AND HUGE IS UGLY
In the last fifty years Western civilization has been engulfed by a tide of gigantism. How can we save the soul of the world?
I KNOW THAT SMALL is beautiful, but may I start off Big? I want to begin by recalling the enormities of events during the last half-century - my lifetime, and the lifetime of Kathleen Raine, Robert Bly and James Lovelock, your speakers today, as well as of many of you here - the enormities of the fifty years from the thirties through the eighties. And so I am calling this Schumacher lecture, "…and huge is ugly."
Let us recall some of the devastating enormities: the Great Depression and the vast displays of totalitarianism; World War II, its massive battles with thousands of tanks and hundreds of thousands of prisoners; the armadas and invasions. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, brighter than a thousand suns. Religious wars in India and Palestine, roads packed with refugees, displaced persons. Superpowers, superhighways, supertankers, supermarkets, superbowls. Olympian spectaculars, the whole world watching TV at once. Urban conglomerations of ten, twelve, fifteen million persons. Extermination of peoples in Biafra, Bangladesh, the Sudan, Ethiopia. Titan missiles, space shots, megatons of thrust. Defoliation, mile-long accelerators, high-energy physics, fission, fusion, and super-conductivity. Corporate multi-nationals. Gigantism in agriculture. Universities of 60,000 students. Trillion dollar budgets, and calculators that can bite off and chew these enormities. Mind-expanding drugs, cocaine highs, mushroom clouds and mushroom visions. Decibels of rock. Annual broken records in pole vault and discus and 100 yard dash - higher, father, faster. Population explosion. Suburbia sprawling, miles and miles of urban squalor, burning cities, burning forests, homelessness and hunger. Gargantuan consumerism. Garbage barges, garbage dumps, dead fish, dead skies, and ageless species extinguished en masse.
These enormities have had a counterpart in the realm of ideas - in theology, in semantics, in cosmology. In theology, Harvey Cox's Secular City and John Robinson's Honest to God brought God into the humanistic, personal world, dethroning the Lord of the universe, as Bulkmann had demythologized God. And Thomas Altizer announced a post-holocaust theology: God is Dead. This, feminism has further defined by putting the coup de grace to all patriarchies everywhere, leaving the Goddess to rule alone, thereby agreeing with the Pope in a curiously monotheistic way, the Pope who, in 1950, raised Maria to heaven with the dogma of her Assumption.
In semantics, we suffered through logical positivism and radical nominalism which reduce statements about the world and life to language only and then cut off the signification of the language from significance beyond language, leading finally to deconstruction and post-modernism's witty little jokes on a pompous academic scale.
Cosmology has been fascinated with black holes, anti-matter, catastrophe theory. Heidegger's dread, Levina's absence, and Buddhism's profound insistence on the void.
I have not mentioned many other events that might give us cheer. These are easier for our minds to cling to and by means of them see into a New Age. I am staying with the enormities, not because I am an accountant of Saturnine doom; but rather because these same enormities have dwarfed our sensitivities to that condition which Robert J. Lifton calls "psychic numbing," a term which fits our time and so replaces Auden's "age of anxiety."
"Verweile doch, du bist so schoen," says Faust to the vision of his soul. "Stay a while, linger, you are so lovely, so beautiful," but we cannot perceive Gretchen or Helen, or the loveliness of the world, the beauty of which E.F. Schumacher urged us toward, if our senses are numbed by mind-blowing enormities.
Therefore, our task is to begin where we actually are right in the midst of the huge and the ugly and ourselves numb to it. For a rule of archetypal psychology is "start right where you are." Don’t' escape by looking for origins or solutions. Just begin in the midst of the mess.
As a psychoanalyst my job is to lift repression, that is, from the psychic numbing that is our current malaise, the anaesthesia or our current sensibility. I ask you to keep this idea of psychic numbing for we shall return to it soon in full strength.
THE EMBLEM OF this huge devastation, or devastating hugeness, suffered by our culture in the past fifty years is commonly called The Holocaust. And so, our collective mind ever and again returns to it as if fascinated by those horrifying images of Nazi concentration camps.
I used to analyze away this fascination. I used to think we were so numb that it took shocks of this worst sort to electrify our sensibility. And, I used to think that focus upon the Holocaust of the earlier part of the century was a displacement for the current holocausts actually going on in Salvador and Nicaragua, Cambodia and the Sudan, South Africa and the testing atolls of the Pacific, and in the breasts of those Christians who look to the end of the world so that we might be saved.
But now I think that the Nazi extermination camps present the truest image of the end of our epoch, end of our civilization from the Middle Ages forward, by authentically and accurately depicting the truth that the God of our Western civilization is dead.
There is no recourse to the old religion; its myth is now an antique fable; its devotees, members of a quaint cult; like Druids of old' We cannot escape the truth that the camps and the killers as well as the trusting victims were members of the old faith, believers in the old Gods, Jesus and Jahweh - all to no avail - except to reveal now to us what Jung saw in his 'Answer to Job,' that the present face of the old Gods is monstrous like Leviathan. Heraclitus calls this psychic reversal of virtue into vice, enantiadromia, the conversion into the opposite.
The victims and the perpetrators were not only believers in the old faith. Their faith was Belief. They believed in Belief. "Credo" was their fundamental religious statement, their witness to the reality of their God. Their Gods asked to be believed in and were sustained by the faithful. After the Holocaust these Gods could not be believed in and so the Gods died. More. Belief itself died, leaving open other modes of being with the Gods, as we are daily with the world, as animals are with events. The world does not ask for belief. It asks for noticing, attention, appreciation, care.
Because of the end of the era of Judeo-Christian belief, it is quite reasonable to find many in our day welcoming an Apocalypse. Once Belief itself collapses, the end of the previous world sustained by the old Gods is already here. Only by an end of the world - as it is written in John and pre-ordained in the myth of our civilization - can the gods return.
Let us be quite clear: our civilisation has horrific huge monstrous destruction written into its Holy Book. There, in every hotel room, by every bedside, part of every confirmation, every marriage, funeral, and swearing into office, is the Book to which the enormity of an Apocalypse provides its concluding chapter. The Late Great Planet Earth, which lays out in detail the historical enactment of the coming end of the world as announced by John in Revelations, was the best-selling book in English over-all during the 1970's. It is said that even President Reagan has read it.
When we look at the fifty years through the lens of Divine Absence, Absence of the Divine, Absence of the Gods - that the old Gods were not present at Treblinka 1 and Maidenek, Dachau and Buchenwald, or at Hiroshima and Bikini - that the Gods of our culture were themselves suffering from psychic numbing, utterly insensitive to the world, then we can draw at least one major conclusion.
In the absence of the Gods things swell to enormities. A sign of the absence of the Gods is hugeness, not merely the reign of quantity, but enormity as quantity, as a horrendous or fascinating description, like Black Hole, Conglomerate, Star Wars. Whether presented in the images of multi-national corporations, polluted oceans, or vast climatic changes, hugeness is the signature of the absent God. Or, let us say that the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, alone remain. Without the benevolent governance of divinity, Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence become Gods, the Titans return.
ARE WE RE-ENACTING the beginning of things as recounted by the Theogony of Hesiod? The first great task of the gods was to defeat the Titans and to thrust them in Tartarus, where they were to be kept away from the human earth forever. Zeus then married Metis (wisdom or measure); lay with Themis (who bore him Hours, Order, Justice, Peace and the Fates); lay with Eurynome, through whom came the Graces; with Mnemosyne, mother of the Muses, and with Leto, mother of Apollo and Aretmis. These archetypal principles and powers came into the world only when titanism is safely kept at bay. The civilized imagination, the imagination of civic order, begins only when excess is encompassed.
Titans were imagined as Giants; in fact, the popular imagination, says Roscher, 2 never distinguished between Giants and Titans. The root of the word Titan means: to stretch, to extend, to spread forth, and to strive or hasten. Hesiod's own etymology (Theog. 209) of titenes is to strain. This straining, striving effort suggests that the major contemporary complaint of stress is the feeling in the Promethean ego of its titanism. (Prometheus is perhaps the most well-known of the Titans, and the figure whom Kerenyi has called "the archetype of human existence," thereby pointing to the titanic propensity in each of us.) Stress is a titanic symptom. It refers to the limits of the body and the soul attempting to contain titanic, limitlessness. A true relief of stress begins only when we can recognize its true background our titanic propensity.
We may note a difference between titanism and hubris. Hubris is a human failure to remember the Gods. When we forget or neglect the Gods, we extend beyond the limits set by the Gods on mortals, limits given mainly by Zeus through his union with Metis, Themis, and Mnemosyne.
Titanism, however, takes place at the level of the Gods themselves. We are not Titans nor can we become titanic - only when the Gods are absent can titanism return to the earth. Do you see why we must keep the Gods alive and well? Small is beautiful requires a prior step: the return of the Gods.
Besides Zeus, an especial enemy of the Titans was Dionysos, who was torn by them to bits. What does this say to our condition now? If Dionysos is Lord of Souls as he was called, and Zoe, God of Life, the moist green force infusing all plants and animal nature with a savage and tender desire to live, then this urge can be rent to shreds, atomized let us say, by any procedure, any ambition, any universal law that goes beyond the bounds. Even the Promethean impulse to benefit mankind with high-minded actions can be destructive to the delicate strength of the soul whose Lord is Dionysos. Large solutions and thinking in universals is part of the enormity that I have been calling titanic. Here we might recall Yeat's caution: "The mind that generalizes continually prevents itself from those experiences which would allow it to see and feel deeply."
Why and how did Zeus become the first among his brothers and sisters? Why Zeus? And why Zeus for rescuing the world from the Titans? I think it was neither his strength, his thunderbolts, his wily cleverness, nor his law and order, but rather his wide imagination. When we look at his dozen or more matings and his progeny - Apollo, Hermes, Dionysos, Hercules, Perseus, Artemis, Athene, and others - he clearly could imagine these existential possibilities, these styles of consciousness. His range of fantasy was comprehensive, large, generous, and differentiated. He was indeed a sky god; he covered all with his breadth of imagining power, equal in articulated grandeur to titanic enormity. Titanic hugeness can be encompassed and contained only be an equally large capacity of image-making.
MOREOVER, ZEUS was born in daylight, as they say, out in the open; his mother bore him on the wide earth, Zeusian consciousness is active; on the earth; there, in the open. He fathers activism, which tells us something about how to meet titanism. Not retreat, meditation, psychoanalysis, or hope in the Kingdom Come.
As has been pointed out by Lopez-Pedraza, 3 referring to the classical mythologists Nilsson and Kerenyi, the Titans do not have limits because they are not imaged; rather they are abstractions. Hence, their punishment is by means of severe limitations: the chains that bind Prometheus; incarceration in Tartarus. From this point we can learn that titanism evokes repression; we imagine its defeat in our society with tougher laws, harder education, better systems of management control. The cure of enormity through more discipline is but an allopathic measure" cure through the opposite, which can lead to a moralistic, puritanical fascism, one danger the ecological movement needs always to keep its eye on. In other words, the repression of titanism produces only another sort of titanism, unless we understand what Zeus is truly about: the ordering power of the differentiated imagination, or what I have called polytheism.
I HAVE NOT mentioned in my catalogue of twentieth-century horrors, Depth Psychology. For, concurrent with the titanic enormities I have listed is the rise, spread and penetration of depth psychology all over and through our civilization - like kudzu vine, thriving as a parasite, clinging to the trunks of dying trees, falling temples, and old brick walls that crumble as depth psychology sends out more shoots and branches and strives towards ever more light.
Depth psychology is everywhere. As the gods died, the Self emerged. Heinrich Zimmer, at the beginning of this period, in the nineteen thirties said, "All the Gods are within." So, depth psychology became the religion or theology and ritual of the inside - dream, vision, reveries, feelings, insight, personal remembrances of things past. We explored the within, but did we find the Gods?
Like the retreats in the countryside to which the Roman patricians fled during the decline and fall of that epoch and its dying Gods, our educated and affluent class has gone into similar retreat, inside our private nature, inside the walls of our skins.
The justification for retreat from the disordered world has been given by ancient wisdom of shaman and rainmaker and oriental sage and christian saint: put your self in order and the world follows. Concentric circles - the smallest interior act in the meditating mind has ripples beyond itself. Eventually the wide world is affected - so runs the introverted, shall I say paranoid?, argument. Jungians have sometimes led the way away from the world soul into the private soul, quoting Jung who said we are each makeweights in the scales of world history. On the individual the destiny of the world depends. 4 I think this statement can be reversed and be equally true today: on the destiny of the world, the fate of the individual depends.
I now want to connect the titanic enormities of the last fifty years with the pervasive influence of depth psychology or psychoanalysis during the same period and the emphasis of analysis upon self-development and individuality. There are several ways of making this connection. First, we may say they are merely unrelated concurrent occasions with no significant relation. Second, we may say that they show a compensatory relation: the more horrific the vision of the world out there, the more beatific the vision of the interior castle. As impersonal enormities increase out there, the more attention we devote to the minutiae of personal dreams, fantasies, feelings and relationships. Small is beautiful restricts its meaning to the private and personal.
Our everyday language gives evidence of this shrinking away from the world and into our private functions. The adjectives we use to describe events have become more and more self-centred. To the question, "how was the evening (or party, or lecture, or plane trip), we reply: "dreadful, exhausting, boring, fascinating, etc." We tell of ourselves, our feelings, instead of describing the actual world, e.g. over-crowded, slow-to-get-going, full of strange people, noisy, etc.
There is a third way of connecting the enormities and depth psychology. This third way is by means of the when/then move, i.e. seeing both as part of one image and therefore necessary to and coterminous with each other. When the external world grows enormous, then we turn to the internal self; and also, when we turn to the internal self, then the external world grows enormous.
It is this last co-relation that we psychoanalysts have not been willing to explore: this possibility, this shocking possibility, that the more I focus on the interior psyche, the more I may actually be contributing to the world as holocaust, to the Apocalypse, to the end of our civilization.
I Have LONG been critical of the disastrous self-centredness of therapy. In London on my last visit here, and yesterday in Rome, I again addressed the disease of psychoanalytic narcissism, by which I mean the narcissism inherent in our obsession with subjectivity. The fascination with self, however, cannot move until we recognize that the occupation of psychotherapy is with psyche, not self. For even if defined in a cosmic sense, for instance as the Buddhist self, the world still points inward to a subject, individualized. Hence the constant preoccupation in both Buddhist and Jungian psychology with overcoming or relativizing the ego, mind or self.
Psyche, ever since Plato, has referred to an encompassing soul outside and beyond our human skulls and skins, beyond the borders of 'me', beyond my intra- and inter-personal relationships, beyond even the world as my ecological environment or my projective field. As Jung said, the psyche is not in me; I am in the psyche.
It is this sense of the world as an animated being, as a living animal, the world as an animal, that is the first component of curing enormity. The animal sense engages the world as highly specific and particular.This William James called "eachness", rather than wholeness and generalities. This tree, that field, that clump of wild flowers, this street corner, that smell, the taste of this water. The more animal our noses, the more the world presents itself to the senses as animal - and like tribal peoples, we take note of the specific values and powers of each event, each thing. Then, the Holy returns from Rudolf Otto's Wholly Other and theological vastness to this specific stone, medicine, frog or bird, pouch or pot.
The second component of the cure of enormity begins by trusting the heart's reactions of desire and anger, what the Scholastics and Church Fathers called cupiditas and ira. To these I'd add fear, Phobos, the son of Mars/Aries, and also shame, the aidos of Artemis. These deep emotions of the bowels, liver, genitals and heart, these responses of the animal blood keep us in tune, in touch with the world around - its beauty, its insult, its danger.
Analysis analyzes these powerful bonds that keep us alive to the world and the world alive to us, calling them affects filled with projections. Eastern wisdom teaches us to overcome them for they attach us to the wheel, to the illusions of existence.
But these divine influxes, as Blake called emotions, are not ours. Desire, rage, fear, shame are echoes of the world's soul, presentations of qualities in the world informing our bodies and spirits how to be, what stance to take, what to have and what to hate, which way to turn on the path.
Rage in particular is important here. Remember: Zeus and his brothers and sisters overcame the Titans and Giants in battle! Under the sign of Mars/Ares, the God of battle rage, intensity, fury. If emotion is defined, as in many theories, as a deed retained within the organism, then emotions want to do just what the word says: ex-movere, to move out, and rage is actually internalized or frustrated outrage. Outrage then becomes the primary emotion. When prevented from action, from moving out, it becomes ira, anger, rage. Let us then recognize that outrage has a social intention. It leads us into the fray, into community engagement with our sisters and brothers. It notices moral insults and aesthetic injuries. It roars in protest. As Wallace Stevens said: "the lion roars at the enraging desert." 5
Similarly, desire has been frustrated and psychologized into need, so that it too becomes internalized and we forget what D.H. Lawrence said: "desire is holy." I think desire is holy because it is the emotional response to Venus's attractive beauty in the world beyond ourselves. The world is a great seducer. Whether to the scientist of nature or to the plain man on a ramble, it draws us to it. And strongly! Else there would not have to be so many warnings against its Venusian lure, such as "the world, the flesh, and the devil." In the same way, fear, the crucial emotion for survival, has been deprived by psychology of its objective correlative - the fearful giants out there - and become objectless, free-floating anxiety.
Anxiety, Need, Rage: these are the emotions on which psychology lives, having taken them into its province by internalizing fear, desire and outrage. The return to the world and the return to a world ensouled requires the return of the primacy of these life-giving, life-protecting and world-recognizing emotions. The psychological task is much like that we have to perform on Newton and Locke's qualities, returning colour and taste and texture to the things of the world, no longer pretending that they take place only in the subjective sensorium.
Of these four emotions, a word about shame. Until rather recently it too has been degraded to guilt, an emotion located in the ego or the super-ego; whereas, in fact, shame invades us, flushes through us, indeed a divine influx. Shame seems to be to me the emotion of ecology, as aidos is a characteristic word appropriate to Artemis, that lovely elusive lady of the woods, springs, hills, and clearings. A Navaho chant says:
I am ashamed before earth;
I am ashamed before heavens
I am ashamed before dawn;
I am ashamed before evening twilight
I am ashamed before blue sky;
I am ashamed before darkness
I am ashamed before sun
Some of these things are always looking at me.
I am never out of their sight. 6
To litter the world with trash, to construct monstrous structures, to consume and waste as distraction from boredom is not merely illegal, immoral or anti-social and unhealthy. It is shameful; offensive to the world itself, harmful to the soul.
THE THIRD COMPONENT of the cure of enormity - following upon the other two of locating soul in the world, and of trusting the animal-blood's passions of desire, outrage, fear and shame - takes us directly to the founder of these lectures and his aesthetic formulation: that word, beautiful. Let us appreciate the courage shown by Schumacher in placing the word beautiful in the title of his book. Not small is efficient; not small is right, or good, or healthy, or natural, or redemptive: but beautiful.
This shows courage, for to speak of the beautiful is to lift the major repression of the day. Not horror, not cruelty, not our personal lives and their sexual vicissitudes, their family memories, their needs and greeds, are the repressed today. The last one hundred years of psychotherapeutic solitude has lifted repression from the private shadows of our interior lives. We know every square inch of childhood, the molestations and abuses, the alcohol and beatings: we know all about gender differences, every nook and cranny of our mauvais foi, misery and narcissistic complaints. We even have explored our birth canal traumas and our previous lives long ago and far away from today's immediate mess. Today, the Great Repressed, the taboo that never is mentioned in therapy or analytic theory is beauty. The unconscious does not stay in the same place. What was unconscious is no longer unconscious. As psychoanalytic light proceeds through the forest, making clearings, new shadows spring up behind. The unconscious is always where we are not looking. Today we are unconscious of beauty. We are un-aesthetic, an-aesthetized, psychically numbed.
Moreover, there is a huge and ugly, and evil empire at work day and night to keep us this way. Maniacally charged, hyper, loud and strong entertainment and TV, media news, drink and sugar and coffee, developers and improvers, shopping, shopping, shopping, the health industry building muscles not sensitivity,, the medical industry as drug-dispensers, sleeping pills, uppers, downers, lithium for children. We are nor even mummies or zombies in our psychic numbing, for we have not been to the Underworld, the land of the dead. We are simply in Plato's cave, drugged out of our gourds, shut down, numb.
My cry is not so much the classic one: wake up and see; but rather, sense, common sense. The enemy is not invisible, intangible. Titanism smells, tastes, strikes the ears, membranes, and eyeballs, the fingers. Our sense touch and recoil and close off the world, the common world is lost to sense, and, too, the words of sense, the common descriptive language of adjectives and adverbs. Instead , titanism of acronyms, and the justification for the ugly and the huge with abstract imageless reasons of economy, safety, usefulness, practicality, time-saving, accessibility, convenience. Not love; not relate; not arise - but "O Taste and See!" (Psalm 34).
In review, then, my three components of the cure for titanism interlock. Re-awakening the sense of soul in the world goes hand in hand with an aesthetic response - the sense of beauty and ugliness - to each and everything, and this in turn requires trusting the emotions of desire, outrage, fear and shame as the felt immediacy of the Gods, Mars and Venus and the Moon, in our bodily lives, and their concern that this world, our planet, their neighbour, does not become the late great planet earth.
James Hillman was trained as a Jungian analyst and was formerly director of studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich. He lives in Thompson, Connecticut, USA.
James Hillman, "And Huge is Ugly", Tenth Annual E.F. Schumacher Memorial Lecture, Bristol, England: November, l988.
This article was also published in:
Huge Is Ugly," by James Hillman. The Bloomsbury Review, Jan/Feb
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