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.