A self-experiment

The overall theme of the book is how Jung regains his soul and overcomes the contemporary malaise of spiritual alienation. (Jung, 2012, Location 892-893).

In 1913, Carl Jung began, what he called, a self-experiment that lasted for 17 years (Jung, 2012). The commitment to his experiment, it terms of the time alone, is an extraordinary accomplishment. The Red Book is the visible result of Jung’s self-experiment, and although The Red Book was not published in his lifetime because it was unfinished, there is evidence that he did intend it to be shared or, “he simply left the issue unresolved.” (Jung 2012, Location 169).

Map from Jung’s Red Book

Unlike the rational and logical nature of books associated with psychologists like Jung, this book is unique. The Red Book contains vivid images, from Jung’s imagination, and is the source material for what later became a method he called active imagination. Hillman (1998) says, “radical activation of imagination was Jung’s method of Know Thyself” (p. 56). In one sense, the self-experiment that Jung started in 1913 was deeply connected to his whole life and extended into the infinite afterlife. Because part of being is infinite and because The Red Book was also alive with fantasy images is perhaps why it was uncompleted in Jung’s view.


It is a unique experience to study both the completed books from Jung and also to see his private live journal. As a visual artist, it is fascinating to see the images from Jung’s mind as he engaged with the inner fantasies. I experience, as did Jung, that in creating images from imagination it is possible to encounter the archetypes. As Hillman (1998) said, ‘After Jung, I cannot pretend to know myself unless I know the archetypes’ (p, 63)