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Category Archives: On Genius

We come now to an important criterion. Many genuinely
“great” men are distinguished from these lower stages by the
fact that their conscious mind actively participates in the process
and adopts a responsible attitude toward it. What characterizes
the hypnotist who is hypnotized by the unconscious is the banality
of his mind, its lack of problems. For, if completely swamped
by the invading content, consciousness becomes incapable of
taking up any counterposition whatsoever, but is carried away
and possessed by it to the point of identification.

The Great Individual, on the other hand, who really is a great
man in the sense of being a great personality, is characterized
not only by the fact that the unconscious content has him in its
grip, but by the fact that his conscious mind also has an active
grip on the content. It is immaterial whether his assimilation of
the content takes the form of creation, or of interpretation, or of
action; for common to all these is the responsible participation
of the ego in coming to terms with the invading content, and not
only its participation, but its ability to take up an attitude.
Only then does the Great Individual become a creative human
being. The action no longer rests with the invading transpersonal
alone, but with the centroversion operating through
ego consciousness; in other words, there is now a creative total
reaction in which the specifically human qualities of ego formation
and conscious elaboration are preserved.

This category of Great Individuals serves as a model for the
development of individuality in humankind generally. The individual
fate of the hero–and the creative Great Individual is
indeed a hero–may be the exception, but he is also the exemplar
of a process which subsequently affects all individuals in varying

– Erich Neumann ( OaHoC, p. 425-6)


The activity of the hero in his fight with the dragon is that
of the acting, wiling, and discriminating ego which, no longer
fascinated and overpowered, and abandoning its youthful attitude
of passive defense, seeks out the danger, performs new
and extraordinary deeds, and battles its way to victory. The
supremacy of the Great Mother, the control she exercised
through the instinctual power of the body, is superseded by the
relative autonomy of the ego, of the higher spiritual man who
has a will of his own and obeys his reason. Faust’s wresting of
the land from the sea symbolizes the primal deed of heroic consciousness,
which snatches new territory from the unconscious
and places it under the rule of the ego. Just as on the adolescent
level the dominant features* were passivity, fear, and defense
against the unconscious, so on the heroic level the ego plucks
up courage and goes over to the offensive. It is immaterial
whether the direction of this offensive be introverted or extraverted,
since both flanks are occupied by the Great Mother
dragon, whether we call her nature, the world, or the unconscious

Erich Neumann ( OaHoC, p. 317)

The cardinal discovery of transpersonal psychology is that the
collective psyche, the deepest layer of the unconscious, is the
living ground current from which is derived everything to do
with a particularized ego possessing consciousness: upon this it
is based, by this it is nourished, and without this it cannot exist.
The group psyche which, as we shall see later, is not to be confused
with the mass psyche is characterized by the primary
preponderance of unconscious elements and components, and
by the recession of individual consciousness. In saying this we
must, however, emphasize that at this deep level it is not so
much a question of recession, dissolution, or regression; it is
rather that consciousness is still in abeyance, being not yet developed
or only partially developed. Tardes* formula that “the
social, like the hypnotic, state is only a form of dreaming” is
a neat summing up of the original group situation. Only, we
must not regard our modem, waking consciousness as the obvious
point of departure and then, on the analogy of hypnosis,
take the participation mystique of the group psyche to be a limi-
tation of this waking state. The reverse is true; the conscious
state is the late and uncommon phenomenon, and its complete
attainment is far more of a rarity than modern man so flatteringly
pretends, while the unconscious state is the original, basic,
psychic situation that is everywhere the rule.

Group unity in participation is still so widely prevalent, even
in modern man, that it is only through the ceaseless conscious
efforts of certain individuals of genius that we gradually become
aware of the psychic factors which, as the unconscious “cultural
pattern” we so blindly accept, regulate the life and death of each
one of us. Although enjoying a higher conscious development,
probably, than any previously attained by man, modem individuals,
for all their conscious achievements, are still deeply embedded
in the tissue of their group and its unconscious laws.

– Erich Neumann (OaHoC, p. 270-1)

“If you introduce new, intelligent ideas to fools, you will be thought frivolous, not intelligent. On the other hand, if you do get a reputation for surpassing those who are supposed to be intellectually sophisticated, you will seem to be a thorn in the city’s flesh. This is what has happened to me.”— Medea, lines 298-302

– Euripides

89. PHYSICAL THEORY OF ART. How few people have a genius for experimenting.
The true experimenter must have a dim feeling for Nature within himself,
which—depending on the perfection of his faculties—guides him with unfailing
surety along his path, allowing him to discover and determine with much greater
precision, the hidden and decisive phenomenon. Nature inspires the true lover, as
it were, and reveals herself all the more completely through him—the more his
constitution is in harmony with her. Thus the true lover of Nature distinguishes
himself by his skill in multiplying and simplifying, combining and analyzing,
romanticizing and popularizing the experiments, by his ability in inventing new
experiments—by his tasteful and ingenious selection and arrangement of Nature,
his acuteness and clarity of observation, and by his artistic and concise, as well as
extensive, descriptions, or presentations of his observations.

the genius alone is the experimenter.

– Novalis (Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia, p14)

63. THEORY OF PERSON. A truly synthetic person, is a person who is many
people simultaneously—a genius. Every person is the seed of an infinite genius.
They may be divided into numerous people, and yet still be one. The true analysis
of the person as such, brings forth people—the person can only be isolated, split
and divided into people. A person is a harmony—not a mixture, not motion—not
substance, like the “soul.” Spirit and person are one. (Force is the cause.)
Every personal expression belongs to a specific person. All expressions—of
the person at once belong to the nonspecific (universal) personality and to one
or several specific personalities.
E.g. an expression, as a human being, citizen, family man, and a writer, all at
the same time.

– Novalis  (Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia, p.10)