The next night Carl hears the sound of many voices. One voice calls out that it is falling. Other voices respond in excited confusion, asking what the falling voice wants. Despite fear of madness, fear of his own darkness, despite mistrust, Carl chooses to follow the falling voice and fall where ever it leads.
He is rewarded; on the night of December 12, 1913 his eyes are opened by the spirit of the depths and Carl glimpses the world of his soul.
There is a grey rock face along which he sinks to great depths into a dark cave. Carl is standing in black dirt up to his ankles. Shadows pass over him. Afraid, he knows he must go in, so he crawls through a narrow crack in the rock to get to an inner cave that is covered with black water. Beyond it he sees a luminous red stone that he knows he must reach. Carl wades through the muddy water and takes the stone. Voices fill the cave with shrieks. He does not want to listen to them as they want to keep him from this. But he wants to know; something wants to be spoken. He puts his ear up to the dark opening that was covered by the red stone, and hears the sound of underground waters. The bloody head of a man is floating in the dark stream. He stays with this image for a long while, then sees a big, black scarab float past. A red sun radiates up through the dark water from the deepest part of the stream. He feels terror seeing small serpents crowding towards this sun, covering it. Darkness falls and a stream of thick red blood springs forth, surging for a long while. He is afraid, not knowing what he is seeing.
Far away from everything he knows, Carl turns his back on the world, and speaks to his soul. Confiding in her that his thoughts howl like hounds, disturbing his peace, dismantling his life, painting his soul as a tormentor,. He tells her how they obstruct his ability to see and hear her, and that he is beset with doubt.
Stunned by what he has seen, yet wanting to walk under the sun of his soul, Carl accepts this vision. He has sworn to trust his soul where ever she leads him, even if it is through madness. He implores her to help him, that he not choke on the voices of his own knowledge, the science and cleverness that would imprison the soul in a lightless cell. Most of all, he asks to be protected from the serpent of judgment who appears to be a healing serpent, but, when viewed from these depths, can be seen for the hellish poison and painful death that it is.
Having agreed to face his fear of madness, Carl tells us that strange plants emerge when the desert starts to bloom. We will judge ourselves to be mad, and in a certain way we will be right; we will be like madmen if we enter the soul's world, and would be considered sick by a doctor. Carl tells us what he writes can be seen as sickness.
Then he speaks about madness, religion and the divine, saying, the extent to which madness is absent from Christianity, is the extent to which Christianity is lacking divine life. The ancients taught us through their images that madness is divine.
Carl warns us not to judge divine madness if we do not know it -- until we have seen the fruits.
There is a divine madness, he tells us, that is simply when the spirit of the depths overpowers the spirit of the time. You can call this sick delusion, as when the spirit of the depths arises and forces one to abandon human speech and speak in tongues, believing oneself to actually be the spirit of the depths.
You can as easily speak of sick delusion when the spirit of this time is dominant, forcing one to see only what is on the surface, only the external world, while denying the spirit of the depths and believing oneself to be the spirit of the time.
Both the spirit of the time and the spirit of the depths are ungodly. What is godly, Carl tells us, is balance.
And so, Carl tells us how he himself overcame madness. He starts out by saying he was so captured by the spirit of the time, that that very night, the spirit of the depths erupted in a powerful wave, sweeping away the spirit of this time.
For twenty-five nights, Carl tells us, he had spoken to his soul in the desert, loving and submitting to her. And each night the spirit of the depths gathered power. But during those twenty-five days, he gave his love and attention to the things of the world, submitting to men and the thoughts of the time. Only at night did he go into the desert.
This, he tells us, is how to differentiate sick delusion from divine delusion. If you submit to one without the other, you will be out of balance and so deemed sick.
He tells us more, saying, it is difficult to tolerate fear when intoxicated by divine madness. God, love and the soul, they are both terrible and beautiful. The ancients brought to this world some of the beauty of God, which made this world look beautiful. To the spirit of the time, this world looked so good that it seemed like everything you could want, even better than being with God. Yet, all the while, concealed deep in our hearts is the cruelty and frightfulness of this world.
If the spirit of the depths seizes you, you will feel this cruelty, and it will cause you to cry out, for you will see that the spirit of the depths is full of fire, iron, and death.
With good cause you fear the spirit of the depths, for the depths are filled with horror and bear so much. You will not believe this, unless you have paid attention to your fear.
Carl tells us more about his vision.
From the red light of the crystal shone blood. He picks it up to find out about its mystery, and before him is the horror it had been covering. Murder is in the depths of what is to come. A hero lay, bloody and slain, and the black beetle showed the death required for rebirth. From this, the midnight sun, the sun of the depths, this new sun, glowed.
Just as the sun in spring awakens the dead earth, so the sun of the depths awakens the dead. A terrible struggle began between darkness and light, and in that battle burst forth the gushing blood from the unvanquished source. What is to come, and more, poured out.
Carl now begins teaching us what he has learned in his descent into hell in the future. It is the mixing of the surface with the depths that is necessary for the new life within us to develop. New life does not come from events in the world, but from us. All that happens in the world has already been.
The creative depths of man can change, but events in the world are always the same. If we look at an event from the outside we will see only that it already happened and that it is the same. But when we look from within we realize the newness of everything.
The significance of events is found inside of us, not in the events themselves. The meaning we attribute to events is always made up and artificial. For this reason to find the meaning of events, we must seek inside ourselves. The way of salvation comes from the possibility of life in the world that arises from within, that is true creation, a mastery and assertion of our souls into this world. Through this we create the meaning of events.
"This meaning of events is the supreme meaning, that is not in events, and not in the soul, but is the God standing between events and the soul, the mediator of life, the way, the bridge and the going across." (p. 239)
Carl tells us he could to see what was to come because he saw it first in himself. He took part in the murder, and after it had been accomplished, the sun of the depths was also in him, as were the serpents that want to devour that sun, and the blood that gushed forth. Carl saw that he was the murderer and the murdered, the sacrificer and the sacrificed.
You too have a share in the murder, he tells us. The reborn one will come to be, the sun of the depths will rise and the serpents will come forth from your dead matter and choke out the sun in your depths. Your blood will stream out.
You can see it now in the unforgettable actions of the peoples in this time (Autumn of 1913 when the battle of the Marne and the first battle of Ypres were occurring), in the horrors of war that will be recorded in books for eternal memory. Men kill their brothers when they do not know that their brothers are themselves.
Here, Carl teaches us. Men must sacrifice each other because the time has not yet come for us to know that the way to kill the one that we kill in our brother, is to put the bloody knife into ourselves. Who do people kill, he asks us, but the brave, the noble, the hero. Not knowing we should sacrifice the brave, the noble and heroic in ourselves, we take aim at the hero in the other and kill a courageous brother.
As long as we can murder a brother instead of ourselves, the time is not yet ripe. Frightening things must occur until we grow ripe, and nothing else will ripen us. This bloody sacrifice and the terrible things that are happening in this time must happen so that the renewal can come. The source from which the blood flows after the sun is shrouded is also the source of new life.
Just as the fate of a people is shown to you in events, so too will it happen in your heart. If the hero in you is slain, then the sun of the depths will rise from a dreadful place, and simultaneously everything in you that had seemed dead will come to life.
The darkness you are unaware of in yourself will come alive and you will experience the conflicts of life and the crush of an evil that until now had been buried in the cells of your body. Your evil thoughts and feelings will change into poisonous serpents that cover the sun and you will fall into night and confusion. In this struggle blood will stream forth from your many wounds. You will experience great torment, shock and doubt, but from this will be born new life.
If you are clever, you probably think you know the abyss, but believe me, it is a totally different thing to feel it. You will experience everything; think of all the terrible things men have done to each other. This all should happen to you in your heart. It is your own suffering to bear, your own heinous hand that inflicts this suffering upon yourself, not your brother who has his own devils to wrestle with.
I want you to see the meaning of the murdered hero, Carl tells us. The nameless men in this time who murdered a prince (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) are unseeing prophets enacting events in the world that are only valid for the soul. Through this we will learn that it is the prince in us, the hero in us that is threatened. Do not worry about evaluating this as a good or a bad sign. What is terrible today, will a hundred years from now be good, and a hundred years after that be bad once again. Instead, recognize the nameless ones within you who threaten the hereditary ruler in your own self. This is what is happening.
The hereditary ruler is the spirit of the time who governs our thoughts and actions. This spirit has brought so much good to this world and has frightening power. He fascinates us with unbelievable pleasure. This ruling spirit is cloaked in heroic virtue and beauty, and drives us on an endless ascent to brightness.
But the nameless spirit of the depths calls out the things we cannot do, and our incapacity prevents us from continuing the unending ascension, for the higher we go the more virtue we need, and it is beyond what we possess. First, we must develop our virtue by giving life to our incapacity, by learning to live with it. How else will incapacity develop into capacity?
Though we want to slay it, incapacity cannot be slain, and we cannot we rise above it. Instead, it will overcome us, demanding to have its part in our lives. Lost to the spirit of the time, we will consider this a loss of our ability, but it is not a loss, Carl tells us. It is a gain, for in losing our trappings in the outer world, we will gain inner capacity.
If you can accept and learn to live with your incapacity, you will have learned a lot. It will teach you to value what is small and to limit those things required by ascending to great height. When what is heroic in us is killed, we drop down into our humanness and worse, we fall into the dark cesspool of our underworld and the rubble of the centuries in us.
The hero in us is governed by belief in opposites, that this is good and that is bad, this action is indispensable, that cause objectionable, this goal something that must be achieved, and that pleasure something that at all costs must be repressed.
When we believe as the hero does, we sin against our incapacity, acting as if it did not exist; yet incapacity exists. You should not deny it, fault it or shout it down, says Carl.
Should I entrust myself to this confusion? I shuddered. It is a dreadful deep. Do you want me to leave myself to chance, to the madness of my own darkness? Wither? Wither? You fall, and I want to fall with you, whoever you are. p. 237
Falling dreams are as radical as dreams where we can breathe water. As we go deeper into our work, our dreams will ask us to do things that our brains would never conceive as being possible; things we would never do in our waking life. We would never go underwater and try to breathe the water; we would never fall off a cliff willingly.
But dreams will ask us to do things that are exactly this radical. The work for a dreamwork analyst around such dreams is to help the dreamer understand what this means for them. What is it for the client that is as real as if she were to go under water and breathe, as real as if he let himself fall off the cliff.
We may talk about these experiences as if they are metaphors, inventing stories about what breathing the water or falling is – “I’ll sell my house and move to Osh Kosh!” or “I am going to leave my spouse!” Then, we may go to our next dreamwork session and tell our analyst, “I fell off that cliff – I quit my job!”
Lives can be destroyed in an attempt to do something with this kind of dream that we make up with our minds. When we think that a dream like this means that we only need change something in the world. But this is not what such dreams mean.
The experience of falling is something that the dream will show. We can see in Carl’s resistance that he clearly has a sense of the gravity of what is being asked; he is so unwilling to fall. Yet, he is not thinking, “Oh, this means I have to stop being a therapist.” Or “I have to leave my wife.” He was truly ahead of his time for Carl understood the visceral reality of moving through feelings in a way that many of us can only conceive as an externalized action. It is so easy to find an action that we think reflects a feeling, and this is dangerous.
The answer is to do inside what the dream asks. Find the place where that experience lives in you and do that. For example, if a dream invites the dreamer to be in the water and breath the water, then the client can do this by feeling into the experience of being in the water from the dream and the session. The experience may be fear or it may be exhilaration, depending on the dream and the dreamer. The point is to feel into the experience. The challenge for the analyst is not to take the cheap way out by giving advice. As clients, we will even bait the analyst to give us advice; we all like to tell stories.
Of course, there may be times with this inner work, when there will be an action in the outer world that reflects that falling – not as an avoidance of the feeling, but as a way to step more deeply into it.
Even so, we will always think that such a dream is about something in the world. We do not believe that this kind of event is something that we can experience and move through inside ourselves.
One of the biggest challenges of this work is to learn how to have the visceral experience of the inner world and to know that it is as real as any experience we have in our waking lives. Carl understands this, as evidenced by his openness and vulnerability to his interior world.
When the desert begins to bloom, it brings forth strange plants. You will consider yourself mad, and in a certain sense you will in fact be mad. . . . It is unquestionable: if you enter the world of the soul, you are like a madman, and a doctor would consider you to be sick. What I say here can be seen as sickness, but no one can see it as sickness more than I do. p. 237
We call such openness psychotic, for only a “psychotic” person would really understand. To do this work, we have to be somewhat “psychotic” or learn to be “psychotic.” Psychotic meaning that beginning to experience a different reality than what we believed reality is, which is different from the term psychotic as is used in mental illness. It can be difficult for many of us to enter into this kind of state, because for most of us a chair is a chair, a wall is a wall. We know where we are, as long as the chair does not disappear.
The spirit of the depths opened my eyes and I caught a glimpse of the inner things, the world of my soul, . . . Shadows sweep over me. I am seized by fear, but I know I must go in. I crawl through a narrow crack in the rock and reach an inner cave whose bottom is covered with black water. p. 237
Carl describes the psychotic world of the unknown in this vision . . . water, caves, the dark.
How many of us feel comfortable with such things in ourselves? We are uncomfortable because it is inside, not outside of us. Of course, we would rather move to Osh Kosh than go into a dark cave with black water, and crawl through a narrow crack in the wall in our dream.
So the question is – what does this mean?
When we are in a dream, we have experiences, we have feelings. And when we wake up, we have the outer world; Osh Kosh. It is safe to feel our fear in Osh Kosh.
But what if we wake up and we cannot leave the cave? What if we are in the black water? What if the feeling of fear in that cave is in our everyday lives? What if we become psychotic and we cannot go back? What if we cannot shake our dreams? What if we cannot shake our dreams even if the stock market crashes or our friend is promoted instead of us? What if we do not care because we are in this cave?
What would happen if we became more concerned with our dream lives than our outer lives?
How many of us are more infatuated by living our dreams than we are with the worries of the day? The neurotic is worried about the worries of the day, the psychotic is lost in the dream. We are afraid of this. I prefer to be psychotic.
The cave is full of the frightful noise of shrieking voices. . . . I do not want to listen to the voices, they keep me away. But I want to know. Here something wants to be uttered. p.237
How many of you would have turned back by now? Not our friend Carl.
We all have these voices, and we have a choice, to believe them, or to do something extraordinary. A lot of us want to talk about what the voices are saying, even after we know that the voices are just ear whisperers, pathological voices attempting to block our growth, and it is not serving us to listen to them. Still, we listen, because to stop listening is to take the next step in the journey.
On the sixth night, Carl's soul leads him away from mankind into the desert - into his interior self. He finds a wasteland. With no goal in sight, not knowing how long the journey will last, Carl wonders why his self is a desert, why he has been avoiding himself, and why he has not been dear to himself; why has his soul not been dear to him.
Carl realizes that all this time he has been living outside of himself, avoiding the place of his soul through involvement with people and affairs of the world. Even when he stops identifying with life in the world, Carl finds he is still lost from his soul. To his chagrin, he realizes that it is not enough to give up the world for he discovers that he has become his thoughts and now he must also also give up trusting them.
He wonders what he should do in this desert, and asks his soul. His soul responds, "Wait."
Carl realizes that he has cultivated himself in the outer world, but neglected his interior world and the spirit of the depths that is of that world. He is beginning to understand that the soul has a world of its own, and that no cultivation through his mind will make a garden of his neglected interior world.
He also realizes that to enter this world he must become completely himself, letting go of his attachments to the world and the thoughts of his thinking mind. Yet, he is still a captive of his thoughts.
When at last he is able to turn his desire away from his thoughts, he finds himself in an endlessly infertile desert absent of the creative force of his desire. The spirit of the depths encourages Carl, reminding him that when he turned his creative thought to the world, how things grew and thrived. So too, the spirit of the depths tells him, will this place of the soul thrive, become green and bear fruit, if he brings his creative force to it.
And so Carl waits and it torments him. He understands that most people will turn back here, running to the world, to people and possessions, to their minds and thoughts. And once they have run from the torment of waiting, they will forever be the slave of that to which they have run.
But the ancients showed us not to run, Carl tells us. They teach us by example. They went into the desert to show us that the place where we will find our souls is as lonely as the desert. Yet it is in this solitude that we will find visions and the fruit and flowers of the soul. The ancients lived their images, showing us the way of what is to come. Everything is foretold in their symbols, if we know how to interpret them. They went into the solitude of the desert to teach us.
Carl implores us to be aware of what the ancients said in their images – that the word is a creative act. If we say the place of the soul is dead, then it is, and if we say the place of the soul is alive, then that is so. Our words have power. In the beginning was the Word.
Carl’s soul leads him into the desert because he is giving up the world, giving up meaning, giving up his ideas. No more imagination, no more chicanery of thought.
Only life is true, and only life leads me into the desert, truly not my thinking, that would like to return to thoughts, to men and events, since it feels uncanny in the desert. (p. 141 LRB)
Going into the desert means following a fleeting dream in which there is something to feel, a feeling that leads away from the world. Here, at the beginning of the work which we experience as a desert, we are asked to descend into our personal feelings. Not emotions, not thoughts, not the things that make sense, but the true feelings that make no sense.
It feels like a desert to us because we have no understanding of what we are feeling. But there is always something to the desert; the desert is full of life. It is our attitude that makes it meaningless and seem like a wasteland.
Should I also make a garden out of the desert? Should I people a desolate land? Should I open the airy magic garden of the wilderness? …. My soul, what am I to do here? But my soul spoke to me and said, “Wait.” I heard the cruel word. Torment belongs to the desert. (p.141 LRB)
Carl falls into doubt, worrying, can he really not trust his thoughts? Is he lying to himself when he says he cannot trust his thoughts?
What he finds is torment.
What is torment? Torment is feeling. Any feeling that is not known to us can be felt as torment, even joy or love or ecstatic fulfillment. At the moment we feel the unknown, it will be felt as a desert, as torment.
Carl speaks about the great difficulty of going into the desert because it does feel difficult. For those who follow their dreams as Carl did, it does indeed feel incredibly difficult. The feeling of descent that we experience as torment is really giving up the life of the consciousness of the self we have created. This is why we must go into the desert. We need to just be there, to just wait, as the soul tells Carl; just ferment.
Being in the desert is learning to give up the self, the persona. Being in the desert prepares us for the deeper descent and the process of dying to self.
Torment belongs to us when we have not yet given up our thoughts and personas. Giving up our thoughts and personas can give ourselves a way to enter the underworld; this is why the soul says, “Wait” because we have not understood this. We believe that the desert is a horrible place because we do not want to give up who we are.
The true torment is not the desert. It is simply the absence of, or separation from our soul and, even the separation from our trauma. It is paradoxical to feel that our trauma is not torment, but it is not. True torment is when we live in the state of being separated from the journey to our soul. Even trauma is more enlivening than the torment of this separation, for, when we are feeling the feelings of our trauma, we are feeling. When we feel, the trauma can begin to be healed.
When we are in the absence of soul, we are in the torment of being outside of ourselves. When we have trauma, feeling our way into and through it is all about the recovery of the soul. Trauma is just one of the experiences of the soul; and it is still our experience. Just like all of our experiences, we can feel our way through it.
Trauma, in fact, can be a way through to the soul. When we have a traumatic event, most of us separate from ourselves in some way – big or little – in order to survive that trauma. In that separation, we lose a part of our soul. To move through trauma, through the feelings we shut off in the traumatic event, is a way to recover the part of our soul that we lost.
In this way, trauma is more enlivening – more about coming into our soul lives – than the torment of being in the desert where we are completely separated from our souls.
Most of us live outside of our selves in this way, believing it is okay. Then, when we begin to break open to feeling the separation, we realize that we have been in torment all the time, living little lives when really we have incredibly big souls.
There is a tipping point here. On one side, we believe that we are in torment because we are giving up who we are. On the other side, we can begin to realize that who we believe we are or who we have been is the true torment, the true desert. We think that the desert is the problem, but we are the problem. We are a desert, but we do not recognize it.
Until we move past that tipping point, we need to stay in the desert to understand that our torment is not so much that we are in the desert; it is that we do not know about the deeper feelings and believe those feelings are our enemies. Feeling those deeper feelings is, in this way, our way of coming alive. It is all about perception. Once we have been to the underworld, our perception changes and we can finally see the old self and the old life as a desert that it is.
From the standpoint of the desert, we dip a toe into the great ocean of feeling and then pull away, not ready to wake up to ourselves because it seems so overwhelming, even impossible. But from the other side of the tipping point, it is not overwhelming to be in the ocean, in the ebb and flow of the feeling life. Once we are there, opening to our feelings, open to seeing the true desert of how we have lived our lives, we discover that the descent is not so difficult.
But at what point do we realize this? Carl, in this chapter, speaks from the far side of the tipping point, standing in the impossibility of the journey.
Through giving my soul all I could give, I came to the place of the soul and found that this place was a hot desert, desolate and unfruitful. . . . The soul has its own peculiar world. Only the self enters in there, or the man who has completely become his self, he who is neither in events, nor in men, nor in his thoughts. Through the turning of my desire from things and men, I turned my self away from things and men, but that is precisely how I became the secure prey of my thoughts, yes, I wholly became my thoughts. (p. 236)
Once we are aware of the desert experience, our consciousness is merely an array of thinking. We did not know this; we thought we were right, noble, the hero. But then we learn that all of our consciousness has been just thoughts. Just talk. Thoughts that want us to believe that they are true, incessantly talking.
Suddenly, we hear our egos whereas before we thought we were being something else, perhaps something noble. This can be a crushing realization, especially when we cannot stop the thoughts. But it is still an incredible revelation to know that they are just thoughts and that there is no real truth in them. They are just words.
Once we are in the desert, we do not believe the words anymore; we learn they are just thoughts. This is the lesson of the desert; it washes away the beliefs we think are our lives.
It is like this: the desert experience sand blasts the lie out of us.
Then, everything archetypal, everything of Narnia, of the Tolkien realm with all of the true battles that await us, all of this can begin to move toward us. It is this battle that Carl is quickly moving into, the battle that begins after we are washed of our old identities.
I have worked for decades with people who have never left the desert, whereas others walked right out in a few months, ready for the deeper descent. The desert is where we are until we are ready to descend into the real battle. The desert is not the battle; it is merely the preparation.
The desert washes away that in us which would interpret the battle. When we interpret the battle, there can be no alchemy. Alchemy cannot occur in the head; it must occur in the heart.
I also had to detach myself from my thoughts through turning my desire away from them. And at once, I noticed that my self became a desert, where only the sun of unquiet desire burned. (p. 236)
This is the point: to turn our desires away from ideas and thoughts because we know they are just thoughts. The realization of the desert is that all the things that our thoughts say, all the things our thoughts imbue with desire, are really lies.
Carl is understanding that the desire he has projected onto things and objects is a lie, and he is discovering cannot find solace in them anymore, even though he turns to them again and again. Nor can we find solace in our thoughts – our ideas, goals, ideologies, in doing the right thing, in raising children, in saving the world from whatever we think we need to save the world from – communism or terrorism or technology. Suddenly, all that we have believed in is gone. All that has driven us that we believed was our passion —gone.
Most psychiatrists or psychologists would say that without meaning, we are left with “depression.” Carl says we must be willing to be “depressed,” to be without meaning. This does not mean to go into the nihilism or into depression, but to be open to letting go of the meaning we have believed in, in order to be open to what the soul believes. To go deeper so that we can find the truth within us.
This is a very difficult step. If we take this step, then we are ready for the work of descent and Alchemy.
Even if something could have thrived there, the creative power of desire was still absent. . . . But do not forget to wait. Did you not see that when your creative force turned to the world, how the dead things moved under it and through it, how they grew and prospered, and how your thoughts flowed in rich rivers? If your creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit. (p. 236)
We live in an entrepreneurial age; we have goals, things we desire – wealth or whatever – and we use our creative energy to achieve our goals. With this creative energy we are able to produce many wonderful things in the world. We build rockets and skyscrapers, discover innovations in medicine, build a better economy, better bridges and roads; we produce every kind of artistic expression. Creative power, creative desire as Carl puts it, is what we call libido; the love and passion of the soul, which through its connection to the Divine is the source of this energy that creates all of this.
Carl asks; What would happen if we took all of that creative energy and, instead of building more roads and more ideals, we turned it toward the soul? For the force of this desire comes from the soul, and we have somehow co-opted it, taken ownership of it.
Carl says, give it back to the soul.
Nobody can spare themselves of the waiting and most will be unable to bear this torment, but will throw themselves with greed back at men, things, and thoughts, whose slaves they will become from then on. (p. 236)
The waiting opens something we do not like to feel. Perhaps the word torment to Carl means pain. But it is not really tormenting to feel our pain; it is the ego that says it is. If we taste this in the desert and then run away from it, back to the world of thought, the world of men, we will probably never return to the desert.
. . . to find their soul, the ancients went into the desert. This is an image. The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them. Thus they went into the solitude of the desert to teach us that the place of the soul is a lonely desert. There they found the abundance of visions . . . (p. 236)
In the desert, visions and dreams come. We can say that we have always had dreams, which is true, but mostly they are dream before the desert. These kinds of dreams are about our lives, about how we believe the lies and the thoughts. These dreams, which we call Stage One dreams, lead us to the desert.
To have dreams about the Archetypal world, about Narnia and how to get there, we have to go into the desert. When we are willing to pay the price of being in the desert, we have such dreams.
. . . the fruits of the desert, the wondrous flowers of the soul. Think diligently about the images that the ancients have left behind. They show the way of what is to come. . . . But who knows how to interpret it?
When you say that the place of the soul is not, then it is not. But if you say that it is, then it is. Notice what the ancients said in images: the word is a creative act. The ancients said: in the beginning was the Word. Consider this and think upon it. (p. 236)
This struggle between the true visions, the truth of the soul, our real feelings, and our attachment to our thoughts and ideas is the struggle Carl calls oscillating between nonsense and supreme meaning. Nonsense is believing that our thoughts have meaning.
The words that oscillate between nonsense and supreme meaning are the oldest and truest. (p. 236)
When we transcend the belief that thoughts have meaning and arrive at thoughts as nonsense, then we can enter into the struggle between knowing when we are lost in our own nonsense and when we are open to the supreme meaning. This is the beginning of alchemical work.
In other words, we may feel into the depth of truth, but not be living it. We may be conscious enough to know that everything we think has meaning is nonsense, but this does not mean we are suddenly enlightened, suddenly walking in grace, with God. It does not mean that we are yet able to be our soul selves.
It means that our personas have been broken down enough that we are left in a place of great confusion.
At this point we may think, “I have sat in that desert, I have given up things of the world, now, where is God? Where am I to go now? Why am I going through this same issue over and over again?”
In the desert, the solution is not yet offered. For this moment, the solution is to be in the desert, to stay with the confusion.
The next night the spirit of the depths tells Carl to write down as accurately as possible all of the dreams that he can remember.
Carl admits to his soul that he knows too much not to recognize the precariousness of the path ahead. "Where are you leading me?" he asks with trepidation, before conceding, "This hour belongs to you" [p. 235]. Still, he hesitates, questions, complains about what this costs him.
Trusting his dreams as the speech of his soul means surrendering to what holds meaning, not for him, but for his soul. It means leaving behind his familiar ways of thinking and understanding, and treading into the other half of the world, which to the spirit of the times seems like madness, nonsense and disorder. To the spirit of the depths, it is simply true meaning.
Despite apprehension and doubt at his world being turned upside-down, Carl follows, knowing he is following the footsteps of God.
Because Carl is not childlike, the spirit of the depths tells him, God comes to him as a child, capricious and disorderly. It is from this disorder and meaninglessness that order and meaning will arise. Carl is plunged deeper into the marriage of opposites.
He sees the irony and injustice of offering his love and trust to his fellow men and not to his own soul—how his claim of joy at finding her rings hollow, when in fact his actions show the opposite. Carl recognizes he must learn to love his soul, and admits that he is afraid.
At this, his soul speaks, saying that his fear is proof that he is against her. Carl acknowledges this, admitting that it kills the holy trust between them.
Carl writes about how opening the door to the soul brings the chaos into our well-ordered lives that are so full of “meaning”. He remembers that God is not only love, but also terrible. Yet it is this marriage of opposites, he is learning, that brings forth the divine child.
To become free, Carl says we must not succumb to temptation by the devil, but that we should succumb to temptation by God. Then we will be beyond Christianity and instead become like Christ, who overcame the temptation of the devil but not the temptation of God. It is the proper use of free will that will free us.
Carl had to learn to submit to what he feared and to love what horrified him. Because the soul bestows mercy and salvation, no sacrifice too great. Whatever hinders salvation, Carl tells us, be it virtue or vice, we must discard it.
For six nights the spirit of the depths is silent while Carl vacillates among fear, defiance and nausea, not wanting to listen as chaos floods his ordered mind. Then, on the seventh night the spirit of the depths speaks, telling Carl to look into his depths, pray to his depths, waken the dead.
Carl stands helpless, not knowing what to do. He looks within himself and finds only the memory of the dreams he had written down without knowing why. He wants to run back to the light of day, the land of reason ruled by the spirit of the times . . . but the spirit of the depths stops him, and forces him back into himself.
At this point in his journey, Carl is visited by the Animus and given specific instructions to write down his dreams. This is the same Animus who speaks to me, who would speak to all of us if we would listen. Carl hears the instruction and, of course, reacts and fusses at first.
Where are you leading me? Forgive my excessive apprehension, brimful of knowledge. My foot hesitates to follow you. Into what mist and darkness does your path lead? Must I also learn to do without meaning? If this is what you demand, then so be it. This hour belongs to you. (p. 235)
He sees this work of following the Animus and the instructions of his dreams as swaying bridges, not the known life he once had.
When we start this work, we all wonder, as Carl does, Where am I going? Where are my dreams leading me? We always want the answer, when our dreams and the Animus ask us to go on the journey by feeling into what the dreams offer, without having an answer.
We may say, “Just tell me what I need to do and I will do it!” Or, “If you tell me why I should jump off this bridge or that cliff, then I will do it.”
The answer is that the Animus and our dreams will not give us an answer. This work does not work in the mind. If we do the work in the mind, then we will never jump off the bridge with all of our fear and all of the pain in our hearts.
When we do this work with our minds, through an idea of what our dreams are asking, then we end up doing our work by rote. Meaning, as Carl uses the term here, is about the mind that wants to grasp an idea rather than have an experience. Carl acquiesces, although reluctantly.
What is there, where there is no meaning? Only nonsense, or madness, it seems to me. Is there also supreme meaning? Is that your meaning, my soul? I limp after you on crutches of understanding. I am a man and you stride like a God. What torture! I must return to myself, to my smallest things. (p. 235)
How many of us would actually like to return to the small things after a dream in which we are falling through the earth? We all react to this kind of experience in a dream by wanting to just wake up and worry about dinner. “Let’s have mincemeat pie!”
Hear my doubts, otherwise I cannot follow . . . I understand, I must not think either; should thought, too, no longer be? I should give myself completely into your hands – but who are you? . . . I know it’s ignoble to doubt you. . . . I forgot that you are also one of my friends, and have the first right to my trust. . . . I recognize my injustice. It seems to me that I despised you. My joy in finding you again was not genuine. I also recognize the scornful laughter in me was right. . . .
If you take a step towards your soul, you will at first miss the meaning. You will believe that you have sunk into meaninglessness, into eternal disorder. You will be right! Nothing will deliver you from disorder and meaninglessness, since this is the other half of the world. (p. 235)
What is Carl preparing us for?
This is not a diatribe about the ego’s struggle to maintain its perfection, even though it may sound like it and many of us will believe that this is what Carl is doing. But, he is not. He is preparing us for what comes next. He is preparing us for the alchemical process.
When we first enter into the process of the dreams and take a step toward our souls, as Carl says, we will miss what it means, because we will no longer be able to think. Without the meaning that our minds so desperately grasp, a vacuum is created. What we have known as “thought” and “meaning” will be changed in the process of the dreams and become something else entirely.
Carl prepares us because we are not ready. We all have ideas and assumptions about what we have done in our lives – what we feel has been good or bad, what we feel was necessary or unnecessary – and the dreams will confront all of our ideas about the “meaning” we have construed about our lives.
When we assume anything about our work or about our lives, we run the risk of adapting in order to meet those assumptions. When we assume we know where the dreams are taking us, we can “decide” to become that, even though it is not the truth of who we are. We can become the thing we assume the dream wants us to become, because we do not want to live in disorder and chaos, even though chaos is the temporary price we pay for enlightenment.
You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness. (p. 235)
The supreme meaning is beyond our own meaninglessness at any given the moment. We always think that if we were plunged into the darkness of our own pain, we would never get out of the pain. If we were plunged into the darkness of our own fear, we would never get out of the fear.
Carl worries that if he is plunged into the darkness of his own meaninglessness and chaos, he will never know light, he will never know meaning.
This is not true. But, for that moment, it is exactly what happens. How impatient we are; we always want to have Ariadne’s thread when we go into the labyrinth to face the Minotaur, the thread that guides the hero out after that he slays the Minotaur. We do not want to get lost to the Minotaur, lost in the labyrinth.
In this work, we do not return. We enter the labyrinth so that we can be slain by the Minotaur. The Minotaur is a projection of our own evil, our own monstrousness. The hero in us dies. There is no “back,” no return. But we want to make sure there is a thread, any thread. We want to make sure that we can enter the labyrinth, delve into the mysteries and come back to tell the world. Maybe we could become a star, make a million dollars.
You are afraid to open the door? I too was afraid, since we had forgotten that God is terrible. Christ taught: God is love. But you should know that love is also terrible. (p. 235)
Terrible? Love is only terrible to the ego that wants God to be a certain way so we can keep our illusions alive. Love is terrible because it kills all of the lies of emotional love and all of the feeble attachments that we claim as love. When we have the love of the Divine, we are no longer scared. It is that moment when everything, including our trauma, is revealed.
You dread the depths; it should horrify you, since the way of what is to come leads through it. You must endure the temptation of fear and doubt. At the same time acknowledging to the bone that your fear is justified and your doubt is reasonable. (p. 235)
We must tolerate the fear and doubt that tempt us, knowing full well that we have fear for good reason, and our doubt is reasonable. If they were not, it would not be a real temptation or a real overcoming.
Carl believes that his soul is fearful, but he is projecting his fear onto his soul. We think the soul is fearful because we are scared. Fear is justified because of our traumas. Doubt is justified because, in our traumas, we doubted God.
Christ totally overcomes the temptation of the devil, but not the temptation of God to good and reason. Christ thus succumbs to cursing. (p. 235)
Carl is referring to the moment when, on the cross, Christ called out, “Why hast thou forsaken me!” In that moment, he believed that God was just and would save him. But this is the mind seeking meaning and understanding of what it means to serve God.
This is conditional love.
Many of us, in the moment of our traumas, blamed God because we had conditional love. We did not understand that God’s love has nothing to do with cause and effect, with getting “results” or “answers” or “meaning”. It is not about goals, ideas or agendas. Rather, it is about the continuation of our own passion and nothing more.
You still have to learn this, to succumb to no temptation, but to do everything of your own will; then you will be free and beyond Christianity.
I have had to recognize that I have to submit to what I fear; yes, even more, that I must even love what horrifies me. (p. 235)
For Carl, will is Divine desire. We must accept the fact that the terrible thing that happened is the door to the beautiful person inside. For those who have trauma around spirituality, this means opening to who we were when we were put in danger of trauma in the first place.
Carl speaks about the saint who is disgusted by boils from the plague, but then drinks the pus and finds that it smells like roses.
The acceptance of evil in ourselves actually opens us to the truth that we are not evil. But if we deny the evil in us, we are then actually persecuted by it. If we do not acknowledge it, then what we are saying is that we must not be evil, and thus must always be good. We are left with our minds, with concept, meaning and living a pretense.
We are left with virtues, or our high-minded sense of what God should be or what we should be. There is no difference among someone who robs a bank, someone who pays whores for attention and someone who is God-fearing, goes to church and raises children. This is difficult to understand without understanding that as good as we may be, we are still lost from our souls.
As long as our virtues are more important than our souls, or we assume that our virtues come from our souls, we are lost. Debunking this idea is critical for the dreamwork.
If you believe that you are the master of your soul, then become her servant. If you were her servant, make yourself her master, since she needs to be ruled. These should be your first steps. (p. 235)
We are fools if we believe we are the masters of our souls. The teacher is always the child, and the child is always the perfect teacher. If we are servants of our souls, then we become masters, rather than teachers who teach about the soul without the soul.
Carl ends the chapter by confessing his fear of following the depths. Many of us who work with our dreams have had moments, or even years, in which we did not want to listen to our dreams. Many in the world do not want to listen to their dreams. This is the big No, where we say, I am NOT going to do this. It is reassuring to know that Carl had the same struggle.
During his second night of solitude, Carl complains to his soul that he has been searching for himself outside of himself for so long that he forgot he even had a soul.
He tells his soul that he found her first in the dreams of men, and that she then came in his own dreams. Then he found her where he least expected, climbing out of a dark shaft. He asks her, “Where were you all this time?” while he had been accomplishing things in the world.
Carl's soul is in the difficult position of needing to express herself through him, and he struggles to find a way to communicate his soul in normal language.
As he accepts his soul, his inner demons, the ear-whisperers, attack, and Carl listens. They use his scholarly ambition and accomplishments against him, saying that he lies to himself and seeks to be a prophet.
Carl's soul comes to him as a girl, a child. “Is God a child, a maiden?” he asks. He recognizes that she is eternal and that while he has been going about his life in the world, she has accompanied him, gracing him with insight, showing him how to make meaning, to see the whole in the parts. Carl tells us how she teaches him to see differently, turns his world upside-down; whatever he intends, she does the opposite.
He is telling us that the way he learned to see the world and do what he did in the world was through his soul. He is grateful for her steadfast devotion, which supported him to believe in himself in every decisive moment of his life. Carl realizes that his soul is behind everything in his life and always has been, that all he has ever done or will ever do has been to find his soul, and even those dearest to him are but symbols of their own souls.
Carl’s view of the world (or is it ours?) is blown apart as the spirit of the depths teaches him that dreams, commonly thought of as the dregs of thought, are actually the speech of the soul, and like the words of the person dearest to him, he should hold them close in his heart. They are the guiding words of his soul, and his actions and decisions are dependent upon them. Though we don't understand our dreams, they determine us.
Carl now understands that he has been separated from his soul, that his scholarly thoughts and ideas about the soul were just thoughts and ideas, and actually his soul is a living and self-existing being about which he knows nothing and who speaks in the language of dreams. The spirit of the depths tells him that scholarly knowledge will not be enough to understand this language. We need the insight of the heart to understand the language of dreams. This insight is not found in books nor will it come from the mouths of teachers. It springs from you, he is told, like a seed growing out of the earth.
To learn this knowledge of the heart, the spirit of the depths tells Carl that he must live his life fully, live what he has not yet lived, stop being blind and deaf to the life within him that demands to be lived. He is told that the heart is both good and evil, and how he should live is decided by well-being – not the well-being of others, or the well-being of himself, but simply well-being, that which makes his soul well.
With this Carl begins to take in the truth that he is nothing more than the expression and symbol of his soul. That he is in fact the servant of this girl child. It is a bitter pill to swallow and he hates the very idea that he is subjugated to a child, that his soul is a child, and his God in his soul is a child. And he accepts it.
This acceptance riles the demons of the spirit of the time and they mock him. The spirit of the depths reminds Carl that he is not the first to be mocked this way. He is told to look to the teaching of Christ, not to be a Christian, but Christ himself, or else he will be of no use to the coming God. There is no way around the pain, the spirit of the depths tells him. No shortcuts. The only way through is to feel the pain as Christ did.
After Carl had gone through the external events, the external world, his heart really opened in his dreams. His heart opened and he was forced to go deeper. We are not going to go deeper unless something in us rises up to show us why, to show us the path. It is scary.
We cannot be discerning without a connection with the spirit of the depths, the Archetypes, the Animus. Part of this work is about growing a relationship with Him.
We may wonder sometimes why we do not have dreams like Carl’s, dreams of descending down a tunnel or a shaft. We do not have these kinds of dreams until we are ready, until we are intimate enough with Him. We cannot go through these places alone. It is impossible.
It is not enough to have an analyst as a guide. Any analyst who believes he or she can take someone on this kind of journey when the dreamer does not have a connection with the Animus is wrong. We need the support of the Archetypes to go into and through all of the tunnels, all of the traumas, all of the work.
Of course, Carl wandered and lost his soul, just as we all do. This is why he is unsure of his soul. It is separate from him, coming as the girl or as a child.
Mockery for Carl is not about being mocked; instead, it is about being criticized or, even more, scrutinized. The process of mockery is really about having our molecules changed, challenging what we think and what we believe. What we think is true is not.
When I first read The Red Book, I was confused, for I thought Carl was saying that he felt that God was mocking him. But I realize that this mocking is different. It is the “mocking” that God does in our dreams. Does He not trap us, trick us, hit us on the head sometimes, laugh at us, stab us, shoot us?
What God “mocks” when He is working this way in a dream is the part of us that is aligned with the spirit of the times. He mocks what we believe to be truth in order for us to learn what is true.
In this chapter, the soul is mocking Carl. The mockery is an attack on all of Carl’s other books, all of his lectures, all of his other teachings. How many teachers want us to believe in them instead of wanting us to believe in, believe inward?
It is so difficult to learn how to be a teacher because the Animus wants to make sure that we are not going to be THE teacher. The analyst is not a teacher. The analyst is simply a child being directed by the Divine on how to work the work of the dreams. If we think we know something, we will fail in working with others. It is only the Divine that can guide us through our inner work. We must learn to be open to that guide, the appropriate guide.
It is also in this chapter that Carl first references multiple lifetimes, which he speaks of as “all-without-end,” which is eternity. What he means by this is that we have our life as our essence. Our soul, our essence, continues, which continues life to life.
And yet, if we are obedient to our work as shown through the dreams, the Divine can make things happen in the world in this lifetime. But this cannot come from our desires. The Divine does not give us what we want, not because He does not want to, but because we have no idea what we really want.
The Divine will give us what our souls want. The only way we consider anything is through ourselves, the part of us that lives in the spirit of the times, without our souls. But through our souls, the consciousness of our souls, what we really want is Him.
For me, my faith is not conditioned upon things occurring or not occurring in the world. We cannot be led if we have our own agendas. If we really want to be helped, then we need our relationship with Him. This is what the soul wants.
Carl illustrates his point by saying that what he intended to plant, which was his own agenda, the Archetypes took away from him. This is very clear in dreams—both in our dreams and in Carl’s. The dreams take us deep into hell; then we have a dream in which He lifts us up again. Then we are plunged back down.
Carl speaks of not making others, which he calls dearest, more important than this journey the dreams lead us on. Dearests means the beloved people in our lives—spouses, friends, children, etc. Many of us project our own souls onto our children. Is it a noble thing to make our children the stars of our lives? To make them everything? To the Divine, our souls come first, before even our children. Otherwise, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul and then we become God for our children when we need to be the child soul with God.
This is how having children and doing everything for them can actually rob us of our ability to be the child. We may think that a dream in which we are loving and caring for the child is a wonderful dream, but it is really a terrible dream. When we love the child, then we are not ourselves the beloved child. Loving a child in a dream is better than harming the child, of course, but it is still not being the child.
My friends, do you guess to what solitude we ascend?
I must learn that the dregs of my thought, my dreams, are the speech of my soul. I must carry them in my heart, and go back and forth over them in my mind, like the words of the person dearest to me. Dreams are the guiding words of the soul. Why should I henceforth not love my dreams and not make their riddling images into objects of my daily consideration? You think that the dream is foolish and ungainly. What is beautiful? What is ungainly? What is clever? What is foolish? The spirit of this time is your measure, but the spirit of the depths surpasses it at both ends. Only the spirit of this time knows the difference between large and small. But this difference is invalid, like the spirit which recognizes it. (p. 233)
We cannot guess where our dreams will take us. Instead, we let the dreams work us. In Archetypal Dreamwork, we call this the homework. When we work our work in this way, going into the feelings and experiences we have worked in a session with our analyst, it can open us to deeper work and then we can bring it to our lives at some point. But first, it must be an inner process.
Measure has no meaning. In other words, the spirit of the times judges things. For example, we may say, “I had a bad dream.” How do we know what a bad dream is? How do we know what is right for us? The spirit of the depths asks us to accept the dream, but we do not. The spirit of the depths asks us to base our actions and decisions on our dreams.
This is tricky, for if a dream told us to work late one day, would we? Maybe. If a dream told us to quit a job, leave a marriage, take $100,000 from savings and do a particular thing with it, would we? Of course, our dreams do not tell us to do these kinds of things. Not because they cannot, but because they will not. We would not do it.
There are many people in this work who say, “Why doesn’t the Archetype tell me what to do?” The Archetypes do not because we will not do it. The dream will tell us the thing we do not want to do. If we do not care about the object of our desire, then it does not matter. If we do not care where we go, as long as we are with Him, then we will go. But it is difficult to be in that place.
Carl intentionally says, “the spirit of the depths taught me” because this is a teaching. It is something we learn through the dreams.
Dreams pave the way for life, and they determine you without you understanding their language. One would like to learn this language, but who can teach and learn it? Scholarliness alone is not enough; there is a knowledge of the heart that gives deeper insight. The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth. Scholarliness belongs to the spirit of this time, but this spirit in no way grasps the dream, since the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.
But how can I attain this knowledge of the heart? You can attain this knowledge only by living your life to the full. You live your life fully if you also live what you have never yet lived, but have left for others to live or to think. (p. 233)
Living life to the full is living the life as shown through the dreams. We may say, “But I AM living my life to the fullest.” The dreams show us the things that we are doing that are not right for us. Instead, we must do the thing we never did. Does that mean become a Democrat if you are a Republican, or vice versa? Of course not. It means following the challenge of the dream.
We all want to flee from the self, the real self, so as not to have to live what remains unlived, what has not been thought and remains for us to think and feel. This is so true. We would rather stay the way we are because we believe we are all right.
There is a split between the inner world and the outer world. Well-being, which is where we want to stay where we are, and the search for well-being in the world, is pathology. Well-being decides us, which is the spirit of the times. It is not the true well-being of our souls.
It is a bit ironic that when we do want to find the well-beingness of the soul, we are often told that we are narcissistic, spending too much time on our own selves.
Well-being between us and others is a social issue – it is not a desire. This shows that true desire is innately about only one thing – our own souls.
Does this not go against all the teachings we have learned about being in service to others in the world, about doing what God wants in terms of service? If we want to do service for the sake of service, then we are probably in well-being, not in our souls.
The soul says, “First, I want it to be about me.” This is not narcissism if it comes from the soul, if the desire is not the object. It is not about wanting this or wanting that, but about wanting Him, wanting the Divine. First we get Him; then we can serve. There are many who serve before they have Him.
The spirit of the time of course allowed me to believe in my reason. He let me see myself in the image of a leader with ripe thoughts. But the spirit of the depths teaches me that I am a servant, in fact the servant of a child. This dictum was repugnant to me and I hated it. (p. 234)
To die to self, to give up the ego, to be the child, we must first serve the child. This takes not just humility, but extreme humility. This is different from being humble, for humbleness is a form of arrogance.
This is difficult, for many people who teach and who are healers have great, ripe thoughts that others can pick and eat. But this is not the right way for a leader or teacher to be. The way to tell whether a teacher or healer is living this way rather than being in relationship with Him is to look at that person’s dreams. Most of the teachers and healers I have worked with have had to face into the fact that they have not been of their souls.
Of course, this was repugnant to Carl. Who wants to hear that their leadership and their ripe thoughts are all flawed?
The spirit of the depths ultimately teaches us that God should not tell us what to do – we should know when we are not right. Many of us wait until someone around us tells us we are off instead of knowing it from the inside. We should mock ourselves instead of having God or a teacher mock us.
If you have still not learned this from the old holy books, then go there, drink the blood and eat the flesh of him who was mocked and tormented for the sake of our sins, so that you will totally become his nature, deny his being-apart-from-you; you should be himself, not Christians but Christ, otherwise you will be of no use to the coming God. (p. 234)
Here, Carl is talking about Jesus, not Christians or Christianity. For those of us in the Western culture, we are Judeo-Christian, even if we have become Buddhists. Carl tells us not to be Christians, but Christ. What does this mean?
We are not really going to understand what Carl means here until we face into our traumas. Jesus was the most human when he was on the cross, turning against God, saying, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Every human who carries hurts and wounds, which is all of us, stands in that moment and asks this question: “God, why have you abandoned me?” It is in that moment that we lose our souls. Turning that trauma into love, into feeling love in that very moment, is what Christ did when he said, soon after, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” We do not have this moment in our lives, but the dreams will give us this gift.
Jesus could not ask for forgiveness for those who killed and tortured him if he did not realize that God had nothing to do with his predicament. He blamed God but then understood that all evil that comes to humans comes from humans. In some mystical way, God cannot intervene. We make the choices.
This is such a difficult process. If it were otherwise, then God would be a tyrant. The soul must come forth. It is not about compliance. Many tyrants in the world are tyrants around spirituality or religion – priests or ministers or “holy” men or women.
So, when Carl says not to be Christian, but to be Christ, he means to step into our traumas in a new way, to learn what Jesus learned on the cross.
Is there any among you who believes he can be spared the way? Can he swindle his way past the pain of Christ? I say: “Such a one deceives himself to his own detriment. He beds down on thorns and fire. No one can be spared the way of Christ, since this way leads to what is to come. You should all become Christs.”(p. 234)
The pain of Christ is simply the pain of our traumas; it is the way back to compassion.
This is controversial for we confuse this with Christianity. Christianity’s way of compassion is really just ego, arrogance, pathology. The Church took over the mystery, and then said, “We have a mystery and we want to share it with you.” Chartres is a great example of this. People go to Chartres to find the mystery – in the labyrinth, in the windows, in all the splendor of the church, when the whole time, the Girl lives underneath Chartres. When Christa and I visited Chartres, we went down into the crypt of the church. There, in a darkened room that the guide simply walked by without a second look, was an image of Mary. This is the Girl, locked up in a dungeon in the darkness.
Every step closer to my soul excites the scornful laughter of my devils, those cowardly ear-whisperers and poison-mixers. It was easy for them to laugh, since I had to do strange things. (p. 234)
As we go deeper in our work, into our own journeys to our souls, it is true that the pathology gets stronger. The ear-whisperers have nothing to do with our true desires, with our souls. Our feelings always trump the ear-whisperers.
What are the ear-whisperers? Thoughts. In our society, we definitely believe more in thoughts than in feelings. We have more ideas about our thoughts than we do our feelings. This is part of the problem. But when we develop feelings, we no longer need to be confused, for whisperings are not feelings.
Carl is still giving us an understanding of the complexity of the soul. We have yet to begin the descent.
It is 1913, and Carl is nearly 40 years old. He has achieved everything in the world he had wished for—honor, power, wealth, knowledge, all he desired for his happiness. Yet, nearing 40, he finds himself in horror at the emptiness of it all. He is seized by the vision of the flood and he feels the spirit of the depths come upon him and drive him with an unbearable inner longing.
Carl calls out to his soul, asking, “Are you there?” The arrogance of his worldly success has him asking his soul if he should speak about his experiences in the world. Then he admits that perhaps the noise of the world matters little to his soul.
Carl tells his soul anyway, telling us, too, that the one thing he has learned is that we must live this life because it is the way to the divine; there are no other ways. The proof of this, for Carl, is that he is now in the presence of his soul.
The words he is writing are not what he expected, but come forth from the depths. Carl is coming to the realization that he has been separated from his soul, for how long he does not know. He rejoices that through all the twists and turns of his life, he has been guided to find his way back to his soul. Having gotten here, he says he will no longer continue without his soul, and with this he accepts his journey into solitude.
Carl begins to see how wrongly he has perceived his soul. The spirit of the depths humbles him as he discovers that all of the years of thinking and speaking about the human soul, all of his wise words, his knowledge, have had nothing to do with the soul. These words and thoughts are no more than a dead system, a collection of judgments that turned his soul into a scientific object.
He learns that the spirit of the depths sees the soul completely differently than the spirit of the times sees her. The spirit of the times sees the soul as dependent on man. But his soul is actually something unknown to him.
In being forced to speak this way, Carl finds that he is speaking to his soul as a self-existing, real and living being.
With excitement he tells us what he has learned about how to reach the place of the soul, how we must turn away from desiring things of the world. If we do not find our souls, we will become fools who in desperation and fear try to assuage the horror of emptiness by running after the hollow things of the world. Carl says we will never find our souls in the things of the world, for the soul is found only within ourselves.
Distinguishing desire for things of the world from true desire, which springs from the soul, he tells us that if we possess our desire, we will find our soul, as desire is the image and expression of the soul. Yet if our desire possesses us, we will not find our souls, for in seeking the things of the world but not the image of the world, the soul has nothing. The richness of the soul exists in images.
Carl ends this chapter by warning against the poverty of the soul brought on by slaking our desire by chasing things of the world.
This chapter is not really about redefining the soul – it is about refinding the soul. Looking at the title, our minds want to make it redefining, because our minds like to think, just as Carl likes to think. But refinding the soul means that we have lost it.
Carl begins the chapter speaking about how he had gotten everything that life could afford him – wealth, fame, success – but that all of this was empty.
When we live in the spirit of the times, whatever we have is never going to be enough. Never. The increase will never fulfill our true need, what we really need. The emptiness continues unabated. But Carl embraced this, letting the desire ebb from him.
It is at this moment that the vision of the flood seizes him. I love this. We can let the visions and images of our dreams seize us only when we feel. An image cannot affect us if we do not feel it. He is seized because he feels it. He feels it because he let his desire for outer-world things abate.
In dreams, a flood or a tsunami is usually a life changing moment, offering the opportunity to drown and “die” in the flood so we can wake into a new being. Carl went from being basically “happy” and successful in the world – a star, really – to suddenly feeling the horror of the separation from his soul.
“My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak, I call you – are you there? I have returned, I am here again. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you, I am with you. After long years of long wandering, I have come to you again. Should I tell you everything I have seen, experienced, and drunk in? Or do you not want to hear about all the noise of life and the world? But one thing you must know: the one thing I have learned is that one must live this life." (p. 232)
Carl sounds just like the prodigal son here. It is as if he is saying to the Animus, which is the spirit of the depths, “Hey, Dad! I have been everywhere and I have made my mark in the world and I am home now. Do you want to hear everything?” But the spirit of the depths does not want to hear because the spirit of the depths already knows.
Is he speaking about living our lives, the way that we live our lives, the way that we breathe? No. Carl is saying that this life, the life of the dream, is the way. The life of the dream seeker is what he calls “this life.”
There are many paths in the world, of course. Carl, however, is saying that this way, the life of the dream, is the way. Everybody dreams, and the dream is the ultimate teacher because it is inspired by the Divine. Dreams are not inspired by a teacher in the world, but by our own teacher from within who knows us like no one else can. This teacher knows the way back to our souls.
The way is long sought after because we seek the path and no one really knows what it is. It has not manifested; even though we dream, we do not understand how to find this path. But the Animus, which is part of the Spirit of the Depths, does and this way of working with dreams is aligned with this journey, this specific way of understanding dreams.
For Carl, the only way is the dream. I am not saying this is the only way; we can do other things. But for Carl, the only way is the dream. For me, the only way is the dream. It is, as Carl says, a twisty journey.
Again, here in Primus, Carl is working from a place of realization. In Secondus, we will see, he works from the place of his evolving soul; in other words, there are more reactions in Secondus. But here, he speaks from what he has learned.
Carl calls his soul disavowed. Taking a vow means commitment. To be in disavowment means to have a commitment against. So, in calling his soul disavowed, he is admitting that he was against himself, against his soul. With the soul, we cannot be in the place where we can go either way – we are either for it or against it. There is no gray area. In our minds, however, we believe there is a gray area. In reality, there is no gray area.
If we do not find the commitment to our souls at some point in our journey, then we cannot really do the work at the level that Carl speaks of. We do not start committed, of course; we learn commitment. Here, Carl is remembering what he disavowed. He is not lecturing us on our failing. He is speaking of his own knowing. We can agree or not – this is Carl’s journey and Carl’s knowing.
The life he speaks of is the life of the dreaming, not his life in the spirit of the times. It is easy to misinterpret this moment. We believe that we have our lives and that we evolve, but evolution in life is not a given. We must each find our own path. And, according to Carl, ascend to solitude.
But, why does he say “ascend to my solitude” (p. 232)? Quietness in the world does not mean that living in the archetypal world is about literal solitude in the world – living as a monk in the woods. The monk in the woods is an idealized version of enlightenment or seeking the Divine.
Our dreams, in contrast, are very noisy. Eventually, our dreams become not dreams. They become waking states of beingness and consciousness. I never feel solitude in the “monk in the woods” way. This is the idea of solitude in terms of the world. The word solitude has the echo of the word solace. Seeking solitude is seeking solace, not isolation.
We often confuse the idea of solitude when confronted with it in our work. We may say, “Does this mean I can’t marry? Does this mean I can’t go on that golf trip, because I really love golf?” We can do all of those things, for solitude is not about being alone.
We can solve many of our problems if we forgo the world for the sake of the Divine world. From this place, we then have a feeling knowledge to make better decisions in the world. Of course, we can do this however we want. Most of us learn by making bad decisions and growing out of them, having to redefine our lives anew.
Carl speaks about the spirit of the depths forcing him to speak, to write. I love that Carl says he was forced to say all of this. It does not mean that he has a gun to his head, even though we may believe this. Many of us have had dreams in which we feel kidnapped and held prisoner when what has “captured” us is the Animus, the archetypes. Carl is saying that the spirit of the depths made him stay in this place, even though he did not want to stay there and even though he was free to go because there were no guards holding him back.
The Divine forced Carl to speak this way, and force for Carl is the passion of the Divine. I have often felt, and others have reported this, that standing with the Divine feels more and more like there is something inside wanting to be exploded. From the standpoint of the ego that wants to repress this energy, the energy feels like a force against the ego. The true self, however, is not forced. It wants to shout whatever it wants to shout.
And he must undergo what he speaks.
He undergoes it as he speaks it, for when we speak from the soul, the ego does not like it. There is a split and we are in conflict. Generally, the ego pathology wins and we do not let the soul speak.
Is this not the struggle? How many of us know what our souls want to speak, feel what our souls want to speak, but do not speak it? This is what Carl is referring to here. Of course, there are many of us who still do not know what our souls want to say. For those of us who do not know, we must go deeper to find it.
Carl admits that he is still living in the spirit of the times, living as if he knows something about the soul. But notice, he knows the soul as the girl, even here.
When we live the spirit of the times, we believe that the soul can be the object of our judgment and knowledge because we think we are in charge. Many misguided seekers call their egos their souls, and because they believe this, they believe they know what their souls want. We may believe that because we have meditated for 18 years or had a prayer practice for 20 years, we know our souls.
We endeavor to answer this question – What do we want to do to fulfill our souls? But we cannot answer it if we do not feel it. This is the battle line.
We are in battle with our selves when we begin to feel. We are going to feel forced by the spirit of the depths when we live from our ego selves.
Therefore the spirit of the depths forced me to speak to my soul, to call upon her as a living and self-existing being. I had to become aware that I had lost my soul. From this we learn how the spirit of the depths considers the soul: he sees her as a living and self-existing being, and with this he contradicts the spirit of this time, for whom the soul is a thing dependent on man, which lets herself be judged and arranged, and whose circumference we can grasp. I had to accept that what I had previously called my soul was not at all my soul but a dead system. Hence I had to speak to my soul as to something far off and unknown, which did not exist through me, but through whom I existed. (p. 232)
If we believe that we have found our souls, that we have our souls, then we are going to keep speaking lies, not realizing that the soul is not there at all. Carl sees that he has to admit that he had lost his soul first. This is a heavy thing.
Some people do come into this work saying, “I do not know my soul.” But most people come into work believing they just need a little help, a little fine-tuning, because they believe they have been working on themselves at a soul level without realizing they have not.
The soul is not symbolic. It is living as a being. Just as the archetypes live as self-existing beings.
The soul does not exist through Carl, through the ego. Carl must learn to exist as the soul.
Is the “whom” he speaks of here just the soul? Perhaps the “whom” also refers to Him. The first body of the work is not about bringing attention to the soul. It is usually about the Archetypes coming to shock us, coming as trickster, agent provocateur, showing us that we are separate from our souls.
He is provocative. He provokes us.
We may say, “If He really wants my attention, why doesn’t He come in a way where I could receive Him, in a good way? He knows I love to be wined and dined, so why doesn’t He wine and dine me?” We may complain about how He comes like a Mack truck sometimes.
But He has to come this way because we are lost and do not know it. The first step is finding a connection to the Animus, and then the soul starts to emerge.
But this is just the first step, just the beginning. Once these pieces are in place in our work, we then go down into trauma. I did not know this to be true until the work progressed to that level. It was a shock. But Carl knew it.
We must, as Carl says, turn away from the outside world; otherwise, all is hollow. Doing this work does not mean that we cannot have the golf trip, but I guarantee that it is not going to be as much fun as it used to be.
When we endeavor in our desire for the hollow things, as Carl puts it, this is compulsion. Whether it is compulsive eating, drugs, sex – it does not matter what it is, as long as it holds us up. When the thing stops holding us up, it often leaves us with depression. This is particularly true with men, for there are many older men, over 60 usually, who are just resigned. They are not open to any more learning, and they do everything their way. They may not like what they are doing, but they believe that what they are doing is all there is. They lose their desire. This is why I believe this kind of obsession culminates in depression.
The soul, according to Carl, truly does lie in things and people, but when we are blind, we seize things and others – not our souls in things and others. The soul is in the world, but we must find it first in ourselves.
We can find our soul in desire without object. What is desire when we have an object of desire? Projection. It is projecting desire onto something we think we want.
The raw core of desire does not belong to us – it belongs to the soul. We confuse the soul’s desire with our desire, with the desire we feel that is not even ours. Desire is libido; when we project desire into the world, our libido just sits at the base of the spine. It does not rise because our projection onto a desire in the world separates us from our selves. The true source of libido stays locked in our bodies. We end up with no verve, no passion for living.
If we separate desire from our objects of desire in the world, we may lose things. All those things we thought we wanted we may find we do not want anymore. Whether we are left-wingers believing that we need more wind power so that we have more energy efficiency, or right-wingers believing that we need more bombs to protect us, we believe what we believe and then believe it is what the soul wants. But what if we are all wrong? Even if we are right, what if we are wrong?
If we possess the image of a thing, we possess half the thing.
The image of the world is half the world. He who possesses the world but not its image possesses only half the world, since his soul is poor and has nothing. The wealth of the soul exists in images. (p. 232)
What is the other half? The soul, of course. The wealth is not wealth in the world, but in the image of the dream, when we let the images seize us.
This is difficult, for Carl is saying that it does not matter whether we are wealthy or poor. We believe that if we do not work, we are going to end up living in a box. We feel the pressure, unless we have money from a trust fund or some other place. It is a conundrum for many of us – we have pressure around money – mortgage, recession, economy shrinking, kids in college. We have many reasons why we cannot afford to go on this journey. We feel we have to get everything lined up, food for the family, retirement money.
But Carl says, nurture the soul first and we will not be poisoned.
There is a mystery here that we do not understand. If we nurture the soul, the soul takes charge and then we get everything. I cannot explain what everything is. It is not about the big lie of abundance.
There actually is no abundance unless we are in our souls.
There actually is no God for us unless we are in our souls.
We may say, “Okay. I will do what God wants, but I do not want to be broke.” We cannot do what God wants until we are in our souls. Carl is not speaking about obedience to God. He never says, “You have to be this or that or do this or that.” This is not about hellfire.
Carl says, first we have to find our souls, before we can think about service and God. If we believe we have our souls, we are running a risk – what if we are wrong? Then we are doing all the right things, but without the soul.
Carl ends the chapter:
My friends, it is wise to nourish the soul, otherwise you will breed dragons and devils in your heart. (p. 232)
"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
With these words, Carl Jung opens The Red Book, quoting from chapter 53 of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah describes this “who” as a tender plant that grows out of the dry ground, without beauty that would make us desire him.
Carl describes what is despised and rejected in us, as Christ was despised and rejected; then continues to quote Isaiah and then John, speaking of the birth of the child, the savior, the Word made flesh. He finishes this opening section with Isaiah’s celebration of the wilderness, the solitary place, the desert rejoicing with blossom and flowing water.
In this nutshell, Carl has painted for us the arc of the journey he is about to take us on.
And so the journey begins. Carl has learned that not only is there a spirit of the times but also a spirit of the depths, a spirit he long resisted. The spirit of the depths forces him to speak what it has revealed to him of his own nature and the nature of the spirit of the times, which is the way he used to think, the way we all think that is rooted in the time in which we are living. The spirit of the depths compels him to write in a way that is contrary to what the spirit of the times would have him say, in contrast to what he has previously written. If he does not speak this, he is robbed of joy and life.
The spirit of the depths, which is from time immemorial, has greater power than the spirit of the times. It subjugates his pride, takes away his devotion to the ideals of the time, his belief in science and his pleasure in ordering and explaining things. It robs him of his knowledge and understanding, giving it to that which is only in service to the depths, the melting together of sense and nonsense to produce the supreme meaning which is "the path, the way and the bridge of what is to come."
The spirit of the depths explains to Carl the supreme meaning: the supreme meaning being the God who is yet to come. It is "the beginning and the end, the bridge of going across and the fulfillment; an image and a force in one." It is the image of God and is real and casts a shadow, for what can be real and related to the body and not cast a shadow? The shadow of the supreme meaning is nonsense. The supreme meaning is as spacious as the starry heaven and as small as the cell of a living body.
Carl understands that the arrogance of the spirit of the times wanted him to accept the greatness of the supreme meaning, but not its smallness, not what is unheroic, ridiculous and revolting. It tempted Carl, saying that the supreme meaning, the melting together of opposites, is just about him. The spirit of the depths tells Carl that he is an image of the unending world with the last mysteries of becoming and passing away living within him.
Carl battles between believing the spirit of the depths and believing the spirit of the times. His humanity, which lives in the spirit of the times, reproaches him, accusing the depths of demanding terrible sacrifice. The spirit of the depths speaks of monasteries and the thousands who have heeded the call to go into the desert. It redefines sacrifice as the foundation of what is to come, telling Carl that he should carry the monastery within himself, that the power of the call of the desert in him is so strong that it will break all of his attachments to the world.
"Truly, I prepare you for solitude," says the spirit of the depths.
These words silence Carl’s humanity and he experiences mercy. He is given enough belief, hope and daring to cease resisting the spirit of the depths. He asks for a visible sign that the spirit of the depths is not just within him but is also ruling the depths of world affairs. He is given visions and dreams that presage the coming of the First World War, and are also about his own internal war.
The first is a repeating vision he had in October of 1913 of a flood spreading from northern Europe to the Alps and Russia, countless dead, a sea of blood over the northern lands and a voice saying, "Look at it, it is completely real, and it will come to pass. You cannot doubt this."
In a dream that recurred three times in June and July of 1914, Carl is in a foreign land and must return to his homeland quickly. When he gets there, it is midsummer, yet a terrible cold has fallen from space turning everything alive into ice. There stands a tree with no fruit, but with leaves that through the frost have turned into sweet grapes, filled with healing juice. He picks some of the grapes and gives them to the throng of people waiting.
All this came to pass. Carl was in Scotland when the great war broke out in Europe. He took the fastest boat home and encountered all that his dream had shown him. "I found my barren tree whose leaves the frost had transformed into remedy. And I plucked the ripe fruit and gave it to you…"
This book is the fruit Carl gives to us. It is not teaching or instruction. It is a chronicle of his journey, and his journey is not ours. Each of us has a unique path. Carl warns us not to live by example, saying that the only way is our own way, to live our own lives. We are our own fertile ground, and like a plant, also grow. He tells us the signposts have fallen and the trails ahead are not blazed.
As this first chapter ends, Carl beseeches us to seek our own way, the way that leads to mutual love. He implores us to be patient with how crippled the world is and not to be overly impressed with its great beauty.
* * * * * * * *
When I first started reading The Red Book and thinking about writing about Carl’s work, I did not understand the joke. I thought, I am going to be going against Carl – I cannot do that! This is supposed to be Carl and Me, not Me and Carl. What I came to understand is that this exploration of The Red Book is for my own learning.
Carl wants us to disagree with him. He plays on himself by being the fool, the fool that, indeed, we all are. But in disagreeing with him, we have to agree that we are the fools. We have to agree that we behave exactly the way he behaves in The Red Book in our own way when we presume to believe that we know everything.
When Carl says, “The God is where you are not,” he means that everything we think we are, we are not. We believe that where we are is where God is, but this is where we are not. God is not where we are because where we are is not who we are.
Perhaps Carl plays this in a humorous way because it is difficult for any of us to face.
Carl’s writing is difficult to understand. There are many scholars who have not done inner work at this level and so do not understand what Carl is talking about.
We begin with Primus, the first of the three books of The Red Book and which is really a roadmap of Carl’s journey in the other two books. His journey relates directly to the stages of Archetypal Dreamwork; we will explore the book in this context as well as in the context of my and others’ experiences of the depths as encountered in dreams. Bringing our experience in our own inner work, our own dream work, as a question to The Red Book is an important part of the process.
Primus is the primary understanding; Secondus, which is much longer, relates back to Primus. When we explore Secondus, we will see how Primus creates a context for the second book.
Carl starts challenging us right from the beginning. He says,
If I speak in the spirit of this time, I must say: no one and nothing can justify what I must proclaim to you. (p. 229)
What is the spirit of the times? What is the spirit of the depths?
Throughout the book, Carl works with these two distinct realities. The spirit of the times is the life we are currently living, our current incarnational reality. It is our outer life – all of it. It includes our traumas, the ways we have lived and died and have been reborn again.
The other reality is the spirit of the depths, the Narnia of CS Lewis’ books about Narnia, such as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
The journey requires us to encounter the spirit of the depths; it is a journey to find the girl, the sacred soul. In Western mythology, this is Persephone’s journey, her descent into Hades.
When we look through the eyes of the spirit of the times, we look at our lives in relationship to this incarnation only. All of the depths of our being that we do not consciously remember and feel end up landing in this life, in the spirit of the times, and they do not make sense to us. We just try to order what we do not understand into a life that makes no sense. Our society, our culture, our music, our art are all default circumstances that really have nothing to do with our souls.
This is why Carl, in his book, plays the fool who believes he knows everything about himself. The truth is, we are all lost in our lives. But we have collective agreements: we agree that the Yankees are the best team or the worst team; we agree that wind power is good or bad. We all agree on things; then in twenty years, all that we agree on may be completely different. What we believe today is just another petty thing that changes to another petty thing.
But the spirit of the depths is a knowingness that is really a hidden, gnostic knowledge. It is this knowledge that Carl unfurls for us. Not by telling us, however. We must go inside and find it ourselves.
This is difficult because we always look for knowledge outside ourselves. This knowledge, this gnostic knowing, is inside each and every one of us, but only if we are willing to be where we are not; only if we are willing to look into the fool and look past what we think is true.
Otherwise, we all agree, and we are all wrong.
This is why Carl says,
I have learned that in addition to the spirit of this time there is still another spirit at work. Namely that which rules the depths of everything contemporary. The spirit of this time would like to hear of use and value. I also thought this way and my humanity still thinks this way. (p. 299)
The spirit of the times, the spirit of this life individually and collectively, would like to use the aeonic reality of the spirit of the depths for our own purposes of this moment. But the spirit of the depths does not care about this moment – it does not care about the stock market going up or down, whether we lose our house or get a new job. It does not care about anything, because in the spirit of the depths is the one moment, the moment of aeonic time that we are traveling in. But we want to use it now, to make our lives better.
Why is this an important point for those on the journey? Because the moment of our demise in which something terrible happened, perhaps in a past life, actually becomes the most important moment in our lives. Maybe we lost a loved one, maybe we lost our own life in a violent way. Maybe we have a moment of great failure. Whatever that moment is, we will remember the worst moment as the moment. In reality, it is just a moment when something terrible happened. If we died, we are born again and we move forward.
But we get stuck in the moment of what happened because it was the worst moment for us. The spirit of the times is part of the place where we believe the thing that happened was completely devastating. But in the larger view, perhaps in the view of the spirit of the depths, in which we have many lifetimes, it was just a bad time, a blip. But we remember the blip, the bad moment, because it is the moment we jump away from what we know. In that moment, pathology wins and we come back in our next life dumber than we were before.
We are supposed to be evolving, but we are actually devolving if we do not come back from trauma, from the bad moment. We may be getting smarter – we have things like democracy and more civil rights that make things much better – but if we do not come back from what we knew, we actually get worse. Things do not fix themselves life after life. That is why we cannot use the spirit of the depths; we are not awake enough to use it.
For Carl, the spirit of the depths took away all that he believed in – science, explanations, order, ideals. The complete and utter devastation of what is called normal. It is normal to be a scientist, as Carl was a scientist. Science makes the world better: better cars, thicker insulation, better clothes, better food.
But Carl reports that the spirit of the depths robs him of the “joy” of explanation and order. How many of us arrive at a place where we feel that everything that comes out of our mouths that is not of our souls makes us feel like we just pooped out of our mouths? We find that we cannot speak anymore, unless we are talking from our relationship with the Divine. We find we cannot listen to others who do not speak from those depths. Speaking with the “joy” of explaining and ordering is not speaking from the depths.
Carl begins by reporting that he has lost that “joy.” He has lost his devotion to the ideals of the times, too – which means not being devoted to being for the president or against the president, not being devoted to what is trendy to our times.
Instead, the spirit of the depths brings Carl to alchemy, the melting of sense and nonsense. The complete subservience of the conscious to the unconscious means that Carl will die and that we all will die – the dying of our ego to our souls. Dying to self.
On the very first page, Carl tells us about how he believed the archetypal divine male, the Animus, was the devil and that true joy was pathology – just as he writes about in more depth in Secondus. He is telling us the answer before we have even gone through it with him, before we have read it.
Of course, most people are going to come to this first page and believe that Carl is psychotic. He really puts a spear in the ground here, staking the landscape. If we cannot get past these opening words, then we will not understand what he is talking about throughout the rest of the book. He is not leading up to something in this moment, not the way he leads up to it in Secondus. Here, he tells us point blank that we are all full of shit and that he gave it up through this process.
In his journey into the spirit of the depths, Carl lost his entire sense of spirit and of who he was – which was a lot to give up because he was well loved and respected by the spirit of his time. It is a lot to give up when everyone is telling you how great you are. When no one knows you, then giving it up is not as big a deal.
I did not have anything to give up because I was not special. I know people who are special – who are world-class artists and musicians – who do this work and have a lot to give up. Their public may not understand.
Carl gave it up on one level, but he did hide the book. So, on one level he kept the illusion going. When he was an old man, he was asked about his work. His response was, “The unconscious is unconscious.” Compare this to what he says here in The Red Book, which he worked on his entire life.
If he had uttered what he wrote in The Red Book, people probably would have been very threatened. His students may have said, “I spent 20 years studying you, and now you tell me I have to give it up?!?”
But the supreme meaning is the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come. That is the God yet to come. It is not the coming God himself but his image that appears in the supreme meaning. God is an image and those who worship him must worship the image of the supreme meaning. The Supreme meaning is not a meaning and not an absurdity, it is image and force in one, magnificence and force together. (pp. 229-230)
What does he mean when he says that the supreme meaning is not meaning, but a path? He says this because our minds want to put meaning to meaning to have meaning. It is an intellectual thing. We want to say, “I understand because I can imagine what God is.”
Carl says no to this. It is magnificence and force. Force is feeling, nothing less than a feeling. It can be pain or fear, but in the end it is becomes love. This is how we learn the true experience of magnificence. We can behold whatever God is from a place that is not of meaning or ideas but of love.
And the only part that can behold that love is the girl soul. Carl explores the girl in more depth in Secondus.
The supreme meaning is the beginning of the end. It is the bridge of going across and fulfillment.
The other Gods died of their temporality yet the supreme meaning never dies, it turns into meaning and then into absurdity, and out of the fire and blood of their collision, the supreme meaning rises up rejuvenated anew.
The image of God has a shadow. The supreme meaning is real and casts a shadow. For what can be actual and corporal and have no shadow? (p. 230)
Here, Carl is speaking of the treatise before he actually enters into the experience. The fire and blood, which he will talk about later, is the pain and the descent of this work. When we do the work, then the true meaning will rise up in us like kundalini. It is absurd because we have destroyed the supreme meaning with our minds.
But why does Carl use shadow here? As soon as we observe supreme meaning, we are in the shadow because we are not there. We are outside of the supreme meaning, and shadow is created by being outside the feeling. The actual and corporeal is in the body, but what can be in the body and have no shadow? Really, the question is this – What can be in this life and not be separated from the spirit of the depths? It is not possible.
Therefore, it is not possible. Everyone is born with shadow, and we are born to face into the demons of that shadow. Those who have descended in their dreams into the spirit of the depths have found, surprisingly, that facing this does bring us to past lives. It is that deep.
But then, Carl even attacks the word shadow:
The shadow is nonsense. It lacks force and has no continued existence through itself. But nonsense is the inseparable and underlying brother of supreme meaning. (p. 230)
Even though shadow, what I call pathology, is absurd, we still cannot separate it from supreme meaning, which is our human condition. This is why in Stage One dreaming, we are challenged about everything we believe ourselves to be. No matter how bad or even good we are, we are going to be challenged if who we are is in the way of the true self.
The spirit of this time in me wanted to recognize the greatness and extent of the supreme meaning, but not its littleness. The spirit of the depths, however, conquered this arrogance, and I had to swallow the small as a means of healing the immortal in me. (p. 230)
This is a really hard piece. It is the paradox we see all the way through The Red Book. The spirit of the time in Carl, meaning his little ego, wanted him to recognize the greatness in all of us of the supreme meaning. Sounds like a great thing, but it is not. For the supreme meaning is also little.
Why must we understand the supreme meaning in its littleness? We must feel our own failings to feel the truth of the supreme meaning. This is why he calls it arrogance.
For example, my wife Christa and I went to Chartres cathedral in France. It has wonderful stained glass windows, frescoes – esoteric meaning everywhere. When we looked at this and felt, “Oh, this is so great, so big…,” we were in the meaning of the spirit of the times. There are those who spend weeks there, pouring over all the things. Christa and I spent very little time in the cathedral because what we were looking for was not there. What we were looking for, we discovered was in the crypt of the church, underneath the main cathedral. The crypt was only open once a week and we happened to be there on the day it was open. It was there that we found the image of the girl, Mary Magdalene, the one loved by Jesus, in a side vault quickly passed by our guide.
It is the ego that wants everything to be big. It says, Oh, let’s look at all of this wonderful iconic imagery, all this esoteric meaning. Let’s read up on all of this and enjoy. Then, let’s go home and be exactly who we were when we left. This is hard because we believe that if we identify the meaning of things, we will be better. We so identify with this. But I believe we do not get better – if we are lousy lovers before, then we will still be lousy lovers afterward.
This is the arrogance of addressing meaning in a positive way – and how it is an anathema to this way of working with dreams. What we see is not what is really there. The Chartres trip, for me, was a perfect example of this. Here it is – a big monstrosity of a church on top of an image of the girl, imprisoned in the tomb, in darkness, hidden and ignored while everyone runs around upstairs, trilling over all of the wonderful images. Such hypocrisy.
It was incredibly painful – for that which really caries the truth of the supreme meaning is not here. Where is the crypt if not in our own hearts? We do not have to go to Chartres to find God. He is in each and every one of us, if we have the courage to find Him.
Carl describes the supreme meaning not just as large, but as small, narrow, banal. This is how I would describe the crypt underneath Chartres: ignored, irrelevant.
And yet, it carried the truth, just as our own egos do. The ego wants to pretend it can know God, when, really, the girl, the soul girl which can know God, actually exists in each of us. According to Carl and according to this work, we can become the divine soul that we are – not by looking at divine images, by praying to gods or goddesses, but by letting that part of us come forth.
How do we even talk about this? Carl is trying to talk about something that is very difficult to imagine – that we all possess the end of the journey. We keep looking for it out there, but it is always inside. This is very difficult because all we are doing is projecting God. It is the projection of God that Carl calls great shadow, because God is not outside. It is in every one of us – you, me, everyone. We all carry that spark that is the soul girl. But we are so rocked with fear, pain, illusion, desires and feelings of traumas that most of us cannot even begin to imagine that we count.
But we can work through trauma. If we work through our trauma, even past life trauma, and face a violent death – if we do not separate from our soul in that moment, then we do not suffer trauma. When Jesus said, “Why have you forsaken me?” he was in trauma. But then, in the next sentence, he had a revelation, for he said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” In that moment, he was back in the love and he understood the context of his life as beyond his life, even beyond his love with Mary Magdalene.
The spirit of this time whispered to me: “This supreme meaning, this image of God, this melting together of the hot and the cold, that is you and only you.” (p. 230)
Carl was forced to recognize that the everyday belongs to the image of the Godhead. Our eternity has meaning through the revelation of our own conscious awareness. Waking up.
What the soul knows in that moment is everything it needs to know, everything it needs to understand its place in the universe. We might even already say that we know what it means that every day belongs to the image of the Godhead, but this is something that only the girl soul in us can know.
We cannot know what Carl is saying here without our soul. We can wake up and recognize God, we can wake up and pray, we can wake up and meditate, but we are not going to get it.
Carl runs from this, to the cold and distant stars, but Carl is really running from himself. When we pray to God, we are actually running from ourselves. This is an anathema to many. No one is going to want to believe this – in terms of Christendom and religiosity since Jesus, this is heresy. Is Carl saying that we do not pray to God, that we do not believe the priests?
Carl is not really saying that. He is saying something else that would free us from the shackles of this world. The church does not want us free from the world. It wants us to part of the world. If this is all about us, then it is not about the church or the synagogue or the monastery. It is not about any of that.
This is an intense point – that the ultimate spiritual reality is antithetical to all religion and all forms of ritual.
I remember working with a client who is Jewish, like me. He had dreams in which the Animus came to him selling bacon. Of course, the client does not eat bacon, being Jewish. But the Animus insisted that he eat the bacon. When we worked with this dream, the client fought with me, saying that since I hated my father, I denied the Jews and I denied the Jew in me. He said, “Of course you are going to manipulate this dream to believe that it is against being Jewish because you do not like Jews.”
In a way, he was right. I do not “like” Jews or Christians or anyone who believes in something outside of themselves, outside of what their dreams are showing them. For me, the dreams come first. If in our dreams, we are shown that we do find our spirituality in religion, then I follow the dream. In that particular session with my client, we did not get that far because I had offended his Jewishness.
But, we are all going to be offended by something that the dream is going to say about what we have been that is not good for us. We may respond, But, what do you mean? You are telling me that the one thing that I think is worthy in my life is not good?
The dreams are not saying that the thing is not good, not exactly. The dreams say, Just do not make such a big deal out of it. We want to have things to tell God when we get to heaven – I did this and I did that.
Carl says to drink the bitter drink. The bitter drink is all the things we hold sacred that are not really worth anything.
But the spirit of the depths spoke to me: “You are an image of an unending world all the last mysteries of becoming and passing away live in you. If you do not possess all this, how could you know?” (p. 230)
Who is the “you” here? You is you. It is me. It is all of us. It is all there inside of each of us. Is this arrogance? Is Carl insane to have people believe that we are the answer for the world? Not that Jesus is answer – but that Jesus shows what all of us, individually, can be.
What a moment. We seek to know the thing we already potentially are.
Therefore, if we think we could know, then we must really be the thing. But we really just want to know the thing. Many of us have dreams that show us that we run from being acknowledged or loved. If we accept the love and the acknowledgment, then we have to be a player and we can no longer blame anybody.
If we accept the love, accept that we are the thing, then we must take responsibility. But what taking responsibility means is really beyond anything we feel we can do in the moment.
We are so small in our understanding of what we are capable of.
But the spirit of the depths spoke to me and said: “To understand a thing is a bridge and possibility of returning to the path. But to explain a matter is arbitrary and sometimes even murder. Have you counted the murderers among the scholars? (p. 230)
What the spirit of the depths teaches Carl in this moment is very deep. It is a very hard thing, for the minute we talk about the understanding, we undo it. It is a conundrum.
For me, I just wanted to do this work one-on-one because then it was in the sacred moment, feeding the one person who was having the experience. We could speak about it because the person was having an experience about it.
But when we talk about this work in the world where there is no immediate experience, it becomes all in the mind. It is a problem we work with, but it is a deep problem.
But the spirit of this time stepped up to me and laid before me huge volumes containing all my knowledge. Their pages were made of ore, and a steel stylus had engraved great inexorable words in them, and he pointed these inexorable words and spoke to me, and said, “What you speak, that is madness.”
After this, however, my humanity approached me and said, “What solitude, what coldness of desolation you lay upon me when you speak such! Reflect on the destruction of being and the streams of blood from the terrible sacrifice that the depth demands.
But the spirit of the depths said, “No one can or should halt sacrifice. (p.230)
The sacrifice is the demise of our ego. We want to make things good; we want to make people happy.
The hardest thing for a new analyst of this work to do is to deliver the message of the dream, because the message is going to make the client unhappy.
Everything in the world is really designed to teach us that dark things are dark and good things are good. When we speak about holy things, we are supposed to speak about only nice things.
Carl is saying no. Carl is telling us to speak the truth of the gore, of trauma, of what we have suffered, of our own pain. How many of us really want to go there? Most of us want to celebrate, not destroy. Destruction is bad, right?
This work is antithetical to the world. The sacrifice Carl speaks of here is the sacrifice of the self. He speaks of this later, in the dying of the hero.
It is next that Carl introduces the desert. The spirit of the times tells him that he carries the desert within, wanting to prepare him for solitude.
In the over forty years I have done this work, the biggest complaint I get is this: Are you telling me there is no room for love, for relationship, for fun? I like fun, I like fun things. If I could afford it, I would buy the hottest car I could drive.
No one is asking anyone to go into the desert. I made the mistake, when I was young, of trying to find the desert in the world. I hitchhiked all over the world, looking for God in the most remote places. I remember visiting the Golden Temple in India, with all of its scholars, all of its ancient and enormous books. A man there, a Sikh, a teacher and a scholar of the place, asked me why I was there. I responded, “I am looking for God.” He laughed! Then he said, “You come here for God?” There I was, in a temple made of gold, with incredible books and scholars and knowledge, and he just laughed.
It hit me in that moment that I had gone all that way for nothing. I did not understand that what I was looking for could be me. I had no idea. But I knew that I could not find it in the world.
The spirit of the times says that the desert calls us and draws us back. Preparing for solitude does not mean we will be alone; it does not mean that we cannot have relationship. It means that we must go inside.
Solo. But in the world of the Divine, we are not solo. There are many things inside of us. A whole army of support, in fact. But even when we know this, we may believe that if we go to the desert, to solitude, we will no longer care about the world.
It is true, for maybe everything we have created is a lie. At some level, we may even know this. We may know that if we go to the desert, we are gambling everything we have created in ourselves. It is amazing what we really know, if we allow ourselves to know it, even though most of us will say we are not going.
Those who say they are not going are right not to go. If we are not willing to gamble, not willing to give up what we will be asked to give up, then we should not even start the process. Once we get into it, once we begin the journey to the desert, it becomes hard not to keep going.
At this point, something in Carl breaks and he speaks about not having words, only images.
So much of Carl’s book is about those images. So much of The Red Book is about Carl’s art.
We love art in this work because when we try to explain our experiences, explanation cannot do it. But art can – visual art, music, writing of the dreams, of the experiences inside. They can cut right into the heart in a way that mere explanations cannot.
At this point, Carl tells of his famous visions before the war, and how he left his country. But then he says something very important; he says that the path he teaches is only his path, so he cannot teach us. He warns us not to live by his example.
The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us. Do not be greedy to gobble up the fruit of foreign fields. Do you not know that you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you?...
There is only one way and that is your way.
You seek the path? I warn you away from my own. It can also be a wrong way for you. (p. 231)
Carl says not to go to other lands to find God. We must look at our own work inside. We get discouraged with the religion of our place and time because we see the fallacy. Sometimes, we believe that it will be better somewhere else. Just like when I travelled to India to find something better. It was not there.
Carl says there is only one path, one way for each of us. What more specific path than our dreams, which are unique and crafted just for us?
Carl says there is only one path and that is our way, our one path. The one specific way of our selves is our dreams, for no one dreams our dreams. Just like snowflakes that Bentley saw, each unique, never two alike – it is the same with our dreams. Who can write something general for everyone?
One person’s dream of an owl could be showing a demon, while in another person’s dream, the owl could be the savior. How do we know?
There is no book that interprets dreams for everyone. There is no precedent for us. We can have observations, but we do not have definitive definitions. I have worked with dreams in this way for over forty years, so my experience can give context to the observations. But all of this is just a place to start.
The only way is our way, as Carl says, and the only one that knows us in this way is our dreams. The challenge for every analyst working with dreams is to align with what the dream says, not about what the analyst may think he or she knows about the dream. The analyst must go beyond judgments about what is right and wrong, to have room for the variability of the soul’s journey. Even if it means taking someone through something that the analyst judges as terrible; something that was a violation in the analyst’s past does not make it a violation for the client. The analyst must not allow his or her fear or experiences to be a block for a client’s work.
We each have our unique ways in and back to our souls. We can stand with each other not because we agree on everything or even need to agree on everything, but because we have come through something that creates a common bond – the fact that we took the journey at all.