Sunday, May 08, 2011

Where is the Soul 36?

One of the early Caesars of Rome
Towards a Conclusion

It is about time I brought my musings on Hillman's and Ventura's joint book to an end.  Hopefully I will achieve this aim in this post here.

The Rigidity of Puritanism

What killed a lot of the initial enthusiasm for the promotion of Gaeilge as a nationally spoken language here in Ireland was the obsession of the language purists with correct grammar, proper pronunciation and the promotion of the dialect of one Gaeltacht area over another, forgetting that many people in the cities and towns outside Gaeltacht areas had a more neutral take on the language.  What I am getting at here is the rigidity of a purist approach to things Likewise in religion a puritanical approach to morality and indeed to doctrine often sucks the life and spirit out of a religion because paradoxically it crushes the human soul.  I'm obviously using soul in its more psychological/spiritual than religious sense here.  Puritanism is a fundamental rigidity in approaching all things connected with religion or morality.  Such rigidity, in short, stifles and smothers the soul.  Here is Hillman's take on the smothering and stifling nature of puritanism:

Freud's revolution was an attempt to deal with nineteenth-century European puritanism.  Then Jung and Reich did the same thing.  That is the root, psychotherapy is a revolutionary movement against puritanism.  And puritanism has reappeared in our time in all these recovery groups.  What you're recovering from is excess, and from desire - desire for drink, desire for smoke, desire for sex, desire for work.  (Op. cit., p. 216)
Guns and Dysfunctionality

It is a frightening statistic but true nonetheless that there are more guns in America than people.  It's not, then, that you or I is dysfunctional.  It's rather that the whole society, nay, the whole world is dysfunctional.  After all, this is what the like of Freud, R. D. Laing and many others have wisely maintained all along.

The World (Gaia) is Sick

Hillman goes on to argue that people are blind to the fact that the world is figuratively on a life-support machine or at least on dialysis to use another metaphor.  Instead those who attend therapy rather selfishly buy the three big diagnoistic terms thrown at them, viz., codependency, addiction and narcissism.  This is in line even with the modern literary theory of deconstruction where any descriptions we might use of a particular text are descriptions of us the readers, not of the text.  (See op. cit., p. 220)

The Reality of Death

I have long been of the belief that the big repression in modern society is that of the reality of death rather than the repression of sex.  It is basically fear that makes us as a society and culture repress death, and indeed dying.  We just ignore speaking about it, and when we do, our conversation and thoughts are all about our fears.  Why is this so?  Hillman argues that this is so because a modern take of death and dying is that we do so alone, whereas in more primitive cultures death and dying are always looked on as a communal experience, indeed one of the big moments, with birth and entry into adulthood, of life itself which they saw as circular and cyclic, not linear and final.  More primitive societies saw death as a communion with one ancestors, a way of connecting with those gone over to the spiritual world.(See ibid., pp. 224-225)

Conclusion: Focusing on Self versus Focusing on the World

The Fontana del Tritone by Bernini, Roma
Once again, I'm not so sure that I agree with Hillman where he contends that therapy leads to an over-preoccupation with the self.  However, I do admit that a wrong or twisted view of therapy could be interpreted as being so.  He mentions how the very nature of depression turns the person inwards upon himself or herself.  Then he goes on to state a little too boldly that "[t]he very focus that we do on oneself that we do in therapy is, per se, a depressive move.  Therapy could be causin g depression as much as curing it..." (Ibid., p. 231)  Now, undoubtedly this is a provocative and subversive contention, but one worth considering all the same.  Here, once again Hillman is at his gadfly-best.  Focus out on the world, our archetype psychoilogist seems to be arguing, and we will cease to be depressed.  Find the soul in the world and don't be preoccupied with self.  Again, one feels that Hillman is pushing things a little too far.  However, if we are good and authentic pusuers of knowledge and truth we will respect the great debater and questioner that is in both our authors here.

No comments: