Neumann, Erich

views updated


NEUMANN, ERICH (19051960), German-Israeli analytical psychologist and writer. Neumann's upbringing in Berlin was Jewish but not orthodox; he was influenced, nevertheless, by Hasidism, in response perhaps to his strong mystical leaning. Long before the rise of Hitler, Neumann was drawn to the Zionist ideal of the renewal of Jewish life in Palestine. At the University of Erlangen, he earned his Ph.D. degree with a dissertation on J. A. Kanne, a mystical philosopher of the time of the Enlightenment who, although a Christian, had been deeply influenced by Jewish esoteric thought. In his youth Neumann wrote a novel, Der Anfang (The Beginning), a story of self-fulfillment, which was partially published in 1932. He also wrote poetry and literary essays, notably on Franz Kafka and biblical themes.

Neumann's growing interest in psychology led to his choice of profession; he started medical training and completed his studies in 1933, but Nazi restrictions blocked his qualifying as a physician. In 1958, however, the University of Hamburg awarded Neumann an M.D. degree in absentia, having accepted his book Die Ursprungsgeschichte des Bewussteins (1949, translated as The Origins and History of Consciousness, 1954) as his thesis. Neumann opted for immigration to Palestine in 1934, pausing on the way in Zurich for a period of analysis and study with C. G. Jung. Gerhard Adler has written: "Here, in Jung's approach, he found the dynamic focus of his various interests and gifts. Analytical psychology provided the instrument that helped him to translate his creative insight into practical work with other people, and for them" (preface to Neumann's Creative Man: Five Essays, 1979, p. xiii).

In Palestine, Neumann devoted himself to building a practice and to pursuing studies that, after the enforced isolation of World War II, brought forth an enormous burst of creative work. He revisited Europe only in 1947, for a family holiday in Ascona, Switzerland, where he had two crucial encounterswith Olga Froebe-Kapteyn, the director of the Eranos Conferences, and with John D. Barrett, the editor of the Bollingen Series. Neumann lectured the following year at Eranos on "mystical man" and at each of the conferences thereafter as keynote speaker. His last lecture there was delivered in 1960, shortly before his death. In 1948 he was awarded a Bollingen Foundation fellowship, which continued for twelve years and supported his copious literary activity.

The Origins and History of Consciousness aims to illustrate archetypal stages in the development of human consciousness by interpreting basic mythologems drawn from several religious traditions. Neumann argues that individual consciousness passes through the same developmental stages that mark the history of human consciousness. Published in the same year, Tiefenpsychologie und neue Ethik (1949, translated as Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, 1969) demonstrates the impact that the idea of psychological wholeness had made on Neumann, on whom self-realization seemed to impose a new ethical outlook and an obligation beyond conventional ethical concepts. The book aroused controversy; Jung commented, "If Neumann recommends the 'inner voice' as the criterion of ethical behavior instead of the Christian conscience [he] stands on the best footing with very many Christian mystics" (Letters, vol. 1, 1973, p. 519). The Great Mother (1955), a study of the archetypal feminine, is based on images from numerous cultures that were collected in Froebe-Kapteyn's Eranos Archive. Feminine psychology here becomes a focus of Neumann's interest, vying for priority with the psychology of creative art. Both concerns are effectively blended in The Archetypal World of Henry Moore (1959). In his later years, essays, lectures, seminars, and analytical training preoccupied Neumann, and he produced no more longer works.

When an illness he had was diagnosed as terminal in October 1960, Neumann returned from London to Israel, where he died a month later, leaving many projects unfinished. In Gerhard Adler's words, "Neumann was the one truly creative spirit among the second generation of Jung's pupils, the only one who seemed destined to build on Jung's work and to continue it" (preface to Neumann's Creative Man: Five Essays, 1979, p. xv).


Neumann's longer writings in English translation are the following: Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (New York, 1969); The Origins and History of Consciousness (New York, 1954); The Great Mother, 2d ed. (New York, 1963); Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine (New York, 1956); The Archetypal World of Henry Moore (New York, 1959); and The Child (New York, 1973). An Eranos lecture, "Art and Time," was included in Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, vol. 3, edited by Joseph Campbell (New York, 1957), pp. 337. Essays by Neumann on Leonardo da Vinci, Marc Chagall, and creative transformation are collected in Art and the Creative Unconscious (New York, 1959), and essays on Kafka, Chagall, Trakl, Freud, and Jung appear in Creative Man: Five Essays (Princeton, 1979).

The journal Analytische Psychologie (Basel) 11 (1980) devoted a double issue (nos. 34) to Neumann in commemoration of his seventy-fifth birthday. It contains articles, letters of Neumann and Jung, and a list of publications in German.

New Sources

Giskin, Howard. "Art as Transcendence: Seeing the Divine through the Creative Act in Taoism and Erich Neumann." Studia Mystica 15, no. 4 (1992): 99110.

Neumann, Erich. The Fear of the Feminine and Other Essays on Feminine Psychology. Princeton, N.J., 1994.

Neumann, Erich. The Place of Creation: Six Essays. Princeton, N.J., 1999.

Weiler, Gerda. Der enteignete Mythos: Eine feministische Revision der Archetypenlehre C.G. Jungs und Erich Neumanns. Frankfurt/Main; New York, 1991.

William McGuire (1987)

Revised Bibliography

About this article

Neumann, Erich

Updated About content Print Article