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[Saturday Reads] When Literature, Art, Mysticism, and Psychology Collide – you have Carl Jung’s “The Red Book”


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


Ever since I learned about the existence of this much-sought-after book (akin to the Holy Grail, almost), I knew I had to find it. I initially borrowed a copy from the library, only to discover that it only contained the text edition – not the one with the glorious illustrations by psychologist Carl G. Jung. I could understand, though, why it is not available for circulation – the sheer heft and size of this book alone requires some serious muscle power (for a nerd such as myself) and intense commitment. I put it alongside a regular-sized picture book for you to have an idea of just how huge this book is.

As a clinical psychologist fascinated with creativity, art, and literature – this book, written by one of psychology’s greatest minds (at a time when he supposedly lost and found his soul), almost seems sacred to me. I confess that I have not really had the opportunity yet to read through the entire thing, but knowing that it exists and waiting for me to sift through it provides me with some sense of comfort.

Unlike other academic texts, this one reads more like an ‘illuminated’ journal that consists of Jung’s painstaking calligraphic writings and luminous art – he did have a multiplicity of talents. This Liber Novus consists of two main parts: (1) there is the book itself in its nearly-unexpurgated version (thanks to some high-tech process of preserving both the original image and text written in German with a smattering of Latin and Greek),

(2) the English translation with annotations painstakingly written by Sonu Shamdasani:

I sometimes open the book randomly and pick out nuggets of wisdom from the page – often deeply-rooted yet readily accessible to the reader. Perhaps in December, I would set aside an hour each day just to pore over Jung’s fearless baring of his soul – maybe I’d learn something about why the world is the way it is now.

Here is the youtube clip of how the original book (very well preserved and a closely guarded secret) was scanned and made into this monolith of a reading material that people can now enjoy.

2 comments on “[Saturday Reads] When Literature, Art, Mysticism, and Psychology Collide – you have Carl Jung’s “The Red Book”

  1. That is incredibly amazing. So amazing, it blew the lines off of my exclamation marks. 🙂


  2. WOW. That is…wow. Yeah, very cool.


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