“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]


“. . . [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)

Posted in Archetypal Psychology, Art/Creativity, Culture, Depth Psychology, Myth, Mythfire Responds, Tributes | Leave a comment

Psych-eulogizing Clarence Clemons (“The Temple of Soul-Making”)

One danger in this and the previous entry is that of conveying the impression that an individual’s life may be reduced to a single mythological or psychological interpretation. Indeed, rather than suggesting that E Street Band sax man Clarence Clemons’ life can be simplified in such a manner, Mythfire wishes to instead use his life as described in friend and bandleader Bruce Springsteen’s eulogy to discuss what it more generally means to live a mythological and/or psychological life.  The prior entry introduced the idea that one’s personal mythology – i.e. the meaning (logos) of one’s life story (mythos) – is comprised of eternal energies in the form of basic units and actions. Examples of mythic units include occupations, roles we play when interacting with others, important places or objects, and more.  Mythic actions include creation, destruction, birth, marriage, death, salvation, victory, defeat, and even the elaboration ofour personal narrative as we tell it to ourselves and others. (This latter action is called story-telling or “mythologizing.”)

Whatever our personal myth or myths, analytical psychologist Anthony Stevens describes them as “belief systems” that in relation to one’s life circumstances are in the best case effective, adaptive, functional, and appropriate or, in the worst, their opposites.[1]  As belief systems they are how we not only understand but give meaning and order to our lives. (Like meaning, understanding and order are other connotations of clarity associated with the word logos.) Importantly, we understand, order, and even create our personal myth in cooperation with what have been called inner and outer fatalities, i.e. inspiration, dreams, life experiences, accidents and chance occurrences, and our vocation or calling. Did Clarence Clemons choose to be “The Big Man,” sax man, a “shaman,” etc. or was he chosen to become these? Most likely it is a combination, or co-operation of the two.

On a moment-by-moment basis on the human plane, these energies operate through and are mediated by the individual soul. This is the meeting point of mythology and psychology – the latter term referring here to meaning (logos) engendered within and experienced by the human soul (psyche). This is not soul understood theologically as that which remains after our physical deaths but soul as that which gives meaning, depth, and breadth to life in the here-and-now. The theological sense emphasizes a material or ethereal substance; the latter psychological sense is more concerned with a present-oriented perspective that yields an experience of significance and importance.

James Hillman has perhaps done more than anyone else to develop this idea of soul and the related term soul-making:

“First, ‘soul’ refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by ‘soul’ I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy – that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.”[2]

As mentioned in a previous post, Hillman borrows the term soul-making from poet John Keats who wrote “Call the world if you please, ‘The vale of Soul-making.’ Then you will find out the use of the world…’” To this Hillman adds: “From this perspective the human adventure is a wandering through the vale of the world for the sake of making soul. Our life is psychological, and the purpose of life is to make psyche of it, to find connections between life and soul.”[3]

While Hillman goes on in his Pulitzer-prize nominated Re-Visioning Psychology to discuss in much greater detail four main modes of soul-making, perhaps the above quotes will suffice for the purpose of the present post. Springsteen’s eulogy reveals that Clemons was a man who most definitely knew how to deepen events into experiences; via soul created “significance” in terms of love and a religious concern for life; and knew firsthand “the imaginative possibility in our natures.” Of course, the eulogy itself derives much of its own soulfulness from its “special relation to death,” i.e. the death of The Big Man himself. [4]

Finally, another danger to go along with the one mentioned at the start of this post is the possibility of over-romanticizing or glorifying Clemons.  Springsteen goes out of his way to give a full portrait of his friend, revealing him to be not a saint but a “Dark Soul.” In a similar vein, Hillman also takes great effort to enumerate the ways in which our manias or pathologies comprise one of the four primary modes of soul-making.  The process which Hillman calls “pathologizing” understands that our afflictions, neuroses, complexes, fears, compulsive behaviors – in other words, our woundedness – reveal our deepest soul needs and wants. Furthermore, this pathologizing process reveals not only our connection to humanity but also divinity:

  • “. . . [T]hus pathologizing is a way of moving from transcendental theology to immanent psychology. For immanence is only a doctrine until I am knocked back through symptoms by these dominant powers, and I recognize that in my disturbances there really are forces I cannot control and yet which want something from me and intend something with me.”[5]

Readers of Springsteen’s eulogy get a real sense of this “intention” which preceded Clemons, operated through him, and will last long after he’s gone. On the one hand, his Temple of Soul will continue its soul-making magic every time he is remembered, his music played, and his story told. On the other hand, his impact will be even greater if we are motivated by his example to contemplate our own Temple of Soul and soul-making.


Note: In a recent interview on the TV show The View, pop star Lady Gaga paid tribute to Clarence Clemons in terms that are very much in keeping with soul-making as described above: “[Clemons] really changes your life so quickly and it’s very…you don’t know why. You can’t explain it. But he just has this godly spirit about him. You feel like you’re in the presence of something so . . . significant.” This can be found at the 8:30 mark here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAPkwGIgbsI.


Next Tuesday: “The Streets of Philadelphia”

[1] Stevens, Anthony. Private Myths: Dreams and Dreaming. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1995: 202. Pages 202-3 cover a section entitled “The Personal Myth.”

[2] Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1975: xvi. Italics in the original.

[3] Ibid., xvi.

[5] Re-Visioning, 105.

Posted in Archetypal Psychology, Art/Creativity, Culture, Depth Psychology, Myth, Tributes | Leave a comment

“Myth-eulogizing” Clarence Clemons (“Scooter and the Big Man”)


“Together, we told an older, richer story about the possibilities of friendship that transcended those I’d written in my songs and in my music.  Clarence carried it in his heart.  It was a story where the Scooter and the Big Man not only busted the city in half, but we kicked ass and remade the city, shaping it into the kind of place where our friendship would not be such an anomaly.”


Last month’s passing of saxman Clarence Clemons has inspired numerous reflections and reminiscences, none more revealing and evocative than that from his longtime friend and bandleader Bruce Springsteen. Mythfire was struck upon reading this eulogy that Clemons, a.k.a. “The Big Man,” exemplified in his larger than life persona both healthy and unhealthy aspects of what it means to live mythically and psychologically. The present post looks at the mythological dimension of the man; perhaps next week’s post will address the psychological. Springsteen’s eulogy is recommended reading alongside these posts.[1]

One way in which mythology can be distinguished from psychology is to look at their root words.  While the “psyche” in psychology stems from Latin and Greek words meaning mind, soul, or spirit, myth and mythology come from the Latin mythos and Greek muthos, both of which mean word, speech, or story. Myth, you might say, is the story we tell ourselves and others about our innermost individual and collective soul lives.

Taken from Springsteen’s eulogy, the quote at the head of this post reveals not only what Clemons’ personal story or myth was but also that Clemons, Springsteen, and the rest of the E Street Band are themselves mythologists, i.e. storytellers. They see themselves and the world mythically, knowing that all the world’s a stage and as artists they are but to contribute the proverbial verse. (Springsteen’s initial statement following Clemons’ passing also made note of the “story” they lived and told together.)[2]

In terms of Clemons’ personal myth – the story which gave meaning and purpose to his life – the busting and remaking of the city remarked on in the above quote brings to mind a book mentioned last week: Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. With nicknames like Scooter and the Big Man, can there be any doubt that both Springsteen and Clemons express (and expressed) trickster energies in all three areas: mischief, myth, and art? Springsteen’s descriptions of his almost four decades of friendship with Clemons suggest there is only one correct answer to that question.

As something of an aside, for students and teachers of mythology it can be irritating that in general parlance the term myth is most often used to mean lie, untruth, or misconception. As this post (and entire Mythfire blog site) attempt to show, there is a frequently unappreciated depth and breadth to myth. We do not fully appreciate the ways in which we have lived and continue to live as characters in the narratives we call our lives.

In the way Clemons and Springsteen have told it (beginning with their very first magical meeting four decades ago) the narrative of Clemons’ life is mythical in the sense of being created anew each time it is told or embellished.  Clemons’ myth consists of basic units, or mythologems, such as his Temple of Soul, and his personae as trickster, shaman, exotic “towering fairy tale figure,” “dreadlocked giant” and “Dark Soul.” These units or mythologems are then put together in actions, thus forming mythemes.  The shaman working nightly magic in his Temple of Soul; the Big Man laying down a riff on his sax (while circular breathing his way through seemingly endless phrases) or, again, blowing a front door (to the establishment where he would first meet Springsteen) completely off its hinges and then parting the crowd on his way to the stage.  The Big Man making a big entrance is one big mytheme.

That these mythemes resonate with us, are believed in and have even been witnessed by us, speaks to their mythic stature and power. Finally, this stature and power – this “Bigness” – leads us to mythologize, a process “by means of which the details of a life are composed into a story, receive a vision, and thereby a mythical person becomes the personification of a fate which issues into the therapeutic process.”[3] Readers of Springsteen’s mythologizing eulogy, or “myth-eulogy,” certainly get a sense of Clarence Clemons as a flawed yet fated soulman whose therapy for himself and for others was the mythical (and mythic) story he fully personified both on and off the stage.

As hinted above, at the same time that Springsteen promises to continue the mythologizing of Clemons he also states that these creatively mythic energies both preceded and will long outlast their present incarnations in Scooter and The Big Man. Indeed, his promise is very reminiscent of C.G. Jung’s comment that “The most we can do is to dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress.”[4] Clearly, both men have given a modern dress to the myth that they lived and are living – or rather the myth which has lived and continues to live through them. Check out these concluding words from Springsteen:

  • “But [Clemons’] love and his story, the story that he gave me, that he whispered in my ear, that he allowed me to tell… and that he gave to you… is gonna carry on.  I’m no mystic, but the undertow, the mystery and power of Clarence and my friendship leads me to believe we must have stood together in other, older times, along other rivers, in other cities, in other fields, doing our modest version of god’s work… work that’s still unfinished.  So I won’t say goodbye to my brother, I’ll simply say, see you in the next life, further on up the road, where we will once again pick up that work, and get it done.”


Coda: In Archetypal Psychology, James Hillman writes that myth, understood psychologically, allows us to “see our ordinary lives embedded in and ennobled by the dramatic and world-creative life of mythical figures . . . The study of mythology allows events to be recognized against their mythical background. More important, however, is that the study of mythology enables one to perceive and experience the life of the soul mythically” (31). The present post has attempted to show that Clemons’ life facilitates just such a mythic perception and experience of “the life of the soul.”


Next Tuesday: The Temple of Soul-Making?

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bruce-springsteens-eulogy-for-clarence-clemons-20110629. Unless noted otherwise, all above quotes come from this eulogy.

[2] “He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.” (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bruce-springsteen-on-clarence-clemons-his-loss-is-immeasurable-20110618)

[3] Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1975:155.

[4] CW 9i: 271.

Posted in Art/Creativity, Culture, Myth, Tributes, Trickster | 6 Comments

Lez Get “Real” (“Psychologizing or Seeing-through‘”)

“The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stands this afternoon on the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.”[1]

The above quote from mythologist Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth could easily be applied to “the latest incarnations” of any number of gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines walking passed us on today’s city streets. Aphrodite poses for her latest Facebook photos; Ares heads off to war in the workplace, his uniform a suit, his weapon a smartphone. Dionysus rocks his or her family room while playing Guitar Hero. And so on.

Certainly, the notion that in our lives we embody (or should embody) the archetypal energies of only one god or goddess is just as unhealthy and one-dimensional as it is to say that we embody none of them. The latter case in particular is indicative of a desire to hold on to a firmly and even sometimes rigidly created identity which declares “I am Chris Miller, son of so-and-so, youngest of four children, a Pennsylvanian, a teacher.”  I am my up-bringing and training and thus nothing but the sum of my life experiences.

One could argue that psychologist James Hillman (particularly in his Pulitzer Prize-nominated Re-Visioning Psychology) has waged an Ares-like war of his own on this type of one-sided ego-centric literalism:

“An ego’s specific characteristic, and its specific function, is to represent the literal view: it takes itself and its view for real. Literalism is an ego’s viewpoint; it means being locked into an ego. Ego psychology results from being trapped by the ego into its perspective: the other characters on the stage are merely characteristics, projections of mine. Only I am literally real. Our symptoms, however, can save us from this literalism…” [2]

The point here is not that our egos are unimportant but that they are only one of the characters on our soul’s stage. Our unwillingness to get to know the other “less important” characters means that they are not cultivated but repressed or as Hillman notes just as frequently expressed unconsciously in the form of symptoms such as neuroses and obsessive compulsive disorders, addictions, rage, anorexia, obesity, and more. In other words, our stubborn refusal to budge from what is “real” and “true,” aka “the literal,” hurts not only our egos, but our chance at a full and soulful experience of life.

One of several tools in Hillman’s arsenal for combating literalism is what he calls “the activity of psychologizing or ‘seeing-through’ events into their myths.” [3] Take for instance the recent very public “events” concerning the blog “Gay Girl in Damascus” and the lesbian online news website LezGetReal.com. In quick succession both blog and website were revealed to be run by men posing as gay women. That these two men, posing as women, occasionally worked with and perhaps even flirted with each other without knowing the other’s “real” identity probably has only been one-upped by Shakespeare — a fact already noted by others.[4]

However, side allusions to literature are perhaps no more insightful here than the claim that these men were engaging in their respective charades merely for the thrill of it. If we take these men at their word, something deeper and even mythic may very well have been working through them – in addition to whatever thrills they did experience. Here is what LezGetReal.com co-founder Julie Phineas had to say after learning that “Paula Brooks,” the other co-founder, is actually a man named Bill Graber:

“Thinking back on all we accomplished together, and how driven ‘Paula’ was to make a change in lesbian rights, I wondered if perhaps the hoax was a hoax!…You see ‘Paula’ was all about getting traffic to the site with breaking news and was a real piece of work once you got to know her…When I began to work with her I had a reverence for how well she collected news and I learned a lot of what I know now about web development from ‘Paula Brooks.’” [5]

And this is what the “Gay Girl in Damascus,” or Tom MacMaster, had to say for “herself”:

“It started innocently enough without any intention whatsoever of creating a massive hoax or duping the world. Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to write fiction but, when my first attempts met with universal rejection, I took a more serious look at my own work and I realized that I could not write conversation in a natural way nor could I convincingly write characters who weren’t me.”

He continues:

“So, I invented her. First, she was just a name. Amina Arraf. She commented on blogs and talkbacks on news-sites. Eventually, I set up an email for her. She joined the same lists I was already on and posted responses in her name. And, almost immediately, friendly and solicitous comments on mine appeared. It was intriguing . . . Amina came alive. I could hear her ‘voice’ and that voice and personality were clear and strong . . . Amina was clever and fun and had a story and a voice and I started writing it, almost as though she were dictating to me. Some of her details were mine, some were those of a dozen other friends borrowed liberally, others were purely ‘her’ from the get go.”[6]

Multiple words as well as ideas in these and other related articles are quite telling. Words like “hoax,” “dupe,” “duplicity,” “innocently,” “clever,” and “borrowed liberally”; ideas such as the creation of a fiction and the usage of the same to communicate or “traffic” important news.[7] Finally, combined with the more general motifs of gender reversal or confusion and the disguising of one’s identity so as to accomplish something one might otherwise not be able to, we return to the above Campbell and Hillman quotes with the following conclusion: once these recent events are psychologized or “seen through,” we discover their underlying myth is the “latest incarnation” of that mischief-making world-transformer extraordinaire, the Greek god Hermes.

In fact, one of the best resources for learning more on other recent incarnations of Hermes is Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. Hyde does an incomparable job of conveying how Hermes and other trickster figures embody an energy vital not only to our survival but to our growth as individuals and as a collective. Referencing another classic trickster figure, the West African trickster Legba, Hyde writes that the trickster has been described as “a ‘mediator’ who works ‘by means of a lie that is really a truth, a deception that is in fact a revelation.’”[8] The aforementioned quotes about Bill Graber and from Tom MacMaster suggest that they too to a large degree were attempting to use their hermetic disguises in a mediating role.

Another of the many examples noted by Hyde which links these two men with Hermes is that they both wore “a cloak of shamelessness”:

“The hooks of shame can find no purchase on this lad with the trick shoes. He refuses absolutely the picture of the world implied by his elders’ morality, and refuses also the hierarchy that goes with it. Where others might sit quietly, he improvises a new song, ‘the way teenagers sing out insults at a fair.’”[9]

Mythfire is not alone in suggesting that Graber and MacMaster’s “insults” (much less their other comments and observations) most likely would not have been heard so widely or effectively had they not donned their feminine alter egos. [10]

Finally, tricksters by definition cross boundaries and break rules. From time to time they need to be reminded why the boundaries and rules are there; just as frequently they reveal the boundaries and rules to be fluid and malleable if not completely contrived or outdated. Toward this end, the damage inflicted by these two present cases of trickery is under debate.[11] Perhaps we will find that we do not have to bridle with Apollonian indignation at having been duped; instead, we can choose to laugh along with Zeus at Hermes’ earnest and incorrigible impudence as well as his unparalleled creativity.

More importantly, if we learn to “see through” these events to their mythic underpinnings, we may just discover that with his crafty shenanigans Hermes has not only made us feel but via feeling has educated us regarding that which is really “real,” in this case equality among men and women regardless of sexual orientation. LezGetReal.com’s Bill Graber has declared that “Paula the Surf Mom is officially dead. Let’s just say she had a surfing accident and died.”[12] Clearly, if we become wiser for having been in her presence, then “Paula” most certainly will not have died in vain.

Or perhaps we might just get lucky at some future date: like another modern day trickster, i.e., Bart Simpson with his skateboard, “Paula” will somehow resurrect herself, dust off her surfboard, and ride those breaks again.


Next Tuesday: “Scooter and the Big Man”

[1] Campbell, Joseph with Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. Ed. Betty Sue Flowers. New York: Doubleday, 1988: xiii.

[2] Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1975:48.

[3] Ibid., 24.

[6] http://damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com/. Entry dated June 13, 2011.

[7] This careful creation of fictions (most obviously that of “Gay Girl in Damascus”) adds new meaning to the verb “damask,” which is defined as “to weave or adorn with elaborate design, as damask cloth” and itself originated as “cloth from Damascus.”

[8] Hyde, Lewis. Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art. New York: North Point Press, 1998: 72. Compare this quote with Hillman: “As truths are the fictions of the rational soul, fictions are the truths of the imaginal” (Re-Visioning 152). Also, another edition of Hyde’s Trickster bears the suggestive subtitle: How the Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture.

[9] Ibid., 213.

[10] In his Slate commentary, Jack Shafer writes: “Both MacMaster and Graber defend their impersonations on the grounds that, had they voiced the same opinions as men, readers wouldn’t have taken them seriously. As much as I hate to agree with frauds, they’re likely right. MacMaster’s observations on Syria’s mayhem would have been ignored if readers had known he was an American guy in Scotland. And what lesbian among us would have heeded Graber’s “Gay Girl’s View on the World,” the site’s motto, if informed that the gay girl doing the viewing was a he?” (http://www.slate.com/id/2296930/).

[11] At the same time that she complains about having been “duped,” another contributor to LezGetReal.com writes that “There’s debate over the extent of damage the deceptions crafted by McMasters and Graber have caused.”(http://www.pghlesbian.com/blog/_archives/2011/6/18/4840868.html)

[12] http://juliephineas.com/?p=2599. Also, apropos of the present topic, Hillman in Healing Fiction and Rafael Lopez-Pedraza in Hermes and His Children identify the equality of men and women as a key characteristic of what they term “hermaphroditic consciousness.”

Posted in Archetypal Psychology, Culture, Depth Psychology, Fundamentalism/Literalism, Myth, Trickster | 5 Comments

The Enigma of Numbers (“From Three to Four – Part 2”)

Through these weekly blogs Mythfire generally aspires to do one of two things. Not infrequently, both aims can be found in a single blog post. The first is to introduce an idea from the field of analytical psychology and/or mythological studies which is perhaps new to readers and hopefully pertinent to their lives. The second is to feature a book (or books) which may be turned to for more information on the subject.

This week’s book, for instance, is Lance Storm’s The Enigma of Numbers. First published in 2008, Storm’s tome sheds significant light on the subject of last week’s post: the connection between numbers and the evolutionary stages of consciousness as experienced by both individuals and collectives. This connection includes the specific progression or evolution of consciousness discussed last week, i.e. the move from the masculine perfection-oriented doing and realizing associated with the number three to the more inclusive and whole, feminine being-orientation of the number four.

After reading last week’s post, one of Mythfire’s readers asked the following question: “Why start at three? Why stop at four? This is really Greek to me (no disrespect to Socrates).” Contrary to the impression that last week’s post may have given, Storm effectively demonstrates in his 527 page Enigma that our conscious identification with (or projection of psychological energies onto) numbers does not begin with the number three or end with four. This just happens to have been the particular dynamic, i.e. the transition from three to four, under the Mythfire microscope in the previous blog.

Storm begins his book by showing that this qualitative rather than purely quantitative understanding of numbers in fact goes back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Pythagoras who, among other things, is remembered for his tetractys, a religious or metaphysical triangular symbol the four rows of which add up to the number ten. In this spirit, Storm has written individual chapters on the numbers from zero to ten. Some of the chapter subheadings are quite suggestive of the psychodynamics that have been associated with these numbers at least since Pythagoras’ time around two-and-a-half millennia ago:

  • Zero (The Void): Something from Nothing; Zero as Negative Existence
  • One (The Monad): Unity Equals Totality; Consciousness as One and Many
  • Two (The Dyad): The Birth of  Consciousness; The Principle of Duality; The Spirit/Matter Dichotomy; The Mind/Brain Problem; The Relativity of Opposites
  • Three (The Triad): Uniting the Opposites
  • Four (The Tetrad): Number Four from the Infinitesimal to the Infinite; The Symbol Quaternio
  • Five (The Pentad): Number Five in Nature; From the Quaternity to the Quintessence
  • Six (The Hexad): Number Six as a Symbol of Harmony
  • Seven (The Heptad): Seven – A Solution to the Problem of Three and Four; Number Seven in the Bible – A Symbol of Completion
  • Eight (The Ogdoad): The ‘Timeless’ and the ‘Time-bound’ in the Ogdoad; Number Eight as a Double Quaternity
  • Nine (The Ennead): Number Nine – A Complete Number, but not Perfect
  • Ten (The Decad): Number Ten as Perfection; Pythagoras and the Tetractys

In an attempt to send home the main point of the present post, Mythfire would like to quote from Storm’s chapter devoted to the theme of last week’s post, “From Three to Four”:

  • “[Jung] went to considerable effort in his attempt to put forward the message that numbers give a certain kind of order to processes in and of the psyche. Underlying this process was the number archetype – an inherited mode of apprehension in our species that dictates the way we construct the world by ‘enumerating’ its contents. Archetypes generally refer to patterns of behavior where the instincts, for example, are given to follow certain predisposed forms of expression predetermined by these archetypes. The number archetype, therefore, forms (with the other archetypes) a ground plan or blueprint of the psychic structure.”[1]

In other words, there is absolutely nothing arbitrary in the association of particular stages of consciousness with specific numbers.  Nothing arbitrary and everything archetypal. In his other chapters, Storm demonstrates how this numerical “ground plan or blue print of the psychic structure” is evident not only in philosophy and psychology but also in music, synchronicity, numerology, astrology, the I Ching, chaos theory, physics, chemistry, and more.

No matter how enigmatic this thought might appear to some, then, numbers function not only quantitatively but qualitatively, and it is in their qualitative aspects that our “psychic structure” reveals itself time and again.


Next Tuesday: Lez Get “Real”

[1]Storm, Lance. The Enigma of Numbers. Italy: Pari Pub., 2008: 177. Also, in addition to the sources quoted in last week’s post, Marie-Louise von Franz’s Number and Time: A Unification of Depth Psychology and Physics is an important though at times dense book on the archetypal qualitative aspects of numbers, including the move from three to four. Finally, in his chapter “From Three to Four,” Storm argues that, generally speaking, the move from three to four signifies the addition of a previously excluded irrational or non-rational element to the earlier dominant rational and linear trinitarian way of being and doing. As applied more specifically to psychology and religion, this fourth element corresponds to eros which manifests individually as “an emotional, meaningful experience of relatedness” and culturally as an “aesthetic attitude” that stresses “the unity of beauty and truth” and is “content with naming human qualities or attributes without any attempt to pass judgment or win approval.”

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