The Red Book Dialogues

M. Editor  |  December 20, 2010

The Institute of Buddhist Studies, in collaboration with the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, initiated a series of dialogues regarding the recently published Red Book by C.G. Jung. The first dialogue was held on Friday, October 22, 2010 before an audience that filled the Jodo Shinshu Center’s lecture hall to capacity. Some 130 people were in attendance.

The program began with an opening address by Dr. Richard Payne, Dean of IBS, and Ms. Ellen Becker, MFT, C.G. Jung Institute, who coordinated the event.

Rev. Zoketsu Norman Fischer, formerly of the San Francisco Zen Center, and Dr. Richard Stein, analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco discussed the personal, religious significance of Jung’s visionary experience as recorded in the Red Book.

Particularly important was the way in which these meanings were placed in the social and historical context. Rev. Fischer, who taught at the IBS in the 1990s, highlighted a difference in attitude toward states of consciousness as held between Buddhist thought and mainstream Western cultures. Where traditional Buddhism, as exemplified in the visionary dreams of figures such as Shinran, founder of Shin Buddhism, and Myoe, a Shingon proponent of the Mantra of Light, viewed consciousness as forming a continuum between the waking state and dreamless sleep, Western societies generally treat these as dualistic and opposed to one another.

The second event in the series was held Friday, November 12, 2010 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. Following greetings by Ms. Ellen Becker and Dr. Richard Payne, the speakers were introduced: Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Dyane Sherwood, analyst member of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.

Sharing their reflections on the significance of confronting one’s own personal fears, represented by a variety of illustrations from the Red Book, both speakers developed themes at the interface of Buddhism and Jungian thought. One such theme was the way in which manifesting in art one’s own imagery can help to transform one’s experience of the external reality. Another was the importance of meditation, contemplation or self-reflection in gaining access to one’s own inner resources. Such resources are themselves often manifest in imagery, whether in dreams or active imagination.

Buddhism provides a rich resource of such practices, and can be matched with contemporary psychological practices to develop individual growth along the spiritual path. In contrast, Jung developed his own techniques, drawing on his understanding of the importance of imagery in dreams and in religious visions.

Video and audio from both dialogues is now available on our podcast here.