Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gershom Scholem: Obituary for Erich Neumann

Gershom Scholem 
Erich Neumann died November 5th, 1960, not yet fifty-six years old. Two weeks later, Gershom Sholem published an obituary in Mitteilungsblatt. Wochenzeitung des Irgun Olej Merkas Europa 28, 47 (18.11.1960), p. 4. I am grateful to Dr. Martin Liebscher, editor of the forthcoming Jung-Neumann letters, for having made me aware of Scholem's obituary.

Gershom Scholem: ‘Erich Neumann (Obituary)’

Scholem writes:
Erich Neumann's untimely death has plucked from our midst an outstanding human being, of penetrating spiritual force, great integrity of character and an astonishingly wide range of interests. Not yet thirty, in the early days of the Nazi period, Neumann came to Tel Aviv, and worked there, ever since, as a psychoanalyst, and during the last fifteen years of his life, was engaged more and more in writing.

Neumann came from the Jungian school of analytic psychology and was one of its most renowned and gifted proponents worldwide. As a thinker, he was his own person, rethinking Jung's theories in his own way, and seeking to develop them further. I have often heard him described as the Jungian school's logician. He enjoyed a wide reputation and was well respected abroad, and at the end of the Second World War, was offered the position of head of the Jungian Institute then founded in Zurich. Neumann, whose Jewish identity was profound and unequivocal, knew his place and avoided murky situations. He often told me how pleasant it was for him, to spend time in Europe as a guest from Israel, who could be master of his decisions, and teach wherever and whenever he pleased, one who knew where he belonged.

It was this tremendous human freedom and dignity that made his participation in the Eranos conferences in Ascona so extremely valuable. Since 1948 Neumann lectured there every year, and for ten years was the conference's key speaker, who took it upon himself to develop his own fresh, comprehensive view of the yearly topic, based on his psychological thought. Along with his major work, Ursprunggeschichte des menschlichen Bewustseins, and Die Grosse Mutter, his wide-ranging contributions to the Eranos yearly publications are his most important spiritual legacy. His lectures became veritable events and were one of the highlights of these conferences (who's moving force was Mrs. Olga Froebe, with whom he had a wonderful rapport). In these lectures, in which he invested intense and time-consuming labour each year, it was always surprising to see the connection between the logical passion with which he structured his psychological ideas – each lecture reflecting his overall vision from a unique, new perspective – and his profound fascination with the world of human creativity, especially in the domains of art and religion. Usually, the second hour of his lecture was dedicated to an attempt at a new interpretation of a work of art or literature, along with an examination of its applicability to his psychological theory. After our many years together at these conferences, I do not recall a single instance in which Neumann, proud Jew that he was, failed to make reference to the Jewish heritage, to which he felt connected and committed.

Not surprisingly, given the seriousness and freshness of his approach to his subjects, there was something authoritative about his lectures. He spoke with profound conviction. Nevertheless, he was always open to discussion, and it was a pleasure to witness his interchanges with the circle of colleagues who raised questions and critique. His affinity with the arts, his sense of humor about the necessarily fragmentary human endeavor, indeed I would say, the moral compass which unerringly guided him in many difficult situations, all contributed to turn the doctor, scholar and logician into a significant human figure. In his prime, with all his plans and works in progress, an insidious disease took him from us.
—Gerschom Scholem
Translated from the German by Liron Nirgad
Permission to translate and publish translation of Scholem's obituary has been received from Suhrkamp Verlag.

Memorial Plaque at Pariser Strasse in Berlin

In a letter to Julia Neumann, in January 1961, C.G. Jung mourns the loss of Erich Neumann. Their creative relationship, as it comes across in the correspondence between Jung and Neumann, was celebrated at the Jung Neumann Conference in Shefayim, Israel, with the participation of more than 270 attendees from more than 25 countries.

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