Of the time when he began the book, Jung said, “I stood helpless before and alien world; everything in it seemed difficult and incomprehensible. I was living in a constant state of tension” (p. 177). This state of tension in an alien world is depicted in the post-apocalyptic western The Book of Eli (2010), which maps the journey of an entirely different book—believed to be the last remaining Christian Bible on Earth—swirling with its own controversies. Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is the man that possesses the book as he travels west on foot to deliver it to a safe place. He is pursued by those who would use the book to their own ends and must choose between having the book, keeping his life or saving the life of another. That is, he must decide between physically having the book itself and living by what he believes it teaches. The book reaches its final resting place in the west in an astonishing way that viewers nor characters anticipate. The film, while not a direct and exact mirror image of The Red Book’s careful crafting, lengthy retirement and reemergence, it does reflect a culture, nature, and individual in crisis. In this future landscape, which is often a sepia colored desert, most of the population is illiterate and reduced to cannibalism, marauding, and stealing. Bartering goods and services and safeguarding what is left of the water supply shows a breakdown in civilization that perhaps was alluded to in the disturbing visions and dreams that Jung experienced in 1913 and 1914 (1980, p. 175).
Jung, C. G. (1980). Psychology and alchemy. (2nd. ed.). (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1968).
Jung, C. G., & Jaffé, A. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Vintage Books.
Jung, C. G., & Shamdasani, S. (2009). The red book = Liber novus. New York: W.W. Norton.
Richards, S. (Producer). & Hughes, A. & Hughes, A. (Director). (2010), The Book of Eli [Motion Picture]. U.S.A.: Warner Brothers.
The Books of Carl and Eli
This paper discusses the edges and limits of the human psyche in crisis through the publication history of Jung’s influential Red Book - Liber novus (2009) and dystopic film The Book of Eli (2010). Having reached a critical point in this life, Jung began to write entries in The Red Book (2009) in 1914 after visitations of apocalyptic visions and dreams leading up to the start of World War I (1980, p. 175-176). Jung would continue to add illustrations and words to The Red Book, documenting the dynamics of psyche and his individual psychological crisis for the next 16 years. The book was carefully safeguarded by descendents of Jung for decades who considered destroying or concealing it with its contents unknown to the public until it was finally published and translated into English in 2009.