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