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The Origins and History of Consciousness · Erich Neumann

(Book) Published in German 1949. English translation, 1954 published by Princeton University Press as part of the Bollingen Series, includes a foreword by C.G. Jung.

An ambitious, pioneering effort at relating the development of human consciousness (and possibly other forms of consciousness, assuming they exist) to the depth psychology of Carl Jung.

The book itself includes a foreword by Jung himself:

"THE AUTHOR has requested me to preface his book with a few words... It be­gins just where I, too, if I were granted a second lease of life, would start to gather up the disjecta membra of my own writ­ings, to sift out all those "beginnings without continuations" and knead them into a whole. As I read through the manu­script of this book it became clear to me how great are the dis­advantages of pioneer work: one stumbles through unknown regions; one is led astray by analogies, forever losing the Ariadne; one is overwhelmed by new impressions and new possi­bilities, and the worst disadvantage of all is that the pioneer only knows afterwards what he should have known before. The sec­ond generation has the advantage of a clearer, if still incomplete, picture; certain landmarks that at least lie on the frontiers of the essential have grown familiar, and one now knows what must be known if one is to explore the newly discovered territory. Thus forewarned and forearmed, a representative of the second gen­eration can spot the most distant connections; he can unravel problems and give a coherent account of the whole field of study, whose full extent the pioneer can only survey at the end of his life's work.

This difficult and meritorious task the author has performed with outstanding success. He has woven his facts into a pattern and created a unified whole, which no pioneer could have done nor could ever have attempted to do. As though in confirmation of this, the present work opens at the very place where I unwit­tingly made landfall on the new continent long ago, namely the realm of matriarchal symbolism..."

Most of the text relates the origins of consciousness to a series of archetypes or mythological stages of development that are likewise accepted by Jungians as pertinent to the individual development. Key stages include:

Part II is devoted to the psychological stages in the development of personality, and builds on the material developed in the first part.

I find some similarities between Neumann's work and the much touted Global Brain of Howard Bloom, even though Bloom's work seems to start from a very different place. The Origins and History of Consciousness is a challenging read, and one that a reader is likely to come back to for years after coming into contact with it.

Revision notes
Drafted: 3/20/01
Revised: 3/21/01
First noded: 3/20/01

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