Pathemata

The relations between words and objects is based on historic usage, whereas the relation between pathemata and objects is based on likeness. Aristotle’s view necessarily implies that pathemata must be universally similar for all language users since all objects are universally the same. Ludovic De Cuypere, Limiting the Iconic

Along the same line of my previous questioning, what is it that can truly be possessed, how much are thoughts my own or part of a greater, ultimately unfathomable pool of what lies fallow, yet unspoken, unthought, belonging to both no one and everyone? We might ask ourselves just how much does language serve a hermetic value, both as bridge between the world unseen and the world as it is expressed?

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For thousands of years, Western culture has expressed a variety of ideas about soul, whether that of animal, vegetable, human, or the more encompassing idea of a World Soul, an Anima Mundi. We moderns struggle with making sense of, defining, or feeling the presence of soul, whether personal or otherwise. Soul is immaterial, in every sense of word! The struggle for soul is perceptual and experiential; between the reality of tangible, material things, whether located within or without, and the struggle for the valuation of any interior reality, ours and that of all beings – and thereby tending to a vulnerability created by opening to the other that acknowledges an unnamed, unsensed, or invisible world as the very ground of being.

In a dying culture, long held beliefs shatter as misplaced claims to power (rightly or wrongly) that once congealed a people are seen through and abandoned. The abandoning leaves a void. When the gods die, and power is thought to exist only in the visible, mathematically comprehensible human and material realm, the world shrinks. Language and ideas shrink too, limited to both products and byproducts of a human-only world. You may observe this shrinking even in ecological concerns. The most convincing arguments to care about animals, trees, rocks and oceans come through human concerns and actions only.* Everything alas, becomes a human resource. There is a deeper irony here. In a de-animated, dead world, we are dead too.

Commerce_in_The_Apotheosis_of_Washington

“Commerce”: Mercury, god of commerce, with his winged cap and sandals and caduceus, hands a bag of gold to en:Robert Morris, financier of the Revolutionary War. On the left, men move a box on a dolly; on the right, the anchor and sailors lead into the next scene, “Marine.”

If these universal concepts are possessions of the soul and to be considered as psychological knowledge, then they are ideas that all psyches can be said to own, and each of us has a modicum in some form and to some intensity of all the virtues, all the categories, and all the pathemata. Then, the entire gamuts of differentiated concepts are properties of the psyche and constitutes its knowings. But all this knowledge is evidenced only idiosyncratically in the actual state of affairs of this or that person. Even if the psyche knows it all, what knowledge of the soul has an individual person?

Hillman, James (2016-05-08). Philosophical Intimations (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman Book 8) (Kindle Locations 2602-2606). Spring Publications. Kindle Edition.

“…what knowledge of the soul has an individual person?

Good question! I would argue that knowledge understood and experienced as a flowing between an animated, very much alive world** makes the world bigger and much fuller of potential than one in which language and sense are limited to a human-only world.

We cannot bring back the gods once their presence is no longer personally felt, but we might come to understand that the source of the material, thingyness of the world comes from a gooey, smeary, animated world in motion much bigger than us, beyond formulas, human concepts and especially language. Human power cannot replace the gods of antiquity, but only displace and misappropriate an inherent power of the cosmos.

The Trick

Like Hermes, the trickster god of Greek antiquity, language tricks, both opening and closing, as it abstracts from reality, both limiting and delimiting ideas and meaning. Individual words carry soul; animate, enliven – horizontally through history, and vertically as bridges to nonverbal intuition, as do concepts and ideas carry and move soul both within nature and beyond. Language is then that which both creates, reveals and destroys mystery. We cannot claim its power but may align ourselves to receive what it offers us. Our desire for measure, exactitude, accuracy and correspondence between language and reality misses Hermes altogether and rather than constructing a bridge between the two worlds, kills both by failing to perceive the distinctions between them.

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Pathemata then, is what lies beneath, within, without, here, beyond, under, over and above language. It is the inherent and underlying common ground and movement (passion) of living beings, which for Plato and Aristotle necessarily involve suffering.

I’ll end with this text from Voegelin on the Gorgias and Pathos:

Pathos is what men have in common, however variable it may be in its aspects and intensities. Pathos designates a passive experience, not an action; it is what happens to man, what he suffers, what befalls him fatefully, and what touches him in his existential core—as for instance the experiences of Eros (481C-D).

In their exposure to pathos all men are equal, although they may differ widely in the manner in which they come to grips with it and build the experience into their lives. There is the Aeschylean touch even in this early work of Plato, with its hint that the pathema experienced by all may result in a mathema different for each man. The community of pathos is the basis of communication. Behind the hardened, intellectually supported attitudes that separate men lie the pathemata that bind them together. From The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin

*Saving the planet, by its very definition refers to humans saving it for human life. Anything that destroys us, destroys the planet. Ultimately, there is no way to sacrifice only human existence for the sake of all else.

**By alive I mean more than just conscious, aware beings, but the ground of all being itself

Soul-making

Souls can be, among other things, lost, saved, non-existent, or hearty, but do we make soul? If so, what does that mean? What then, is soul?

Perhaps as it should be, I have puzzled for years at James Hillman’s use of the term “soul-making.” Now days, ideas about soul are sometimes dismissed as archaic. So if we are to understand a term like soul-making, shall we not first consider what the word soul itself might mean?

Wiki describes soul as the incorporeal or immortal essence of one’s being. In animism, soul not only belongs to biological forms of life, but to inanimate (according to some western minds anyway) things of nature; rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, etc.

In English, the word soul may have roots meaning to bind, referring back to a time when the binding of the dead was done in order that their ghost would not return to haunt the living. It is also related to words like anima and psyche, both which refer to the life force, breath, or consciousness that enliven and nourish, much as the umbilical cord nourishes the unborn in the womb of its mother.

So, if soul is already a given, as an essence or a part of us, what are we making? Can soul have qualities of growth, depth or expansion? Does soul change, and if so, in what ways?

File:Soffito dei semidei 46 angelo che pesa le anime.JPGFor Hillman, through the study of world myths, esoteric traditions and the ideas of different cultures, he sees soul distinct from spirit with both being related to vertical movement. Here verticality refers to the motion between up and down; rising and falling, ascending and descending. We tend to associate ascension with all that is positive and desirable. We hear it in statements like: “at the top,” “climbing that mountain,” “rise above it,” “moving up,” “growing up,” or “upward mobility.” But is up the only direction that corresponds to the nature of our existence? Is it our only source of nourishment and how does ascension relate to soul? Do phrases like “going down,” “falling,” “hitting bottom,” “nose-diving,” reveal a preference for ascending over descending movement ? Hillman refers to this preference as the ascensionist fantasy.

Souls CodeIn his book, The Souls Code, Hillman uses the image of an acorn growing into an oak tree to return us to a verticality that values both the motion of descending and ascending. Forever ascending,  where we are only going up and growing up, keeps us above it all, as if our embodied life on earth, with all the dirt, decay and stuff of life is no more than an obstacle on the path to spirit and the heavens above. Do not the roots and ground also provide necessary nourishment for body, soul and spirit? Does not gravity serve a purpose too?

Hillman uses the expression “growing down” to return us to the need for depth, both physically through the ground that provides food for us, and psychologically for the soul’s need of depth. In growing down, we land on our feet, where our eyes and bodies attach themselves to the things of this world, where finding our purpose can be found through physical embodiment, both our own and that of all creatures. Attachment, an idea that has come to mean, “an inability to let go, possessiveness” here means “feeling attracted to, caring for, loving, or in relation to.”

Hillman sees soul itself as a perspective, the means by which we become aware of not only that which is above but that which lies beneath us, unseen, the invisible roots that provide stability as well as nourishment.

I like to imagine the ground and all that it holds – our past – for all that has gone before lies beneath us, and becomes food for the future. Remembering too, that we will someday join the long line of ancestors by becoming part of the soil for feeding future generations. Soul-making then is that which binds us to all things; the past, present and future, giving equal footing to both the physical nature of living beings and the faculties we have for thinking, feeling, loving and creating. In this sense, every thought, emotion, deed, birth and death matters through our participation in soul-making and the physical ground of our being; the earth and sky around us.

Trees and plants in particular are great images for rootedness. As they move deeper down into the ground, they provide stability and nourishment as well as contribute to the creation of the ground of being. If this is true for trees, how much more so for us?

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The Tree of Life

Tending towards a love of flight, freedom of motion and lofty ideas myself, I can begin to see why it is challenging for me, not only to get a sense of what soul-making is, but to incorporate it into a day-to-day embodiment. Our awareness can abstract itself away from the physical, and often seem disembodied, an amazing thing about being human, I think. But, I have found for myself anyway that living in a way that disregards any relationship, whether an interior or exterior one, usually leads me towards neglect and a loss of potential for love, beauty and the profound mystery that life is.

Keeping the Change

Black Rock 10-2012 381While it’s accurate for me to say that I write for sanity and to clarify for myself ideas and experiences while engaging others who may have similar desires and needs, I can’t pretend to understand fully why particular ideas and perspectives fascinate me and repeatedly hold claim to my time and energy. I only know that repetition, even if imaged as a spiraling rather than a simple circling, seems inescapable. The form of life may be linear, while the content thankfully is not. I do occasionally tire from my own repetitions although I admit to not knowing of a cure from them.

As the sun seems to be crawling reluctantly across the sky in December darkness, everything, including my thoughts, seem to be dipping into the shadows. I can’t tell what is helpful and sometimes feel that there is always some part of me that I am forever looking for.

My dreams concur, repeatedly setting me in motion. Recent themes find me traveling, encountering people, places, houses, rooms, buildings, animals, occasionally with pauses for conversation, abrupt weather, fearful chases or erotic beauty.

Dayworld too brings with it the sense of movement; there’s nothing or no one to pin down, as Bob Dylan says, “People don’t live or die, people just float.” Perhaps more than any other time, change has become the status quo; we believe in it and expect it – even when it doesn’t bring us quite what we expected, we simply look to more change to rectify the unexpected. But in living with the constancy of change I wonder if we’re not inviting more and more the desire to become the unchanged? Are the changes outside of our control that come through technology, makeovers, relocation, vacation inviting an unchanging self?

Winter iceEarly in my life it seemed life’s floating was seamless, unquestioned, spontaneous. Perhaps that is how childhood with its abiding sense of innocence need be. The transition to adulthood brought with it a self-consciousness as the sense of separation between self and other, inside/outside seemed more and more apparent. That led to the unrelenting question of, “who am I and who are you, if we are not the same?”

There are many ways to answer and account for our differences, but I have always secretly felt that there is, even though dimly intuited, a common meeting place where our creativity springs forth from. A common wealth that when tapped into expands the ideas we have of ourselves and the world to include ideas found by others that we are looking for – not only from the famous or the experts, but in the everyday encounters we have with each other.

Perhaps we live with a diminished sense of self when fear, apathy, belief and knowledge shelter us from being touched by each other and keep us from realizing the potential we have when touched by others and being touched by them. By touch I mean a touch of the heart, a sharing of thought, feeling and vulnerability with another as if they had something you needed.

Jung says in the Red Book:

“You are hard, my soul, but you are right. How little we still commit ourselves to living. We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law. We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life. We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light. How can we presume to want to know in advance, from where the light will come to us?”

Jung, Carl (2013-08-30). The Red Book (Text Only Edition: No images or Scholarly Footnotes!) (Kindle Locations 376-379). . Kindle Edition.

The perspectives offered by myth, in which the invisibles are personified through stories of their adventures and relationships can be ways to practice hearing others. The heroes, villains, tricksters, creators and destroyers of mythology found in any culture articulate the multi-faceted nature of not just human nature but the primary experiences of the world. Of myth, Liz Greene says:

“The language of myth is still, as ever, the secret speech of the inarticulate human soul; and if one has learned to listen to this speech with the heart , then it is not surprising that Aeschylos and Plato and Heraclitus are eternal voices and not merely relics of a bygone and primitive era.”

Greene, Liz (1985-01-15). The Astrology of Fate (Kindle Locations 374-376). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

It could also be that for us moderns what removes from us the possibility of seeing mythologically the themes in our lives is a theme of believing in a unity of our personal identity. This is the dark side of unity that mistakes undifferentiated oneness for unity rather than unity as that which unites the many parts through the differentiation of their natures. Perhaps wholeness is the desire for differentiated unity, but can never quite be experienced in oneself without the sense that others are crossing the bridge with you.

“But our ruler is the spirit of this time, which rules and leads in us all. It is the general spirit in which we think and act today. He is of frightful power, since he has brought immeasurable good to this world and fascinated men with unbelievable pleasure. He is bejeweled with the most beautiful heroic virtue, and wants to drive men up to the brightest solar heights, in everlasting ascent.

No one should be astonished that men are so far removed from one another that they cannot understand one another, that they wage war and kill one another. One should be much more surprised that men believe they are close, understand one another and love one another. Two things are yet to be discovered. The first is the infinite gulf that separates us from one another. The second is the bridge that could connect us.”

Jung, Carl (2013-08-30). The Red Book (Text Only Edition: No images or Scholarly Footnotes!) (Kindle Locations 2597-2600). . Kindle Edition.

Religion, re-organized

I hear it said by many today, that spirituality is the important thing, religion not so much. I take this to mean that some people have come to prefer not belonging to a particular church, even though spirituality remains an important part of their life. Sometimes people tell me religion is an obstacle to God. If you ask me, being human is the biggest obstacle to encountering God, as well as to encountering each other and sometimes even oneself.

I don’t know how the cultural history of the of the word “religion” led to its popular meaning today of “blind and boring ritual that has nothing to do with God”, but you often hear the profession “I am spiritual, not religious.” The root, “religere,” meaning to bind, is a fitting way to describe what happens to the heart smitten by God or anything that comes to hold power over us. If my religion binds me to God or anything else, is it the binding itself that is too hard to bear? Even with greater than ever freedom, we moderns often suffer from a decreased capacity to bind, commit to, and especially to stay the course. We move, change jobs and partners more often than any generation in the past.

Perhaps it is so that many people who have had a gripping encounter with transcendence are disappointed when the church experience fails to deliver to them any sort of connection to God, to others, or even to oneself. Having had several transcendent encounters with the invisibles, ancestral and angelic, it never occurred to me to view church and spirituality as mutually exclusive or inclusive locations to meet up with unseen entities.

I have attended church in the hopes of encountering God. More often than not, the only encounter I have is with myself, my thoughts, feelings, hopes and worries wherever they happen to be that day. But there is an encounter in church that seems to require the confines of sensual structure; the building, the people, and our increased reception to what enters into us both physically and mentally because of the particularity of place, time and otherness.

People outside church may also be similarly engaged, but the people in church; those at Mass who are there for the ritual, believe they will encounter the risen Christ. They are there to absorb the essence of God – body, blood and spirit – into themselves in the hopes of transforming their imperfections, weaknesses, and human frailty.

The church then is a container of sorts, in the same way that marriage, family or friendship is. There is something happening in us when we are contained. A relationship is constellated between the members that shapes meaning and purpose for each of us, and a shared identity between us. Parts of others that enter inside us inhabit us like furniture inspiring us with ideas and emotion. Over the course of our lives these relationships are a part of what transforms us.

There’s really no guarantee that those who still choose to go to a particular church with a ritual practice are necessarily doing so for a deeper transcendent relationship with a higher power. They may very well be in a blind stupor, endlessly repeating meaningless ritual because they are comfortable sheep in need of a shepherd.

Scan from Mystery of the Golden Flower by C. G. Jung

For those outside of traditional religious practice it may seem unnecessary, restrictive, blind and unoriginal to organize one’s practice institutionally among a flock or herd. Although I have left as many churches as I have joined, it is bittersweet to me that none of these practices have stuck. The religious urge remains, as Jung noted,

“You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.”