Carl Jung's Black Books Contain a Message for all Humanity
In 2009, the publication of Jung’s Liber Novus (Red Book) was a highly anticipated cultural event of extreme importance. However, the subsequent release of Jung’s Black Books: Notebooks of Transformation came as something of an unexpected surprise. They’re notebooks written by the famous Swiss psychiatrist between 1913 and 1932.
You might be wondering what these books are all about. To understand their impact, you need to understand that they were previously unpublished works. As a matter of fact, originally, they were a set of handwritten diaries in which Jung reflected an exercise in self-exploration. This involved him confronting his unconscious.
The books are an analysis of his waking fantasies and visions. They’re diaries, but also a sensitive, exhaustive, and meticulous research work regarding Jung’s various mental states and their possible relationship with the cosmology he defined.
“Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.”
What do Jung’s Black Books contain?
In reality, the publication of Jung’s Black Books wouldn’t have made sense if his Red Book or Liber Novus had not also been published before. As a matter of fact, the latter is perhaps the most controversial work of the Swiss psychiatrist. So much so that, after his death, his family locked up this manuscript in a house in Küsnacht, in the suburbs of Zurich.
Indeed, they didn’t want anyone to read what was in this strange, complex, and intimate book. However, it’s been said that the Red Book was little more than a fabulous alchemical exercise of a privileged mind that sought to travel to the underworld to save its soul.
The end of World War I and Jung’s disagreements with Sigmund Freud left him in a state of deep disappointment. This prompted him to attempt to navigate the spiritual, the prophetic, and even the mystical. It seems he longed to find answers and meaning in a world that had recently revealed its most violent and irrational side.
Thus, it’s interesting to know that, while writing his Liber Novus, he also spent part of his time with his black notebooks. In fact, the material of the first helped him to elaborate on the second.
While he meditated and let himself be carried away by psychoanalytical techniques in order to make contact with his dreams and describe them in The Red Book, he was also carrying out the most methodical and exhaustive analyses in the black books.
A special publication
The Philemon Foundation published Jung’s Black Books. They consist of an elegant seven-volume edition meticulously crafted and prepared by Sonu Shamadasani, who, at the time was commissioned to also edit Liber Novus.
It was 20 years before Jung’s Black Books came to light.
The first volume is an introduction that serves as a guide for the next six. In the latter, there are a series of writings accompanied by vivid drawings. It seems that Jung was trying to explore his unconscious through visionary imagination, writing, and painting.
There are also reflections on his own psychological development and the evolution of his theory of analytical psychology. In addition, in the pages of these books, the reader can learn about the triangular relationship between Jung, his wife, Emma, and Toni Wolff.
Antonia Anna Wolff was first his patient and later his Jungian lover and analyst. Furthermore, she was an indispensable pillar to him in his daily work. Furthermore, this young woman published interesting essays on the female psyche, incorporating the archetypes of the Amazon, the mother, the courtesan, and the medium.
Jung’s Black Books, a journey inside
Jung’s Black Books reveal visionary encounters the Swiss psychiatrist had with mythological entities. Among them were Phanes the star god, Ha the sorcerer (a decisive figure for him), and Philemon, the wise wizard who became his inner guru.
These vivid imaginative and dreamlike experiences intensified during the First World War.
Carl Jung tried to find a meaning to everything he was experiencing. To do this, he would deliberately evoke a particular fantasy in a waking state and then enter it. It was like like someone entering into an abstract painting and trying to understand its surreal symbolism.
“The great work begins. What great work? The work that must be done now. It is a great and difficult work. (…) You have been too unconscious for a long stretch. Now you must go to a higher level of consciousness. I’m ready. What is it? Tell me! You have to listen: not being a Christian anymore is simple. But what about after? Well, more things have to come. Everything is waiting for you. And you? You remain silent and have nothing to say. But you ought to speak up. Why have you received the revelation? You mustn’t hide it. (…) But what is my calling? The new religion and its proclamation.”
– Carl Jung, The Black Books-
They reveal a message for humanity
We might wonder what message Carl Jung left us in these books.
There’s one undeniable fact we understand about Jung, the father of analytical psychology, and his theory of the unconscious. It’s the fact that, it’s not only our memory or its collective legacy that lives in our unconscious and unites us all, as humans. In fact, our unconscious contains creative and transforming seeds.
What does this mean? It means that in his inner transformative journey, Jung wanted to find answers to evolve, to find enlightenment, and, therefore, freedom. Indeed, in his turbulent surroundings, he longed for wisdom, meaning and transcendence.
The publication of these books at this particular moment in time is highly relevant. Jung’s message is simple and clear. We have to reach a higher level of consciousness. As humans, we have to build a better world.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Jung, Carl (2020) The Black Books: Facsimile Edition. WW Norton & Co; Slipcased Edition. Slipcased
- Jung, Carl Gustav (2010, 2019). «Liber Novus: el Libro rojo de C. G. Jung: Sonu Shamdasani». El Libro rojo
- Jung, Carl Gustav (1961). Aniela Jaffe, ed. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. pp. 170–198.
- Lance S. Owens, “The Hermeneutics of Vision: C. G. Jung and Liber Novus“, The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality Issue 3, July 2010. ISBN 978-1906834043 Online edition, pg. 2