Monday, March 29, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 12





Cosmological versus Scientific Myths

I have explained before in these pages that I use the terms "myth" and "mythology" to denote and connote the imaginative and the creative - if you like, the genius of inspiration in humankind.  To some more rigidly scientific minds, and even to more literalist religious minds, this may seem very much anathema.  Mythology contains within it deep psychological messages about our pursuit of meaning and purpose as human beings.  Hence religion, spirituality and science of all kinds share in this mythological expression of humankind.  Unfortunately, extreme religionists and extreme scientists who lke to explain away the mystery of humankind miss this point completeely.

Our man Hillman is fascinating here once again:

[The ancient] cosmological myths place us in the world and involve us with it.  The cosmologies of today - big bangs and black holes, anti-matter and curved, ever-expanding space going nowhere - leave us in dread and senseless incomprehensibility.  Random events.  Nothing truly necessary.  Science's cosmologies say nothing about the soul, and so they say nothing to the soul, about its reasons for existence, how it comes to be and where it might be going, and what its tasks could be. (The Soul's Code, p. 47)

The Call of the Daimon can be Destructive too

Once again Hillman is nothing if not honest and real.  His acorn theory is not a panacea for life's ills.  In fact, he realizes that it can also be destructive, and wreak havoc on the individual to whom it is attached.  Here again, our author is very practical and alludes to the life story of Judy Garland.  Hillman argues thus:

The addiction to perfection is another term for the call of the angel.  The voice that cautions speaks only part of the daimon's message.  Another part calls to the ideal... Though everyone feels at times the press of the calling, it is in the exaggerated life of celebrities where these demands are most apparent and best documented.  Riches and acclaim never compensate; stars always seem displaced persons, haunted by unspoken tragedy that is blamed on parents or betrayals in love, on ailments or forced inhuman schedules.  The blame belongs to the angel, to the difficulty of the inhuman attempting to come down into the human.  Addictions that keep stars estranged and "out of it," suicide attempts, and early death may result from the incommensurability between calling and life... (Ibid., p. 48)
Hillman goes on and sees the awakening of the acorn in Judy Garland at the age of two and a half years only as a good illustration of his theory.  Today we could add so many other examples: most especially the magically sad life of Michael Jackson - always and ever the "puer eternus," the Peter Pan of Pop, the child star who never did come down from the ageless clouds, who never did alight on the earth at all.  The ruthlessness of both Garland's and Jackson's life stopped their having real friends, stopped them growing down into reality, into the earth as it were.

Loneliness and Exile:

Hillman argues that there is a loneliness, the very loneliness of exile in every human heart, indeed at the very heart of the acorn itself which is growing up and indeed down into the world of reality:

But if there is an archetypal sense of loneliness accompanying us from the beginning, then to be alive is also to feel lonely.  Loneliness comes and goes apart from the measures we take.  It does not depend upon being literally alone, for pangs of loneliness can strike in the midst of friends, in bed with a lover, at the microphone before a cheering crowd.  When feelings of loneliness are seen as archetypal they become necessary; they are no longer harbingers of sin, of dread, or of wrong.  We can accept the strange autonomy of nthe feeling and free lonelinesss from identication with literal isolation.  Nor is loneliness mainly unpleasant once it receives its archetypal background... [it contains]  a yearning imagination for "something else" not here, not now... Nostalgia, sadness, silence, and imaginative yearning are also the inmost stuff of religious and romantic poetry in many languages and many cultures.  They remind the acorn of its origins.  (Ibid., p. 56)

To be continued.

Above another picture I took in the Vatican Museum - this time we have an empty sarcophagus. Where has the mummy gone?

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