Skip navigation

Category Archives: On Awareness

The disillusioning effect of the encounter with one’s own shadow, the unconscious negative part of the personality, is always to be found in cases where the ego has lived in identification with the persona and the collective values of the period. That is why this encounter is, as a rule, particularly severe and difficult for the extravert, since by nature he has less insight into his subjectivity than the introvert. The naive self- illusion of the ego, which has more or less identified itself with everything good and fine, receives a severe shock, and the undermining of this position forms the essential content of the first phase of the analysis.

-Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a new Ethic, p.78)


Responsibility for the group presupposes a personality which has become conscious of its shadow problem, and which has come to grips with this problem with all the forces at its disposal. The individual must work through his own basic moral problem before he is in a position to play a responsible part in the collective. The realisation of one’s own imperfection which is involved in the acceptance of the shadow is a hard task in which the individual is required to free himself from the absolutism of his pleromatic fixation as well as from his identification with collective values.

-Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p.93-4)




How can the Individual, how can our culture, integrate Christianity and antiquity, China and India, the primitive and the modern, the prophet and the atomic physicist, into one humanity? Yet that is just what the individual and our culture must do. Though wars rage and peoples exterminate one another in our atavistic world, the reality living within us tends, whether we know it or not, whether we wish to admit it or not, toward a universal humanism.

– Erich Neumann (Art and Time; essay)

Scientist: …I hardly know anymore who and where I am.
Teacher: None of us knows that, as soon as we stop fooling ourselves.
Scholar: And yet we still have our path?
Teacher: To be sure. But by forgetting it too quickly we give up thinking.


– Heidegger (Discourse on Thinking, pg. 62)

These rules in their turn are a very important factor in the
play-concept. All play has its rules. They determine what “holds”
in the temporary world circumscribed by play. The rules of a
game are absolutely binding and allow no doubt. Paul Valery
once in passing gave expression to a very cogent thought when he
said : ” No scepticism is possible where the rules of a game are
concerned, for the principle underlying them is an unshakable
truth. . .” Indeed, as soon as the rules are transgressed the
whole play-world collapses. The game is over. The umpire’s
whistle breaks the spell and sets “real” life going again.

The player who trespasses against the rules or ignores them is a
“spoil-sport” . The spoil-sport is not the same as the false player,
the cheat; for the latter pretends to be playing the game and, on
the face of it, still acknowledges the magic circle. It is curious
to note how much more lenient society is to the cheat than to the
spoil-sport. This is because the spoil-sport shatters the play-world
itself. By withdrawing from the game he reveals the relativity
and fragility of the play-world in which he had temporarily shut
himself with others. He robs play of its illusion-a pregnant word
which means literally “in-play” (from inlusio, illudere or inludere) .
Therefore he must be cast out, for he threatens the existence of the
play-community. The figure of the spoil-sport is most apparent
in boys’ games. The little community does not enquire whether
the spoil-sport is guilty of defection because he dares not enter
into the game or because he is not allowed to. Rather, it does
not recognize “not being allowed” and calls it “not daring”. For
it, the problem of obedience and conscience is no more than fear
of punishment. The spoil-sport breaks the magic world, therefore
he is a coward and must be ejected. In the world of high seriousness,
too, the cheat and the hypocrite have always had an easier
time of it than the spoil-sports, here called apostates, heretics,
innovators, prophets, conscientious objectors, etc. It sometimes
happens, however, that the spoil-sports in their turn make a new
community with rules of its own. The outlaw, the revolutionary,
the cabbalist or member of a secret society, indeed heretics of all
kinds are of a highly associative if not sociable disposition, and a
certain element of play is prominent in all their doings.

– Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens ‘Man the Player’, p. 11-12)

And now we come to the real distinguishing feature which essentially separates barbarism from culture; the only reason it cannot serve us as a guiding rod or for the determination of the beginning is that the documentary evidence is inadequate. It is the question: Where does mere living in the present, such as the savage does, cease, and where does life in the past and the present, i.e. differentiating comparison, begin? When does the mere present, devoid of history, end?

Jacob Burckhardt (Reflections on History, p. 5)

The Elders have sent me to tell you that Now is like a rushing river, and this will be experienced in many different ways. There are those who would hold onto the shore…there is no shore. The shore is crumbling. Push off into the middle of the river. Keep your head above the water, look around to see who else is in the river with you, and Celebrate.

– Choquash, Native American Storyteller

If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.

– Aristotle

Book I, 1094.a18

This indivisibility of group, individual, and external world is
found wherever psychic contents–contents, that is to say, which
our present-day consciousness recognizes as psychic and which
it therefore relegates to the world within us are projected upon
the world at large and are experienced as though they were
outside ourselves. Contents of this kind are recognized readily
enough as projections when they derive from earlier epochs,
from alien spheres of culture, or from other people, but it becomes
increasingly difficult for us to do so the more closely they
approximate to the unconscious conditions of our own time, our
own culture, and our own personality. The animism which endows
trees with indwelling spirits, idols with divinity, holy
places with wonder-working powers, or human beings with magical
gifts is easily seen through; for us it is a transparent case
of “projection.” We know that trees, idols, holy places, and human
beings are recognizable objects of the external world, into
which early man projected his inner psychic contents. By recognizing
them, we withdraw such “primitive projections,” we
diagnose them as autosuggestion or something of the sort, and
thus the fusion effected by participation between man and the
objects of the external world is nullified. But when it comes to
experiencing God’s intervention in world history, or the sanctity
of the Fatherland symbolized by flag or king, or the devilish
intentions of nations beyond the latest Iron Curtain, or even the
bad character of those we dislike or the good character of those
we love; when it comes to experiencing these as a projection,
then our psychological powers of discernment incontinently fail
us, not to mention the fact that we cannot lay our finger on the
most blatant examples of all for the simple reason that they are
entirely unconscious and belong to the preconceptions which
we accept without question.

– Erich Neumann (Origin and History of Consciousness, p.267-8)

Is not all that’s alive close and akin to you,
Does the Fate not herself keep you to serve her ends?
Well, then, travel defenceless
On through life, and fear nothing there!

All that happens there be welcome, be blessed to you,
Be an adept in joy, or is there anything
That could harm you there, heart, that
Could offend you, where you must go?

For, as quiet near shores, or in the silvery
Flood resounding afar, or over silent deep
Water travels the flimsy
Swimmer, likewise we love to be

Where around us there breathe, teem those alive, our kin,
We, their poets; and glad, friendly to every man,
Trusting all. And how else for
Each of them could we sing his god?

Though the wave will at times, flattering, drag below
One such brave man where, true, trusting he makes his way,
And the voice of that singer
Now falls mute as the hall turns blue;

Glad he died there, and still lonely his groves lament
Him whom most they had loved, lost, though with joy he drowned;
Often a virgin will hear his
Kindly song in the distant boughs.

When at nightfall a man like him, of our kind, comes
Past the place where he sank, many a thought he’ll give
To the site and the warning,
Then in silence, more armed, walk on.


The question sounds definite. It seems unequivocal. But even a slight reflection shows it to have more than one meaning. No sooner do we ask the question than we begin to vacillate. Indeed, the ambiguity of the question foils every attempt to push toward the answer without some further preparation.

We must, then, clarify the ambiguity. The ambiguousness of the question “What is called thinking?” conceals several possible ways of dealing with it. Looking ahead, we may stress four ways in which the question can be posed.

“What is called thinking?” says for one thing, and in the first place: what is it we call “thought” and “thinking,” what do these words signify? What is it to which we give the name “thinking”?

“What is called thinking?” says also, in the second place: how does traditional doctrine conceive and define what we have named thinking? What is it that for two and a half thousand years has been regarded as the basic characteristic of thinking? Why does the traditional doctrine of thinking bear the curious title “logic”?

“What is called thinking?” says further, and in the third place: what are the prerequisites we need so that we may be able to think with essential rightness? What is called for on our part in order that we may each time achieve good thinking?

“What is called thinking?”says finally, in the fourth place: what is it that calls us, as it were, commands us to think? What is it that calls us to thinking?

– Heidegger