Tuesday, May 7, 2024

cell913blog.com #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, myjewishlearning.com, 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 Hindu.com. (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 Lionsroar.com, 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 


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