Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Red Book Binder and the Craftsman’s Ego

I see the craftsman as a central image of the archetypally rooted adult ego. The hero, who serves as a bridge between the archetypal and the individual realms, has frequently both a divine and a personal father. The latter is often a craftsman. For the hero to set out on his journey into the depths and the vast lands of the unconscious, he or she needs to be ignited by the very sparks of the beyond, as they manifest in ego-consciousness.

Jung writes,
The hero’s father is often a master carpenter or some kind of artisan. According to an Arabian legend, Terah, the father of Abraham, was a master craftsman who could cut a shaft from any bit of wood, which means in Arabic usage that he was a begetter of excellent sons. … Joseph, the father of Jesus, was a carpenter, and so was Cinyras, the father of Adonis, who was supposed to have invented the hammer, the lever, roof-building and mining. …In fairytales, the hero’s father is, more modestly, the traditional woodcutter.

The original Red Book of Jung's is a masterpiece not only of his, but of bookbinder craftsmanship as well. Sonu Shamdasani writes, “After completing the handwritten Draft, Jung had it typed, and edited. …The first section of the work …was composed on parchment. Jung then commissioned a large folio volume of over 600 pages, bound in red leather, from the bookbinders, Emil Stierli.”[2]

While Jung’s active imaginations, the fantasy material that forms the basis of his interpretations and elaborations, preceded their inscription in the Red Book, the ego’s sublime craftsmanship may be required for the heroic descent into the darkness of the unknown. The impressively bound pages of the red leather-covered tome hold and contain the inscription of Jung’s remarkable descent into the archetypal depths of the unconscious. The masterfully bound book is like the crafted ego that enables the hero’s journey. “It is the creation of the alchemical vessel that invites the soul into dialogue and union to bring forth the divine. This carefully crafted and beautiful Red Book honored the process and contents as a container for Jung's transformation.”[3]

The craftsman replicates the divine on earth by means of his skill, patience, carefulness and hard work. The first craftsman in the Bible was Bezalel. He built the Tabernacle, the tent set up by Moses, in which the Ark of the Covenant – a chest of acacia wood holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments – was carried through the wilderness. Thereby he replicated creation. Bezalel “knew the combinations of letters with which heaven and earth were made,” [that is, the letters of God’s name], and thus was able to build the Tabernacle, which was considered “a complete microcosm, a miraculous copy of everything that is in heaven and on earth.”[4]He thus created an imago mundi, a crafted replica of the universe, wherein, like in a temple, the divine can dwell on earth.

With wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, a soulful year during which concern for the world we live in will be at the top of the agenda of those that lead our world into the coming decade.

The above is excerpted from a forthcoming Fisher King Press publication by Erel Shalit on Archetypal Images of the Life Cycle.

[1]CW 5, par. 515.
[2]‘Introduction,’ The Red Book, p. 203.
[3]Nancy Furlotti, personal communication.
[4]Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, p. 166f.

We Ship Worldwide! PHONE ORDERS WELCOMED, CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED, or VISIT US ONLINE AT 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799. Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922 / Phone: 831-238-7799 /

Below are links to download the FKP newsletter, current catalog, and price list/order form:
Fisher King Press Newsletter Fisher King Press Catalog of Publications Fisher King Press Price List and Order Form

1 comment:

Leah Shelleda said...

Dear Erel,
A wonderful blog entry - brings a new dimension to the Red Book.
Hoping the the increasing light will reach you and my people in Israel.
Leah Shelleda