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The Red Book

The picture shows a rose, the Western equivalent of the lotus. In India the lotus-flower (padma) is interpreted by the Tantrists as the womb.

We know this symbol from the numerous pictures of the Buddha (and other Indian deities) in the lotus-flower.

It corresponds to the “Golden Flower” of Chinese alchemy, the rose of the Rosicrucians, and the mystic rose in Dante’s Paradiso.

Rose and lotus are usually arranged in groups of four petals, indicating the squaring of the circle or the united opposites. ~Carl Jung, CW 9.1, Para 652

Hence the devil remained outside the Trinity as the “ape of God” and in opposition to it. Medieval representations of the triune God as having three heads are based on the three-headedness of Satan, as we find it, for instance, in Dante. Carl Jung, CW 11, Para 252.

In Dante, Satan is three-headed and therefore three-in-one.

He is the counterpart of God in the sense that he is God’s antithesis.

The alchemists did not hold this view of Mercurius; on the contrary, they saw him as a divine emanation harmonious with God’s own being.

The stress they laid on his capacity for self-generation, self-transformation, self-reproduction, and self-destruction contradicts the idea that he is a created being.

It is therefore only logical when Paracelsus and Dorn state that the prima materia is an “increatum” and a principle coeternal with God.

This denial of creatio ex nihilo is supported by the fact that in the beginning God found the Tehom already in existence, that same maternal world of Tiamat whose son we encounter in Mercurius ~Carl Jung, CW 13 ¶ 283

Dante decks out his experience in all the imagery of heaven, purgatory, and hell; Goethe brings in the Blocksberg and the Greek underworld; Wagner needs the whole corpus of  Nordic myth, including the Parsifal saga; Nietzsche resorts to the hieratic style of the bard and legendary seer; Blake presses into his service the phantasmagoric world of India, the Old Testament, and the Apocalypse; and Spitteler borrows old names for the new figures that pour in alarming profusion from his muse’s cornucopia.

Nothing is missing in the whole gamut that ranges from the ineffably sublime to the perversely grotesque. ~Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 151

Now some Christian mystics have a different experience.

For instance we have a Swiss mystic, Niklaus von der Flüe. He experienced a God and a Goddess.

Then there was a mystic of the thirteenth century, Guillaume de Digulleville, who wrote the Pèlerinage de l’âme de Jésus Christ.

Like Dante, he had a vision of the highest paradise as “le ciel d’or,” and there upon a throne one thousand times more bright than the sun sat le Roi, who is God himself, and beside him on a crystal throne of brownish hue, la Reine, presumably the Earth.

This is a vision outside the Trinity idea, a mystical experience of an archetypal nature which includes the feminine principle.

The Trinity is a dogmatic image based on an archetype of an exclusively masculine nature.

In the Early Church the Gnostic interpretation of the Holy Ghost as feminine was declared a heresy. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 221

Dante saw the mystical rose as the last vision in the Paradiso, where it embraced the whole Heavens. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 3rd March 1939

He [Dante] began to write his “Divine Comedy” in his thirty fifth year. The thirty-fifth year is a turning point in life – it is an interesting fact that Christ died in his thirty-fourth year. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture VII, Page 222.

Like Nietzsche in Zarathustra, Jung divided the material into a series of books comprised of short chapters.

But whereas Zarathustra proclaimed the death of God, Liber Novus depicts the rebirth of God in the soul.

There are also indications that he read Dante’s Commedia at this time, which also informs the structure of the work.  ~Sonu Shamdasani, The Red Book, Introduction, Page 202

Liber Novus depicts Jung’s descent into Hell.

But whereas Dante could utilize an established cosmology, Liber Novus is an attempt to shape an individual cosmology.

The role of Philemon in Jung’s work has analogies to that of Zarathustra in Nietzsche’s work and Virgil in Dante’s. ~Sonu Shamdasani, The Red Book, Introduction, Page 202

The mantic and conceptual registers can themselves be considered as translations of the descriptive register. That is, these registers move from a literal level to symbolic ones that amplify it, in a modern analogue to Dante’s “modi diversi” in his letter to Can Grande della Scala. In a very real sense, Liber Novus was composed through intertextual translation. ~Translator’s Notes; The Red Book,  Page 222.

Thus our own practice of not smoothing out Jung’s several modes, or making them run more fluently than need be, or even regularizing his punctuation.

Think of Dante’s “shaggy” diction, or of still another maxim from Luther in Rosenzweig’s notes: “The mud will cling to the wheel.” ~Translator’s Notes; The Red Book,  Page 223

In his lecture at the ETH on Jung 14, 1935, Jung noted:

“A point exists at about the thirty-fifth year when things begin to change, it is the first moment of the shadow side of life, of the going down to death. It is clear that Dante found this point and those who have read Zarathustra will know that Nietzsche also discovered it. When this turning point comes people meet it in several ways: some turn away from it; others plunge into it; and something important happens to yet others from the outside. If we do not see a thing Fate does it to us” ~Carl Jung, The Red Book, Page 232, fn 32.

In the 1925 seminar, Jung interpreted this episode as follows:

“the fight of the two snakes: the white means a movement into the day; the black into the kingdom of darkness, with moral aspects too. There was a real conflict in me, a resistance to going down. My stronger tendency was to go up. Because I had been so impressed the day before with the cruelty of the place I had seen, I really had a tendency to find a way to the conscious by going up, as I did on the mountain … Elijah said that it was just the same below or above. Compare Dante’s Inferno.

The Gnostics express this same idea in the symbol of the reversed cones. Thus the mountain and the crater are similar. There was nothing of conscious structure in these fantasies, they were just events that happened. So I assume that Dante got his ideas from the same archetypes” (Analytical Psychology, pp. 96-97). McGuire suggests that Jung is referring to Dante’s conception “of the conical form of the cavity of Hell, with its circles, mirroring in reverse the form of Heaven, with its spheres” (Ibid.). In Alon, Jung also noted that serpents were a typical pair of opposites, and that the conflict between serpents was a motif found in medieval alchemy (1951, CW 9, 2, §181). ~The Red Book, Page 252, fn 210

In Black Book 2, Jung copied the following citations from Dante’s Commedia in German translation (p. 104):

“And I to him: ‘I am one who, when love / Breathes on me, notices, and in the manner / That he dictates within, I utter words'” (Purgatorio 24, 52- 54); ”And then, in the same manner as a flame / Which follows the fire whatever shape it takes, / The new form follows the spirit exactly” (Purgatorio 25, 97- 99). Tr. C. H. Sisson (Manchester: Carcanet, 1980), pp. 259, 265. ~The Red Book, Page 253, fn 213.

Dante’s Inferno begins with the poet getting lost in a dark wood. There is a slip of paper in Jung’s copy by this page. ~The Red Book, Page 262, fn 21.

In Dante’s Commedia, the following lines are inscribed over the gates of Hell:

“Abandon every hope, you who enter” (canto 3, line 9). See The Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri, vol. I., ed. and tr. Robert Durling (New York: Oxford University Press), p. 55.  ~The Red Book, Page 299, fn 196.