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Red Book

Wondrous things came nearer.

I called my soul and asked her to dive down into the floods, whose distant roaring I could hear.

This happened on 22 January of the year 1914, as recorded in my black book. And thus she plunged into the darkness like a shot, and from the depths she called out: “Will you accept what I bring?”

I: ”’I will accept what you give.

I do not have the right to judge or to reject.”


S: “So listen. There is old armor and the rusty gear of our fathers down here, murderous leather trappings hanging from them, worm-eaten lance shafts, twisted spear heads, broken arrows, rotten shields, skulls, the bones of man and horse, old cannons, catapults, crumbling firebrands, smashed assault gear, stone spearheads, stone clubs, sharp bones, chipped arrowhead teeth –everything the battles of yore have littered the earth with.

Will you accept

all this?”


1: “I accept it. You know better, my soul.”


S: “I find painted stones, carved bones with magical signs, talismanic sayings on hanks of leather and small plates of lead, dirty pouches filled with teeth, human hair and fingernails, timbers lashed together, black orbs, moldy animal skins-all the superstitions hatched by dark prehistory. Will you accept all this?”


“I accept it all, how should I dismiss anything?”


S: “But I find worse: fratricide, cowardly mortal blows, torture, child sacrifice, the annihilation of whole peoples, arson, betrayal, war, rebellion-will you also accept this?”


I: ”Also this, if it must be. How can I judge?”

S: “I find epidemics, natural catastrophes, sunken ships, razed cities, frightful feral savagery; famines, human meanness, and fear, whole mountains of fear.”
I: “So shall it be, since you give it.”
S: “I find the treasures of all past cultures, magnificent images of Gods, spacious temples, paintings, papyrus rolls, sheets of parchment with the characters of bygone languages, books full of lost wisdom, hymns and chants of ancient priests, stories told down the ages through thousands of generations.”
I: “That is an entire world -whose extent I cannot grasp. How can I accept it?”
S: “But you wanted to accept everything? You do not know your limits. Can you not limit yourself?”
l: “I must limit myself Who could ever grasp such wealth?”
S: “Be content and cultivate your garden with modesty.”
l: “I will. I see that it is not worth conquering a larger piece of the immeasurable, but a smaller one instead. A well-tended small garden is better than an ill-tended large garden. Both gardens are equally small when faced with the immeasurable, but unequally cared for.”
S: “Take shears and prune your trees.”
From the flooding darkness the son of the earth had brought, my soul gave me ancient things that pointed to the future. She gave me three things: The misery of war, the darkness of magic, and the gift of religion.
If you are clever, you will understand that these three things belong together. These three mean the unleashing of chaos and its power, just as they also mean the binding of chaos. War is obvious and everybody sees it. Magic is dark and no one sees it. Religion is still to come, but it will become evident. Did you think that the horrors of such atrocious warfare would come over us? Did you think that magic existed? Did you think about
a new religion? I sat up for long nights and looked ahead at what was to come and I shuddered. Do you believe me? I am not too concerned. What should I believe? What should I disbelieve? I saw and I shuddered.
But my spirit could not grasp the monstrous, and could not conceive the extent of what was to come. The force of my longing languished, and powerless sank the harvesting hands. I felt the burden of the most terrible work of the times ahead. I saw where and how, but no word can grasp it, no will can conquer it. I could not do otherwise, I let it sink again into the depths. I cannot give it to you, and I can speak only of the way of what
is to come. Little good will come to you from outside. What will come to you lies within yourself But what lies there! I would like to avert my eyes, close my ears and deny all my senses; I would like to be someone among you, who knows nothing and who never saw anything. It is too much and too unexpected. But I saw it and my
memory will not leave me alone. Yet I curtail my longing, which would like to stretch out into the future, and I return to my small garden that presently blooms, and whose extent I can measure. It shall be well-tended.
The future should be left to those of the future. I return to the small and the real, for this is the great way, the way of what is to come. I return to my simple reality, to my undeniable and most minuscule being. And I take a knife and hold court over everything that has grown without measure and goal. Forests have grown around me, winding plants have climbed up me, and I am completely covered by endless proliferation. The depths are inexhaustible, they give everything. Everything is as good as nothing. Keep a little and you have something. To recognize and know your ambition and your greed, to gather your craving, to cultivate it, grasp it, make it serviceable, influence it, master it, order it, to give it interpretations and meanings, is extravagant. It is lunacy, like everything that transcends its boundaries. How can you hold that which you are not? Would you really like to force everything which you are not under the yoke of your wretched knowledge and understanding? Remember that you can know yourself and with that you know enough. But you cannot know others and everything else. Beware of knowing what lies beyond yourself or else your presumed knowledge will suffocate
the life of those who know themselves. A knower may know himself that is his limit.
With a painful slice I cut off what I pretended to know about what lies beyond me. I excise myself from the cunning interpretive loops that I gave to what lies beyond me. And my knife cuts even deeper and separates me from the meanings that I conferred upon myself I cut down to the marrow, until everything meaningful
falls from me, until I am no longer as I might seem to myself until I know only that I am without knowing what I am. I want to be poor and bare, and I want to stand naked before the inexorable. I want to be my body and its poverty. I want to be from the earth and live its law. I want to be my human animal and accept all its frights and desires. I want to go through the wailing and the blessedness of the one who stood alone with a poor
unarmed body on the sunlit earth, a prey of his drives and of the lurking wild animals, who was terrified by ghosts and dreaming of distant Gods, who belonged to what was near and was enemy to the far-off, who struck fire from stones, and whose herds were stolen by unknowable powers that also destroyed the crops of his
fields, and who neither knew nor recognized, but who lived by what lay at hand, and received by grace what lay far-off He was a child and unsure, yet full of certainty; weak and yet blessed with enormous strength. When his God did not help, he took another. And when this one did not help either, he castigated him. And behold: the Gods helped one more time. Thus I discard everything that was laden with meaning, everything divine and devilish with which chaos burdened me. Truly, it is not up to me to prove the Gods and the devils and the chaotic monsters, to feed them carefully, to warily drag them with me, to count and name them, and to protect them with belief against disbelief and doubt.
A free man knows only free Gods and devils that are self-contained and take effect on account of their own force. If they fail to have an effect, that is their own business, and I can remove this burden from myself but if they are effective, they need neither my protection nor my care, nor my belief thus you may wait quietly to see whether they work. But if they do, be clever, for the tiger is stronger than you. You should be able to cast everything from you, otherwise you are a slave, even if you are the slave of a God. Life is free and chooses its way. It is limited
enough, so do not pile up more limitation. Hence I cut away everything confining. I stood here, and there lay the riddle-some multifariousness of the world.
And a horror crept over me. Am I not the tightly bound? Is the world there not the unlimited? And I became aware of my weakness. What would poverty; nakedness and unpreparedness be without consciousness of weakness and without horror at powerlessness? Thus I stood and was terrified. And then my soul whispered to me: ~Carl Jung, Red Book, Pages 305-307.