Alumna Janet Piedilato, Ph.D. ’99 reviews celebration of Jung’s Red Book publication

On Wednesday October 7, 2009 the long awaited publication of Red Book by W. W. Norton was celebrated by a series of events in NYC that commenced with the opening of an exhibit displaying the original C.G Jung masterpiece.

There are no words to do justice to either work; the original or the newly published. For while the original Red Book in place beneath a glass cube in the lower level of the Rubin Museum brings to mind a medieval opus on alchemy, its pages sacred with glorious calligraphy and beautiful illuminations, the exquisite W. W. Norton Red Book, available for mere mortals to possess and to savor at leisure, is a treasure beyond all imagination. One need only open the pages to see why this great work took so long in coming for indeed every care was taken to faithfully reproduce the pages of the original. Red Book is magnificent on every level, something to be experienced and enjoyed like a good companion who imparts wisdom in different ways at different times yet who remains constant in accompanying one on life’s journey through joy and sorrow.

Of all the week long offerings which I enjoyed perhaps the most revealing was the introduction of Red Book at a lecture in the New York Academy of Medicine. While described as a “lecture” it was really more of an experience of the book. As the larger than life Red Book filled the huge screen at the front of the hall, as the audience was literally held in trance watching the turning pages and glorious illuminations, Sonu Shamdasani read poetic segments of Jung’s writings. There was not a sound in the hall as all sat transfixed.


The incomprehensible works magically; magic works incomprehensibly.

The touchstone is being alone with oneself. This is the way.

Listen to the soul, to the Gods…. but do not be their slave…

And listen we did. Our response gives testimony to the power of Red Book. This is not just a beautiful book of illuminations. It is a transformative text; it is alchemy of the soul……One could compare this experience with that of an initiate of the Ancient Mysteries. The screen stilled at the end of the presentation and we were returned to the red cover. Sonu Shamdasni now quieted. Silence continued to fill the hall until slowly awakening from the trance a little trickle of applause began, like wind gaining momentum across a field of golden wheat, quickening and gaining force propelling each to rise and yield the standing ovation it deserved…Red Book by C.G. Jung; no longer hidden in the depth of the vaults but available to work its magic on all of us. I feel so fortunate to have a copy in hand to enjoy over and again. It is a book that shall continue to lead us to new places. The collective experience of that Hall demonstrates its power. Red Book: Do not miss out on this. It is magnificent.

Alumna Janet Piedilato, PhD ’99