From a letter to students for Therapeia 22.7: 08-09 October 2022.
The Precision of Ambiguity:
Suffering, Joy, and Conversations with the Divine.
“Has Eros touched psychology with joy and passion, so that psychology, too, may become a place of soul-making?” (MoA 205). This, in the opening paragraph of the final chapter of part 2 of Hillman’s Myth of Analysis.
Huh? “‘Distortion’, ‘tortured’, ‘torment’ – these words refer to the twisted nature of the psyche… soul is by nature and of necessity in a tortured condition.” (MoA 200). That was before. Now we read, “Speech.. conversation.. evokes, calls forth, and creates psyche as it speaks. It speaks.. of ‘sadness’ and ‘despair.. ‘rage’.. ‘fear’, ‘panic’ and ‘anguish’..” (MoA 206). This doesn’t sound quite like what we might have hoped. Where is the ‘joy and passion’ we are supposed to find?
The answer is folded, implicated , in two parts of what follows: 1.“Psyche is a middle thing, between heaven and the underworld.. its physical locus was imagined near the midriff of phrenes and thymos.” (MoA 208). That is the chakra of anahata , the sefira of tiferet , which word means ‘beauty’.
And from there to aisthesis, in Hillman’s ‘The Thought of the Heart’.
See what he says there:
“If beauty is not given full place in our work with psyche, then the soul’s essential realization cannot occur.. In fact beauty is not ‘beautiful’.. Rather, the beautiful in Platonic thought.. means penetrating into the ancient notion of aisthesis (sense-perception)..
Beauty is that great category which specifically refers to the Deus revelatus, “the supreme theophany, divine self-revelation.” .. Beauty as Plato describes it in the Phaedrus (250b) is the manifestation, the showing forth of the hidden noumenal Gods..
Beauty is not an attribute then, something beautiful, like a fine skin wrapped round a virtue; the aesthetic aspect of appearance itself.. It is the way in which the Gods touch our senses, reach the heart and attract us into life.”
And 2. The idea of words as “the procedure of ritual.” (MoA 209). “If ritual and right language belong together, I believe that, for the psyche, right language is as holy as ritual and that speech is ritual.” (MoA 211).
As we close this chapter, we had best deepen our understanding of both beauty and ritual. And why ritual demands precision.