Enter the World of Soul and You are Like a Madman: Learnings from Carl Jung's Red Book
“If you enter into the world of soul, you are like a madman” – Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 238.
In his recently released Red Book, a body of work Carl Jung immersed himself in for nearly 17 years, Jung reveals the deep introspective nature of what he ultimately considered an archetypal “descent.” He documented this journey to the Underworld in tremendous detail and accompanied many of the entries and topics with beautifully detailed drawings. If you haven’t had a chance to view the Red Book, I highly recommend you find a way. It truly has the feel of a sacred
book, not unlike many of the ancient alchemical tomes and other holy books that
have endured for centuries. Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending a teleseminar on the Red Book facilitated by Dr. Michael Conforti of the Assisi Institute. Dr. Conforti, a Jungian analyst who offers ongoing sessions on the Red Book, has a wealth and depth of knowledge about Jung, archetypes, dreams, and the Red Book especially.
During the session, the group focused on Jung’s metaphor of the desert and how the soul seeks to survive the journey, often encountering divine madness. The madman, as Dr. Conforti pointed out, can often say whatever he wants and no one pays attention, but what is madness? What we label madness in our culture is often based on visions and ideas that arise from a certain kind of truth. Madness introduces chaos, but it also removes the barriers that traditionally limit us, allowing something new to emerge. When the floodgates of the psyche let loose and one is taken over by something bigger than the ego self, by the unconscious, or what Jung called in the Red Book “the spirit of the deep,” the levies do not hold.
Sometimes madness is just what we need; it is the moment when we access the energy that allows us superhuman strength, or the capacity to ride a wave and write passionately all through the night. It is the power that drives our dreams, fuels lovemaking, and powers deep meaningful ritual. When we are in the grips of the complex of the madman, the otherworld has broken through and transported us “somewhere else”. And thoughbJung would never condone not taking responsibility for one’s actions during such a state, he makes it clear how important to embrace madness when it comes, for it is “divine” and it comes of its own accord.
In the end, recognizing and embracing divine madness is part of life. We must be open to engage what is frightening, what is dark, what makes us anxious in order to be balanced and whole. When the rational world no longer makes sense, when images and thoughts are coming from somewhere “else” (from soul), it is then that patterns begin to appear and synchronicity happens. It is then that truth emerges and the way is opened for individuation and growth of the self to occur.
Big thanks on my part to Dr. Michael Conforti, a gifted teacher whose compassion and depth of feeling is conveyed in stories and everyday situations he uses to illustrate material that might be otherwise hard to grasp. Dr. Conforti has offered an amazing weeklong conference in Italy every summer for that past 20+ years. I attended last year and can’t say enough about how how much value I took away from the event—not to mention the wonderful setting! The theme in 2011 is “Transcendent Wonder”. See the Events section on Depth Psychology Alliance to attend a virtual open house and to get information, or email Assisi@together.net. Dr. Conforti also teaches courses on Dreams and on Archetypal Pattern Recognition based on his book, Field, Form and Fate.
Tags: archetype, assisi, conforti, descent,individuation, jung, madman, red book
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"The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same.”
--(Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 215)