Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 16

The Parental Fallacy

Hillman argues that modern society, sociology, psychology and all other "-ologies" ascribe too much importance to the role of the parents in a person's life.  Here it is about over-valuing or over-rating rather than valuing and rating them with their due and proper importance.  An interesting point.  Once again Hillman is very radical and sui generis in his thinking - call it unique, eccentric or weird if you like.  Now, I am entranced and enthralled with this "guru's" thinking.  However, I am not a dyed-in-the-wool unquestioning follower.  I am merely marvelling at what he has to say, nor subscribing to it.  I like to think that I have an open mind about these questions.  To ask questions is far more important than to have poor  and unsatisfactory answers.  He is at his lyrical and poetic best when he questions the over-rated status of the family:

Yet all along a little elf whispers another tale: "You are different; you're not like anyone in your family; you don't really belong."  There is an unbeliever in the heart.  It calls the family a fantasy, a fallacy.  Even the biological model has puzzling gaps.  Contraception is easier to account for and practice than conception itself.  What goes on in that massive, virginly intact, single round ovum that allows only this particular miniscule sperm among millions to enter?... Or is it just the randomness of "luck" - and what is luck really?  (The Soul's Code, p. 64)
Needless to say, Hillman avers that it is his new take on the ancient Myth of the Acorn that can properly explain the mystery that life is, or what making sense of our path through life is.  He maintains that everyone's unique daimon selected both the egg and the sperm and consequently the resultant uniqueness of that human animal life which is uniquely you and no other.  Their union results from your necessity and not the other way around.  Now, this certainly is standing cause and effect on its head, and is paradoxical to say the least.  I should imagine a similar paradox would be Wordsworth's contention that the child is father of the man in his little beautiful lyric The Rainbow. (see this link here WW's Poem )

Once again Hillman advances instances from different biographies to back up his strange theory.  He gives examples of these wonderfully mismatched and incompatible partners in life and avers that their attraction happened solely at the behest of the acorn wishing to grow from this partcular couple.  Whether they stayed together or not is inconsequential.   The only thing I would say here about this "seemingly outrageous and strange" idea is remember that Hillman is preposing it as a myth, not as a literal truth.  It is an imaginative truth, but a truth nonetheless.  Truth can be many things: scientific, psychological, social, mythical, imaginative, religious and much else, but a truth nonetheless.  These thoughts, I confess, are rather hard to get the twenty-first century mind around.  However, such thoughts are worth wrestling with.

Hence the daimon or acorn myth is being proposed here to replace the mother myth, the father myth and the family myth.  Again, the stress is on the word "myth" and I have repeated it here to keep this aspect of the truth in our minds, mythical, not scientific truth.  Think psychological as you think mythical here, and that will help, I feel.  This myth, then, exalts the image of the daimon with which each soul is impregnated, if I may mix metaphors and much else here in trying to get my mind around these eccentric ideas.  In fact,  Hillman avers that the daimon predates the mother, maybe even predetermines the mother (see The Soul's Code, p. 70)

In this chapter, our author sets about deconstructing the myth of parental influence - indeed, it is an effort at demythologizing them somewhat to replace them with re-mythologizing (if I may be so bold to compose a neologism) the acorn or the daimon in our modern minds.  Let's listen to Hillman's own words:

The parental fallacy depends largely on this fantasy of one-way vertical causality, from larger to smaller, from older to younger, from experienced to inexperienced... Suspicion of vertical causality, particularly suspicion of the mother as a primary factor in determining fate... [which is] "a scientific fiction"... (Ibid., pp. 74-75)
He goes on to argue that we should get rid of the word "bonding" entirely with respect to the mother, because we are born with completely different personalities.  Further, he avers that we are less victims of parenting than of tghe ideology of parenting. 

Hillman also adverts to the contemporary overriding myth of the Apocalypse - the end of the world as we know from the eponymous book in the New Testament.  Given, the state of economic recession, even economic depression in which the world, Ireland in particular, languishes in, it is no wonder our man argues that suicide is on the increase.  We need our myths, all of them, indeed, but not a magnified focus on a negative one solely.  We need other sustaining myths, like that of the acorn to give balance to life.

Hillman goes on to refer to many other interesting ideas like: (i) fallacies make bonding a bondage (ibid., 78), (ii) myths make life livable (p. 79), (iii) the myth of Dad - whose task is to maintain the connection with elsewhere (p. 80), (iv) the person who loses his/her angel becomes demonic (p. 82), (v) oftentimes in parenting the adults spend so much time looking after the child that they neglect their own daimon (p. 83), (vi) the real meaning to life, or rather reason to live, is to make the world receptive to the daimon (p. 84) (vii) that the world is made less of nouns than of verbs. (p. 86),  (viii) imagination and environment are closely related (p. 87), (ix) the parental fallacy is deadly to the individual awareness and it is really killing the world (p. 87) and that (x) the neglect of the relationship with the environment, with animals, with nature, which are all very important to the health of the soul, is one of the greatest weaknesses of psychology and psychotherapy. (p. 88)

Above, yet another photo taken in the Vatican Museum, February, 2010.

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