Monday, February 27, 2006

Over the weekend, I read the first volume of the James Hillman Uniform Edition, entitled Archetypal Psychology, Spring Publications 2004.

The first volume contains an extensive bibliography of works on archetypal psychology, which in itself makes the book worth the purchase. However, even more important, the first section of the book, entitled Brief Account, written by Hillman, provides an overview of archetypal psychology, its major tenets and themes.

Hillman, referring to himself in the third person, discusses his works and his role as one of the founders of the discipline as well as the sources of archetypal psychology in regard to the archetypal image, soul, spirit, depth, polytheistic psychology and religion, the practice of therapy, eros, and personality theory.

Perhaps, most interesting is his discussion of soul. Hillman writes that the two main “fathers” of the discipline are Carl Jung and Henry Corbin.

Before I became interested in Hillman and Jung I was fascinated by two French writers, Corbin and Bachelard, who, I thought, spoke to the feelings that I had from certain images that appeared to me in dreams and writing. I classified these feelings as numinous. For me these images had a sacred feel to them and were different from most of the images I create.

I later came to believe that they were archetypal and thereby of a different quality.

In fact, if asked I can go directly to passages that came to me suddenly and unbidden. I use this expression because it is a paraphrase from Erasmus that Jung quoted often: vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit.

Even today when I read these passages I feel something tangible enter me. I believe that these images elicit a feeling of desire for something transcendent or perhaps better said intimate the possibility of transcendence. They seem to have weight and life beyond the page. At times I feel that I can engage these images and they will produce more and that their appearance in my imagination was simply a tease or a trick to lure me to follow them.

The best example of this is the last few pages of Vogel and the White Bull, where Vogel and his girl friend see the old Indian playing his flute in the square in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


They walked across the square and down a narrow alley to Chez Coyote, which was situated on the second floor of an adobe building. Heike, Tracey, and Jonathan were waiting for them, seated at a large round table in the middle of the room. They were all drinking Margaritas. During dinner, Vogel and Elisa caught up with them and the meal was entertaining and Vogel could see that Heike had made progress with Jonathan. They spoke together in low tones with knowing looks. If Tracey suspected she did not show it. At 10:00 p.m., three hours later, they emerged from the restaurant and started back to the hotel. With sunset, the temperature had actually warmed and a cloud cover had descended upon the city from the mountains. Flakes of snow were falling and the night had a magical quality. Vogel held Elisa’s hand as they walked. Because of his shoulder they walked slowly. The other three walked ahead, with Jonathan in the middle and Heike and Tracey pressed against him for warmth.

The square was lit up, the trees full of white Christmas lights.

Vogel heard flute music. It sounded like the music that he had heard in the Metro in Paris, the music played by the young men from Peru. He looked around the square searching for the source of the haunting sound. Suddenly, he thought of the message written on the wall of the Metro – vous entrez en pays d’√©motion – and he re-experienced the emotion Sehnsucht. He pulled Elisa to him and kissed her passionately. “What is it”?” she asked, staring in his eyes. “I felt overwhelmed with an emotion,” he said.

“What emotion?” she asked, laughing at him.

“Not sex.”

Sehnsucht?”

She kissed him again. “Where is the music coming from?”

“There,” she said pointing to a bench under a large olive tree.

On the bench, an old man sat, with a large felt hat on his head and an Indian blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Standing next to him was a young woman who was dancing sinuously and slowly.

Heike, Tracey, and Jonathan had walked over, close to the Indian, and they were listening raptly to the music. Vogel started over as well, but Elisa held back.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Coyote.”

“What?”

“Sniff!” She breathed in deeply and she smelled the feral smell of a wild animal. Vogel did likewise and he saw the fox in his mind’s eye and he thought he heard a distant bark.

The old Indian stood and waved them over.

Vogel said, “Let’s get closer. Don’t be afraid.”

She squeezed his hand as they approached the Indian. Suddenly the woman produced a small drum and the Indian’s tune and tempo changed. He began to dance, almost in slow motion, and Elisa and Vogel saw behind the notes to the other side. They understood.

Another scene that I felt was significant is at the end of The Cavern.

At the edge of the marsh, he stopped, taking a few moments to find his bearings. He stomped on the soggy ground testing its firmness. The marsh consisted of tufts of dry grass surrounded by brackish water. A smell of decay permeated the air, as birds flew about in the trees, skippers danced above the water, landing on wild flowers on the dry tufts, and dragonflies buzzed across the marsh. Wisent thought he knew the way to the Madonna’s islet, so, as soon as he was relatively sure, he set forth carefully, looking for dry ground, moving gingerly into the marsh, carrying the canvas bag with Auntie Turtle still hiding inside her shell. After a while, he found the Madonna, worked his way as close to her as possible, and sat down on a dry tuft of ground, keeping his eyes on the sacred statue. He calmed his breathing, waiting for something unknown. He looked down at the dried grass and watched a black beetle crawl carefully over his shoe. He looked up into the sky and watched two hawks circling in the distance, as a honeybee buzzed past his ear and a black fly landed on his shoe. Some fish struck the surface of the water and cicadas played their metallic tunes in the surrounding trees. He lifted Auntie Turtle and placed her on the ground next to him. As he waited, he closed his eyes and imagined the Dark Woman walking carefully through the marsh, wearing a white rough linen dress, her hair undone, hanging freely down her back. She approached him and sat next to him.

“You have changed,” he said.

“As have you,” she answered.

“I am waiting for something.”

“Yes. You are waiting for an answer to your problems. Being torn between two women is hell.”

“Exactly.”

“I figured out who you are.”

“Yes. And who am I?”

“You are Athena.”

She laughed softly. “Sometimes.”

“What should I do?”

“Wait. You are growing.”

“It hurts. All I want is to love and be loved.”

She put her hand on his shoulder and said, “I have two things for you: another vision and an aphorism.”

“Yes?”

“Yes. The vision is thus: A large white bull stamps on a pure white beach, while the tide flows in and out. Suddenly, the sand erupts and foams. Thousands of baby sea turtles emerge from the sand and rush to the sea. Above, the air fills with seagulls ready to eat their fill.”

Wisent remained silent.

“The aphorism is thus: Being in being is.”

With the receipt of the aphorism, his vision disappeared and he opened his eyes to the bright sunlight. Auntie Turtle crawled to the edge of the dry tuft of grass, lifted her leathery head, as if sniffing the air, then, slid into the dark waters, disappearing from his sight.

A honeybee landed on his knee. He watched the worker crawl about the hairs on his leg, as he said in a whisper: “Being in being is.”

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