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James Hillman

James Hillman: Pathologizing: The Wound and the Eye, p 163. Cultural Disorder

Culture takes place in closed, even closeted places, involving the

alchemical putrefactio, or decadence as the body of fermentation.

Generation and decay happen together; and they are not always easy

to distinguish. What goes with civilization are irrigation systems,

monuments, victories, historical endurance, wealth, and power as a

cohesive force with common purpose. Civilization works; culture

flowers. Civilization looks ahead, culture looks back. Civilization is

historical record; culture a mythic enterprice.

     They may interelate, but they also seem able to do without

each other. Civilization without culture is all around us. Culture

without civilization? I think of the Tierra del Fuego Indians found

by Westerners in the eighteenth century, with hardly fire, clothes,

shelter, tools or vessels, always starving, always sick, yet whose

vocabulary was more numerous than Shakespeare's or Joyce's, and

whose culture was altogether myths of every thought.

         Culture, as I have been speaking of it, looks backward and

reaches back as nostalgia for invisibilities, to make them present and

to found human life upon them. The cultural enterprise attempts to

peel, flail, excite individual sensitivity so that it can again - notice the

again – be in touch with these invisibles and orient life by their compass.

        To build an argument upon a pun, the back wards display the

backwards towards which culture reaches. For here is a display of

recurring forms that do not change through time and which repeat

in every age and society. ( All societies, by the way, have some sort

of psychopathology.) This universality and chronicity is expressed

by both the physical view, backward as 'genetic defectives' and the

moral view, backward as sin, fall, or eternal damnation. If the gods

have become diseases, then these forms of chronic disorder are the

gods in disguise; they are occulted in these mishapen, inhuman

forms, and our seeing through to them there – in all forms of chronic

disorder in ourselves and our city – is a grounding act of culture.

The education of sensitivity begins right here in trying to see

through the manifestations of time into eternal patterns within

time. We may regard the discontents of civilization if they are

fundamentals of culture.

       It may be surprising to associate the diseased with the divine

and culture with deformity. We do so want the gods to be pristine,

models of marble on Olympus, pure as driven snow. But they are

not without their shadows, their afflictions and infirmities. As they

are beyond time (athenetos, 'immortal'), so these shadows of disorder

that they portray in their myths reappear in those human events that

are not affected by time, that is, in chronic disorders. Since we are

created in their images, we can only do in time what they do in

eternity. Their eternal afflictions are our human infirmities.

    So, my point is coming clearer: it is in dealing with the back

wars that culture grows. I do not mean going off to apprentice

oneself in an asylum, to become a therapist – although I understand

what students are asking for by wanting to enter a training program.

Not merely to help people – that's the welfare reason. Rather it is to

move from civilization toward culture. By being present with the

chronic castaways of civilization, they become present to the timeless

incurable aspect of the soul. I may make this yet clearer to you if you

think again of your own backward back ward. Nursing and siting

with it dwelling upon it, tracing the invisible mystery in it, letting

compassion come for your own chronic disorder – this all slows

down your progress, moves you from future thinking to essential

thinking about our nature and character, upon life's meaning and

upon death's, upon love and its failure, upon what is truly important, and

upon the small things in words, manners, act, necessitated by the

limitations of your inescapable disorder. We begin to hear differ-

ently, watch differently, absorb more sensitively. Confronted with

the unbearable in my own nature, I show more trepidation – which

is after all the first piece of compassion. In regard to others, my

manners alter, my language more attuned and precise, I become

more sophisticated and artful – as a cat steps, a bird percieves, a dog

follows invisibles in the air. I look to arts for understanding, to ritual

for enactments, and to the lives of men and women of the past and

how they came through. I need something further than community

and civilization for they may be too human, too visible. I need

imaginal help from tales and images, idols and altars, and the crea-

tures of nature, to help me carry what is so hard to carry personally

and alone. Education of sensitivity begins in the back ward, culture

in chronic disorder.

     Finally, if you allow me one more paragraph, I come to appre-

ciate the chronic itself. More than slowing down, more than an

occasion for tolerance or instruction in survival, I come to see that

things chronic are things that have nothing to do with civilized time,

either future time when it will be better, or present time and adjust-

ment, disguise, or complaint – but rather the timeless structures of

being which accomany us, keep company with us, in forms that do

not change and do not go away, seemingly so out of place, out of

step with civilization and its courageous march toward its inevitable

destruction. For civilizations do eventually decline and perish. Cul-

tures, by existing always in decay, in disorder, may continue beyond

the civilizations that seem to hold them. In the shadows of the gods

are the very gods themselves, their myths in the midst of what

survives because it will not go away.