With the publication of Liber Novus—Jung’s Red Book1—a new chapter opens in the reading of Jung’s works. For the first time, one is in a position to grasp the constitution of Jung’s work from 1914 onward, and to trace the intimate connections between his selfexperimentation and his attempts to determine the typical features of this process through his work with his patients and translate his insights into a language acceptable to a medical and scientific public. Thus, reading Liber Novus brings with it the task of rereading Jung’s Collected Works—much of which appears in a wholly new light.
In the winter of 1913, Jung embarked on a process of selfexperimentation. He deliberately gave free rein to his fantasy thinking and carefully noted what ensued. He later called this process “active imagination.” He wrote down these fantasies in the Black Books. These are not personal diaries, but rather the records of a self-experimentation. The dialogues that form these active imaginations can be regarded as a type of thinking in a dramatic form.
When World War I broke out, Jung considered that a number of his fantasies were precognitions of this event. This led him to compose the first draft of Liber Novus, which consisted of a transcription of the main fantasies from the Black Books, together with a layer of interpretive commentaries and lyrical elaboration. Here Jung attempted to derive general psychological principles from the fantasies, as well as to understand to what extent the events portrayed in the fantasies presented, in a symbolic form, developments that were to occur in the world.
1 C. G.Jung, The Red Book, edited and introduced by Sonu Shamdasani and translated by Mark Kyburz, John Peck, and Sonu Shamdasani, Philemon Series (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009).