chapter  Chapter 14
19 Pages

“Oedipus the vanquished, not the victor” 1

The Origins and History of Human Consciousness and Neumann’s critique of Freud
WithAngelica Löwe

Of fundamental importance to Neumann’s The Origins and History of Consciousness, published in 1949, was Jung’s Transformations and Symbols of Libido, which had led to his split with Freud. Jung understands the unconscious as an objective and collective psyche. Neumann follows this thinking, insofar as he emphasises the dominance of the transpersonal, and speaks of stages formed by archetypes, which the individual must go through from childhood onwards in the process of gaining consciousness. Neumann sees the primacy of creative consciousness as the great achievement of Western culture. Its development, represented by the ego complex, is reflected in the canon of heroes. Neumann critiques Freud, whose interpretive approach does not extend beyond the personal and makes Oedipus, who ultimately succumbed to the “mother world of early times,” his central hero. Neumann intends his work to remind a society devastated by war of its creative potential, with a view to founding a cultural therapy. He regards Perseus as the hero in whom creativity becomes manifest; Pegasus in turn symbolizes the creativity that springs from the head of the Gorgon. Finally, the mysteries of Osiris confront the ego with death as eternity imbued with spirit, and thus open up the space of the self.