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Psychologist Carl Jung documents his inner turmoil in secret journal, The Red Book

Bound in scarlet leather, full of dreams and visions: this was the private journal published in 2009 as C.G. Jung’s The Red Book. The influential psychologist analyzed a period of his own inner turmoil, and it forever changed his thinking about the unconscious mind. This 2012 documentary follows his secret journey, in two parts.

'It is a kind of inner diary. And he was desperate,' says C.G. Jung expert

The influential psychologist Carl Gustav Jung analyzed a period of his own inner turmoil in his private journal, and it forever changed his thinking about the unconscious mind. His journal was published in 2009 as The Red Book. (Central Press/Getty Images )

Along with his mentor, Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was one of the great psychological thinkers of the 20th century.  But until this millennium, few knew that Jung's own mind had once been in crisis.

"He had simply lost his way in the middle of his life," said Sonu Shamdasani, a Jung scholar, as well as an editor and co-translator of The Red Book, published in 2009.

Bound in red-leather, the original version of the journal was hand-written and vividly illustrated by Jung, in the style of the Middle Ages. 

One of the many detailed illustrations by Carl Jung from The Red Book: Liber Novus. (W.W. Norton/Philemon Foundation)

It documents and analyzes what the Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist called his "confrontation with the unconscious." Beset by vivid and alarming dreams and fantasies, Jung's crisis began at the age of 39, at the time of the First World War.

The Red Book was an effort to understand what had happened during this period. The stakes were high: Jung felt he had lost his soul, and was in danger of a psychotic break.

"It's so private and so intimate, what he's writing," said Hansueli Etter, of the Foundation for Jungian Psychology. Sonu Shamdasani agreed, "You see the quite moving depiction of his struggle to find meaning and order within chaos."

Years were spent grappling with the dreams and visions of his earlier life in his journal, until Jung had the concepts that fed into his theories of the unconscious mind.

Jung died in 1961 at the age of 85. But his red leather manuscript lay hidden away in a bank vault until his family was persuaded that these self-revelations would not undermine Jung's legacy.

In fact, The Red Book was once called "the most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology."
 

Guests in this episode:
 
Sonu Shamdasani is a professor at University College London. He is an author, as well as the editor and co-translator of the English language version of The Red Book.
 
Hansueli Etter is president of the Foundation for Jungian Psychology.
 
Angela Graf-Nold is a psychologist and historian of psychoanalysis.
 
Michael Robbins is a psychoanalyst.
 
Andrew Samuels is a writer and Jungian analyst. 
 
Judith Harris is a Jungian analyst. 
 
Paul Bishop is an author and professor at the University of Glasgow.
 
Murray Stein is a training and supervising analyst with the International School of Analytical Psycholog Zurich.
 
Andreas Jung
is a retired architect and the grandson of Carl Jung.
 


* This two-part series was produced by Marilyn Powell and Sara Wolch in 2012.
 

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