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Visionary painting, 1919/12/4, by Carl Jung

Jung, in his massive Red Book, painted mandalas and images from dreams and (more often) dialogs in a hypnogogic state which he calls "active imagination". This is a portrait of Atmavictu, the dream-figure who as a young man helped Jung kill Siegfried the archetypal Germanic warrior. Now, years later, he's old and burned-out, in a phase of withdrawal before rebirth in a new form. He became another guide, Izdubar, who in turn was replaced by Philemon, and then by Ka. The footnotes alone describing this succession run a thousand words or more. Under the painting is this inscription--

12/4/1919. This is the back side of the gem. He who is in the stone has this shadow. This is Atmavictu, the old one, after he has withdrawn from the creation. He has returned to endless history, where he took his beginning. Once more he became stony residue, having completed his creation. In the form of Izdubar he has outgrown and delivered PHILEMON [in Greek alphabet] and Ka from him. PHILEMON gave the stone, Ka the [astrological sun-sign].
Atmavictu, one of Jung's dream-allies, here old and burned-out. Plate 122 of Jung's 'Red Book'. Click to enlarge.
I chose this image to make three points:
  1. Jung didn't just paint mandalas! You could almost swear this was a lost cow-skull painting by Georgia O'Keeffe or the shamanic cover of a Carla Speed McNeil Finder story.
  2. Jung mastered the jargon of the mystical texts he studied--and blended them. The notes for this one painting alone refer to Hindu, Babylonian, Greek, Egyptian, alchemical and astrological texts (and I surely missed some). For me the result's like Schoenberg's music--follows its esoteric premises so far out I get lost and alienated. But it's dense erudition--and his scholarship's not fake. Any moldy manuscript you find, check for fingerprints; Jung's been there. Nor is he just parroting old texts. He's making fine distinctions about kinds of dream-advisors based on personal experience supplemented by pan-cultural examples looted from the ages.
  3. Jung had serious, long-term relationships with these figures, who aged and burned out and reincarnated--relationships as real and involved as any witch's talking familiar or shaman's spirit-spouse or spirit-children. There's a reason mid-century slang called therapists 'witch doctors'. In Jung's case--and I used the word 'case' deliberately--the slang fits.
--Chris Wayan

SOURCE: Jung's Red Book (2009), plate 122 plus footnotes p.305-6.



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