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Erich Neumann designated heir to the great Carl Jung
He received his patients in the dining room, she received hers in the edroom. His arrived every hour on the hour, hers on the half-hour. The children’s room, which was split in two by a cloth curtain, also served as the waiting room for his patients; his mother’s room was the waiting room for her patients. Everything was conducted with the greatest possible discretion. It was inconceivable that his patients should encounter hers.
Tel Aviv in the 1930s was a small town, and the address, 1 Gordon Street, corner of Hayarkon, was familiar to all the yekkes (Jews of German origin) from Ben Yehuda Strasse. It was a place of pilgrimage. The first Jungian temple in the Holy Land, established by Erich Neumann and his wife, Julia.In addition to being a Jungian analyst herself, she was also a renowned expert in palmistry (also called chirology), proffering advice mainly to people undecided about which profession to enter. Thus the pure science of the mind cohabited with what was then considered luftgesheft, or even witchcraft.
Erich Neumann, who was considered one of the greatest psychological theoreticians of the 20th century, was the disciple and scientific heir of Carl Gustav Jung; he was anointed as such by Jung himself. Neumann’s students in Israel and elsewhere view him as Jung’s crown prince, who in certain areas even exceeded the monarch. At that time, though, in Little Tel Aviv, the cordial neighbor from 1 Gordon Street was known only to a handful of yekkes who, like him, had arrived from Berlin immediately after Hitler’s accession to power.
If Neumann were alive, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday last Sunday. But Neumann died from cancer, in 1960, at the age of 55, and his followers and admirers had to make do with a symposium on his work, which was held this past weekend at Kibbutz Givat Haim Ihud. This summer, a conference in his memory will be held in Vienna on behalf of all the German-speaking countries.
“In my view, he is Jung’s most important pupil,” says Dr. Erel Shalit, a Jungian analyst, “certainly among the most important.”
Crossing paths
Erich Neumann was born in Berlin in 1905 to Edward, a flour merchant, and Zelma, a housewife. The youngest of three children, he had a sister, Lotte, and a brother, Franz. The family’s economic situation was good, says Prof. Micha Neumann, Erich’s son, a psychiatrist and lecturer at Tel Aviv University who specialized in Freudian psychoanalysis. The three children had German names, all three studied medicine and the family belonged to the Jewish stream that was liberated of all shackles of religion and tradition: Germans of the Mosaic faith. Erich was the only one who was drawn to Judaism. He was part of an intellectual circle whose members met to debate issues of culture, art and Judaism, too.
Franz fought in World War I and was awarded the Iron Cross. There were no moral compunctions about the justness of the war; the Jews were patriots and loved Germany passionately. Micha Neumann recalls his mother telling him that “in school, during the war, they would all stand up and say, `May God punish England.'”
At the age of 16, Erich met Julia Blumenfeld, then 15 and a half. The meeting took place at a ballroom-dancing lesson. “My mother was active in a `Blue-White,’ a Zionist youth movement,” says Rali Loewenthal-Neumann, a psychologist and chirologist like her mother. “Her parents didn’t like the idea and sent her to learn how to dance so she would become a bit more refined.” Julia and Erich discovered that they liked the same artists and the same museums. They started seeing each other but split up after half a year. “Mother said they broke up because he was mentally more mature. She didn’t elaborate, but maybe he expected more from her than she was capable of giving – after all, this was 1921,” Loewenthal-Neumann says. When they broke up Erich gave her a parting gift: a book by Martin Buber with a dedication, “Our paths will cross again.”
Four years later they indeed met again – at Neumann’s initiative. Someone told him that Julia had become engaged and he rushed to her house. Loewenthal-Neumann: “The truth is that there was no talk of an engagement. The person in question was a friend, but Father quickly renewed the relationship. Three years later, in 1928, they were married, both aged 23.”
Neumann, who was very much influenced by Freud and more especially by Jung, studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Erlangen, in Nuremberg, where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy, and went on to study medicine at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. Julia attended the University of Mannheim, where she studied special therapeutic methods for small children and went on to study special education in Berlin.
“I don’t know what made Father study medicine – I never asked him,” Micha Neumann says. “Maybe it was because both Freud and Jung were physicians, and psychologists didn’t yet have a status of their own. He completed his medical studies, but didn’t do an internship, because of the race laws. He received the degree from the university before his death; they found his papers and granted him the doctorate.”
Micha was born in Berlin in 1932. A year later Erich and Julia decided to leave Germany and immigrate to Palestine. She later told her son how she would hide with the pram in stairwells and alleys to avoid the Nazi thugs who were then starting to run wild in the streets of Berlin. “I thought my father came to this country under my mother’s influence,” Micha notes, “but my sister told me that at the age of 19 he was registered in a Zionist movement.”
The family went to Zurich, where for the first time Neumann, 28, met Jung, who was 30 years his senior. Their relationship began as master and apprentice and developed into tremendous mutual admiration and finally a bond of teacher and chosen heir. “I am certain that it was preceded by correspondence between them and that Father was familiar with Jung’s theory,” Loewenthal-Neumann says. “I know that he stayed on to work intensively with him that year and that this was the beginning of a deep and fruitful relationship between them, including extensive correspondence.”
Julia and Micha Neumann went to Palestine in February 1934. Erich stayed in Zurich, undergoing analysis with Jung – a necessary condition to become an analyst – and joined his family in the summer. Julia underwent analysis with Jung’s wife, Emma, and with Toni Wolff, a student and colleague of Jung. Among Julia’s papers – she was killed in 1985, in a road accident – is a letter from Jung authorizing her to treat patients. “My mother was a Jungian analyst without a university degree,” Loewenthal-Neumann says. “That was accepted in those days, and she was a very good analyst, too.”
Great disappointment
The Neumanns found a place in Tel Aviv, initially on Syrkin Street, a minute from Ben Yehuda, and two years later moved to the Gordon Street apartment. The language spoken in the house was German. “Mother didn’t know Hebrew,” Loewenthal-Neumann recalls. “My father knew Hebrew. He read Haaretz and he had patients with whom he spoke Hebrew. He learned the language abroad. But he wrote only in German and then his works were translated into other languages.”
Micha remembers asking his mother, as a boy, not to speak German outside. “But she didn’t know Hebrew and she always went back to German. I remember that once we were on a bus and we were speaking German, and someone, probably a Holocaust survivor, started shouting at us, `How can you speak German here?'”
But it wasn’t only the language that separated the Neumanns from the reality in Palestine. “Father thought he would come here and find all his good buddies from Berlin,” Micha notes, “but instead he found a great many Poles, very simple people, artisans, builders, merchants, speculators, people of the Fourth Aliyah [wave of Jewish immigration, 1924-1931] – not idealists like those from the Second Aliyah [1904-1914].”
Disappointed at the encounter with Palestine, Neumann led an insular life, fraternizing almost exclusively with Berlin friends who had also immigrated. He concentrated on his psychoanalytical work and immersed himself in research and in ramified correspondence with Jung that lasted many years. Intellectually, he suffered from painful isolation, which drove him to yearn for Europe, even though he despised it.
“Under no circumstances did I come to Palestine with illusions,” he wrote to Jung in 1934. “The situation here is very serious. The original forces, spiritual and idealistic, that built the country, the Labor movement core and the agricultural settlements, are being pushed back by an invasive wave of undiscerning business Jews, shortsighted egoists who came here because of an economic conjunction of events. Thus everything is growing ever more sharply in the direction of politicization which overshadows all the other horizons – is there here the danger of the development of Jewish fascism? The Jews as a people are boundlessly more stupid than I expected. Do not misunderstand me, I am not complaining about the Jews, I am only saying that this is the situation … I can imagine that the situation here could be dangerous and reach the brink of the abyss.”
Though disappointed with the human landscape, Neumann fell in love with the desert and wrote to Jung about it. The son of a Swiss clergyman and a pious Protestant, who believed powerfully in the bond with the land, Jung was pleased that Neumann’s anima had struck roots in the soil.
“My father believed in the future of this country,” Micha recalls. “He believed that only the second generation would strike roots here. On the other hand, he also wrote that if the Jews, who were always victims, acquired power and independence, there was a great danger that their repressed aggression and violence would be released and that terrible things would happen here, as in the case of the German nation, which was always obedient and disciplined, and look what happened to them.”
What do you suppose he would say if he were alive now?
Neumann: “I wouldn’t want him to be alive today, because he would certainly be very disappointed in what is happening here – the violence, the occupation, the anti-democracy.”
Still, Neumann did not think of leaving. He felt that he was on the margins, somewhat detached from things, but he had no hesitations.
“Jung offered him the directorship of the Jungian Institute in Zurich,” Loewenthal-Neumann explains, “and he was offered other things in Europe, too, but he never considered accepting the offers. It was clear to him that he was staying here. True, in his lifetime he was not well known in Israel, and maybe today, too, he is not as well known here as he is abroad.”
In 1936, at the start of the three-year Arab Revolt, Neumann’s parents came for a visit, to see how their son was getting along in the desert.
Micha: “My mother told me that they said, `The fact that you are crazy Zionists is fine, but at least let us take the boy to a safe place, home to Berlin.’ But Mother, who remembered vividly the Nazis’ torchlight processions and the nationalist songs with Jewish blood on the knife, told them that the idea was out of the question. A few months later I remember going with my parents to Switzerland. Mother and Father stayed there to work with Jung, and my grandparents came and took me to Berlin. I have memories from there, of the house of my parents. Then they brought me back and we returned to Palestine. From then until 1947 Father did not see Jung, they only corresponded.”
A new Jewish culture
Erich Neumann’s father died in 1937, from a brain hemorrhage, brought on by a savage beating from Nazis. His mother managed to flee to London, where her other son, Franz, was living; she immigrated to Israel after the war and lived with Micha and his wife, at 1 Gordon Street. Lotte, Erich’s sister, who was a communist, had fled to France before the war.
In Palestine, Neumann continued to probe a subject that had always interested him – the place of the Jews in world culture – and the attempt, which intrigued him, to establish a new culture in the Land of Israel. “He said that the Jews, like yeast, always fermented other cultures,” Micha notes, “and the time had come for them to enrich their own culture. He had a very dramatic correspondence with Jung on this subject. He asked Jung to interest himself in and study Jewish culture and history, as he had done with Indian culture. But Jung somehow did not study Jewish culture, only writing to my father that it was terribly interesting to see a European Jew like him trying to create a new culture in Palestine. Jung was pro-Zionist, in the sense that he saw the return of the Jews to their roots as very positive.”
Did he encourage your father to immigrate to Palestine?
Neumann: “No, that is a myth that is heard here, but it’s not true. On the contrary, he thought it was insane to leave Zurich and come to this forlorn place. The solitariness was perhaps why my father forged such a dependent relationship with Jung.”
The severance from Europe during the years of World War II, owing to the lack of postal services, and the intellectual isolation, produced a period of creative efflorescence in which Neumann wrote his two most important works: “Depth Psychology and a New Ethic” and “The Origins and History of Consciousness.”
In “Depth Psychology,” Neumann developed a revolutionary idea in reaction to the Holocaust. He argued that Judeo-Christian morality represses evil, leading to horrific phenomena such as Nazism. Micha Neumann: “He said that every person has to accept the evil within him, not to cast it away and not to repress but to live with it, sometimes even to manifest it, and to pay the price of sorrow and guilt feelings. He send the book to Jung after communication was restored and Jung said it was extremely interesting.
“The second book he worked on at the time, `The Origins and History of Consciousness,’ is large and heavy. He asked Jung to write the introduction, and Jung wrote back, `Neumann starts at the place I left off’ – and thereby appointed him his intellectual heir. Jung encouraged my father, unlike Freud, who did not let Jung develop independently. Nevertheless, my father was bitter about him, saying he did not always protect him. He asked the Jungian Institute in Switzerland to publish his books, but they refused and Jung didn’t put up much of a fight for him. On the other hand, Jung put him in touch with his publisher, who then published my father’s books, too.”
All told, Neumann wrote 11 books, dozens of articles and many essays in which he studied the works of Henry Moore, Kafka, Mozart and Leonardo da Vinci, among others. In the possession of his children are three unpublished manuscripts, interpretations of stories by Kafka and Hasidic tales. Neumann said these works were not fully rounded out and did not want them published. Julia, and afterward the children, honored his request. Today Micha says that if anyone wants to delve into the material and study it thoroughly, the family would not object to the works’ publication.
`The witch’
The correspondence between Neumann and Jung was renewed after the war and they also met at least once a year. Erich and Julia traveled to Switzerland for lengthy stays centering around the Eranos intellectual conferences held since 1933 at Ascona, a Swiss resort. Neumann was first invited to attend in 1948, and afterward went every year until the day of his death, as a guest lecturer who was much in demand. “That accorded him prestige and recognition internationally,” Micha Neumann notes.
Is he really considered Jung’s most important follower?
“I don’t know the name of any other student of Jung who is as famous as my father.”
Julia was equally famous, in her way. More than a Jungian analyst, she was a palm reader. She studied under the German-born Julius Spier, the father of psycho-chirology, the study and classification of palm prints.
Says Micha Neumann: “When I am abroad and tell people I am Neumann’s son I am treated with respect, whereas in Israel people barely know him, only students of the humanities and art history. On the other hand, I get much more respect here when I say that I am Julia’s son. She treated and helped thousands of people in Israel. Myths have already sprung up – people tell me what she said to them and I am certain it’s incorrect, because I know her and I saw how she worked. But the myths about her continue to live. I called her a witch.”
Julia did not take offense at this. She invited him to sit with her and observe what she did. “She first asked people’s permission. I was astounded by what I saw and heard. One day she was visited by Esther Streit Wurzel, before she became famous as a children’s author. She was a teacher in Petah Tikva and wondering what to do with herself. My mother told her, `You should write. Your father surely wrote, too.’ My mother knew nothing about them, she was cut off from what was happening here, and then it turned out that her father was the writer and critic Shlomo Streit. People meet me and say, `She changed my life.'”
The Jungian analyst Dvora Kuchinsky consulted with Julia in 1948. Then 23, she was working nights for a German-language Israeli paper, but wasn’t sure that was where her true interest lay. “[Erich] Neumann received me,” she relates. “I told him I felt bored, that I thought I was in the wrong profession and that I wanted to do something else. I asked him whether he thought I was suited for psychology – everyone wanted to study psychology then – and he said, `Go to my wife.’ She was a Jungian psychoanalyst who did palmistry. Today it is very much accepted, more than graphology. It doesn’t show the future, but it does reveal a person’s character and qualities. Of course I didn’t believe in it, but he told me, `It’s not witchcraft and she is not a Gypsy, it is a very serious test.’
“Julia didn’t know a thing about me,” she continues, “and asked me why I had come to see her. I told her I didn’t know which profession to enter. She asked me which one I wanted. I said I didn’t know, so she wouldn’t just endorse what I was thinking, and then she said, `Go and study psychology.'”
A house abuzz
Loewenthal-Neumann and her brother remember a house that was abuzz with people and parents who were always busy, closeted in their rooms or on long trips. Quiet and good manners were an integral element of their childhood. Loewenthal-Neumann found a letter from her father to Jung in which he complained about the difficulties of making a living. “In 1934 he wrote that he didn’t have enough patients and therefore was compelled to give courses in the house.”
Her brother remembers folding chairs stacked in the shower: “Once a week they would open the door that linked two rooms, and 30 or 40 people would enter. My father would give a talk, in German, about Judaism, about Jungian theory and about the new things he was writing about.”
What was it like to grow up in a house where strangers were always coming and going?
Neumann: “Today it looks quite peculiar. We knew we were not allowed to make noise, and my friends knew they must not run wild. I hated it pretty much. I would close myself in my room [the half-room split into two by a curtain]. My sister was a lot more cultured and talked to everyone.”
Loewenthal-Neumann: “I don’t remember having a problem with that. I opened the door and ushered in the people. Some of them told me stories.”
Did you grow up as yekkes or sabras?
Neumann: “Of course we were yekkes. We spoke German at home, in school more than half the class consisted of children who spoke German, and people spoke German on `Ben Yehuda Strasse.’ I grew up as a full-fledged Israeli, but the spirit was yekke. In all senses, both the good and the not-so-good.”
Even the summer heat waves did not affect the yekke spirit. Punctuality was punctiliously observed. One’s word was one’s bond. Respect to adults and to what is served you. Anyone who took too much and couldn’t finish his food didn’t get dessert. Food was not thrown out. A telephone, too, was a bourgeois luxury.
“To his dying day Father didn’t agree to have a phone in the house,” Loewenthal-Neumann says. “He didn’t want people to call and cancel appointments. This way, he said, people would come personally and maybe would cancel less.”
Forsaking the faith
Micha Neumann says that only as an adolescent did he dare rebel. A little. “I was a wild kid with unconventional opinions. When the two British sergeants were hung [in 1947, by the underground organization Etzel, in retaliation for the execution of three of its members by the British in Acre prison], my father was in shock. He couldn’t understand how Jews could do something like that, and I said they were storm troops. He was stunned. `I come to this country and hear my son talking like a fascist,’ he said.”
The two children attended Shalva, a private elementary and high school. Micha Neumann says he wanted to be a psychologist from the age of 16. “I was curious to know what went on in those closed rooms,” he says. He wanted to be a Jungian psychologist, but there was no institute in Israel where he could be trained, and his father encouraged him to move in the Freudian direction. “My father actually urged me to go into Freudian analysis. He said it was appropriate for young people who were establishing themselves. When I came to the Psychoanalytic Institute, they asked me, `How could you, the son of Neumann, Jung’s student, come to us?’ It was as though I had changed religion.”
He went to Switzerland to study medicine with the aim of becoming a psychiatrist. Four years later, in 1956, when his sister also wanted to study in Zurich, he was compelled to return home: There wasn’t enough money to pay for both of them to study abroad. Micha Neumann completed his medical studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Hadassah Medical School and started to work as a psychiatrist at Shalvata, a psychiatric hospital in Hod Hasharon. Eventually he became the hospital’s director. Today he has a private practice which is strictly Freudian.
Rali Loewenthal-Neumann studied psychology in Zurich and returned to Israel in 1960, when her father died suddenly. She is also not a Jungian psychologist. Her expertise lies in treating children and parents. She learned chirology from her mother and this is now her main occupation. A widow, she lives in Jerusalem. Of her three children, the eldest son is a psychiatrist, the next son is an electronic engineer, and she also has a daughter who is in education. Micha is married and the father of two – a daughter who is a lawyer and a son who is an electronic engineer.
Erich Neumann died of kidney cancer. In the summer of 1960 he went to Europe to deliver a series of lectures and returned in a wheelchair. “His brother took him to a roentgenologist in England and he saw that the cancer had already spread. He told him to return to Israel quickly. My father understood, and within less than three months he died. The feeling was that he died at his peak. He was then beginning to be recognized around the world, thanks to his books, which were translated into many languages, including Japanese, Chinese and Croatian.”
One of the other two books which, in addition to “Depth Psychology,” have been translated into Hebrew is “Amor and Psyche,” in which Neumann analyzes the legend of the love of the mortal princess Psyche for the son of Aphrodite, Amor (also known as Eros or Cupid), and through this explains the processes of feminine love.
Julia was almost 81 at the time of her death. The accident happened when she left the house one Sunday morning before work, to buy flowers. On the way back she was hit by a taxi and died within hours.
“She was terribly afraid that she would grow old and become a burden on us,” Micha Neumann says today. “She asked me to promise her that if that happened I would help her die. I made the promise, but I’m not sure I would have kept it.”
`A father figure’
The black hole in the relations between Jung and Neumann is anti-Semitism. In his letters to Neumann in the 1930s, Jung did not express shock at the Hitler phenomenon. On the contrary: He viewed National-Socialism as a revolutionary movement that was connected to the deepest roots of the ancient German people, roots partaking powerfully of blood and soil, as in Israel. Jung believed that connecting to these roots would engender a healthy, strong movement, which would enthrall the masses and provide the right balance for German super-intellectualism.
Micha Neumann: “[Jung] said it was impossible to dismiss the movement and Hitler, as they were the psychic embodiment of all the Germans. They had a German society of psychotherapists, which Jung agreed to head, throwing my father into shock. He asked Jung to publish articles against anti-Semitism, to dissociate himself from it, but Jung didn’t do it.”
How did they stay friends after that?
“There is a claim that every anti-Semite has his good Jew. Jung was not anti-Semitic at the personal level. He wrote to my father about all the help he gave to refugees, colleagues from Germany for whom he found work. But ideologically he was, of course, an anti-Semite.”
Didn’t your father feel guilty for remaining in contact with him?
“No, nor did my mother. I told them that I had begun to hear during my analysis that Jung was anti-Semitic, but my mother said it wasn’t so, that all his assistants were Jewish and so were all his students. Both of them denied it and said it was Jung’s `shadow’ [a negative personality element, according to Jungians]. In one of his letters to Jung, Father wrote, `You are the only pure remnant that I still have from murderous Europe.’ He saw Jung as a person of great stature, untainted and moral, to the end. He likened him to one of the 36 just men [in the Hasidic legend]. I didn’t like it, but I understood his need to cling to Jung as a father figure in the intellectual desert. He wrote him, `I have no one here whom I can talk to and learn from. For me, you are the link to the Europe which has so disappointed me.'”
Gold from the depths
There are about 50 Jungian analysts in Israel. Four years ago they split into three different associations. The reason for the split was not ideological but psychological – it stemmed largely from personality clashes within the group. There is no dispute regarding the Neumanns, however: All agree that Jung was recognized in Israel thanks to them. There is also general agreement about Erich Neumann’s importance as the heir and developer of Jung’s theory at the international level.
Dr. Erel Shalit – whose book, “The Hero and his Shadow,” discusses psychopolitical aspects of myth and reality in Israel – says that Neumann’s “Depth Psychology and a New Ethic” is the first and most important book perhaps ever written on psychopolitics. It had a crucial influence on the development of that field.”
Dr. Gadi Maoz, chief psychologist of the Jezreel Valley clinic and a lecturer in behavioral sciences at the Jezreel Valley Academic College, a student of Dvora Kuchinsky, is part of the third generation of the Jung-Neumann dynasty in Israel. Neumann, he says, was ahead of his time and was the precursor of the “New Age” in its deeper sense.
“He felt the malaise of Western society very strongly,” Maoz explains, “and the need to find a balm for it. The sickness is a rational focusing on the conscious world and a denial of the unconscious and the psyche; it is the repression of whatever is not comfortable from consciousness. Neumann said we must dive into the sea of the unconscious and bring to the surface all the gold and treasures, including the collective ones, because they are the driving force of creativity. The emphasis is on not repressing, but on connecting to the forces latent in the unconscious, to hold a dialogue with them. He was talking in the late 1930s about processes that we started to talk about in the late 1990s.”