The work of Erich Neumann
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The crystallization process of the Self has been described by a student of Jung, Erich Neumann, in a very clear manner (*). Since I consider his work to be a valid contribution to our further understanding, I would like to give a summary of his vision here.
According to Neumann, an infant who does not say “I” yet, identifies itself with others around him. The very first human being it encounters is usually its mother. She is not so much experienced as a person yet by young infants, but more as a being of nature, a natural, unquestioned presence that nourishes, protects, radiates warmth, provides safety, is always present, and responds to him when he makes himself heard. This mother image does not call forth a personal relationship, nor does it adopt a personal attitude: it is Nature itself that generates within every mother (and father) this protective behaviour. In the baby, its natural foundation is being developed in this phase, as its own enveloping Moon from whom it receives everything,as the primal connection with the mystery of Life itself.
As the baby grows and starts to take more notice of its environment, this mother figure begins to function as a mirror. The child smiles and mother’s face smiles back. Within their symbiotic unity, a game of action and reaction is being played between them, in which the mother’s echo gives the child a basis for identification (18.5).
It is important to note that this identification process in boys runs along different lines than in girls. This difference can be traced back to their common starting point, the mother.
The masculine and feminine polarity of the soul
Actually we should not speak of boys and girls, but of the masculine and feminine polarity within the soul. In the field of the psyche, there are as many mixtures of masculine and feminine characteristics as there are people, so within any human being, both developments are always taking place simultaneously. Yet, for the sake of convenience, I will continue to speak of boys and girls here. The reader can regard them as the masculine and feminine polarities within the soul.