Thursday, April 01, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 18

Four Bridges

In my last post we spoke about the Visible and Invisible worlds, and how Hillman suggested that there were three bridges which we can cross between each, viz., the Bridge of Mathematics, the Bridge of Music and the Bridge of Myth or Mythology.  Now, in this chapter, he goes on to suggest a fourth - the Bridge of Mysticism.  However, he points out that Mysticism may not be a valid bridge qua bridge as it in effect unites visible and invisible.  For the mystic, he argues, there is no chasm or no problem or no river to be bridged.  Let's return to ponder Hillman's deceptively simple words embodying complex ideas or notions:

The equations of math, the notations on a musical score, and the personifications of myth cross the limbo land between two worlds.  They offer a seductive front that seems to present the unknown other side, a seduction that leads to the delusional conviction that math, music and myths are the other side.  We tend to believe that the real truth of the invisible world is mathematical and might be put into a single unified field equation, and/or it is a musical harmony of the spheres, and/or it consists in mythical beings or powers, with names and shapes, who pull the strings that determine the visible. (The Soul's Code, p. 94)
Hillman argues cogently that the Invisible or the Mystery that is the Invisible is transformed or rendered visible by recourse to the three bridges and that often the human mind confuses the Visible Bridge with the Invisible:

So enchanted are we by the mystery transposed into these systems that we mistake the systems for the mystery; rather they are indications pointing towars it.  We forget the old lesson, and mistake the finger that points at the moon for the moon itself. (Ibid., 94)
Hillman continues with his text in a flourish of poetic, nay lyrical passion.  He writes beautifully, like an angel if I may be permitted to sustain an metaphor of invisibility here.  He brings all invisibilities in under his poetic archetypal remit: the abstractions of physics, both theoretical and applied, the atoms we conceive of and the collocations of them we bump into, the invisibles of philosophy and theology that we kneel to; even the invisible ideals that led young men and still do to their deaths on the battlefields of the world; even the passionate invisible ideals that have led and still lead to sexual liaisons and marriages; not to mention the invisibilities of all our various madnesses.  Then, he finally mentions the most obvious of the invisibles, that is, the very mystery that is time.  On page 96 of his book Hillman gives a very long list of other invisibles which is worth reading.  There are too many of them to mention here, and I recommend the reader to go get the book and read it if he or she still needs convincing that we live among invisibilities as well as visibilities.

Hillman briefly gives a short summary of the thrust of the Romantic Movement associated with Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Byron and S.T. Coleridge those quintessential poets of that movement.  He refers to their mythical beliefs, their conviction in the existence of the Invisible or Unseen World as they called it that dwelled beyond the visible one.  he then hastens to add that what the Romantics called the "quickening soul" that dwelt within the human person is today called "the psychic reality" (Ibid., p. 97)


Hillman now goes on to give a rather good description of what is meant by Intuition.  In psychology, he tells us, that this intuition is "direct and unmediated knowledge." (Ibid., 97)  He points out that intuitions occur to us in a very immediate way, a way in which no process of cognition is involved, that is, absolutely no reflective thinking is going on.  We intuit what kind of person an individual may be when we first meet them or in our first sequence of encounters with them.  We simply do not have any hard evidence to go on, yet we are sure that they are like this or that, that they are feeling this or that way etc.  In short intuitions occur, we simply do not make them. Let's return to Hillman's insightful words here:

Our perceptions of people are mostly intuitive.  We take them in as a whole - accent, clothes, build, expression, complexion, voice, stance, gestures, the regional, social and class cues - all delivers itself at once, as a full gestalt, to intuition.  The old diagnosticians of internal medicine used intuition; so do photographers and astrologers and personal managers and baseball scouts and deans of admissison, and pronbably also CIA analysts, retrieving the field information and seeing in a mass of tedious data an invisible significance.  Intuition perceives the image, the paradeigma, a whole gestalt. (Ibid., 98)
Then, Hillman refers to that moment of insight or indeed intuition that he calls an "aha" moment.  I was first introduced to this notion by a former wonderful lecturer Professor Michael Paul Gallagher, S.J., now lecturing away in Fundamental Theology in The Gregorian University in Rome.  He was an erstwhile English lecturer who taught me in the old days.

Realistically and logically enough, Hillman, referes to the fact that on some occasions intuition can be alarmingly wrong, but even allowing for such errors, and often gross ones, it is nonetheless a valid way of perceiving things provided that it is balanced by good and logical thinking. These last thoughts are mine not Hillman's, or rather they are my own interpretation of what the author is saying.  Intuition in short, shares then in the mythical sensibility, in the very process of mythical thinking.

Because Intuition can be wrong when taken alone, Hillman argues with Carl Gustave Jung that Intuition needs the balancing effect of the other three functions viz., Thinking, Feeling and Sensation.  In short, then, the four functions of Consciousness rely on one an other to get things right.

To show where Intuition gets it badly wrong, Hillman adverts to people marrying the wrong partner, making false allegations, jumping to rash judgements, believing that they may have this or that disease quite erringly, that is, hypochondria.  In short, then, though certain, Intuition may not be accurate.  He defends his excursus on Intuition by saying that we need an acceptable term for the kind of perception that sees mythically and to make such perceptions psychologically plausible.  He points out that this function, viz Intuition, is at work in the crossing of the Three Bridges named in  our last post in this blog.  All discoveries and advances in Mathematics and Music (and indeed all areas of Knowledge)  rely on the insights gained from initial and indeed on-going Intuition.  Quoting the famous mathematician Henri Poincaré, Hillman finishes his excursus on Intuition thus: "Most striking at first is this appearance of sudden illumination."  (Ibid., p. 100)

Above a picture of myself on the Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, some time in 2004 or thereabouts.  A bridge connecting visible and invisible,  perhaps?

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