The Origins and History of Consciousness by Erich Neumann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love and hate this work. All at the same time and for some of the same reasons simultaneously.
Why? Because it pre-dates a lot of Joseph Campbell's much more interesting and more carefully analyzed use of mythology. The subject matter is the same in a lot of ways, using the analysis of myth to understand what is going on inside us as individuals, but his conclusions are Pure BS.
Look, I know it's easy to sit here and review massively impressive works that feel like a direct-line inheritance from Carl Jung, full of glorious archetypes and VERY impressive scholarship, and let me be clear: I have no problems with the scholarship. The bibliography and the erudition are beyond reproach.
What I have a problem with is something pretty simple. His thesis has no antithesis.
Backing up, the whole idea here is that human consciousness arose from the conflicts between the female and male principles. It's very Jungian but I think Neumann takes it a bit farther. His full analysis is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS from the perspective of Fantasy Worldbuilding. I'd buy and read the hell out of a heroic series of books that expounded everything in here... as long as the FINAL CONCLUSIONS were re-analyzed.
Practically EVERY SINGLE IDEA in here propagates the idea that women, or rather, the World Mother, is the Dragon, the great Oroborus, and that all myth continues this trend all the way down to the overthrow of the female. From ALL the myths of castration to the extrapolation of the Furies as the ubermyth from which all our legends stem, justifies the patriarchy.
Where's the devil's advocate, here? A little lip service saying that men are spurred on and challenged by the female principle and women are spurred on and challenged by the male principle?
So what? Freud had been around for generations by this point. And at the end of the 40's, we should have gotten a little bit beyond this. But wait, it's the 40's and WWII was still fresh on everyone's minds.
I appreciate the attempt to analyze the models of our subconscious reliance on all the models that now seem broken and I LOVED the rich, rich, rich mythology and even the attempted thesis, but there's no serious counter-argument going on here. And there are TONS of possible counter-arguments.
Do I really need to write a book on this book? Suffice to say, WOMEN AREN'T EVIL. Let's leave it at that. Sheesh.
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