The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon
Miscellany: A Gallery for Related Materials
COMMENTARY by Charles Knott
Barbara’s use in the Presentations introduction of the quotation from James Hillman about possible symbolic meanings of animal imagery reminds me of the most powerful animal dream I ever had. The dream occurred a few decades ago, but it is still vivid. To set the context: during the 1970s I was preoccupied with depth psychology–-a term which refers to the works of Freud and Jung primarily, and secondarily to an enormous library of writings on the subject of the unconscious mind. Prior to the dream, I had read a good bit of Freud, and I had read nearly all of Jung. Hearing of the new Princeton edition of Jung’s Collected Works, I contracted with the publisher to send me each of the 18 volumes as it came off the press. Over a period of a year and a half, I made my way through all of them with, I’ll grant you, only varying degrees of comprehension. While I did not understand everything I read, I knew that reading Jung was good for me. Jung’s writings have always had a peculiar ability to heal my psyche even while probing its wounds.
To be healed by what one does not quite understand reminds me of a remark Jung overheard while milling anonymously with a crowd that was leaving after hearing him lecture: "I didn’t understand a word that fellow said–-but he sure knew what he was talking about!" Jung speaks to the soul for some of us, but we don’t always know exactly how or why.
Anyway, this immersion in the psychology of the unconscious over a period of several years had been overwhelming, and my ego was suffering from a condition known as "inflation." Nothing so inflates one as acquiring new knowledge, and those who do not know how to protect themselves from this illness can be pathetic and obnoxious.
Inflation can occur anytime one is too impressed with one’s own importance, real or imagined, and new learning certainly puts one at risk in the self-importance department.
I think it’s also true that, generally, the smaller the ego, the greater the risk of inflation. For example, I once saw a very poor farmer in overalls bidding at a country auction. Each time he would make a 25-cent bid, he would swagger about, hardly able to believe he could wield such power.
And people with real power--the Pope, for instance--must also protect themselves from inflation. The Pope has to attend confession regularly, and he must confess to a humble, low-ranking parish priest. Of course, speaking of powerful people, our own beloved Bill Clinton, who had the nation’s parents complaining that he set a bad example for their children (actually, parents complained because his behavior forced them to explain oral sex) apologized to the nation’s children by baring his soul and humbly admonishing them that "even Presidents have to tell the truth." (I guess he might have added "eventually, when and if they get caught.")
In 1976, at the moment I was convinced I knew just about everything, Christmas arrived and I had the following dream.
I am in my home standing in front of a tree I have just decorated. A friend arrives and compliments me on my work. "It’s very interesting," I say, in my best professorial manner. "Here we have some lovely trinkets of considerable psychological value–a cross, for example. You see, the vertical axis of the cross represents the connection of God to man. And the horizontal, or transverse axis, represents earth and matter. Where the axes meet, we have eternity entering the field of time."
"And this," I went on–no stopping me now–"is a circle, which sometimes is drawn or sculpted exactly where the axes of the cross intersect. The meeting of time and eternity, God and man–-well, that’s where Christ’s head is on a crucifix, with its circle of thorns. Actually, these are all manifestations of the mandala, which can be any representation, or combination of representations, of the cross, the circle, or the rectangle."
Then we left the house and walked into the back yard. A giant curtain separated us from the deep woods behind the house. We entered beyond the curtain and saw a lake of hippopotami. They were feeding on turtles. Suddenly the dream zoomed in on the wide open mouth of a hippopotamus crunching down on a small turtle. "Interesting," I say. "Here we see large ideas, symbolized by the hippopotami, devouring smaller ideas, symbolized by the turtles." I continued swelling with pride and self-importance.
As we walked farther into the woods, they became more jungle-like, and I saw that we were being stalked by two tigers. In an overconfident, nonchalant way, I said, "And here on our right, we see two tigers, obviously projections of the unconscious."
Suddenly, the face of one tiger was extremely close to mine. I was terrified. The forehead of the tiger pressed against my own, and my terror escalated to panic, yet I could not escape. It was as if a huge psychic dynamo had incorporated my small mind into itself and begun spinning at unbearable speed, so that I thought I might explode. At the moment I could take no more of this, a voice emanated from the forehead of the tiger: WE ARE NOT JUST PROJECTIONS, it said.
I awoke from this dream in a cold sweat.
I believe the dream came to me because my ego had grown a bit too big for its psychological britches, and the dream selected an overwhelmingly powerful animal–a Tiger god (or was it William Blake’s "Tyger"?), to deflate me back to my proper size. So my poor ego had puffed up like a gas-filled balloon, and the Tyger was sent to deflate it.
To explain how I let myself get into this condition, I need to admit that I had been through years and years of being overly dominated by the unconscious. My ego was assimilated too much into the unconscious, and I had begun using Freud and Jung’s knowledge to extricate myself, but now I had gone too far in the other direction. The so-called enantiodromia effect occurred when, becoming absolutely steeped in the literature of depth psychology and the study of symbolic forms, I assimilated too much of the unconscious into the ego. The psychic see-saw swapped ends, and I went from one extreme to its opposite. The Tyger popped the bubble and brought me into balance.
Still immersed in the dream, though wide awake, I apologized to the Tyger and thanked him for not swatting me like a fly.
So Hillman wants us to re-discover the "eye of Adam"–-Adam who gave close attention to the animals–-because animals have a survival wisdom that escapes us humans.
In return for the miracle, Arlene has kept her promise, demonstrating a child-like belief in a personal and vengeful god. In Chicago she’s made a new life for herself and has found a soul mate in her African American boyfriend—a lawyer named Burr.
Burr is yet another miracle. He sounds too good to be true, especially when we learn that they’ve been together for two years without him insisting on sex. Lusty though as he is, I found Burr’s abstinence hard to believe. Even more than sex, he wants Arlene to take him to meet her racist white family.
Though Arlene denies that Possett is her home, her regular phone calls tell another story. Her ditsy Mama, steely Aunt Florence, and her almost-sister Cousin Clarice have deep emotional hooks into her. The appearance of her old rival spurs Arlene to break her vow by returning to Possett. And rather than lose Burr, who has issued an ultimatum about meeting her folks, she takes him along.
Back in Possett, Arlene must finally make peace with both her family and her early sins, and for once to put her old demons to rest. Jackson’s folding of the past with the present is deftly done, and she keeps the reader in suspense until the end. The characters are all memorable, and humor comes through on every page. The surprising truth that she uncovers not only frees her, but reveals a deeper love than any she could have imagined.
Review by Anne Webster
Booksigning at Palmetto with Joshilyn Jackson
Photographs by Melanie Cardell
Guests include, from left to right and down, Joshilyn Jackson, Melanie Cardell with Joshilyn Jackson (photo by John Cardell), Ravi Kumar and Bill Kennedy, resident tree, Charles Knott and John Cardell, resident goddess (Artemis, lady of the beasts), resident remains of a cow elevated, Marcia and Yousef Shams, Anne Lovett and Anne Webster talking to Bill Kennedy, David Blandford, Nancy Law, Ted and Lisa Bailey, Barbara Knott.
IN THE NEWS...
This story from The Indian Express, October 2005
BANGALORE, OCTOBER 25: A test pilot was killed and a flight test engineer had a miraculous escape today when a bird hit their MiG-21 while taking off at HAL Airport here. Although the two ejected, the parachute of Test Pilot Sq Ldr Murthy of the Aircraft System and Training Establishment (ASTE) drifted into a ball of fire and got detached, as a result of which he fell on the ground and died.
The incident occurred around 12.45 pm. The MiG-21 from ASTE was on a routine training sortie. Sq Ldr K.R. Murthy and flight test engineer Sq Ldr K.D. Bhat, who was sitting behind him, ejected after take-off at a height of 30-50 metres when they experienced a sudden loss of thrust and the aircraft veered to the left.
“The aircraft hit the ground 100 metres ahead on the shoulder of the runway,” IAF spokesperson Wg Cdr V M Raghunath said.
“Winds from the north led to Sq Leader’s Murthy’s parachute being led inadvertently into the fireball which enveloped the aircraft immediately after the impact. As he went through the fireball and his parachute caught fire, he got detached from the parachute,” Wg Cdr Raghunath said, adding that the black box has been recovered.
‘‘This is the first accident involving MiG-21 this year. Prima facie, the cause of the accident is a bird hit as a part of the bird’s carcass was found on the runway just short of the point at which the pilot initiated ejection. It seems the bird got sucked into the engine.’’
A Court of Inquiry, headed by Air Cmde P B Patel, has been ordered.
The airport had to be closed for two hours.
(See Ravi Kumar's story in Presentations)
MIAMI, October 5, 2005: The major alligator incident in recent news comes from an AP story "Python Bursts After Trying to Eat Gator." Here are the relevant comments:
A 13-foot Burmese python recently burst after it apparently tried to swallow a live, six-foot alligator whole, authorities said....
Over the years, many pythons have been abandoned in the Everglades by pet owners.
(See Bill Kennedy's story in Presentations)
CALIFORNIA, December 1, 2005: a letter from Dianna Edwards and Eric Haney, friends who moved to California to be present at (and for Eric to participate in) the making of a new television series based on Eric's book, announcing the imminent debut of the series.
"Known only as THE UNIT, they are an ultra-secret contingent of special
forces soldiers who operate outside the usual military chain of
command. Their very existence is a closely held secret protected by the
soldiers themselves. Their wives, who are also in on the secret,
strictly adhere to a fictitious cover story that is provided for them,
for they know that every person who knows one more bit of the truth is
one more person who can get their husbands killed."
Shawn Ryan and David Mamet are executive producers. Dennis Haysbert,
Robert Patrick, Scott Foley and Regina Taylor are among the ensemble
cast. The TV show is loosely based on Eric Haney's best seller, Inside
Delta Force. Haney is also one of the producers.
(description from Fox, the studio that is making it for CBS)
at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens