Love and Betrayal

For we must be clear that to live or love only where one can trust, where there is security and containment, where one cannot be hurt or let down, where what is pledged in words is forever binding, means really to be out of harm’s way and so to be out of real life. And it does not matter what is this vessel of trust–analysis, marriage, church or law, any human relationship. Yes, I would even say relationship with the divine. Even here, primal trust would not seem to be what God wants. Look at Eden, look at Job, at Moses denied entrance to the Holy land, look at the newest destruction of his “chosen people” whose complete only trust was in him.

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And ultimately, look at Christ, the son of the father, God, abandoned to his fate to die on the cross. Imagine the moment when Christ realizes his fate! Regardless of the theological implications, or our personal beliefs, betrayal, I am coming to understand, belongs to all of us, and in a most peculiar and ironic way. Betrayal, anyway, is given within the Christian foundations of the West, and can also be found in the mythologies of other cultures. It’s necessary, a given, in a world where life is defined by impermanence; death.

It would seem that the message of love, the Eros mission of Jesus, carries its final force only through the betrayal and crucifixion. For at the moment when God lets him down, Jesus becomes truly human, suffering a human tragedy, with his pierced and wounded side from which flows the water and blood, the released fountain of life, feeling, and emotion.

Much like death, without the possibility of betrayal, trust would not be necessary, nor possible. We trust because of the possibility of betrayal. Betrayal stings like nothing else, as it shakes our trust and threatens the very existence of love, if not our hearts and very lives. For in love especially, a betrayal strikes at the core of the most soft and fleshy parts of ourselves; the heart, the most necessary organ of life of both the body and soul.

If we’re fortunate enough, the pain of betrayal will lead us back home, to ourselves, and in licking our wounds we may come to find that at root, betrayal is two-fold. Along with the initial wounding from a source other than ourselves, we may discover that the vulnerability to betrayal stings so much because it is something shared across the boundaries of self and other. If I look long and deeply enough, I find that betrayal exists in me as much as it does in you. My fear of betrayal, leads me into an experience of betrayal, both mine and yours, rendering us both fallible, innocent and willing, if not guilty.

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The alienation from one’s self after betrayal is largely protective. One doesn’t want to be hurt again, and since this hurt came about through revealing just what one is, one begins not to live from that place again…

…For it was just through this trust in these fundamentals of one’s own nature that one was betrayed. So we refuse to be what we are, begin to cheat ourselves with excuses and escapes, and self betrayal becomes nothing other than Jung’s definition of neurosis uneigentlich leiden, inauthentic suffering. One no longer lives one’s own form of suffering, but through mauvaise foi, through lack of courage to be, one betrays oneself.

What’s love got to do with it, you might ask. Love is the willingness to accept life on life’s terms, including all of the vulnerability possible from the moment of birth unto death. Love is at its fullest expression just when it is most vulnerable, potentially lost through a million different ways. Perhaps it is not even the love that is lost to us, but that we are lost to love. The fear of its loss keeps love away and that in itself is the deepest self-betrayal we might know.

This is ultimately, I suppose, a religious problem, and we are rather like Judas or Peter in letting down the essential thing, the essential important demand to take on and carry one’s own suffering and be what one is no matter how it hurts.

Perhaps after an experience of betrayal has been absorbed into the bones of our flesh, the ways in which we trust lose some of the softness and idealizations. One can trust, but with the understanding that we come to it freely and without the expectation of infallibility. The risks of betrayal going wrong to the point of losing heart and soul, giving up on humanity and life itself, belong to trust as a way to contain it. The containment itself sets limits on our expectations, and also might heighten our sensitivities to a fuller spectrum of our humanity.

One cannot re-establish primal trust once one has left Eden. One now knows that promises hold only to a certain point. Life takes care of vows, fulfilling them or breaking them. And new relationships after the experience of betrayal must start from an altogether different place.

Hillman goes on to refer to love’s opposite not as hatred, but power:

Certainly a part of love is responsibility; so too is concern, involvement, identification – but perhaps a surer way of telling whether one is closer to the brute or the sage is by looking for love’s opposite: power. If betrayal is perpetuated mainly for personal advantage (to get out of a tight spot, to hurt or use, to save one’s skin, to gain pleasure, too still a desire or slake a need, to take care of Number One), then one can be sure that love had less the upper hand than did the brute, power.

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It is perhaps only through the insights of an experience of betrayal that we become more able to discern the dynamics of relationship, not only between people or situations, but within one’s self. Ultimately, betrayal needs to find a way to forgive, again, both self and other. Our humanity, and the ability to love freely, accepting the limits of the conditions that we find ourselves in, depend upon it.

Just as trust had within it the seed of betrayal, so betrayal has within it the seed of forgiveness. This would be the answer to the last of our original questions: “What place has betrayal in psychological life at all”? Neither trust nor forgiveness could be fully realized without betrayal. Betrayal is the dark side of both, giving them both meaning, making them both possible. Perhaps this tells us something about why betrayal is such a strong theme in our religions. It is perhaps the human gate to such higher religious experiences as forgiveness and reconciliation with this silent labyrinth, the creation.

It’s both difficult and astounding to fully grasp and accept that the highest powers of creation, be they God, or the forces of nature would knowingly contain such brute forces. It does sometimes feel like an affront to our desire for peace, love and harmony. Our hunger for a world in which evil and pain are eradicated misses the point of who we are in this dimension; temporary, impermanent, fallible beings dreaming, if not somehow sensing, a connection to some other world. At times, I have wondered why we so faithfully carry these images of purity, heaven, perfection, along with so much idealism, that in life, besides the obvious motive of pleasure, we seem only to experience for brief moments of time.

All quotes, James Hillman, Loose Ends, Betrayal

Holy Birthings

“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.” *

512px-William_Blake_006 Hecate

Spirit and matter

Is not the beauty of the Christmas spirit a celebration of the birthing of the holy child, the god incarnate? Might this celebration begin anew in every birthing as yet one more infinitesimal experience of the miracle of spirit and matter manifest as one?

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time.” *

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Matter and spirit are then the form of manifestation in this earthly dimension. No need to transcend the physical, as if you could outside of death, but more to be present to this eternal now; to experience this unique distinction in style and quality of creation’s possibilities. What we call the physical, necessarily then, is embodied spirit. If, or when we are only spirit, it would not be here in this earthly human form.

The Language of Image

Although the modern, much more recent term, is inner and outer space, before this objectified view, heaven was not an outer space separated from an inner form. Who knew where we were but for a small glimpse above into an unfathomable eternal realm. Even the stark contrast of hot star and cold space that we have now measured was unimaginable from this perfectly temperate earthly home.

Spirit and matter bound together as the marriage of Heaven and Earth might now seem an impossible image to carry us along the human journey, and we might still refuse its simple truth that there’s nothing to transcend, nothing split apart, and that it’s only the images we carry telling us differently. Seemingly opposite, spirit and matter are a lover’s embrace necessary for this earthly realm to make manifest in just the way we are in the here and now. In the vastness of space as we now know it, how could it be more sacred, more miraculous?

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In the West in particular, the historical struggle against the elements has become cemented into an idealization of spirit, opposing it to matter as if the two could be separated in this human form of embodied senses. Perhaps too much disregard and devaluing of matter is primarily what has brought us to the brink of ecological and socio-political disaster.

I know I am not alone in the mourning of the loss of these ancient images that embedded a sense of belonging to creation; the miracle and necessity of it. Image itself, seems to be relegated to that of the fanciful or child’s play. No wonder we are so burdened by a dire sense of reality that compels us so passionately and deeply. Is it perhaps in faint recognition of the loss, the burden of action, desire and responsibility so painful that to claim a sense of belonging stifles the heart into a sense of longing?

“And we are put on this earth a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.” *

Love

Traditionally, matter has associations to the feminine and the body; matter, from the root mater, or mother, as in mother Earth as compared to father sky. Matter is often “what’s the matter,” a question, perhaps spiritual in nature, that seeks to identify problems within matter. If overly identified with spirit, we are prone to make unfair claims on matter’s part in the mess of life. But is it not to spirit’s desire that we find the urge to hasten, neglect, chastise and blame the flesh, along with the matter of earthbound being? What if these lovers called a truce and could see the impossibility of any absolute separation, but rather see the space between as degrees and qualities of perception? …and then perhaps lived through a caring for their mutual needs in this eternal dance?

To rise from history to mystery is to experience the resurrection of the body here now, as an eternal reality; to experience the parousia, the presence in the present, which is the spirit; to experience the reincarnation of the incarnation, the second coming; which is his coming in us.

Norma O. Brown

If a more feminine receptivity were to take a deeper root in psyche and find a truer relationship to the spirited masculine, a conversation might take place in which a room is then prepared for the marriage, a holy communion, or Jung’s coniunctio. Perhaps we need the second birth, even the perpetual holy birthing, to realize and actualize what the marriage of Heaven and Earth makes possible through this amazing earthly human experience.

*All quotes and art, except where noted, William Blake

The Suffering of Time

Love and Desire

Perhaps love is only possible in places where it’s understood as a grace or gift, and by necessity, to come and go of its own accord. Love then, is truly beyond any grasping, holding or securing on our part. We can only submit to its power, never fully possessing neither her pains nor delights so graciously bestowed upon us. These limits, Saturn’s way, might seem imposing, thwarting our dreams as beyond what’s possible. But Saturn*, Kronos, is the ancient reminder that there are limits to this Earthly marriage of spirit and matter embodied within the delights of the sense world.

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Saturn blowing smoke into the picture

For us mortals, is not desire then, a being in want, seemingly perpetual? And perhaps, isn’t being-in-want a hunger for change, change imposed by Kronos’ time, satiated, content or complete, all by necessity temporary? How can being in time ever reach any such steady state? Surely the constancy of desire binds us to time, to birth and mortality. Perhaps though, time’s bounty and providence provide that which we might abide more faithfully to, through the images that move us into a deepening appreciation of meaning and purpose. Every possibility and nuance of God lives through us. Our individual fate then is our portion, our share of the Whole, unique and separate as we must be. An incomprehensible gift it is just to be alive (Jupiter).

Love’s boundless mystery, beyond our share (again Jupiter), seems both pregnant with possibility, but also suggests the possibility of refusal to unveil the bride. Impersonal, it holds and carries all of the deepest hopes, dreams and reflections beyond what any one of us could know. Without human embodiment though, do they stay forever untarnished without the mess of time’s daily fare of coming and going?

Meaning and Purpose

Beyond the base needs of food, water, shelter, and after such has been granted, what? What does desire want in its ceaseless weaving of us through the finite vulnerability of living and dying? Or, when not satiated, where else can desire take us?

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Heaven and Earth

Perhaps it is this: to submit to time what belongs in time, to learn to dance with its capricious hold on us, step to the changing, ceaseless rhythms, as they come and go. They move us, shape us. Must we lessen too, the idea of one’s self as the sole creator of the dance and of our very being to accept the invitation? Can we not only see, hear and taste, but be present to the eternal nature of a love so great it must create; must make manifest, even imperfectly an expression of spirit through matter (or spirited matter)?

Not only to speculate, but what is it to experience the eternal nature that we sense, even if only glimpsed in tiny bits and pieces? Desire then, perhaps seeks out these missing pieces as if to make or see whole, perhaps to heal, or to see and feel the wholeness we come from and really belong to. Is that what we see within the mirrors of each other, and especially through the beloved?

Can it be enough to recognize that we are indeed pieces of the whole? For how else can nuance, specificity and the peculiarly odd nature of separation be expressed without time, the temporary, which places such a heavy burden of coming and going upon us. It weighs us down into a life that must continually give way to change and someday, death.

Only time can tell, true, and perhaps, only we humans can know desire in this way; we the tiny scintilla, endlessly reaching out to light a fire, when, or if, we fail to experience its already sustenance through the eternal breath tethering us to life. Breath, the seeming disembodied spirit, cannot not be. That we are possible, and we obviously are, proclaims through us creation as that which is, as it is, within the bounds of eternal possibility. For how can such an apparently inherent possibility come into being?

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Love is free then, yes, but what does that even mean? Love, in some ways, always fails within the limits of time, as it can never completely give us that wholeness of self, or completeness that desire eternally seeks. Then, might we say that love is free through acceptance of the limits we mere mortals are subject to? …and to love and be loved seeks a willingness to submit to the human condition that might disappoint when we ask for more than our share? …and within the perpetual mystery not only of the other, but of one’s self?

This mortal life, within the bounds of such a perfect place that permits such a thing as human being, allows not only a glimpse, but a tiny unique expression of the enormity of God. In this sense, God is beyond necessity, but the love that creates is necessarily fully free to allow for any and all possibilities, including love’s desire and hope, time’s suffering and all that comes and goes through you and I.

*In Hellenistic astrology, Saturn is said to be the greater malefic, and to the ancients, was the end of the heavens, while Jupiter, the greater benefic, was Saturn’s son, one of the few that escaped death by the hand of the father.

 

 

Divination

Divination

The idea of divination has become somewhat maligned in present times, primarily from two opposing currents: a science that places faith entirely in its own material rationalism, and a theology which insists that only God is purely divine, and perhaps worries that seeking knowledge of the future, therefore, opens oneself up to potential evil. While the image of God can harden into literal notions of a super power, a trusted ally, the image remains subject to what fear and desire captures under duress. Rather than a wall, God might also be the veil; the thinning edge transversing dimensions.
Divination than is a practice in which the questions we carry with us come under scrutiny and are refined by experience and the call to love and be loved.

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Divination also suffers a malnourished understanding from secular science which does not give any credence to influences and experiences that cannot be anchored to a system of measured repetition. Divination though, as other practices, is an immeasurable qualitative experience much like love and desire. In a world destroying itself through the glut of unending, destructive, over-consumption, why would we not seek out those practices that expand our capacity for love, satisfaction and the sense of both who, I and Thou are?

“Certainty is absence of infinity, infinity is presence of uncertainty.”
Nanamoli Thera

To limit the idea of divination to that of forecasting the future though, is to miss the idea that it is also a way of seeing and participating in the presence, simultaneously, of both the mundane and the eternal. And if the eternal is that which is all inclusive, then it potentially opens us to that which we don’t know. If God knows, or is all, then every time we learn something new, we are already divining. Where does one draw the line as to what is dangerous, subjective or off limits? …and how might it matter? Through the study of astrology, I am learning to question what it is that divination can provide for us moderns, and learning what it once did in the not so distant past.

Love starts in the personal and means me; then it means my soul and my whole being. Then it moves me, my soul and my being into archetypal being, into a sense of interiority: an interior process contained within me, and myself contained within the interiority of a chaotic universe transformed by love into a cosmos.

James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis

To see into eternity then, is to see into the cosmic order, to glimpse the qualities of God, or the gods, and participate in the realm of coming and going. Love is that which creates from infinity, binding the seeming chaos into an expression of life-giving order. We are already seeing, from all that touches and moves us, an archetypal expression of divinity that calls the little self to something beyond. And without losing that smallness, we may enlarge our perspective through the multi-faceted seeing of multiple dimensions.

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The Sacred Arts of Divination

The arts of divination have been revered and practiced by every culture in every time. These practices might indeed seem to some as an attempt to be God, to steal the gods’ powers, and obviously humans have very much been inclined to use and abuse power for a seeming gain, whether personally or collectively, but divination is not in and of itself the danger. That we have trouble discerning the proper and improper use of power doesn’t go away by refusing the attraction to power, but by discerning the consequences and trade-offs of our uses of it.

The aesthetic sense of divining may provide one with skills for course correction by seeing into the possibilities of not only what the future holds, but more importantly, to see more clearly into the present; to see oneself, others and the nature of the world as it is. Not for truth, but for love’s sake. Ultimately, it is the ever-expansive sense of the present that opens one to experience universal truths and the divine – an experience of which gives substance and weight to all that the soul truly desires: love, compassion and acceptance.

When the aesthetic sense is not disregarded as meaningless, care for the past, present and future come to us more readily through awareness of love and beauty.

To live one’s life practicing an awareness of the patterns that we live by, and to seek to align oneself to an ordering of life which values beauty, love, sustainability, and a fuller participation as one among many, accepting the limits of the conditions of life; its joys and sorrows, gains and losses, is itself a divinatory practice.

Personally speaking

Perhaps the natal chart of astrology can display the players and the patterns in my life experience, that to some extent, I remain bound to and bound by. But the continuity of the patterns also serve as windows into eternity. They show me the universal nature of human experience and by seeing them more clearly, I can, on a good day anyway, choose my response. My response may or may not change any outcome, but it can show me that my response matters and that all human exchanges are really calls to share in love’s beauty.

These openings further the possibility of seeing the sacred in all life, and in seeing the the sacred throughout all worlds, divine and sacred, and ultimately as one.

Q&A: Natal Promise and Planetary Transits

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Knowledge of the Future

What any divinatory practice brings to the fore, are the questions we have, embedded within a call from the unknown, and how it matters to us. But rather than directly providing the knowledge that we believe we need to know – what will happen tomorrow; will I get the job I applied for; will my children be happy, etc. – beginning the process of asking such questions, provides for each of us, images of the desires that capture our attention, the relationships we experience, and how we tell the story of what is happening to us, and the world around us.

What lies at the other end of our quest to know, is perhaps a greater awareness of the nature of our desires through the images we carry of purpose, hope and expectations. This leads to the consideration of just how much influence we do have over the nature of ourselves, other people and situations that we find ourselves in.

Until these fundamental questions about the nature of ourselves, and of the world are allowed to enter into the narrative of our own telling, it seems unlikely that any idea of the divine, or aesthetic of eternal time will even be desirable to us, let alone offer an understanding of what it is we need to make our way through the mystery of love’s purpose.

Desire

At the bottom of every question we ask, friendship we find, house we buy, vacation we take, language we learn, book we read, song we sing, is our perpetual state of want and need. Desire sustains us and belongs to time. We eat, digest, excrete, and we endlessly repeat the cycle. But beyond the desires that sustain us physically, lies a seemingly endless pool of possibilities, just as the starry night seems without bounds or limits. Our relationship to desire feeds, shapes and forms both our character and our destiny on both small and large scales.

Intelligible vs. Omniscience

It is much easier to reject all practices of divination by looking for a failure of omniscience. For then we are off the hook and can stay in our comfort zone. For a true practice, whether of divination, art, writing, music, scientific research or otherwise, requires the courage to move beyond one’s comfort zone and into the unknown. Trust and faith are then necessary and can be found in the everyday world through those who grace our journey, and from the invisible realms of the dream and stream of images that we attend to.

Although it might be true that many who seek out an astrology natal chart or Tarot card reading might be eager to hear “what is going to happen to them,” what might soon become apparent to any seeker is this tug of war between fate and free will. The very act of initiating and submitting to a reading admits one’s fate into the room, as it also invites the idea of “participating via co-operating” with fate by invoking images that “know ahead of time,” or “know at a distance.”

Karma, Fate, and Free Will in Astrology Dr Glenn PERRY

Determinism and Freewill in Astrology Benjamin N DYKES

Objective Versus Subjective Reality in Astrology – Chris Brennan and Benjamin Dykes

Story and Fate

You can say the human heart is only make believe
And I am only fighting fire with fire
But you are still a victim
Of the accidents you leave
As sure as I’m a victim of desire

Billy Joel

In his book, Healing Fiction, James Hillman compares the ideas of Jung, Adler and Freud as the influential backdrop within the therapeutic setting. He compares this modern psychological ritual to story telling, where within a contained space, the therapist and analysand each play a part through the plots and themes of personal pathology as a form of poiesis.

Psychoanalysis is a work of imaginative tellings in the realm of poiesis, which means simply “making,” and which I take to mean making by imagination into words. Our work more particularly belongs to the rhetoric of poiesis, by which I mean the persuasive power of imagining in words, an artfulness in speaking and hearing, writing and reading.

…Plot reveals these human intentions. Plot shows how it all hangs together and makes sense. Only when a narrative receives inner coherence in terms of the depths of human nature do we have fiction, and for this fiction we have to have plot.

Plot reveals to us the nature of the setting; the what, why, how and who, where cohesiveness brings the elements together as story; something that brings sense and meaning to our lives and upon reflection gives one the opportunity for understanding; who am I “in relation to.” Hillman refers to this as a need to found oneself within a story:

I need to remember my stories not because I need to find out about myself but because I need to found myself in a story I can hold to be “mine.” I also fear these stories because through them I can be found out, my imaginal foundations exposed.

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Story may expose us, but if in some sense we can see the compelling nature of story, and see ourselves held, contained and carried along within it, we might also come to see its beauty and necessity. For how else can the telling happen outside of our compulsion as teller?

Has not story been with us for as long as we have any evidence at all for humanity’s past? And even those long ago cave paintings, upon one glance, do they not compel us into their story? Here is where notions of truth, law, fact and history might not be necessary, for where truth cannot be told, honesty may still prevail.

Because stories are not beholden to the truth, they carry necessity into a revelation of something beyond ideal and objectivity. And to be found, not just by any story, but “my” story, may remind me of that ongoing relationship between the inescapable subjective experience and the desire for belonging to that realm beyond one’s personal limits, even though objectivity may never be experienced as a timeless truth.

From the compulsive desire for its purity, truth and power may still serve us well as what urges our way forward, drawing us impossibly toward some unobtainable goal, and so, closer to each other, compelling within us a deeper understanding, acceptance, compassion and love, and as well into an imaginative vision that points beyond the limits of “me,” to the greater whole we belong to.

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How then does fate, if we can imagine such a thing, enter into the story? Fate may not mean fatalistic – for our death is in any case already a given. But fate can be understood as the conditions that contain us, imposing certain limits, both universal and personal in nature. If character reveals the constraints of our condition, determining probable outcomes, then fate is the revelation of the conditions, limits, assets and deficits acting upon us through time, endowing us each with uniqueness. Fate then, is the relationship between character and plot within the story that “founds” us.

Fate, in this sense, need not be understood as that which opposes free will, but rather, that which reveals something through relationship within the story, moving and shaping character as poiesis. Fate in this sense is where the plot reveals itself through character and impulse within the passions we feel for the stories images. Here is where we may be tempted to rescue the story itself, becoming the hero of our own life.

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But rather than pinning ourselves to any notion of actor vs. script writer, the conflicts in our storied lives could be understood as having a Dionysian quality, displaying a necessary tension as the drama within the story; that inescapable aspect of experience inherent within the nature of being as a “coming and going.” The beauty of seeing life as a story may lie in the notion that it saves us from the burden of looking only for truth by accepting the limits of our ability to know more than our share of it.

Dionysian consciousness understands the conflicts in our stories through dramatic tensions and not through conceptual opposites; we are composed of agonies not polarities. Dionysian consciousness is the mode of making sense of our lives and worlds through awareness of mimesis, recognizing that our entire case history is an enactment, “either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-pastoral,” [34] and that to be “psychological” means to see myself in the masks of this particular fiction that is my fate to enact.

I would place ecstasies right alongside the agonies, where both heighten the capacity for losing ourselves in the story, believing in it, compelled by its necessity and the forceful enactment of our character. The question of fate and character makes clear life’s struggles. Through struggle, and the strange but enduring resistance we might bring to character and fate, both may harden and soften through the more humbling chapters of the story, inviting reflection as that which reveals to us a double nature; the character within and the writer of the story. So then what?

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The double nature that we experience through reflection can serve as a force for reimagining the story forward. Although we may not be the only writer of the story, or actor on the stage, what comes clear to us through the passing of time, are the subtle possibilities of plot twists and turns, that because we are already participating in, we now can see anew the part that we play. Perhaps though, the possibility for this sort of intrusion into character and fate, requires something be made of the distinction between the character and the writer. While the character within the story is that which is revealed, where do we find the writer?

If the writer is unknown, therein lies the necessity for an ongoing unknowing as praxis. The fictional self, the written, or Hillman’s, “founded,” when not confined to literal notions of cemented identities, shows us possibilities, each revealing some aspect of reality which without the writer remain unrealized:

If Asclepius is archetypal figure of the healer, Hermaphroditus is the archetypal figure of healing, the psychic healing of imagination, the healing fiction, the fictional healer for whom no personal pronoun fits, impossible in life and necessary in imagination. This figure also helps us revalue the antithetical mode of thinking. It becomes a Siamese-twin mode of insight. One is always never-only-one, always inseparably bound in a syzygy, insighting from a member of a pair. [9] Within these tandems we become able to reflect insight itself, to regard our own regard.

“To regard our own regard,” is akin to Jeffrey Kripal’s notion of authoring the impossible into the possible, where we risk moving out of the story and into the chair of the writer. But for the relationship to be a living one, the syzygy must remain present to us. As well, an opening, if we are to find one within the syzygy, needs our willing submission. To do otherwise, would impose a sense of ownership which risks the closing off of the source which remains as other, and that which would facilitate the story, its characters and our fate.

Except as noted, all quotes: Hillman, James. Healing Fiction . Spring Publications. Kindle Edition.

Soul Possession

img_20190101_0740554066751106643737295.jpgIt’s easy to see how the capitalism of an economy structures the dynamics between people and sociopolitical relationships within a culture, particularly with an emphasis on people and resources in service of production and economic growth, rather than an economy in service of the people. When understood as one of the dynamics driving, not only outer relationships, but inner realms as well, we might wonder in what ways the economy shapes our notions of self and other.

As the exchange of money drives such a large part of how we survive, giving access to all of the necessities to sustain one’s existence, does it not also permeate our identities by requiring a response to one’s relationship to the economic cultural norms? For what facet of life remains untouched by the economic system that we have so little choice but to “buy in to?” Doesn’t the agreement that “nothing is free” now demand that we participate in the scheme as producers, but not of the goods themselves, but of the economy?

No longer do we work in service of the necessities that sustain us, but in service of money itself and the myriad, abstract forms of goods in exchange. Credit, insurance, stock market, loans, investments are hardly, if ever associated directly with the goods, but have also become things to purchase. The goods and services that we purchase have become in some sense, secondary, reliant on affording and financing their ownership. They are the reward, or prize, granted us for our buying in to the system. The gratification of ownership must draw us in for the economy to “work.”

James Hillman, in his essay, A Contribution to Soul and Money,” likens the psychology of money to the sea, “deep and broad as the ocean, the primordial unconscious…” where it “…makes us so.”

Money is as protean as the sea-God himself…

Money is like the id itself, the primordially repressed, the collective unconscious appearing in specific denominations, that is, precise quanta or configurations of value, i.e., images. Moneys are the riches of Pluto in which Hades’ psychic images lie concealed. To find imagination in yourself or a patient, turn to money behaviors and fantasies. You both will soon be in the underworld (the entrance to which requires a money for Charon).*

Mynt_-_Skoklosters_slott_-_100291.tifIf money takes us deep into the underworld, and we live, as Hillman also believed, by an economically driven myth, who are we in the story? As I write this essay, I am struck not only by how readily economically flavored language and metaphor appear, but how these same terms have gained currency in other facets of life. In particular, the idea of ownership is not only an economic term, but a psychological one. The word has a curious history relating to the word, possession:

From Wiki: Own (v.)

c. 1200, ouen, “to possess, have; rule, be in command of, have authority over;” from Old English geagnian, from root agan “to have, to own” (see owe), and in part from the adjective own (q.v.). It became obsolete after c. 1300, but was revived early 17c., in part as a back-formation of owner (mid-14c.), which continued. From c. 1300 as “to acknowledge, admit as a fact,” said especially of things to one’s disadvantage. To own up “make full confession” is from 1853. Related: Ownedowning.

Laborers_sorting,_weighing,_and_stacking_cabbages_at_the_Beach_and_Parker_Farm-_Elkton,_Florida_(3312106508)In an earlier time, it’s likely that there wasn’t enough “ownership,” in the way of personal property, for the term to be used in an economic context. That the connotation was negative shows how the idea has transformed over time as the modern myth of economy took root. The word “economy” relates to the idea of household and thrift which also saw an expanded usage in the 17th century as something applicable to the State.

What’s curious to me is the correlation between the emphasis of an idea that we might take for granted; that of the self as individual, separate, unique and free – as in not belonging to an other – as outcomes of the construct of an economy; its language, ideas and functionality, both of which have imposed upon us, a particular way of understanding the nature of the individual in economic terms. But which shall we say came first? Is this a chicken and egg situation? Perhaps.

I tend to think that the change in a style of consciousness was the catalyst that allowed for increasingly abstract ways of thinking about power and potential, in which the combination of the ideas of growth, separation and expansion, took hold of the modern psyche. But in this instance, the particular change in a style of consciousness is the move away from a polytheistic world where the gods’ and nature’s power once controlled and determined our fate, towards a monotheistic world, where the gods of old have been supplanted by an increasingly transcendent God. As God transcends, power shifts back to earth, embedded in the hopes and dreams that rational science provides.

The problem with growth and expansion appear if we then begin to mistake the means as the goal. Instead of an economy with soul, where value resides in what brings beauty to life, growth and expansion make a psychological claim on us, where it can be seen to reflect an underlying dynamic of the need for increasing power and control over individual destiny. This shift not only enhances the sense of oneself as distinct and separate, and therefore accountable, but through a hierarchical dynamic tends to reward those who adapt to the shift.

603px-Eduardo_Matania_Beim_Die_geschlossene_Bank_1870s

Those who adapt, learn to live by the metaphors of ownership and possession, where individuality as the core idea, shapes modern identity. It’s infectious, as all ideas are that seem to bring about immediate reward and gratification. Once the psychological shift infiltrates the collective, technology, as the means to increased survival and comfort, furthers the rewards of personal identity, as our value and identity begins to merge with what we own. But as well, as individuals, the culpability for one’s behavior, choices and possessions increases the need for protection through yet another purchase: insurance.

This dynamic is still very much in play as we moderns now argue over who is responsible for both personal and collective messes we find ourselves in.  Ironically, through the successes of technology, abstracted into a love of money for its own sake, the goal becomes the assurance of means, rather than in the value of the things themselves. Here we finally see money completely devoid of both soul and value.

Perhaps the more that money itself loses soul – devalued and devoid of a connection to the divine – the more its use is corrupted, in the same way that amassing a mountain of things, deflate both their value and meaning. I agree with Hillman, who sees that it is not money itself that is the problem, but the loss of its connection to soul and value, as can often be witnessed through one’s relationship to money.

As long as our belief system inherently depreciates money, it will always threaten the soul with value distortions. Depressions, inflation, bad credit, low interest – these psychological metaphors have hardened into unconscious economic jargon. Having “de-based” money from its archetypal foundations in psychic reality, money attempts a new literal and secular foundation for itself as “the bottom line.” But this bottom does not hold, because any psychic reality that has been fundamentally depreciated must become symptomatic, ‘go crazy,’ in order to assert its fundamental archetypal autonomy.

In conclusion, I would add that the ways in which culture structures itself, readily seen in the shared public places of commerce and the daily grind of our personal routines, reflect back to us the nature of a shared psychic reality. As the structures in place appear to tumble into chaos, and we feel our discontent mount, perhaps some shift within us calls more deeply to find value in the hidden beauty, as a pearl residing both within ourselves and in others.

*Un less otherwise noted, all quotes: James Hillman, Soul and Money Spring Publications

 

Zeus and Hera: Images of a Divine Syzygy

Zeus

“He was a sky god, associated with wind, rain, thunder, and lightning, and was the master of spiritual phenomena, since it was the spirit realm that was signified by the sky and the manifestations of the weather. He was a carrier of justice and judgment, an embodiment of law and the punisher of transgression of the law, accomplished by the hurling of the thunderbolt. He was the personification of creative energy, which constantly spilled out and had an unceasing urge to impregnate, hence his perpetual love affairs.” Edward Edinger, The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology

Zeus 512px-Rubens_medici_cycle_meeting_at_Lyon

In Edinger’s description of Zeus, we see the image of a powerful masculine ruler of the heavens. Although Zeus is still one of many gods, he is both leader and creator of the pantheon. And just as importantly, we see Zeus’ engagements with his wife, Hera, not as his compliment, but as a shadowy cohort. And although Zeus and Hera are said to be married, the relationship seems less relational and more pro-generative. Zeus is much less interested in a relationship with Hera, but rather a preoccupation with the power to endlessly create through the continual love affairs outside of his marriage. In the realm of the gods, we may see these creative urges as saying less about the familial, and more about the archetypal urge towards expansion through creative reproduction, or differentiating and articulating the One through the diversity of the Many.

Edinger’s own words, in which he declares Zeus as he who “…comes closest of all the members of the Pantheon to embodying the whole Self,” we see an obvious bias, still with us today, towards a preference for a more masculine style of consciousness. Hera, on the other hand, as the feminine divine, is somehow a necessary accomplice and more of a saturnine threat of imprisonment that spurs on Zeus’ impulse for freedom. If the stories of the gods are expressions of particular styles of consciousness, we are glimpsing the ways in which Western civilization values the initiatory force of masculine power, while reducing the value of the feminine, as that which induces fear in the masculine, of time-bound constraint, and the threat of limitation. Is then, the masculine impulse a prerequisite for creative action that requires an abandoned shadowy feminine? If so, is this dynamic the springboard from which Western Civilization arose?

We might pause here to remind ourselves when considering ideas about mythology to see them not so much as literal figures representing male and female, or even as ways to understand male and femaleness, but as powers of the psyche whose dynamics take hold of the cultural imagination and live through us, sanctified, although sometimes shadowy collective influences. As dynamics, these traits persist, even where individuals themselves may more or less incorporate them within a particular lifetime.

“There are long lists of the lovers of Zeus, and by and large they had an unhappy time of it. Hera, personifying the feminine embodiment of the Self, was fiercely opposed to these dalliances, and would often punish Zeus’ lovers. For example, Zeus fell in love with the beautiful Io and then turned her into a white cow so that she could escape Hera’s detection. This ruse failed and Hera set gadflies after her which, stinging, pursued her around the world.”

Edinger, Edward F.. The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology

Zeus,_Semele_und_Hera._Flämisch,_3._Viertel_17._Jahrhundert_(Erasmus_Quellinus_II_oder_Jan_Erasmus_Quellinus)

Rather than the separate dynamics of masculine and feminine, aren’t we though, seeing a syzygy  within the relationship between Zeus and Hera? And, in what ways do these dynamics reassemble within our own modes of modern day consciousness? Although there’s no denying that the archetypes play out between actual men and women, and that men and women are afforded different degrees of power by virtue of their physical nature and social-political norms, can we also see the ways in which all of us have inherited a portion of Zeus’ quest for power, and Hera’s jealous ploys to address or balance the excess? For if as Jung states, the gods have become diseases, surely this syzygy is one of them! The more a Zeus-like excess threatens to destroy the world as we know it, the more outrageous the response of Hera’s house-holding economics becomes.

Where Edinger sees Zeus as the bold exhort of creativity, bringing the endless gifts of light and expanding consciousness, perhaps through the shadowy side of that light we see an insatiable desire for power accompanied by a complete disregard for consequences, desperately in need of Hera’s restraint. Does he then, not attempt to appease her with the riches of the household and all the distraction and substitution for feminine creativity it might contain?

Hera

“There are long lists of the lovers of Zeus, and by and large they had an unhappy time of it. Hera, personifying the feminine embodiment of the Self, was fiercely opposed to these dalliances, and would often punish Zeus’ lovers.” Edward Edinger

Within the syzygy, isn’t this just a little too lopsided a view of Hera’s role? While she remains that which shadows Zeus, the syzygy is deprived of the feminine aspect of creative urges. Perhaps we see in Hera the opportunity to imagine the qualities of a divine feminine as that embodiment of containment and restriction necessary for the creative powers of Zeus to be of actual service. But as the keeper of the household, amassing possessions to appease her, we see only opportunity missed.

Jupiter and Io, espied by Juno by Italian SchoolIt bears noting that if we are in the midst of an era of a lopsided patriarchal power, and that power has become the exploitative grandiosity of “too much of a good thing” that underlies so much of what is going wrong, the story of Zeus and Hera might help us to see in what ways Hera’s feminine resistance is not only missing, but could be a necessary correction. And how interesting it might be to see Hera’s plea as the desire for a more relational mode of being. It might help us too, to train the eyes for images of the masculine and feminine in syzygy that do appear in a relational dynamic in which excess and constraint are bound together, reflecting the necessity for each other.

In James Hillman’s, Mythic Figures, he echoes Edinger’s idea of the necessity for Zeus to go off on his heroic quest of never-ending expansion. Although Hillman is looking the phenomenon straight in the eye, he doesn’t apply the myth to our current cultural mess.

If we don’t know the myths, we don’t understand what fantasies we have when we go into a union. When we go into the bedroom we don’t know which myth we are enacting. He goes into the cave with the fantasy of a child of Venus. For him this is a pleasurable, delightful experience. But she is under the guidance of Juno. She goes in with the marriage fantasy of deep coupling. Soon after he gets a message from Hermes that he must get on with his job which is to go found Rome, and so he sets sail. She’s absolutely destroyed. Desertion, betrayal. For him it’s not a betrayal because he came with a different fantasy. For her, it is a radical violation of the laws of the universe, the very Queen of Heaven. And she never forgives him, because she appears in the Underworld still enraged, embittered forever.

Hillman, James. Mythic Figures. Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

He does goes on to imply that Hera might find consolation through domestication in the care and maintenance of the household which has become her domain; a place where she can invest her powers as an “upholder of civilization,” but where her creative impulse remains outwardly directed inside the house.

Society is intimately connected in Hera to the psyche and to biological laws. In that way she is the upholder of civilization, of providing the homestead, the economy, the household, the domestication, the husbandry of civilization, so that marriage becomes something dedicated to service to principles higher than personal happiness. The house stands for both civil society and my personal property.

Hillman, James. Mythic Figures. Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Where Zeus and Hera provide an archetypal background for both marriage and economy as the primary structures that uphold Western Civilization, we can perhaps begin to recognize the correlative loss of the riches once known through pagan and tribal cultures, where, although the creative impulse may never have given us the bounty that the West provided, but provided a more direct experience of the divine in its rituals and recognition of the value of the collective. Through Zeus, Hera and much of the mythology of the Greek pantheon, we get a glimpse of what truly distinguishes us, but also of what ultimately keeps us heroically driven, outwardly expanding, inwardly impoverished, all in response to the creative impulse gone wildly independent and outside of relationship. Perhaps there is a middle way that could flourish if we survive the current tests of our time.