Ruth Netzer, a senior Israeli Jungian analyst and mentor of mine, recently published (unfortunately only in Hebrew) a large book explaining C.G Jung’s Red Book. Much to my surprise and joy, I discovered a detailed analysis of Jung’s drawing #125 on page 247 of her book. This illustration from Jung’s Red Book was painted by him in 1920.
Here is Ruth’s explanation of the image, translated by me from Hebrew:
“The drawing is different from Jung’s other drawings in the Red Book in that it displays a clear split between the upper and lower world and between two different drawing styles: the realistic versus the symbolic abstract style.” In my own book, “An Introduction to Jungian Coaching” published by Routledge in 2022, I wrote that, “The Ego (corresponding to the coachee’s acts), the conscious level (meaning, what the coachee knows and is aware of), the Self (the coachee’s internal knowledge, spirituality, hidden assets, and his or her total being) and his or her unconscious (the parts in the coachee’s psyche which are hidden), are all conceived in Jungian coaching as the whole coachee’s personality.”
I further explain that “In Jungian Coaching, in the presence of a dilemma the coachee brought up, we can advise the coachee to draw one concrete drawing which represents a dilemma the coachee is intrigued with. According to Goren-Bar (2019, pg. 86-103) the concrete drawing would derive from the conscious mind (the Ego domain). Then, we can ask the coachee to draw an abstract drawing which derives from the depth of the unconscious, or the Self. Finally, we ask the coachee to hold a dialogue between the Ego and the Self as they are presented in the drawings. We then carefully consider the Ego-Self dialogue in the context of the coachee’s dilemma.”
Art which is inspired by the ‘Ego level’ is concrete and conscious: it is comprehensible, obvious, and anybody can figure out what the client means to express. Usually, the contents of concrete art are overt experiences which the client observed in real life, and the rules of physics and common sense are dominant. Unlike Ego art, the art which derives from the ‘Self level’ are abstract. They are open to interpretation and require explanation or interpretation. Surrealism is one example of this style. It is ruled by imagination and transmits a metaphor that is very likely not realistic. Such art cause us to associate, project, and merge into the artistic production – to bring our own subjective comprehension to it. The coach should ask the coachee to choose in the Self abstract art a part which can perhaps contribute to the Ego’s concrete representation of the dilemma. The coach asks what that piece of the Self’s abstract drawing symbolizes, and how it can possibly contribute to further comprehending the dilemma. There will always be a valuable insight from the client’s awareness of that dilemma.
I would like to get back to Netzer’s comments on Jung’s drawing as I find her analysis a reliable validation of the coaching technique I’ve explained above. Netzer says, “On its upper part the drawing displays realistic earthly life expressed in a realistic style. There is a closed residential house surrounded by a wall. In the middle, a house with a garden and surrounded by a fence. Inside the fence a pool and a fountain in its center. There is no human representation in that house, and it reflects introversion and loneliness. All around are soldiers and guarding posts. Around the buildings are soldiers in guard positions who are stationed near canons while others are positioned in firing formation. Nearby, there is a large factory without doors – smoke belching from its chimney and trains heading towards it. The walls, fences, sealed buildings, and defensive positions are displayed despite no visible enemy. The colors are dark, sad, depressed, and cheerless. This sense is made more pronounced by its contrast to the glimmering light above it. In this part of the drawing, we see a shinning energetic ball in the sky. The ball has a cross inside – a gnostic cross of transcendent perfection. It is the sun with flames bursting out from inside. It can be seen as a potential mandala frame which represents the integrated Self.”
The upper part is an abstract drawing which represents the internal world. Netzer points out that the small pool with the fountain down below is located precisely under this mandala – a mandala in the physical plane which stands in contrast to the mandala from the upper world. The upper and lower parts of the drawing can symbolize the opposing principles of materialism vs. spiritualism, the unconscious vs. the conscious, the archetypal vs. the personal, the Self vs. the Ego. “Who is the figure right in the middle of the drawing?” asks Netzer. He continues, “At the horizon are mountains, between the earth and the heaven. What is their role? Perhaps Jung reveals that he is positioned between his fascinating internal world which is heavenly and his actual real life. The lower world might correspond to what Jung defined as his Personality # 1 – the one which accommodates reality.
The upper world might correspond to Personality # 2 – that of Jung’s internal world – the psychic and spiritual, the one which touches the imaginary and mystical. The world which Jung seems to prefer. From this point of view, the role of the central figure is to mediate between the two worlds and enable an integration of the two. From an internal psychic perspective, this figure is responsible for mediating between the Ego and the Self and represents the Ego-Self axis.”
This integration is facilitated by that central human figure which represents the human mind, without which there is no transformational process.” (pg. 274).