Ananke and pietho Necessity and rhetoric

From letter to students Therapeia 22.8 12-13 November 2022.

Necessity: Helplessness and Optimism.

“Necessity in Greek thought is spoken of and experienced in pathological modes.”

“”The idea’, says Plato, ‘is taken from walking through a ravine which is impassible, and rugged, and overgrown, and impedes motion – and this is the derivation of the word necessary.’”

“.. Family relationships and ties we have in our personal worlds are ways in which we experience the force of necessity. Our attempts to be free of personal binds are attempts at escaping from the tight circle of ananke.”

“The Book of Job.. explores the morality of Divine justice through the experience of human suffering…”

There are several reasons to examine Hillman’s writing on Ananke, the Greek Goddess of Necessity. First, it follows our study of part 2 of The Myth of Analysis, which is an imaginal revisioning of psychopathology. And nothing beats the pathological like the body’s inexorable expression of its own necessity. Second, the final two Therapeia of the year seem like a good opportunity to deepen our understanding of fate, specifically our own fate, as the intersection of the eternal psyche with our time-and-space-bound body. And third, it’s Hillman. And a powerful and sometimes difficult essay written at the time when Archetypal philosophy was being articulated and defined.

The question most often asked regarding the Book of Job is: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Supposing that you consider yourself ‘good people’. And then, if we accept as axiomatic, the belief of a soul, as a ‘living piece of God made manifest’ and that God runs the show, what should our attitude be when ‘fan and shit’ collide?

Should we surrender to our fate and attempt to figure out the radical disruption of our situation, when ‘the impact of reality’ forces unwelcome change upon us? Or, should we make a stand against such events, by arguing our case with the gods, or challenging the apparently inevitability of our situation, whether by righteous anger, persuasive dialogue or an optimistic attitude? Or, is there some middle ground, between ‘I suppose I must deserve this’, or ‘it is necessary for my soul’, and the excess and hubris of the heroes of antiquity, such as the Titan Prometheus and the Biblical ‘Sons of God’, Nimrod, and others.

Who Job was, when he lived, who wrote the Book of Job, and whether the entire story was a metaphor, and not the story of an actual person, are all discussed and disagreed on by the sages. Regardless of how we understand it, the story of Job, and often our own situation, obliges us to ask questions of Divine Providence, Necessity, our relationship to our Fate and to God’s sense of justice for us.