The “Red Book”. A feverishly-written, obtuse and deeply personal set of journal entries documenting one man’s descent into the bowels of his subconscious. For nearly a century, this remarkable story has remained a closely-guarded secret, despite it having given birth to one of the most significant psychotherapy methods in history.
That man, in case you were wondering, was Carl Gustav Jung; the Red Book is a documentation of the psychiatrist’s “creative madness” in 1913– during which he experienced vivid hallucinations and underwent a radical transformation as he grappled with his own inner world, emerging finally with the seeds of radical new theories of mythology, collective consciousness, dream interpretation and the imagination.
This text– along with Jung’s bizarrely vivid and intricate drawings– will be made available to the public this October, in what is sure to be a strange and unusual journey for readers.
“The text is dense, often poetic, always strange,” writes a wonderful New York Times article on the story. But there is no doubt– “Once it’s published, there will be a ‘before’ and ‘after’ of Jungian scholarship.”
Once again I am impressed by the courage this must have taken to complete– much less publish nearly 100 years later. Can’t wait!
Whew! What a crazy few weeks it’s been!
After wrapping up work on my senior thesis and staggering through a whirlwind graduation, I packed up my things and bid farewell to a college (and home) I loved dearly for four jam-packed years. There wasn’t much time to be sentimental, though– within mere hours I was on a plane, flying to California to join the work-scholar program at Big Sur’s Esalen Institute. There, surrounded by one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, I spent a blissful month thinking, writing, taking pictures and slicing onions. I loved every second of it, and learned so much about myself in the process that i’m still trying to unpack the entirety of the experience.
But all such experiences must come to an end eventually, and I’m thrilled to move ahead with my life after graduation. Aside from the obvious (finding a place to live, getting a job or several) I have some big new plans for Evolation and my future work. I also have some fantastic things to show you!
Unfortunately, my computer (a beloved Powerbook G4) bit the dust this evening with a loud and dramatic death rattle. While I get that sorted out and step up to a modern machine, I’ll be a bit more delayed than I’d like in posting here.
In the coming weeks I’m thrilled to begin posting excerpts from The Anatomy of Awareness, my “magnum opus” project that attempts to understand–and advance dramatic new thinking about– the nature of consciousness. As a dual memoir– part novel, part scientific paper– the work is engaging and poetic while remaining incredibly complete and thorough. Drawing on a wide range of ideas and concepts culled from years of my own research, the book (and it is a book, at nearly 200 pages) confronts the “hard problem” of consciousness head-on, emerging with radical new ideas on the nature of the mind. It is my tremendous pleasure to begin sharing this work with you! One section, read at an open mic at Esalen, was greeted with incredible enthusiasm– and I can’t thank all of you enough for that praise and positive energy. It felt so good to be validated on a public level with a work that is so intensely personal and meaningful to me. Thank you all!
I also have a huge backlog of amazing photos left to put online– they too will need to wait until I can work again with my images. I promise, it’ll be worth it.
In the meantime, I’ll be hard at work manifesting an incredible living situation for myself here in New York: if you know anyone in photography, design, tech or editorial in need of assistance, let them know that there’s a dedicated and quick-learning college grad in need of a job!
Till next time..
Steve Pavlina has an excellent post I somehow missed from way back in 2006, called Life – The Ultimate Game. I’ve often felt that life feels both less severe and more exciting when viewed as a challenging adventure–as a game–since it creates a much deeper motivation to “play” rather than just letting things run their course. Rather than believing that we’re somehow entitled to being here, and that the world exists outside of our control, it helps to adopt the mindset that “if we’re here, we’re playing”– and if we don’t play well, it’s our own damn fault. This “game” of life is so much more complex and fascinating than most anything else we could be doing with our time. That was the main reason I never got very involved with World of WarCraft– ‘why is my character in better shape than I am, and why does he have more skills than I do?’ (Hours of play until this realization: 14)
Violins are spiraling darkly from a corner of the room. It is late July and the smell of summertime is so thick in our senses that the cold seems a forgotten relative, or maybe the “sponsored child” in some third-world country; one whose face you’ve seen and whose letters you’ve received but whose life recedes to the edge of your awareness until it’s time to send a new check. Months go by, more checks are sent, and the winter crawls past on shaggy bear-limbs until we decide we can’t keep ignoring it.
Here, though, heat settles like a sponge on my neck: I am in a sidewalk cafe in the East Village or maybe Prague, reminded of place by scent of cedar coffee, the sharp bite of orange peels. A notebook is suddenly no home for this feeling boiling inside of me, this unending need to bring some creation, some newness, to the world. All of us are living the embodiment of our thoughts, piled up like a dusty catalogue of desires and hope; even as you read this, we are going through the motions of an existence, sometimes oblivious to the reality we’re creating.
I have fallen in love, once again, with the open road.
Humanity and nature entwine so deeply in the making of a road: each side, initially struck by the shock of Change, gradually comes to understand and preserve their new boundaries, learning to live together, becoming conscious and not merely outraged at Other. The road becomes, like the trees or the mountains around it, another mark of time, another indicator of an era, another geologic record to be someday excavated by an unknowable future. It becomes the Zen mind, seeking nothing, attached to nothing, yet profoundly aware of each moment brought before it. Cars of a hundred styles and colors flash across its surface; seasons advance, conquer, retreat along its twists and turns. And yet it remains utterly present, indifferent but not uncaring to the world that rises and falls around it.
So, too, do the massive trees I find dancing lazily in the heat. All of them have stood rooted to a single piece of earth for longer than I have lived; most have witnessed more, perhaps, than this road, stretching like hanging hands across a world that has no doubt completely transformed before them…
It is striking for me to imagine that one of these trees is likely my age exactly: that for twenty years, as I have seen and talked and written and walked, this tree (wherever it may be) has remained perfectly in place, its entire journey upwards, its life utterly devoted to a single, unreachable sliver of the sky. The same sun has shone on each of us for those same twenty years; the same energy ultimately pulsates within us. I find myself wondering if perhaps I could have become a tree instead, had I merely learned to drink sunlight; had I merely stayed still long enough. In that kind of life there would be no time, no place, for judgment or reflection--in that life one is a witness, ascending towards the infinite, an inch at a time.
One of the most common barriers to really “waking up” seems to be the propensity to avoid, isolate, and hold back when confronted with things that upset us. We seem pretty capable of holding onto cherished memories, but when it comes to something really ugly, we can’t run away fast enough. Why is that?
As I write this, I am (quite surprisingly) upset. I am stressed and confused in a way I don’t often feel anymore, having spent a lot of time learning ways of transmuting and altering emotional charges. As a result, I’m known for my emotional “even keel” and readiness to accept most anything that happens. But the fact remains: right now, I am upset. And it isn’t going away as easily as it should. This makes it a perfect time to taste my own medicine and try and impart some knowledge to others who might be reading this while angry, despairing, depressed or just plain scared.
The most satiating advice I can offer you, in this moment, and the advice I’m taking right now as well, is best expressed in two words.