For the better part of a century, Carl Jung and (later) his estate kept the manuscript of his unfinished Red Book ”or Liber Novus , as he originally entitled it”hidden safely away from public scrutiny. Jung’s most ardent admirers, making their hopeful pilgrimages to Zurich, were denied so much as a glimpse into its pages, no matter how plangent their entreaties. For a time, the book was even locked away in a Swiss bank vault. The result, inevitably, was that it became something of a legend among Jungians: a secret visionary tome, written in the master’s own hand, containing the mystic key to all his thought. Jung himself, after all, had once spoken of the book as the “numinous origin” from which all the work of his later years had flowed. Clearly, many came to believe, the family was jealous of its treasure.

In reality, Jung’s son Franz probably kept The Red Book hidden only because he regarded it as an embarrassment, or at least as so eccentric a performance that its release could only harm his father’s already precarious reputation. His refusal to grant the curious access to the text was reportedly marked by a sternly protective peremptoriness. But after Franz’s death in 1996, the Jung estate slowly relented. In 2009, the book at last appeared, in a large, lavish, very expensive English critical edition that included a complete, full-scale, and high-definition photographic reproduction of the original manuscript.

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Articles by David Bentley Hart

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