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Life Arts

Jung's Successful Vision Quest (REVIEW ESSAY)

By       Message Thomas Farrell       (Page 1 of 11 pages)     Permalink

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 14, 2014: In the Homeric epic the ODYSSEY, Odysseus visits the underworld. In Virgil's AENEID, Aeneas visits the underworld. In Dante's DIVINE COMMEDY, the character named Dante visits the underworld with Virgil as his guide through the Inferno and Purgatory.

Figuratively speaking, C. G. Jung, M.D. (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychological theorist, could be described as visiting the underworld of his psyche periodically over a number of years. In his self-experimentation, he visited the underworld of his psyche through self-induced hallucinations -- visual and auditory hallucinations.

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Self-inducing hallucinations is a potentially dangerous practice, and I do not recommend it. Instead of doing it for ourselves, we can read Jung's elaborate report of his experiences.

In 2009, Norton published Jung's RED BOOK: LIBER NOVUS, expertly edited by the historian Sonu Shamdasani, translated by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Sonu Shamdasani. It is a handsome over-sized book that includes many informative footnotes by Shamdasani. Jung's RED BOOK contains many of his works of art based on his visual hallucinations and the "fair" copies of the texts he produced in calligraphy based on his auditory hallucinations. In addition, some other material Jung recorded in connection with his encounter with the unconscious is included in three appendices.

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In addition to the over-sized book, Norton also published the regular-sized book THE RED BOOK: LIBER NOVUS; A READER'S EDITION (2012). Both books contain the same textual material, but arranged differently. However, Jung's paintings are not reproduced in the READER'S EDITION.

In 2013, Norton published LAMENT OF THE DEAD: PSYCHOLOGY AFTER JUNG'S RED BOOK, which consists of the transcribed and edited transcripts of 15 conversations between James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani, and endnotes prepared by Shamdasani and an index. (Hillman died in the fall of 2011. But he had reviewed the transcripts before his death.)

The main title of Hillman and Shamdasani's book is wording from part of the RED BOOK (page 297; READER'S EDITION, page 344).

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The subtitle of their book, "Psychology after Jung's RED BOOK," announces the theme of their conversations. But here's how Hillman paraphrases the theme of their conversations: "What is the RED BOOK telling us about the psyche? What came to Jung is this book?" (page 38).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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