| HARVEST: SPECIAL EDITION ON ERICH NEUMANN, NOV. 2006.
INTRODUCTION: THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF A CREATIVE MAN
The conference “The History and Origin of a Creative Man” commemorating 100 years of the birth of Erich Neumann was held in Jan 27, 2005 at Kibbutz Givat Haim Ihud, Israel, It took place in the presence of members of Neumann’s family and next to the Memorial House the for victims and survivors of Thereseinstadt.
The title of the conference, as devotees of Neumann’s work will recognize is derived from the title of two of his major works: The History and Origins of Consciousness and Creative Man. Neumann was indeed fascinated by these two topics. He was not only investigated the depth psychology of great creative individuals, but as Geula Gat says in her memoir, he truly was one himself.
Neumann is best known for his explorations the developmental aspects of Jung’s archetypal theory, especially his work on the psychology of the feminine and The Great Mother. (Abramovitch 2006b). Neumann argued that the growth of the child’s ego consciousness paralleled the evolution of human consciousness. He made use of mythology, the history of religion, ethnography and ethology to illustrate his theory of The History and Origins of Consciousness. According to his theory, the early mother-infant bond is characterized by a state of psychic union, symbolized by the mythological image of a snake swallowing its own tail, the uroborus. Gradually, with the dawning of awareness, the baby begins to experience the caregiver in her archetypal form as The Great Mother. This Great Mother is initially all nurturing, but as the need for autonomy emerges, she becomes possessive and undermining. The child’s urge for separation inevitably leads to a ‘dragon fight’ in which the ego consciousness acting in accordance with the ‘hero myth’ which seeks to liberate itself from the regressive pull of the negative mother. He was working on yet another major work, which appeared posthumously as The Child (Neumann 1973), extended his theory through adolescence, when he died suddenly in 1960. He was only 55. Imagine if Jung had died at 55. As Dvora Kutzinksi says in her interview, ‘He still had so much to write’.
Neumann did compose penetrating studies on the nature of creativity, cultural and moral sense. He felt that the function of creative individuals was ‘not only to represent the highest transpersonal values of his culture, thereby becoming the honored spokesman of his age, but also to give shape to the compensatory values and contents of which it is unconscious.’ (Neumann 1959, p.5). He analyzed the archetypal world of the mother-and-child in the sculptures of Henry Moore and went on to similarly explore Leonardo’ s paintings, Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute”, the paintings of Marc Chagall and the literary works of Franz Kafka. He completed a series of brilliant books and more recently many of his talks, such as those given at Eranos conferences have been collected in three volumes of essays. (Neumann  1959, 1979, 1994). His great work on the Psychology of Creativity and Artists, however, remained unwritten.
Neumann’s importance and breadth of understanding went even further. In the aftermath of the holocaust, he was the first analytical psychologist to explore shadow and evil in his Depth Psychology and the New Ethic ( 1969). It was a book that caused no little controversy in Zurich and one that still serves the starting point in the search for an authentic ethics that includes our conscious and unconsciousness parts. In the book’s conclusion, Neumann wrote: “It is only when man learns to experience himself as the creature of a creator who made light and darkness, good and evil, that he becomes aware of his own Self as a paradoxical totality in which opposites are linked together as they are in the Godhead. Only then – when the creative interrelationship of light and shadow is accepted and lived as the foundation of this world – is life truly possible for man; only then will the unity of creation and of human existence escape destruction by that disastrous rift which threatens the future of the human race.” (Neumann 1969, p. 147).
We must all learn to confront and live with our shadow.
In Germany, Neumann displayed his many talents. He wrote a novel, poetry, a philosophy dissertation and earned a medical degree and worked closely with Jung. Neumann left Nazi Germany with his wife and young son and came to Tel Aviv in 1934. He worked in isolation especially during the war years. Although he complained of this isolation, this solitude may have served him well. Away from the intense atmosphere of Zurich and Vienna, or his native Berlin, he was able to plumb the depth of the Soul and draw forth golden fruits. Neumann listened all the more deeply to his own Self, to his own patients, to his supervisees who provided him all the rich clinical material about children – since he himself worked only with adults. (Samuels 1985). Within the history of psychoanalysis, he may be compared to Fairbairn, who made the breakthrough to relational, object relations, also working alone in Scotland. Neumann returned to Europe after the war and was a regular presenter at the Eranos conferences. Jung wrote prefaces to a number of Neumann’s books and The Great Mother is dedicated: “To C.G. Jung Friend and Master in his eightieth year.” Neumann also maintained a somewhat one-sided correspondence with Jung during the dark days and beyond. It is hoped that their revealing correspondence partly available in Hebrew in an article written by his son Mica Neumann (1988) will be published soon in full in original and with English translation by Daimon Verlag.