Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Red Book Binder and the Craftsman’s Ego

I see the craftsman as a central image of the archetypally rooted adult ego. The hero, who serves as a bridge between the archetypal and the individual realms, has frequently both a divine and a personal father. The latter is often a craftsman. For the hero to set out on his journey into the depths and the vast lands of the unconscious, he or she needs to be ignited by the very sparks of the beyond, as they manifest in ego-consciousness.

Jung writes,
The hero’s father is often a master carpenter or some kind of artisan. According to an Arabian legend, Terah, the father of Abraham, was a master craftsman who could cut a shaft from any bit of wood, which means in Arabic usage that he was a begetter of excellent sons. … Joseph, the father of Jesus, was a carpenter, and so was Cinyras, the father of Adonis, who was supposed to have invented the hammer, the lever, roof-building and mining. …In fairytales, the hero’s father is, more modestly, the traditional woodcutter.

The original Red Book of Jung's is a masterpiece not only of his, but of bookbinder craftsmanship as well. Sonu Shamdasani writes, “After completing the handwritten Draft, Jung had it typed, and edited. …The first section of the work …was composed on parchment. Jung then commissioned a large folio volume of over 600 pages, bound in red leather, from the bookbinders, Emil Stierli.”[2]

While Jung’s active imaginations, the fantasy material that forms the basis of his interpretations and elaborations, preceded their inscription in the Red Book, the ego’s sublime craftsmanship may be required for the heroic descent into the darkness of the unknown. The impressively bound pages of the red leather-covered tome hold and contain the inscription of Jung’s remarkable descent into the archetypal depths of the unconscious. The masterfully bound book is like the crafted ego that enables the hero’s journey. “It is the creation of the alchemical vessel that invites the soul into dialogue and union to bring forth the divine. This carefully crafted and beautiful Red Book honored the process and contents as a container for Jung's transformation.”[3]

The craftsman replicates the divine on earth by means of his skill, patience, carefulness and hard work. The first craftsman in the Bible was Bezalel. He built the Tabernacle, the tent set up by Moses, in which the Ark of the Covenant – a chest of acacia wood holding the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments – was carried through the wilderness. Thereby he replicated creation. Bezalel “knew the combinations of letters with which heaven and earth were made,” [that is, the letters of God’s name], and thus was able to build the Tabernacle, which was considered “a complete microcosm, a miraculous copy of everything that is in heaven and on earth.”[4]He thus created an imago mundi, a crafted replica of the universe, wherein, like in a temple, the divine can dwell on earth.

With wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, a soulful year during which concern for the world we live in will be at the top of the agenda of those that lead our world into the coming decade.

The above is excerpted from a forthcoming Fisher King Press publication by Erel Shalit on Archetypal Images of the Life Cycle.

[1]CW 5, par. 515.
[2]‘Introduction,’ The Red Book, p. 203.
[3]Nancy Furlotti, personal communication.
[4]Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, p. 166f.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Fire at Chanukah

Chanukah is the festival of lights, marking the rededication of the (second) Temple. The oil, enough for one day only, that fuelled the eternal flame in the Temple lasted miraculously for eight days.
This Chanukah, however, will be remembered for the biggest fire in our history, which rages at Mount Carmel, threatening the city of Haifa. Much of the most beautiful forest area has been destroyed. Prisons and hospitals, towns and villages, have been evacuated, some severely damaged. There have been more than forty fatalities, most trapped in a bus trying to escape the fire. Up to two million trees may have been destroyed.

There has been a tremendous world-wide response to Israel's need for assistance. There are not enough fire-fighters, not enough fire retardants. Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Turkey, Spain, Britain, Egypt, Jordan, France, Croatia, Spain, Romania and other countries have sent fire fighters and fire-fighting planes.
The international aid as well as the thousands of volunteers that help curb the fire, help and host the evacuated, and assist in the emergency is heart-warming.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet, though arson and carelessness are common causes. The tree of life and renewal - almost every tree in Israel has been planted - can all too easily be destroyed. Fire is one of nature's prominent energies of transformation. However, when merely razing outside the realms of the ego, it may be destructive rather than constructive. In the hands of the Promethean capability of consciousness and ‘thinking ahead,’ fire may serve acculturation, light, warmth and relatedness, conscious will, focus and intention. (This will be elaborated in my forthcoming book 'Archetypal images of the life cycle,' to be published by Fisher King Press in 2011).

Disturbingly, the Interior Minister, from one of the Orthodox religious parties, has asked for a Committee of Inquiry to be established, which is obviously his way of avoiding responsibility for great neglect, for which he should resign (or, truly, be fired). It is due to his, and others' neglect that what should have remained a small fired that was quickly curbed by appropriately equipped firemen, became an ecological catastrophe.
In my Enemy, Cripple Beggar I devote a chapter to the prophet Elijah. His confrontation with King Ahab on Mount Carmel ranks as "the most dramatic moment in the centuries of struggle between Hebrew monotheism and the seductive pagan cults that constantly eroded it" (Comay). Many now pray for the fire to be extinguished, just like many have prayed for the rain that so far has failed to fall. However, prayer is not enough. When the soul and the meaning of history and legend are lost to short-sighted political benefits for socially parasitical groups that avoid participating in the welfare of society at large, catastrophe seems to come all too close. (From a different perspective I write about this in my novella Requiem, remaining hopeful that sanity will prevail).
The time has come to draft those who claim that Torah studies is their profession. When Ben Gurion accepted to let a small number of "Torah geniuses" be exempt from army service, he probably did not predict that this would be used by tens of thousands, assisted by narrow-minded politicians. National service as fire fighters and as sanitarians in the hospitals would be a socially appropriate manifestation of a true religious approach.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Enemy, Cripple and Beggar is an intensely moving book that speaks deeply to the psyche."

The following review by Ann Walker, Ph.D., appeared in Psychological Perspectives, volume 53, issue 2, 2010. Ann Walker, Ph.D., is a Jungian analyst and psychologist in Santa Monica and book review editor of Psychological Perspectives.

Enemy, Cripple and Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's Path. (2008). By Erel Shalit. Carmel, CA: Fisher King Press. Reviewed by Ann Walker

Enemy, Cripple and Beggar is an intensely moving book that speaks deeply to the psyche. Every time I read Enemy, Cripple and Beggar my psyche responds with wonderful dreams. There are so many important concepts in this book. I would like to discuss a few that I found particularly salient.

Enemy, Cripple and Beggar is devoted to exploring that critical period during individuation in which the individual must heroically confront his or her inner darkness, the shadow. The shadow is the dark part of the psyche that we disown in childhood as the ego develops. Integrating the shadow leads to renewal and rebirth. It is a daunting task undertaken by the heroic ego. As Erel Shalit states: "The hero is an archetypal image of that aspect of the ego that searches for renewal [125]. …The task of the hero is to wrestle himself out of collective consciousness, the ingrained norms and prevailing worldview, our neurotic defenses, those rites of the soul and rituals of the spirit that have fallen into ruins of obsessive litany and compulsive decree. The hero revolts against an ego that has stiffened in the grip of habits and conventions, an ego that has become empty behind the emperor's new clothes, whether within the personal psyche or that of society. The hero must go forth into the dark and venture into the unknown to redeem a barren soul, a forgotten myth or a lost feeling, and then return and bring it back into consciousness. And in his struggle with a corrupt collective consciousness, the hero must be equipped with integrity" (pp. 137-138).

Erel Shalit has written Enemy, Cripple and Beggar in an inspiring prose-like style. Surprisingly, he examines the shadow from both the perspective of the inner process and from the perspective of the outer political process. As an Israeli Jungian psychiatrist, Erel Shalit examines the shadow of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the result is an amazing view of shadow integration both as an inner psychological and as an outer societal process.
Shalit writes: "Destruction of morality and humanity does not turn the rebel of the mind or the militant in the world into a hero. Psychologically, there is no rejuvenating heroism in projecting the shadow onto the Other, as does the fanatic, the fundamentalist and the terrorist" (p. 25). Projecting the shadow onto others is the natural response early in life. But later in life, projecting the shadow is the opposite of heroic. Re-owning projected shadow and integrating its contents is a lifelong task of individuation and a moral necessity.

Shalit points out that the hero needs the shadow: "The shadow is the blood of the hero's soul" (p. 89). To be able to go forth into the dangerous battle with the inner darkness, the hero must develop important attributes. For starters, the hero needs a healthy dose of narcissism to be able to trust the ego's capabilities. The hero needs a connection to the Self, or a developing ego-Self axis; this means that the hero must have an ability to communicate with the inner divine, the inner God-image. Or, as Shalit states, "The hero has one foot in divinity, one in the world of mortals" (p. 33). The hero also needs both solar and lunar attributes-the solar ability to cut through and break free from the devouring mother archetype, and the lunar ability to reflect and consciously turn toward the unconscious.

Throughout Enemy, Cripple and Beggar Shalit illustrates the personal and archetypal dimensions of the shadow with case examples, myths, and biblical stories. He illustrates the archetypal shadow with the biblical story of the Amaleks, who were descendents of Esau, the rejected brother of Jacob. Esau was denied his birthright by Jacob, and the rejection and denial reverberated across family generations to yield the Amaleks. As the Israelites wandered in the desert with Moses, the Amaleks killed and tormented them with deceit, brutal cruelty, and cowardice. Shalit states, "The more severely something is repressed or denied, the harsher it will strike back from behind" (p. 111). The story of the Amaleks illustrates that the denied and repressed reappears with exponentially increased hostility; that which is denied grows and becomes unbearable to suffer. Denial of evil is worse than the experience of evil. Suffering must be witnessed to be transformed, as Shalit points out.

Thus to help our clients heal, Jungian analysts must guide them to an experience of the inner darkness, which can feel wounding-Shalit talks about the need to be a wounding healer. Integrating the shadow yields the treasure that is hard to find: a new connection to the anima/animus, a new connection to the inner soul and spirit.

Shalit discusses the shadow as cripple; complexes that are not integrated often live in the shadow and cripple us. Shalit uses the myth of Hephaestus to illustrate this point. Hephaestus is the son of Hera, and possibly Zeus. When Hera saw that her newborn son, Hephaestus, was lame, she threw him into the sea. Hephaestus was saved and raised by Thetis, who was the nymph of creation. Hephaestus worked as a metal smith and in deep underground fires, he made Pandora's box and Achilles' armor. Shalit points out that Hephaestus is the only Greek god that worked. It is the lame and wounded parts of the soul, symbolized by Hephaestus, that make us work. The process of working deep in the underground fires with the wounded parts of the soul is transformative and creative.

Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's PathI want to conclude with a lovely quote at the end of Enemy, Cripple and Beggar, a wonderful book to read and reread: "On the way home, toward the essence of our being and the meaning of our path, we need to be equipped with the sword and with bravery, with a mirror and reflection, embrace and compassion, with strength and with weakness and with the light of appearance and a guiding lamp" (p. 224).

Psychological Perspectives is a quarterly journal of Jungian thought published since 1970 by the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Soul Violin

A performance by Ida Daniel with prominent actor Itzhak Finzi

Performed in Sofia, Bulgaria, European Day of Jewish Culture, September 2010

The Soul Violin is a journey through arts and Judaism, using the image of the violin: the violin as an instrument that expresses the fine movements of the soul, and also the soul as so tender and light as a delicate violin.

The performance was staged twice on the European Day of Jewish Culture, and is scheduled again for January 2011, in a big tent in the Sofia city park. Two spaces were created: one serving as the space of the here and now, while in the other, one can travel through the imagination of Jewish authors.

In the one space, the great Bulgarian actor Itzhak Finzi played the violin and shared memories, accompanied by a young drummer. The combination of a violin and a drum set created the feeling of a music that soon will fade out.

When looking to the other space, with the help of two young actors, one could travel through the imagination of Jewish authors. Starting with a Ladino fairy tale, then through the deeply involving combination of two Israeli texts – an excerpt from Erel Shalit’s “The Hero and his Shadow,” and Haviva Pedaya’s poem “One who speaks to the absent,” going further in the Chagall-esque movement improvisation of no words, ending with the Ashkenazi story “The haunted violin.” These were all accompanied by the projection of pictures from the Sarajevo Haggada, German miniatures of Jews and Jewish places from the Middle Ages, and paintings by Mark Chagall and other contemporary painters.

The performance of Soul Violin was conceived and created by young Bulgarian poet, theater maker and cultural activist Ida Daniel. She has staged three plays: “Everyman” by anonymous author, “What happened after Nora left her husband or the pillars of society” by Elfride Jelinek, and “Dagmar the Dead or the Little Matchgirl” by the young Bulgarian author Svetozar Georgiev.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yom Kippur War Protocols

As Israel commemorates thirty-seven years to the Yom Kippur War, in which Egypt and Syria cleverly but deviously attacked Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish people, previously unreleased protocols from top secret emergency cabinet meetings have been made public.
They reflect how trapped the highest echelons were in the prevailing "concept," the post-Six Days War euphoria of invincibility.

At the cabinet meeting October 7, 1973, the day after the attack, Dayan admitted he had been wrong in his assessment of the enemy's objectives. However, "this is not the time for soul-searching. I underestimated the enemy's strength and miscalculated our forces' ability," he said.

Much soul searching has taken place in Israel since, but there is a constant need for soulful reflection and questioning, both on the Israeli side, the Palestinians, European as well as American leadership.

Politicians may challenge their rivals rather than reflect in depth, but a moment of introspection would probably do them little harm:

Does the present Israeli leadership, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, truly want peace with the Palestinians? If so, what sacrifices are they willing to do to this end? It would, in fact, require of the PM to get rid of the quasi-fascist elements in his government, accept an extension of the settlement freeze, and reach out to form a coalition government with the centrist Kadima party headed by Tzipi Livni.

Do the Palestinians and their respective leaderships (PLO in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza) recognize Israel's right to exist? To what extent do they, including the West Bank leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas, still desire Israel's destruction, as one might conclude from the incitement and double-talk in Palestinian media?

To what extent does Europe exculpate itself from its historical guilt by demonizing Israel, where honesty in the media's portrayal of events is an increasingly rare commodity (one rare exception being a recent BBC inquiry - from which the UN so called Human Rights Council may learn - into the Gaza flotilla)?

To what extent do good intentions coupled with inexperience by the American leadership impair rather than encourage negotiations? The settlement freeze required by Israel as a precondition for the renewal of peace talks (while the Arab side rejected similar requests for concessions) delayed the talks for nearly a year, putting the Palestinian President in an unfortunate and untenable position.

The following is an excerpt from The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel (p. 80-81):

Inflated Strength and Denial of Fear
Illusions of safety and self‑sufficiency were the result of excessive reliance on strength with concomitant denial of fear following the Six Day War. President Sadat’s attempt to initiate negotiations in 1971‑72 did not elicit an unambiguous Israeli response, because there was no real feeling of need. The psychological frame of mind was such that no one seemed able to pose a threat to Israel, or even evoke fear. Thus, despite Sadat’s repeated declarations that the coming year would be one of either war or peace, the warnings were foregone and the 1973 Yom Kippur War erupted in complete surprise to the Israelis. As a consequence of such an illusion of self‑sufficiency and invulnerability, Israel’s leadership was unable to correctly interpret the intelligence at hand about imminent attack. Like the entire Israeli collective, the leadership was caught in the dangerous psychological condition of fusion between the individual ego and the extended national or collective self. Personal and collective identities had merged, they were as if inseparable. The individual could (and, in fact, social undercurrents encouraged him to) identify with the national image of strength, omnipotence and fearlessness. Even death was challenged. Nothing could inflict harm or injury. This state of psychological inflation affected the entire nation, including the political leadership, which was unable to differentiate itself from the collective process. The leadership had fallen victim to the collective self-image of invincibility, and was therefore unable to prevent the war. In striking contrast, following the Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948, when the people rejoiced and danced in the streets, Ben-Gurion was gravely concerned with what lie ahead, contemplating the possibility of the Arab nations’ forthcoming attack. In 1973, however, the process of redemption, of the individual ego merging with the collective self, had attained its tragic peak.
The position of strength, force, and power, disconnected from its opposite pole of loss and fear of annihilation, collapsed following the Yom Kippur War. Since any trace of weakness might have threatened the sense of hubris, and therefore had been denied, the gap between reality and self-perception had reached unhealthy proportions. With devastating clarity, the Yom Kippur War brought to light the weakness that lingered in the shadow behind the persona of strength and self‑sufficiency, by which the collective ego had become possessed. The war brought forth the sense of loss and – again – the deeply rooted fear of ultimate destruction. This, in turn, generated the release of strength and the will to survive. The Yom Kippur War was the tragic outcome of a complex having taken possession of a nation’s collective consciousness.

The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel can presently be purchased from Fisher King Press at a 26% discount, or at  Amazon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Upgraded website -

Dear friends and colleagues,

My website, (also at has now been upgraded. I invite you to visit – and will be happy to receive any comment you may have.

You will find details about my books, contents, reviews and excerpts.

One of the features is open ends, with access to excerpts from books, book chapters, published papers and journal articles. Most of the material can be accessed directly from the page, while some of it requires login.


At et ceteri (from Latin: 'and others'), you will find announcements of organizations, lectures, et cetera, pertaining to psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, such as the Jungian program scheduled to open at Bar Ilan University, and the upcoming exhibition of Jung's Red Book in Zurich, et cetera. I believe that much, perhaps most value, and great treasures, are to be found with the other(s).

Another feature is town square, a place where you can look at the stuff others bring to the city square, and you can bring your own paraphernalia. You are invited to stroll around like a flâneur on an Italian passeggiata - as Lewis Mumford has said, "What is a City? - Above all else a theater of social action.”
You may want to share something about yourself, your activities, picture/s or poem/s, to present a thought, tell a story or call attention to a cause of concern. You can also link to your blog or website, if you would like.
The place is open for development, so feel free to contact:

Additionally, at re: sources, you'll find an expanding treasure chamber of links to valuable online resources. For purposes of clarification, brief descriptions of the sources will eventually appear next to the links.

All the above features are in their initial states of development – suggestions are welcome!

Many of you have been very generous in sharing comments and thoughts, reading what I write and attending my lectures, for which I am grateful. I do hope that my website, together with my blog (; to which you can subscribe, if you are interested), will further the open and ongoing dialogue between us.

In gratitude and friendship,

Erel Shalit

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $17.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press Online Bookstore. You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press.

Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799

Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922 / Phone: 831-238-7799 /

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hamas filmmakers present “The Liberation of Tel Aviv and Palestine”

A new video clip, gaining popularity in the West Bank and Gaza, depicts the take-over of Tel Aviv, renamed Tel-Arabiya, and the conquest of Israel. The High Court of Justice and the Bank of Israel buildings in Jerusalem are burned down.
After Israel is successfully attacked and "liberated," Palestinians are shown walking along the Tel Aviv promenade and on its streets. The height of the film is when the channel 2 TV studio has been taken over, its Israeli broadcaster replaced by a Palestinian, ready to declare the “liberation of Tel Aviv and Palestine.”

I doubt that the Palestinian filmmakers read my recent novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, which includes captions like,

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of demonstrators arrived in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It turned out that many policemen had simply remained at home, exhausted from the events of the last few weeks. Tel Aviv’s central Rabin Square and the surrounding streets filled up with demonstrators and banners, “Palestine for the Palestinians,” “One Palestine,” “Free Palestine.” Young boys climbed every pole and every pillar, raising the Palestinian flag. Soon the crowd started chanting “Tel Aviv, Tel Arab, Tel Aviv, Hill of Falastin.” (p. 82)

A recent article by prominent Professor Shlomo Avineri depicts a similar, fictitious scenario, in which the Jewish character of the country is progressively erased. The account, which, as Avineri says, will not happen, begins and ends as follows,

A radical Jewish leftist who supported the steps that led to the legislation turned to a head of an Arab organization and asked: "We did what you wanted, and you still aren't satisfied. What should we call the country so you'll really feel equal?" With a broad smile the head of the Arab association replied: "What's the problem? The real name was and always will be: Falastin."
(Shlomo Avineri: Biladi, Biladi – What's in a Name? (

The Hamas film, Avineri’s article and my novella all deal with the threat to Israel’s existence. The UN partition plan in 1947 divided the land into two states, Arab Palestine and Jewish Israel. Tragically, the Palestinians still reject the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Likewise, the idea of two states for two peoples is impaired by the settlements beyond the security fence, comprising a majority of settlements but a minority of settlers.

A major purpose of mine has been to imagine a worse case scenario, which will not happen, but which can easily be imagined, and in the lack of constructive imagination and determined policies, creates fear and anxiety, on the one hand, fantasies and delusions, on the other. Therefore, my novella ends optimistically (for those who care about Israel's existence), since its survival relies on human traits and capabilities beyond either the fear or the wish for its extinction.

Review of Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, by Erel Shalit (posted on Amazon)

Slender, Succinct, Superb, February 3, 2010
By Edith Sobel (Fort Lee, New Jersey)

This slim but incisive novella is a philosophical but completely comprehensible take on contemporary Israel. From a "litany of lamentations" drawn from the current generation which appears to be the antithesis of their idealistic founding fathers, the thoughtful narrator Eli Shimeoni (about to give a lecture in New York) recounts his overriding despair - but eventually concludes with hope.
Elegantly and thoughtfully mourning today's saga of Israeli disillusion without hope, bitter alienation, and collapse of Zionist ideals, Shimeoni indicts the present movement out of the country for profit and the concomitant surrender of "soul."
But relying on the consistency of past Jewish history and the "triumphalism of hope" the reader reluctantly puts the book down - and smiles!

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $17.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press. You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press.

Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799

Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova!

painting by Eliaz Slonim,

Shana Tova ! שנה טובה

To those of you who celebrate the Jewish New Year,
September 9, 2010; 1st of Tishrei, 5771

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Year of Peace and Good Changes

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav died October 16, during Sukkot 1810, thirty-eight years old. On the eve of his death 200 years ago, tens of thousands of Hassidim, and particularly his devote followers, visit his grave in Uman, Ukraine. In order to protect themselves from "forbidden sights" some of them cover their eyes with scarves.
I compliment them on this development, which may signify a progressive turn as regards women, assuming that it is the women who constitute the primary sight of danger and temptation for these men, young and old.
Does this new fashion indicate that not the women need to be pushed away, segregated, their faces covered, but the time has now arrived for the men to carry their own folly?
Yet, I do hope that some of the internal sights of sin and misdemeanor will penetrate into consciousness from within their soul, to allow for appropriate sinfulness and madness.

Rabbi Nachman told the story of The Tainted Grain:

A king once told his prime minister, who was also his good friend: "I see in the stars that everyone who eats from this year's grain harvest is going to go mad. What do you think we should do?"
The prime minister suggested they should put aside a stock of good grain so they would not have to eat from the tainted grain.
"But it will be impossible to set aside enough good grain for everyone," the king objected. "And if we put away a stock for just the two of us, we will be the only ones who will be sane. Everyone else will be mad, and they will look at us and think that we are the mad ones.
"No. We too will have to eat from this year's grain. But we will both put a sign on our heads. I will look at your forehead, and you will look at mine. And when we see the sign, at least we will remember that we are mad."

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Archetypal Beggar

The Beggar
Article by Erel Shalit

Rainer Maria Rilke: The Song of the Beggar

I am always going from door to door,
whether in rain or heat,
and sometimes I will lay my right ear in
the palm of my right hand.
And as I speak my voice seems strange as if
it were alien to me,

for I’m not certain whose voice is crying:
mine or someone else’s.
I cry for a pittance to sustain me.
The poets cry for more.

In the end I conceal my entire face
and cover both my eyes;
there it lies in my hands with all its weight
and looks as if at rest,
so no one may think I had no place where-
upon to lay my head. (1)

Faceless Interiority
Far away in the shadow, behind the persona and one’s face of appearance, stands the beggar. He has no social face; he plays no game. Pretension is an aspect of the persona, though not every persona that we wear is necessarily either false or pretentious. Persona pertains to the social adaptation of our conscious identity. It takes courage, honesty and compassion to transcend one’s conscious experience of identity. On the road, one is forced to overcome obstacles and struggle with adversaries. Then, as well, one will have to bend down low and care for the wounded, embracing the weak. And traveling on, one will have to see without eyes, touch with empty hands, hear the unspoken words, and sense the sameness, identitas, in anonymity. A forty-five-year-old extraverted man, professionally successful and generally concerned with labels of accessories, dreamed:
I am in a very elegant house. It’s my house, and I’m having a party. Everyone “who’s-who” is there. Suddenly a bitchy old woman comes down the stairs, tells me that the house is hers, I have only rented it, and I have to leave. It is very embarrassing, I’m being thrown out, from what I thought was my house. Out there in the street I meet a beggar. He is homeless, crazy, doesn’t really know how to speak, and doesn’t know who he is – he is without identity. It’s frightening.
As a negative of our ego-ideal and the socially adjusted persona, the shadowy image of the beggar abides in our soul, as if without identity. Without a persona, there can be no pretension—which comes from Latin’s praetendere, to extend in front. We need to ‘extend in front’ of ourselves, to reach out and forwards. Thereby, some degree of falseness and pretension are inevitable and undeniable. In contrast to the persona, the beggar “huddle[s] in the shadows,” and unmasks those who come his way,(2) that is, everyone who ventures far away from the royal court of unquestioned convictions. Without the protection of a social façade, the image of the beggar expresses the Inner Voice or the Daemon. The beggar becomes the genuine persona, that is, he is an image of the means by which the Voice comes across; persona, per sonare, by means of voice. But since he lacks the appearance of an external persona, he is not easily seen and attended to, but must be heard and listened to, for us to grasp the meaning of his words.(4) In Dr. D’s dream (page 176), he attends to the voice of the old, shabby, hardly visible, wise man.

The image of the beggar entails a reversal of our attitude in consciousness. We may believe that we give him something, that we may contribute to his welfare. But the essence of his being is that he holds something for us to receive. He may hold in his hand, and whisper through his mouth, a wisdom free from conventional ethics, transcending our conscious distinction of good and evil.(4) Beyond the blushing face of shame, the beggar’s hand is full of emptiness—he holds nothing in his hand.

The beggar does not do, and we may so easily pass by without noticing him. Only by stopping for a moment may we see what he can give—an opportunity to feel and hear, to reflect and forget myself (my ego), and to know what not to forgo:
The crippled beggar cries.
His weeping masks the sun’s eye,
hides the flowers.
His weeping–
a smoldering barrier
between me and God.
The crippled beggar demands
that I thrust my whole life
into his hand–
that which is revealed
and that which is hidden,
all that could have happened
and all that yet will happen.
The crippled beggar demands
that I let him eat
from the Carmel in my soul
and from the sea,
from the risings of the sun
and from the depths within me.
The crippled beggar spits in my face
because I have not forgotten myself,
because I have not died.
His scorn is right.
To the quiet, inner core
that exists even in the heart of the lost,
to the axis of immortality
that exists even in the heart of the insane,
I have not given over
my whole self.
I have almost forgotten
that he, too, the impoverished one,
is a child of the sun,
that his soul, too,
will turn into a rose at twilight.(5)
When Gandhi after more than twenty years in South Africa stepped ashore in India, he spent a year of wandering, “his ears open but his mouth shut.” The notable poet Tagore called him “The Great Soul in Beggar’s Garb.” Soul is a perspective, perspective, by means of spection, looking, introspective and extraspective, which enables us not to just act and do. It is reflective between us and events, and makes us relate to our deeds,(6) thereby inducing what we do with life, with inspiration. Without soul we may constantly fight wars with an ever-more evil enemy, or we may fall into paralyzing crippleness. The voice that speaks through the image of the beggar is not formulated by his words, but by our listening in spite of there being nothing to see. The soul that the beggar brings is one of pure interiority, which brings life only if attended to. At the end of the Grimm brothers’ tale of The Golden Bird, for instance, the king’s (in some versions the gardener’s) youngest son arrives secretly at the king’s court, dressed in a poor man’s ragged clothes. As he arrives, scarcely within the doors, the horse began to eat, and the bird to sing, and the princess left off weeping. The soul appears in the least of garments, secretly, invisibly, without known identity. The following was the final dream that a fifty-five-year-old man brought at the end of a seven-year analysis:
I am walking with a group of people in a field. It is rather dark. It is like walking along a wadi [dry river valley] at the slopes of a gray mountain. From somewhere high up I hear a voice telling me – and it seems he is calling just me – I have to get up on top of the mountain and read prayers from a book.

I then stand on a cliff high up on the mountain, with the man who had called me. He doesn’t look like the kind of prophet you would imagine – or perhaps you would! He is very unimpressive, small, ugly, hunchback, disgusting! No, sorry, not disgusting, but you’d hardly notice him, or, rather, if you met him in real life, one would try to avoid him, like those poor sick beggars you see more and more in the city.

He just hands me the book. Looks like a bunch of old papers. The prayers are a combination of Jewish and alchemical texts or prayers. I have to do this, supposedly because I am accused of some crime, possibly having assassinated someone. But before climbing higher on up the mountain, I go into a cave, supposedly my cave, where there are lots of wine glasses, kind of grails, some in glass, others in metals, that I have to serve to people, though I don’t really see the people; they will arrive later. The wine glasses are placed on an old wooden table, and the tin cups on an even more antique wooden table. Everything is semi-dark. I don’t know what kind of mixture or drink is in the glasses, especially in the tin cups – probably some alchemical tincture – just joking! But it has that kind of flavor, so I guess I have to accept that! Then the man, the beggar/prophet or whatever, his daughter comes running. She has been running very quickly, and I meet her at the entrance of the cave as I am on my way to depart to ascend the mountain. She is clearly taken by her long and quick run, breathes visibly, tells me that the whole accusation against me is a mistake. I feel relieved. I know that you [the analyst] won’t die from me leaving, even if you’ll be somewhat sad, just like I will be as well, but I still know that I have to carry out the task, even if you can’t help me any further, and I must go ahead and do it alone.
This man knew he had further work to do, but also felt that there always would be, and at some stage he needed to take it on himself. The need of a soulful attitude in this man’s further undertakings was unmistakable. His tendency not to remain serious, but to dismiss the hard work by joke and avoidance, had been prominent. A sense of lack of meaning in life had been the reason to come for analysis.

In his associations to the dream he said he had come to understand there were “layers of meaning” to “that Jungian stuff and all that alchemy,” using “alchemy” as a code word for his ambivalence to the process, but thereby for its potency as well.

The word alchemy had most likely not been mentioned during the years of analysis, but the meaning of the word warrants a brief comment: as is well known, Jung concluded that the alchemical process reflects the soul’s transformative journey through the shadow to the Self, from base metal to refined gold. There are various assumptions as to the etymological origin of the word alchemy. One possible origin is from the Greek chumeia, to pour together, to cast together, clearly reflecting the process of bringing seemingly opposite elements together. In this sense, alchemy replicates the process of the Self; symbolos, symbol-formation as a healing process that brings the opposites together (syn- together, ballein- to throw)—in contrast to the consciousness-raising process of diabolos (to throw apart).

Another possible origin is from the Arabic al-khimiya, where Khemia was an ancient name for Egypt, meaning ‘the land of the black earth,’ because of the mud that brought fertility to the land of the Nile. Most transformative activity in the alchemical laboratory of therapy and analysis probably takes place in the land of the black earth, the shadowy matter of the process.

Gershom Scholem writes, “Even more remarkable is the derivation of the word kimiya (chemistry) from the Hebrew, which carried over from Arabic sources.” He quotes several older Arabic and Jewish sources, and says, “The word for chemistry comes from ki miya,”(7) i.e., alchemy would mean for it is of God. It seems we might need to hear the voice of all three possible etymologies in order to appreciate the journey of the soul.

The previous article is an excerpt from Erel Shalit’s
Enemy, Cripple, Beggar: Shadows in the Hero’s Path
(Fisher King Press 2008)
Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's Path available from:
also available from:
C.G. Jung Institute of New York Foundation Bookstore (212) 697-6430
C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles (310) 556-1196
Pacifica Graduate Institute Bookstore (805) 969-3626 Ext. 327
Caversham Booksellers in Toronto (416) 944-0962


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1.Selected Poems, Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming, p. 78.
2. Elie Wiesel, A Beggar in Jerusalem, p. 3
3. It is noteworthy that the root of the Hebrew word for meaning, maSHMAot, means to hear. Martin Buber claimed the Jews were inherently a people of the “ear,” “summoned to ‘hear,’ as in ‘Hear, Oh Israel’ ” (Elon, The Pity of it All, p. 262.)
4. Cf. Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 39; The Hero and His Shadow, p. xvi
5. “The Crippled Beggar,” from The Spectacular Difference: Selected Poems of Zelda, p. 39-41. Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Marcia Falk (Hebrew Union College Press, 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Marcia Lee Falk. Used by permission of the translator
6. James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account, pp. 6-10; Andrew Samuels, Jung and the Post-Jungians, p. 244.
7. Gershom Scholem, Alchemy and Kabbalah, p. 16f.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Psyche and the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis

Forthcoming August 1, 2010

Psyche and the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis

Editor: Thomas Singer
Preface: Thomas Kirsch

Psyche and The City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis, is a collection of depth-oriented articles about several of the great cities of the world. Its chapters explore each city’s unique identity in terms of such hard-to-define qualities as psyche, soul, and spirit through history, geography, and anecdotes from the authors’ personal experiences.

The following is excerpted from the beginning of Erel Shalit's chapter on Jerusalem:

Human Ground, Archetypal Spirit

Unlike Rome, not all roads lead to Jerusalem, and those that do may all too easily lead the visitor astray in a labyrinth of divinity and madness. In the course of history, when Rome became the center of power, sanctity and glory, Jerusalem sank into spiritual ruin and peripheral oblivion. Thus, even those modern roads that bring you smoothly to the city may force the pilgrim to pass “through thorny hedges…” of his or her mind.

One may conveniently approach Jerusalem from the west, ascending the modern highway, which climbs eastward through the Judean Hills–like a Western mind moving toward the Orient. By approaching Jerusalem driving on the comfortable asphalt that smoothly covers the ground and softens the bumps, one may arrive only to find a noisy and neglected city, tired by too much spirit and worn out by too much poverty. Slowly winding upward through the hills, parallel to the highway, runs the dusty old donkey path, burdened by archetypal history. Arriving this way, one may find the sparks of illumination that shine from within the dry stones, as well as the strife and conflict that cut through the rocks of Jerusalem.

Alternatively, one may proceed toward Jerusalem on the Route of the Patriarchs, from the desert in the east. This is the path on which the ancient Hebrews arrived, as they crossed the river into the land of Canaan, thus gaining their name and reputation as Hebrews, which means “those that came from across the river.”

One may capture Jerusalem by drawing the sword against evil spells, as did King David from the Jebusites three millennia ago, or enter the city humbly on a donkey, like Jesus did and any future Messiah is supposed to do as well, or like the Caliph Omar majestically riding on a white camel. In whatever way one arrives, the visitor must be ready to overcome the obstacles of Earthly Jerusalem, which far from always mirrors her Heavenly Sister’s image of completeness and redemption.

“Crouched among its hills,” Jerusalem is immersed with mythological, religious, and symbolic significance. Yet, scarce in natural resources, the surrounding land is cultivated rather than fertile by nature, and the so-called Jerusalem stone, the pale limestone that characterizes many of the city houses, nearly cracks and shatters by carrying the burden of Heavenly Jerusalem. In its often shabby garb, terrestrial Jerusalem seems to want to shake off its Celestial Glory, releasing itself from the task of being “the gateway to heaven.” At other times, when the light from above is reflected in her harsh stones, Jerusalem seems to embrace the presence of the Shekhinah, the earthly dwelling of the divine. Especially at dawn and at dusk, the reflection of the light may bring that which is below and that which is above, earth and heaven, reality and imagination into play with each other–marble-like clouds weighing heavily above, and stones that radiate light.


Soul/City Luigi Zoja
Bangalore Kusum Dhar Prabhu
Berlin Jörg Rasche
Cairo Antonio Lanfranchi
Cape Town Astrid Berg
Jerusalem Erel Shalit
Kyoto Toshio Kawai
London Christopher Hauke
Los Angeles Nancy Furlotti
Mexico City Jackie Gerson
Montreal Tom Kelly
Moscow Elena Pourtova
New Orleans Charlotte Mathes
New York Beverley Zabriskie
Paris Viviane Thibaudier
San Francisco John Beebe
Sao Paulo Gustavo Barcello
Shanghai Heyong Shen
Sydney Craig san Roque
Zürich Murray Stein

Tom Singer (Ed.) Psyche and the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis, Spring Journal Books.

Order Psyche and the City from Amazon, from Spring Journal and Books, or from Fisher King Press

Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $17.95 and Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press. Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted.1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ten Little Boxes

The Treasures of Brod and Kafka – in Ten Little Boxes

Will the mystery of the whereabouts of Kafka’s remaining, unknown writings soon be revealed? Ofer Aderet reports in Haaretz Newspaper that the first of ten boxes containing documents and writings of Brod and Kafka has finally been opened, but publication of the content has so far been withheld.

The following is a brief excerpt from Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return:

… Behind closed doors, Judge K. presided over the Brod-Hoppe-Kafka trial. Quite simply and very briefly, Brod’s secretary, some say mistress, had taken hold of his personal library and all the treasures … Paranoically, Mrs. Hoppe seemed to fulfill K’s will rather than Brod’s. True, she did not burn the library, she kept most of the treasures away from the public’s eye, in contrast to Brod, who had saved them for the world of literature and culture. She managed, as well, to capitalize on some of the manuscripts, shipping them abroad, earning a comfortable sum in exchange for the trials of Josef K. After her death, her already elderly daughters kept pythonian guard of the shrine, only letting the cats roam freely. Hardly anyone would know what remained hidden behind the castle gates, except for an expert from foreign lands, whom Max Brod had given brief and conditional permission to bring his looking glass into the judge’s private chamber. He may remain the only living person, who has read at least part of Kafka’s unpublished works. According to leaks, likely by this foreign expert, one story is about a rat, one among many rats in Prague’s sewage system. But this rat had a complex, golden mechanical device, a precise micro-cosmos built into its mind. When Eli Shimeoni tried to imagine it, he came to think of the exquisite Marie-Antoinette watch. It had taken the supreme watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet forty-four years to complete this masterpiece of all times. The Queen did not live to see this timeless tabernacle of time, ready to be presented to the world only in 1827, even after Breguet himself had ascended from this world. As Sir David Lionel Salomons, the last owner of the watch had claimed, to carry a Breguet watch is to have the brains of a genius in your pocket…

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $19.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press.  You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press. Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316  toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Post-Graduate Studies in Jung's Analytical Psychology

We are pleased to announce the opening of a post-graduate program in

Jung's Analytical Psychology

Bar Ilan University, Continuing Education, Weisfeld School of Social Work

Dr. Erel Shalit, Director

For further details, please click here

Studies are conducted in Hebrew.

For Jungian studies in English, please contact Dr. Shalit,

הפסיכולוגיה האנליטית של יונג
מרכז אקדמי: ד"ר אראל שליט

אנו שמחים להודיע על פתיחת תוכנית חד שנתית של העמקה בפסיכולוגיה האנליטית של יונג, במסגרת היחידה ללימודי המשך, .של בית הספר לעבודה סוציאלית, ע"ש לואיס וגבי וייספלד, אוניברסיטת בר-אילן
מטרת התכנית היא להכיר את תורתו של יונג ואת הגישה הטיפולית הנגזרת ממנה. הגישה מרחיבה את הבנת נפש האדם במישור

.האישי, בסביבתו התרבותית והרוחנית, כפי שמשתקף הדבר באגדות, מיתוסים וחלומות

מלבד הכרת המושגים היונגיאנים, נעמיק בהבנת נפש האדם במעגל חייו, בתהליך האינדיבידואציה המתמשך שלו, בחלום

.וסמליו ובצל האדם

. התכנית מיועדת לאנשי מקצוע בתחומי הטיפול, השיקום והייעוץ החינוכי

.הלימודים יתקיימו בימי שני, בשעות 15:00 - 20:30, 30 מפגשים, סה"כ 180 שעות

ניתן לפנות לאראל שליט או אבי באומן

באתר של היחדה ללימודי המשך ניתן למצוא פרטים אודות התוכנית, ולהוריד טופס הרשמה

(טל. 03-5317265;

Friday, June 18, 2010

José María Aznar: If Israel goes down, we all go down

José María Aznar, Former Prime Minister of Spain, has written an important opinion piece in the Times, June 17, 2010. His position reflects truthfully how vulnerable and precarious the present situation is in Israel. While Israel possibly is equipped to deal with many of the threats the country presently encounters, the increasing demonization, which skillfully deconstructs its legitimacy, may provide the successful road to the final solution for those who seek it.

Following Aznar's opinion piece you will find an excerpt from my novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, which deals with this subject. The book is presently on sale at Fisher King Press, see details below.

If Israel goes down, we all go down
By José María Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organised a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfilment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel’s legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel’s vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defence of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.

During his daydream, Eliezer Shimeoni, the protagonist of Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, imagines the men and the women, the elderly and the infants, crowding the sandy shores, boarding the ships that set sail across the Sea. That very moment he understood why the passionate longing for home had anchored in the Jewish soul, and why the sense of the soul’s exile wandered like a shadow behind every Jew. Those shores he knew so well were no longer full of playing children or of smiling lads and teasing maidens and suntanned tourists. In his mind he saw, rather, the pushing and the screaming, the anxiety and the desperate clinging together for comfort, as the fate of dispersal lie in wait for the Jews of the Destroyed Temple, soon to board the ships of salvage for a future of pogroms and persecution.
Now, just like then, many had stayed behind, perhaps mostly those that had had no choice, scattered in little towns and villages around the country, under foreign rule. He imagined the day of upheaval, when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, youngest pupil of Hillel was smuggled out of Jerusalem in flames in a coffin during the Great Siege.
Yochanan understood that as Jerusalem was on fire and the Temple destroyed, a historical era had come to its end. He established the Council of Yavneh. While he himself still resided in the Land of the Fathers, this would be the beginning of Rabbinical Judaism, and millennia of Diaspora Judaism. For Eli S. this was the picture of a fugitive, of a refugee in the making. Exile and return had been wavering back and forth for centuries, even before the destruction of the Second Temple. But the year seventy of our common era was a moment close enough in time so that he could touch it, or that was recent enough to touch him. He could almost stretch out his hand across the short distance in history, and grab the side of the coffin, as if he himself carried Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai out of the burning Jerusalem, across the hills and the fields down to the coastal plain, for future wanderings to be drawn on the maps of the world.…
His tranquil ruminations about exile and return, rebirth and destruction, were suddenly interrupted when Professor Shimeoni felt his entire body flush, feeling as if he had been stripped of his clothes, to bare nudity. He recalled the words of the Norwegian philosopher Jostein Gaarder, of “Sophie’s World” fame, who in 2006 wrote, “We do no longer recognize the State of Israel. … We laugh at this people’s – the Jews – fancies and weep over its misdeeds.” Then, foreseeing the fulfillment of his wet dream he excels in triumphant compassion, exclaiming “Peace and free passage for the evacuating civilian population no longer protected by a state. Fire not at the fugitives! Take not aim at them! They are vulnerable now like snails without shells… Give the Israeli refugees shelter, give them milk and honey!” Not a far cry from Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, whose diagnosis says, “Israel has no historical, religious, or cultural justification, and we will never establish relations with this cancer.”
Quickly, quickly, help get rid off the cancer! I accuse, I accuse you, Jostein Gaarder, and with you I accuse those European intellectuals, with whom I have always felt affinity, who collaborate with the grand deception, 21st Century Faux, in which the boundaries have been blurred between empathy of the heart and apocalyptic hell, between depth of mind and simplicity of thought, Shimeoni exclaimed to the absent audience.
…He recalled the words of Chaim Potok, who so poignantly gave voice to that collective concern, “To be a Jew in this century is to understand fully the possibility of the end of mankind, while at the same time believing with certain faith that we will survive.” Living in Israel was certainly living at life’s edge, at the edge of survival.
Bitter irony turned into sour cynicism, as Professor Shimeoni reflected on the word “certain.” He was convinced that an eloquent writer such as Potok had purposefully used the ambiguous word certain. “Is there a word more uncertain than certain?” he asked himself rhetorically. “Did Potok mean that we could be sure, could be certain in our faith that we will survive, or did he mean that we may have some, a bit, perhaps a certain bit of faith that we will survive?”

Dr. Erel Shalit is a psychoanalyst and author, and past President of the Israel Society of Analytical Psychology. Erel Shalit has served as officer in the IDF Medical Corps, has been on the council of Meretz, and is a member of The Council for Peace and Security. His latest book, the novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, is a fictitious account of a scenario played out in the mind of many Israelis, pertaining to existential reflections and apocalyptic fears, but then, as well, the hope and commitment that arise from the abyss of trepidation.

Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $17.95 and
Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95,
$30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press Online Bookstore.
You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press.

Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316 toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799.

Fisher King Press / PO Box 222321 / Carmel, CA 93922 / Phone: 831-238-7799 / /

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

“Technology is rewiring our brains”

In a recent article in the New York Times, Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price, by Matt Richtel, June 6, 2010, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and a leading brain scientists, claims that technology is changing our brains. As compared to fifty years ago, we consume three times as much information. We are constantly on the go, associatively moving from one site to another, whether in the cyberworld or in the world of non-locality, or non-places, as French philosopher Mark Augé calls the supermarkets, highways and airport lounges. While the brains of Internet users are more efficient at finding information, they have greater difficulty staying focused, and differentiating between relevant and the irrelevant. Not only is the brain affected and going through changes due to the features of the post-modern condition, but behavior and personality as well. The emphasis of ego-functions on motor coordination rather than creativity and depth of thought is not without consequences.In my recent paper ‘Destruction of the Image and the Worship of Transiency’ (Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, February 2010) I discuss aspects of the post-modern condition and the Transient Personality who emerges from and is him (or her-)self a manifestation of it. These features include speed without digestion, excessive association rather than staying centered, and the transient masks provided by cyber-pseudonymity.

With the benefits of technological and scientific progress, we also pay a price; spending twelve hours of media-time per day, may create the sense of being connected with the world, but may leave us alienated from ourselves. It may leave us, as well, with an utterly false understanding of the world, since we come to understand the recorded image of it, which, as Susan Sontag said already many years ago, “is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks.”The consequence may be that we banish our selves into exile.

I will have the opportunity to elaborate on these issues at the forthcoming Assisi conference, taking place July 20-27 on the Island of Procida, Italy in the Bay of Naples.
For further details, see The Assisi Conference.

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95, and Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $19.95 or $30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press.  You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press. Phone orders welcomed, Credit Cards accepted. 1-800-228-9316  toll free in the US & Canada, International +1-831-238-7799
Download the
Fisher King Press Newsletter
Fisher King Press Catalog of Publications
Fisher King Press Price List and Order Form