Friday, April 01, 2011

Where is the Soul 14?

Finding One's Niche

One of our foremost broadcasters here in Ireland, Pat Kenny, has remarked more than once that to have a profession which is at once a hobby as well as a job is to be extremely lucky indeed.  It is no wonder that we "lesser" mortals envy the likes of Roy Keane,  Steve Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roddy Doyle, Séamus Heaney and so on and so forth.  These are all rich and successful at professions which are essentially their hobbies.  The majority of us "poor" mortals have, as it were, to earn our living by the sweat of our brows.  However, be that as it may, presumably the soul is somewhere to be found there, too, in the midst of all the toil and strain.

Stone, Ardgillan Park, March 2011
Some Self-Help books proclaim that one can be very successful indeed, if not rich in the worldly sense as well as the spiritual sense if we can match our jobs to our souls.  There is some truth in that I admit, but it is rattled off all too easily like a mantra by certain superficial authors, and it leads me to be somewhat suspicious if not a little sceptical.  Or again as James Hillman puts it, our project in life should be matching our professions or jobs to our primordial image or acorn or daimon or angel or genius that is in and of our very nature.  Again, there is a lot of truth here, but at 53 years of age I am still struggling with this somewhat idealised matching.

Then Hillman mentions a short list of famous initial failures: Cézanne was rejected from the Beaux Arts academyGrieg was punished by his teachers while the great Zola once got a zero in literature.  Then Eugene Ó'Neill, Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald were all failures at college.  Even the great scientist Edison said that he had been at the foot of his class at school.  Then, of course, there was Picasso, who appears to be Hillman's favourite of them all, who was taken out of school because "he stubbornly refused to do anything but paint." (See  We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, p.65)

Then Hillman, works up to his usual Platonic or NeoPlatonic heights of thought.  Take the following quotations for such an example of the power of innate ideas no less:

Psychology starts with an upside-down premise, that childhood is primary and determining, that development is cumulative, a kind of organic evolution , reaching a peak and declining...  Not only is childhood thus overvalued, but aging is trapped in an organic, and melancholy model.

Interesting tree, TCD, March 2011
Rather than developmental psychology, we should study essential psychology, the structure of the character, the innate endowment of talent, the unalterable psychopathologies...  Maybe a human life is organic but in Goethe's sense of negative form.  The shape of a leaf he said is determined by the absent spaces (like the shape of an Oriental jar is shaped around and by the emptiness inside).  Maybe all the missing bits and the misfortunes are actually the blessings that make us the peculiar people that we are.  (Op. cit., pp. 68-69)
Now, the end of the above quotation surely is getting at something deep or profound!  I have always come to accept this deepening of both the questions and indeed the suggested answers of our psychologist James Hillman.  That's no bad thing either, especially, if like me, you have a repressed Platonist within your very soul.  Interestingly, and again very unsurprisingly Hillman informs Ventura that he wants theories that "blow the mind." (Ibid., p. 69)  Art does this for Hillman, especially that of Picasso.  I believe music and poetry and drama do so also.  In this regard the old, conventional approach to psychology - all that developmental stuff that proceeds incrementally (my words) very much reduces the mystery of humankind to that of a mere problem (again my terms not Hillman's): "The childhood developmental theory, life lived forwards, reduces us to our lowest capacity, to the infantile state and its ineptitudes." (Ibid., pp. 69-70)

Hillman rounds off this rather Platonic and profound letter to Ventura with the contention that life lived backwards is more important than life lived forwards because the former which is about life lived from the top down like a tree "with its roots in heaven (an image... from the mysticism of Jewish Kabbala)" (Ibid., p 70) is all about getting to know our real Self or True Soul or Daimon, or Angel, or inner Genius, call it what you will. 

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