Psychoanalysts such as Freud, Jung, Winnicott, Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, Erich Neumann and others have often stepped outside the consulting room and looked at the world and society around them.
C.G. Jung writes in his preface to "Essays on Contemporary Events,"
The storm of events does not sweep down upon him [the doctor] only from the great world outside; he feels the violence of its impact even in the quiet of his consulting-room ...
As he has a responsibility towards his patients, he cannot afford to withdraw to the peaceful island of undisturbed scientific work, but must constantly descend into the arena of world events, in order to join in the battle of conflicting passions and opinions...
For this reason the psychologist cannot avoid coming to grips with contemporary history, even if his very soul shrinks from the political uproar, the lying propaganda, and the jarring speeches of the demagogues.
It is in this spirit I have written The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel, and Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return. I also relate to this in 'The Cultural Psyche: From Ancestral Roots to Postmodern Routes,' in the volume Turbulent Times, Creative Minds: Erich Neumann and C.G. Jung in Relationship (eds. Erel Shalit and Murray Stein). Another recent book well worth mentioning is A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of President Trump, edited by Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser.
The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel introduces a psychological perspective on the history, development, and myths of modern Israel.
The realization of Zionism relied on the pioneer, who revolted against the Way of the Father and sought spiritual redemption through the revival of Mother Earth in the ancient land. Myth and history, psyche and matter are constantly intertwined in the birth and development of Israel, for example when in the Declaration of Independence we are told that pioneers make deserts bloom, the text actually says they make spirits blossom.
Pioneer, guardsman and then warrior were admired hero-ideals. However, in the shadow of the hero and the guiding myths of revolt, redemption, strength and identity-change, are feelings of despair, doubt, weakness and fear. Within renewal, lurks the threat of annihilation.
Suppressed aspects of past and present myths, which linger in the shadow, are exposed. Psychological consequences of Israel’s wars, from independence to the present war of terror, are explored on a personal note and from a psychoanalytic perspective. Shadow aspects of the conflicting guiding myths Peace and Greater Israel are examined, as well as mythical connections, such as between Jerusalem and the respective archetypal images of Wholeness and Satan.
Elizabeth Clark-Stern writes:
Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book of the distinction between “The Spirit of the Times” and “The Spirit of the Depths”. We see this vividly demonstrated when we put Ari Shavit’s acclaimed new book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel alongside Erel Shalit’s classic work, The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel. The former takes us through the history of the heroic creation of Israel, including the darkest “shadow” behaviors of the Jewish state in the 1948 massacre of the Arabs of Lydda.
In the latter work, Erel Shalit tells us why.
This is no simplistic psychological analysis. The brilliance of this Israeli Jungian analyst is that he offers no easy solutions, plumbing the paradox of the necessary heroic identity of the Jewish state, and yet, around every corner is the shadow of every hero: the beggar, the frightened one, the part of all of us that is dependent on forces outside of our control.
It is also very important to note that Erel Shalit’s book is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the inner workings of the soul. On one level Israel is the backdrop for the author to explore how shadow, myth, and projection work in all of us, regardless of our life circumstance, nationality, environment, or history. It even includes a comprehensive glossary of Jungian terms that has some of the best definitions I have ever encountered, and hence a find for readers new to Jung.
And, of course, for people who are fascinated by the scope and depth of the story of Israel, this is a simply great read. It stands alone, but read as a companion to Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, Erel Shalit’s Hero and His Shadow gives us The Spirit of the Depths in all its dimension. We may not be able to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict, but we can learn many things from this brave, complex Israeli author, that we can apply to healing the inner and outer wars in our own lives.
Requiem returns us to an eternal theme, a dialogue with Soul, and we know quite well what happens when one dialogues with Soul—we change, consciousness is enlarged, the impossible becomes possible and we no longer are compelled to blindly follow in the deathly path of our forefathers.
Requiem 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. While set in Israel sometime in the present, it is a story that reaches into the timelessness of history, weaving discussions with Heine and Kafka into a tale of universal implications.
Artist Junko Chodes writes:
From the first pages of this book, the tone of a masterpiece emerges powerfully.
This book makes us realize that the "Israel problem" cannot be understood in a journalistic frame of mind. Politics, war, land, culture, and contemporary experience are expressions of the deep core of human life, the core of the human soul.
This is an important book for anyone who thinks about "cultural identity" and the love of one's own country and culture.