Sunday, April 16, 2017

Neumann on the Feminine

 Neumann on the Feminine

Thursday 4/27 @ 11AM ET
5pm CEST (Central European Summer Time)


Lance Owens, Rina Porat, Erel Shalit & Murray Stein
As theoretician of feminine development and the archetypal ground of the feminine in individuals and culture, Neumann had considerable influence on Jungian thinkers that followed him. Lance Owens will present as well as Israeli Jungian psychoanalyst Rina Porat. who is intimately familiar with this aspect of Neumann’s oeuvre and will summarize his views and offer her reflections on Neumann’s importance for their own thinking and practices.  Erel Shalit and Murray Stein will join as hosts in this fourth installment of the series.

The full course of this series consist of 5 webinars discussing the works of Erich Neumann as well as the relationship he shared with Jung. Participants may register for the full series of lectures for one price of $127. Participants joining anytime after the course begins can still register and catch up by watching the recorded version of prior lectures. Visit the registration page to view the free first webinar or to register for the full series.
Erich Neumann has been widely considered to be Jung's most brilliant student and heir to the mantle of leadership among analytical psychologists until his untimely death in 1960 at the age of fifty-five. Many of his works are considered classics in the field to the present day - The Origins and History of Consciousness and The Great Mother, to name just the best known among many others. Now with the publication of the correspondence between Neumann and Jung (Analytical Psychology in Exile, Princeton University Press, 2015) and of the substantial papers presented at the conference held at Kibbutz Shefayim in Israel honoring the publication of the correspondence (Troubled Times, Creative Minds, Chiron 2016), a great deal of new interest is developing in the life and works of Neumann. The five-part webinar Series will be devoted to exploring the important relationship between Neumann and Jung and discussing Neumann's works in many areas, clinical and cultural, from the perspective of analytical psychology. The aim of this Series is to contribute to the momentum of growing interest in the full range of Neumann's writings.

The hero and his shadow: psychopolitical aspects of myth and reality in Israel

In an era of faked and alternative news, and when Netanyahu wants the media to be his shofar, a megaphone for him, his family and his government, I was reminded of Moscow in the 1970s, which I mention in the beginning of my book The Hero and His Shadow

Return to the Source

Psychiatric diagnoses change in the course of time not only because of increasing knowledge and accumulated wisdom, but also according to the zeitgeist; that is, the prevailing collective consciousness. For instance, a biological understanding of mental phenomena is prominent during periods of conservatism, while environmental influences are accentuated during periods of greater liberalism (Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry [GAP] 1983, p. 14; Shalit & Davidson 1986, p. 61).  When one view dominates, a compensatory one thrives in the backyard.  When psychiatry and medicine are ruled by drugs, biology and technology, there is a complementary interest in alternative medicine and eco-psychology; when genes shape the soul, the psyche influences the immune system.

Psychopathology changes over time, and so, for example, anorexia – reminding us that there is a fatness of soul behind the fragility of body – takes the place of hysteria, which used to tell us that there is libido behind the girdle.  The anger and the boredom of the borderline personality replace the guilt and the internal conflict of the neurotic. Meaninglessness and alienation substitute repression and anxiety. 

A society’s prevailing collective consciousness influences the perception of psychopathology.  While visiting Moscow in the mid-1970s, I was surprised to see so many people walking in the street talking to themselves, freely hallucinating.  I realized that private madness did not disrupt the delusion of the collective, while publicly telling the truth was a malaise in need of hospital ‘treatment.’

Psychologist and society are interrelated.  This relationship becomes particularly critical when society is governed by a powerful ideology or Weltanschauung, with a concomitant stress on adaptation and conformity, or in case of a totalitarian regime.  During the years of the military junta in Argentina, many of those seeking out the psychoanalytic temenos, the protected space of therapeutic rapport, needed to know the analyst’s political stance in order to confide in him or her and to feel protected from the persecuting authorities.

Psychology (and medicine) can be put in the hands of a totalitarian regime and used for purposes of interrogation and torture.  The ultimate transformation from healer to killer, the mechanism by which one is engulfed and participates in a regime’s distortions, is described by Lifton (1986) in The Nazi Doctors.  On February 25, 1994 – half a year after the Oslo accords, which marked the beginning of a process which seemed to lead to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians – the physician Baruch Goldstein brutally killed twenty-nine praying Muslims from behind, in the Cave of Abraham, holy both to Muslims and Jews.  His act was carried out with the sharpness of a surgeon’s scalpel, in Hebron, that most sensitive spot on the Middle East map of conflict, and may have caused an escalation in Palestinian terrorist attacks.  Yet, for both Palestinian and Israeli, all too often it seems that the destruction that follows when the shadow is cast onto the other, carries less weight than the burdensome recognition of the shadow within oneself.


Preface        The Beggar in the Hero’s Shadow       
Chapter 1    Return to the Source                
Chapter 2    From My Notebook              
Chapter 3    From Dream to Reality              
Chapter 4    Origins and Myths              
Chapter 5    From Redemption to Shadow          
Chapter 6    Wholeness Apart                
Chapter 7    Myth, Shadow and Projection       
Chapter 8    A Crack in the Mask           
Chapter 9    The Death of the Mythical and the Voice of the Soul

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.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Clark-Stern, author of On the Doorstep of the CastleOut of the Shadows, and Soul Stories.

This is a fascinating book. Shalit’s thesis is that when we examine the psychology of Zionism, we find two parallel but opposing trends. On the one hand, we see the hero, the warrior, the pioneer, the fearless man of doing.
   On the other hand, we see the shadow, the dark side, the Diaspora-side, the weak and fearful. We came here with our shadow. You see this dichotomy between the internal feeling of strength and forcefulness, and on the other hand a terrible fear.
   In order to properly understand Israeli society and the sometimes strange responses in certain political circumstances, we need to understand this terrible fear that is hidden within us.
Prof.  Yoram Yovell, author and psychoanalyst.

An outstanding psychological study of one of the world’s most complicated and fraught political situations.
Prof. Andrew Samuels

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Tale for Pesach

Abel Pann
The Jewish spring holiday of Pesach, Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month in the Hebrew calendar's festival year, on the night of the full moon after the vernal equinox. This year, the eve of Pesach is celebrated on Monday, April 10.

A legend tells us that at the very moment the children of Israel went into the Red Sea, Mount Moriah began to move from its place, along with the altar for Isaac that had been built upon it. The whole scene had been arranged before the creation of the world. Isaac was bound and placed upon the altar, and Abraham raised his knife.

Related image
Henri-Frederic Schopin

Far away, at the Red Sea, God said to Moses, “Moses, My children are in distress, the sea is blocking their path and the enemy is pursuing them, and you stand so long praying?” Moses asked God, “What should I be doing?” God said, “Raise your staff!” Moses lifted his staff, the waters of the Red Sea parted, and on Mount Moriah the voice of the angel went forth and said to Abraham, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him” (Gen. 22: 12).
(A midrash from Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael)

The two events, the Parting of the Red Sea and the Binding of Isaac, do here not take place along the timeline of history, but are synchronistically juxtaposed.

In both cases, God tells his earthly representatives to raise the knife or staff: 

In the one case, God asks Abraham to reaffirm their covenant by the sacrifice of the son. The actual deed of sacrifice to the gods is then exchanged for its symbolic representation, which is a significant stage in the process of civilization and acculturation. 

In the other case, God tells Moses to stop praying and raise his staff, to do the actual deed of parting, of dividing, of differentiating the sides, which is an essential act of consciousness (separating this from that, for instance to know good from evil).

Both take place simultaneously. The one does not follow the other, and one does not take place at the exclusion of the other. The sacrifice, not as a concrete deed but as a meaningful reaffirmation of the transcendent dimension, beyond the acts of the ego, enables depth and soulfulness. However, consciousness and the actual deeds of humans in the realm of ego-reality, are equally necessary, and required for the manifestation of the soul.

The following are excerpts from the novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return (also available in Hebrew as חזרה: סיפור של גלות ושיבה):
. . . .

Truth was, Shimeoni essentially agreed with Derrida on many points, such as his interpretation of Abraham’s covenant with God of circumcision.

The Divine Father’s archetypal scar inflicted by generations of fathers of the flesh on generations of consent-less Jewish boys seemed to Professor Shimeoni, as indeed to Derrida, to be a repetition-compulsion, rather than the profound internalization of memory.

Related image
Jacques Derrida
He recalled Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi’s epic work Zakhor, wondering if the Jews don’t merely repeat the trauma when they cross the desert every Passover – outside of the Land of Israel even repeating the hegira a second night, perhaps to ensure that the Jews of the Diaspora do arrive to the Promised Land...

“Does not compulsive repetition constitute the dangerous engine of fundamentalism?” he wondered, “in contrast to an enlightened process of internalized memory, in order to liberate the trauma.” Is this not the very opposite of that monumental cultural transition when the knife is taken out of Abraham’s hand, turning the actual, concrete sacrifice of Isaac into the acculturated representation by his Binding, the akedah?

The knife need not actually cut, in order for man to humbly bow before the transcendent image of God. Shimeoni adhered to Einstein’s view of God, as when he says that the religious attitude is the knowledge and emotion “of a knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty,” and when he expresses his belief in the God of Spinoza “who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

. . . .

Truly, he repeated to himself, the binding of Isaac signifies this striking cultural transition from literalness to symbolic representation.
God told Abraham there is no need for complete sacrifice, only a sacrifice of the complete (shalem), in order to be seen (yireh), to be recognized, to be named, to become completely human. He will suffice with sacrifice-by-proxy.

Yosef Haim Yerushalmi
Rather than being trapped in the harsh reality of actual deed, reality can be transformed into images; rather than slaying the flesh of the son, the soul can expand by the creation of images that represent reality. By substituting the sacrificial animal for the actual son, the story of the akedah represents the separation of meaning from act, which is essential to culture and civilization.

But war is the destruction of representation and civilization, said Eli to himself, thereby arguing with Heraclitus that War is the Father of All. The tragedies on the battlefield are all too real and irreversible, and the essence of trauma of battle and war and Holocaust, is the loss of the representative symbol – all that remains is the hellish repetition of trauma.
. . . .

Nothing represents the loss of symbolization more than the survivor from hell who holds on to a dry slice of bread. In hell, there are no mirrors and no images, no images in the mirror, only the bare walls of suffocation. In the cruel reality of war, the knife is raised and the angels circle above, repeatedly descending, attempting to divert the hand that holds the knife from descending upon the son, until the angels have all gone, and the son is no longer bound but sacrificed, the knife ripping out the soul of life and Isaac laughs no more.

         Chag Sameach! חג חרות שמח

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann: The Zaddik, Sophia, and the Shekinah, by Lance Owens

Dr. Lance Owens has written an important paper on aspects of the feminine, which he generously offers for free download at the site.

The paper was originally presented at the symposium 'Creative Minds in Dialogue: The Relationship between C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann,' held at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, June 24-26, 2016 (see also here).

On April 27, 2017, Dr. Owens will present on Neumann and the Feminine, together with Rina Porat, Jungian Analyst, session four of the Asheville webinar series ERICH NEUMANN – HIS LIFE AND WORK AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITHC.G. JUNG.

Erich Neumann and C. G. Jung each affirmed that Western civilization was at the threshold of an epochal transformation. Jung proclaimed in Answer to Job that the initiation of a new age demanded the “anamnesis” – the “remembering” – of the primordial feminine archetype of Sophia.  Neumann recognized the task of remembrance as an awakening to call of the exiled Shekinah.   Working from personal perspectives distinctly rooted in their own unique Christian and Jewish heritages, both men sought to liberate feminine Wisdom from the exile inflicted by theological, patriarchal and primarily logocentric cultural paradigms.  We will briefly review the story of Sophia and Shekinah, and consider how Jung and Neumann engaged this primal feminine image in their lives and their psychological writings.

Lance S. Owens is a physician in clinical practice and an historian with focused interest in C. G. Jung and Gnostic traditions. Since release of the Red Book: Liber Novus in 2009, Dr. Owens has published several historical studies focused on the intimate relationship between Jung’s collected writings and the visionary experiences recorded in the Red Book and the Black Book journals.  He is the creator and managing editor of The Gnosis Archive,, the primary Internet archive of classical Gnostic sources, including the Nag Hammadi texts.

The Search for Roots: C. G. Jung and the Tradition of Gnosis by [Ribi, Alfred]

Jung in Love can be purchased at Amazon, or downloaded here.
The Search for Roots is also available at Amazon, as well as downloaded here

Erich Neumann's Jacob and Esau: On the collective symbolism of the brother motif, and Turbulent Times, Creative Minds: Erich Neumann and C. G. Jung in Relationship are available at Amazon.

Monday, March 13, 2017


The third session in the Asheville Jung Center webinar series on 
will be broadcast live on March 23, 2017 (11 AM ET)

Neumann’s writings on religion and numinous (mystical) experience. Israeli Jungian psychoanalyst Tamar Kron and Jungian scholar Ann Lammers will discuss some of the background of Neumann’s understanding of religious experience as expressed in some of his early and previously unpublished writings on Hasidism and Kabbalah as well as in his later writings on this topic in works such as Depth Psychology and the New Ethic and his first lecture at the Eranos Conference in 1948, “Mystical Man.”

Ann Lammers will speak about Neumann’s unpublished early book, The Roots of Jewish Consciousness, written in Tel Aviv between 1934 and 1945. It is his only full-length work on Judaism. The story of this book – why he wrote it, how his work with Jung influenced it, and why he eventually chose not to publish it – has many twists and turns and includes one tantalizing mystery. The second half of the book, “Hasidism: Its Psychological Meaning for Judaism,” includes a key chapter, “Life in this World,” which for some reason disappeared from two of Neumann’s working typescripts. (By good fortune, it survived in a carbon copy and an early version of the work.) This chapter deals with the Hasidic teaching on evil, a highly paradoxical, unitive response to objective shadow. In my opinion, the fact that Neumann removed this chapter from his book, and never replaced it, provides a clue to his eventual decision to lay the entire book aside. It also gives us a possible point of entry into understanding the powerful little book which he published soon after, Depth Psychology and a New Ethic.

Tamar Kron will present Neumann's unique interpretation of the Hasidic doctrine of the "sparks" and of ayin, (nothingness or the void). In his "Mystical Man" and in his writings on creativity Neumann relates the Kabalistic Ayin to his concept of the "creative point of nothingness" which is the origin of consciousness and central to his thinking on creativity. Referring to the doctrine of the sparks Neumann writes that man redeems the spiritual meaning of the spark by raising it to the conscious level. In a brilliant exposition Neumann  describes a gradual process of transformation wherein the movement from ‘mute stone' to the 'speaking creature'  likewise denotes the individual's development of consciousness.

The webinar will be facilitated by Murray Stein and Erel Shalit

Further details about the webinar can be found here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

100-year-old letter reveals Kafka's mouse phobia

Haaretz journalist Ofer Aderet reported the following on December 9, 2012:

“A rare letter written by Franz Kafka 95 years ago has been purchased by the German Archive of Literature, at a public auction held this weekend. This letter was apparently part of the bequest of Kafka's friend Max Brod. A court recently ruled that this collection of manuscripts should be transferred to the National Library in Jerusalem, as Brod had bequeathed in his will.”

“The sale took place last Friday at the Kaupp auction house in Sulzburg, Germany, with the German archive managing to raise the required 96,000 Euros from private donors, wishing to remain anonymous. The four-page letter was written by Kafka to his friend on December 4, 1917, in the Czech town in which he was residing with his sister Ottla while recuperating from tuberculosis. In the letter, Kafka describes his fear of the mice lurking in his apartment, admitting that his phobia is irrational, and that psychoanalysts should look into the source of this fear. He suggests keeping a cat as a solution that is preferable to using mousetraps.”

While the contents of the letter have been published, “in books as well as on the Internet, the letter had not been publicly displayed before. The letter had changed hands several times over the last 30 years, passing between different private collectors. The German archive has now added the letter to its large collection of Kafka writings, and will put it on public display in April, in a special exhibition.”

“In all likelihood, the letter was part of the Max Brod bequest, which has recently been contested in an Israeli court. The parties to the dispute were the German Archive of Literature, the National Library in Jerusalem and the daughters of Max Brod's personal secretary.”

“A family court in Tel Aviv recently ruled that the entire Brod bequest be transferred to the National Library in Jerusalem. An attempt by lawyers representing Hoffe to obtain a temporary injunction to delay the transfer has failed, but they plan to appeal this ruling and the main decision.”

 Image result for kafka                                              Image result for max brod
Mice generally refer to the powers of darkness, “gnawing at the root of the Tree of Life.” They evoke anxiety and “nocturnal worries,” as Marie-Louise von Franz says. Or, in Kafka’s words,

My reaction towards the mice is one of sheer terror. To analyze its source would be the task of the psychoanalyst, which I am not. Certainly, this fear, like an insect phobia, is connected with the unexpected, uninvited, inescapable, more or less silent, persistent, secret aims of these creatures, with the sense that they have riddled the surrounding walls through and through with their tunnels and are lurking within, that the night is theirs, that because of their nocturnal existence and their tininess they are so remote from us and thus outside our power.
Image result for kafka metamorphosis

 Kafka provides a particularly touching and simultaneously powerful description of complexes in his (Never sent) Letter to Father. He was unable to uphold his own separate identity vis-à-vis his domineering father. It is amazing how in relationship to him the otherwise so highly cognizant Kafka suffered from a lowering of awareness, abaisemênt de niveau mental. Kafka says, in the beginning of his letter to father,

You once asked me recently why I claim to be afraid of you. I did not know, as usual, what to answer, partly out of my fear of you …,

And later he writes,

I acquired in your presence … a hesitant, stammering manner of speaking, and even that was too much for you … I could neither think nor speak in your presence.

Kafka is afraid and the fear paralyses him. The terrifying complex – Brod speaks of an “infantile complex” – directly attacks consciousness and detracts available energy from the ego. When in the grip of the complex, ego-consciousness and identity are impaired. Feeling is then no longer a value-judgement, and affect and sensitivity overtake us. We are overcome by fear, rage, or the like and tend to project.

Kafka feels his father exposes him by “indiscriminately” speaking about his son in front of others. He sees himself as the hardworking father who sacrifices all to his ungrateful son. The feeling of being exposed is common when a complex is activated, and complexes are activated by exposure.

Excerpted from The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego, ‘Franz Kafka’s Letter to Father’ (pp. 92-103).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Erich Neumann:Jacob and Esau - on the collective symbolism of the brother motif

Cover image from a silhouette by Meir Gur Arieh

An introduction on YouTube to 

Encouraged by Jung, in his book on the collective symbolism of the brother motif, Neumann began outlining ideas that he eventually would develop in some of his major works, such as Depth Psychology and a New Ethic. Neumann uses the story about Jacob and Esau to illustrate the polarities in the human soul, between introversion and extraversion, profane and sacred, the moon and the sun, both in Jewish tradition and universally, and the need to integrate the shadow, as illustrated in Jacob seeing both God’s face and his hostile brother in his struggle with the angel. In Jungian terms, we see the inevitable conjunctio of Self and Shadow. 
The book can be seen as a brilliant midrash, retelling and interpretation of the Biblical motif of the brothers.

Etching by Jacob Steinhardt

Erich Neumann: Jacob and Esau - on the collective symbolism of the brother motif  on Amazon

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return

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.

Heinrich Heine-Oppenheim.jpg
Heinrich Heine     

Existential questions accompany the narrative of Requiem. Some in the storyline, others as metaphysical discourse. While there are expressions of sadness and struggle, there is also joy and strength. The following is an excerpt from the beginning of the novella:

“If anyone had been present in that clean and tiny room in the small hostel in the heart of New York the day Professor Shimeoni arrived, watching him as he sat almost catatonically on the bed, his legs barely touching the floor, his cap awkwardly sitting on his head as if put there by a caring nurse on a schoolboy rather than the fifty-six-year-old man he was, his small unopened suitcase next to him as if he needed to protect it with strengths he no longer possessed, or as if the suitcase somehow squeezed itself quietly to his side so that it could protect him – if anyone had seen Professor Shimeoni sitting on the simple bed in the warm but alien room, they would have seen a picture of resigned defeat.”

“But no one was present, there were no witnesses. The defeat remained the private failure of Eli Shimeoni. Incidentally, Eli was short for Eliezer. However, since he had never managed to figure out if the meaning of his name was that God would be helpful to him, or if he was to be God’s servant in a scheme of contradictions that his philosophical mind could not grasp, he had formally shortened it to Eli.”

“Professor Shimeoni felt lonely and abandoned, like a redundant survivor. At fifty-six, he looked like an old man. Even when he was a child, people had told him he was an old man, but now there remained no trace of doubt. While not concretely, he profoundly experienced himself as the last survivor. It seemed to him that everybody had already left before him. True, there were those who remained behind – he thought of the many poor who had no means to get away, and the baalei teshuva, who seemed not to ask any questions, but always knew the answer so well, claiming that “in the War of the End of Days, the War of Gog and Magog, total defeat would precede the ultimate victory over evil,” as they knew to repeat by heart.”

“First his children had left, gone abroad to study. One had taken up a prominent position at the University of Stamville, while the other was doing gender research at the Institute of Harback. Then his wife had followed, accusing him of being a fanatic and archaic idealist, or plainly silly and stubborn. Friends and colleagues had discreetly taken farewell. Initially they would apologetically say “if things ever change, you can be sure I will be the first one to return home.” But then, people became increasingly forceful and determined as they said goodbye. The cultured ones would say with bleeding hearts, “this is not the country we prayed for,” and the self-proclaimed prophets would plainly tell him, “everything is collapsing, there is no future here.” Some would reinforce their doomsday prediction, relying on historical evidence that an independent Jewish nation could not survive more than a hundred years.”

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.

Excerpts from Steve Zemmelman's essay Containing A Jungian Light: The Books of Erel Shalit, in Spring, 2015:
Requiem is unique among Shalit’s books in that it is a novella in which the narrator, a professor Eliezer Shimeoni (who shares the same initials as the author) gives voice to the unique combination of despair and hope that is the legacy of the ideal of the socialist pioneers no less than the decades of mutual shadow projections and resulting polarization by Palestinians and Jews alike which underlie a culture of militarization and terrorist attacks.  
     It is also a story of the alienation of the Western intellectual Jew from their Jewish religious heritage and the potential for finding a way back to a renewed Judaism and humanism through a new understanding of self and other.  For Professor Shimeoni it is a fight against denial, a battle for consciousness, and the courage to take a stand against evil that define the integrity one can maintain even in a situation that is seemingly hopeless in so many ways.  He writes, “Consciousness will determine the future of Israel, and the preservation of Jewish civilization and its cultural heritage.  When denial collaborates with demonization in the collective consciousness of the world, catastrophe lies in wait for its victim.”
      It is through self-scrutiny that essential elements in the often neglected and untold story of loss and despair can be identified and understood.  While following this path may be the only way to find ourselves, to do so is to risk becoming lost in the depths of our own suffering.  Shalit poses the essential question underlying all forms of depth psychology: “What witness is more trustworthy than the sitra achra (the other side, the story which is not told) which holds so many secrets, even secrets that we have forgotten, and secrets that are hidden from ourselves?”
      Requiem is ultimately a story of the possibilities of the spirit and its capacity to transform fate into destiny, for the human capacity to surpass mere repetition or adherence to collective thought and action, and to find the courage and creative intelligence that can lead to a new way in the face of despair.  This story is an appeal to the power of the symbolic life as an alternative to the literalism and concretism of fundamentalist and militaristic ideologies that underlie war and terror.  This central concern is woven throughout this book that returns over and over to the story of the akedah, the binding of Isaac, and the fact that it was sufficient for the sacrifice to occur as a symbolic act that did not need to be acted out.  Shalit writes, “By substituting the sacrificial animal for the actual son, the story of the akedah represents the separation of meaning from act, which is essential to culture and civilization.”
      Like all Shalit’s books, in Requiem one finds literary and historical treasures.  For example, he reminds us of Elie Wiesel’s observation that we may one day have an explanation for the Shoah (Holocaust) on the level of man but how Auschwitz was possible on the level of God will always be a mystery.  The narrator then complicates this further, turning Wiesel’s comment on its head, when he notes that Abraham substituting the ram for his son passed God’s test but questions whether he passed the human test. The patriarch showed his complete devotion to God but how is a parent ever justified in being willing to murder his own child?  
Erel Shalit's narrative has a unique, fascinating and powerful style, which touches you strongly. He has a way of leading the reader to grasp complicated historical processes with unusual ease.
... We find not only the narrator of a story, but also the spiritual and lyrical face of the author. I highly recommend this fascinating and important book.
         Marcela London, poet, author

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.
        Junko Chodos, artist

The book is available (in English as well as in Hebrew) at Amazon and Fisher King Press.

my human condition. original painting by Benjamin Schiff