Heidekolb's Blog

Of John Lennon, Oil Spills and other Evils ~ The Red Book Reflections ~ C.G.Jung | May 30, 2010

Jung insisted that context is everything. He was right about that. In an inter-connected reality, every “truth” must be  understood within its particular set of circumstances. It is only with this appreciation that I dare approach what could be otherwise construed as an inflammatory and outrageous statement.

Jung writes in the Liber Primus of the Red Book (RB) that “it is good if you want this greatest evil with your whole heart” (p.254). When Jung was writing this the horrors of the First World War were raging through Europe. In a footnote a Nietzsche quote from “Thus spoke Zarathustra” sheds some light: “To redeem the past and to transform every ‘It was’ into a ‘I wanted it thus’ – that alone do I call redemption”.

Jung’s point is a call to claim ownership for the events in the world. War may be instigated by a handful of sociopaths, but if their war cries did not find resonance in the collective psyche, war would not happen. “War is over…if you want it”, John Lennon declared a few decades ago. Some may regard this comment as utopian or naive, I see it as congruent with Jung’s point.

A few years ago I lamented the Bush presidency in this country, when a friend pointed out that we the people have the  kind of president we deserve. We did, whether we voted for him or not. Oh & on that note, John Lennon also said “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there ‘d be peace”.

As long as we don’t come to terms with destructive and “evil” tendencies within ourselves, as  long as we choose to let these dragons slumber in the underworld of the unconscious, they will remain out of reach of our conscious awareness and therefore  will NEED to be projected onto whoever lends himself to act out our rage, greed and will to power. These are archetypal affects, to deny that they are not in you, now that would be truly naive.

But war has not been so much on my mind lately. (It is still raging in various parts of the world, I know). Oil gushing into our ocean has preoccupied me. I cringe imagining the pain and suffering to wildlife. Make no mistake, I loudly demand that those responsible for the mess and mismanagement be held accountable and rightly so, I maintain. But is there not another side? Is not anyone who has ever owned a car or owned some stocks implicated in the rush for the black gold? I know, the notion of interconnectedness may suddenly not feel so cozy anymore. The subtler reality is that we are all responsible. We are participating in the killing of the earth. We are puncturing an artery in our mother’s body (thank you SVE13), her thick, dark life-blood turning into poison.

The alchemists gave oil a unique symbolic role. It is present at the beginning and end of life. Crude oil is an image of the primal chaos which at this time is still spouting uncontrollably forth.

Jung writes: “If you do not succeed in producing the greatest evil….you will never learn the violent deed and learn to overcome fighting what lies outside you…….If blood, fire and the cry of distress fill this world, then you will recognize yourself in your acts….May the frightfulness become so great that it can turn men’s eyes inward, so that their will no longer seeks the self in others but in themselves….You cannot learn this, it can only develop in you. You cannot will (italics mine) this, it takes the will from your hand and wills itself ” (RB, p.254).

The eternal paradox. The psychic demand to let a natural evolutionary development take place, to surrender and self-sacrifice (from the ego’s perspective) and yet to be active and participating citizens of this world. Your way of life is a political statement, John Lennon remarked.

James Hillman echoes similar ideas when he writes :“Today we need heroes of descent, not masters of denial, mentors of maturity who can carry sadness, who give love to aging, who show soul without irony or embarrassment”. All three voices conjured up here, deplore us to not only point fingers but accept our role in a divine drama, that indeed we are the world.

“But fundamentally you are terrified of yourself, and therefore you prefer to run to all others rather than to yourself”, Jung writes. The Hopi elders were quite right when they urged us: “You are the ones you were waiting for “.

We are the ones who need to claim the beauty and the terror. We are the beauty and the terror.


  1. Heidi this is fantastic.
    Bless you for articulating so perfectly the heart of the matter. Bravo!

    Comment by Victoria (Sve13) — May 30, 2010 @ 2:32 am

  2. Excellent insight. Thank you for taking the time to write and share this.

    Comment by Kurt Hardesty — May 30, 2010 @ 4:57 am

  3. John also said “There is Hitler and Jesus Christ in each of us.. the hard part is staying good”

    Great blog… the oil disaster is killing us. War is Over if WE Want It.

    John would be proud to read this I bet. Peace!

    Comment by thomas — May 30, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  4. There is value in claiming an individual collective responsibility but I cannot see the truth here… “find but if their war cries do not find resonance in the collective psyche, war will not happen”. And I find the following too simplistic… “War is over…if you want it”, John Lennon.

    This resonance you speak of is as if war were some universal and intrinsic attribute to humanity and the implication is that there may be times when humanity is in the mood for it or not.

    The idea of war is always conjured up by the leading economic elite and it always has a economic motive. The leadership must convince the population that war is a necessity. The uniformed and unwary masses are not in a position to dispute the claims of “authority” and so they commit themselves to mobilize against an enemy that has been created out of thin air. How can someone be responsible for being born into a world where deception by the leadership classes is the name of the game?

    The policies by which the man-made worlds runs is made in private by a relatively few number of people. The people who make these polices put profit before all else. Their job is to deceive and get away with as much injustice as they can. The awakened citizen then bears the responsibility to to help awaken others to the realities of the world.

    Comment by Rohaan — May 30, 2010 @ 11:25 am

  5. Dear Mrs. KOLB,

    I do agree with the ‘vision’ of this Post. Even if Jung did not grasp the real ‘sense’ of Alchemy, as an Art done with matters and hands and heart, I feel Your last statement soundly correct:

    “We are the beauty and the terror”

    It has been so, it is so, and it always will…Even if I love Lennon’s songs, we will never succeed in changing “the whole” of this poor world of us. We may, sometimes, do change ourselves, deeply inside…but, even so, we will always be too few. Shakespeare talked about “…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”, and it was at the dawn of a battle, another ‘just’ war…
    War is part of our birth on Earth, of each of our future, possible, creed
    Peace and Love, as War and Hate, are just options for each single lifetime. You may say ‘white’, or you may say ‘black’: they are two faces, two necessary faces, of our frozen “reality”. Symbols and allegories (and archetypes) must be overcame by a practice conducted by Nature: we do not know the rules of the game. Alchemysts surrender themselves to something which is not a ‘possession’ of this world. That’s why they are alone, with their Matters and their Fires. Every night. Few. Happy Few.

    Alchemy, since ancient times, teaches a more proper approach towards Mother Nature. And how to try – just try – to overcome the paradox of “the beauty and the terror”. It’s a path. Quite long and obscure and fascinating. It needs humility, patience and love. It’s Alchemy, practised every Springtime by a band of ‘happy few’.

    Greetings and congratulations for your insight.

    Captain NEMO

    Comment by Captain NEMO — May 30, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  6. Finally, in all the hue and cry over the disaster in the Gulf, someone has pointed out that in our dependence on oil we are all to some degree complicit in this affair. If you’ve ever complained about the price of gasoline, you’re part of the process that led to the Gulf oil spill.

    The good news in all of this is that if we are part of the problem we can also be part of the solution. It’s time to end our addiction to cheap fossil fuels and to start living sustainably and in harmony with each other and with nature.

    Comment by Stephen Nelson — May 30, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  7. Great post, Heidi , and brave of you to post it on Twitter since it addresses what no one wants to own. Strange paradox we humans share: the great collective unconscious AND the duality (or illusion of) the I/thou configuration of this existance.

    Comment by Barbarajen — May 30, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  8. Thank you for your contribution Sister Heide. I consider myself a good person, but I know I have been evil in the past. At times Being humane in all my ways is a conscious effort and does not always come naturally. I suppose in a way we are all reflections of each other, we have inherited our history and the deeds of one can cast shadows on others. A lot of life for me is an on-going purging of our own potential for evil and seeking to be relatively good in all our ways, giving a damn about the suffering of others and feeling grief when Mother Earth is bleeding.

    Comment by Peta-de-Aztlan — May 31, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  9. Brilliant, sobering and much needed wake up call. I summarize this with another voice, whose voice it is, I do not know but its words always resonate for me: “I am the world; the world is in me.”

    When I make every choice as if my choice matters, as if I am affecting the world and also see everything that happens as a reflection of my own interior life (and this includes my LACK of initiative, my fear, laziness, indifference and reluctance to make waves) then I am living a truly conscious life.

    Bravo for your courage posting this.

    Comment by amyoscar — June 1, 2010 @ 6:04 am

  10. Flashback here and still stimulating. Many have wrestled with the basic question of our role in all of life and the interconnectedness of it all. The butterfly effect comes into mind.

    To my limited knowledge, Jung’s Red Book was not slated for publication in his lifetime. Musings of a madman or insights from divine-touched genius?

    None of us are all pure as adults. Only children can lay a claim to real innocence and that with certain qualifiers. Are we fallen angels or are we redeemed demons? ~Love, Che Peta

    Comment by Peta-de-Aztlan — June 7, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  11. Great post. Thank you for writing it.

    Comment by Kody — June 20, 2010 @ 1:48 am

  12. Incredibly profound.

    Comment by Cameron — March 19, 2013 @ 8:31 am

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