The Red Book - C.G. Jung

Jung and Gnostic Tradition
The Red Book Lectures
The Zurich Lectures: Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis
Remembering Sophia
J.R.R. Tolkien:
An Imaginative Life
Lectures and Writings by Lance Owens

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The Search for Roots

The Gnostic Society Library

C.G Jung and The Red Book

Lectures presented by Lance S. Owens, MD


Introduction to the Red Book Lectures

There are two sets of lectures presented below (in mp3 audio format), all recorded during the original presentations. The first series of four lectures was presented at Westminster College to the general public in January and February of 2010, shortly after the Red Book was published. It provides a useful introduction to Jung and his Red Book (Liber Novus).

The second series of seven seminar evenings with a total of fourteen lectures was presented at Westminster College from September 2011 to May 2012. The seminar group was composed mostly of psychologists in clinical practice. This is a much more in-depth consideration and reading of the Red Book, and reflects an additional two years of my own deepening study of the text.

Each of the lectures runs between about 70 and 90 minutes. It is my hope that you will find them useful. You are welcome to email question or comments to MD.

For a brief introduction to Jung's Red Book, see the the encyclopedia article on "C. G. Jung and the Red Book" authored by Lance Owens and Stephan Hoeller for the Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, 2nd ed., Springer Publications, 2014. (Full article is available for reading and download on and

A catalog of other presentations by Dr. Owens is available here.


C. G. Jung and the Red Book:

Imagination, Vision and Psychology

Available online in mp3 audio - see below

Philemon - The Red Book

Four lectures by Lance S. Owens MD

In November of 1913 C. G. Jung embarked upon an extraordinary imaginative journey; in later life he called it his “confrontation with the unconscious”. An “enigmatic stream” of visions flooded upon him, and for the next decade he labored to accurately document these events in his private journals. As the work progressed, Jung felt a need to give the “revelations from his Soul” a more formal elaboration. With great artistic craft – employing antique illuminated calligraphic text and stunning artwork – he transcribed the record of his visions into a massive red leather-bound volume: This is the mysterious Red Book. Jung titled it Liber Novus, the “Book of the New”. Near the end of his life, Jung remarked about his work:

The years … when I pursued the inner images were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life.... Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.Image from the Red Book

For nearly a century the Red Book, Liber Novus, remained Jung’s hidden treasure. Only a handful of Jung’s most trusted students and colleagues were allowed to see it during his life; after his death in 1961, all requests for access to the volume were refused by his family. But now, after decades veiled in mystery, the Red Book has finally been released to the world in a magnificent facsimile edition. This singular visionary volume – a book that defies category or comparison – is the crux for any developed understanding of Jung’s psychological work.

In this series of four lectures, Dr. Lance Owens will discuss the genesis and content of the Red Book, and explain its central place in the life and work of C. G. Jung.


Lecture 1 – Anticipations: The Coming of the Red Book
This is a brief 20 minute introduction to the publication of the Red Book.

Listen online

Lecture 2 – Imagination, Vision and Psychology

Listen online or Download in zip file

Lecture 3 –The Prophet's Bride: C.G. Jung and the Red Book

Listen online or Download in zip file

Lecture 4 – Liber Novus and the Hermeneutics of Vision

Listen online or Download in zip file


Jung and Tolkien - A companion series of lectures

This above lecture series on Jung and the Red Book had a preceeding companion series: J.R.R. Tolkien: An Imaginative Life. Tolkien understood his imaginative gifts and inclinations were unusual. They were however not entirely unique. In the series of lectures on Tolkien, we consider Tolkien’s place in the Western imaginative tradition, and compare the experiences of C. G. Jung, as documented in his "Red Book."

Remarkably, Tolkien also had a "Red Book" – The Red Book of Westmarch. The similarity of the imaginative events behind these two "Red Books" is extraordinary. Dr. Owens explored the relation of Jung, Tolkien and their imaginal experiences in further detail in an hour-long audio interview conducted by Miguel Conner; this interview is also available on the Tolkien lecture pages.)


C. G. Jung and the Red Book:

"The Numinous Beginning, which Contained Everything"

Available online in mp3 audio - see below

Fourteen lectures by Lance S. Owens, MD

September 2011 - May 2012

Seminar Introduction and Overview:

C. G. Jung has had a seminal influence over the last century on the elaboration of key psychological concepts and terminology; he remains a vital force in current therapeutic psychology.  The empirical groundings of his work have however remained poorly understood even by practitioners who embrace his concept of the psyche and unconscious. Recent publication of Jung’s long-sequestered “Red Book” and disclosure of other material from his early private journals now provide a new and critically important perspective on the formative sources of his psychology.   

In 1957, C. G. Jung stated that the imaginative and visionary events recorded in The Red Book: Liber Novus – which he began transcribing in 1914 – were the foundation to all his subsequent work:

My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream....  Everything later was merely the outer classification, the scientific elaboration, and the integration into life.  But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.

The Red Book: Liber Novus provides the long-awaited primary evidence to the truth of those words. It now becomes apparent that Liber Novus is indeed the bedrock upon which any understanding of the life and work of C. G. Jung must be built.   Its publication initiates a new era in Jungian studies.

In this series of seven evenings and fourteen lectures, we will examine Jung’s psychology in light of his own experience of the inner world of imagination, vision and dream as revealed in the Liber Novus, “the numinous beginning, which contained everything.”  We will consider the Red Book in detail, and assess its influence on the development and evolution of a “Jungian psychology.” 

(Each session was on a Wednesday Evening, 6:30 – 10:00 PM. The seminar was held on the campus of Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah. CEU's were available to professional participants.)


Seminar Sessions:

I.  C. G. Jung: The Puzzle of Story and History

C. G. Jung penned the following words in introduction to his biographical memoir:

My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. … I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem. What we are to our inward vision, and what man appears to be sub specie aeternitatis, can only be expressed by way of myth. Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjective variety of an individual life.  Thus it is that I have now undertaken, in my eighty-third year, to tell my personal myth. I can only make direct statements, only "tell stories." Whether or not the stories are "true" is not the problem. The only question is whether what I tell is my fable, my truth.

Jung’s life work cannot be understood without placing it within the context of both his history and his myth.  But how do we define the boundaries and the intersections of story and history?  Aren’t stories fictions and histories facts? In this introductory session, we will consider the complex challenge of understanding an extraordinary man who discovered his own deepest truth veiled within a myth.  This theme is a crucial issue in understanding the Red Book and how it echoes through all Jung’s subsequent work.

We will discuss the sources and readings to be used over the term of the seminar.  And then we will start telling stories:  Jung’s story up through about 1914, and the beginning of the mythic journey he recorded in the Red Book (or Liber Novus, the “New Book”, as he titled it on the cover).

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (82 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (93 minutes)


II.  Liber Primus of Liber Novus: Seeking Visions in the Desert

In November of 1913 Jung went to the desert seeking a vision.  There he sat for twenty-five nights, petitioning contact with his Soul.   As he privately confessed in a letter thirty years later, “I wanted the proof of a living Spirit and I got it.  Don’t ask me at what price.”  Liber Novus Folio 1 (detail)

Jung found the doorway to vision.  Later in life he called it “Active Imagination.” What did he do, what happened to him?  And what is mythopoetic imagination? Is it delusion, or the doorway to a lost dimension of reality? Is it ultimately subjective, or a reality collectively manifest in human experience? We will critically consider Jung’s experience and his own answers – answers that are the cornerstone to understanding his psychology.

The second part of this session is titled "Real Women: Jung in Love." In his Black Book journal from this period, Jung says to his Soul: “And I found you again only through the soul of the woman.”  That woman was Toni Wolff, his consort and life companion, his “second wife.”  We will conclude the evening pondering the essential power of love relationships upon Jung’s visionary world, and the relationship between inner and outer events in his imaginative journey.  His relationship with Toni Wolff reverberates through three subsequent decades of Jung’s life and thoughts – but it has remained the least understood formative element in Jung’s history and psychological development. But before talking about Toni Wolff, we must start this section with the history of another important woman in Jung's life in the years leading up to the Red Book: Sabina Spielrein. Her story was told in John Kerr's book about Jung and Spielrein, A Most Dangerous Method -- now the subject of a major film.

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (83 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (97 minutes)


III. The Great Mystery: Individuation and Love

Liber Primus of Liber Novus concludes with what Jung called the Mysterium: his meeting with Elijah and Salome, culminating with his sacrificial transformation. Jung privately wrote of these experiences: “They are certainly not intended allegories; they have not been consciously contrived to depict experience in either veiled or even fantastic terms. Rather, they appeared as visions.”  This series of complex visions was the impetus to many subsequent comments about the Anima and Animus, Eros and Logos, and the mystery of their conjunction. This is the starting point for our evening’s discussion.

In the second half of our evening, we discuss Dr. Jung, sexuality and the mystery of Love. In the darkest moments of his journey with Liber Novus in the winter of 1914, C. G. Jung was sustained by the love of a woman.  Her name was Toni Wolff.  In love, inner and outer worlds touched. However, the history of this love has remained in the shadows of history. We must tonight talk more about Jung, and sex, and his story of Love. (Due to a recording failure during the original presentation, this second lecture had to be re-recorded later in the evening without an audience – other than my cat, who was rudely disinterested. As a result, the lecture delivery is a bit "flat" and the group discussion is missing. Nonetheless, this lecture contains material of central importance to an understanding of Jung.)

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (70 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (97 minutes)


IV. Liber Secundus - Entering the Depths, Regenerating the God

The visions of Liber Secundus in Liber Novus begin on the days after Christmas 1913, the days after Jung experienced the Mysterium. At the beginning of Liber Secundus, we first meet the “Red One.” Who is this? The Devil? Satan? Joy? Is Joy the Devil? Is there a relationship here to Jung's "desiring", die Lust?

And then comes the “Castle in the Forest.” Again, what is going on? An old scholar and a seductive young daughter? Who are the two figures, how is Jung understanding the events? Why is he forced to meet these imaginative figures? What issue in his own personal psyche is demanding attention?

Next he meets “The Anchorite,” the ancient Christian monk Ammonius, alone in the Syrian desert, studying the Word of God.

Mixed in all of these sections of Liber Novus, you will find Jung struggling with the dual human mystery of “desiring” and “thinking”, heart and head – and finally, archetypally, with eros and logos. We live in two worlds, we have dual perspectives, we are flesh and spirit, man and women, and we are seeking a wholeness and union, a mysterious conjunction. Logos and Eros.

As you read, remember the two layers in the text: (1) the original visionary event, and (2) the commentary written in perspective a year later. Note the very personal struggle Jung is engaging in the primary visions, and the more universal or archetypal themes he is refining in his subsequent commentary. I will try to give some perspective on these sections of Liber Secundus in the first hour of our next meeting.

In the second half of the evening, I will talk about Izdubar and the regeneration of God. This is physically and thematically a central section of Liber Novus, and a key theme to all Jung’s later work. Jung devotes 32 folio pages to this story – these folios are visually and textually perhaps the most beautiful sections of the Red Book. (In the facsimile, they run from folio 37 to 69 -- look at these pages carefully as you read the text). The translated text of the story of Izdubar is found from page 277 to 288.

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (82 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (77 minutes)


V. Liber Secundus: In the Eye of Evil

We have reached the core sections in the second book of Liber Novus - and this part of the book completely confounds most readers. Things become suddenly dark and chaotic. The images become increasingly dense with archetypal power. It is not easy going; it can be painful. It was hard going and painful for Jung: he here confronts the eye of evil, and the deepest mystery of human nature.

This is the darkest section of Liber Novus, and perhaps also the most important for understanding his conception of the Shadow, of Evil, and of the opposites encountered within the divine image. I believe one cannot understand Jung's psychology, and his affirmation of the reality of evil, without deeply experiencing these sections of Liber Novus.

This Seminar is now available online in mp3 audio format:

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (71minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (90 minutes)


VI. The Hermeneutics of Hell

By request, our seminar has been extended another month -- allowing us time to go to Hell with Jung, and consider the Hermeneutics of Hell.

In the last meeting, we talked about a key section in Liber Novus: Jung’s decent into Hell. This is a crucial event, and it needs more comment. How does one interpret Hell? What was this Hell Jung visited?

We will start with a look at the tradition of Hell in the Western visionary literature, focusing on Dante, William Blake, Emanuel Swedenborg. Then we will attempt to locate Jung in the context of the tradition he declared as his own: a tradition of vision. I suggest that there is not only a "Tradition of Vision" in Western culture, but that the tradition is defined and conjoined in its "Hermeneutics of Vision." Liber Novus is a primary "Hermeneutics of Vision." And at center of the new book, we find visions of Hell.

But what the Hell does this have to do with Jungian psychology? I here offer my perspective on that question.

My lecture extensively references a very important address give by Dr. Sonu Shamdasani at the Library of Congress on June 19, 2010, coincident with the opening of the Red Book Exhibit at the LOC. I recommend it to you: Dr. Shamdasani's presentation is available as a Library of Congress webcast.

The second part of the seminar starts with a brief group discussion, followed by my further comments on the Hermeneutics of Vision.

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (80 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (47 minutes)

VII. Jung and Aion:  Jung’s Vision of the Coming Age

Jung twice painted images of his master and teacher, Philemon – a ghostly guru with the great blue wings of a kingfisher. Over the image painted in Liber Novus, Jung scribed this appellation: “Father of the Prophets, dearest friend Philemon.” On the great mural image of Philemon in the upper bedroom of his Tower sanctuary at Bollingen, painted several years later, Jung repeated the appellation in different form: “Philemon, the Prophets Forefather.” Philemon plays a central role in the last section of Liber Novus, titled “Scrutinies.” Who, or what, is Philemon? And what is a Prophet? What did Jung mean with such words?

The Red Book ends with Philemon speaking the summary revelation to Liber Novus, the “Seven Sermons to the Dead.” This is the only section of Liber Novus that Jung published and privately circulated during his lifetime. He said of the Sermons: “These conversations with the dead formed a kind of prelude to what I had to communicate to the world about the unconscious: a kind of pattern of order and interpretation of its general contents.”

In the second part of the evening will describe Jung and the vision of a New Aion.

In 1944 Jung suffered a nearly fatal pulmonary embolism and heart attack.  For three weeks he floated between life and death.  During these weeks he had several transformative visions: 

“It is impossible to convey the beauty and intensity of emotion during those visions. They were the most tremendous things I have ever experienced. I would never have imagined that any such experience was possible. It was not a product of imagination. The visions and experiences were utterly real; there was nothing subjective about them; they all had a quality of absolute objectivity.”

The visions refocused his work, and turned him again to a central theme in Liber Novus that had not yet been adequately conveyed within his writings.  In this last seminar session, we will examine Jung’s late life work, his final statement.  One central concern during this period was communicating his perception that the Christian age was reaching its end time.  A new God image was constellating in the psyche of modern humanity. But this is a difficult process, and a period of great disorder and conflict.

During these last years of life, Jung said: “The world today hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man.”   In this final session, we will turn full attention to those prophetic words

To listen online, just click the link. To download the file to your computer, right-click on the link and select "Save File".

Play or Download Part 1 (64 minutes)

Play or Download Part 2 (81 minutes)


Seminar Reading List

Required:Memories Dreams Reflections

C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. Aniela Jaffe (revised edition, Pantheon, 1993) 

This is the one book everyone in the group must read again during our seminar – even if you have read it many times before.  While critics once questioned its accuracy, during the last several years many primary documents have become available that support its general veracity.  In our sessions, we will discuss MDR’s editorial shortcomings and greatly amplify some of the material within it.  It is the key book anyone interested in Jung should know well.

Buy the Book at

The Red Book - C.G. Jung

C.G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus, ed. Sonu Shamdasani, tr. John Peck, Mark Kyburz, and Sonu Shamdasani (WW Norton & Co, 2009)

Everyone participating in this seminar should own a copy of the The Red Book: Liber Novus.  (It is available at for around $150 – and is well worth the price.  It is a beautiful book.)  As we progress through the seminar, specific reading assignments relevant to the current session will be indicated.

Buy the Book at



Barbara Hannah, Jung: His Life and Work, (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1976)

Seminar participants should become familiar with the general biography of Jung.  The problem is that there are really no adequate biographies of C. G. Jung – none of the published biographies had any access to the Red Book and the other early primary documents that are so crucially important to understanding Jung.  Publication of the Red Book and other associated material has disclosed the great inadequacy of nearly all the past biographies of Jung.  (See Shamdasani’s review of the biographies, below, for details about this point.)  

But Barbara Hannah was close to Jung for over thirty years, and her first-hand account of his life – though limited in context and focus – may be the most useful biography available.  (This book is currently out of print, but available “used” at a very reasonable price through 

We will discuss some of the other biographical works that might be of interest, along with their various limitations. Buy the Book at

Sonu Shamdasani, Jung Stripped Bare: By His Biographers, Even (Karnac Books, 2005)

Sonu Shamdasani, the editor of the Red Book and the foremost historian of Jung, reviews all of the biographical treatments of Jung.  Read this before reading and believing any of the many biographies.  It is short (140 pages), well informed and very accurate in its assessments.  After reading this, you will be prepared to critically consider the various Jung biographies. Buy the Book at

Lance S. Owens, “The Hermeneutics of Vision:  C. G. Jung and Liber Novus”, The Gnostic: A Journal of Gnosticism, Western Esotericism and Spirituality, Issue 3 (July 2010) 

Lance S. Owens, “Jung and Aion: Time, Vision, and a Wayfaring Man”, Psychological Perspectives 54:3 (C. G. Institute of Los Angeles, Fall 2011)


These works are now available online:


The Hermeneutics of Vision: C. G. Jung and the Red BookThe Gnostic

by Lance S. Owens

This article is now available online in pdf format. Based in part on the first set of Red Book lectures, in July 2010 Dr. Owens published a major essay on C. G. Jung's visionary experience and the events that led to creation of the Red Book, "The Hermeneutics of Vision: C. G. Jung and the Red Book". This monograph-length piece is featured in The Gnostic 3, the third issue of a new annual journal examining "Gnosticism in all its forms". (The cover of this issue is dedicated to C. G. Jung's guide, Philemon, as painted by Jung in his Red Book.)

Click to download the article (pdf format)

Buy the journal at


Jung and Aion: Time, Vision and a Wayfaring ManPsychological Perspectives 54:3

by Lance S. Owens

This detailed article, now available online in pdf format, develops material not discussed in the "Hermeneutics of Vision" essay. It is the continuation and development of themes introduced by these previous efforts.

Jung and Aion: Time, Vision and a Wayfaring Man is featured in the "Epochal Anniversaries" issue of Psychological Perspectives (Journal of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, Vol.54:3, Fall 2011) commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jung's death and the 60th anniversary of the publication of his book Aion. The journal can be ordered though the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles bookstore.


The Search for Roots: C. G. Jung and the Tradition of GnosisThe Search for Roots

by Alfred Ribi, Foreword by Lance S. Owens

Excellent book... Ribi has the feel of Gnosis and knows his sources, both ancient and modern...There is no doubt that it was Jung, and not Hans Jonas, who rediscovered Gnosticism and its importance for modernity.”

Gilles Quispel, Professor of Early Christian History, Utrecht University


“Most readers of Jung are aware that Gnosticism was important to his thought, but few of us have anything like Dr. Alfred Ribi’s depth of knowledge of this extremely complex subject. … This book makes a major contribution to our understanding of Jung’s attraction to the Gnostics.”

Lionel Corbett, Journal of Analytical Psychology, April 2014


(For a preview of the book, download the complete Foreword by Lance Owens in pdf format. This Foreword was based on Dr. Owens' Zurich lectures, which are also available in audio format.)

The publication in 2009 of C. G. Jung's The Red Book: Liber Novus has initiated a broad reassessment of Jung’s place in cultural history. Among many revelations, the visionary events recorded in the Red Book reveal the foundation of Jung’s complex association with the Western tradition of Gnosis.

In The Search for Roots, Alfred Ribi closely examines Jung’s life-long association with Gnostic tradition. Dr. Ribi knows C. G. Jung and his tradition from the ground up. He began his analytical training with Marie-Louise von Franz in 1963, and continued working closely with Dr. von Franz for the next 30 years. For over four decades he has been an analyst, lecturer and examiner of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, where he also served as the Director of Studies.

But even more importantly, early in his studies Dr. Ribi noted Jung’s underlying roots in Gnostic tradition, and he carefully followed those roots to their source. Alfred Ribi is unique in the Jungian analytical community for the careful scholarship and intellectual rigor he has brought to the study Gnosticism. In The Search for Roots, Ribi shows how a dialogue between Jungian and Gnostic studies can open new perspectives on the experiential nature of Gnosis, both ancient and modern. Creative engagement with Gnostic tradition broadens the imaginative scope of modern depth psychology and adds an essential context for understanding the voice of the soul emerging in our modern age.

A Foreword by Dr. Lance Owens supplements this volume with a discussion of Jung's encounter with Gnostic tradition while composing his Red Book (Liber Novus). Dr. Owens delivers a fascinating and historically well-documented account of how Gnostic mythology entered into Jung's personal mythology in the Red Book. Gnostic mythology thereafter became for Jung a prototypical image of his individuation. Dr. Owens offers this conclusion:

“In 1916 Jung had seemingly found the root of his myth and it was the myth of Gnosis. I see no evidence that this ever changed. Over the next forty years, he would proceed to construct an interpretive reading of the Gnostic tradition’s occult course across the Christian aeon: in Hermeticism, alchemy, Kabbalah, and Christian mysticism. In this vast hermeneutic enterprise, Jung was building a bridge across time, leading back to the foundation stone of classical Gnosticism. The bridge that led forward toward a new and coming aeon was footed on the stone rejected by the builders two thousand years ago.”

Alfred Ribi's examination of Jung’s relationship with Gnostic tradition comes at an important time. Initially authored prior to the publication of Jung's Red Book, current release of this English edition offers a bridge between the past and the forthcoming understanding of Jung’s Gnostic roots. Buy the book at


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