“The Streets of Philadelphia” (“Eros’s Faces of Love”)

Before we leave Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen for next week’s trip to Hades, Mythfire would like to respond to a few comments generated by the last two posts. Readers understandably take offense to the suggestion that the exceptional friendship between Clemons and Springsteen can somehow be reduced to being a product of the mind, i.e. psychology, or fantasy, i.e. mythology. This reaction is not only understandable but appropriate except for one thing: this is not what Mythfire means by psychology or mythology!

Generally speaking, when we say “a product of the mind” or “fantasy” we believe that the product or fantasy referred to is somehow man-made, something we fabricate or make up. However, take a look for a moment at this video of Clemons describing the first time he and Springsteen met. (His description of their meeting begins around the two minute mark.)

Mythfire would like to focus on the following comments from Clemons: “I swear I have never…I will never forget that moment…You know. And right now when I’m on stage with Bruce, I still feel that moment [. . .]. It was a very magical moment. He looked at me and I looked at him and we fell in love and that’s, that’s still there. It’s still there.” Two psychologists often referenced in these posts, C.G. Jung and James Hillman, would look at the words “magical” and “love” and at the sense of timelessness or infinity conveyed in Clemons’ retelling and would call his experience soulful, mythic, and archetypal. It is a shared experience of something larger than us, something meaningful…perhaps even divine.

One of Jung’s most well-known quotes may move us closer to understanding what this “something” is:

“The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life [. . .]. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to other men, too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship.[1]

For some time this last sentence has puzzled Mythfire as on the surface it does not seem to fit with the surrounding context. However, at the time of Clemons’ interview, his thirty-eight year relationship with Springsteen seemed by his own account to undeniably have something of the infinite and boundless to it. Again, in his own words, “And right now when I’m on stage with Bruce, I still feel that moment [. . .] It was a very magical moment.”

But if this magical moment or experience of infinite boundlessness is not reducible to purely human causes, what then is its source? Whence comes its magic? Hillman finds the answer in myth:

“Love is archetypal, belonging to the Gods and given by them as Eros. Agape and caritas, too, are associated with religion; that is, they too are a grace originating beyond the human.” [2]

And:

“. . . [Eros] singles individuals out with his arrows and connects individuals into couples through intimacy, notoriously placing intimacy before community. Eros develops feeling through the faces of love: pothos (longing), himeros (desire), anteros (responding), philia [brotherly affection between two people or groups], agape [goodwill toward humankind], caritas [feelings of charity].” [3]

Due in part to Christianity’s suppression and/or assimilation of the energies contained within the figure of Eros — along with the energies of the other Greek gods and goddesses — it is difficult for many of us to differentiate between the many “faces of love” as Hillman does in the above quotes. Another consequence of leaving Greece behind is that we tend today to describe love in purely human egoistic terms.  In the case of the picture of Springsteen and Clemons kissing, we are inclined to either sentimentalize, moralize, or perhaps even sexualize the love displayed. Our very inability to distinguish the different faces of love makes us uncomfortable with them, unable or unwilling to recognize much less practice them. In short, our egos have trouble processing the idea that there could be a greater experience available to us than our minds’ current conceptualization of love.

Following the Platonic tradition, Hillman makes clear that love is personal and human and yet also more than these. That is, love is archetypal, i.e. “beyond human” and thus divine, infinite, boundless, and multiple. As indicated above, in the days of ancient Greece the multiple faces or styles of love were mythologically laid at the altar of the god Eros. Today we might say that via their unexpected lasting love for each other Clemons and Springsteen had a spiritual or mythological experience in the best and deepest sense of the term. To repeat from earlier posts: Springsteen’s eulogy of Clemons reveals the infinite quality of their love, how it preceded them and will last long after they are gone. There can be no question that they shared a true experience of the archetype of Eros.

Finally, Clemons and Springsteen’s love was also psychological for it affected their very souls (Lat. psyche) – a fact nowhere more evident than in their music and, it would seem, their video interviews.

——

Next Tuesday: Mythfire’s visit to Hades…

——

Note: Last week’s post mentioned Hillman’s four main modes of soul-making. This week’s post could be viewed as an example of the first mode, “personifying,” in which we identify and name the various archetypal figures at work in and through our psyche in any given situation. Ultimately, the purpose of identifying and naming these figures is so that we might learn to relate to and through them more healthily and effectively. One of the archetypal figures Hillman mentions more than once is Eros.

 


[1] The entire quote, taken from page 325 in the Vintage paperback edition of Memories, Dreams, Reflections, is worth quoting in full: “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to other men, too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship. The feeling for the infinite, however, can be attained only if we are bounded to the utmost.” Italics have been added in the post above .

[2] Lectures on Jung’s Typology, 167. Italics added. The notion that Eros or love is archetypal and thus more than human is also expressed in his Re-Visioning Psychology: “The soul and its afflictions, its emotions, feelings, and varieties of love are all certainly essential to the human condition. But they are all archetypally conditioned. We cannot come to terms with them merely as human, merely as personal, without falling into humanistic sentimentalities, moralisms, and egocentricities. Then soul-making becomes making better human connections, while the real issue of feeling – discriminating and connecting to archetypes – is ignored. Humanistic sentimentality softens and deadens our sensitivity to archetypal realities and keeps our perception too shortsighted, focused only on ourselves and neighbor” (Italics added, 189). Hillman goes on to write on the next page: “Feeling that is a merely human function loses its power to reflect psyche beyond the human to the unknowns of the soul.”

[3] Ibid., 175. Clemons also recalled his first meeting with Springsteen in these terms: “Bruce and I looked at each other and didn’t say anything, we just knew. We knew we were the missing links in each other’s lives. He was what I’d been searching for. In one way he was just a scrawny little kid. But he was a visionary. He wanted to follow his dream. So from then on I was part of history.” As in the video interview, several faces of love, in particular pothos (longing), anteros (responding), and philia (brotherly affection), make themselves known in this quote. (http://hopeanddreams.free.fr/public/presse.php?idpresse=79)

This entry was posted in Archetypal Psychology, Art/Creativity, Culture, Depth Psychology, Myth, Mythfire Responds, Tributes. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.