Jung’s Illuminated Manuscript

Perhaps you’ve heard, but a fascinating psychological (and equally artistic) discovery has been made:  Liber Novus (or The Red Book, as it’s affectionately referred to by Jungian devotees) a magnificently illustrated, illuminated manuscript by Carl G. Jung has been released by the famous psychologist’s family years after it being kept under lock and key, literally.  Now I’m no bibliophile.  I ashamedly and regrettably sold a good percentage of my texts in college for money, as opposed to taking my professors’ advice in using them as a foundation for the beginnings of a personal library.  I’m far from being a psychology buff, either, aside from occcasional road rage and a slightly obsessive disposition.  What does fascinate me about this discovery, however, is purely the artfulness of the manuscript.  This Times article brings many of the illustrations, what Rothstein hails as “images…that now appear as uncanny anticipations of New Age folk art of the late 20th century” and pages of Jung’s text to the reader/viewer.   Rothstein also notes, “[t]he book really is a remarkable object, and not just because it so eccentrically insists on its own significance. It represents Jung’s thinking during a period when he was developing his notion of ‘archetype’ and a ‘collective unconscious,’ positing a substratum of the human mind that shapes language, image and myth across all cultures.”  There are larger implications this text clearly holds historically, cross-pollinating fields, concerning Jungian theory’s role and rejection in Abstract Expressionsim,  simply in the lost art of book-making, and most obvious of all, a seemingly personal diary of stream-of-conciousness from the king of stream-of-consciousness himself.  That’s all good and well, but with a loosely comprised knowledge of these, I prefer to enjoy the text solely for it’s aesthetic, and highly enigmatic value.  “The Red Book of C. G. Jung: Creation of a New Cosmology” is on view through Feb. 15 at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, Chelsea; (212) 620-5000, rmanyc.org.


-Joel Sager


3 Responses to “Jung’s Illuminated Manuscript”

  1. December 12, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Joel- This thrilling for me as a psychology buff, art therapist, counselor and an artist.
    Two favorite quotes:
    “A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”

    “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

    Thanks for sharing this… a lovely find indeed.

  2. 2 Dennis Murphy
    January 5, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    A good book on this is The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 by Maurice Tuchman (Editor).
    It weighs about 5 pounds so it’s heavy n a couple of ways. Ellis Library has a copy – I’m not sure if the public library carries it.

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