Skip to main content

A Walk to See Carl Jung's Red Book: A Journey Into the Psyche

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (July 1875 – June 1961) embarked on an extraordinary journey in the years before World War I, a dangerous adventure that took him inward to the deepest recesses of his psyche. At the time he began the journey, he had broken his close relationship with his mentor, Sigmund Freud. His subsequent six-year long breakdown, largely self-induced, manifested itself in intensive journal writing with the recording of his dream states and visualizations, especially of mandalas. He made notes in black journals, later meticulously recording his images and interpretive text in chronological order all in gorgeous calligraphy in a voluptuous Red Book. Anyone interested in artists’ books needs to see this work with their own eyes.

The exhibit at the Rubin Museum of Art, The Red Book of C.G. Jung: Creation of a New Cosmology, on display through January 25, 2010, explores the visual manifestation of the journal, the diary of Jung's voyage into his own psyche that he recorded between 1914 and 1930. Never before seen in public, the book expresses an almost overwhelming commitment to self-knowledge that's artistically masterful, mystical, and unparalleled. Anyone's bedside dream book fails by comparison. It's a visual tour-de-force. When he came up from the crisis, Jung pulled the strands of knowledge together to formulate the foundations of analytical psychology.

Jung believed mandalas must have originated in dreams and visions and were not the human invention of a church father. He drew his first one in 1916. Furthermore, the images were among the oldest symbols of humanity and could be found all over the world. The squaring of the circle represents the archetype of wholeness. Outside of Tibet, healing circles can be found in Native American sand paintings, in the geometry of the Kabbalah, and even in the stained glass rose windows of Gothic cathedrals. Mandalas formed the core of Jung's philosophies of the self. He writes in Concerning Mandala Symbolism (Zurich, 1950), "Their basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy."
The Rubin Museum of Art, with its collection of Himalayan art and specifically the mandalas important to the cultures of the region, is a logical setting for Jung's book. It's worth a journey to see the Jung exhibit as well as the rest of the museum. The long running exhibit, What Is It? Himalayan Art, is a good place to start an exploration of the museum's collections. Visitors will soon see the common threads yet also distinctions in the work from Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan. Extending the Himalayan culture to India, Pakistan, China, and parts of Asia further diversifies the collection. The exhibit Mandala: The Perfect Circle (through January 11, 2010) shows the variety of the symbols, with representative mandalas from other collections. I also recommend a stop at the museum's spacious cafe (top image, detail) for a cup of tea and pastry or to sample Himalayan food.


View Rubin Museum of Art and Surrounding Area in a larger map

Located on W. 17th Street just off 7th Ave., the museum is set in an older section of Chelsea that's worth exploring. The day I visited the Rubin Museum, I walked from Washington Square to 7th Avenue via Greenwich Avenue and then north to W. 17th. From there I walked up to W. 19th Street, stopping in at Idlewild Books at 12 W. 19th, a store specializing in travel books. Journeys within and without were a topic on my mind. From there it's a short trip to the Flatiron Building and Madison Square. Or walk back around to City Bakery at 3 W. 18th Street for some hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. Jung, being a native of Zurich, would have had a good choice of chocolates himself.

The museum is hosting special lectures about the Red Book, "The Red Book Dialogues," with well-known figures from different walks of life. Recent participants have included Sarah Silverman (shows the power of creative programming), Charlie Kaufman, Alice Walker, John Boorman, and Gloria Vanderbilt. Upcoming talks will feature Andre Gregory, David Byrne, Cornel West, Jonathan Demme and many others. Visit the museum website for more information.

"The Holy Grail of the Unconscious" by Sara Corbett in the September 20, 2009 The New York Times Magazine is a fascinating look at the circumstances behind the Red Book and the efforts to make it public. The article also describes the importance of the book among Jungian scholars, a few of whom you'll likely encounter visiting the museum's exhibit. A facsimile has now been published.

Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, New York 10011

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. I've represented the location of the museum in Google maps as a blank mandala on which you can inscribe your own journey.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Good post; it makes me want to check out Jung's exhibit.

I tell my neighbors that The Rubin Museum is a rare place of calm in Chelsea. You can just step into the cafe at ground level and decompress from Manhattan.
Teri Tynes said…
Thanks, Rob.

You are so right about the peace and calm of the museum. I've made a mental note to frequent the Rubin for afternoon tea.

Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

Museums in New York Open on Tuesdays

American Folk Art Museum , 45 W. 53rd St. Asia Society and Museum , 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street) Guggenheim Museum , 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th St.) Pictured left International Center of Photography , 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street The Metropolitan Museum of Art , 1000 Fifth Avenue NEW: Beginning May 1, 2013 MoMA will be open seven days a week. 11 W. 53rd St. The Morgan Library & Museum , 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street Museum of the City of New York , 1220 Fifth Avenue New York University, Grey Art Gallery , 100 Washington Square East Mondays and Tuesdays are the hardest days to remember which museums are open. See the list for NY museums open on Mondays here .

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

The Marx Brothers in New York: Interlude - On Groucho Walking

This special new series about the Marx Brothers in New York continues this week, following the brothers into a career in Broadway and into the movies, but first I would like to take a little time to discuss Groucho's peculiar way of walking. Sometimes described as a "lope" or "stoop," Groucho's silly and often lecherous walk became just as an important part of his persona as his glasses, eyebrows, cigar and greasepaint moustache. He didn't walk this walk all the time, but as you recall from the films, Groucho would often bend his knees and lean forward as he proceeded from point A to point B. To imitate Groucho properly at a costume party, it's important to get this part down. • Groucho explained that it was simply a bit of inspired improvisation. From the book Hello, I Must Be Going by Charlotte Chandler, he says, "I was just kidding around one day, and I started to walk funny. The audience liked it, so I kept it in."(pps. 153-154) Chand

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

A Walk From Lincoln Center to Zabar's

If you happen to be attending a noon or matinee performance in Lincoln Center or otherwise happen to be hanging around there for whatever reason and find you've got some time, I recommend a stroll up Broadway to Zabar's, the famous Upper West Side food emporium. This stretch of Broadway takes in the sights of several new housing sky-rises, several theaters, and some flamboyant former apartment hotels of the early 20th century. Flâneurs will love the Belle Epoque ambiance of these overly-ornamented buildings, and the distance from W. 66th or so to W. 80th is not so taxing, especially if you're dressed in shoes for the opera. View Larger Map Several noteworthy structures along the way - The Dorilton, 171 W 71st St., from 1900-02, at the northeast corner of Broadway, is considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece. The 72nd St subway station dates from 1904 and is a funny little thing. Verdi Square, at the convergence of Broadway, Amsterdam, an W. 73rd, is a nice small park fea

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City. View of the Hudson River from the Keeper's House The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington. Recommended purchase - a map det

25 Things to Do Near the American Museum of Natural History

After visiting the American Museum of Natural History, explore attractions on the Upper West Side or in Central Park. Visitors to New York often run around from one major tourist site to the next, sometimes from one side of the city to the other, and in the process, exhaust themselves thoroughly. Ambitious itineraries often include something like coffee in the Village in the morning, lunch near MoMA, a couple of hours in the museum, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in the afternoon, cocktails at the midtown hotel, a quick dinner, and then a Broadway show. It's a wonder people don't pass out at the theater. While sitting on the steps of the American Museum of History, consider exploring the Upper West Side and nearby sites of interest in Central Park. There's a better way to plan a New York trip. Consider grouping attractions together geographically. Several posts on this site address this recommended approach. The Wild West of the Tecumseh Playground Groupin

25 Radical Things to Do in Greenwich Village

A list of 25 things to Do in Greenwich Village with history of protest, old cafes, and signs of change. Hipstamatic iPhone images of contemporary Greenwich Village by Walking Off the Big Apple (Revised and updated.) Flipping through  Greenwich Village: A Photographic Guide by Edmund T. Delaney and Charles Lockwood with photographs by George Roos, a second, revised edition published in 1976, it’s easy to compare the black and white images with the look of today’s neighborhood and see how much the Village has changed. A long shot photograph of Washington Square taken up high from an apartment north of the park, and with the looming two towers of the World Trade Center off to the distant south in the background, reveals a different landscape than what we would encounter today.    On the north side of the park, an empty lot and two small buildings have since given way to NYU’s Kimmel Center and a new NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Center Life. The Judson Memorial Church

Coping with Anxiety and Crisis: A Selected List of Fine Chocolate Stores in New York

Fears of recession, concerns about the state of the world, worries about job prospects, and anxieties about the future dominate the news headlines these days, but these kinds of stories are perennial, coloring the way we conduct our lives. Fortunately, we now believe that the 400+ ingredients in dark chocolate may alleviate some of the worst symptoms of this kind of external stress. Had a bad day? A little brisk walk to your local chocolate boutique may fix you right up. It's funny, but studies show that taking a chocolate supplement doesn't work as well for a sense of individual well-being as the act of eating a piece of chocolate. I understand. I think aesthetics matter. Eating beautiful chocolates can make you feel all yummy and special on the inside. My chocolate cravings can even be satisfied by unravelling the classic and minimalist Hershey's bar. Yet, I still prefer a visit to the city's finest purveyors of chocolate. At the following places (links provided), c