Only For An Instant


This is a significant fragment from a new book of Jung’s recently published…INSIDE JUNG’S RED BOOK 

C.G. Jung’s Red Book, Folio 36, (c) 2009 Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, reproduced with kind permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company

6. One of the striking images appears on folio 36 at the end of Chapter 6, “The Remains of Earlier Temples.” Jung’s marginal notation says it was painted around Christmas 1915. How does this dramatic image relate to the text, and how do you interpret it in the context of Jungian thought?

This is a portrait of Izdubar. Izdubar was an early name given the figure now known as Gilgamesh, based on a mistranscription. It resembles an illustration of him in Wilhelm Roscher’s Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie. Jung discussed the Gilgamesh epic in 1912 in Transformations and Symbols of the Libido, using the corrected form. His use of the older form here indicates that the figure is related to, but not identical to the figure in the epic. Jung encounters Izdubar in a fantasy. Jung says that he comes from the West, and tells Izdubar about the setting of the sun, the roundness of the earth, and the emptiness of space. Izdubar wants to know where he gets his knowledge from, and whether there is an immortal land where the sun goes for rebirth. Jung says he comes from a world where this is science. Izdubar is aghast to learn that we can never reach the sun and that he can never attain immortality, and collapses, poisoned by this science. Izdubar wonders if there are two kinds of truth. Jung says that their truth comes from outer things, whilst the truth of Izdubar’s priests comes from inner things. Jung makes a fire with a match and shows him his clock. Izdubar is astonished. However, Jung tells him that Western science has not found a means against death. Izdubar wonders how Jung lives with this poisonous science. Jung says that they have got used to it, and have had to swallow the poison of science. Izdubar asks if they have Gods. Jung says, no, just the words. Izdubar says that they also do not see the Gods. Jung says that science has taken faith from them. Jung says he can’t bare this well, which is why he has gone to the East, to seek the light that they lack. Jung longs for Izdubar’s truth. Izdubar tells him to be careful, as he could be blinded.

In terms of Jung’s thought, this scene stages the encounter between the ancient and the modern, the conflict between the truths of science and the truths of myth and religion, which he hoped to reconcile in the form of his psychology. 

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