I Found a Reason

One of the advantages of Buddhism (and similar religions/philosophies) is that Buddhists are able to view themselves as Buddhists, and are therefore able to act accordingly.

e.g. I am a Buddhist, and my outlook is altruistic; therefore, in this situation, as with all other situations, I shall endeavour to act altruistically.

Buddhism gives the Buddhist the excuse to become something, and to act and think in certain ways. It provides a reason, a reason that, significantly, comes from outside.

The non-Buddhist who wanted to act altruistically may find their will faltering at a crucial point, and, not having the backing of a wise and formidable institution - not having a good enough reason - may find themselves unable to act as they, in their stronger moments, would have liked to.

Non-Buddhists have to construct their own reasons - their own Buddhism - from shards of philosophy, psychology, etc.

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In order for behavioural patterns to change [...] people need a reason, a stimulus that is so strong and extreme in its impact that it results in a sufficiently powerful enough desire in people to change their behaviour to the required level.

For example, bringing an omnivore to a modern day slaughterhouse or battery hen farm (a.k.a. factory) would have a massive impact on whether that person continues with the consumption habits they took part in before they went there.

[Mark Boyle]
Just For the Love of It Blog, here

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How did you finally get off drugs?

I went for treatment in Turkey twice. A detox where they put you to sleep through withdrawal. It cost £20,000. My family paid. But when I got back onto the streets here in London, I kept slipping. Finally, I fell in love. It's as simple as that. I haven't touched a stone since.

Taken from an interview in Vice magazine, Volume 6 Number 10 ('The (Ex) Biggest Heroin Dealer in the Whole Wide World')
Full interview here.

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Outer Supports

All four of the natural elements are used as reminders - the wind to flutter prayer flags, the fire of a lamp flame from which the rising hot air turns prayer wheels, the rocks on which mantras are carved, and the water of a stream to turn the paddles of a water-driven prayer wheel - so that everything we do, every element of nature, whatever happens to be within our sight, can incite us to inner prayer, to altruistic thoughts.

Prayer flags

When a Tibetan prints those prayers and hangs them up to flutter in the wind, he thinks, 'Wherever the wind passing over these prayers may go, may all living beings there be freed from their suffering and the causes of suffering. May they experience happiness and the causes of happiness.'

Merit

'Merit' is a positive state arising for a while in the mind that helps to counteract negative states of mind. I think that the predominant idea for [Buddhists] is therefore that of purifying the stream of their consciousness by an 'accumulation of merit', to reinforce the positive stream that flows toward wisdom. That's why people do prostrations, walk respectfully around sacred monuments, and make offerings of light in the temples.

Mantra

... 'mantra' means 'what protects the mind' - not from some calamity or other but from getting distracted and from mental confusion. A mantra is a short formula that's repeated numerous times, like the Prayer of the Heart in Orthodox Christianity, which is accompanied by constant repetition of the name of Jesus. Such techniques of repetition are found in all religious traditions.

Reciting helps to calm the superficial movements of the mind and thus to see its underlying nature more clearly.

You use the support of things outside yourself so that everything you see, everything you hear, brings back to mind [an] altruistic attitude and provides material for reflection. Nature itself then becomes a book of teachings. Everything incites us to spiritual practice.

... such customs are far from superstitious. They simply reflect the richness of the means employed by Buddhism to keep on reviving our presence of mind ... [they] are useful outer supports allowing believers to communicate with an inner truth.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.38-41

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Mind-expanding Knowledge?

It's true that biology and theoretical physics have brought us some fascinating knowledge about the origins of life and the formation of the universe. But does knowing such things help us elucidate the basic mechanisms of happiness and suffering?

It's important not to lose sight of the goals that we set ourselves. To know the exact shape and dimensions of the Earth is undeniably progress. But whether it's round or flat doesn't make a great deal of difference to the meaning of existence. Whatever progress is made in medicine, we can only temporarily treat sufferings that never stop coming back, and culminate in death.

We can end a conflict, or a war, but there will always be more, unless people's minds change.

[Matthieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p.17

Forever Becoming

Becoming

These becomings animate the possibilities of life, constantly moving through what we know to be real or true and running beyond the limits, boundaries and constraints that make those realities and truths what they seem to be.

Becoming explodes the ideas about what we are and what we can be beyond the categories that seem to contain us: beyond the boundaries seperating human being from animal, man from woman, child from adult, micro from macro, and even perceptible and understandable from imperceptible and incomprehensible.

Becoming moves beyond our need to know (the truth,what is real, what makes us human); beyond our determination to control (life, nature, the universe); and beyond our desire to consume or possess (pleasure, beauty, goodness, innocence).

So becoming offers a radical conception of what a life does.

Positive ontology

Deleuze's work is often applauded for the "positive ontology" it pursues. By this, scholars acknowledge that Deleuze is concerned with unfettering possibility to experiment with that a life can do and where a life might go. In other words, Delueze affirms the possibilities of becoming something else, beyond the avenues, relations, values and meanings that seem to be laid out for us by our biological make-up, our evolutionary heritages, our historical/political/familial allegiances, and the social and cultural structures of civilized living.

There is in this a radical affirmation of the sort of possibilities for becoming that we cannot think of in logical or moralistic terms: becomings that can only be felt or sensed or conjured, that require us to take risks and experiment in ways that affirm the vitality, the energies and the creative animations of existence.

The block of becoming

We might be tempted to think of becoming in terms of where or who we were when we started and where or who we are when we end up. But becoming is not about origins, progressions and ends; rather it is about lines and intensities ...

Deleuze and Guattari have described the movement of becoming as "rhizomatic", a term that refers to underground root growth, the rampant, dense propagation of roots that characterizes such plants as mint or crabgrass. Each rhizomatic root may take off in its own singular direction and make its own connections with other roots, with worms, insects, rocks or whatever, forming a dynamic composition of "interkingdoms [and] unnatural participations" that has no prescribed form or end.

Thresholds

As Deleuze and Guattari observe, "the self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities". While we might think of the self as that which is ours, the site of our uniqueness and that which most distinguishes us from others, in this observation Deleuze and Guattari cast the self as preceding these forms and functions of self-organization.

So the importance of thresholds is that these "in-betweens" are becomings. When we are "in-between", on the threshold, what keeps us distinct from this or that can become indiscernible or indistinct or imperceptible.

Immanence

Deleuze's philosophy is often called a philosophy of immanence because it is concerned with what a life can do, what a body can do when we think in terms of becomings, multiplicities, lines and intensities rather than essential forms, predetermined subjects, structured functions or transcendent values.

... a plane of immanence has no structure and does not produce predetermined forms or subjects; instead, there are "relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness ... molecules and particles of all kinds".

Becoming-woman

Becoming-woman disrupts the rigid hierarchies of sexual binaries such as male/female, heterosexuality/homosexuality, masculinity/femininity that organizes our bodies, our experiences, our institutions and our histories.

Both men and women must become-woman, Deleuze and Guattari argue, in order to deterritorialize the binary organization of sexuality; sexuality then becomes "the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings". This is the unleashing of desire, the opening of a life, and the threshold to imperceptibility.

... "knowing how to love" is the "immanent end of becoming". And since everybody and everything is the aggregate of molar entities, becoming everybody and everything, that is, becoming-imperceptible and indiscernibly in-between, is to make a different world.

As philosophical concepts, becoming-woman and the girl allow us to think differently, imagine new modes of becomings, animate forces of desire, and open doors and thresholds into new worlds.

[Patty Sotirin]
Gilles Deleuze, Key Concepts, p.99, 100-1, 103, 108-9

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Fiction from Fiction

Whilst watching Synecdoche: New York I became aware that I was looking for a message; or rather, the message. 'What is this all about?' a worried voice within me urged. 'What can it all mean? ... maybe becoming aware of looking for a message is in fact the message ... '

Synecdoche is a bewildering experience, due in part to the way it consistently pulls the rug from under your feet, time and again denying the passive comfort of an overarching 'message' to make sense of things. It made me think of how often we watch a film with this expectation; that, when the film ends, we will have had some kind of truth imparted to us: from the film - the active party, the one with something to say, something to tell - to us, the undergraduate, eager to receive. Which isn't to say that Synecdoche is lacking in truth; in fact, the opposite seems to be the case - it feels like it is bursting with truths (as many truths as it has characters, which, including extras, is a lot), firing off in all directions, and often cancelling each other out.

Synecdoche is a time bomb for the mind, its detonation sending thoughts colliding into other thoughts in an ever-increasing flurry of synapses. It left me feeling excited and full of energy and ideas. Through refusing to pin down a meaning, to point towards one path and say 'here, this is it!', it entertained possibilities, allowing the mind to explore numerous avenues of thought. Its possibilities engendered discussion, and the chance of more doors being flung open.

Its characters think, but they think for themselves, not for us. In this sense, the creation of meaning is in our hands; fiction compelling fiction.

Psychologist James Hillman describes this refusal to pin down meaning - to make it practical - as 'entertaining ideas': "For ideas to be therapeutic, that is, beneficial to the soul and body politic, they must gather into themselves, garnering force, building strength, like great movers of the mind's furniture, so that the space we inhabit is rearranged. Your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories have to move around in new ways, because the furniture has been moved." The film facilitates this rearranging, providing the energy we may need for the move, whilst refusing to dictate what gets moved where: what we move, what we make, is our decision.


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Searching Without/ Searching Within

Every day we are faced with political decisions; to give money to a beggar, or to not; to smile at the person passing us by, or to keep ourselves to ourselves; to intervene in the scuffle, or to stay out of it. We cannot know the implications of our decisions without giving thought to these moments; without, in fact, building our own philosophy of life - a world view that encompasses all possible political junctures.

We could spend a lifetime working this out. To make an informed decision on everyday situations like these necessitates a certain amount of sustained thought; it may even require insight that is simply beyond our reach; what, after all, are the political implications of acting one way or another? And the moral implications? And how far back do these decisions reach? What do you know about how society works? And the long-sighted implications of your actions, beyond their affects within your own vicinity?

No wonder we rely so much on guidance, on the opinions of others. No wonder we have to trust those that have devoted their lives to thinking these junctures through. In most things we are ignorant, and in most situations we make do with speculation. We cannot know it all; from this realization onwards we are reliant on others, and the perspective and insight they can offer us.

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After pointing out that we must often act upon probabilities that fall short of certainty, he says that the right use of this consideration 'is mutual charity and forebearance.

Since therefore it is unavoidable to the greatest part of men, if not all, to have several opinions, without certain and indubitable proofs of their truth;

and it carries too great an imputation of ignorance, lightness, or folly, for men to quit and renounce their former tenets presently upon the offer of an argument which they cannot immediately answer and show the insufficiency of;

it would, methinks, become all men to maintain peace and the common offices of humanity and friendship in the diversity of opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily and osequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For, however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reason, nor blindly submit to the will and dictates of another.

If he you would bring over to your sentiments be one that examines before he assents, you must give him leave at his leisure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine the particulars, to see on which side the advantage lies;

and if he will not think over arguments of weight enough to engage him anew in so much pains, it is but what we do often ourselves in the like case;

and we should take it amiss if others should prescribe to us what points we should study:

and if he be one who wishes to take his opinions upon trust, how can we imagine that he should renounce those tenets which time and custom have so settled in his mind that he thinks them self-evident, and of an unquestionable certainty;

... How can we expect, I say, that opinions thus settled should be given up to the arguments or authority of a stranger or adversary? especially if there be any suspicion of interest or design, as there never fails to be where men find themselves ill treated.

We should do well to commiserate our mutual ignorance, and endeavour to remove it in all the gentle and fair ways of information, and not instantly treat others as ill as obstinate and perverse because they will not renounce their own and receive our opinions, or at least those we would force upon them, when it is more than probable that we are no less obstinate in not embracing some of theirs.

For where is the man that has uncontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all that he condemns; or can say, that he has examined to the bottom all his own or other men's opinions?

The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than to restrain others ... There is reason to think, that if men were better instructed themselves, they would be less imposing on others.'

[Bertrand Russell]
with quote from John Locke (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book IV, chap, xvi, sec. 4.
Found in Russell's, History of Western Philosophy, p. 554-5

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With most people, the power of judgement is present only nominally.

[...] Ordinary minds show, even in the smallest affairs, a want of confidence in their own judgement, just because they know from experience that it is of no use to them. With them prejudice and following the judgement of others take its place.

In this way they are kept in a permanent state of nonage, from which scarcely one in many hundreds is emancipated. Naturally this is not avowed, for even to themselves they seem to judge; yet all the time they are casting a furtive glance at the opinion of others, which remains their secret point of direction.

While any of them would be ashamed to go about in a borrowed coat, hat, or cloak, none of them has anything but borrowed opinions which they eagerly scrape up wherever they can get possession of them; and then they proudly strut around in them, giving them out as their own. Other in turn borrow these opinions from them, and do just the same thing with them.

This explains the rapid and wide dissemination of errors, as well as the fame of what is bad. For the professional purveyors of opinion, such as journalists and the like, as a rule give out only false goods, just as those who hire out fancy dresses give only false jewellery.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.89-90

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i have used both books and the net but now use nothing. i try not to read to much into anyone else's opinions as i feel this could influence me and subsequently set me back. relax in the fact that when you need to know something it will find you. i know that kinda sounds new age hippy like, but it really does happen to me on more occasions than i care to suggest. it always makes me smile now when it happens. the clue to this is to listen to what anyone tells you because sometimes you will be quite generally surprized at 'who knows what' and sometimes information comes in the most obscure ways.

[...] i supppose i simply realised what common sense means, which in return made everything else make sense if that makes sense.

[...] i stopped researching quite sometime ago when i realised the above [...]

[John Harris]
TPUC forum

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To be Found, or to Find?

All acquisition of knowledge is an enlargement of the Self, but this enlargement is best attained when it is not directly sought. It is obtained when the desire for knowledge is alone operative, by a study which does not wish in advance that its objects should have this or that character, but adapts the Self to the characters which it finds in its objects.

This enlargement of Self is not obtained when, taking the Self as it is, we try to show that the world is so similar to this Self that knowledge of it is possible without any admission of what seems alien.

The desire to prove this is a form of self-assertion and, like all self-assertion, it is an obstacle to the growth of Self which it desires, and of which the Self know that it is capable. Self-assertion, in philosophic speculation as elsewhere, views the world as a means to its own ends; thus it makes the world of less account than Self, and the Self sets bounds to the greatness of its goods.

In contemplation, on the contrary, we start from the not-Self, and through its greatness the boundaries of Self are enlarged; through the infinity of the universe the mind which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.

For this reason greatness of soul is not fostered by those philosophies which assimilate the universe to Man. Knowledge is a form of union of Self and not-Self; like all union, it is impaired by dominion, and therefore by any attempt to force the universe into conformity with what we find in ourselves.

There is a widespread philosophic tendency towards the view which tells us that Man is the measure of all things, that truth is man-made, that space and time and the world of universals are properties of the mind, and that, if there be anything not created by the mind, it is unknowable and of no account for us.

This view ... has the effect of robbing philosophic contemplation of all that gives it value, since it fetters contemplation to Self. What it calls knowledge is not a union with the not-Self, but a set of prejudices, habits, and desires, making an impenetrable veil between us and the world beyond. The man who finds pleasure in such a theory of knowledge is like the man who never leaves the domestic circle for fear his word might not be law.

Everything, in contemplation, that is personal or private, everything that depends upon habit, self-interest, or desire, distorts the object, and hence impairs the union which the intellect seeks.

[Bertrand Russell]
The Problems of Philosophy, p.92-3

Citizens of the Universe

Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge ... the kind which results from a critical examination of the grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs.

There are many questions - and among them those that are of the profoundest interest to our spiritual life - which, so far as we can see, must remain insoluble to the human intellect unless its powers become of quite a different order from what they are now.

Yet, however slight may be the hope of discovering an answer, it is part of the business of philosophy to continue the consideration of such questions, to make us aware of their importance, to examine all the approaches to them, and to keep alive that speculative interest in the universe which is apt to be killed by confining ourselves to definitely ascertainable knowledge.

The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived form common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.

To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected.

Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom.

Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they might be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.

Apart from its utility in showing unsuspected possibilities, philosophy has a value - perhaps its chief value - through the greatness of the objects which it contemplates, and the freedom from narrow and personal aims resulting from this contemplation.

The life of the instinctive man is shut up within the circle of his private interests: family and friends may be included, but the outer world is not regarded except as it may help or hinder what comes within the circle of instinctive wishes. In such a life there is something feverish and confined, in comparison with which the philosophic life is calm and free. The private world of instinctive interests is a small one, set in the midst of a great and powerful world which must, sooner or later, lay our private world in ruins.

The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge - knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for a man to attain.

The impartiality which, in contemplation, is the unalloyed desire for truth, is the very same quality of mind which, in action, is justice, and in emotion is that universal love which can be given to all, and not only to those who are judged useful or admirable.

Thus contemplation enlarges not only the objects of our thoughts, but also the objects of our actions and our affections: it makes us citizens of the universe, not only of one walled city at war with all the rest. In this citizenship of the universe consists man's true freedom, and his liberation from the thraldom of narrow hopes and fears.

Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions ... but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination, and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation ...

[Bertrand Russell]
The Problems of Philosophy, p.90-4

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Revolt of solitary instincts against social bonds is the key to the philosophy, the politics, and the sentiments, not only of what is commonly called the romantic movement, but of its progeny down to the present day.

In order to continue to feel solitary, [the romantic] must be able to prevent those who serve him from impinging upon his ego, which is best accomplished if they are slaves. Passionate love, however, is a more difficult matter. So long as passionate lovers are regarded as in revolt against social trammels, they are admired; but in real life the love-relation itself quickly becomes a social trammel, and the partner in love comes to be hated, all the more vehemently if the love is strong enough to make the bond difficult to break.

Not only passionate love, but every friendly relation to others, is only possible, to this way of feeling, in so far as the others can be regarded as a projection of one's own Self.

By encouraging a new lawless Ego [the romantic movement] made social co-operation impossible, and left its disciples faced with the alternative of anarchy or despotism.

Egoism, at first, made men expect from others a parental tenderness; but when they discovered, with indignation, that others had their own Ego, the disappointed desire for tenderness turned to hatred and violence. Man is not a solitary animal, and so long as social life survives, self-realization cannot be the supreme principle of ethics.

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('The Romantic Movement'), p.620-2

Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know


Scepticism, as a doctrine of the schools, was first proclaimed by Pyrrho ...

Scepticism with regard to the senses had troubled Greek philosophers from a very early stage ... Pyrrho seems to have added moral and logical scepticism to scepticism as to the senses. He is said to have maintained that there could never be any rational ground for preferring one course of action to another. In practice, this meant that one conformed to the customs of whatever country one inhabited.

A modern disciple would go to church on Sundays and perform the correct genuflections, but without any of the religious beliefs that are supposed to inspire these actions. Ancient Sceptics went through the whole pagan ritual, and were even sometimes priests; their Scepticism assured them that this behaviour could not be proved wrong, and their common sense (which survived their philosophy) assured them that it was convenient.

'We sceptics follow in practice the way of the world, but without holding any opinion about it. We speak of the Gods as existing and offer worship to the Gods and say that they exercise providence, but in saying this we express no belief, and avoid the rashness of the dogmatizers.'

Scepticism naturally made an appeal to many unphilosophic minds. People observed the diversity of schools and the acerbity of their disputes, and decided that all alike were pretending to knowledge which was in fact unattainable. Scepticism was a lazy man's consolation, since it showed the ignorant to be as wise as the reputed men of learning.

To men who, by temperament, required a gospel, it might seem unsatisfying, but like every doctrine of the Hellenistic period it recommended itself as an antidote to worry. Why trouble about the future? It is wholly uncertain. You may as well enjoy the present; 'what's to come is still unsure.' For these reasons, Scepticism enjoyed a considerable popular success.

It should be observed that Scepticism as a philosophy is not merely doubt, but what might be called dogmatic doubt. The man of science says 'I think it is so-and-so, but I am not sure.' The man of intellectual curiosity says 'I don't know how it is, but I hope to find out.' The philosophical Sceptic says 'nobody knows, and nobody ever can know.' It is this element of dogmatism that makes the system vulnerable. Sceptics, of course, deny that they assert the impossibility of knowledge dogmatically, but their denials are not very convincing.

The only logic admitted by the Greeks was deductive, and all deduction had to start, like Euclid, form general principles regarded as self-evident. Timon denied the possibility of finding such principles. Everything, therefore, will have to be proved by means of something else, and all argument will be either circular or an endless chain hanging from nothing. In either case nothing can be proved.

The manner in which Arcesilaus taught would have had much to commend it, if the young men who learnt from him had been able to avoid being paralysed by it. He maintained no thesis, but would refute any thesis set up by a pupil. Sometimes he would himself advance two contradictory propositions on successive occasions, showing how to argue convincingly in favour of either.

A pupil sufficiently vigorous to rebel might have learnt dexterity and the avoidance of fallacies; in fact, none seem to have learnt anything except cleverness and indifference to truth.

Scepticism had enough force to make educated men dissatisfied with the State religions, but it had nothing positive, even in the purely intellectual sphere, to offer in their place. From the Renaissance onwards, theological scepticism has been supplanted, in most of its advocates, by an enthusiastic belief in science, but in antiquity there was no such supplement.

[Bertrand Russell]
History of Western Philosophy ('Cynics and Sceptics'), p.224-6, 228-9

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[...] 'There are certain opinions about what is right and honourable in which we are brought up from childhood, and whose authority we respect like that of our parents.

[...] but what happens when he is confronted with the question, "What do you mean by 'honourable'?" When he gives the answer tradition has taught him, he is refuted in argument, and when that has happened many times and on many different grounds, he is driven to think that there's no difference between honourable and disgraceful, and so on with all the other values, like right and good, that he used to revere. What sort of respect for their authority do you think he'll feel at the end of it all?

[...] Then when he's lost any respect or feeling for his former beliefs but not yet found the truth, where is he likely to turn? Won't it be to a life which flatters his desires?

[...] And so we shall see him become a rebel instead of a conformer.

[...] there's one great precaution you can take, which is to stop their getting a taste of [philosophic discussion] too young. You must have noticed how young men, after their first taste of argument, are always contradicting people just for the fun of it; they imitate those whom they hear cross-examining each other, and themselves cross-examine other people like puppies who love to pull and tear at anyone within reach.

[...] So when they've proved a lot of people wrong and been proved wrong often themselves, they soon slip into the belief that nothing they believed before was true; with the result that they discredit themselves and the whole business of philosophy in the eyes of the world.

[...] But someone who's a bit older [...] will refuse to have anything to do with this sort of idiocy; he won't copy those who contradict just for the fun of the thing, but will be more likely to follow the lead of someone whose arguments are aimed at finding the truth. He's a more reasonable person and will get philosophy a better reputation.'

[Plato]
The Republic (Penguin Classics Edition), p.271-3

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Psychology for the Soul

Psyche is an intelligence that wants an intelligent psychology in response. Its native inferiority does not imply stupidity; it cannot live on the clichés of inferior psychology or even on the superior ideas when simply taken over from masters.

Remember the voice that said, "I like your mistakes;" the voice that said, "I obey no laws of compensation." The psyche's therapy wants one to work out the psyche's logos, each individual a psychologist.

If the soul's want is a priori, then loss is a permanent possibility of soul. We may most have soul or be in soul [esse in anima] when we sense most its loss. Then the sense of want belongs to the ontology of soul and to what we mean by 'being psychological.'No psychological act can fully satisfy, no interpretation truly click like a key in a lock, no relationship of souls complete the lack and failure that reflects the essence of psyche. Imperfection is in its essence, and we are complete only by being in want.

Psychology must be gained for it is not given, and without psychological education we do not understand ourselves and we make our daimons suffer. This suggests that a reason for psychotherapy of whatever school and for whatever complaint is to gain psychology - a logos of soul that is at the same moment a therapeia of soul.

We need to gain the intelligent response that makes the soul intelligible, a craft and order that understands it, a knowledgeable deftness that cares for its wants in speech. And if logos is its therapy, because it articulates the psyche's wants, then one answer to what the soul wants is psychology.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.94, 127-8

Stuck In Words

He: But aren't you supposed to be inside? My interior person?

Chest-Voice: You are stuck in words. Interior simply means deeper. Going inward simply means going more deeply into things, into their heart and soul. Interior is a sense of inward chambers, the hollow in the chest that resounds. It isn't a place to go and it doesn't mean all those things you've learned and taken so literalistically: introverting, introspecting, internalizing.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.122

You laugh at my back, and I'll laugh at yours

The fourth major component of Adlerian theory is Gemeinschaftsgefühl, communal feeling or social interest.

So when we ask Adler one more time, what does the soul want? What is its innate intention? We now hear him reply: it wants community. It wants to live with reason in a world that reflects cosmic meaning, then, now, and forever, where the soul as the potential of this order strives with purpose and gives meaning to each act 'contributed' to life, moving it toward communal and cosmic perfection. "Contribution is the true meaning of life."

But - and the but is big indeed - "the realm of meanings," says Adler, "is the realm of mistakes", so that each meaning we attribute to what the soul wants, and he says there are as many meanings as there are human beings, "involves more or less of a mistake." Hence, what the soul wants must be a fictional mistaken understanding of every meaning it proposes. This can be the only way that allows human community the very perfection Adler envisions.

We cannot answer the soul's wanting by any certainty, any goal, without realizing at the same moment that this goal is a fiction and that to literalize it is a mistake - even if a necessary mistake.

Certainty is an identification with a single meaning, one posits one's own private meaning as a "position of finality," which serves only to isolate oneself, defeating our innate altruism and alienating us from the community of humankind.

Gemeinschaftsgefühl cannot answer what the soul wants or present its goal; it can serve only as an instrument for reflecting all our goals. Do they contribute, do they embody feeling for others? Gemeinschaftsgefühl thus offers a mode of discovering our isolating fictions and our mistakes.

If we commune at all, it is in the empathy of our mistakes and the humorous tolerance given by the sense of fiction. We are human less by virtue of our ideal goals than by the vice of our inferiority. So the sense of imperfection, Jung's shadow, is the only possible base for Adler's goal of Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Jung said the same: "Relationship is not based on ... perfection ... it is based, rather, on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless ... the very ground and motive for dependence."

The shadow of weakness is not only moral, it is also humorous. The best entry into imperfection is humour, self-irony, dissolving into laughter, the acceptable humiliation that requires no after-compensation upwards. The sense of imperfection may be one way into communal feeling: another surer one is the all-too-human bond of the sense of humour.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.106-9

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A man will not obtain demonstrations of genuine philanthropy from others as long as he is well off in every respect.

The lucky man can, of course, frequently experience the good will of relations and friends; but the expressions of that pure, disinterested, objective participation in the lot and condition of another, which are the effect of loving-kindness, are reserved for him who in any way suffers.

For the lucky man as such we feel no sympathy; on the contrary, as such he remains a stranger to our hearts [...]

[...] misfortune is the condition of compassion, and this is the source of philanthropy.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
On the Basis of Morality, p.174

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The disabled person.

We are all, in a sense, "disabled"; only some of us are able to hide our wounds better than others. The disabled person has little choice other than to show theirs, and in doing so they draw from us a natural response: compassion.

Because the disabled person cannot hide their wounds, we cannot help but see them, and must, as a collectivity, come to terms with what we see.

We see the ways in which they are disabled - the ways in which they need to be carried - and we must mould ourselves to them. This process is made easier because the disabled person is a "known commodity"; we know collectively how we are meant to approach them - the interaction has been culturally coded. Because their needs are known, it is easier, and more acceptable, to attend to them.

They force a certain type of interaction from us and in doing so teach us what it means to be wounded: a lesson in interdependency. With a disabled person we are allowed to cross a boundary that we may otherwise hesitate at.

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Related posts:-
Per-Fiction
The Shadow & Projection
Imperfect Relationships
Carry Each Other
The Creation of Meaning, pt.2
Positive Space
Living with Roughness
Salvation through Suffering

Per-Fiction

The main damaging movement away from the soul's double nature Adler calls "the masculine protest," the need to win, to come out on top. He also called this the "striving for perfection" or "superiority."

The psyche constructs; it invents images and the mind follows them as its guides; "guiding fictions," Adler calls them.

So, perfection is a necessary fiction, pragmatically necessary just as truth is "merely the most expedient error." When we realize the goal of perfection toward which we strive as an impossibility in every objective and literal sense, then we are also able to recognize how necessary is this fictional perfection.

Goals are thrown up by the psyche as bait to catch the living fish, fictions to instigate and guide action. As Jung said, "A spiritual goal that points beyond ... is an absolute necessity for the health of the soul."

One feels purposefulness, that there is a way and one is moving on a way, a process of towardness, called by Adler striving for perfection, by Jung individuation.

We can keep this way moving only by keeping purposefulness from becoming literalized into definite goals. Goals, especially the highest and finest, work like overvalued ideas, the roots of delusions that nourish great canopies of sheltering paranoia, those spreading ideals of size and import which characterize the positive goals of so many schools of therapy today.

We see enough of the disastrous effect of goals in daily life, where the belief in an overriding idea about one's purpose in life, what one has to do, the raison d'etre for one's existence turns out to be the very goal which blocks the way.

'To be healed' is the goal which takes one into therapy, and we are healed of that goal when we recognize it as a fiction.

So the best psychotherapy can do is attune the fictional sense. Then the goals toward which therapy strives - maturity, completion, wholeness, actualization - can be seen through as guiding fictions. Then they do not close the way. Therapy becomes less a support of the "great upward drive" than it is a job of deliteralizing the fictions in which purpose is fixed and where one is actually defending oneself against the soul's innate 'towardness' by means of one's goals.

This suggests that the only possible perfection that the soul can want is perfection of its fictional understanding, the realization of itself in images, itself a fiction among fictions.

This method of as-if keeps the way open, and it seems to be where the Adlerian approach comes closest to the religious idea that the final goal is the way itself, in this case, the way of fiction.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.103-6

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Psychic Hermaphrodite

Inferiority shows itself in our thinking style. Because of feelings of inferiority and insecurity we devise mental constructs to keep these feelings at bay. These constructs act as guiding fictions, governing fantasies, by means of which we apperceive the world.

The most basic of these neurotic protections, perhaps the one to which all others can be reduced, Adler calls "antithetical thinking," "which works according to the principle of opposites".

The mind sets up opposite poles: strong/weak, up/down, male/female - and these guiding fictions determine how we experience. Antitheses divide the world sharply, giving opportunity for exerting power in forceful actions, saving us from feeling weak and incapacitated.

More important even than these pairs is that oppositional thinking itself is a pampering safeguard against the true reality of the world, which in Adler's view is one of shaded differentiations and not oppositions.

For him, to think that abstract opposites reflect reality is to think neurotically, since all antitheses ultimately refer to the power construct of superior/inferior embodied in society as male and female.

The ultimate ground of thinking in opposites is the male/female pair, "the only real antithesis", which in turn can be pushed back to its early childhood experience in "psychic hermaphroditism." "The psyche partakes of both feminine and masculine traits", and from childhood on we identify not only weakness and inferiority with female, but also the ambivalence caused by the weakness. Moreover, hermaphroditic ambivalence itself indicates inferiority and is "apperceived in a strongly antithetical manner," which safeguards us from it.

We are convinced by society that "there are only two sex roles possible," and a "dissection" occurs. Uncertainty is met with a clear-cut either/or, that same either/or thinking which Jung connected both with ego-consciousness and with the one-sidedness of neurosis.

If restoring psychic hermaphroditism in one way or another is essential to the notion of cure in all three depth therapies [Freud, Jung, and Adler], then any disjunctive move is contra-indicated. We may not look to the ego as modelled on the hero, with his sword of decision, to lead us to healing. He is but one more divisive form of the masculine protest against inferiority, and his Oedipus foot, Achilles heel, and Hercules dress are signs of his innate hermaphroditism.

Psychic hermaphroditism holds juxtapositions without feeling them as oppositions. Oppositions between conscious and unconscious, masculine and feminine, positive and negative, private soul and public world sever the ambivalence natural to the hermaphrodite.

For Hermaphroditus presents an image in which what is natural is the unnatural, a primordial image of contra naturam. The physical attitude of natural bodies and biological sexes is revalued by the configuration of non-natural fantasy. Nature is transformed by imaginative deformation, physis by poiesis.

This tells us what kind of fictions heal: preposterous, unrealizable, non-literal, from which singleness of meaning is organically banned.

If Asclepius is archetypal figure of the healer, Hermaphroditus is the archetypal figure of healing, the psychic healing of imagination, the healing fiction, the fictional healer for whom no personal pronoun fits, impossible in life and necessary in imagination.

So when we meet antithetical thinking, our question will no longer be how to conjunct, transcend, find a synthetic third, or breed an androgyne. For such moves take the antithesis literally, preventing the mind from moving from its neurotic constructs, from moving from Freudian facts to Adlerian fictions.

Instead our question will be: what have we already done to lose our twin who was given with the soul: the ambivalent, inferior, even shameful feeling of our psychic hermaphrodite. That figure, concealed in 'the opposites' (which are used as a defense against it), is also the figure embodied as goal by therapy in its own work - an odd, most unnatural and fantastic, even shameful, work indeed.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.100-3

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Research into women's thought patterns is substantiating the assertion that the feminine point of view places greater emphasis on relationship and connections, both in terms of empathy and abstract thinking.

Such a perspective is obviously not the exclusive property of women, and in recent years men have begun to value more consciously the feminine side of themselves. But for hundreds of years, this more contextual way of thinking and being has been not only neglected, but undermined by industrial culture.

The dominant perspective of our society is now out of balance. A shift toward the feminine is long overdue.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.189

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Vaihinger observed that the sense of 'as if' involves a "condition of tension ... a feeling of discomfort which quite naturally explains the tendency of the psyche to transform every hypothesis into a dogma". To be rid of the tension of ambiguity, we move toward the insanity of literalism, and into some kind of action.

The acting-out, heroic, "masculine protest" cannot bear the innate tension, elsewhere described by Adler as psychic hermaphroditism. Here we feel close to our inferiority .

This is the condition of tentativeness, where our hypotheses feel less certain and positive and our beliefs are vulnerable. If we can stay with this condition of ambiguity we are less able to be literal about anything, and so less likely to move into the delusion of neurosis and insanity.

Thus psychic health requires remaining within psychic hermaphroditism, because it constellates those feelings of inferiority which prevent literalism. The image of the hermaphrodite keeps the tension ... an image which, like humour, like metaphor, prevents antithetical literalism.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.112

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Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig in a brief and fundamental work has developed the idea of antithetical thinking along the lines that also can be called Adlerian.

His focus too is Adlerian: power, the move towards superiority in all helping professions and the polarization into weak and strong (patient and doctor, pupil and teacher, etc). This destructive antithesis occurs, he says, when the doctor loses touch with his own vulnerability, the teacher with his own ignorance, and the social worker with his own asocial immorality.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.114

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Rudolf Ritsema's examinations of the I Ching have furthered psychological insight even into our Western language habits, where the literalist fiction is most invisibly embedded.

Ritsema shows how to stick to the image when using words. His "syntax of the imaginal" defeats those mental habits which rely on causality and linear thinking, positivity of statement, dogmas - the very progress to insanity that Adler warned of.

Ritsema's scrutiny of the I Ching also implies that those two totem poles which guard the approaches to psychotherapy like dumb stone giants from Easter Island - I mean The Masculine and The Feminine - are modern monolithic concretisms, a pair of substantiated neurotic antithesis that can draw no support from the flowing play of Yin/Yang images, always subtle, differentiated, and precise.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.116

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Unlike a notion of the transcendent, the plane of the transcendental is an absolute immanence, complete in itself, neither "in something" nor belonging to someone (say some notion of a universal subject). "It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence".

Pure or absolute immanence is what Deleuze calls "A LIFE," defined as a paradoxical experience/duration in which individuality fades and becomes "a singular essence," an empty time of singularities or virtualities existing in between what we take to be the defining moments of an individual's life. A LIFE unfolds according to a different logic than the life of an individual. It can never be grasped fully; it is always yet "in the making," in potentia, and flashes into conscious existence only occasionally.

Deleuze gives two striking examples to illustrate this enigmatic state/space/time, the first from Dickens's Our Mutual Friend:

A disreputable man, a rogue, held in contempt by everyone, is found as he lies dying. Suddenly, those taking care of him manifest an eagerness, respect, even love, for his slightest sign of life. Everybody bustles about to save him, to the point where, in his deepest coma, this wicked man himself senses something soft and sweet penetrating him. But to the degree that he comes back to life, his saviors turn colder, and he becomes once again mean and crude. Between his life and his death, there is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death.

In another example, Deleuze calls attention to very small children, as yet unformed as individuals, who all tend to resemble one another except in their singularities -- a smile, a gesture. "Through all their sufferings and weakness, [they] are infused with an immanent life that is pure power and even bliss".

As Rajchman points out, one would need a new conception of society in order to understand Deleuze's notion of a life. It would be one in which we recognize that what we share is our singularities and not our individualities, that "what is common is impersonal and what is impersonal is common".

From this perspective, society is viewed not as a social contract between individuals but as an experiment with what in life precedes both individuals and collectivities. Relations with others would be based not in identification or recognition but in encounter and new compositions formed by saying "yes" to what is singular yet impersonal in living.

[Ellen E. Berry]
Summary of Pure Immanence (Deleuze)

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One of the reasons the Michael Jackson trial is so unfortunate is that the world of Either-Or will pass judgment on a creature of Yet-Also. The world of clear, unambiguous categories will pass judgment on someone who flies Peter-Pan-like over the binaries that confine and define the rest of us.

When we look at Michael Jackson, I believe we're looking at the future of our species. Michael is a creature from a future in which we've all become more feminine, more consumerist, more postmodern, more artificial, more self-constructed and self-mediating, more playful, caring and talented than we are today. But it's hard to use those adjectives, because they're Either-Or adjectives and he's from the world of Yet-Also, a world I believe we will all come to live in if we're lucky, a world where there is no more authenticity-by-default-through-brute-necessity and no more "human nature". A world of pure synthesis, pure self-creation.

Jackson is what all humans will become if we develop further in the direction of postmodernism and self-mediation. He is what we'll become if we get both more Wildean and more Nietzschean. He's what we'll become only if we're lucky and avoid a new brutality based on overpopulation and competition for dwindling resources. By attacking Jackson and what he stands for -- the effete, the artificial, the ambiguous -- we make a certain kind of relatively benign future mapped out for ourselves into a Neverland, something forbidden, discredited, derided. When we should be deriding what passes for our normalcy -- war, waste, and the things we do en masse are the things that threaten us -- we end up deriding dandyism and deviance. And Jackson is the ultimate dandy and the ultimate deviant. He can fly across our Either-Or binaries, and never land. It's debateable whether he's the king of pop, but he's undoubtedly the king of Yet-Also.

And so our creature of Never-Land will be judged by the creatures of Never-Fly. They will almost certainly throw him into jail. Their desire to see him as grounded, categorised and unfree as they themselves are is overwhelming. The grounded, situated, unfree creatures of Either-Or are baying for the clipping of fairy wings. Knives, hatchets and scissors glint in Neverland. There's an assembly of torch-bearing witchfinders. Peter Pan must be ushered back from fiction to reality, from the air to the ground. Back into a race, back into a gender, back into a confined clarity. Assuming he doesn't commit suicide, as he threatens in Martin Bashir's documentary, by jumping from a balcony, Jackson will be ushered away from the fuzzy subtle flicker states of our future, back to the solid states of our past and present. Either-Or will have its triumph over Yet-Also. Yet it will also, unknowingly, "triumph" over its own better future.

[Momus]
"Never land" from Click Opera

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The paradox of this pure becoming, with its capacity to elude the present, is the paradox of infinite identity (the infinite identity of both directions or senses at the same time - of future and past, of the day before and the day after, of more and less, of too much and not enough, of active and passive, and of cause and effect).

Paradox is initially that which destroys good sense as the only direction, but it is also that which destroys common sense as the assignation of fixed identities.

Events are like crystals, they become and grow only out of the edges, or on the edge. This is, indeed, the first secret of the stammerer or of the left-handed person: no longer to sink, but to slide the whole length in such a way that the old depth no longer exists at all, having been reduced to the opposite side of the surface.

... it happens sometimes that a little boy is a stutterer and left-handed, and thus conquers sense as the double sense or direction of the surface.

In Sylvie and Bruno, it is the little boy who has the inventive role, learning his lessons in all manners, inside-out, outside-in, above and below, but never "in depth"

[Gilles Deleuze]
The Logic of Sense, p. 4-5, 12-13

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The notion of the possible, Bergson holds in Creative Evolution, is derived from a false problem that confuses the “more” with the “less” and ignores differences in kind; there is not less but more in the idea of the possible than in the real, just as there is more in the idea of nonbeing than in that of being, or more in the idea of disorder than in that of order.

When we think of the possible as somehow “pre-existing” the real, we think of the real, then we add to it the negation of its existence, and then we project the “image” of the possible into the past. We then reverse the procedure and think of the real as something more than possible, that is, as the possible with existence added to it. We then say that the possible has been “realized” in the real.

By contrast, Deleuze will reject the notion of the possible in favor of that of the virtual. Rather than awaiting realization, the virtual is fully real; what happens in genesis is that the virtual is actualized.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Gilles Deleuze

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Active Imagination

Active imagination as theurgic divination would work on the Gods rather than recognizing their working in us. We reach too far, missing the daimons that are present every day, and each night too. As Plotinus said: "It is for them to come to me, not for me to go to them."

So, Jung's method of interior imagining is for none of these reasons - spiritual discipline, artistic creativity, transcendence of the worldly, mystical vision or union, personal betterment, or magical effect. Then what for? What is the aim?

Primarily, it aims at healing the psyche by re-establishing it in the metaxy from which it had fallen into the disease of literalism. Finding the way back to the metaxy calls up a mythical mode of imagining such as the Platonic Socrates employed as a healer of souls.

This return to the middle realm of fiction, of myth carries one into conversational familiarity with the cosmos one inhabits. Healing thus means Return and psychic consciousness means Conversation, and a 'healed consciousness' lives fictionally, just as healing figures like Jung and Freud become under our very eyes fictional personages, their factual biographies dissolving and coagulating into myths, becoming fictions so they can go on healing.

One may aesthetically give form to the images - indeed one should try as best one can aesthetically - though this is for the sake of the figures, in dedication to them and to realize their beauty, and not for the sake of art.

Therefore active imagination, so close to art in procedure, is distinct from it in aim. This is not only because active imagination foregoes an end result in a physical product, but more because its intention is Know Thyself, self-understanding, which is as well its limit ...

We may fiction connections between the revelatory moments, but these connections are hidden like the spaces between the sparks or the dark seas around the luminous fishes's eyes, images Jung employs to account for images. Each image is its own beginning, its own end, healed by and in itself.

Know Thyself is its own end and has no end.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.78-80

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All ego?

Introspection's course and limits were set by a consciousness that insisted on unity. To hear the deeps not only affronted Christian tradition; it invited what had been declared the Devil, Hell, and madness.

Today we call the internal policing of the psyche by an inspectio become inspector general 'mind control.' Here we begin to see the staggering consequences of denial of the daimons: it leaves the psyche bereft of all persons but the ego, the controller who becomes super-ego.

No spontaneous fantasy, image, or feeling may be independent of this unified ego. Every psychic happening becomes 'mine.' Know Thyself shifts to Know Myself.

What Philemon taught Jung, however, was that there are things in the psyche that are no more "mine" than animals in the forest ... or birds in the air." Moreover, without images, the imaginative perspective itself withers, only reinforcing the ego's literalism.

The images which could teach the ego its limits, as Philemon taught Jung, having been repressed, only return unimaged as archetypal delusions in the midst of subjective consciousness itself. The ego becomes demonic. It fully believes in its own power.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.65

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[...] when you are suffering, when there's failure, dejection, and you are cast down, thrown back on yourself, left alone, wet, in one way or another - then you begin to feel, Who am I? What is going on? Why can't I? Why doesn't my will work?

The Great Western Will - that I have been trained ever since I was a child to know what I want, to get it, and do it. To be independent! It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman here. You're taught to be independent, to stand on your own two feet, to take what you need, to know what you want, and to know where you're going.

Now all of that gets defeated by the syndromes or the symptoms I'm talking about, the pathologizing. Suicide is one. Betrayal is one. Masturbation is another one [...]

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.12

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There's a necessary inferiority when you're in psychic reality.

[...] soul means inferiority - something sensitive, something ... well ... pathologized. Soul makes the ego feel uncomfortable, uncertain, lost. And that lostness is a sign of soul. You couldn't have soul or be a soul if you couldn't feel that you have lost it.

The person is the strong ego, as it's called, doesn't feel that he's lost anything. That's one reason I question the psychiatric process of developing a strong ego. That seems to me a monstrous goal for psychotherapy because it attempts to overcome the sense of soul which appears as weakness, a weakness that seems almost to require symptoms.

Violence or power or sadism or domination keep us from sensing soul, and until they crack from inside, don't work anymore, fall apart, as I have called it, we can't work with them.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.17

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Case History

[...] a trauma is not what happened but the way we see what happened. A trauma is not a pathological event but a pathologized image, an image that has become "intolerable" as Lopez-Pedraza puts it.

If we are ill because of these intolerable images, we get well because of imagination. Poesis as therapy.

The person having had his stories early has had his imagination exercised as an activity. He can imagine life, and not only think, feel, perceive, or learn it. And he recognizes that imagination is a place where one can be, a kind of being.

Therapy is one way to revivify the imagination and exercise it. The entire therapeutic business is this sort of imaginative exercise. It picks up again the oral tradition of telling stories; therapy re-stories life.

Of course we have to go back to childhood to do this, for that is where our society and we each have placed imagination. Therapy has to be so concerned with the childish part of us in order to recreate and exercise the imagination.

Case history is not the place of hang-ups left behind; it too is a waking dream giving as many marvels as any descent into the cavern of the dragon or walk through the paradise gardens. One need but read each literal sentence of one's life metaphorically, see each picture of the past as an image.

[Case histories] are subjective phenomena, soul stories. Their chief importance is for the character about whom they are written, you and me. They give us a narrative, a literary fiction that deliteralizes our life from its projective obsession with outwardness by putting it into a story. They move us from the fiction of reality to the reality of fiction.

They present us with the chance to recognize ourselves in the mess of the world as having been engaged and always being engaged in soul-making, where 'making' returns to its original meaning of poesis. Soul-making as psychological poesis, the making of soul through the imagination of words.

Perhaps we go [to analysis] to be given a case history, to be told into a soul story and given a plot to live by. This is the gift of case history, the gift of finding oneself in myth. In myths Gods and humans meet.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.47-9

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Looking Back

... remembering-what-never-happened must rightly be called imagining, and this sort of memory is imagination. Memoria was the old term for both. It referred to an activity and a place that today we call variously memory, imagination and the unconscious.

Memoria was described as a great hall, a storehouse, a theatre packed with images. And the only difference between remembering and imagining was that memory images were those to which a sense of time had been added, that curious conviction that they had once happened.

The way into these memorial halls is personal; we each have our own doorways which make us believe that memoria itself is personal, our very own. The psychoanalytical couch is one such door; the poet's notebook, the writer's table are others.

Yet the memorability of specific images - the little neighbourhood girl in a yellow sunsuit digging to China on the July beach; the lost bloodied tooth in the party cake - that precisely these images, and these images so precisely, have been selected, retrieved, recounted tells that their vital stuff is archetypally memorable.

Memory infuses images with memorability, making the images more 'real' to us by adding to them the sense of the time past, giving them historical reality. But the historical reality is only a cover for soul significance, only a way of adapting the archetypal sense of mystery and importance to a consciousness engrossed in historical facts. If the image doesn't come as history, we might not take it for real.

Remembering is thus a commemoration, a ritual recall of our lives to the images in the background of the soul. By remembering, we give a kind of commemorative legend, a founding image to our present lives ...

I need to remember my stories not because I need to find out about myself but because I need to found myself in a story I can hold to be 'mine.'

As we muse over a memory, it becomes an image, shedding its literal historical facticity, slipping its causal chains, and opening into the stuff of which art is made. The art of healing is healing into art.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.41-3

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I guess the difference there with "ossessione," the obsessional part, is if that repetition, that rhythm doesn't deepen by return, if it doesn't turn by return, if it doesn't revision, or echo, then there is something merely obsessional. But the obsession is an attempt to get to that deepening. To rework it again.

If you watch anyone doing handwork, it's all obsessional. You can't make lace without an obsession. You can't turn a pot. Art has that constant fussing with the same little place. Now that's exactly what we do with a symptom. We keep going back and fussing with it.

You are jealous, and you go back fussing and fussing over a little suspicion, working it over a thousand times. The obsessive jealous thought can also be seen as a way of making something happen. It isn't just "working it through" as the psychoanalysts say: actually, you maybe making something out of it, making something up, making a fiction, an imagination, and the fussing in jealousy can be polishing the image, so to speak.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.22

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