Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where is the Soul 19?

The Importance of Honouring the Soul in Writing

TCD, March, 2011
In the nineties of the last century I used attend a Summer school on adult education run by a priest/guru/psychologist of a Jungian bent.  This man trained us to be sensitive to the soul and to engage on what he called "soul work."  From the first conference, which was handled on a group-encounter footing, I was hooked.  By soul work, the facilitator, Fr. T. Hamill, meant anything creative like dream-work, journalling, meditating, role-playing, acting in plays, musical and artistic expression as well as ritualistic expression.  Our wonderful sessions encompassed all these possibilities.  One session I remember for its effectiveness and power was where we each had to write down an animal that we felt most represented us as we were then.  When we had done this, he asked each one of us to become that animal in the group and to express it in movement and sound in the conference room.  What a liberation of the soul that session was, and how well I dreamed that night as that dramatic role-playing allowed my unconscious to reveal itself in a veritable wealth of dream images!  Then another favourite phrase of our guru was "honour the dream" or some aspect of it by writing it down, composing a poem, doing something ritualistic or drawing or painting or even singing it. 

Back to Hillman and Ventura

Two trees at TCD, March, 2011
As I mentioned in my penultimate post, both Hillman and Ventura prize the significance of letters in soul work.  Then Hillman, as a trained Jungian analyst emphasizes that central to Jungian or Analytical therapy/psychology is the primacy of the written script.  The classical Jungian analysis always contained a written and reflective element.  In short Jungians invite reflection by means of WRITING. Classical Jungians asked their patients to, indeed required them, to write down their dreams and make drawings and/or paintings of the figures, feelings and scenes that appeared in their dreams.  They also encouraged their patients/clients to write long interior dialogues called "active imaginations."  (See op. cit., p. 90)  Let me return to Hillman's magic words here:

TCD, again March, 2011
Immediacy was not an issue.  Content Analysis.  Quiet.  Reflection.  Constellation of unexpected emotions through tension and mulling.  Thematics.  Style of expression.  Emotion compacted into words, images, colours, scenes, phrases, diction,, voices.  Attempts at precision, finer and finer.  The personal relation between two people, analyst and patient, was carrier on in most part via the material.  The nebulous, ephemeral psyche and its fluid swinging moods and laconic resistant rocks caught on paper, materialized as traces of the écrit, the mind's marks on paper. (Ibid., p. 91)
Unfortunately, Hillman maintains that the Jungians, too, have yielded to the cult of immediacy or expressionism or expressionist immediacy.  In  this, they, too, have begun to distrust written material.  Instantaneity is now the privileged method preferred.  Dreams are to be recounted on the spot rather than honoured in Fr. T. Hamill's sense to which I alluded in my opening comments.  In short, what Hillman is at here is in a sense a yes/no or both/and answer, that is, something of the soul is gained in talk therapy while something else is also gained in the written form of therapy.  Obviously something is lost in either which is complemented by the other.

Insight into Language: 

Hillman goes on to stress that talk therapy allows for instantaneity, spontaneity and immediacy of emotions and feelings while  written therapy tries to make things more precise, more specific, more thoughful, more conceptual and strangely (my words, not Hillman's) more whole.  He further claims that therapy's talking cure can make language sick.  Then he insightfully informs us, and I believe this is a wonderful insight, that
The reform of society begins in a reform of its language.  I want to reach back to the Egyptians and their God Thoth, the primal baboon, God of written signs; and the Ibis figure, the scribe; and to the sacred importance of the written, like the commandments of Moses cut into clay, like the cuneiform laws of Hammurabi. (Ibid., p. 93)
Hillman's conclusion, or at least one of his conclusions as to why humanity is getting worse despite all the various therapies available to it and availed of by it is partly because of therapy's "linguistic callousness." (Ibid., p. 93)  And, this archetype psychologist last sentiments communicated to Ventura in this letter are in the form of a short eulogy on the demise of the tradition of hand-written letters.  I am certainly one with Dr. Hillman here!

No comments: