Thursday, May 16, 2024 #51

 In 2024, whether we are prepared to acknowledge it or not, behind the bombs and missiles, the drones and the killings in both Ukraine and Gaza, there are words, strategies, tactics and philosophies, even religious roots, lurking both within the conflicts and among the observers outside the boundaries of the conflicts.

(In Sudan, from most reports, the conflict seems to be primarily between two military forces, the SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). However, from the website,, in a piece entitled, Sudan Civil War: History & Implications (6 Root Causes), Updated January 22, 2024, we read, as one of the causes, ‘The Second Sudanese Civil War, which spanned from 1983 to 2005,,,,,was fueled by long-standing religious and ethnic divisions between the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum and the predominantly Christian and animist populations in the southern regions of Sudan….The imposition of Islamic Sharia law by the Sudanese government in 1983 heightened discontent in the predominantly non-Muslim southern regions, contributing to a sense of cultural and religious oppression.)

Reporting on military and civil strife remains ‘spotty’ and inconsistent, given a number of factors, among which are news resources, editorial slant, audience level of literacy and concentration, and bald economics and politics. Currently, both Gaza and Ukraine are dominating media reports in North America, while Sudan hovers like a storm cloud of millions of desperate refugees and migrants, many of whom face starvation and death, if the world, though the United Nations, does not intervene. Reporting on daily newspapers and live television networks, tends to focus on the immediacy of the casualties, the numbers of bombs, drones, missiles, and the response of the defence. Horse races, and their coverage, rarely dig into the back-story of the histories, traditions, religions and ideologies of the participants (combatants) except peripherally, superficially and perhaps ‘nominally’ in an editorial conviction that the audience either does not know enough to be capable of assimilating the finer details, or that the concentration of the reader/viewer is so brief that it is not worth including. Magazines like The Atlantic, or the Foreign Affairs journals think and act from a different set of both perceptions and convictions.

In the secular world, attempting in vain to maintain a ‘berlin wall’ between religion and politics, including the military and the diplomatic, religion is sidelined in both the news and in the public rhetoric, almost exclusively to sustain the separation of church and state (a propounded, propagated and deeply held public conviction of the United States nation and its various publics, challenged vehemently recently, by a Christian white religious nationalism in the U.S. Congress). Also, in the secular world of American politics, the pervasive and divisive issue of a woman’s right to an abortion, formerly considered  legal as well as socially and politically enshrined, at least in the culture if not in the precise wording of the constitution, is/has and will continue to tear apart the fabric of the American body politic. And this, too, is primarily a ‘religious-based’ conviction among those who vehemently oppose all abortions as ‘the killing of the fetus’. The secular and political/philosophical/legal/ethical stance of those who support a woman’s right to choose, in the privacy of her doctor’s office, is currently under threat in the U.S. and more recently in Canada and elsewhere. While the public protests, debates, even violence among and between activists, like the wars, are reported in granular detail about numbers of protesters, evidence of weapons, use of weapons, injuries, and possible deaths, the underlying religion versus the public domain, is left off the pages of the scripts and the paragraphs of audio and newspaper reporters. There is a cultural aversion to public judgements of any specific religious faith community, among both politicians and reporters/journalists/analysts/editorialists, for more than a single reason.

Condemning another’s faith position, or framing an issue in the public square as having a single or even a primary ‘root cause’ is a cultural and cognitive concept that has fallen by the wayside, in and through the processes and histories of both the legal and the medical professions. Lawyers for the tobacco companies, for example, have for decades argued that cancer can not be laid at the feet of smoking cigarettes, given that there are many other root causes. Similarly, the public argument over environmental pollution has evoked legal cases in which lawyers for the prime polluters maintain that the rise in carbon dioxide cannot be attributed exclusively to the smoke billowing from the smoke-stacks of manufacturing factories and coal mining and oil refineries. Oil, gas and coal, and in some cases uranium, as corporations and their collective ‘establishment,  have coalesced to attempt to block any restrictions on carbon emissions, arguing about the loss of both jobs and community income and survival rates in the immediate future.

Nevertheless, even with the vortex of  conflicts swirling over and around the planet, in and out of negotiating board rooms, terrorist tunnels, Ukrainian villages and Black Sea warships, what individuals, especially when grouped in religions, faith communities and faith traditions, believe, have learned, have grasped from their ancestors, and hold to be true about their place in the universe and in their relationship with a God, will take actions that, perhaps without such faith support and convictions they would be less likely to take.

In small towns and villages, especially the depth and breadth of religious traditions and faith communities has been, for decades, if not centuries, one of the primary ‘agents of cohesion’ as well as division within those communities. Men’s and women’s groups affiliated with and supported by religious communities have provided social and connective tissue for the portion of the body politic that has embraced each faith’s belief system, ritual celebration calendar, dogmatic dicta, and the expectations of that faith community. At least that is the public posture of each of these groups, and their faith peers. Detailed conversations about what each person actually holds as a firm faith conviction, even after echoing the verbiage of a creedal statement, are rare among laity, and only occasional between laity and clergy, excepting the need for and desire for a confession/penitential encounter. We hold personal convictions about what we consider, and have been instructed to believe, the expectations of God, the nature of the human being, as portrayed in what is called holy writ, and the relationship between life on this planet and any prospective afterlife, if our faith holds fast to such a conviction. In that light, and also in the manner in which ‘our’ family/personal/church beliefs and attitudes have been depicted in relation to other faith communities, we tend to see the world through a similar, if not identical, lens….favouring or even despising another faith community as ‘tolerable, reasonable, strong, weak, or even contemptible. Case in point: in North America, the tension between protestants and Roman Catholics has prevailed as a tension that has (and continues to) impact the ethos of many communities. Similarly in Northern Ireland, the “Troubles” comprised a period of conflict began during a campaign by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to end discrimination against the Roman Catholic nationalist minority by the Protestant Unionist government and local authorities. (From, (T)he overwhelmingly Protestant unionists (loyalists) …desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom and the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nationalists (republicans), who wanted Norther Ireland to become part of the republic of Ireland. Much diligent and highly effective social, political, cultural and educational work has ensued in Northern Ireland, in pursuit of reconciliation, toleration and even mutual respect for the two sides of the religious divide.

The rising tide of white Christian nationalism in the United Sates, while still a minority of the Republican party (if that party name still applies), has gathered allies to their ‘cause’ under the guise (ruse, rug, pretense) of campaigning for the former president, currently sitting in a New York court room as a criminal defendant. Politics and religion, in that example, have so fused, in the presumed assumption that ‘Christian evangelical voters’ will more likely vote for trump if they are given a voice in that political ‘initiative’. Simultaneously, Putin vehemently argues that his invasion of Ukraine is to defeat the fascists ‘who govern Ukraine’….another ruse to induce (seduce?) the Russian population to support the illegal, unjustified invasion, given the historic Russian contempt for the fascists of the Second World War. Staunchly and resolutely supported by the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, Putin proudly dons the mantle of religiosity (a la trump with his upside-down Bible), as part of his propaganda campaign to appear to sacralize his war killings.

Terrorists, too, over the last few decades, have donned the vestments and the attending religious and political dogma of their faith, according to many reports, eventually to establish a Caliphate of and for the Muslim believers. In a piece entitled, The Religious Sources of Islamic Terrorism, by Shmuel Bar, on Policy Review, Jun/Jul 2004, 125: Research Library, p27, Bar writes:

While Terrorism—even in the form of suicide attacks-is not an Islamic phenomenon by definition, it cannot be ignored that the lion’s share of terrorist acts and   the most devastating of them in recent years have been perpetrated in the name of Islam. This fact has sparked a fundamental debate both in the West and within the Muslim world regarding the link between these acts and the teachings of Islam…..Modern International Islamist terrorism is a natural offshoot of twentieth-century Islamic fundamentalism. The ‘Islamic Movement’ emerged in the Arab world and British India as a response to the dismal state of Muslim society in those countries: social injustice, rejection of traditional mores, acceptance of foreign domination and culture. It perceives the malaise of modern Muslim societies as having strayed from the ‘straight path’ and the solution to all ills is a return to the original mores of Islam. The problems addressed may be social or political inequality, corruption, and oppression. But in traditional Islam-and certainly in the worldview of the Islamic fundamentalist—there is no separation between the political and the religious.  Islam is, in essence, both religion and regime and no area of human activity is outside its remit. Be the nature of the problem as it may, ‘Islam is the solution’.

Irrespective of the detailed teachings of Islam, this conjoining of religion and regime is in direct, and confrontational, contrast and comparison to the long-held ‘separation’ of church and state in the United States. A similar conjoining of religion and regime is at the heart of the state of Israel also. Historically, the monarch of Great Britain is also the titular Head of the Church of England, in at least a ceremonial conjoining. In Canada, we historically have spoken and written of ‘two establishment churches’, the Roman Catholic and the Anglican. Many national and political, as well as corporate leaders have been raised and have emerged from both of those Christian denominations. Also in Canada, we have a deeply embedded ‘social convention’ in order to avoid personal, political and ideational conflict, ‘to avoid the topic of religion and politics’ in public company. It is almost a ‘social grace’ to adhere to such a rubric, and a social disgrace to disavow it. Religion, in Canada, has been presumed to be, and has operated as if, it is an exclusively private, personal, secret and hidden preserve, the exception being among those who ‘know’ the faith of their colleagues, friends and pew-mates. And in that light, there is a rather strong bond among strong advocates and believers of a given faith community, as part of the cohesion of that faith community.

In Canada, too, the mainline religious institutions, along with the government, have actively engaged in a program of religious, educational and moral/ethical colonization of the indigenous youth, commonly referred to these days as the ‘Residential Schools Crisis’. From the Canadian, in a piece entitled, Residential Schools in Canada, by J.R. Miller, (updated by Tabitha DeBruin, David Gallant, Michelle Filice, published October 10, 2012, and last edited, January 11, 2024, we read:

Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture….Residential schools were created by Christian churches and the Canadian government as an attempt to both educate and convert them into Canadian society. However, the schools disrupted lives and communities, causing long-term problems among Indigenous peoples. The last residential school closed in 1996. Since then, former students have demanded recognition and restitution resulting in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007 and a formal public apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008. In total an estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit, and Metis children attended residential schools

The shame, guilt and residue of bitterness, like an indelible stain on the national psyche, lingers not only in public debate about resources, health care, land rights and the real legitimacy of the indigenous peoples after all these decades. Advocates, artists, teachers, elders and leaders of the indigenous communities grow in both numbers and in influence across the country, while the pace of reconciliation and accommodation of the legitimate needs and demands of these indigenous peoples drags on almost glacially, at least from their perspective.

Religion and regime, the tension that has reverberated in the West for centuries, has reared its head in violent acts and especially violent rhetoric, as fundamentalists in all faith communities, like minorities on every scale, in fortissimo and vengeance, and the results will only be assessed long after this generation and century close.

Religious dialogue, whether among and between public advocates, or among and between friends and family, has a history both of ‘secrecy, silence and privacy’ as well as a cultural perception of division and separation, alienation and meagre, yet significant initiatives at reconciliation and openness.


This pattern, so deeply buried in the cultural ethos, the anima mundi, of Canada, illustrates how the affairs of state, while ostensibly separate from the religion(s) of those writing and voting on legislation, were, are and continue to be deeply impacted by the ‘religion’ and belief systems of those in power. Recently, while being interviewed on MSNBC, Ali Velshi, host of Velshi on Saturday mornings, recounted a small vignette from his family’s history that brought this viewer to the edge of my seat.

Velshi’s father was a student of Gandhi. In the course of that enrollment, Velshi’s grandfather rhetorically commented to Gandhi, “I am a Muslim; how can I send my son to your school, given that you are a Hindu.” As recounted by Velshi, and reported here, Gandhi is reputed to have responded: I will read the Muslim teachings and I will teach your son the Muslim faith.” And the Velshi added, ‘Gandhi also read the Christian scriptures and the Jewish scriptures attempting to respect and to honour all of the major religions.” (these quotes are imprecise in their detail, yet summative of the conversation on MSNBC).

In addition to his fame, historic elevation and secure place in the history of the human species, Gandhi might also be revered for his embrace of a depth of both understanding and compassion, integrity and the embrace of humanity, as he ‘saw’ it, from the perspective of the reverence of the main religions of the world.

This space is and has been dedicated both to the proposition that biography is significant as a specific study in history, psychology and also in the affairs of state, politics, economics and social policy. And at the centre of biography, although not always the focus of the historians’ lens, is a religious component, perhaps even an essence, of the ‘worldview,’ ‘attitude,’ ‘perspective,’ and, to borrow an over-used and minimally-understood word, ‘values,’. It is the segregation of religion, faith, psychology, from the ‘human’ integration, in many of our educational curricula, to which these pieces are addressed.

Menus, templates, procedures, regulations, and even treatment plans of various highly educated, professional, honourable and ethical practitioners, while useful and even somewhat aspirational, too often omit, or ignore, or dismiss, or worse, denigrate the interaction and the judgement of the persons who are attempting to implement those ‘procedures’. Also, in many instances, deviation from those ‘templates,’ for whatever might seem to be a justifiable perspective and opinion, too often results in sanctions of the offender, when, it just might be (actually is!) the offender who is illustrating the ‘hole(s) in the template. Decades ago, there was a bandied-about phrase, situational ethics. From, we read:

Situation ethics, in ethics and theology, the position that moral decision making is contextual or dependent on a set of circumstances. Situation ethics holds that moral judgements must be made with the context of the entirety of a situation and that all normative features of a situation must be viewed as a whole. The guiding framework for moral decision -making is stated variously as that of actin g in the most loving way, to maximize harmony and reduce discord, or to enrich human existence. Situation ethics was developed by American Anglican theologian, Joseph F. Fletcher whose book, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, 1966) arose from his objections to both moral absolutism (the view that there are fixed universal moral principles that have binding authority in all circumstances) and moral relativism (the view that there are no fixed moral principles at all). Fletcher based situation ethics on the general Christian norm of brotherly love, which is expressed in different ways in different situations. He applied this to issues of doctrine. For example, if one holds to the absolute wrongness of abortion, then one will never allow for abortion no matter what the circumstances within which the pregnancy occurs. Fletcher held that such an absolute position pays no attention to the complexity and uniqueness of each situation and can result in a callous and inhumane way of dealing with the problem. On the other hand, if there are no principles at all, then the decision is reduced to nothing more than what one decides to do  in the moment, with no real moral implications involved. Rather, Fletcher held, within the context of the complexities of the situation, one should come to the most loving or right decision as to what to do.

Having devolved into a literal, baseline, zero-sum approach to many of the most important questions, in a climate and ethos of acidic rhetoric, in which even respect for the other has dissipated, perhaps a re-reading of Fletcher’s thought might be in order, for many of our current crises. Balancing the situation with some relevant and cogent principles, in each situation, however, requires a detailed, detached, documentation of the situation and an even more wholistic, nuanced and discerning judgement, requiring considerable time, reflection, conversation and, in a ‘instant’ society, also more money. In the interest too often of the deciding authority, in order to preserve and protect his/her power and authority, and not to burden the budget, the application of templates replaces the complexities of implementing Flether’s thinking. And the results are often tragic.  

Friday, May 10, 2024 #50

Hope, the mysterious, ephemeral, compelling, and paradoxically insatiable human appetite and nourishment, begs additional reflection. Whether the ‘star’ that motivates, sustains, enriches, and lies at the heart of one’s optimism, or the excessive ‘power’ that seems to compel strenuous effort, exertion, commitment, responsibility and exhaustion, hope is a word, a concept, an image and a voice that lives in each of our psychic ‘cast of characters’ as it were.

Desmond Tutu’s insight: Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.

Fyodor Dostoevsky: To live without hope is to cease to live.

Jackson Brown Jr.: Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.

Emily Dickinson: Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul- and sings the tunes without the words-and never stops at all.

Aristotle: Hope is a waking dream.

Benjamin Franklin: He that lives upon hope will die fasting.

Vaclav Havel: Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

Dalai Lama; I find hope in the darkest days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

David Ben-Gurion: Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.

Charlotte Bronte: The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.

Tertullian: Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

Elie Wiesel: Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give each other.

Charles M. Shultz: A whole stack of memories never equate one little hope.

Robet Frost: I always entertain great hopes.

Pliny the Elder: Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of the waking man.

Francis Bacon: Hope is good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.

Bertrand Russell: Extreme hopes are born from extreme misery.

Thomas Hardy: The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.

William Makepeace Thackeray: It is only hope which is real, and reality is a bitterness and a deceit.

Ivan Illich: We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation.

T.S. Eliot: I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope, For hope would be hope for the wrong thing.

John F. Kennedy: Israel was not created in order to disappear-Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can never be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.

Greta Thunburg: Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then and only then, hope will come.

Robert Fulghum: I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.

Nelson Mandela: Our human compassion binds us the one to the other—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.

Oscar Wilde: This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.

Wendell Berry: The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.


The world is replete with perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and pronouncements about hope. It is obviously one of our most ‘treasured’ notions and, like a multi-faceted diamond, offers different hues and images to different men and women, all of whom have, doubtless, endured its loss, fracture, and ashes, and its sustaining energy.

Like all of the ephemerals, and the mysteries, the abstractions and the verities, hope overlays every single moment and experience of our lives. Whether it is tissue-thin or cumulus-clear, the ‘seed’ of hope sings its song, whenever we are listening. And, from the perspective of many, we are listening intently for its melody and rhythm when we are ‘in extremis’. Like a self-refilling candy-jar, for parents with their kids, hope is dispensed almost unconsciously, in the conviction that hope will lift the child’s spirit and help her/him past his ‘pain’. Religion has adopted its magnetism and its metaphor(s) as integral to the life of the disciple, irrespective of the faith, dogma and instruction.

From, we read:

The myth of Pandora’s Box originated in ancient Greece, and it was first recorded by the poet Hesiod in his poem Works and Days. According to the myth, Pandora was created by the god as a form of retribution for the actions of Prometheus, who had stolen fire from the gods and given it to humanity. In an attempt to balance this act, Zeus, the king of the gods, ordered Hephaestus to create a beautiful woman named Pandora with the intent of giving her to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus as a gift. The story goes on to state that Pandora was entrusted with a ‘box’, known as a ‘pithos’ In Greek. The gods informed her that the box contained special gifts from them but warned her to never open it under any circumstances. Hermes then took her to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, to become his wife. Prometheus had cautioned Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from the gods, but when he saw Pandora’s beauty, he immediately accepted the proposal. However, Pandora was overcome by her curiosity and could not resist the temptation to see what was inside. She opened the box, and the evils of the world were released, including pain, disease is different. Hope I , war, famine, jealousy and greed. They flew out of the jar like winged creatures and spread throughout the world, bringing about chaos and destruction. In some versions of the myth, hope was also inside the box and was the only thing that remained inside the jay after Pandora opened it.

Irrespective of the specific interpretation of the myth, the linkage, dependency(?), immersion(?), inseparability (?) of hope and pain with the other ‘evils’ from the story, has come down through history and tradition, including theology and psychology. For some, it is an antidote to pain; for others, it is a distraction from the reality of pain; for others, the hope of reformation, resurrection, new life, and new birth, including the apocalyptic ‘end times’ comes embedded in the word; for others, it is a caution against a ‘rose-coloured’ perspective on reality. For many, it can be all of those interpretations and more, depending on the circumstance, the various perceptions of the moment, and the urgency of the psychic and/or the spiritual need. The inescapable link between hope and pain, however, is palpable in each and every hospital room, operating room, emergency department, accident scene, fire, draught, tornado and ambulance van.

From a theological (Christian) perspective, writing on Miroslav Volf,* in the summer of 2020, writes:

(Thus) a key feature of hope is that it stretches a person into the unknown, the hidden, the darkness of unknown possibility….In his justly famous book, Theology of Hope, (1964), Jurgen Moltmann, one of the greatest theologians of the second part of the 20th century, made another important distinction, that between hope and optimism. The source of the distinction relates to the specific way some ancient biblical writers understand hope. Optimism, if it is justified, is based on extrapolations we make about the future based upon what we can reasonably discern to be tendencies in the present. Meteorologists observe weather patterns around the globe and release their forecasts for the next day: the day will be unseasonably warm, but in the early afternoon, winds will pick up and bring some relief:….Hope, argued Moltmann, is different. Hope is not based on accurate extrapolation about the future from the character of the present: the hoped-for future is not born out of the present. The future good that is the object of hope is a new thing, novum, that comes in part from the outside situation. Correspondingly, hope is, in Emily Dickinson’s felicitous phrase, like a bird that flies in from outside and ‘perches in the soul.’ Optimism, in dire situations reveals an inability to understand what is going on or an unwillingness to accept it and is therefore an indication of foolishness or weakness. In contrast, hope during dires situations, hope notwithstanding the circumstances, is a sign of courage and strength. What is the use of hope not based no evidence or reason, you may wonder? Think of the alternative. What happens when we identify hope with reasonable expectation? Facing the shocking collapse of what we had expected with good reasons we will slump into hopelessness at the time when we need hope the most! Hope helps us identify signs of hope as signs of hope rather than just anomalies in an otherwise irreparable situation, as indicators of a new dawn rather than the last flickers of a dying light. Hope also helps us to press on with determination and courage. When every courage of action by which we could reach the desired future seems destined to failure, when we cannot reasonably draw a line that would connect the terror of the present with future joy, hope remains indomitable and indestructible. When we hope, we always hope against reasonable expectations. That’s why Emily Dickinsons’ bird of hope ‘never stops’ singing—in the sore storm, in the chilliest land, on the strangest sea……Writing as a 92-year-old, (Moltmann) begins the second paragraph of (this) essay on patience autobiographically: In my youth, I learned to know ‘the God of hope’ and loved the beginnings of a new life with new ideas. But in my old age I am learning to know ‘the God of patience’ and stay in my place in life…..Without endurance, hope turns superficial and evaporates when it meets first resistances. In hope we start something new, but only endurance helps us persevere. Only tenacious endurance makes hope sustainable. We learn endurance only with the help of hope. On the other hand, when hope gets lost, endurance turns into passivity.  Hope turns endurance into active passivity. In hope we affirm the pain that comes with endurance, and learn to tolerate it.

Centuries earlier, Augustine doctrine of Original Sin, set concrete foundational footings from a very different theological perspective from Moltmann’s, And to some extent Christians remain on the pilgrimage of a very thin path between Augustine’s doctrine and Moltmann’s life-enriching perspective.

(Augustine) produced an entirely novel exegesis of the second and third chapters of Genesis, which claimed that the sin of Adam had condemned all his descendants to eternal damnation. Despite the salvation wrought by Christ, humanity was still weakened by what Augustine called ‘concupiscence,’ the irrational desire to take pleasure in beings instead of God. It was experienced most acutely in the sexual act, which our reasoning powers are swamped by passion, God is forgotten, and creatures revel shamelessly in one another. The spectre of reason dragged down by the chaos of lawless sensation reflected the tragedy of Rome, source of order, law and civilization, brought low by the barbarian tribes. Jewish exegetes had never seen the sin of Adam in this catastrophic light, and the Greek Christians, who were not affected by the barbarian scourge, have never accepted the doctrine of Original Sin. Born in grief and fear, this doctrine has left Western Christians with a difficult legacy that linked sexuality indissolubly with sin and helped to alienate men and women from their humanity. (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, p. 122)

Mandela and Gandhi would seem to embody much of the ‘endurance’ of Moltmann’s hope in both their activism and their patience. 

*Miroslav Volf is Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at YDS (Yale Divinity School) and founding director of theYale Center for Faith & Culture. He is author of A Pulblic Faith: How Followers of Christ Should serve the Common Good

Tuesday, May 7, 2024 #49

All of this ‘talk’ about psychology, about images, and about seeing ‘within’ as compared with ‘without’ and the implications of those notions inevitably and for exploring hearts and minds, seems like an over-lap with another aspect of human existence, religion, faith and belief. And while psychology and religion/faith are different lenses on ‘experience’ that need not be mutually exclusive. And for our purposes, they are mutually inclusive. And while the actual boundary lines may seem opaque, fuzzy and perhaps even invisible, the perceptions and approaches of psychology need not, indeed must not, either replace nor erase the purview of religion and faith.

For those of us who need and therefore prefer a beginning step into a new exploration that contains an example, or a notion/concept, that seems not only compatible with but also essential to both psychology and faith/religion, let us begin with ‘hope’.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines hope in these words:

One of the three ‘theological virtues. In its widest sense it ay be defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible of attainment. In the course of the OT (Old Testament) history, hope played an important part, often in the form of merely earthly desires, in the preparation of Israel for the Incarnation. By the Resurrection of Christ, mankind was ‘begotten again into a living hope’. (I Peter: 1:3). As a Christian virtue its primary end, its motive, and its author is God Himself, and like faith it may continue even when charity has been lost by mortal sin. It is confined to this life and to purgatory, and has no place either in heaven (where its object, the Beatific Vision, is already attained), or in hell. Hope being confidence in God’s goodness tempered by fear of His justice, is opposed to both despair and presumption.

From the website,, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes:

Judaism is a sustained struggle against the world that is in the name of the world that could be—but is not yet….Judaism is the only civilization whose golden age is in the future: the messianic age, the age of peace when ‘nation will not lift up sword against nation’ and ‘the Lord shall be one and His name One. This ultimately was the dividing line between Judaism and Christianity. To be a Jew is to reply to the question, ‘Has the messiah come?’ with the words, ‘Not yet.’…At the heart of Judaism is a belief so fundamental to Western civilization that we take it for granted, yet it is anything but self-evident. …It is the belief in human freedom. We are what we choose to be. Society is what we choose to make it. The future is open. There is nothing inevitable in the affairs of humankind….Western civilization is the product of two cultures: ancient Greece and ancient Israel. The Greeks believed in fate: the future is determined by the past. Jews believed in freedom: there is no ‘evil decree’ that cannot be averted. The Greeks gave the world the concept of tragedy. Jews gave it the idea of hope. The whole of Judaism-though it would take a book to show it-is a set of laws and narratives designed to create in people, families, communities and a nation, habits that defeat despair. Judaism is the voice of hope in the conversation of mankind….To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair. Every ritual, every mitzvah, every syllable of the Jewish story, every element of Jewish law, is a protest against escapism, resignation or the blind acceptance of fate. Judaism is a sustained struggle, the greatest ever known, against the world that is, in the name of the world that could be, should be, but is not yet…Judaism is the religion, and Israel the home, of hope.

From The (February 23, 2016, Ganesh Prabhu writes:

‘The Vedas, the ancient texts, celebrate life, offering a sense of optimism and hope; they in fact, negate negation and pessimism,’ said K.P. Rao, scholar and software expert.

From, in response to the question, ‘What is the Buddhist view of hope?’ Oren Jay Sofer responds:

The Buddha’s teaching is fundamentally hopeful. It affirms that there is a reliable way to release ourselves from suffering, to protect other human beings, mitigate harm, and build a better world….What we might call ‘ordinary hope’ directs our longing for happiness in an unskillful way. IT places out well-being on an uncertain, imagined future beyond our control, thereby feeding craving and fixation. When the wished-for outcome isn’t realized, we are crushed. Dhamma practice channels our longing for happiness, harmony, and equity in a skillful way. This begins with saddha, most frequently translated as ‘faith,’ or ‘conviction.’ Saddha refers to one’s aspiration and confidence in the path. It is the intuitive sense that there is something worthwhile about being alive, that inner freedom is available for each of us. To avoid being co-opted by craving, aspiration is supported by refuge and guided by wisdom. Refuse connects us with a tangible sense of emotional psychological, and spiritual safety here and now. Refuge protects the heart, helping us to engage with the world from a place of love and acceptance rather than fear, anger or reactivity….From there it takes wisdom to meet life and respond to challenges without betting on fantasy, burning out, or sinking in despair. The wisdom of equanimity understands that we choose neither the circumstances of our life, not the result of our actions. Both are beyond our control. What we can choose is how we relate, and how we respond.

Clearly, hope, as a notion, a construct, a dynamic, however, perceived, framed and exercised, plays a significant part in many theologies. And the writing of James Hillman on hope, from a psychological perspective (albeit an archetypal psychological perspective), sees hope slightly differently. From the analyst’s perspective, ‘the hope which the patient (client) presents is part of the pathology itself’. The patient’s hope arises as an essential part of the constellation of his suffering. It is frequently governed by impossible demands to be free of suffering itself. The same condition that constellated the symptoms is just the condition which these symptoms are interrupting and killing- or curing. Therefore, an analyst does not hope for a return to that condition out of which the symptoms and hope for relief arose.. Because hope has this core of illusion it favours repression. By hoping for the status quo ante, we repress the present state of weakness and suffering and all it can bring. Postures of strength are responsible for many major complaints today-ulcers, vascular and coronary conditions, high blood pressure, stress syndrome, alcoholism, highway and sport accidents, mental breakdown. The will to fall ill, like the suicide impulse, leads patient and physician face to face with morbidity, which stubbornly returns in spite of all hope to the contrary. One might ask if medical hope itself is not partly responsible for recurrent illness; since it never fully allows for weakness and suffering the death experience is not able to produce meaning. Experiences are cheated of their thorough effect by speedy recovery. Until the soul has got what it wants, it must fall ill again…..(A Blue Fire, p. 78, from Suicide, p. 79,156-158)

And about the significance of death, Hillman writes:

For the Eskimos, when one falls ill, one takes on a new name, a new diseased personality. To get over a disease, one must quite literally ‘get over’ it by transcending it, that is, by dying. The only hope for cure lies in the death of the ill personality. Health requires death. Perhaps this is what Socrates meant with his last obscure words about owing a sacrificial cock to Asklepios. Once the cocky pride of life that crows hopefully at each day’s dawning is sacrificed, the instinct for tomorrow is yielded. Death then is the cure and the salvation and not just a last, worst stage of a disease. The cock crow at dawn also heralds resurrection of the light. But the victory over disease and the new day begins only when the ambition for it has been abandoned upon the altar. The disease which the experience of death cures is the rage to live. (A Blue Fire, p. 77)

How to begin the process of reconciling the reflections of faith/religion about hope and the psychological reflections from Hillman?

Is there really a conflict? One has to have a preconceived perspective of the absolute, literal, empirical and holy meaning and definition of hope, from a religious perspective to preclude a psychological perspective. This is especially valid given that the psychological view does not either negate nor deny, obviate nor dismiss the religious. Indeed, Hillman himself was raised as an orthodox Jew, and all of his life and writings are dedicated to ‘pushing the envelope’ in order to enhance the opportunity for new, imaginative, and poetic perceptions of what are considered the most dire of human moments, psychologically. And underlying his perspective, even given that all archetypes and symptoms point toward death, is the perspective that, only in and through that path is a disease detoxified, and set aside, and a new perception can emerge. As for the ‘rage to live’….to Hillman almost an obsessive positivist drive, it is his view that this ‘rage’ lies at the root of many of our current ‘postures of strength’ (another borrowed Hillman phrase).

From the perspective of the anima mundi, (soul of the world), we find more penetrating insight from another page of his work, Suicide and the Soul:

Old oppositions of science versus religion, as in the says of (Bernard) Shaw or the later one of two cultures, as in the days of (C.P.)Snow are no longer the real oppositions. The new opposition, the real one in this generation , is between the soul and all that would butcher or purchase it,, between analysis and every official position of medicine theology and academic psychology that would encroach upon it, between the analyst and everyone else, Duicide is the issue for laying this conflict bare…We are all so sick and have been so long on the edge of mass suicide and are groping so for personal solutions to vast collective problems, that today, if ever, any thing goes. The fences are down: medicine is not longer the preserve of the physician, death for the aged, and theology for the ordained…..(M)odern medicine excludes the soul from its teachings, requiring the physician to act as if he had none and as if the patient were primarily body. Modern medicine splits the physician off from his own soul….The paradox of the soul is that, in spite of its ancient definition as the vital principle, it is also always on the side of death. It is given with an opening to what is beyond life. It works at its perfection beyond question of physical health and life….The more real we take the soul to be, the more we grow concerned with death…..(T)he ontological position of materialism and scientific naturalism that says that physical reality is the only reality (can be abandoned in order to meet the risk of suicide by the analyst). (Suicide and the Soul, pps.82,83, 86, 87)

Soul, that word that haunts our culture, our religions, our psychology and our arts and creative endeavours, is a ‘notion’ that cannot be pre-empted and ‘owned’ by any of the demographics who wish to ‘impound’ it. And, like the grain of sand, from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence, soul offer us a universe of meanings, implications, applications, iterations and through the creative imagination, always offers new insights of possibility.

Auguries of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

A Robin Red breast in a Cage

Puts all Heaven in a Rage

A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons

Shudders Hell thr’ its regions

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate

Predicts the ruin of the State

A Horde misused upon the Road

Calls to Heaven for Human blood

Each outcry of the hunted Hare

A fibre from the Brain does tear

A Skylark wounded in the wing

A Cherubim does cease to sing

The Game Cock slipd & armd for fight

Does the rising Sun affright

Every Wolfs & Lions howl

Raises from Hell a Human Soul

The wild deer, wandring here & there

Keeps the Human Soul from Care

The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife

And yet forgives the
Butchers knife

The Bat that flits at close of Eve

Has left the Brain that wont Believe

The Owl that calls upon the Night

Speaks the Unbelievers fright

He who shall hurt the little Wren

Shall never be belovd by Men

He who the Ox to wrath has movd

Shall never be by Woman lovd


                        Every Night & every Morn

                        Some are Born to sweet delight

                        Some are Born to sweet delight

                       Some are Born to Endless Night

                       We are led to Believe a Lie

                       When we see not thro the Eye

                       Which was Born in a Night to perish in a


                        When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light

                        God Appears & God is Light

                       To those poor Souls who dwell in Night

                       But does a Human Form Display

                      To those who Dwell in Realms of day 

Monday, May 6, 2024 #48

 The proverbial heroes of the last several pieces in this space, Mandela and Gandhi, are known primarily for their strenuous, persistent and epic dedication to the respective causes of dismantling of apartheid and British imperialism. Those external political, ideological, and even historic and philosophical negative forces, dark, heinous, abusive, and, as their future would regard them, illegal, immoral, unethical and intolerable. Essentially, Mandela and Gandhi were integral agents in their demise, like conquering heroes, slaying dragons, the stuff of the military, political, economic, industrial, capitalist and the literal, empirical measurable universe. Commonly shared enemies that had to be slain, both apartheid and imperialism, while partially alleviated, continue to infest the ethos, the zeitgeist and the anima mundi of the world soul. Like many of the prescriptive drugs we are given for specific conditions, these men served as ameliorating agents, rather than cures. They nor their successors were ever able to erase, surgically remove, eviscerate or etherize the scourges of apartheid and imperialism. Profound and seemingly inescapable, indelible and permanent stains on the psyches of the human species, racism and the abuse of power by individuals and institutions governed by individuals are permanently branded on the history and the meta-history we all share.

It has been the perceived ‘task’ and objective of many scholars, in all academic fields, to confront the demons that seem to have taken up permanent residence on our shared psychic and literal landscape, from the beginning. Given the multiple tribal, ethnic, racial and philosophic and psychological, as well as religious lenses through which, and by which we have conceived, reflected, taught and disseminated the various approaches, mysticism, rationalism, scientific investigation, especially as it applies to the mental state of individual humans, and our shared heritage of those epic images of both heaven and hell, and the various models of grappling with words, actions, beliefs, attitudes that seem to impale us in our ‘worst moments,’ this human search continues.

And at the heart of each search is the intersection of the human being with both his/her external world, and the perceptions it offers, and the interior, inner world of the psyche, that, almost like the process of the film editors selecting and discarding images to ‘include’ and to ‘leave on the cutting room floor,’ we sift through both the external moments, and the multiple reverberating reflections, as if each image were a prism which, when looked at, say, at twenty, cast a certain ‘view’ and at sixty, that same image casts a very different ‘light’…And one of the questions that we all face, is the difference between seeing those images (each unique to each of us) as casting a dark shadow over our life and value, or whether they shed light on our past and our present and our future. And while that may sound glib, superficial, cliché and reductionistic, the difference between those light and dark ‘perspectives’ never leaves, and, like apartheid and imperialism, racism and the abuse of power, never really leave either from the extrinsic universe or from the psychic universe. And we all walk in search of a path that helps, partially and continually, to clarify not only our physical ‘vision’ but more importantly, our ‘inner, psychic,’ vision.

One of the more obvious implications of what we might call ‘psychic blindness’ (some refer to it as the ‘unconscious’ including the Shadow) is currently regarded as implicit racial bias, for example. Subtle, seemingly insignificant, even dismissible for its transitoriness, and its feeble impact, implicit racial bias infects each and every one of our encounters with another human being. As in our reading of a novel, for example, the characters evoke images of an ‘aunt’ or an ‘uncle’ a ‘boss’ or a ‘teacher’ or a ‘doctor’ or a ‘nurse’ or even a ‘neighbour’ from our childhood. Into our imagination and from that imagination, effectively a ‘stew’ of images, in a ‘heated’ pot of our imagination, we ‘relate’ (like, dislike, admire, withdraw from, are confused by, are curious about, adore, emulate, imitate, despise, judge) to these images in ways that, sometimes, if infrequently, we can verbalize, at other times, we are ‘not sure’ about how we feel about the image of their person, their character, their behaviour, their beliefs and their attitudes. Similarly, in movies, television dramas, stage plays, as well as in politics, academic lecturers and research laboratory instructors, and naturally in personal relationships, we interact, respond to, defer from, withdraw from, invite, or simply observe these people, their facial expressions, their body language the rhythm and melody of their larynx, and, as some have said, especially as children, we learn more from ‘who’ they are than from the ‘content’ of their message. Doubtless, there is at least a vestige of that dynamic among adults.

Traditional psychology has attributed two different ‘responses’ to another person: transference and projection. In the first, one directs feelings/desires that are connected to an important person in one’s life to someone who is NOT that person. In the second, projection, one attributes to others what is in their (our) own minds. (Example: Individuals who are in a self-critical state, may think other people are critical of them, consciously or unconsciously.) Both aspects of these ‘dynamics’ tend to take one out of the full clarity, and real comprehension of the actual, literal, perhaps even ‘healthy’ (open and honest) perception of the situation and the in-the-face person.) For each of us to ‘call’ out our participation in either or both transference and/or projection, is a engagement fraught with trepidation and risk. And to ‘call out’ another, is even more risky and frightening. As an insightful friend put it recently, in a social situation, ‘Who knows who is play-acting?’

What if the perception attributed, from James Hillman, that the ‘way of seeing’ (he calls the soul), embraces both the literal and the ‘transference/projection’ as part of each encounter, whether with an actual human being or a fictional/fantasy character/animal/image? Is this not a foundational premise that attempts to capture the fullness of our ‘perception’ that it will inevitably, whether we are conscious of it or not, entail both the literal and the psychological (transference/projection.) How, for example, can one ‘know’ that one has fully detached, separated and boundaried the physical from the psychological? To the limited perception of these ‘eyes,’ that might be a challenge beyond the capacity and scope of many, including this scribe

And from this perspective, (borrowed, stolen, imported and proudly still being investigated here) we live in a space in which both the literal and the psychological/imaginative/poetic not merely co-exist, but also, as expected, impact each other. We are never either in one domain or the other. And yet, we seem to be wont to acknowledge the intersection, and the rainbow of perceptions that is constantly emerging and reinforcing and impacting other perceptions in a kind of river of both conscious and unconscious images….over which we have limited, if any, control. Just as images appear involuntarily in our dreams, in a similar manner, images of people we meet, and shake hands with, as well as image of others we encounter in photos, in literature, including what some call ‘holy scripture’ mix and mingle in our imagination (what else might we call this place, locus, machine, reactor, vat, cauldron?).

Of course, we have all been indoctrinated into a perception that ‘segregates, separates, isolates and studies those ‘figures’ and images that are perceived to be ‘external’ to our psyche. Comparison, competition, analysis, diagnosis, investigation, academic discipline and research…these processes are all based on the clear and unequivocal grasp, perception and comprehension of ‘literal’ empirical, measurable ‘data, facts, details. Simultaneously, which these processes engage all of us, in our legitimate pursuit of learning, knowledge, academic achievement, careers, family relationships, social memberships and relationships, building of homes and families, there is this contiguous process in constant ‘flow’ within our psyche. And, whether we anticipate it or not, there will be times when the extrinsic and the intrinsic processes and images collide in various versions of ‘crisis’ or calamity. Proverbially, a mid-life crisis is named as one of those ‘collisions’ when a dramatic change in direction seems to ‘overtake’ what the external life path might indicate.

Other times, a death, or a divorce, or a ‘kind of hitting wall’ of ‘impossibility’ erupts from where or why we have no idea. Something internal and seemingly unique to our psychic survival volcanically erupts to our surprise, dismay, consternation, embarrassment, or even exhaustion. And then, …and then what?

Traditionally, given a highly responsible and respectable and honourable adult life of family, career, adequate income, social connections, achievements and healthy ‘appearances,’ these ‘eruptions’ bring a ‘cost’ in terms of instability, loss of trust of both self(?) and others, social repudiation, and critical judgement that ranges from ‘psychologically unbalanced and in need of treatment,’ to ‘untrustworthy,’ to ‘dangerous,’ and perhaps even either ‘criminally’ charged or ‘mentally incarcerated,’ and especially, ‘irresponsible father/mother/parent’.

Living in an interventionist professional and academic culture, in which the specialists ‘know’ and are ascribed the roles of ascribing both a diagnosis and a treatment plan to such ‘eruptions,’ we have come not merely to accept and to tolerate but even to embrace and to celebrate the medical and legal professions that are drawn into such crises. Instantly, when either or both professions are ‘involved’ we become a ‘case’ for their professional expertise, counsel, treatment and ‘protection’. Some of that protection is even considered essential for those ‘abandoned’ in such situations, and if the personal crisis is deemed severe enough, even protection from suicide is invoked.

At a minimum, from a professional and academic psychological perspective, these crises are often lumped into a category of ‘abnormal psychology’….by definition outside the norm. And the norm is a ‘framing’ that bears the weight of history, tradition, theology, criminology, sociology, politics, economics, and especially social convention. Who really ‘knows’ and can declare for all situations, what is ‘normal’? And yet, whether it is a written ‘code’ or a ‘religious dogma,’ or a psychological (or psychiatric) diagnosis, or a social ‘expectation and obligation’ each crisis, while inevitably painful and transformative, the experience may not necessarily fall easily, readily, or even ethically, morally and psychologically, and especially spiritually, into a familiar frame. Indeed, the experience/crisis may well qualify for a more ‘lay-person’ (including the subject individual) focus, and Hillman’s guidance could well prove useful, if not conclusive.

It is the conclusive, and the absolute, all of them based on the empirical and the literal and the scientific, that have imprisoned, encased, constricted and impaled our vision of our most momentous moments and have permitted others to define who we are, when, that responsibility can be and must remain in our purview. And that is the new frontier for both exploration, investigation and embrace….and not to be conquered.

And the complexity and the subtlety, and the ephemerality, and the ambiguity and the uncertainty of whatever each of us ‘discerns,’ in our moments of crisis, while leading to more ‘digging’ and ‘freeing’ is also more grounded and fathomable, without being ‘categorical’…and so there will need to be many more than single military, or political or theological or shamanic heroes….we can all take up our own mantle in our own quest for our own identity.

Thursday, May 2, 2024 #47

 In the last piece in this space, the intimate and undeniable symbiotic relationship between the ‘soul’ of the world and each of our individual ‘souls’ was identified, through referencing the work of James Hillman in archetypal psychology. That identification is more significant than merely anecdotal. The Hillman insight that our emotion ‘cognitizes’ our experience giving it both an image and a visceral experience is cogent, relevant and for some perhaps, a little disjointing. Naturally, both the moment and the sensation (emotion) converge in a highly nuanced, somewhat ambiguous and ethereal and mysterious manner, not unlike the analogy of the synapse* in the brain.

(The neuroscience of the brain, and the ‘anatomical’ and/or ‘chemical’ and/or ‘electrical’ aspects (or any other relevant process) of the synapse is definitely far beyond the “pay-grade” and the training and competence of this scribe. The word synapse is used here as a metaphor, and not to be confused with an literal, scientific neurological term.) Indeed, the core methodology of archetypal psychology relies on, and defers to, the imagination, as a gateway into our most pivotal psychic moments. From that perspective, those critical moments of (always) high and intense emotion, are then imaginatively overlaid on a microscospic slide (another metaphor) that references the voices of the potential and shared myths from our shared culture heritage. Examined with the ‘magnification’ (of the imagination) of all of the potential and likely ‘coded’ messages that might be inherent in that image, the theory is that one might find a more layered, enriched and clarifying ‘way to see’ that image than one that might automatically emerge from a conventional, literal, empirical and social perspective. At a most basic level, as we live in a ‘binary’ culture of ‘either-or,’ ‘good-bad,’ ‘black-white, ‘friend-enemy,’ the imaginative perspective embraces not merely the either-or but also the both-and….and that also can and frequently does raise the spectre of multiple ‘voices’ coming from the images that are evoked, or that ‘evoke us, as Hillman suggests. Dreams, as an example, are occurring frequently, without our ‘being in control’ of the images, the voices, the scenes, the scents and the sounds that dance across the ‘screen’ of our unconscious sleep. This prototype, the dream, offers a clear-eyed lens into what Hillman seems to be getting at: that in a similar (identical?) manner, in our moments of heightened tension and crisis, a similar process is available, for our ‘mining’ for the ‘messages’ it might be attempting to deliver. And from this perspective, the dream ‘has us’ rather than the other way round. It is this perspective that Hillman argues holds for those images that impact us at our most pivotal, critical and seemingly ‘abnormal’ moments. And rather then immediately jump to what has been a conventional, clinical diagnosis as ‘abnormal psychology’ into which category many of our seemingly aberrant moments have been assigned, there exists another possibility: that these moments and especially their symptoms, however seemingly insignificant, warrant our pause, our focus, our examining and our remaining open, even if such a process seems both unorthodox and somewhat uncomfortable.

The broad implications of this change in perspectives, too, comprise the core of archetypal psychology, from the literal, empirical and nominal to the metaphoric, mythic, as a path to enriching both the perception and the interpretation of our psychic life. And the gods and goddesses, perhaps, as the theory goes, could add a face, and a story to the dynamic of a given unsettling moment. Deflecting from an automatic ‘critical parent’ judgement, or a ‘victim’ stereotype, or an implicit moral judgement based on conventional and/or religious standards, offers the spectre of detoxifying the image, as its first and thereby its most lasting and significant residue. This transformative shift in how we might ‘see’ our behaviour and our moments, it seems from the multiple incidents, letters and lectures Hillman’s life discloses (in his three-volume biography), comes out of a number of unique experiences reflected on by a somewhat iconoclastic, irreverent, ‘shake-em-up’ Jewish scholar whose curiosity as an appetite was insatiable, and whose ‘daimon’ demanded that he write the cataract of his thoughts, impressions, questions and theories.

And like the method itself, Hillman welcomed both variations, and encounters that helped him to ‘see’ if and when his perspective was limited or off-course. Absolutism, egoism, certainty, all based on a literal, empirical and dogmatic perspective are confronted with a far more fluid, liquid, mysterious, ambiguous, imaginative exploration of the finest and most minute details of each image. Trained as a Jungian analyst, and finding some constricting aspects to Jung’s theories, Hillman, who was himself eventually evicted from his post as the Head of the Jungian Studies Institute in Zurich, over a number of issues including an affair, and, from his perspective, his perceived ‘disloyalty’ to Jung and his Jewishness. We are inheritors of his library of some 20 books, multiple lectures and letters, and interviews from many of his closest colleagues.

In 1972, in conjunction with Michael Ventura, Hillman wrote, ‘We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy and the world’s getting worse,’ as a summation of his disdain for what has happened to the multiple schools of psychological scholarship and research. Templates of normalcy, (so deemed by the profession), in Hillman’s view, have been imposed on the psychic and emotional experiences of clients/patients, from the perspective of the professional therapist. And those templates necessarily relegated much of human behaviour into what has become known as ‘abnormal psychology’. And while each of us is unique, idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and even hurtful, (as we can all agree in our more honest moments) deploying the narratives, biographies and failures of the gods, goddesses, and inviting his readers to join him,  Hillman, for example, bears witness to the mythic notion that ‘fathers’ will inevitably betrayal the son.

And while Jungian analysis required clients/patients to undergo deep and protracted examination of their unique individual psychological experiences, with the guidance of an analyst who, themselves had already undergone the process of analysis, Hillman’s perspective is to bring the ‘search for the soul’ which he deems to be the purpose of all psychology, out of the therapist’s office/clinic, and into the daily lives of ordinary people. Indeed, even his biography was written by a sports writer named Dick Russell. Detailed, patient, reflective examination and reflection of the ‘symptoms’ whether they are physical, emotional, sensory, or elusively ephemeral and mystical, not only of the human experiences but also of the animals and plants in the world whose influence on humans has been under-valued, or perhaps ignored, except by many of the indigenous peoples on the planet.

And while he disdains the absolutes of the literal, empirical, nominal and the scientific, in what some consider a flip-flop, he does have at least one absolute.

This passage comes from Thomas Moore, a personal friend and colleague of Hillman’s, who has written an edited version of many of Hillman’s principal thought and ideas, in his book “A Blue Fire.”

The centering of psychology on love,, affirmed as a fundamental principle in Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and made into a primate motive in humanistic psychologies, in Hillman is absolute. In this he follows his romantic ancestors, William Blake for example, for whom desire far outweighed reason as a measure of wisdom and ethics. Desire, longing, attachment, intensity, endurance, receptivity---these qualities of soul in league with erotic demands of fate are prized in Hillman’s writings. As a naturalist of the phenomenon of love, Hillman studies betrayal, one of love’s specific tortures. But he doesn’t intend to correct betrayal. Indeed, generally Hillman consciously avoids psychological moralisms, the subtle ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ that infest psychoanalysis.  He inquires into the innocence that invites betrayal and the atonement necessary for forgiveness. On both sides, he sees signs of the initiatory role of love. Finally, Hillman depicts the human person as Transparent Man, made visible to himself through torments of love. In love, the person is always the fool, emptied of prudence, his desires evident to the world, his transgressions revealed to all, especially to himself. But this transparency, created by the departure of innocence, is the occasions for involvement, another of those amorous words suggesting that the soul is always attached to life. Erasmus said that it is one’s foolishness that allows for intimacy, Hillman places this foolish logic of love over the logics of health, normalcy, adjustment, success, happiness, and good communication. He recommends a therapy of love…Because archetypal psychology gives subjectivity back to the figures of the psyche and to the world, love moves in several directions. It is not only the ego that loves, but other figures, images, and dreams love and desire us. Dreams also suggest that figures love each other. All of this love in the soul offers a way beyond the will to love or the commandment to love. The heroics of love give way to a gracious receiving of love….It is easy to miss  the radical positioning of love in Hillman’s psychology. Everyone would say that love is important. But Hillman’s approach to the psyche is in every instance rooted in a love of whatever he finds, This absolute love is the basis for keeping clear of strong-willed acts in the name of health that, however well meant, are antagonistic to the soul. Psychological love does not require an understanding of the processes and mysteries that are presented for understanding. It is a love that requires unlimited faith in expression of soul. It is a love that inspires interest in all kinds of emotional suffering, crazy fantasies, absurd symptoms, and repeated mistakes. On the other hand, it engenders passionate anger in the face of soullessness and inhumanity, irreverence, cruelty to nature and animal life, and, above all, puritanical oppressions of the vibrant springs of life that want to burst forth where they will. Love that leads to psyche is not bound by human concerns and conditions. It is both active and receptive. It comes into life as a grace, so that, like Psyche** of the tale, one has a relationship to love itself. (op. cit. pps.266-7-8)

Anyone who has read through these words, and reflected on them, from the perspective of a world in which millions of men and women are suffering the most indignant, indecent, unspeakable, reprehensible, and inexcusable cruelty, irreverence, inhumanity, as well as the same fate is being willfully and insouciantly inflicted on plant and animal life globally, cannot help but come to the conclusion that as a species, we have lost our connection to what is most important, not only in our individual, personal, family lives but also in our organizational, national and geo-political existences.

Although this scribe has experienced only eight decades of this life, at no time in those years has the landscape of the human condition been laid waste to the extent to which it is today. At no time, have wars, famine, rising temperatures, lies, manipulation, the reliance on (or perhaps addiction to) hard power for its own sake) and the disdain of weakness and vulnerability, especially among many of the male ‘leaders’ (ironic is the use of this term to describe people like trump, putin, netanyhu, Xi, Kim et al) converged in a manner that we can all see at the literal level, while seemingly emasculated to bring about the necessary transformation in our perception and our attitudes, including our perception that we have a significant role to play as private citizens.

Nevertheless, to speak, write, or even to consider that ‘love’ is a subject considered significant and worthy of the deepest minds, and the most influential men and women charged with responsibility for leadership, at all levels, is considered, among other epithets, ‘silly,’ immature,’ frivolous,’ irrelevant,’ ‘ridiculous,’ and even ‘apostasy.’ Relegated to the family pages of major newspapers, and the entertainment sections of those papers, the licentious gossip of the tabloids, and the ‘affairs of movie and television ‘stars’…’love’ has been so degraded, defamed, ridiculed, and even imploded as a serious subject for serious consideration by the anima munda….so driven and compelled are ‘we’ to organize, plan, construct and deliver on strategies and tactics dedicated to making money, to trading for good and services in pursuit of profit, to rape the planet of its bountiful resources for our ‘needs’ and then, after the fact, attempt to clean up our own mess. One flagrant example is the storage of waste nuclear rods, locations for which, given their half-life of thousands of years, and the longevity of their radioactivity. And there are a plethora of other examples.

As David Suzuki has reminded anyone who would listen for decades, the ‘economy should be working FOR us, not the other way round.’ And like most clichés, his words, while honourable and insightful, moral and ethical, and even loving in their own way, are considered ‘too’ much to take seriously.

Well, really, is the current multi-crisis conundrum not more accurately ‘too much’? And does the situation not demand, not another faux-pseudo-self-appointed ‘saviour’ like trump, but the combined public, disciplined and determined work of every one of us to turn this global ‘ship’ around?

*Synapse is defined as the site of transmission of electric nerve impulses between two nerve cells (neurons) or between a neuron and a gland or muscle cell (effector). A synaptic connection between a neuron and a muscle cell is called a neuromuscular junction.synapse.

**Psyche: (reported by Thomas Moore, in A Blue Fire p. 268):

The psyche is tortured by love. We find Psyche sad, kneeling, weeping; Psyche, the begging suppliant, prostrate at the feet of Eros; psyche chained or bound to the chariot of love; Eros shooting and wounding Psyche; Psyche’s wings burned, or the burned mother or butterfly whose name in Greek gives them symbolic identity. (The same motifs occur in dreams today. A woman dreams that she tries to burn a wormlike insect in a bonfire; but it proves indestructible, and our comes winged butterfly. A young man dreams of crushing green winged creatures on his ceiling and whitewashing over the spot, or of ridding himself of a caterpillar by setting fire to it; but in a later dream a crowned and winged frog-insect appears.) The insistence upon this aspect of the Psyche-Eros tale became redoubled in the Renaissance representations, where Psyche is tied in cruel knots, crushed in the press, burned at the stake—in an extraordinary mixture of Christian metaphors with the pagan tale of love and torture.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024 #46

Who cannot but be exhausted, depressed, anxious, and profoundly stressed at this moment in history given the multiple, tempestuous flames of hatred, anger, fear and existential angst that, like a pervasive cloud of the most noxious smog (emotionally, environmentally, politically, rhetorically, geo-politically, ideologically and even religiously) seems to have taken up permanent residence in the air we breathe? And given that it infests our attitudes, perceptions, hopes and fears, (and not only our lungs or our blood stream), we continue both to breathe it in and exhaust it in many of our conservations both with others and with ourselves. Whereas in nature, we breathe in mostly clean ‘oxygen’ that sustains us, and exhale carbon dioxide, having removed the healthy elements from the oxygen, this cloud serves primarily only to infect our thoughts, our emotions, our conversations and damnably our expectations. And this infection cannot be and will not be contained within individual bodies, and spreads throughout our shared lives, without offering the option of capturing the ‘virus’ that is so dangerous, spreading it out on a slide, putting it under a compound microscope, and then experimenting to ‘find’ an antidote that might at least curtail the impact of the ethos ‘gas’ we are inhaling.

Clearly the medical, empirical, literal, infectious disease model and metaphor fails us. Put simply, this smog is not reducible to any of our known technical, scientific, legal, military, religious or even philosophic methods of analysis, diagnosis, treatment or especially ‘cure’. And while each of our most competent, scholarly, professional and disciplined men and women around the world are grasping, individually and collectively, to find its roots, its history, its ‘kill-rate’ and its potential antidotes, it seems to feed on its own inherent energy, malice and transparency, absence of both colour and scent, heat and cold, and its ubiquity. Boundless, it infects our Asian, European, North American and African populations, although the symptoms in each region might differ slightly, as do the symptoms of pandemic viruses vary with each person.

War, clearly based on personal ambition and greed seems to be one of the symptoms. Draughts and fires are another, seemingly more correlated with rising temperatures globally; floods and the terror of unleashed forces of water currents seem to have connections also with our environmental crisis. Terrorism and tribal violence seemingly more linked to specific and micro profound dissatisfactions and the attribution of responsibility to specific ‘powers’ and agencies. Campus protests, currently targeting the Israeli invasions of Gaza, and the concomitant missile barrages from Hezbollah in Jordan, The Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza and the Iranian hand of hate that makes puppets of those agents have all culminated in a cancerous and wide-spread campaign that reeks of antisemitism. That Al Qaeda attack on the twin towers in lower Manhattan in September 2001, which to some observers seemed to be a direct ‘hit’ on the military/political/ideological/religious relationship (depicted by many as a dependency) that embraces and sustains the United States and Israel, pitting Islam against some form of Judeo-Christian ‘establishment’ seems to have overtones today in the Middle East. And while such a ‘framing’ is eminently reductionistic, there is a deep divide between the profound understanding of the complexities of the Middle East conflict(s) between ‘western’ leaders and their scholars and Middle East actors, theologians, and citizens. And that kind of division is an integral component of this ‘smog’.

We each, it seems, have been overcome by the smog, and each in our own way find that its restrictions and constrictions on our ‘metaphoric’ breathing, limits our vision, and torques our interpretations, giving rise to whatever anxieties and frustrations, fears, and enmities we harbour, both consciously and unconsciously. Rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, homelessness, hunger, alienation, drug and alcohol dependency, politically hate-filled rhetoric, gun violence, prices for ordinary consumer needs like food and medicine, and the hopelessness that undergirds these ‘demographic’ data trends, are all rising, and the speed of that rise is also increasing. Rising numbers of displaced, homeless and hopeless refugees and immigrants crowd the borders of previously ‘welcoming’ and tolerant and even embracing nations whose collective patience and tolerance has eroded, and morphed into closed borders and even such ‘out-of-the-box’ responses as shipping the refugees to Ruanda, by Great Britain.

Given all of this swirling vortex of political, rhetorical, military, environmental, ideological, religious and attitudinal chaos, many millions are, already have, grown exhausted and fragile. We are all far less tolerant of even the least of the many irritants that come our way. An impatient driver on a freeway cuts us off by slithering past our vehicle within inches as he crowds us by entering our lane in front of us; a retail clerk fails to greet us and offer a friendly ‘hello’ now is noticed and noted, as another sign that we are all ‘living at the end of our ‘short(er) fuse’ emotionally. Of course, many are going an extra mile to offer a friendly greeting, in the spirit of compensating for our shared angst.

It seems to be another given that the world (that is the shared ethos, public opinion, competitive values, and individual aggression) is considered objectively to evoke hatred, fear and depression. And these various ‘expressions’ of the negative forces we all face, individually and collectively, come to us in and through our emotions. Here is a moment for another impromptu intervention by James Hillman, found this time on in excerpts from Hillman’s “Emotion: A comprehensive phenomenology of theories and their meanings for therapy”.

Emotion is the only mode of apprehending, cognizing and experiencing certain aspects of existence….It is only through emotion that we are led to higher spiritual and aesthetic awareness, and to God. Practically, this point of view means that there is so much hatred, fear and depression in our lives because there is so much to hate, fear and be sad about. The emotions only cognize the real facts. These real facts are in the social world and not only subjective ideas and images within the personal psyche of the perceiver. And so these emotions are not to be conditions to be medicated and cured away for the sake or normalcy. Such a therapeutic approach to the negative emotions is, in fact a perversion of man’s relation to his world which is objectively given as evoking hatred, fear and depression. On this view, normalcy itself takes

on another meaning: what is normal and real is what is presented by emotion. The concept of normalcy then becomes based on importance, on meaning, on value and not on collections of data. With this concept of normalcy, of reality, therapy would consist no in the adaptation of the patient’s emotion to his (or his therapist’s) view of normal reality, but in the adaptation of the patient to his emotion which, as the vision of the opsyche, tells the truth about the world. Such an adaptation would mean living an emotional life, with all its hatred, fear and depression, which in turn might well lead, as some writers suggest, to the higher life or art and morality and to God….Emotional behaviour corresponds with the symbolic aspect of objective reality. There is emotion because the world is being apprehended and lived through the symbol. The symbol is thus the emotion itself in the aspect of an exciting image. Emotion is the total pattern of the soul….Emotion is a gift of both flesh and spirit: as well, danger, for any gift can be a curse of a blessing or a blessing in disguise. Since the psyche as a whole is not grasped by consciousness alone, emotion is always a risk element. To be known, emotion must be lived.

Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between what is ‘going on in the world’ including both the events and the perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, fears and hatreds that lie behind and beneath those events (call it the zeitgeist, or from Hillman, the anima mundi, soul of the world) and what is going on in our individual and shared emotions. It is neither weak nor ‘sick’ nor ‘girlie’ nor melodramatic to ‘live’ one’s emotions, to get to know them, and to let them have their way, especially as the negative emotions are most likely to ‘lead down’ to some very poignant and cogent and revealing mysteries, secrets and the gold of new insights. However, there is an apparent, perhaps legitimately alleged, and self-imposed ‘wall’ segregating many men from their ‘lived emotions’. Reasons for this metaphoric wall, (denial, avoidance, deflection, fear itself, unfamiliarity, conformity with social expectations, religious belief, stoic philosophy) are as numerous as there are masculine minds and bodies on the planet. Even the potential of linking with other men, as a matter of unconscious ‘security’ and safety, while embodying another anxiety and fear, could nevertheless, be seen as a legitimate way of justifying emotional ‘coldness’ and detachment. The notion of objectivity, so endemic to the scientific, literal, empirical way of thinking and operating has been imbued into the fabric of the social consciousness so deeply that any deviation from it can often be considered ‘abnormal’ and psychologically disturbing.

Not only are our emotions ‘indigenous’ and inherent, natural and in some ways autonomously ‘linked’ to what we see, hear, smell, and even intuit, from the stimuli that strike us but there is a case to be made that ‘the anima mundi’ might be imaginatively, creatively, sensitively and compassionately and even empathically, considered as another ‘personification’ worthy of, indeed in need of, care, or from a contemporary vernacular, even therapy.

And while the masculine aversion to, revulsion from, denial of, avoidance of, or repulsion by his emotions is insufficient as a single ‘cause’  or diagnosis for the hatred, the fear the anxiety and the multiple crises we all face, in wars, pandemics, draughts, fires, tornadoes, poverty, greed, manipulation and brainwashing through propaganda, it does play a significant role.

Some obvious examples:

trump’s minimization, or even dismissal of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then his dismissive treatment of a disinfectant to be drunk, clearly exhibit a contemptuous disdain both for the seriousness of the pandemic and for the people whom it impacted and eventually killed.

putin’s lies about removing nazis from Ukraine through an alleged genocide, as the primary stated motive for his invasion of this nation, currently governed by a Jewish leader who some of his family in the holocaust are another example both of his capacity and preference for manipulating the truth for his own political, and personal purposes and ambition…his contribution to the destabilizing and deconstruction of the American voters’ trust and loyalty and respect for the U.S. democracy is another of his subtle, cunning, deceptive, cyber and geopolitical manoeuvres to help to dismantle what has been known as ‘world order’ for the last three-quarters of a century….

netanyahu’s alleged genocide in retribution for the Hamas viscious attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, amounts to another example of personal greed, ambition and hyper-nationalism gone awry…and paints another dark, black splot on the canvas we all know and witness as the landscape of the world ethos, the zeitgeist, or the anima munda considered globally.

Xi’s complicity in both political and intelligence support for putin’s war against Ukraine and his over alliance with putin, as a conspiratorial communist leader, so portrayed by the western media, (itself a co-opted machine of the American corporate profit-driven establishment) and thereby signalling another opportunity to western ‘neurosis, or even psychosis, depending on how far each person ‘takes’ or is taken by, his/her fear of the unknown ‘enemy’…China’s open and continuing bellicosity over the impending take-over of Taiwan, controverting the fifty-year commitment made in 1997 to let Taiwan remain independent also provokes ‘military exercises’ that threaten to destabilize the South China Sea, as U.S. and Chinese aircraft pass dangerously close to each other, in a ‘dare-devil’ game of ‘who blinks first?’ also destabilizes our sense of both security and safety, politically and militarily, as well as emotionally and psychologically.

 Iran’s overt and lethal hatred of Israel and the Jewish state, supported as integral to Jewish religion by many Zionists, and her open allegiance with and complicit supply of weapons, not only to its ‘sub-contractors’ Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis, but also to putin and the Russian Ukrainian invasion, under the perceived and reported politically umbrella of an over threat to begin anew their program to develop nuclear weapons, in their hegemonic campaign for dominance in the Middle East….another complication and intractable dynamic over which no world power seems to have any influence…

Even the proposed entente between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which some observers point to as a potential trigger of the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7/23, seems to lie dormant as negotiations for a cease-fire and the release of hostages continue….most observers quite pessimistic over their likely outcome…

OR is that last statement a natural one coming from the very little information we all have access to, so that we are left in a position of having to ‘guess’ and ‘surmise’ and to project, based on even more limited grasp of the history of the Middle East, and the centuries-long antipathy, in some quarters between both religions and nation states.

The U.S.’s artificial insemination and birthing of the original Jewish state in 1948, itself, continuing with a kind of umbilical cord of military, economic, political and psychological enmeshment with her ‘offspring’ child, and the supplying of nuclear weapons, under a swiss-cheese cloke of diplomatic secrecy, that leaves the world in full awareness and trepidation of the long-term impact of this history, especially in any turbulent torrent of violence. And the diplomatic ‘impunity’ with which the United States proceeds, as if everything she has done for Israel has been ethical, honourable and without blight of either self-interest or malignancy, from the perspective of the world’s order and stability, is another symptom of our shared personal, and collective and global dis-ease.

And all the while these various cauldrons threaten to boil over, so does the potential meltdown of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station inside Ukraine, recently hit by Russian missiles, loom as potentially lethal to millions in eastern Europe No headlines of either comfort or serious responsibility seem to be found to indicate an active and aggressive commitment by the world’s governments to the destabilizing threat of global warming and climate change. To be sure, specific nations, including Canada, U.S.A. France, Germany and Great Britain have all made inroads on this file, while countries like India and China remain the world’s current most active carbon dioxide polluters, with little sign of changing their ways in the new future. And given that this is a long-term slow-to-resolve issue, in a world feeding on its appetite for instant solutions, medications preferably, it seems almost inevitable that we would grow impatient (especially our youth) for more intense and seriously disciplined commitments.

Having spent many of the previous entries in this space lauding and honouring the heroic contributions of both Mandela and Gandhi for their respective nations, in eliminating or at least ameliorating apartheid and British imperialism, the current ‘anima mundi’, it seems to this scribe, is not and will not be amenable to another ‘hero’…indeed, that historic model of how male heroes have served to extricate millions from the entrapments of fascism, communism, nationalism, white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism and the pervasive abuse of power by those whose hands were/are on the levers of power, has outlived its appropriateness. The only hero we can now count on in within each of us, and we all know that pressing responsibility. Indeed, so pressing is it, and so pressing is our over-anxious perception of its impact on us and our children and grandchildren, that we are in danger of avoiding, turning away, deflecting, and detaching from the darkness, the seriousness and the dangers of that responsibility.

Denial, avoidance, detachment, and dismissal of our responsibility in the current maelstrom by both men and women, not unlike the similar approach of many males to their/our emotions, is and will be proven to be a self-inflicted disaster. And we can only hope that the current volcanic eruption of anarchy and disorder is an authentic eruption of authentic, dark and deep emotions, constricted as repressed by conventional respectability and political correctness previously, is a sign that our pursuit of our unadulterated, and unvarnished barbarian-ness is now an acceptable and even reputable perception in all world cultures, ethnicities, religions, and nation states.

In the words of a American popular song, recorded by Tina Turner:

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)

Out of the ruins

Out from the wreckage

Can’t make the same mistake this time

We are the children

The last generation (the last generation, the last generation)

We are the ones they left behind

And I wonder when we are ever gonna

Change, change

Living under the fear, ‘til nothing else


We don’t need another hero

We don’t need to know the way home

All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

Looking for something we can rely on

There’s gotta be something better out


Ooh, love and compassion

Their day is coming (coming)

All else are castles built in the air…

So, what do we do with our lives

We leave only a mark

Will our story shine like a light or end in

the dark

Give it all or nothing at all