Monday, March 29, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 9

What's in a Preposition?

This question is simple, but its answer not quite so.  Those of us who have learnt several other languages are well aware of the complexity of prepositions.  The prepositions in Italian I found wondrously hard but fun to engage with.  Years ago I remember studying both theology and philosophy for the first time in my late teens.    Anyway here I wish to advert to some prepositional adverbs with respect to these two subjects. God was always assumed to be "up there," "on high," "beyond us" or indeed to be "the beyond in our midst" (as some theologian whose name I quite forget termed the supposed ineffable source of our being.)  Contrariwise the devil, or putative source of all evil, is supposed to abide "down there."  So "up there" and "down there" are basic terms in our metaphorical use of language.

Going Up and Going Down

These two metaphors have lent themselves to the social sciences and the humanities quite readily. We read widely of Depth Psychology (bringing in the notion of going down into the various strata of the mind in the tradition of Freud and Jung et al.)  Viktor Frankl, if I remember correctly, suggested that there is also a Height Psychology as well as one which explored the depths of the psyche, i.e., Depth Psychology.  To this extent, one can say that Up(wards) and Down(wards) are the two sides of the one coin to mix metaphors rather clumsily here, but I feel the reader will get my drift.

With the above thoughts as a prolegomenon of  sorts, I return now to Hillman's classic The Soul's Code.  Chapter two of this little book he entitles "Growing Down" in contradistinction to "Growing Up."  Once again, this "lateral thinking,"  a playfulness with language which manages to stretch thought somewhat and thereby enrich it, as Edward de Bono always seeks to have us do.  Hillman writes inspiringly and naturally and advises us to recall that all plants grow downwards as well as upwards.  I well remember studying this in biology many years ago as examples of heliotropism - growth upwards towards the sun - and geotropism - growth downwards through the soil. Growing up, Hillman reminds us, is part of the ascensionist model of progress or growth.

For our archetypal psychologist in our struggles to deepen into self-knowledge we must of necessity grow down as well as growing up.

To be continued.

Above, another photograph of a painting from The Vatican Museum, February, 2010.

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