Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where is the Soul 30?

Ancient doorway, Isca Superiore
Now that the letters are finished, Hillman and Ventura tape another dialogue which they transcribe for the final part of their book. Their talk takes place in an apartment high over Sheridan Square in New York City. Stan Passy, another psychologist, phones them during this long dialogue.

Their conversation begins with Hillman musing on the nature of love. They agree that love is connected mainly with the soul. One of them quotes the great early modernist poet T.S.Eliot of whom I have written many times in this blog who apparently said that love costs “not less than everything!” Now that’s a huge price indeed. Even love gets sacrificed for love!

Then our archetype psychologist quotes the old Jungian adage that one’s beloved is one’s anima projection. Ventura is of the belief that love is a form of madness. This has a lot of resonances with the history of literature in many languages. In Gaelic literature we traditionally speak of “galar an ghrá” or “the disease of love,” the only cure of which is a kiss from the beloved which needless to say should lead right on to a passionate relationship! Ventura pipes up and says that “God is Love,” an old Christian belief, or more correctly an old monotheistic belief.

However, Hillman is at his questioning best and wonders what the madness of love is looking for. In love or in falling in love there is an “obsessive madness” going on which is in search of something, but what? However we define this madness they both agree that it can never be reduced solely to hormones. To say that the madness of love is God-driven is the same as to say that it is DNA-driven according to Ventura.

Then Hillman makes an insightful comment on the nature of madness which is worth reproducing here below:

Another ancient doorway, Isca Superiore
 “I think that madness is the messenger of the Gods. And that’s Plato, not Freud. Different forms of what Plato calls mania, each of them associated with a different God. So the madness is calling us to the Gods, in one way or another, either as a frenzy or as a love or as a ritual initiation into a new kind of life. Something more important than usual life is going on. It is drawing us out of one thing and toward something else.” (Op. cit. P. 169)
Then Michael Ventura makes an interesting intervention quoting Michael Meade that the difference between blessed madness and insanity is that the latter is caused by following the wrong God. I find this interesting because remember that each of the Gods in the Pantheon is an image or representation of one or other of our multiple sub-personalities.

Madness or mania, then, is the way the Gods reach us (Plato), and indeed they come to us essentially in all our diseases, too (Jung). This is all wonderfully crystallized for us in the Greek tragedies, don’t forget. Then Hillman makes a brilliant intervention by quoting the poet Theodore Roethke on the nature of madness – madness or mania, not insanity: “What’s madness but nobility of soul/ At odds with circumstance?” (Quoted ibid., p. 170)

Interestingly again, and one can always count on Hillman to be nothing if not supremely interesting, our archetype psychologist suggests that we all must acknowledge our own madness or mania, acquaint ourselves with it, figuratively open the doors of our mind and let it in. Most often than not this is where our addictions come in, that is, when we have befriended our madness to a supreme degree and have become addicts to drink, drugs or gambling. However, interestingly again, they keep us from going insane – how interesting, yet how strange!!

Then, to finish this post neatly Ventura quotes a line from a song by Waylon Jennings which runs: “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane.”

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