CG Jung and The Red Book

Jungian Analytical Psychology

The first source of my own spirituality is Jungian Analytical Psychology in general and Jung’s concept of Individuation in particular. I was first attracted to Jung because of his connection to Alcoholics Anonymous through his treatment of Roland H. for alcoholism and his description of the personality change that is necessary to recover from it. 

"I had no news from Rowland H. anymore and often wondered what has been his fate. Our conversation which he has adequately reported to you had an aspect of which he did not know. The reason that I could not tell him everything was that those days I had to be exceedingly careful of what I said. I had found out that I was misunderstood in every possible way. Thus I was very careful when I talked to Rowland H. But what I really thought about was the result of many experiences with men of his kind.


His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.  How could one formulate such an insight in a language that is not misunderstood in our days?  The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding. You might be led to that goal by an act of grace or through a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism. I see from your letter that Rowland H. has chosen the second way, which was, under the circumstances, obviously the best one."

This quote is taken from a letter Dr. Jung sent Bill W., which was in response to a letter Bill W. had sent to Dr. Jung, to thank him for and recognize his invaluable contribution to the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Both letters were first printed in the January 1963 issues of the Grapevine, a monthly newspaper published by the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Carl Jung was one of the creators of modern depth psychology, which seeks to facilitate a conversation with the unconscious energies that move through each of us. He contributed many ideas which continue to inform contemporary life: complex, archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus, personality typology, dream interpretation, individuation, and many other ideas. He had a deep appreciation of our creative life and considered spirituality a central part of the human journey. His method of interpretation of symbolic expression not only deepens our understanding of personal material, opening the psycho-dynamics of our personal biographies and dreams, but the deeper, collective patterns which develop within culture as well. In his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung wrote that meaning comes when people feel they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya (illusion) compared to that one thing, that your life is meaningful."

James Hollis, The Jung Page

As I began to explore the writings of, and about, Dr. Jung, it became obvious to me that his approach to the human psyche was unique certainly to my experience and understanding.  Though it would be ridiculous for me to even attempt an explanation of Jungian Analytical Psychology, I can offer this quote as an example of why I found him so intriguing:


“I am not addressing myself to the happy possessors of faith, but to those many people for whom the light has gone out, the mystery has faded and God is dead.  For most of them there is no going back, and one does not know either whether going back is the better way.  To gain an understanding of religious matters, probably all that is left to us today is the psychological approach.  That is why I take these thought-forms that have become historically fixed, try to melt them down again and pour them into molds of immediate experience.”

Jung, C.G., Psychology and Religion: West and East


What I take from this quote is that Jung is addressing his analytical psychology to western Christian people who have very similar religious traditions, and whether they practice their religion or not, the basic tenets of their Christianity in the form of symbols and archetypes are part of their make up, are lodged deep in their subconscious minds.  These inherent Christian symbols and archetypes cannot be ignored. In order for those of us Christian people with malformed personalities to be restored to psychic health, these symbols and archetypes need to be acknowledged and understood.  Having been raised Catholic - a parochial grade school and a Jesuit high school - I am steeped in Catholic symbolism whether I like it or not.  Jung had a Latin inscription above the front door of his house.  Translated into English it read, "Called or not called, God is present."

Dr. Jung was an amazing individual, a true pioneer in the field of psychology and a twentieth century giant of metaphysics and spirituality. One could spend close to a lifetime just reading his voluminous writings on analytical psychology, his art and his biography. His contributions to Alcoholics Anonymous are significant, but what I would have you focus on here is his concept of personal psychic transformation - Individuation.  This may be Jung's most famous contribution to psychology but to me it is remarkable for its similarity to what we in recovery refer to as the 12 Step process.


​There are I'm sure literally hundreds of sites on the web dedicated to the explanation of Jung's Individuation process, not to mention "Friends of Jung" sites for almost every state and most major cities.  For a definition and description of the Individuation process, I have selected one called "House of the Sun."  Individuation is a complicated concept described with a lot of esoteric language.  Don't be discouraged if you are confused after a single reading.  Stick with it.  Individuation is about personal transformation just as the 12 Steps are.

“Now he feels himself a participating partner in the collective human enterprise - the painful evolution of human consciousness -

which began in the darkness of the primordial swamp and which will end we know not where." 

                                                                                                                 Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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