Red Book



I am standing in a high hall.

Before me I see a green curtain between two columns.

The curtain parts easily. I see into a small deep room with bare walls.

There is a small window with bluish glass above.

I set foot on the stair leading up to this room between the pillars and enter.

In the rear wall, I see a door right and left.

It’s as if I must choose between right and left. I choose the right.

The door is open, I enter: I’m in the reading room of a large library. In the background sits a small thin man of pale complexion, apparently the librarian.

The atmosphere is troubling-scholarly ambitions-scholarly conceit-wounded scholarly vanity.

Apart from the librarian I see no one.

I step toward him. He looks up from his book and says, “What do you want?”

I’m somewhat embarrassed, since I don’t know what I really want: Thomas a Kempis crosses my mind.

I: “I’d like to have Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ.”

He looks at me somewhat astonished as ifhe didn’t credit me with such an interest; he gives me an order-form to:fill out.

I too think that it’s astonishing to ask for Thomas a Kempis.

”Are you surprised that I’m requesting Thomas’s work?”

“Well, yes, the book is seldom asked for, and I wouldn’t have expected this interest from you.”

“I must confess that I’m also somewhat surprised by this inspiration, but recently I came across a passage from Thomas that made a particular impression on me.

Why; I can’t really say. If I remember correctly; it dealt with the problem of the Imitation of Christ.”

“Do you have particular theological or philosophical interests, or-”

“Do you mean-whether I want to read it for the purpose of prayer?”

“Well, hardly.”

“If I read Thomas a Kempis, I do so for the sake of prayer, or something similar, rather than out of scholarly interest.”

”Are you that religious? I had no idea.”

“You know that I value science extraordinarily highly: But there are actually moments in life where science also leaves us empty and sick.

In such moments a book like Thomas’s means very much to me since it is written from the soul.”

“But somewhat old-fashioned. We can no longer get involved in Christian dogmatics these days, surely:”

“We haven’t come to an end with Christianity by simply putting it aside. It seems to me that there’s more to it than we see.”

“What is there about it? It’s just a religion.”

“For what reasons and moreover at what age do men set it aside?

Presumably; most do so during their student days or perhaps even earlier.

Would you call that a particularly discriminating age?

And have you ever examined more closely the grounds on which people put aside positive religion?

The grounds are mostly dubious, such as that the contents of belief clash with natural science or philosophy:”

“In my view, such an objection should not necessarily be rejected out of hand, despite the fact that there are better reasons.

For example, I consider the lack of a true and proper sense of actuality in religion a disadvantage.

Incidentally, a host of substitutes now exists for the loss of opportunity for prayer caused by the collapse of religion.

Nietzsche, for example, has written a more than veritable book of prayer,r61 not to mention Faust.”

“I suppose that’s correct in a certain sense.

But especially Nietzsche’s truth strikes me as too agitated and provocative; it’s good for those who are yet to be set free.

For that reason his truth is good only for them.

I believe that I’ve recently discovered that we also need a truth for those who are forced into a corner.

It’s possible that instead they need a depressive truth, which makes man smaller and more inward.”

“Forgive me, but Nietzsche interiorizes man exceptionally well.”

“Perhaps from your standpoint you’re right, but I can’t help feeling that Nietzsche speaks to those who need more freedom, not to those who clash strongly with life, who bleed from wounds, and who hold fast to actualities.”

“But Nietzsche confers a precious feeling of superiority upon such people.”

“I can’t dispute that, but I know men who need inferiority; not superiority.”

“You express yourself very paradoxically. I don’t understand you. Inferiority can hardly be a desideratum.”

“Perhaps you’ll understand me better if instead of inferiority I say resignation, a word that one used to hear a lot of but seldom anymore.”

“It also sounds very Christian.”

”As I said, there seem to be all sorts of things in Christianity that maybe one would do well to keep.

Nietzsche is too oppositional.

Like everything healthy and long-lasting, truth unfortunately adheres more to the middle way, which we unjustly abhor.”

“I really had no idea that you talce such a mediating position.”

“Neither did I -my position is not entirely clear to me. If I mediate, I certainly mediate in a very peculiar manner.”

At this moment the servant brought the book, and I took my leave from the librarian.

[2] The divine wants to live with me. My resistance is in vain.

I asked my thinking, and it said: “Take as your model one that shows you how to live the divine.”

Our natural model is Christ. We have stood under his law since antiquity; first outwardly, and then inwardly.

At first we knew this, and then knew it no longer.

We fought against Christ, we deposed him, and we seemed to be conquerors.

But he remained in us and mastered us.

It is better to be thrown into visible chains than into invisible ones.

You can certainly leave Christianity but it does not leave you.

Your liberation from it is delusion. Christ is the way.

You can certainly run away, but then you are no longer on the way.

The way of Christ ends on the cross.

Hence we are crucified with him in ourselves. With him, we wait until we die for our resurrection.

With Christ the living experience no resurrection, unless it occurs after death.

If I imitate Christ, he is always ahead of me and I can never reach the goal, unless I reach it in him. / But thus I move beyond myself and beyond time, in and through which I am as I am.

I thus blunder into Christ and his time, which created him thus and not otherwise.

And so I am outside my time, despite the fact that my life is in this time and I am split between the life of Christ and my life that still belongs to this present time.

But if I am truly to understand Christ, I must realize how Christ actually lived only his own life, and imitated no one.

He did not emulate any model.

If I thus truly imitate Christ, I do not imitate anyone, I emulate no one, but go my own way, and I will also no longer call myself a Christian.

Initially, I wanted to emulate and imitate Christ by living my life, while observing his precepts.

A voice in me protested against this and wanted to remind me that my time also had its prophets who struggle against the yoke with which the past burdens us.

I did not succeed in uniting Christ with the prophets of this time.

The one demands bearing, the other discarding; the one commands submission, the other the will.

How should I think of this contradiction without doing injustice to either?

What I could not conjoin in my mind probably lends itself to living one after the other.

And so I decided to cross over into lower and everyday life, my life, and to begin down there, where I stood.

When thinking leads to the unthinkable, it is time to return to simple life.

What thinking cannot solve, life solves, and what action never decides is reserved for thinking.

If I ascend to the highest and most difficult on the one hand, and seek to eke out redemption that reaches even higher, then the true way does not lead upward, but toward the depths, since only my other leads me beyond myself

But acceptance of the other means a descent into the opposite, from seriousness into the laughable, from suffering into the cheerful, from the beautiful into the ugly, from the pure into the impure. ~Carl Jung, Red Book, Pages 292-293.