The Jung-Neumann Letters Conference – a history of friendship

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Erich Neumann at Eranos

20/05/2015 Comments (0) Views: 4527 Featured articles, Full text articles, Jung-Neumann Letters Conference 2015, Key Figures of Jungian Analysis

Erich Neumann at Eranos

Eranos has become a friendly island to me to which I belong. – Erich Neumann


Erich Neumann was a special figure of analytical psychology of his times. Despite being far away from its center located in Zurich he perhaps was the only follower of Carl Gustav Jung that established his own group of followers. It was both the source of admiration and contradiction and at least at start was connected strongly with his presence at Eranos conferences in Ascona.

During the years 1940-1945 there was a break in the correspondence between Jung and Neumann that was due to war years and complicated situation of Palestine. Although during those years Neumann published only Depth Psychology and a New Ethic (although it feels not appropriate to say „only”, when it comes to such an important book) he wrote many unpublished texts and foundations of many of his later writings go back to that time.

After the war he got in touch with Europe again thanks to Gerhard Adler, who wrote in 1945 to Jung:

It concerns my friend Dr. Erich Neumann in Tel Aviv. He sent me a whole series of manuscripts, which I find in part excellent. I know he writes entirely without echo and without much prospects to publish. Do you think it would be possible to invite him to Ascona for a presentation?

Eranos round table

Eranos round table

One is struck here, with a consequence and depth of writings created in the field of analytical psychology that was in the field of „exile”, far away from Jungian community and a possibility of exchanging thoughts and gaining recognition. It soon changed, although not without troubles, when Neumann started attend Eranos conferences. He first visited Ascona in August 1947, and although Jung was not present, had a chance to discuss his ideas with other prominent scholars as Karl Kerenyi, Gilles Quispel, and Victor White, and also to connect with Jungians from Zurich. Organizer of the conference, Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn, was particularly impressed with his personality and intellect, and invited him not only to speak at the next Eranos conference about mystical man, but also to write an introduction to the first Bollingen publication of material from the Eranos picture archive. His „introduction” grew to such an extent in the next several years, that become a separate publication about the archetype of the Great Mother.

Neumann soon become one of the key figure at Eranos if not the dominant one. He cast his net of interest very wide and could speak with as much eloquence about ethical questions as he could about Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, Marc Chagall, or Franz Kafka. He saw the psychological development of a person as being a dialectical process between the individual and mythical world of the collective unconscious. By many he was regarded as the most significant and most independent of Jung’s pupils. This caused the tensions between himself and Jungians from Zurich, among them C. A. Meier and Jolande Jacobi, for whom it was difficult to accept that Neumann, not belonging to Zurich Jungian circle seem to create his own theory. This caused many difficulties during the following years when it came to cooperation with Zurich Institute, and Neumann was attacked by them for „not being in touch with the audience”, „speaking in a dogmatic and seductive way”. On the other hand, Mario Jacoby, at that time student at the Institute, recollected Neumann in quite a different way:

Neumann had the characteristic of radiating great powers of persuasion in support of his ideas – which were new at that time – by using well-polished linguistic expression. (…) With his humor, his clarity of thought and his persuasive clout he could hold his own, even in the face of some training analysts who were present who were all direct students of Jung

Eranos wall session

Eranos wall session

Between 1948 and 1960, Neumann lectured at Eranos thirteen times, on topics as “The Mystic Man,” “The Moon and the Matriarchal Consciousness,” “The Psychological Meaning of Rite,” and “Art and Time,” among others. Aniela Jaffe described in this way famous „terrace-wall” sessions (conference intervals used to discuss presentations outside on the terrace):

These wall sessions were the unforgettable highlights of the summer. They acquired a different character when Erich Neumann of Tel Aviv was there for then a dialogue developed between the two and we listened.

It was Erich Neumann who once said about Eranos alluding got the alchemical Aurea Caténa – a link of wise beings, inspired by the force of Hermes Trismegistos, connecting heaven and earth:

Eranos, landscape on the lake, garden and house. Unpretentious, out of the way, and yet … a navel of the world, a small link in the golden chain.

For him Eranos was not only a link in the golden chain, it was a link with the wider world, but thinking above words, one cannot miss the impression that in a way he was speaking about himself – „unpretentious, out of the way, and yet…”, and his great works, a link in the golden chain, that had their beginnings in the solitude of analytical psychology in exile. It can be seen in one of his letters to Olga Fröbe:

You know, that it is not by coincidence that I am living in Israel, and to a large extent I belong there… But another – unconditional and differently conditioned – part of me which is essentially without a homeland… was joyfully surprised to find a piece of home ground within Eranos… Believe me that his joy goes together with a deep sense of gratitude for being blessed again and again in every conceivable way with new gifts from that mandala.

Based on: 

Analytical Psychology in Exile: The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann, „The Introduction” by Martin Liebscher.

Walking in the footsteps of Eranos, by Bob Hinshaw, Paul Kugler

Eranos: An Alternative Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, by Hans Thomas Hakl

Neuman at Eranos, Erel Shalit’s blog

Malgorzata Kalinowska
Jungian analyst Editor-In-Chief

„Analytical Psychology in Exile”

More posts on Jung-Neumann Letters Conference

The Jung-Neumann Letters – A Book Launch and International Conference, Israel 2015

The Long awaited publication of the Correspondence between C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann, the Jung-Neumann Letters edited by Martin Liebscher, were published March 2015 by Princeton University Press. To mark this important event an international conference was held jointly sponsored by The Foundation for the Works of C. G. Jung, the Neumann family, The Philemon Foundation, the International Association of Analytical Psychology, and The Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology. The invited speakers presented recent discoveries and new perspectives pertaining to the correspondence, the relationship between Jung and Neumann, and the broad range issues they discussed. The conference took place in Kibbutz Shefayim, 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv, the home of Erich Neumann.

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