Friday, February 23, 2024 #29

Post-modernism and critical race theory, by themselves, do not fill either the vocabulary or the political ethos in which we find ourselves attempting to survive. Making sense, sorting through the turbulent intellectual, cultural, and especially religious ‘winds,’ some of them more forceful and overpowering than others, is a task or even an ambition only for ‘fools’ like this scribe, just another octogenarian flooded with views, data and a curiosity that refuses to be satiated.

Peeling onions, or layers of bark from a birch tree, or mythic sources of images that simply ‘move into’ the unconscious, or sifting through the cognitive, theoretical, dogmatic and political detritus, the loose material resulting from disintegration, is a process fraught with the inevitable failure to arrive at a ‘destination’ of statis, foundation, and another dogma or ideology. In a time of ‘disintegration’ in what Hillman calls the anima mundi,* we refer to his, and the archetypal psychologist’s perspective that the world too is a patient in need of attention. When our fantasy of the world deprives it of personality and soul, we tend to treat this inanimate world badly. We place all our psychological attention on interior events and intimate relationships, withdrawing that attention from the world. But if the world has subjectivity, we have to have a relationship with it. Therefore, as Hillman says, we can be in the world through the heart rather than the head. We can feel our congenital ties to the things of nature and of culture, discovering our actual attachments and thereby developing new intimacies with what has been previously dismissed as dead throwaway matter. …Hillman refuses to see personality in the world of things as projections of our own fantasies. While it is true that we perceive the world’s soul through a refined and strong imagination, that doesn’t mean that the world is alive only through our fantasy of it. Nature, architecture, politics, economics and even city transportation are filled with fantasy that lies beyond our projections. Archetypal psychology tries to unveil that imagery. The point is not to dissect the world’s soul for the mere pleasure of analysis and understanding, but to remember the world’s body so that we become more aware of how it affects us and relate to it as person to person. We might also find in that relationship, as we would with a human patient, areas of suffering in need of special attention. Here, Hillman’s point it that therapy on our own souls is ultimately ineffective without equal attention to the world soul…..Returning soul to the world not only attends to the world, it offers more opportunity to engage in the work of soul ourselves. (Thomas More, editor of A Blue Fire, pps. 95-96)

One of the more perplexing fogs in the collective mind (unconscious, psyche, soul) is the equating of two words that have confounded humans for centuries, soul and spirit. From, we read: ‘a soul, on its most basic level is the ‘life principle’ or ‘animating principle’ of a body. In other world, all living bodies have a soul. While plants, animals and anything living contains a soul, the human soul is unique….In other words, man is the only bodily being whose soul is a spirit (animals are not spiritual) and the only spirit which is a soul (angels do not have a body and therefore no soul. Only in humans do we find both soul and spirit.

Hillman writes, in a chapter entitled, Polytheistic Psychology or a Psychology with Gods, Is Not a Religion, in his Re-visioning Psychology:

The psyche itself keeps psychology and religion bound to each other. Therefore our talk of Gods is not merely a trespass; nor is it merely the use of personified hyperbole for heightening the values of the archetypes,….(W)e speak of Gods because we are working toward a nonagonistic psychology, a psychology which does not have to operate in the hollow left from the separation of Sunday and weekday, church and interior state of mind…Religion in our culture derives from spirit rather than from soul, and so our culture does not a have a religion that reflects psychology or is mainly concerned with soul making. Instead we have a psychology that reflection religion,. Since the religion in our culture has been monotheistic, our psychologies are monotheistic. As we have seen, he prejudices against fragmentation, self-division, and animism are religious in their fanatical intensity. Always psychological thought enjoins the plethora of psychic phenomena to follow the laws of unified models. The monotheistic model may be overtly religious, as is Jung’s self, or disguised, as in Freud’s attempt at a comprehensive system. Organicism, holism, unified field theory, monistic materialism and other psychologies express their fundamental monism through insistence upon clarity, cohesion, or wholes. (Hillman, Re-visioning Psychology, p167-168)

All of this ‘set-up’ to begin the process of unpacking the kind of fanatical intensity of what is today raging through the corridors of power in the United States and perhaps elsewhere as well. Dominionism, based on natural law, a phenomenon of intense clarity, cohesion and a unified theory, (whose) public face is on display in the House of Representatives. This ideology,…..calls for the eradication of social ‘deviants,’ beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these ‘deviants’ are removed, other ‘deviants,’ including Muslims, liberals feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as ‘nominal’ Christians-meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible—will also be ruthlessly repressed. The ‘deviant’ government bureaucrats, the ‘deviant’ media, the ‘deviant’ schools and the ‘deviant’ churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these ‘deviants’ will be annulled. “Christian values’ and ‘family values’ will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church, Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination…This ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism…calls on anointed ‘Christian’ leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation ‘biblical.’ It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism. The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it- its leaders champion small government and a large military as if the military is not part of government -and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous. (Chris Hedges,

It is not an accident that in the midst of disintegration and chaos, warring and mutually exclusive propagation of ‘information’ (alternative facts’) and a strong-man ‘addiction’ to the saviour archetype, finds a penetrating pen and mind in the person of Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history at New York University, who writes in a piece in the Washington Post, October 26, 2021:

What is driving democratic decline in America? Disinformation, election subversion, Donald Trump’s authoritarian leader cult and institutionalized racism leap out at you, But there’s another factor all the more dangerous because it’s part of our everyday reality: civilian access to lethal weapons and the mass death that enables. The scale and scope of gun violence in America doesn’t just desensitize us to violence. It also cheapens the value of life. It fosters political, social and psychological conditions that are propitious for autocracy. The omission of gun law reform from discussion of democracy protection is symptomatic of our normalization of this tragic situation….For decades we have shot each other, with Americans causing fellow Americans more harm than any foreign enemy. More than 1.5 million died of gunshots in the past 50 years vs. 1.2 million in all the wars in the country’s history. This year alone (2021) mass shooting have killed or injured more than 1,800. “More than in any other years on record, according to the latest available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (from the Pew Research Centre, on

Does it not make sense, from an intuitive, imaginative and soul-making perspective to note the role of personal, communal, regional, religious, and geo-political FEAR that underlies the sum of the stories, the data and the organic nature of the culture, desperately in need of attention.

And not the kind of attention that the Dominionists, nor the Trump-Bannon cultists would and are giving it!!

Just this week, Bannon was hailed as a ‘prophet’ at the CPAC convention, predicting that MAGA could rule for fifty years. The 70-year-old former Hollywood scriptwriter-turned-political-spin doctor was given a rockstar’s reception as he entered the room packed with supporters—some of whom had travelled from as far away as Romania…Bannon-mania was in full force among his supporters. One speaker compared hum to a ‘prophet,’ while another attendee described how he had been ‘right about everything.’….By far the biggest cheer came when Bannon asked the crowd, ‘Can we start off by saying, Trump won?’(Anthony Blair, from, February 21, 2024)

Adopting the perspective of the empathic, compassionate, and detached observer/mentor/coach, what does one ‘say’ to such a nationally and internationally troubled ‘soul’?

Throwing up one’s arms leaves the field free and clear for these forces of authoritarianism, autocracy, Dominionism and the cult that has been seduced into it. Screaming ‘foul’ as if there has been a missed or a flagrantly omitted foul in a hockey or basketball game, only reverberates into the bleachers. Adopting a pedagogical perspective, is presumptuous in the extreme, and would be dismissed out of hand. Who are ‘we’ anyone from outside the United States, especially from Canada, that little ‘socialist’ northern Vermont under the ‘red’ leader Trudeau (as many have called us), even to consider observing how disintegrated, discombobulated, dysfunctional, and self-sabotaging is the United States of America, at the moment, and for the foreseeable future?

Well, we are sentient! We are not stupid or dumb, as you might have yourselves believe! And we are not disinterested dispassionate northern cousins living in our igloos!
What and how and with whom you choose to operate your nation, whether you like it or not, or whether you wish to withdraw into your fabricated silo of nationalism and isolationism or not, has ramifications everywhere people live on the planet. Ukrainians, yes and Jews and Palestinians, yes, but also the people of Taiwan, the people living under the NATO umbrella (that includes Canada by the way!), and everyone one on the planet who breathes, drinks water to survive, eats food and attempts to raise a family….is now reconsidering not only whether the United States is a trustworthy partner.

The world is actively considering that the model of nationhood, the devolution of the political process, the triumph of the gun and ‘christian’ power systems and the insistence of the money moguls on inexhaustible funding for these forces…needs not only a total reformation (not in the Bannon vision) from top to bottom. And that reconsideration is not being conducted as much in anger and disappointment as in sadness and empathy for the delusion and denial and avoidance that have contributed to this moment.

Hillman’s organic vision of the ‘soul’ of everything, including a nation, warrants more perspectives than any single one. However, from this ‘owl’s perch,’ the operative depiction of this ‘national personality’ is frightened, even terrified not so much by the outsider-prompted terrorist incursion, but from the complete volcanic eruption of the historically legendary repressed American Shadow. And, the only way ‘out’ of this disintegration is to acknowledge the layers of soot, cob-webs, cluttered and unkempt basements, and dark caves of memory that were so painful and so horrendous and so traumatic that only decades, even centuries later, could they be uncovered.

Nevertheless, although it will take more time that many of us have left, the American authentic and unalloyed ‘gold’ will emerge for all the world to see and to celebrate providing the patience and the diligence of suffering is allowed without self-immolation.

Hopefully this gold will include a release from psychological monotheism (separating religion and psycholoty) and the strictures of a developmental trajectory toward a 'more perfect union.' Such a release could offer an open receptivity of and to the multiple mythic voices, that have the country in their grasp, especially in moments like these. Being willing to release the clinging fingers of the nation to such a highly elevated expectation and demand of the personal and the national ego may help to remove much of the taut and dysfunctional ambition in favour of a more mature, less neurotic (psychotic?) self-image.

And the world would welcome any hints of these 'releases'!


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