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Erich Neumann – The Roots of Jewish Consciousness Book Review


THE ROOTS OF JEWISH CONSCIOUSNESS, VOLUME ONE: REVELATION AND APOCALYPSE. By Erich Neumann. Edited by Ann C. Lammers. London: Routledge, 2019. Pp. xli+ 201. $46.95.

Within archetypal psychology, the process of individuation defines what it means to be human, and no greater challenge
exists than the process of differentiating the ego from the shadow of evil.

Moral responsibility in the subject of consciousness known as the ego, especially the responsibility for confronting evil, was a point of vigorous debate between Eric Neumann (1905–1960) and his teacher, the renowned analyst Carl G. Jung (1875–1961).

Whereas the latter argued that the shadow of consciousness could never be eliminated from the world, Neumann argued that the aim of archetypal psychology should be not simply to endure but to actively redeem the shadow.

Neumann managed to train with Jung between 1933 and 1934 in Zurich while fleeing Nazi Germany to emigrate
to Palestine, and he remained immersed during this time in writing what he intended to be a three-part work on the psychological history and present situation of the Jews.

This is the first volume of that project, The Roots of Jewish Consciousness.

The moral courage it took Neumann to continue thinking through the implications of his debate with Jung during the
catastrophic period of Germany’s eclipsed moral collective
responsibility and state sponsored Jewish genocide is reason enough to read it.

Relocating in 1943 with his family to Tel Aviv, Neumann completed but never published his analysis of the collective psychological experience of the Jewish people at Sinai where both the Law and the divine were revealed.

This volume complicates our understanding of the later Neumann, including his development of the “ego-Self axis” as being expressed earlier in the Jewish psyche through biblical tensions between the divine masculine force of the tetragrammaton and the feminine earth.

With interpretative bravado, Neumann utilizes early twentieth century German biblical criticism and hermeneutics to pioneer his archetypal analysis of the earliest layers of collective Jewish consciousness.

Although he never completed the final volume on the analysis of the psychological situation of Jewish consciousness amidst the catastrophic moral lapse of humanity that birthed Auschwitz, this first volume remains astutely self-aware of how the feminine earth-principle has been sublimated by a masculinizing form of Law in Jewish consciousness.

Such a secularization of Jewish exilic trauma through theocratic prophetism remains a living question for Neumann—a lone archetypal psychologist inthe new nation-state of Israel.