I do not believe the gods test us. To be fair, I don’t believe in gods. But if you’re going to subscribe to this idea, that life is testing you, then your life is basically one continuous, never ending test that you can’t be graded on.

There is only the decisions we make and that is the sum totality of our being. I wrote this in my journal after an abrupt shift in my personal life and shortly after, I came across the following quote by Carl Jung. He describes a vision he had when delirious and ill:


I had the feeling that everything was being sloughed away; everything I aimed at or wished for or thought, the whole phantasmagoria of earthly existence, fell away or was stripped from me… Nevertheless something remained; it was as if I now carried along with me everything I had ever experienced or done, everything that had happened around me… I consisted of my own history, and I felt with great certainty: this is what I am.” (MDR: 290-291)


It took a few weeks, but my hold on Jung’s Liber Novus aka The Red Book (TRB), finally wound its way through the public library system back to my branch.

I’ll begin with practicalities. TRB is a seriously weighty tome. I think it must weigh more than a newborn baby. It’s roughly the size of a large laptop, and three times as thick. Being someone who reads on the go with a preference for light, slip in my purse novels, this was quite a demanding read, logistically. The large size however, does afford very detailed and beautiful reproductions of Jung’s original illuminated texts. You can even sometimes see the original pencil work made before being filled in with ink. One understands why such a size was chosen; TRB is replete with gorgeous artwork and it is simply a pleasure to pore over Jung’s caligraphic hand and his intricate illustrations.

The text itself is fascinating, and offers an intimate window into Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious” after his falling out with Freud. One can see immediately, why he may have had reservations in sharing TRB given his scientific background and, on a more impersonal level, the drive for psychiatry – a fledgling practice at the time – to align itself with the legitimacy and biopower of medicine. Jung basically describes various journeys into psychological landscapes and records his observations of and conversations with beings he encounters along the way; one can imagine how this could weaken his credibility as a scientist.

In style, the writing is most like Jung’s Septem Sermones ad Mortuos which were published as an appendix to his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It has a reverential, pseudo religious, mythical tone throughout and one is vaguely reminded of Milton or Blake.

I would not recommend TRB for anyone seeking an understanding of Jung’s theories or for readers who do not have a basic understanding of them. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, his layman’s publication, Man and His Symbols, as well as secondary texts by Edinger or Louise von Franz, would be more suitable for introductory purposes. TRB is better for readers seeking to deepend their understanding of the development of Jung’s thought, or who are interested in the process of active imagination. You can see quite clearly how Jung is capable of extremely vivid imagery that is partly self directed, and partly not, and that these are not really hallucinogenic visions. For OTO readers, this might be one way to develop content for one’s magickal diary.

Personally, I have practised active imagination since my teens, before I ever learned of Jung’s work. I have found it to be incredibly fruitful and illuminating, but, as with reading tarot, this practice requires a high degree of discernment lest one project messages or ideas or images from the ego and attribute these to the Self or anything other than the grasping of the ego. Certainly, looking back, I would imagine that a strong vipassana practice would go a long way in abetting such tendencies.

p.s. You may have noticed the removal of this blog’s previous post, What is Community? I felt it was too long, unwieldly and not well thought out. Also, in light of the recent blow up in the Anusara Yoga community, I would prefer to refrain from any kind of commentary on yoga communities at this time.

Attended a lecture at The Living Institute by Priscilla Costello about astrology in Shakespeare’s plays. She is not the only one to present this line of inquiry, however she did offer some fascinating ways to read S’s plays using astrological theory and the notion of archetypes. And while I am always a little wary when people toss around the term “Jungian archtypes,” Costello did a great job, providing many rich visuals, with some particularly nice transparencies of works by Robert Fludd.



I know this blog is supposed to be an “archive”, but this is worth preserving: a previously unreleased “Red Book” containing Jung’s recordings of his “confrontation with the unconscious” is finally going to be released in October. In the meantime, do read the deliciously long New York Times article with sample photos of the Red Book to whet your appetite. Thanks to The Wildhunt for tipping us off.

[edit: Read a review of the Red Book exhibition at the Rubin Museum by Lillian Sizemore]

It’s been over a decade since I began recording my dreams, and while so much has changed, what remained the same is the powerful sense of having a conversation.

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Original Title: isthmus on Jung on dreams
Original Post Date: June 26, 2006 @ 3:33 am


Johanna Pieterman

“… the relation of the unconscious to the conscious mind is not merely mechanical or complementary, but rather compensatory, taking its cue from the anfractuosities of the conscious attitude, the intelligent character of this unconscious activity can hardly be denied.” [1]

It’s a commonly accepted idea that dreams provide unconscious information that is in some way obscured, repressed or simply absent from consciousness. But Jung is saying something more: that dreams offer not simply a passive compliment to what is lacking in the conscious mind, but intelligent responses to conscious lack. Which is to mean, the unconscious is not simply a blank mirror offering an inverse reflection of consciousness, but it is an entity capable of generating its own symbols.


In re-evaluating this post, I would add that learning to intuit what is genuine requires a high degree of self insight, the level of which is often very difficult to gauge for yourself. For years, the most common attribute people would use to describe me was “self-aware.” Yet I was full of contradictions and massive cognitive gaps. I had managed to rivet everyone (including myself) to my disavowing fantasies and manipulated Jung’s theories to strengthen these deceptions. There was only one (one!) individual in all my life who was not a trained professional, who was able to see through my ruse. He did so immediately in fact, a Scorpio ASC. More about him later; I once published a fun post on him (when it rains… aspects of a modern Casanova).

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Original Title: separate the subtle from the gross
Original Post Date: September 12, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian Yoga in all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their own souls.

– Carl Jung quoted by Robert Wang in his introduction the The Qabalistic Tarot

I would add that some modern people will do anything to escape their modernity, to escape the commodification of our labour, our time, our very bodies and to escape the meaninglessness of a culture built upon consumption and fetishes. You know, the psychoanalytic theorists of the 70s may now be pooh-poohed at, but they were hitting upon something very crucial about the modern condition. Modernity functions on the principle of fetishization. The principle of replacing what you really desire with something else because you fear what you really desire. But the fetish never truly satisfies and one must accrue more of the fetish, continually consuming, obscenely consuming, to disavow the Lack. It is wholly possible to cover up the emptiness w/processed spiritual bullshit.