Sunday, March 06, 2011

Where is the Soul 2?

Introductory Comments

Giant's Causeway, August, 2008
Anytime I read the archetypal psychologist Dr. James Hillman my thoughts are always stretched.  Hillman is erudite, well-read and he argues with a guru's ease and wisdom.  I love reading anything from his pen as I always leave the book down in awe and wonder, nodding my head in assent at this man's insight into the mystery that is life.  Enough encomiums poured on the good man's head now!  Let's return to looking at some of the insights I have gleaned from the book We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's getting Worse (Harper San Francisco,1992).

One of the things I had always assumed was that the soul is essentially internal in line with my former Catholic Christian upbringing, and in line with the philosophical beliefs of a Cartesian dualist.  Culturally we in the West make this simple assumption.  Oh no, says Hillman, it is both inner and outer, both within and without.  So the soul can be found everywhere, even out there in the world, at the very heart of Gaia.  In this fore-named book, neither Hillman nor Michael Ventura mention James Lovelock by name.  Nor do they refer to his Gaia hypothesis.  I am mentioning it here because it blends in nicely with Hillman's and Ventura's arguments and musings. The Gaia hypothesis, Gaia theory is an ecological hypothesis or theory proposing that the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth are closely integrated to form one unit, one whole, or more correctly a single organism.  Then we humans are very much part of this whole organism that Mother Earth or The Blue Planet or Gaia is. Originally proposed by James Lovelock as the earth feedback hypothesis, it was named the Gaia Hypothesis after the Greek primordial goddess of the Earth, at the suggestion of William Golding, Nobel prizewinner in literature and friend and neighbour of Lovelock.

Skerries, May, 2007
Finding the Soul: Some Critical Points:

  • Therapy, by emphasizing the inner soul and ignoring the outer soul, supports the decline of the actual world.  (See op. cit., p. 5)
  • There is an over-emphasis in psychotherapy on nurturing the inner child - focusing too much on the child archetype.  In this way we have arrived at a sort of child cult worship. We are actually disempowering ourselves through therapy - of the inner variety. (See ibid., p. 6)
  • Personal growth must lead outward as well as inward.  It must lead outward into the world!  (See ibid., p. 6)
  • There is too much emphasis on growth.  After all a child will grow into an adult and there will be no more physical growth.  The growth metaphor is overdone. (See ibid., p. 7)
  • Hillman argues that a shrinking may be a more apt metaphor.  We must learn to control our egos, which as we "grow" as individuals actually become smaller.  They shrink.  (See ibid., p. 8)
  • There must be a Loss as well as a Gain as we grow - a loss of inflation, a loss of illusions.  (See ibid., p. 8)
  • The metaphor of the snake shedding its skin.  Often growth is like that, not expansion in size.  In fact Growth is Loss. (See ibid., p. 8)
  • The Fantasy of Growth can be linked, I feel with the myth of linear progress as proposed by the Enlightenment. 
  • Some things in the psyche remain the same.  They don't grow, just as rocks and stones don't grow. Let us learn to accept sameness too! (See ibid., p. 9)
  • Being versus Becoming, Change versus Changelessness (Sameness).  This harks back to Heraclitus and other pre-Socratic philosophers. (See ibid., p. 10)
  • The Self-Help market don't take this changelessness or sameness into account.  (See ibid., p. 10)
  • A vicious thing which therapy does according to Hillman is that "[i]t internalizes emotions." (Ibid., p. 11).
  • Hillman underlines the fact that emotions are mainly social.  "The word comes from the Latin ex movere, to move out.  Emotions connect to the world.  Therapy introverts the emotions, calls fear "anxiety." "  (Ibid., p. 11)
  • Hillman on Descartes: "Put this in italics so that nobody can just pass over it: This is not to deny that you do need to go inside - but we have to see what we're doing when we do that.  By going inside we're maintaining the Cartesian view that the world out there is dead matter and the world inside is living."  (Ibid., p. 12)
  • Therapy has made one great philosophical mistake, and that is, according to Hillman, that "cognition prcedes conation - that knowing precedes doing or action.  I don't think that's the case.  I think reflection has always been after the event." (Ibid., p. 12)  Let's define this word "conation":  The dictionary says that "Conation is a term that stems from the Latin conatus, meaning any natural tendency, impulse or directed effort. It is one of three parts of the mind, along with the affective and cognitive."
  • The importance of relationships is over-emphasized in therapy.  In fact a person's work may be just as important, or even more important.  Then, community and our role in it are also as important.  (Ibid., p. 13).  It is interesting to note here that the psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Storr, the late English psychiatrist also underscored this point in his book called Solitude.  I have discussed this point already in this blog.  See this link here: Solitude
  • The tribe may be more important than the nuclear family?  Today people are known by their Christian or first names, not by their family names.  This says something about our over-emphasis on the internal versus the external! (See ibid., p. 14)
  • "The ideal of growth makes us feel stunted; the ideal family makes us feel crazy," Hillman (Ibid., p. 16)

To be continued.

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