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Monthly Archives: October 2013

The acknowledgement of one’s own evil is “good”. To be too good–that is to want to transcend the limits of the good which is actually available and possible–is “evil”. Evil done by anybody in a conscious way (and that always also implies full awareness of his own responsibility), evil, in fact, from which the agent does not try to escape–is ethically “good”. The repression of evil, accompanied, as it invariably is, by an inflationary overvaluation of oneself, is “evil”, even when it is the result of a “positive attitude” or a “good will”.

– Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and the New Ethic)


The marital tragedy of the individual is the arena to which the problem of the changed relationship between man and woman is brought for settlement by the collective–a problem which has a collective meaning and relevance transcending the marital conflicts of the individual. And similarly, the moral problem which drives the individual into neurotic sickness is at the same time an arena and an expression of the fact that the collective is not grappling with the problem of evil which is actually clamoring for its attention.

So long as certain specific values retain their living efficacy and power in the collective, the individual (unless he is an exceptional person) will have no problems in relation to matters of value. He will not fall sick because of problems arising out of these values, since institutional procedures exist for dealing with questions of value in a valid way. So long as and so far as the sacrament of marriage exists there will be no neuroses caused by the marriage problem, but only adultery and sin, punishment and pardon. The orientation remains valid even if the individual behaves invalidly.

But when the collective no longer possesses values, that is to say, when a crisis in values has occurred, the individual lacks a collective orientation. He falls sick because of a problem for which there is no longer a collective answer and a collective procedure for reaching a settlement. He then becomes involved in a conflict from which no institution is any longer in a position to set him free, but for which he must suffer and experience an individual solution in the living process of his personal destiny.

– Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 31-32)

A large part of education will always be devoted to the formation of a persona which will make the individual “clean about the house” and socially presentable, and will teach him not what is, but what may be regarded as, real; all human societies are at all times far more interested in instructing their members in the techniques of not looking, of overlooking and of looking the other way than in sharpening their observation, increasing their alertness and fostering their love of truth.

Every kind of restriction may be imposed by the collective. But whether it is a case of a taboo in a primitive tribe, a social convention or a moral prohibition, whether it is a question of not mentioning certain subjects or of not admitting certain facts, of behaving as if certain non-existent entities in fact existed or of saying things which one does not mean or not saying things which one does mean– every time it makes one of these demands the collective will be guided by certain principles which are vital to its development and to the development of consciousness. Without these values they could not exist– or such, at least, is its firm conviction.

The ego will receive the reward of moral recognition by the collective to the exact extent to which it succeeds in identifying with the persona, the collective facade personality– the simple reason being that this facade personality is the visible sign of agreement with the values of the collective.

– Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 38)

The problem of evil confronts modern man in both a collective and an individual form.  During the last hundred and fifty years of the history of Western man, it has broken through on the widest possible front. It has undermined and destroyed the old cultural categories, but its course can also be followed in detail in the psychological history of the individual.

The study in depth of the psychological development of the individual in whom the problem of evil becomes manifest is in a much better position than any research into collective events to detect those first attempts at a synthesis which are the basic elements of a new ethic. This is due to the fact that external collective developments are decades behind the development of the individual, which is like a kind of avant-garde of the collective and is concerned at a far earlier stage with the problems which subsequently catch the attention of the collective as a whole.

It is not difficult to understand why positive attempts at a solution appear earlier and are more easily recognizable in the development of the individual than in that of the collective. The individual who is brought up against the overwhelming problem of evil and is shaken by it, and often driven by it right up to the brink of the abyss, naturally defends himself against destruction. In order to survive at all, he needs, as matter not of arbitrary choice but of urgent necessity, the aid of the forces of the deep unconscious; in them and in himself he may be able to find new ways, new forms of life, new values and new guiding symbols.

But this reality of evil by which the individual is possessed is not derived simply from his personal reality; it is also, at the same time, the individual expression of a collective situation. Similarly, the creative energies of his unconscious, with their hints at new possibilities, are not simply his own energies but also the individual form taken by the creative side of the collective–that is universal human–unconsciousness.

– Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 29)

The philosopher must remain solitary, because this is what he is according to his nature. His solitude is not to be admired. Isolation is nothing to be wished for as such. Just for this reason must the philosopher, always in decisive moments, be there [da sein] and not give way. He will not misunderstand solitude in external fashion, as withdrawal and letting things go their own way.

– Heidegger (Essence of Truth, p.63)