Monday, April 19, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 29

A Note on Psychopathology

Psychiatry defines psychopathology as the study of the origin, development, and manifestations of mental or behavioural disorders.  Once again, Hillman gives a marvellous insight into this complex psychiatric problem:

Psychopathology can be generally defined by one concrete word: concretism, taking psychological events such as delusions, hallucinations, fantasies, projections, feelings and wishes as actually, literally, concretely real.  (The Soul's Code, p. 240)
Hitler's Megalomania

Hillman is again insightful here.  Recently I read a small book called The Passion Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion by Richard Chang (Jossey-Bass Publishers).  The argument in this book is quite simple: once you find your passion you will find your soul's path in life, you will discover your real calling or vocation.  Here is what our archetype psychologist says about Hitler's passion, which for him became demonic in intensity:

Hitler's own greatest passion was neither The Third Reich, nor war, nor victory, nor even his own person.  It was architectural construction.  Megalomaniac emperors, from Nebucchadnezzar and the Egyptian pharaohs through the Roman rulers to Napoleon and Hitler, construct in concrete what the daimon envisages.  For this reason, megalomania haunts the actual architect - as the Bible warns with the story of the Tower of Babel, which is not only about the origin of language but also about the megalomania inherent in all attempts to make concrete the grandeurs of fantasy,especially in architecture.  (Ibid., p. 242.)
Beauty is not Truth and Culture does not Prevent Evil

This sub-heading here is mine, not Hillman's.  I have always been astounded over the years that because something seems beautiful to the eye that this does not necessarily mean that it does not mask something that could be evil.  For instance, one of the worst of the concentration camp doctors and human experimenters was Dr Josef Mengele.  This man was very cultural, loved such things as loving classical music and studied Dante.  The psychopathic murderer Chikatilo was a teacher.  Here, Hillman reminds us that the goal of the psyche or, to put it another way, the psychological task is growing down .  Let me interpret this here in my way: that means that we have to earth the daimon, earth the cultural feelings, the whole thrust of one's passion in real life situations, and eventually couple the daimon with an ethical stance that somehow reflects and "contains" the soul.  These are my interpretations of Hillman's words, not his, so perhaps I'm somewhat wrong in that, though I feel I am mainly correct in my contentions.
Let us listen to our archetypal psychologist's words here again:
Growing down shifts the focus of the personality from the single minded ego-centricity of the daimon into common humanity, twisting the call to transcend toward extension into the world and its claims, as we read in the life of Jopsephine Baker, and also in those of Canetti and Einstein, Menuhin and Bernstein.  (Ibid., p. 243)
Hillman adverts to the words of the late Dr M. Scott Peck who argued that evil basically consists in arrogant selfish narcissism or supreme willfulness.  This notion of evil is quite an ancient one which was known to the Greeks as the sin of hubris and to the earlier Christians as superbia which was overweening pride.  However,  Hillman is right in his assertion that Peck is another moralist in a psychiatrist's mask and is saying no more and no less than Christian moralists have been saying for centuries.

Peck avers that love is the essential therapy that will disarm evil, that good psychotherapists are engaged in a therapeutic relationship which is essentially loving and healing and transformative of evil within a person.  Hillman says that this is all fair and good, but however, he believes that this understanding of therapy in the fight against evil is somewhat simplistic.  Rather what is needed, he argues,  is to understand that love is less an exerecise of the will and more "an exercise of intellectual comprehension of the daimonic necessity that calls above and beyond the world to the sinner and the saint." (Ibid., p. 245)

Our archetypal psychologist argues cogently that there is a duality in our calling - an angelic as well as a demonic calling vying for our attention all the while.  Let this be a metaphorical expression, a personification of both the abstractions called Good and Evil, if you so wish, and if you are somewhat scarified by literalism as I am.  I am reminded of the great and wonderful pre-Romantic English poet, William Blake, who had a keen perception of Good and Evil and who wrote a profound diptych-like poetic work Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.  Somehow within the interplay of both these books of poems we will encounter the daimon, both angelic and demonic.  Let us finish this post with the lyrical words of James Hillman:

A society that willfully insists upon innocence as the noblest of virtues and worships innocence at its altars in Orlando and Anaheim and on Sesame Street, will be unable to see any seed of any kind unless it be sugar-coated.  Like Forrest Gump eating chocolates and offering sweets to strangers before he ever looks into their eyes, stupid is as stupid does.  The idea that there is a Bad Seed, that there is a demonic call, should startle our native intelligence, awakening it from the innocence of our American theories so that as a nation we can see that evil is attracted to, belongs with, innocence.  Then we might finally recognize that in America, Natural Born Killers are the secret companions of, are prompted by, Forrest Gumps.  (Ibid., pp. 247-248)

Another scene from Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel - taken, February 2010, Rome.

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