Sunday, April 11, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 27

Marks of the Demonic

When reading Hillman I constantly remind myself that he is, after all an archetype psychologist following in the footsteps of the Analytical Psychology founded by Casl Gustave Jung when he broke away from Sigmund Freud.  All of these are religiously unorthodox to say the least - Freud was an avowed and inveterate atheist who belonged firmly to the Jewish nation, Jung a wholly unorthodox believer who averred that he believed in God, but I have always had the feeling or intuition that his God was nothing less than the great collective unconscious, and these days I'm inclined to fit myself in with that theory - after all we make our gods or archetypes in our own images.  Hillman is no less unorthodox, and the use of the word demonic once again in his pages is highly metaphoric.  Also, I have long believed that we automatically and naturally personify the forces of good and evil, and doubtless other forces too.  It is with these qualifications firmly in mind that I will embark on the characteristics of the demonic which Hillman attributes to Adolf Hitler.

1. The Eyes
We have all long heard of the traditional piece of wisdom that the eyes are "windows of the soul."  No wonder.  When people suffer from mental illnesses they often lose eye contact with others.  Also, when these patients are on heavy medication they begin to look into "the middle distance."  Knowing personally some few people suffering from schizophrenia I have often noted what the Doctors call "a flat look."  The eyes are not alive at all. 

Hillman reports that Hitler considered his eyes to be like those of his mother, which "in turn turn reminded him of the Medusa" as depicted by his favourite painter Franz von Stuck.  Our author names many people of station who testified to Hitler's piercing eyes.  (See The Soul's Code, pp. 222-223)

2. The White Crow
Hitler was known by his fellow soldiers during WW I as the "white crow" because he was so different, and stood apart from the crowd.  He also had the luck of the same demonic bird - even though death surrounded him for more than a thousand days on the was front, he returned home virtually unscathed.  Indeed, he was also known for his bravery.

His minions loved this crazy man.  During the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" to seize power in 1923, his bodyguard "leapt in front of Hitler to take the half-dozen bullets meant for him" (Quoted ibid., p. 224).  He also had the luck of the devil in escaping death from the famous assassination attempt in July 1944.

3.  Absolute Certainty
Another sign of the demonic is absolute certainty.  One only has to read Mein Kampf, setting forth his vision, to realise Hitler's total conviction that he was completely right in everything that he was to do.  It was as if he was the sole recipient of the messages of the gods and goddesses - fate, destiny and history being three of these whom he mentions.  And these selected no one else but him for the task of liberating Germany and the making of it the greatest country ever.

His half-brother, Alois, has recounted how the young Adolf could never listen to others: he simply had to get his own way, because, quite simply he was right anyway.  Hitler's ear heard only the whispering of his daimon, his sole true companion.

4.  The Smothering of Wisdom with Facts
Another interesting sign of the demonic that Hillman points out is Hitler's obsession with small details, with all the facts.  In fact he purposely memorized masses of facts - locations of regiments, armaments, ships, vehicles etc and this over-powered and embarrassed his commanders.  However, these masses of fact smothered any depth of soul.  In fact Hitler was as shallow as they come.  Hillman mentions the interesting scientific fact that psychopaths are renowned for remembering masses of facts.

5.  Insomnia and the Wanting everything Now
Hitler was an insomniac.  He was totally obsessed with his dreams and visions of the Master Race and the Master Country - sheer megalomania which kept his mind seething and would not allow it to rest.  He wanted victory now, now, now.  There was nothing slowly planned at all for this gravely disturbed individual.  Hillman has this to say about how time featured in Hitler's mind:

Time strings things out into a chain of successive events leading toward a finishing line.  But Hitler's programs and powers did not develop through time; they were there in his youth, as was his death among the Wagnerian ruins.  (Ibid., p. 225)
Our psychologist goes on to point out that traditionally haste was seen as coming from the devil.  Hitler could not slow down - his vision was whole, never partial, his intuition sure - he could not "make haste slowly," in the wonderful pragmatic and wise phrase "festina lente" of the ever practical Romans.

Mainline Theories to account for Hitler's Madness

1. Early Traumatic Conditioning: The psychoanalyst Alice Miller attributed his megalomania to the results of his upbringing by an oppressive and violent father.  She maintained clearly that "All absurd behaviour has its roots in early childhood and that 'Hitler actually succeeded in transferring the trauma of his family life onto the entire German nation.' " (See ibid., 229)

2. Heredity Taint
You are the bearer of a dysfunctional physiological structure: too much testosterone or some other hormone; not enough serotonin; hormonal imbalance etc.

3.  Group Mores
Though biological nature and social conditioning may lay the groundwork, the crucial release factor is your societal milieu - you grew up in your formative years in the worse housing estates in Dublin, Limerick, London or Glascow, and you fell in with the worse of gangs...

4. The Choice Mechanism
Your behaviour is your choice, and conditioned by your choices all along.  This is a sort of cost benefit analysis theory.  If, for your kind of personality, the rewards from impulsive acts and premeditated killing outweigh the anticipated punishments, then you will mechanistically go for it.  Such was the case with Hitler - his successes reinforced his beliefs that he was right all along.  Indeed, I am reminded here that even his narrow escapes from assassination and death also convinced him that he was fated to bring his deadly vision to consummation.

Less Orthodox Theories

5. Karma and Zeitgeist
Some portion of a previous life (for the believers in re-incarnation) or of earlier bad deeds in this life (for those who mightn't believe in reincarnation but are agnostic Buddhists) are being enacted in you now, and you cannot escape the consequences of such previous acts.  There is a metaphysical mystery at work which the reason cannot grasp.

6.  The Shadow
The psychological propensity to destroy exists within all human beings.  Jung named our Shadow as one of the great archetypes that exist in our unconscious.  To see the Shadow side of our nature at work read R.L. Stevenson's wonderful little classic Dr Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde or William Golding's Lord of the Flies.  Hillman puts it lyrically once again:

The natural-born killer is all too human.  Since humans have shadows whose depths reach to the collective level of murder, human behaviour is prompted by this archetypal force.  Hitler knew the shadow all too well, indulged it, was obsessed by it, and strove to purge it, but he could not admit it in himself, seeing only its projected form as Jew, Slav, intellectual. foreign, weak, and sick.  (Ibid., 234)
One could add homosexual and freak to the above list.

7. Lacuna
We had a wonderful Latin teacher at school who occasionally adverted to a lacuna in the benches should some scholar or other be out.  This Latin word translates simply as "gap."  This theory states that in the evil-doing person something human is missing.  There is a hole in your personality or character, to put most simply.  Catholic theology calls this the theory or theodicy of "privatio boni" or "the lack of the good."  I have discussed it elsewhere over the years and you will find it by hitting the label for evil or doing a search for those Latin words in the search box above.  St Augustine, if my memory serves me rightly, was its first proposer in Christian circles.

8.  The Demonic Call
There is a specific calling that belongs inescapably to everyone, and some receive the demonic call.  Once again let us return to Hillman's words:

The Bad Seed takes pleasure in malice, enjoying destruction.  Mary Bell told the woman psychiatrist interviewing her about Brian's murder: "I was full of laughter that day."  The only witness, a girl of thirteen, stated, "She said she had enjoyed it."  There is satisfaction in just doing the demonic deed, a gratification that may be accompanied by sexual pleasure in postpuberty males, but it is hardly a factor, for instance, in the case of Mary Bell.  (Ibid., p. 235)

The Concentration Camps administered by the Nazis sum up the essence of evil during the twentieth century.  Most of the pictures on the net are just too horrific to put up here.  I thought the above display of a typical inmate's uniform said enough for anyone's imagination of unspeakable evil! 

To be continued