Big picture - Jung's childhood daydreams

Image taken from Carl Jung’s Liber Novus (‘The Red Book’), and explained by psychological historian Sonu Shamdasani. Download the PDF for the poster
At the age of 37, Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung felt that he’d lost meaning in his life. According to psychology historian Sonu Shamdasani (University College London), he had reached ‘an existential crisis in which he simply neglected the areas of ultimate spiritual concern that were his main motivations in his youth’.
Over the coming years, Jung engaged in a process of self-experimentation which he himself termed a ‘confrontation with the unconscious’. It took the form of provoking an extended series of waking fantasies in himself, and then attempting to understand them psychologically. He called this the method of ‘active imagination’, and developed it as psychotherapeutic method. Drawing from these materials, he composed a work of psychology in a red leather journal which he illustrated with his own paintings, continuing to work on it up to 1930.
Professor Shamdasani got hold of a copy in 1996, and after years seeking to understand it and convince the Jung family to allow its publication, he translated Jung's words into English and added an introduction and extensive footnotes. First published in 2009 by W.W. Norton, it was one of the most influential unpublished works in the history of psychology.
This image represents one of Jung’s fantasies in his childhood
in which he saw Alsace being submerged by water and Basle turned into a port. ‘I approach these as a historian,’ Shamdasani says, ‘so I refrain from speculation or interpretation of the images. It's clear that Jung thought about each element of these images, and sometimes said it would take him many years to figure out what they actually meant.’
‘To the superficial observer, it will appear like madness,’ Jung wrote. Yet Shamdasani says ‘there wasn't anything like a psychosis’. Indeed, the images and ideas in ‘The Red Book’ were perhaps the foundation of Jung’s theories on archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the process of individuation – the journey one must undertake in order to become an individual.

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