lust?”
E: “But she loved a holy man.”
I: ”And shamefully shed his precious blood.”
E: “She loved the prophet who announced the new God to the world. She loved him, do you understand that? For she is my daughter.”
I: “Do you think that because she is your daughter, she loved the prophet in John, the father?”
E: “By her love shall you know her.”

I: “But how did she love him? Do you call that love?”
E: “What else was it?”
I: “I am horrified. Who wouldn’t be horrified if Salome loved him?”
E: ”Are you cowardly? Consider this, I and my daughter have been one since eternity.”
I: “You pose dreadful riddles. How could it be that this unholy woman and you, the prophet of your God, could be one?”
E: “Why are you amazed? But you see it, we are together.”
I: “What my eyes see is exactly what I cannot grasp. You, Elijah, who are a prophet, the mouth of God, and she, a bloodthirsty horror. You are the symbol of the most extreme contradiction.”
E: “We are real and not symbols.”
I see how the black serpent writhes up the tree, and hides in the branches. Everything becomes gloomy and doubtful. Elijah rises, I follow and we go silently back through the hall.  Doubt tears me apart. It is all so unreal and yet a part of my longing remains behind. Will I come again? Salome loves me, do I love her? I hear wild music, a tambourine, a sultry moonlit night, the bloody-staring head of the holy one-fear seizes me. I rush out.
I am surrounded by the dark night. It is pitch black all around me. Who murdered the hero? Is this why Salome loves me? Do I love her, and did I therefore murder the hero? She is one with the prophet, one with John, but also one with me? Woe, was she the hand of the God? I do not love her, I fear her. Then the spirit of the depths spoke to me and said: “Therein you acknowledge her divine power.” Must I love Salome?

[2] This play that I witnessed is my play, not your play. It is my secret, not yours. You cannot imitate me. My secret remains virginal and my mysteries are inviolable, they belong to me and cannot belong to you. You
have your own. He who enters into his own must grope through what lies at hand, he must sense his way from stone to stone. He must embrace the worthless and the worthy with the same love. A mountain is nothing, and a grain of sand holds kingdoms, or also nothing. Judgment must fall from you, even taste, but above all pride, even when it is based on merit. Utterly poor, miserable, unknowingly humiliated, go on through the gate. Turn your anger against yourself, since only you stop yourself from looking and from living. The mystery play is soft
like air and thin smoke, and you are raw matter that is disturbingly heavy. But let your hope, which is your highest good and highest ability, lead the way and serve you as a guide in the world of darkness) since it is of like substance with the forms of that world. 

The scene of the mystery play is a deep place like the crater of a volcano. My deep interior is a volcano, that pushes out the fiery molten mass of the unformed and the undifferentiated. Thus my interior gives birth to the children of chaos, of the primordial mother. He who enters the crater also becomes chaotic matter, he melts. The formed in him dissolves and binds itself anew with the children of chaos, the powers of darkness, the ruling and the seducing, the compelling and the alluring, the divine and the devilish. These powers stretch beyond my certainties and limits on all sides, and connect me with all forms and with all distant beings and things, through which inner tidings of their being and their character develop in me.

Because I have fallen into the source of chaos, into the primordial beginning, I myself become smelted anew in the connection with the primordial beginning, which at the same time is what has been and what is becoming. At first I come to the primordial beginning in myself But because I am a part of the matter and formation of the world, I also come into the primordial beginning of the world in the first place. I have certainly participated in life as someone formed and determined, but only through my formed and determined consciousness and through this in a formed and determined piece of the whole world, but not in the unformed and undetermined aspects of the world that likewise are given to me. Yet it is given only to my depths, not to my surface, which is a formed and determined consciousness.

The powers of my depths are predetermination and pleasure. Predetermination or forethinking is Prometheus/who, without determined thoughts, brings the chaotic to form and definition, who digs the channels and holds the object before pleasure. Forethinking also comes before thought. But pleasure is the force that desires and destroys forms without form and definition. It loves the form in itself that it takes hold o£ and destroys the forms that it does not take. The forethinker is a seer, but pleasure is blind. It does not foresee, but desires what it touches. Forethinking is not powerful in itself and therefore does not move. But pleasure is power, and therefore it moves. Forethinking needs pleasure to be able to come to form. Pleasure needs forethinking to come to form, which it requires. If pleasure lacked forming, pleasure would dissolve in manifoldness and become splintered and powerless through unending division, lost to the unending. If a form does not contain and compress pleasure within itself it cannot reach the higher, since it always flows like water from above to below. All pleasure, when left alone, flows into the deep sea and ends in the deathly stillness of dispersal into unending space. Pleasure is not older than forethinking, and forethinking is not older than pleasure. Both are equally old and in nature intimately one. Only in man does the separate existence of both

principles become apparent. Apart from Elijah and Salome I found the serpent as a third principle. It is a stranger to both principles although it is associated with both. The serpent taught me the unconditional
difference in essence between the two principles in me. If I look across from forethinking to pleasure, I first see the deterrent poisonous serpent. If I feel from pleasure across to forethinking, likewise I feel first the cold cruel serpent.

The serpent is the earthly essence of man of which he is not conscious. Its character changes according to peoples and lands, since it is the mystery that flows to him from the nourishing earth-mother. The earthly (numen loci) separates forethinking and pleasure in man, but not in itself The serpent has the weight of the earth in itself but also its changeability and germination from which everything that becomes emerges. It is always the serpent that causes man to become enslaved now to one, now to the other principle, so that it becomes error. One cannot live with forethinking alone, or with pleasure alone. You need both. But you cannot be in forethinking and in pleasure at the same time, you must take turns being in forethinking and pleasure, obeying the prevailing law, unfaithful to the other so to speak. But men prefer one or the other. Some love thinking and establish the art of life on it. They· practice their thinking and their circumspection, so they lose their pleasure. Therefore they are old and have a sharp face. The others love pleasure, they practice their feeling and living. Thus they forget thinking. Therefore they are young and blind. Those who think
base the world on thought, those who feel, on feeling. You find truth and error in both.

The way of life writhes like the serpent from right to left and from left to right, from thinking to pleasure and from pleasure to thinking. Thus the serpent is an adversary and a symbol of enmity, but also a wise bridge that connects right and left through longing, much needed by our life. The place where Elijah and Salome live together is a dark space and a bright one. The dark space is the space of forethinking. It is dark so he who lives there requires vision.

This space is limited, so fore thinking does not lead into the extended distance, but into the depth of the past and the future. The crystal is the formed thought that reflects what is to come in what has gone before.
Eve and the serpent show me that my next step leads to pleasure and from there again on lengthy wanderings like Odysseus. He went astray when he played his trick at Troy. The bright garden is the space of pleasure. He who lives there needs no vision; he feels the unending. A thinker who descends in to his fore thinking finds his next step leading into the garden of Salome. Therefore the thinker fears his forethought, although

he lives on the foundation of fore thinking. The visible surface is safer than the underground. Thinking protects against the way of error, and therefore it leads to petrification. A thinker should fear Salome, since she wants his head, especially if he is a holy man. A thinker cannot be a holy person, otherwise he loses his head. It does not help to hide oneself in thought. There the solidification overtakes you. You must turn back to motherly forethought to obtain renewal. But forethought leads to Salome.

Because I was a thinker and caught sight of the hostile principle of pleasure from forethinking, it appeared to me as Salome. If I had been one who felt, and had groped my way toward forethinking, then it would have appeared to me as a serpent-encoiled daimon, if I had actually seen it. But I would have been blind. Therefore I would have felt only slippery, dead, dangerous, allegedly overcome, insipid, and mawkish things, and I would have pulled back with the same shudder I felt in turning from Salome.

The thinker’s passions are bad, therefore he has no pleasure. The thoughts of one who feels  are bad, therefore he has no thoughts. He who prefers to think than to feel,  leaves his feelings to rot ,in darkness. It does not grow ripe, but in moldiness produces sick tendrils that do not reach the light. He who prefers to feel than to think leaves his thinking in darkness, where it spins its nets in gloomy places, desolate webs in which mosquitos and gnats become enmeshed. The thinker feels the disgust of feeling, since :the feeling in him is mainly disgusting. The one who feels thinks the disgust of thinking, since the thinking in him is mainly disgusting. So the serpent lies between the thinker and the one who feels. They are each other’s poison and healing.

In the garden it had to become apparent to me that I loved Salome. This recognition struck me, since I had not thought it. What a thinker does not think he believes does not exist, and what one who feels does not feel he believes does not exist. You begin to have a presentiment of the whole when you embrace your opposite principle, since the whole belongs to both principles, which grow from one root.

Elijah said: “You should recognize her through her love!” Not only do you venerate the object, but the object also sanctifies you. Salome loved the prophet, and this sanctified her. The prophet loved God, and this sanctified him. But Salome did not love God, and this profaned her. But the prophet did not love Salome, and this profaned him. And thus they were each other’s poison and death. May the thinking person accept his pleasure, and the feeling person accept his own thought. Such leads one along the way.~Carl Jung, Red Book, Pages 246-248