Rainer Maria Rilke
]] said about therapy, “I don’t want the demons taken away because they’re going to take my angels too.” Wounds and scars are the stuff of character. The word character means, at root, “marked or etched with sharp lines,” like initiation cuts
psychotherapy is only working on that “inside” soul. By removing the soul from the world and not recognizing that the soul is also in the world, psychotherapy can’t do its job anymore. The buildings are sick, the institutions are sick, the banking system’s sick, the schools, the streets—the sickness is out there.
living in time of collapse
▪ HILLMAN: How do you live in a time of decline, and what role does therapy have in a time of decline?
VENTURA: You do the work of the soul. You don’t fuck around. You don’t waste your life trying to find a secure place in the avalanche, ’cause there ain’t no such animal. You do the work of your soul
Why isn’t that depressing beyond belief?
HILLMAN: It’s only depressing if you are in the posture of the child and feeling powerless and then there’s still another big thing out there to blame and you can’t do anything about it. But for me it doesn’t feel depressing, it feels relieving,
immensely relieving to know that it’s not me that’s at fault and I don’t have to own and be the cause of all my misery. There’s something fundamentally wrong in the society and this relieves me of the blame, first of all; and second of all, it relieves me of the guilt; and third, it excites me, draws my attention outside to more than myself. That’s not depressing
That we are living in a Dark Age. And we are not going to see the end of it, nor are our children, nor probably our children’s children. And our job, every single one of us, is to cherish whatever in the human heritage we love and to feed it and keep it going and pass it on, because this Dark Age isn’t going to go on forever, and when it stops those people are gonna need the pieces that we pass on. They’re not going to be able to build a new world without us passing on whatever we can—ideas, art, knowledge, skills, or just plain old fragile love, how we treat people, how we help people: that’s something to be passed on.
HILLMAN: Passing on what you love can also mean taking action—political action, civil disobedience, even if you know you’re going to lose. Because the memory of actions taken is an important way that things get passed on from generation to generation
▪ It’s as though nature used a flood to change everything in one era, ice in another, and humanity in this era. To nature as a whole there’s no big difference if the catastrophic changes come through ice or an asteroid or humanity. What seems to be important, if you look at the long-term behavior of nature, is that the catastrophic changes come now and then to wipe the species slate fairly clean to make room for new varieties.
Soul-making and Aesthetics
Do you ever ask your soul questions when you make your schedule?
You know, there’s a feeling about a good day—it’s slow, and very much like being with a lover. Having a good moment at breakfast, tasting something—it has to do with beauty, this matter of love. And I think all the “work” at personal relationships fucks that up. That “work” is not aesthetic and sensuous, which is really what love, for me, is about. Aesthetic and sensuous, and a kind of joy. Love doesn’t result from working at something. So the therapeutic approach to love, of clearing up the relationship, may clear up communication disorders, expression inhibitions, insensitive habits, may even improve sex, but I don’t think it releases love; I don’t think love can be worked at.
Soulmaking by living Not about retreating
tribulations of life as contributions to soul. I found Wallace Stevens saying something similar: “The way through the world/Is more difficult to find than the way beyond it.” Simply said, you make soul by living life, not by retreating from the world into “inner work” or beyond the world in spiritual disciplines and meditation removes.
No longer was I trapped in the usual program of, first, retreat into deep inner work and, then, return to the world. Instead, I began to value every ongoing engagement for the sake of soul. It doesn’t matter where the stimulus or distraction comes from, how lofty or how cheap,
one simply feels it and reflects on it in terms of soul. You ask yourself: How does this event bear on soul-making?
pitfalls of modern spirituality
World Soul/anima mundi
now I see that even the Keatsian solution is inadequate. Why? Because it is still self-centered. It still focuses on one’s personal destiny or, as they now call it, “journey.” The exterior world’s value is simply utilitarian, for the sake of soul-making. It provides obstacles, pitfalls, monsters to be met in order to make one’s interior soul.
But what about the world’s soul, Michael? What about the anima mundi and making that? The plight of the world, the suffering of its oceans and its rivers, its air and its forests, the ugliness of its cities and depletion of its soils have certainly forced us to feel that we cannot go through the world for our own benefit and that we are actually destroying our souls by an attitude that pretends to save them.
As Sendivogius, an alchemist, said, “The greater part of the soul lies outside the body.” Mens sana in corpore sano (Galen’s medical motto of a healthy mind in a healthy body) today means “the body of the world”; if it is not kept healthy, we go insane. The neglect of the environment, the body of the world, is part and parcel of our personal “insanity.” The world’s body must be restored to health, for in that body is also the world’s soul.
We continue to locate all symptoms universally within the patient rather than also in the soul of the world. Maybe the system has to be brought into line with the symptoms so that the system no longer functions as a repression of soul, forcing the soul to rebel in order to be noticed
Individuation beyond myself
Michael, if we don’t begin speculating and experimenting with extending individuation into the world of things, the idea remains captured by private capitalism, an enterprise of developing my own private property, “myself,” my very own soul, my personal journey, and my locked-away journal, the gesture for which points away from the world and toward the recesses of the chest. Me oh my.
Only Carl Jung has explored the concept of collective psychology seriously, but his path-breaking concepts of
]] and the
]] are more descriptions of the phenomena than tools for thought and change. The proof of this is that the concepts are so rarely employed in practice by Jungian therapists
Because if what I’m saying has any validity, then therapy is only treating a part of the individual, and therapy is not even sure which part. How that individual expresses or denies, acts out or resists, a collective impulse—isn’t even on the table for consideration.
For psychotherapy, what Lessing would call the key fact is that even the most obvious forms of collective behavior (a grass-roots totalitarian movement, a teen gang, or a fashion fad) are beyond the range of insight. And you can’t treat or change what you don’t know how to think about.
The collective unconscious, as Jung said, is the world, and—also as he said—the psyche is not in you, you are in the psyche. The collective unconscious extends beyond the great symbols of your dreams, beyond the repercussions of ancestral history
Therapy as Art
The middle ground I would propose is the arts, in which the symptom becomes the marginal informing spirit or hounding dog that never lets go, driving the psyche to the edge.
I’ve been straining for decades to push psychology over into art, to recognize psychology as an art form rather than a science or a medicine or an education, because the soul is inherently imaginative. The primary function of the human being is to imagine, not to stand up straight, not to make tools and fire, not to build communities or hunt and till and tame, but to imagine all these other possibilities. And we go on imagining and imagining, irrepressibly.
I have suggested the artistic paradigm because it satisfies the three requirements discussed in this letter. First, art forms madness rather than represses it. Second, the arts often act as the sensitive antennae of social justice and moral outrage, keeping the soul awake to hypocrisy, cant, suppression, and jingoism. And third, the fundamental enemy of all art is mediocrity
What’s the Goal of Therapy (eccentricity, revolution)
what’s expected of a therapist is regular hours, being on time, being a kind of square, reasonable person. The therapist is unconsciously modeling the goal of therapy.
VENTURA: The therapist is unconsciously modeling the unconscious goal of therapy.
HILLMAN: Well, that isn’t my goal. The goal of my therapy is eccentricity, which grows out of the Jungian notion of individuation. Jung says, “You become what you are.” And nobody is square. We all have, as the Swiss say, a corner knocked off.
Our assumption, our fantasy, in psychoanalysis has been that we’re going to process, we’re going to grow, and we’re going to level things out so that we don’t have these very strong, disturbing emotions and events.
VENTURA: Which is probably not a human possibility.
HILLMAN: But could analysis have new fantasies of itself, so that the consulting room is a cell in which revolution is prepared?
I want theories that blow the mind, as art can, not settle our minds. And the value of a psychological theory lies in its capacity to open the mind, take the top of your head off like a good poem or voice in song. The childhood developmental theory, life lived forwards, reduces us to our lowest capacity, to the infantile state and its ineptitudes. Then we need the idea of growth and development to be delivered from the root image we ourselves propagated by our emphasis on childhood: growth offers salvation from what developmental theory has dogmatically declared to be our basic nature, the helpless and hope-filled state called “my inner child.
Can’t be functional and moral in an immoral society
If therapy imagines its task to be that of helping people cope (and not protest), to adapt (and not rebel), to normalize their oddity, and to accept themselves “and work within your situation; make it work for you” (rather than refuse the unacceptable), then therapy is collaborating with what the state wants: docile plebes. Coping simply equals compliance. Community mental health, with its pamphlets giving advice on every “dysfunction” from thumb sucking to cock sucking, actually serves to keep the people pacified and satisfied with their white bread. Maybe I am an idealist, but I still believe therapy is engaged also in raising consciousness
Maybe the only way to be morally honest is to become dysfunctional. And that’s a messy place to be, Michael. But when it gets to that messy crazy place, at least you know you haven’t succumbed to mediocrity. You can only let your emotions take the lead and follow your heart. My heart left therapy and it would be malpractice to do soul work without heart.
Depression as a manifestation of revolutionary life force against the system
The symptom becomes a demonstration of a life force within the Winstons of our society (Orwell’s hero in 1984) that will not bend to big brother. Even when we try, even when we want to, the symptoms insist on depressing me so I can’t get to work, sexualizing me so I harass and buy porn, enraging me so I shout in public, putting my money on horses instead of what the ads tell me to buy. I haven’t kept faith with the economy (as they say a consumer must do). I haven’t served Jesus by Christmas shopping. I have stopped consuming, stopped watching TV, stopped voting. My symptoms want something else, something more. In my symptoms is the soul’s deepest desire.
This desire, which may mask itself as the depressive denial of desire, an apathetic exhaustion, cannot be encompassed by the marketplace. My cry is not a cry for help but a cry for more. Or, say, my cry to the therapist is: “Help me find more, be more, live more.” I gamble because I want more; I fantasize orgies in Bangkok because I want more; I eat and I eat because my appetites cannot be stilled by the daily junk of white bread. As Eric Hoffer said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.”
Growth is always loss
Because shedding is a beautiful thing. It’s of course not what consumerism tells you, but shedding feels good. It’s a lightening up.
VENTURA: Shedding what?
HILLMAN: Shedding pseudoskins, crusted stuff that you’ve accumulated. Shedding dead wood. That’s one of the big sheddings. Things that don’t work anymore, things that don’t keep you—keep you alive. Sets of ideas that you’ve had too long. People that you don’t really like to be with, habits of thought, habits of sexuality. That’s a very big one, ’cause if you keep on making love at forty the way you did at eighteen you’re missing something, and if you make love at sixty the way you did at forty you’re missing something. All that changes. The imagination changes.
Or put it another way: Growth is always loss.
Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something
Idea of growth as trap
VENTURA: So this idea of growth can put you into a constant state of failure!
HILLMAN: “I ought to be over that by now, I’m not together, I can’t get it together, and if I were really growing I would have grown out of my mess long ago.”
VENTURA: It sets you up to fail. That’s really cute.
HILLMAN: It’s an idealization that sets you up to fail.
VENTURA: Because you’re constantly comparing yourself to the fantasy of where you should be on some ideal growth scale.
HILLMAN: It sets up something worse. It sets up not just failure but anomaly: “I’m peculiar.” And it does this by showing no respect for sameness, for consistency, in a person. Sameness is a very important part of life—to be consistently the same in certain areas that don’t change, don’t grow.
The job in therapy is, not to try and make the changeless change, but how to separate the two. (Figure out what can be changed and what can’t)
Growth equals secular salvation
Emotions are social, therapy only focuses on the internal
Emotions are mainly social. The word comes from the Latin ex movere, to move out. Emotions connect to the world. Therapy introverts the emotions calls fear “anxiety.” You take it back, and you work on it inside yourself. You don’t work psychologically on what that outrage is telling you about potholes, about trucks, about Florida strawberries in Vermont in March, about burning up oil, about energy policies, nuclear waste, that homeless woman over there with the sores on her feet—the whole thing.
excessive focus on (romantic) relationships
The thing that therapy pushes is relationship, yet work may matter just as much as relationship. You think you’re going to die if you’re not in a good relationship. You feel that not being in a significant, long-lasting, deep relationship is going to cripple you or that you’re crazy or neurotic or something. You feel intense bouts of longing and loneliness. But those feelings are not only due to poor relationship; they come also because you’re not in any kind of political community that makes sense, that matters. Therapy pushes the relationship issues, but what intensifies those issues is that we don’t have (a) satisfactory work or (b), even more important perhaps, we don’t have a satisfactory political community
not up to the task for our global risks
Suppose we entertain the idea that psychology makes people mediocre; and suppose we entertain the idea that the world is in extremis, suffering an acute, perhaps fatal, disorder at the edge of extinction. Then I would claim that what the world needs most is radical and original extremes of feeling and thinking in order for its crisis to be met with equal intensity. The supportive and tolerant understanding of psychotherapy is hardly up to this task. Instead it produces counterphobic attitudes to chaos, marginality, extremes. Therapy as sedation: benumbing, an-aesthesia so that we calm down, relieve stress, relax, find acceptance, balance, support, empathy. The middle ground. Mediocrity
You see, Michael, for me the job of psychotherapy is to open up and deal with—no, not deal with, encourage, maybe even inflame—the rich and crazy mind, that wonderful aviary (the image is from Plato) of wild flying thoughts, the sex-charged fantasies, the incredible longings, bloody wounds, and the museums of archaic shards that constitute the psyche
Respecting our older and younger future selves. Imagining a constellation of selves connected to us through time
And I know women the same age, not Beverly Hills housewives or movie stars but women whom I never thought would do this, getting breast implants, tucks, that kind of thing—and I’m afraid for them, because they are deeply insulting the older people in them. And those insults are weakening the older people in them.
So when they finally turn sixty-five, when it’s their sixty-five-year-old’s turn to be, that sixty-five-year-old has been so insulted and weakened that he or she may not be able to do the job.
HILLMAN: You’re saying it’s not just nubs, that there’s a cast of characters given. I think so too. I saw a drawing of a woman—she was about forty-four. It was a pencil drawing, very touching. She didn’t like it because it made her look too old. I said, “That drawing, that’s the old woman who is waiting for you at the end of the corridor.” They’re there. Those figures are our companions, they’re always around, and they need strengthening all the way down the line.
And when we attack young people, in the same impatient way we’ve attacked old people, we weaken our young selves who are still in us, the way the older selves were in us when we were young.
HILLMAN: Absolutely. We attack the younger people in us. As you say, the young ones who give us urges, send us fantasies. And so we no longer allow ourselves to feel or to imagine sexuality, we no longer allow ourselves to imagine risk (Nourishing young people inside us too)
Illnesses as teachers
Your illnesses are partly ways of developing the older people. They’re the ways of developing the knowledge of your own body. The illnesses tell you tremendous things about what you can eat and when you can eat it, what goes on with your bowels, what goes on with your balls, what goes on with your skin. The illnesses are your teachers, especially about aging. Devaluing the illnesses and suppressing them removes you from these figures.
We insult the inner people by what we do with our own weaknesses.
Memory as Fiction we Write
Therapy encouraging remembering traumatically
▪ HILLMAN: I’m not saying that children aren’t molested or abused. They are molested, and they are abused, and in many cases it’s absolutely devastating. But therapy makes it even more devastating by the way it thinks about it. It isn’t just the trauma that does the damage, it’s remembering traumatically. (Interesting, unexpected take)
Reframing memories imaginally
▪ It isn’t that the abuse didn’t happen—I’m not denying that it happened or that I need to believe that it did concretely happen. But I may be able to think about the brutality—reframe it, as they say—as an initiatory experience. These wounds that he caused have done something to me to make me understand punishment, make me understand vengeance, make me understand submission, make me understand the depth of rage between fathers and sons, which is a universal theme—and I took part in that. I was in that. And so I’ve moved the memory, somehow, from just being a child victim of a mean father. I’ve entered fairy tales and I’ve entered myths, literature, movies. With my suffering I’ve entered an imaginal, not just a traumatic, world. (Moving from a personal memory to a universal theme/archetype/myth)
▪ Memory is a form of fiction, and we can’t help that. So we are very much the creation of the stories we tell ourselves. And we don’t know we’re telling stories.
HILLMAN: We’re not conscious we’re telling stories.
I think Freud was getting at that when he said, “It’s how you remember, not what actually happened.” That the memory is what really creates the trauma.
Soul Scars Make us who we are - therapy wants to iron it out
Rilke said about therapy, “I don’t want the demons taken away because they’re going to take my angels too.” Wounds and scars are the stuff of character. The word character means, at root, “marked or etched with sharp lines,” like initiation cuts
Ore, rocks, that make for character, for the peculiar idiosyncrasy that you are. Just as you have physical scars, so you have soul blemishes. And they’re rocks. And they are what you are. It’s peculiar in our culture to believe that this stuff all gets ironed out. Is it a melting pot fantasy? Do we all try to be nice? In the service of this fantasy we abuse our own raw material.
HILLMAN: The obsession that prevents it from being valued as ore is the obsession with processing, the obsession with smoothing it out. It doesn’t become as damaging unless you think it shouldn’t be there. That’s what I mean about the therapeutic attitude hurting the actual potential of people. Because, as Ivan Illich would say, therapy wants to ameliorate the suffering in the ore. And our culture accepts the proposition that it must be ameliorated
Feel your pain/shadow/emotions
Feeling Through Emotions
That used to be called lifting repression and bringing to consciousness. I’d rather say, Make those things be felt.
I see it as a kind of building of doorways, opening conduits, and making channels, like a giant bypass operation, throwing in all kinds of new tubings so that things flow into each other. Memories, events, images, all become enlivened. And our feelings about this ore become more subtle. Learn to appreciate it. That’s one thing therapy can do
until one has been in the hurt, explored the hurt, you don’t know anything about it. You don’t know why it’s there. Why did the psyche put it there?
“Processing” is repression in disguise
HILLMAN: I’m saying to people, “If you go to therapy, watch out for the collusion between the therapist and the part of you that doesn’t want to feel the ore.” There are many ways to repress feeling the ore, one of which is processing it. The different schools of therapy have different processing systems, but all of them are fixers. From my angle, fixing what’s wrong represses the ore.
VENTURA: “Processing” is often “repression” in disguise! That’s really cute.
If the self were defined as the interiorization of community, then the boundaries between me and another would be much less sure. I would be with myself when I’m with others. I would not be with myself when I’m walking alone or meditating or in my room imagining or working on my dreams. In fact, I would be estranged from myself.
And “others” would not include just other people, because community, as I see it, is something more ecological, or at least animistic (Self defined as internalization of community)
▪ So it wouldn’t be, “I am because I think,” (Cogito ergo sum, as Descartes said.) It would be, as somebody said to me the other night, “I am because I party.” Convivo ergo sum.
We have to think about community as a different category altogether. It’s not individuals coming together and connecting, and it’s not a crowd. Community to me means simply the actual little system in which you are situated, sometimes in your office, sometimes at home with your furniture and your food and your cat, sometimes talking in the hall with the people in 14-B. In each case your self is a little different, and your true self is your actual self, just as it is in each situation, a self among, not a self apart.
Individuating— the very word—locates that entire wholeness in the individual, apart from the world. But what if that’s not so? What if, as you and I have been saying, we’re not born whole, and what if the quality of wholeness is not located in the individual but in a community that includes the environment? How does all that, the-individual-as-part-of-community-as-part-of-environment, “individuate”?
What is the Self
the primary activity of the psyche is imagining
we co-create our reality (through imagination)
Jung says: “When I speak of image…I do not mean the psychic reflections of an external object, but a concept derived from poetic usage, namely, a figure of fancy or fantasy image, which is related only indirectly to…an external object.” Or, put it my way, what we are really, and the reality we live, is our psychic reality, which is nothing but—get that demeaning nothing but— the poetic imagination going on day and night. We really do live in dream time; we really are such stuff as dreams are made of.
So your life is the ongoing operation of imagination; you imagine yourself into existence, or let’s say, an image is continuing to shape itself into the oak tree you consider your reality.
HILLMAN: I think it is very important to recognize that the imagination is not “mine.”
VENTURA: Whose is it?
HILLMAN: Better to ask, where is it?
VENTURA: Where is it, then?
HILLMAN: We’re in it. We’re in it. It’s the medium in which we live
personal history is secondary
Do you see what this means?
It means that our history is secondary or contingent, and that the image in the heart is primary and essential. If our history is contingent and not the primary determinant, then the things that befall us in the course of time (which we call development) are various actualizations of the image, manifestations of it, and not causes of who we are. I am not caused by my history—my parents, my childhood and development. These are mirrors in which I may catch glimpses of my image.
soul / image - acorn theory
living life with this sense of image in mind. It gives one an aesthetic and ethical sensitivity about rightness and trueness, and it functions like a gyroscope, which doesn’t mean that we are not for the most part lost in a fog or becalmed and drifting. The genius is pretty tricky; it keeps quiet often when you need it most! Sometimes, the genius seems to show only in symptoms and disorders, as a kind of preventive medicine, holding you back from a false route.
I said that this way of thinking suggests a completely different method for psychotherapy. Instead of starting with the small (childhood) and going toward the large (maturity), instead of starting with causal traumas and external blames that determine what is to come, we start with the fullness of maturity, who and where and what you are in your communal world now, and read from the tree’s leaves and branches and dead wood backwards to younger phases as foreshadowings, as smaller mirrors of the larger person
And the puzzle in therapy is not how did I get this way, but what does my angel want with me?
I think our daimon tries to fight for us. I think there are events in childhood, mysterious and often violent, that are best understood as daring chances the daimon takes in order to
send messages into the future—messages to the adult we will one day be and, even beyond us, to other generations.
Not development over time. Each moment in time we are expression of our image
Time is not the primary factor; an image is not cumulative, and the late stages of life are not the fullest and finest presentation of one’s seed. The oak tree is not any more itself after four hundred years and at the moment of its felling. It is always itself, like Picasso in the mirror.
pathologies can reveal genius and curses as blessings
These exceptional people reveal the thesis of looking at life backwards because exceptional people can’t keep from letting it all show. I’ve picked peculiar behaviors rather than the usual examples of early talent—Mozart, Yehudi Menuhin, Marie Curie. Since the peculiar genius can appear in the guise of dysfunctional behavior, we have to pay attention and revise our thinking about children and their pathology in terms of the nascent possibilities exemplified in these biographies of eminence.
You see, we need biographies of the Great to understand the rest of us.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that the curses, the frustrations, and the character faults visited on me by Saturn mean something completely different than what I thought when I was younger. I took them literally as curses, and I cursed my stars for not giving me what I believed I needed and wanted. That is, I cursed Saturn, to use the old language. But it isn’t Saturn who curses us; we curse him. We make him into that poor, shunned, limping old God because we don’t understand his mode of blessing. What a curse it must be to keep giving gifts that are received as punishments! The faults and frustrations he visits on us are his way of keeping us true to our particular image
Love is madness the soul wants for us
Anyway, the reason you’re with this certain person, this certain lover, is not about love, or at least it’s not about “having a good relationship.” You’re with this person because your soul is hungry for them, your soul is seeking something with or through them, and it will insist on what it wants. It doesn’t care what price YOU pay for that; the ego-driven, agenda-ridden you is not your soul’s priority. The nice thing about getting older is that you learn to pay some prices more gracefully, but the soul doesn’t care. The soul is absolutely merciless—toward you, and toward anybody around you. The soul doesn’t give a damn about human values.
Love is a madness, but what is the madness itself looking for? Is it to make us more mad? Is it to grow wings, as Plato says? The question is not, why is it this woman or this man, but, what is the madness looking for? What does the madness want? Because in the madness we grow way beyond ourselves. Way beyond. It prompts us to write love letters, it prompts us to phone, to drive all night, it prompts us to do incredible things, I mean we’re incredible when we’re in the madness. You’re a fourteen-year-old kid on his bicycle fourteen times a day going past her house, you’re tattooing yourself, you’re completely mad
We feel love offers salvation of the privates from their cutoff isolation “down there,” redemption of the repressed, fusion, ecstatic union, “coming” home.
VENTURA: So falling in love won’t save me?
HILLMAN: You know why? Because as soon as two people pair off, they leave the party. They go elsewhere, his place, her place, for private salvation. Everyone else is left out. They don’t ask, “What are the people saying?” Intimacy means anticommunity. And if the self means, as I defined it, the interiorization of community, then finding the one and only, the significant other, only reinforces individualism. And all those passionate images on the billboards and the tube are just more propaganda for private salvation. They are saying stay indoors, off the streets, out of the party. They are false because they are reinforcing the false self of individualism. They are pushing private enterprise. They keep our sexual desire, our Eros, harnessed to private salvation. Just fall in love and you’ll be saved.
▪ VENTURA: And when there is that to-and-fro between the lovers and the community, each questions the other, helps keep the other honest; the lovers and the community each give to the other what can’t be gotten otherwise.
HILLMAN: But that only happens if we realize we’re not isolated selves.
VENTURA: Exactly. Without that realization, the wonder that two people find together increases an isolation that in the end can only make them more desperate, and that desperation will eat and kill their love in the long run.
HILLMAN: A vicious circle. As long as the world around us is just dead matter, Eros is trapped in personal relationships
romantic love keeps the world dead
VENTURA: To love the world, the planet, is necrophilia—because to the Cartesian and scientific way of thinking anything not human is dead. This helps explain the real disgust some people on the far right have for ecologists and ecological issues—they’re disgusted by our love of the planet because unconsciously they feel it’s necrophilia!
HILLMAN: And what about this? Romantic love keeps the world dead. It insists, “Only you, only you, only you—you are my heart’s desire. Forsaking all others.” And here the “others” doesn’t mean just other people, it means all others. No significant others can be had anywhere. Your car is out.
VENTURA: If romantic love keeps the world dead, then romantic love is an ecology problem?
▪ HILLMAN: If romantic love is an ecology problem, it’s also a political problem. It’s antisocial. It doesn’t let my love into the community
The only solution can come when the world is reanimated, when we recognize how alive everything is, and how desirable.”
the special role of the psychological citizen is the awakening and refining of aesthetic sensitivity
Civil courage in an ecological age means not only demanding social justice, but also aesthetic justice and the will to make judgments of taste, to stand for beauty in the public arena and speak out about it.
Consciousness of form would make us feel how assaulted and insulted we are all day long by the thoughtless ideas in things: by pretentious buildings, noisy ventilation, oppressive meeting rooms, irritating lighting, vast undetailed parking spaces. The aesthetic eye would require things to be thoughtfully designed. And this attention turned from self to things would begin nursing back to health the soul of the world. Aesthetic hygiene.
the ugliness of our manufactured world shrinking the soul?
Suppose we are being harmed as much by the form of things as by their material, where form means their aesthetic quality. For instance: styrofoam cups, fluorescent lights, bad doorknobs, unpleasant chairs, K-Mart fabrics and their colors, the hollow loud clack of objects set down on fake wood tabletops. Enough. The soul, which has classically been defined as the form of living bodies, could be affected by the form of other bodies (design, shape, color, innate idea or “image”) in the same way as the matter of our bodies is affected by the matter of other bodies (pesticides, additives, preservatives).
Plotinus makes this clear (On Beauty 1.6.2): “The things in this world are beautiful by participating in form…. A thing is ugly when it is not mastered by some shape” (form, morphe). You and I are psychologically in bad shape because our physical world is bent out of shape. And, Plotinus says in the same passage, this is because “when the soul meets with the ugly it shrinks within itself, denies the thing, turns away from it, out of tune, resenting it.” Plotinus here describes the clinical condition of the psyche turning itself in for therapy
Pathologies and Symptoms of our times
Puritanism - Repressing Eros, anesthetizing aesthetics
Puritanism is no joke. It’s the structural fiber of America; it’s in our wiring, our anatomy. And, if Freud’s right that anatomy is destiny, then we all descend from the Mayflower. Then there is no hope for an aesthetic awakening. We can’t overcome Lifton’s “psychic numbing” because its ground is puritanism. We are supposed to be sensually numb. That is the fundamental nature of puritan goodness. We are numb because we are anaesthetized, without aesthetics, aesthetically unconscious, beauty repressed.
But recast the scene. Let it be played out by two lesbians or two gays; then it’s not a gender issue at all, but one of who initiates, and all responsibility falls on the initiator. Result: don’t initiate, make no sexual advances, for any move can be felt as rape, even if it is not actually felt. Puritanism wins again, achieving its aim of controlling the sexual impulse through internal fears.
Yet we each know that nothing so moves the soul as an aesthetic leap of the heart at the sight of a fox in the forest, of a lovely open face, the sound of a little melody. Sense, imagination, pleasure, beauty are what the soul longs for, knowing innately that these would be its cure. Instead our motto is “just say no.” […] Laws for order, once the inherent cosmos (the Greek word for aesthetic order) of the world is no longer sensed. This is the promised land, and the laws are still coming down from the hill. Prohibition is the ultimate law of the land.
Against postmodern’s excessive policing/blaming/guilt-tripping
▪ HILLMAN: That also came up in regard to feminism and the mens’ movement. “I am not responsible for two thousand years of what you call patriarchy. I’m responsible for the fact that I’ve left all the dishes on the counter, and I’ve done that night after night and I’ve not cleaned up after myself, but don’t tell me about the patriarchy ’cause I’m not responsible for two thousand years of what happened
Modernism removed magic from the world
Modernism makes us dismiss all experiences we can’t explain as unreal, or irrelevant
People are trained to blink away this sort of sight or to treat it comically or with an air that says, “Yeah, that was weird and maybe interesting but it doesn’t mean anything.” It doesn’t mean anything, for instance, that your phone rings and, before you answer, you know who it is. It doesn’t mean anything that, especially while driving, you will without thought suddenly turn your head and find yourself looking into the eyes of another driver who’s looking at you, or you’ll be looking at someone and they’ll suddenly turn and look directly into your eyes. I’d bet this happens at least once each day to everyone who drives a car. People are communicating nonphysically, telepathically, and utterly ignoring it
Even “radicals” are steeped into modernism’s materialist view
Again, an interesting phenomenon is how even the so-called radical elements of the dominant culture buy into its fundamental assumption that only a fairly narrow spectrum of the material world has validity. We see this in political “radicals” who rail against any sort of mysticism as insular or reactionary and insist, like their corporate counterparts, that everything be focused on material issues; we see it in psychology, where enormous funds are being spent to try and prove that all inner experience is chemically motivated
mechanistic view of nature
Drugs as a response to escape from the materialist worldview
Is it any wonder that people hemmed into such behavior from birth are, at every level of society, turning to drugs by the tens of millions? And what are they using drugs for? To break out of the strictures of our corporately programmed environment of “education,” “work,” and “entertainment”—to satisfy, in other words, their craving for nonmaterial experience. Acid for visions, heroin and pot for differing sensations of other-worldliness, coke and crack for a hit of the energy that’s siphoned off by their environment. The dominating culture has to make these drugs crimes, even though most drug-related criminal activity occurs because the drugs are illegal, occurs for the sake of procuring the drugs and not as a result of the drugs’ effect on consciousness
What did Blake say? “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” The most antipuritan idea there is.
Empty Protest - Kenosis
▪ What a person usually does with political puzzles is make an either/or decision. Either I say it’s beyond me and remain passive on the sidelines, or I follow the position of my political party coming down hard, say, against raising any taxes or against development or for social services and education.
I think now there’s a third way. Kenosis. Empty protest. I don’t know how to do the right thing. I don’t even know what’s right. I have no answer. But I sure smell something wrong with the government. And, within the federal government, for
which I pay, something is wrong with airport safety, airline prices, gas prices, car efficiency, income tax loopholes, agricultural supports, PAC’s, rail service, sabotage of the postal service, unions and union busting, aid to schools, military pensions, veterans’ hospitals, drug testing, remedial education, busing…. Where does the wrongness end?
▪ I used to get stopped cold in political arguments. I would be going on about something, and the other guy would say, “All right, if you’re so smart, what would you do about it?” And I had no positive idea what to do, no program, nothing. It wasn’t just that I was impractical; I was empty. My protests were suddenly emptied out because I had nothing positive to offer. They say that the ’68 revolutions in Berkeley and in Europe among the students were so easily crushed or petered out because the revolutionaries had no positive programs.
Kenosis puts the emptiness in a new light. It values the emptiness. It says “empty protest” is a via negativa, a non-positivist way of entering the political arena. You take your outrage seriously, but you don’t force yourself to have answers. Trust your nose. You know what stinks. Don’t try to replace the helpless frustration you feel, the powerless victimization, by working out a rational answer. The answers will come, if they come, when they come, to you, to others, but don’t fill in the emptiness of the protest with positive suggestions before their time. First, protest
epistemic humility | biosphere stewardship |
Playing with generative and crazy ideas
One of the great difficulties in our American life is that we don’t have places for entertaining ideas. And that is precisely what we’re supposed to do with an idea: entertain it. This means having respect for ideas themselves: letting them come and go without demanding too much from them at first, like their origins (who said that first), their popularity (what if everybody thought that), their logic (but that doesn’t fit with what you just said). Why can’t they be a little crazy? We admit our feelings are crazy. We all have crazy feelings that might want to do this or say that. But maybe our ideas have arms and legs, too, and are crazy and want to get out and meet other ideas, air themselves, spend time with each other in public
Putting ideas in practice kills them
My idea about ideas in America is that we burn them up too quickly. We get rid of them by immediately putting them into practice. We only know one thing to do with an idea: apply it; convert it into something usable. And it dies right there in the conversion. It loses its generative power. The Greeks spoke of a logos spermatikos, the generating word or seminal thought. As these are put into practice, concretized, they no longer generate further ideas in the realm of ideas. This sterilizing of ideas happens often when I give a talk
What we usually do with an idea is put it into practice. Someone says “Oh, that’s a good idea!” and he means: “Oh boy, I can save four bucks this way!” or “Smart. I can do something now that I couldn’t have done before because I had a bright idea. I can hang the strap like this instead of like that.”
That’s what makes a “good idea” in our society. A good idea means useful, practical, immediately applicable. Isn’t it a shame that we can value ideas only when we have them in a harness. I think it breaks their spirit. We don’t let them run loose, to see where they might take us if we just fed them with a little attention and trusted their autonomy.
ideas are “easier” than opinions
The media do not really favor ideas. They mix them with opinions. We have plenty of opinions on most everything—but opinions are personal. We get pugnacious. They involve belief. Ideas are much easier to live with; they don’t ask to be believed in, and an idea doesn’t belong to you even when you “have” one. You can become friends with an idea, and after a while it will show you more of itself, or you and it may get tired of each other and separate.
how could we evaluate ideas?
How else could we evaluate an idea? Is the idea fertile, fecund? Does it make you think? Is it surprising, shocking? Does it stop you up from habits and bring a spark of reflection? Is it delightful to think it? Does it seem deep? Important? Needing to be told? Does it wear out quickly? Especially: What does the idea itself want from you, why in the world did it decide to light in your mind?
This requires that you ponder it, which means weigh it, feel its weight, that it is substantial and has some gravity
you have ideas and ideas have you
The word idea supposedly originates in the Greek word eidos, which means both something seen like a form and a way of seeing like an eye, a perspective. So, ideas are not only things you can pick up and ponder. They also give you eyes, new ways of seeing things. Ideas are already operating in our perspectives, the way we look at things. We take our usual ideas for granted, and so, ideas have us rather than we have them. (ways of looking)