Shany, L: Erich Neumann's New Ethics: Theory, Analysis and Activism


Lidar Shany


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Based on Erich Neumann’s analysis of evil and modern man’s “old ethic”, while critically considering his biography and the events of the second world war, this paper presents Neumann’s Depth psychology and a new ethic and some later articles he wrote, as a manifestation of his ecological social and political activism.

The paper re-frames Neumann’s formulations as a call for both an individual and a cultural individuation process that will enable the integration of the personal shadow and culturally shadowed “others,” as well as the redemption of the feminine. The paper also suggests that a contemporary manifestation of such psychological movement towards wholeness is found, within ecopsychology.

Neumann pointed at the fragmentation caused by the dual perception of the “old ethics”, leading to a split between “me” and “the other”, “good” and “bad”, and thus to the acting out of archetypal evil. Having been severely, deeply and traumatically affected, by the horrors of the Holocaust, and by the vicious and violent murder of his father by the Nazis, Neumann wrote with a bleeding heart. He called on humanity to psychologically develop and progress from the “old ethic” of collective mass morality, in which the personal shadow is often projected, towards a “new ethic” in which each individual takes personal responsibility for his decisions and actions and is more conscious of his shadow. Therefore, this paper claims, Neumann’s call is a plea for ecological, social and political activism.

Neumann’s formulations deal with the dark aspects of humanity, and therefore they became a mirror to the ugly face of the darkest days of humankind. Consequently, this text evoked objections and criticism, both towards the book and towards its writer. Nevertheless, Neumann was determined not to back down and to not withdraw his manuscript; rather, he stood firm in the “war” it evoked and published it, thus acting as a theoretician, an analyst and an activist.

Author Bio:

Lidar Shany gained her MA. in Jungian and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute CA, where she is now a PhD candidate. Lidar had also completed her studies of Jungian Therapy at Bar Ilan University, Israel, and is now undertaking the Analytical Training in C. G. Jung Institute Kusnacht, Zurich.

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