The Red Book – Library of Congress Symposium

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about James Hillman and Sonu Shamdasani’s book, Lament of the Dead, Psychology after Jung’s Red Book, I want to share a video I found on youtube of a symposium featuring several speakers and a panel discussion from 2010 that included Hillman, Shamdasani and other Jungians. It is very insightful for anyone interested in Jung’s Red Book  and particularly the disagreement that later arose between Hillman and the later Jungians.

Sonu is the first speaker and he recalls in detail his work as editor of Jung’s Red Book and the challenges he faced while working on the manuscripts. Sonu is followed by Hillman who offers his thoughts and insights on both the Red Book and a few personal stories about Jung, whom he knew dating back to the 50’s until Jung’s death in 1961.

The symposium took place in spring of 2010, roughly a year and a half before Hillman died. He is feisty and brilliant as ever arguing that the experiences Jung recorded in the Red Book are the heart and soul of the man as Hillman understood him. He believes that Jung’s experience was so raw that he would devote much of his work in psychology to developing a conceptual language that would enable others to enter into their own experience. An experience of being directly in touch with personified powers that Jung engaged while practicing what he called Active Imagination. But Hillman believes that the concepts took precedence over the raw experience they pointed to.

Perhaps Hillman felt vindicated by Jung’s descriptions of these encounters described in the Red Book. I have read elsewhere that Hillman had some fierce disagreements with many of the later Jungians who latched onto Jung’s concepts, leaving behind the importance of the rawness of Jung’s experience in favor of adhering to Jung’s concepts for use in therapy – concepts that often left the movement of the psyche or soul out of the consulting room.

Hillman believed that a reliance on the concepts of ego, shadow, types, individuation, etc., take one away from the face to face encounter with the personified powers one meets in active imagination. An engagement that move these powers away from the notion of being only inside our heads. For that is what Hillman believed Jung did; meet these personifications in their world, the soul of the world, or as Plato called it, Anima Mundi.

Anyway, it is a very engaging conversation that starts off with Sonu, then Hillman followed by the panel discussion. And, there is a Part II, but I have not listened to it yet…


16 thoughts on “The Red Book – Library of Congress Symposium

  1. Life has no rules, that is it’s mystery.

    We cannot learn, only become.

    You make yourself into the vessel of creation in which the opposites reconcile.

    Remain true to love.

    Prayer throws a bridge across death.

    We create the truth by living it.


    What wonderful gems of wisdom to be reminded of using such eloquent and concise packaging. Thanks so much for the share. Really enjoyed listening.



    1. “What wonderful gems of wisdom to be reminded of using such eloquent and concise packaging.”
      Thanks M! As my husband, how loves to cook often says, “It’s all in the presentation.”
      Happy garnishing! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Lived by the Powers | An Elegant Mystery

  3. Wow! Hillman seems to imply (through Jung) that we tend to concretize reality, make it firm hard cold – REAL – just as Joseph Campbell says we fall into a trap if we concretize myth / religion as though it is literal. This to me is the challenge – to look at the world through the eyes of fantasy, myth, symbol, dream, poetry, imagery, creative expression , knowing that we being ‘lived by the powers’?!?!


    1. Yes, if anything Hillman was arguing that the powers of myth and fantasy in a sense are more real because they have sway over us.
      Lived by the powers, yep. It shifts a monotheistic sense of ourselves to a polytheistic sense in which we are many faceted and reminds us that attempts to understand our nature that don’t allow for all of the voices that call to us invites an unrelatedness between the different perspectives that are pre-existent.
      I may not be speaking very clear here, but yes, as you put we tend to concretize reality and refuse to acknowledge that the powers are pre-existent and not of our making.


      1. Erik Andrulis

        But what of being both monotheistic and polytheistic and atheistic all at the same time? Is that ever addressed?

        I find that most interpretations of reality – whether concrete or abstract or both at the same time – I am trying to shift things away from Me – and I see and read and hear myself do it again and again and again, almost as if I do not want myself to know myself. Peace, Ik


      2. Hi Ik. That is a very good point. I cannot obviously speak for Hillman, but my sense is that your point is well taken and that each perspective, mono-poly,atheistic,and is lived through Us presenting a necessary voice in Psyche. We are in psyche, which I take to mean that we all share in the entirety of what is possible in the world.
        Thank you and peace to you as well.


      1. Okay, that makes sense. Now that he’s gone, there’s only so much Jung left to unveil. No doubt too there was some rumblings as to who has access to the manuscripts. I don’t really know much about the politics.


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