2010 April 28
The Red Book Dialog with Leonard Nimoy and Beverley Zabriskie deals with C. G. Jung's 205 paged Red Book which was not publicly accessible until 2009.
2010 April 28 in the Hammer Museum
Introduction: I'm the proud owner of at least two of Leonard Nimoy's books "I Am Spock" and "I Am Not Spock" and it really is thrilling to be on the same stage with him here tonight. I can't believe it, frankly. You all know Leonard Nimoy, the actor. His success in the Star Trek series gained him world-wide recognition. Since its debut in 1966 Nimoy's character Mr. Spock became an international icon. His portrayal of the Vulcan eared him three Emmy and legions of fans. He went on to become a successful director with Star Trek III The Search For Spock and Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, The Good Mother and the blockbuster Three Men And A Baby. His stage productions include Camelot, Sherlock Holmes, Twelth Night, Oliver!, Equus, Full Circle, Vincent and Fiddler On the Roof.
His many fans, including me, are very sorry or even devastated, to hear this month that Leonard has decided to retire from acting. But, lucky for us, hopefully he'll have more time to devote to his art collection and -more importantly- to his own art-making practice. Leonard's fine art photography is in galleries, museums and private collections. His photographic essay on the subject of the feminine presence of God is published in his book "Shekhina". His photo-essay on body image is called "The Full Body Project". And his latest work "Secret Selves" is gonna open in MASS MoMA in July this year. he is also a fine poet and musician as well.
Beverly Zabriskie is a Jungian Analyst in New York City, where she is a founding and faculty member and former president of the Jungian Psychoanalytic Association. She was the psychoanalytic educator of the year for the International Federation of Psychoanalytic Education in 2002. She is the author of "The One and Many Souls of New York" for Psyche and City, The Soul's Guide to the Modern Metropolis, and she is currently writing a book on Emotion for Texas A&M Press which makes her particularly appropriate. Her 50 publications include: "A Meeting of rare minds", a preference to the publication "Atom, an Archetype", the Paulian correspondence.
Both, Leonard and Beverly, have collected some images from the Red Book that residate with them and you'll see them projected behind them on the screen. Both have a strong history of attempting of understanding of human emotions and I think that will be probably one of the themes that they will look at today.
So, without further ado, please, join me in welcoming Leonard Nimoy and Beverly Zabriskie. (Applause from the audience)
Beverly Zabriskie: Good evening, Leonard.
Leonard Nimoy: Good evening.
BZ (towards the audience): Good evening.
LN: I kind of half-thought we're doing this on a couch. (Laughter from the audience)
BZ: Well, this is actually a tantric moment because we've been forbidden to speak to each other to keep the tension on the stage. So, we've been wondering around, pacing with our backs turned to each other, dying to ask each other questions and Claudia forbid us. So, this is our moment, Leonard.
BZ: So what I'd like to do is to place you in the Red Book in context. I am sure many people in the audience - I think I heard Claudia say this - are here to see Leonard Nimoy. There are some people here who would like to hear more about Jung and this Red Book. We are trying to find the Third Way which is to hear Leonard Nimoy's reflections on the book. And I am going to try to supply the Jungian perspective.
We're on quite a level plain field in many different ways in this sense that as a Jungian analyst for several decades I have never seen the Red Book until October. So even for those of us who have dedicated our lives to work with individuals from the Jungian perspective this is great new territory for us. So we are all starting again to review who we thought Jung was and how we thought we began and came to the thoughts and theories that he did. And we tend to think of Jung as an old wise man, a wiser, older man. And I think in terms of the Red Book it's important to realize that he was 38 years old when he began to work on this.
And he very much believed even then that the movement in life came out of one's subconscious. That the life-process, the creative process came from within and up. Just to give you a little background of the era: He was at that point probably the leading psychiatrist in the world or the best known. People came from all over the world to see him. he had 5 children. He and his wife lived in this grand house at the lake in Zürich, he was banned for his publications and he came from a moment where he felt that he was dangerously famous and in the process that lost his own soul. And he realized he couldn't identify with the role that was projected on him by those around him. And he had all these other inner figures speaking to him - very different from the responses he got in the world through his professional persona. So, that was Jung's situation.
The psychiatric situation at the time was that if one was highly emotional one was put in a backward in the hospital that specialized in hysteria. And if one had visions that meant that one gets schizophrenic. And so, when he started to have these visions, he was terribly worried about himself and thought it meant he might be having a mental brake-down. It was these visions that seized him, that pushed him in a way out of the world, in a sort of alien stage, a chosen alienation. When he forced himself to go into what he feared by pondering up these figures. So I think it's so interesting that this book comes out of a man in midlife who had been so identified with the role and even had become confused himself in terms of who he really was. So, I wondered if you have any reflections ...
LN: Does this have something to do with me?
BZ is laughing.
LN: Wow! I my!
BZ: I wondered if you had any reflections on being 38 and possibly identified with the role. And if therefore you have a particular resonance with the process of the search for the self outside the eye of the public. And yet that needing to bring back into the public.
LN: Where to begin? It's an extremely penetrating question and territory. Maybe it would be helpful for me to talk a little bit about who I was before I became involved with this "character". I think this might be what we talk about here and maybe what evolved from the process.
The first time I became really excited about being an actor, one of the things that attracted me, one of the things, I was attracted by the idea being able with very interesting subject matter that illuminated people's lives as well as entertain people, all those very good things. But I was also struck with the possibility that -in this work- I will never again have to walk away from a conversation with somebody saying: "What didn't it come to me saying the right thing?" because it was given to me. Not only that I didn't know exactly what I was going to say, or how I was going to say it, but I knew what was going to be said to me. So, it was a very cocoon-like safe territory.
BZ: To other people you were someone else, their voice.
LN: That's right. And I didn't have to be concerned about how to handle the situation. It was written and rehearsed. So, there was a safety in that. I think I thought of myself as a person who could express passion. As an actor I could bring passion to a role. And I mean really "passion". To be passionate about the subject matter, passionate about a confrontation, bring passion about my ideas, that I could really express strong feelings about things. That I thought was one of my strengths as an actor.
? (laughter from the audience)
Leonard looks puzzled: Yeah.
And then this character came along. When I first .... Am I getting to what you were asking?
BZ: Yes. And if you don't I wave you back in.
LN: As a matter of fact the very first time I stepped on a sound-stage and when I first spoke the first lines - they were very different from what I finally found- I was much more outspoken, official, stronger in presentation then at what I first reached for. And then a director did me a gigantic favor: We as a crew were in a terrible situation facing a dilemma, and all of the other actors, characters were responding typically ("What shall we do?" "Press a button", " ddddd.... ". ) and I have one word to say which was: "Fascinating". The written word was "fascinating". And I said (emphatically): "Fascinating" and the director said:"non, no, no, no!, be more scientific about it, analyze it." ... Wow... (Cool): "Fascinating." In the context of that drama suddenly I had found a way to go with this character and it came off that one word.
BZ: Do you know the root of this word?
BZ: It's based on "Fascinus" who was a ... phallic god, the Roman version of it. So, fascinating really means what is really turned on by the phallus.
LN: Uhu. Of course I should have known that.
BZ (laughing) I'm not a Freudian and I knew that.
LN (laughing): My point is, and I think I really come to answer your question, that that began creep into my own personal life because so many hours every week were given to working that way, functioning that way. And I absorbed it to the point that I angered people by being reflective rather than involved, including my wife. "How do you feel about this?", You know?
BZ: That's really interesting because in the beginning of the book Jung talks about how he was so identified with his brain and his head, and there is one pont where he says to his soul: "Please, save me from what I know so well. Please, save me from my own knowledge." And what was necessary was for him to get in touch with his feeling and order them to be reflective at all. Because in terms of the early motives in the book it's about killing off of the heroe. Because he was so identified with his mind that he was able to use his mind almost as a weapon in the world, so he had to sacrifice his heroic stands.
LN: How do use it as a weapon? I don't understand.
BZ: Pardon me?
LN: How can his mind be a weapon in the world?
BZ: The heroic stands. He was also trying to deal with the fact that World War I was coming, so he was looking how people tried to dominate other people, their strengths and then let go of their strengths and go into where one is vulnerable. And I think that's in a way where you were at one point very successful by the strength you brought to the role.
LN: I've found a weapon.
BZ: You found a weapon? Could you say more about that?
LN: Well, it came to be useful to be able to be detached. Not to be cut up and vulnerable in a given emotional situation. To be able to find some safe ground. And not get into that position that I have been concerned about as a kid where I would get caught up in the emotions and not be able to function the way I wanted to because the emotion took over.
BZ: Well, that's very close also to the beginning of the dialogs. We are having a dialog here, a dialog between strangers, in a way we imitate like having a dialog with these strange figures in his strange visions. The first one which comes along is sort of a female personification who presents herself as a soul-figure Solome and he talks about her as the intense passion and emotion that ends up beheading one.
LN: There is a dialog in the book that I was scanning with you earlier with Salome and Elijah. Is Jung speaking for both parties when he writes that dialog?
BZ: He is letting those figures represent certain qualities as they come up in him. And Elijah as the prophet with foresight and fore-thinking and Jung is a very intuitive man who quite identified with that compacity in himself. And he says in the book that the way these figures appear to him is that Salome comes blind as the daughter of Elijah and of cause in history she wasn't, she was a stepdaughter of Heros. But as the first figure of emotion and passion she keeps saying to him: "I love you, I love you." You can imagine that he was quite frightened because you know what happens to the other persons.
LN: Off with the head, yuh.
BZ: And John the baptist - off with his head.
BZ: So, he saw emotion as loosing his head. That's what you were saying.
LN: Thank you.
BZ: How did your wife deal with you?
LN: Well, we've had to learn to negotiate that. I try to be more responsive as she needs and I hope that she understands more that I am not without feeling.
BZ: Do you tend to go to your head and think?
LN: Yeah, I guess. I do that , too. I am looking for solutions. I am always looking for solutions. And that I think sometimes that can be exasperating.
BZ: Well one way that Jung let go being a so developed and educated thinking man was that he started moving into images. And he let his emotions be expressed in images. So, in a way, the images mediates between his emotions and himself. And you have done the same thing - with your photography and the images of the Shekhina. And Full Body Women, is that .. . - that was one of the series that you did.
BZ: Very goddess-like figures. And were you aware what you were doing, were..
BZ (laughing): That's the best way.
LN: I think the work is conceptual. That work you are referring to is conceptual. It's triggered by some specific incident. By something I read, something I hear about, come across. And, in the case of Shekhina, it goes all about the Shekhina. In a way it is connected with Star Trek, with the character I played. It's a long and complicated story. The Shekhina book, the Shekhina idea is the feminine aspect of God according to Jewish mysticism. Well, briefly: When I was about eight or nine years old at a high Holy Day Jewish service when I went to orthodox synagogue with my family there came a moment where some gentlemen get up and on the stage known as the bimah to face the congregation and to give a certain benediction. And it translates: "May the Lord bless you and keep, may the Lord cause his countenance to shine upon you, may the Lord turn his graciousness upon you and grant you peace. It's in the Old and New Testament. They were shouting this in Hebrew, in a very passionate, almost revivalist kind of way. They were five or six men, who were not musical, they were just shouting with great passion these words. And my father said to me: "Don't look!" And in fact: The congregation has their eyes covered, their heads covered with their prayer shawls and so forth. But I was eight years old and I snagged a peek. And what I saw was these gentlemen shouting these words and put up their hands towards the congregation like this and it really captured my imagination. I didn't even know what they were saying at that time and I had no idea why they were doing that and what it meant. And everybody was in that condition.
I started working on it and learned how to do it (forming the letter Shin with both hands.) I had no idea it would be coming handy some day.
(Laughing from the audience)
I learned later that this is the shape of the letter shin in the Hebrew alphabet. The letter shin is a very interesting letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It is the first letter in the word Shaddai which is the name of the Almighty, it is the first letter in the word Shalom, peace, it is the first letter in the word Shekhina, which is the feminine aspect of God. And I have learned that they are using this symbol of the word for God's name to bless the congregation. Why are you not supposed to look? I have learned many years later when my wife's cousin who is a rabbi at Temple Israel told me, that there is a believe that during that benediction the Shekhina, the feminine aspect of God is coming into the sanctuary to bless to congregation. She is a divinity and the light that emminates from her could hurt you or worse. So, you protect yourself by not seeing the light. That triggered this whole idea of a photographic exploration of what I might find if I went in search of the physicalization of the Shekhina. I wanted to capture her in photographs.
LN: That's all about the light.
BZ: That's very interesting because Jung talked about his mother's number one and number two personality. Number one being her present, physical, nurturing self and number two being the mysterious aspect of her that he could never grasp. And I think you were experiencing it within a whole community and he was experiencing it in his whole feeling towards his mother. Could you say something about why you were drawn to do this dialog and why were you drawn ...
LN: This dialog tonight?
BZ: Yes. And what your connection is to Jung.
LN: I tell you the truth: I thought I might learn something. (laughing) I have obviously been aware of Jung for a long time. Don't know a lot about him. I have received a copy of the Red Book fairly recently. I found it extraordinary and scary. And if you try to grasp what's in there I think would take a lifetime. A lifetime of work to explore the images and the writings. I am also struck by the work, the physical labor of creating those writings and those images. The text is so precise and I think it is extraordinary. I find myself flipping pages and picking up a thought here and a thought there... I keep on saying to myself: "I must go back to the beginning and work my way through that." But I don't know whether I'll live long enough, you know? (laughing) It's a dedication.
BZ: Yes, and he did that as I said between the ages of 38 and 42. He says in his book that he is trying to deal with the spirit of the depths and the spirit of the times. And he says in one passage: "In the daytime I honored the spirit of the times." He saw his patients, he interacted with his family and children, did his lecture tours and his writing and at night he said he honored the spirit of the depths. So he did all this at night after his work was done. Except for the spirit of mandalas - I'm assuming that most of you are familiar with the book. In 1917, - he started this in 1913-, October of 1913, and then in 1917 he was a psychiatrist in military service in Switzerland you have to do military service every year, taking care of English prisoners of war and dealing with their traumas. They couldn't be sent back to England because Switzerland was a neutral country.
LN: They were prisoners of war in what country?
BZ: The Germans had captured them, giving them over to the Swiss. The Swiss had them in camps in Switzerland and could not return them to England because they were neutral. So, Jung was dealing with all this trauma and started making these - what he later found out were mandalas - these circular drawings as a kind of centering, an attempt to center himself while he was there.
LN: Were the Buddists doing Mandalas at the same time?
BZ: He didn't know that.
LN: But they were doing that at the same time?
BZ: Yes, he only found that out in 1928.
LN: Is that an example of synchronicity?
BZ: Synchronicity is when there is an coincident like that, but it is not thought of as synchronicity until you find the meaning within yourself. Then it becomes psychological. It's synchronous if it's just a coincidence on the outside, but when you were the person who saw these things coming together then it's a synchronicity. Have you experienced it in your life?
LN: I think I have, I'm not sure if that qualifies. To me the word suggests, ... we have an expression in our language, we say: "It's an idea who's time has come." and i think there is a certain idea of reference to synchronicity in that. I am very curious about the collective consciousness or unconsciousness - idea, that there are things that are bubbling, sort of, and somebody gets in touch with that and a lot of people say: "Oh yeah! Right, I get it." Maybe they haven't been conscious about it, but it brings this thing to consciousness for a large number of people. Would you call this "synchronicity"?
BZ: Yuh, it would depend on why you had that thought and someone else had that thought, and what is it in me that created the impulse to make that thought.
LN: I think at the most obvious level I think things that enter the culture in a very popular and a very massive way are an example of that. An artist, a performing artist or visual artist, sends an idea and a lot of people respond to it, ...it speaks to me that way. "We're ready for that, we're open to that idea. Somebody has made it manifest and we respond to it." So, whether it's a song or it's a painting or a performance or whatever. I had one striking experience. many years ago I was doing some recordings which I shouldn't have done. (Laughing) That's another story. I wrote a song, I think late 60s or early 70s, called ... We have been through a very, very dark period. The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the race riots, war in Vietnam, dark, dark times, and I wrote a song called "THE SUN WILL RISE". My sense that, just to focus on that, maybe ... and the Beatles at the same time came over with a very beautiful song: "Here Comes The Sun". I felt that I was somehow in touch of what they were thinking about. That's my example of that kind of experience.
BZ: Well, there are several references in this text to the new child or the dawn-child. And Jung talks a great deal about how in different cultures so much is made of the rising sun as the spirit that one needs for the new day or the new phase in one's life.
There's a whole dialog in here [the Red Book] that has to do with how the established or the kingly or the dominant or the heroic or whatever one is most developed has to go so that something new can come.
BZ: And that may have been going on for you in that time, in terms of your own life as well as in the collective. And I think what he is trying to get to in this book is that he goes into all of these images not as personal images but to try to find impersonal images so that there is some common ground to imagery we can speak to. And I had the pleasure of looking through some of your photography and I also noticed that there is quite a bit about circles in them. Either dancing women in a circle or even the shape of the photography, there is a circular feeling in some of the photography. I think there are the nudes in the series, black and white. Were you aware of that that you were creating...
LN: No. I wasn't thinking about a circle, but I do have a sense about things that things go around. (Laughter in the audience and laughing himself) I don't mean to be funny about that, it just happens to be true. I'm not sure what I mean by that, I have the sense that things come around. A circle is meaningful to me, yuh.
BZ: It's a very dynamic shape. Jung makes a lot about the circle and the square. The circle being when we are moving forward..
LN: I don't like the square.
BZ: And the square when we have to settle for a moment. Well, what we are going to do for tonight is that ... the tables got turned a little bit here and it's actually quite exciting that I did one of these series in New York at the Rubin museum. And I did one of these interviews and the analyst got to choose the image and just presented to the person, the celebrity or the personage being interviewed. So, the analyst had a little warm up to kind of compensate with the fact that we usually do our work in private. But here Mr. Nimoy chose the images and from the back of the Red Book to which I haven't gotten through yet, and so we are all going to look at this now with an eye. And the two of us will try to talk about what we see and we chose one other image which is the second to the last image and I tell you what the very last was.
And the later of course we will ask, some of you who has gotten to this image in the book, and really know what Jung thought this was, but meanwhile it's all the great projection screen we can enjoy together. So, Leonard, you chose this image. Could you say something about what you view to this?
LN: Yuh, first it struck me that one of the very few images where you can see people. A lot of his images are much more abstract and more mandala-like in their shapes and forms without individual people being presented. In this case I was struck by the figure that looks to be like feminine above the crowd and I immediately connected that to the Shekhina idea. She is a divinity, she is in a power position, she is above the crowd, I wouldn't exactly say these people are worshipful, but there is all kinds of ideas going on in that group of people, some are excited, there is a lot of animation in the crowd: Gesturing, talking, it feels as if you could hear them, you could hear pretty loud voices. Maybe she has just appeared and caused them to begin to respond to her with each other: "Who is she? What is this about? Shall we be frightened of her? What's going on here?"; those were my thoughts.: It's interesting that you chose the two pictures you did because there are not many images in the book where there really are faces in sort of regular people. It came at a time where he was beginning to really move out of working on the book and getting back into the work of science and back into the outer world. So i think that fact that humans coming in really is an indication of that. I am just noticing looking at it that it says on the top something about wisdom. And it looks to me that there are different scripts on four sides that looks to me like if it is Arabic, possibly, or Persian on the left hand side. Does anyone recognize what that is? And that is German on top.
[ Note from Margitta: The top, right and bottom lines are Latin. I try to translate as far as I can decipher the letters:
dei sapientia in mysterio obscondit / God's wisdom is hidden in mystery.
demovit ante ferola (serola?) in gloriam nostrum / moves away before ...ferola... in our glory.
qammemo (?) principium huis /..quam memo (?).. this principle
cognovit spiritus enim / the spirit (re)cognizes indeed ]
Jung`s grandfather was an Arabic scholar, you find Arabic motives around the book, different scripts and different costumes even and architecture. So, my sense of feeling is that he is trying to sense how different people of very different cultures might somehow consciously or unconsciously respond to what this figure represents. And I would assume it is some combination of Solome or Mary or the Shekhina and Sophia, the wisdom figure. But definitely the feminine side of wisdom. And it is hard to tell whether the people are angry, shaking a stick at it or whether or not they are in awe. It's quite a combination. I would guess the faces are of some people Jung actually knew. Does that look like Einstein to you, on the left?
LN: Over here? Yuh.
BZ: In the beginning of the book he wanted to move away from the world of science into the world of feelings and images. And then he is returning back into the world of science and he knew Einstein. He talks about being at dinner-parties with Einstein. They were both on the faculty of polytechnic institute in Zürich. And he talks about meeting Einstein and as soon as Einstein starts about talking about mathematics, he said he started falling fourteen feet into the floor because he felt so stupid. .....
Saying there is a world of feminine wisdom of matter in the background.
LN: Do you find it interesting that most of the people are not looking at her?
BZ: Yuh. Some are, some aren't.
LN: Very few are. I think in the front row some are but most of these people are looking to each other or away from her.
BZ: I think it is really hard for us to look for faith if some new idea or realization we are meant to grasp comes up. Don't you think we circle around something before we let it emerge?
LN: Unless the script says you look right at the face.
BZ: Oh! (laughing) That's so funny because as an analyst you have to do absolutely the opposite. You have to let the person sort of inform you of what they are going through. Not just in words but in body language, expression, tone of voice and try to pick it up. You have to let go of everything you knew before you can respond to a person, it's such an opposite.
BZ: It's such an opposite.
LN: I've let you in on a secret. (laughing)
BZ: I thought I have let you in on a secret. It sounds as if an analyst said it before and somebody else don't believe it. (laughing)
Is there anything else you want to say about it? Of course there is a crescent moon. And I always get confused whether it is the waning moon or the waxing moon?
A waxing moon? It would be a time when this feminine wisdom was in the beginning to grow. And it also suggests that about 90 % of the moon is dark which I think Jung would say is how much we know by the light of our reflection in comparison to all the knowledge that is in the psyche. That's how I would figure that.
LN: The way the figure is dressed and the present moon and so many other elements suggest to me it is Middle Eastern, but the people, for me, look very European.
BZ: Yes. And again there is a little bit of intuition here because it was just about this time, almost, that he was sent a book on Chinese alchemy : "The Secret of the Golden Flower" and he started opening himself up much more than to what he does write about here which is that he went as far as he could in terms of the Western mind and he had to look for the East for his knowledge. And also he was so horrified with World War I as being supposedly the best and the brightest the Western civilization created. So, I think it makes sense what you are saying: Oriental or Eastern ...
There is one person up there who really wants to see.
LN: He wants to what?
BZ: See. The figure all the way on the right hand pile.
LN: It seems to me that there are a lot of social levels here as well. Extremely well dressed with the top hat and some of the people much more the street kind of types. The religious figure over here with the hat.
BZ: Right. If I were looking at this as a dream I would say the better dressed figures would be with what we would most identify our ideals, our self-images. And the lesser well dressed as more impoverished in our minds. And obviously it is kind of a ... and the beginning of a round tower. And in 1930 Jung stopped working on this book because he wanted to make the images three-dimensional and he started building a tower on the lake of Zürich with his own hands. I think this probably was movement towards that - the architecture here.
LN: The idea of a tower has to do with aspiring to something higher, doesn't it?
BZ: Well, obviously it was circular, this whole building was circular. And I think it was kind of a sense of a feminine enclosure where he could do his work and read detective stories.
LN: Oh, really? (laughing)
BZ: Yes. I have been to that tower and there is a beautiful stone carving Jung did. Again trying to make these images three-dimensional. And then the tower itself and the kitchen and the heart that he created and then you get to the third floor and it is ... with detective stories. That's what he did when he wasn't working on the Red Book or seeing his patients, he read detective stories.
Part II: The Red Book Dialog continues here