Tag archive for soul

Be true to your depression: James Hillman

The late great Jungian analyst James Hillman, on depression. Christian myth, the soul, and the path depression offers to those who experience it. 

From his compilation A Blue Fire:

"Depression. Because Christ resurrects, moments of despair, darkening, and desertion cannot be valid in themselves. Our one model insists on light at the end of the tunnel; one program that moves from Thursday evening to Sunday and the rising of a wholly new day better by far than before. Not only will therapy more or less consciously imitate this program (in ways ranging from hopeful positive counseling to electroshock), but the individual's consciousness is already allegorized by the Christian myth and so he knows what depression is and experiences it according to form. It must be necessary (for it appears in the crucifixion), and it must be suffering; but staying depressed must be negative, since in the Christian allegory Friday is never valid per se, for Sunday — as in integral prt of the myth — is preexistent in Friday from the start. 


James-Hillman2010Depression is still the Great Enemy. More personal energy is expended in manic defenses against, diversions from, and denials of it than goes into other supposed psychopathological threats to society: psychopathic criminality, schizoid breakdown, addictions. As long as we are caught in cycles of hoping against despair, each productive of the other, as long as our actions in regard to depression are resurrective, implying that being down and staying down is sin, we remain Christian in psychology. 

Yet through depression we enter depths and in depth find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens the dry soul, and dries the wet. It brings refuge, limitation, focus, gravity, weight, and humble powerlessness. It reminds of death. The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression. Neither jerking oneself out of it, caught in cycles of hope and despair, nor suffering through it till it turns, nor theologizing it — but discovering the consciousness and depths it wants. So begins the revolution on behalf of soul."

If this is a path, it's pretty clear why it's not often taken. I always sensed there was some reason I didn't like the Christian allegory. Never understood so clearly why before.

Or, as Robert Frost put it, 

The best way out is always through. 

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What We Pray to Ourselves For Is Always Granted

Today's it's a cliche to say: Be Careful What You Pray For; in fact (in the movies at least) you can see God Himself explaining the concept.

But 150 years ago, one of this nation's greatest writers formulated a similar thought with far more care and thoughtfulness. Wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson (in The Conduct of Life):

The soul contains the event that shall befall it; for the event is only the actualization of its thoughts; and what we pray to ourselves for is always granted.

It's not just that God is listening and granting prayers; it's that what we want most sincerely we bring about, consciously or unconsciously. (Written before the concept of the unconscious, one must add.)

Along those lines, for yours truly, this year has been shockingly gratifying. A long hoped-for career in journalism has come about…much to my own amazement. (Not a lot of money, but what else is new in journalism.) It's almost enough to make me believe…if not in God, than in myself.

Anyhow, for the curious, here (link) is my first story for a real honest-to-God newspaper, the Ventura County Star…and thanks for your patience.  Here's Ralph, still wise after all these years…LT-00006-C~Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Posters

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