Reveal Thyself

The first essay in James Hillman’s The Myth of Analysis is titled “Psychological Creativity”. It explores the myth of Eros and Psyche as the main archetypal structure that is experienced and re-enacted by therapeutic analysis—in fact, experienced and re-enacted by any close relationship (between and within each person) where soul-making is involved.

Reading this essay was quite moving to me. Maybe because I once wrote that, were I to begin therapy, it should be with a man I liked. Or because, at 15, sitting on the floor of a friend’s room, I proudly exclaimed: “Yes, life is easier when you are not in love, but it’s also fucking empty!”. Or because I often found the caution and prudery with which transference was discussed (or avoided) by both professionals and patients a bit strange—thinking (but only to myself: one doesn’t want to sound too stupid): “But isn’t transference the whole point of analysis?”. Or because I’ve often been maligned (but not as often as I have maligned myself) for entertaining those feelings that are part of “love as a whole”: the yearning for the other, the desire for a response that answers to my love (what an idea, you might think, yet it turns out that even the Greeks had a word and a God for it). Or because I wouldn’t be able to speak about my being or my soul without speaking of deep, intimate experiences with others (though those others, it has to be said, often scoffed at my mentions of the soul). Or maybe it is because, while I’ve often found myself quite alone in these musings, I feel a quite natural connection between love, desire and psyche, as if they were inevitably leaking into each other, so to speak …

In any case, I found this essay not just brilliant and beautiful, but comforting. So I decided to type, with my own hands, a few pages of it (the footnotes are great, too, but my commitment to typing has a limit). I’ve realised that a lot of people have emergency readings, as I call them. Authors they like to read when in distress, pain, despair. I’ve never had that: I find that, often, nothing helps. But maybe Hillman is the reading that can comfort me, or my soul, or both.

Socrates said that the human psyche has something divine about it and that one’s first interest is to look after its health. We know from both Plato and Jung that its health is its psychological integrity and that eros is the integrating factor which binds, holds together, and conjoins opposites. This eros is neither kindness nor compassion nor therapeutic concern; it is love as a whole which makes for wholeness. And whole love includes hatred as creativity includes destructiveness. So-called therapeutic eros has always something about it of condescending agape, of mothering and fathering; it is only good. How can it close a wound from below and within? Eros itself departs from so-called therapeutic responsibility because it is always curiously weaker than the problem it must deal with. It has something in it of the child—foolish, spontaneous, ruthless in its directness, but playful. So it can recreate from within the wounds. It does not desire the other person’s welfare or health; it desires the other person. What heals is our needs for each other, including mutually destructive components, not your need to be healed which calls forth my compassion. Therapy is love itself, the whole of it, not a special part of it.

The whole of it includes my himeros, my desire toward you, my wanting something with you, and my foolish idealizations that you get better, grow, transform, and find your wings; it includes also my pothos, that yearning, needing, longing on your account, and my need for your anteros, your answering love in return—all these things that embarrass me to admit that I am so involved with you, the other person, or with myself and my own soul. This love is always there, as the creative instinct is always there potentially in all of us, so that “in reality, we are all lovers all of the time”. Or, in the words of Socrates: “I could not name a time when I was not in love with someone”. Being in love reveals, as Gould says, “what we are really after”; for being in love is, following the Phaedrus, “really growing one’s spiritual wings again”, since “l’âme, dans son acte essentiel, est donc amour”, and “soul is wholly soul when it is a loving one”.

Therefore therapy is love of soul. The teaching and healing therapist—if we use the Socratic-Platonic model of philosopher who teaches and heals—is on the same plane of being as the lover; both take their origin from the same primordial impulse behind their seeking. Therapy as love of soul is a continual possibility for anyone, waiting upon neither the therapeutic situation nor a special “therapeutic eros”, a misnomer which is a construct of reflection. This love would show in therapy through the spirit with which we approach the phenomena of the psyche. No matter how desperate the phenomena, eros would keep connected to the soul and seek a way through. This spirit of resourceful inventiveness and creative intelligence, our tales of Eros tell us, he has inherited from his father, either Poros or Hermes. Love not only finds a way, it also leads the way as psychopompos and is, inherently, the “way” itself. Seeking psychological connections by means of eros is the way of therapy as soul-making. Today this is a way, a via regia, to the unconscious psyche as royal as the way through the dream or through the complex.

Creative insights are thus not only the reflective ones; they are those vivencias, those exciting perceptions arising from involvement. Psychological perceptions informed by eros are life-giving, vivifying. Something new comes into being in oneself or the other. Love blinds only the usual outlook; it opens a new way of perceiving, because one can be fully revealed only to the sight of love. Reflective insights may arise like the lotus from the still center of the lake of meditation, while creative insights come at the raw and tender edge of confrontation, at the borderlines where we are more sensitive and exposed—and, curiously, most alone. To meet you, I must risk myself as I am. The naked human is challenged. It would be safer reflecting alone than confronting you. And even the favourite dictum of reflective psychology—a psychology which has consciousness rather than love as its main goal—”Know thyself”, will be insufficient for a creative psychology. Not “Know thyself” through reflection, but “Reveal thyself”, which is the same as the commandment to love, since nowhere are we more revealed than in our loving.

Nowhere, too, are we more blind. Is love blindfolded, in statuary and painting, only to show us its compulsion, ignorance, and sensuous unconsciousness? Love blinds in order to extinguish the wrong and daily vision so that another eye may be opened that perceives from soul to soul. The habitual perspective cannot see through the dense skin of appearances: how you look, what you wear, how you are. The blind eye of love sees through into the invisible, making the opaque mistake of my loving transparent. I see the symbol you are and what you mean to my death. I can see through the blind and foolish visibility that everyone else sees and into the psychic necessity of my erotic desire. I discover that wherever eros goes, something psychological is happening, and that wherever psyche lives, eros will inevitably constellate. Like the early Eros figures, I am naked: visible, transparent, a child. Like the later Amor figures, I am blind: seeing none of the evident, obvious values of the normal world, open only to the invisible and daimonic.

Now our image of the goal changes: not Enlightened Man, who sees, the seer, but Transparent Man, who is seen and seen through, foolish, who has nothing left to hide, who has become transparent through self-acceptance; his soul is loved, wholly revealed, wholly existential; he is just what he is, freed from paranoid concealment, from the knowledge of his secrets and his secret knowledge; his transparency serves as a prism for the world and the not-world. For it is impossible reflectively to know thyself; only the last reflection of an obituary may tell the truth, and only God knows our real names. We are always behind with our reflections—too late, after the event; or we are in the midst, where we see through a glass darkly.

How can we know ourselves by ourselves? We can be known to ourselves through another, but we cannot go it alone. That is the hero’s way, perhaps appropriate during a heroic phase. But if we have learned anything from the rituals of the new life-form of the past seventy years, it is just this: we cannot go it alone. The opus of the soul needs intimate connection, not only to individuate but simply to live. For this we need relationships of the profoundest kind through which we can realise ourselves, where self-revelation is possible, where interest in and love for soul is paramount, and where eros may move freely—whether it be in analysis, in marriage and family, or between lovers and friends.

© Cristina Álvarez López, July 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s