The Red Book: Liber Novus. The Cultural Moment. Part 1

“The first few decades of the twentieth century saw a great deal of experimentation in literature, psychology, and the visual arts.” With these words Sonu Shamdasani opens the first few pages of The Liber Novus, or the Red Book. Perhaps, Shamdasani started the introduction in this manner to explain why such a brilliant psychologist as Carl G. Jung would be unescapably obsessed with imagination and the unconscious works of the mind. One might argue that curiosity in imagination should not be unusual for a scientist of the human inner reality. Perhaps. However, as I sit here and write this article in 2018 I can safely say that the serious study of imagination as a gateway to understanding consciousness is at its infancy. Dr. Jung would be appalled at how long it is taking us to start looking within. One may only speculate about what the deceased think; however it is my reckoning that Dr. Jung would not be the only one. 


Writers were diving into their imagination through surrealistic expression. Andre Breton, French writer and poet has pioneered a movement in automatized surrealism writing. The experimenter would go into a meditative state and begin noting down all the words and phrases that emerged from the depth of the unconscious. The product of such practice was a collection of stories that resembled a dream state.


World by Andre Breton


In Madame des Ricochets’ parlor

The Mirrors are made of pressed beads of dew

The console is fashioned from arm amid the ivy

And the carpet subsides like the surf

In Madame des Ricochets’ parlor

Moon tea is served in nightjar eggs

The curtains prompt the snow to melt

And the piano in vanishing perspective sinks of a piece into a mother – of – pearl

In Madame des Ricochets’ parlor

Low lamps made from the underside of aspen leaves

Tease the fireplace tiled with pangolin scales

When Madame des Ricochets rings

Doors split open making way for maids swooping down in swings


Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault were inspired to attempt automatism in poetry through their careful analysis of works of psychologists such as Frederick Myers, Theodore Flournoy, and Pierre Janet. Painters and other such visual artists were famously exploring shattering boundaries of the rules set by previous generations and created masterpieces that defied conventional art.


In that way, psychologist, artists, and writers were inspired by one another to dig deeper into spirituality through their work. Whether, these geniuses were inspired by one another or our consciousness is interconnected through an unbreakable string life: who is to say. Jung has awoken the muse of self discovery and wrote about his romance with her in Liber Novus

Anastasiia Ryzhkova