|Night Flight, by Daniel Valcarce, 1998|
One characteristic of psychological truth…it follows the way of the psychological mind, that twisting which allows the soul to make its fantasy images. Psychological truth is therefore a twisted truth, what the Renaissance called twofold truth. Psychological beauty is twisted beauty, where, as Plotinus and the Art of Memory recognized, the ugly has more immediate and memorable effect on the soul than does the harmonious (James Hillman, Back to Beyond On Cosmology).
Think about what convention views as “straight.” Experiences which display and build soul always deviate from conventional straightness. Soul, by nature is a bit twisted. This is why the soul loves mazes, labyrinths, windings and spiralings.The twistedness of soul shows up in myriad areas of human culture and experience.
Hillman refers to the Art of Memory. One of the best mnemonic devices is to associate whatever one is learning about with an unusual, grotesque, or absurd image. These types of images are very difficult to forget.
I am very fond of surrealist paintings, especially those of Salvador Dali. These images are filled with amazing imagery dredged up from the depths of the soul. Of course, these are not conventionally straight, to say the least. They speak to deep, archetypal truths that the conventionally straight cannot convey, and that the psychologically straight person cannot understand.
What is it that makes someone “psychologically straight,” while others enjoy a bit of the twisted? One of the most important reasons is the tendency toward literalism in all things. You can find these kind of people, for instance, in fundamentalist churches all over the world. They believe the Bible is literal and no one can tell them otherwise. This kind of belief completely nullifies the benefits of soul to those adhering to such ideas. They may be experiencing soul, at times in their everyday lives, but some experiences might be attributed to the Devil, while others are repressed for fear of other dangers, such as sin. It is not only fundamentalist Christians that literalize everything; our general culture has much difficulty with understanding symbols, metaphors, and images. Most areas of education in this country attempt to fit all things into the logical box of the scientific method. They do not allow imagination to play into the facts of the “hard sciences.” It’s a good thing Einstein didn’t fall into that trap. Through his “thought-experiments,” his vivid imaginings, we know much more about the nature of reality than we once did. Yes, Einstein was a bit twisted. He allowed soul into his life and look what he accomplished.
The ability to think imaginally is not taught in public schools. Usually, people stumble upon it in music, art, or other areas of the popular culture. It’s usually people who like to deviate from the norm who are best at thinking imaginally. Many times, teenagers, who are bored with school, who feel the school does not sufficiently challenge them, go on to accomplish amazing things using their imaginations. At some point, sometimes years after their school days are over, they wander into a maze of the soul, usually through some kind of hardship, and discover their true self, and afterwards they make their mark on the world. Many are high school dropouts. If only the schools could realize the need to add a bit of twisted soul to the curriculum.
I remember when I was in high school. I hated most of the classes, but loved English Literature. It was there I first read Edgar Allan Poe, a twisted soul if ever there was one. His stories fired my imagination to seething white-hot. A Descent Into the Maelstrom still reverberates in my being. I think it was there that I first read Shakespeare. Words cannot describe the impact such stories, such as Hamlet, have had on my life. The best ones are always the twisted ones, like Macbeth. I also have a great love for film-noir, which examines the twisted side of human nature.
This is precisely why Jung leaped headfirst into alchemy. He realized early, probably from his work at the Burgholzi Psychiatric Clinic, that the way of soul, the via regia, if you will, is the twisted path into the unconscious mind. To the rational mind, alchemy is nonsense, an absurd attempt to transmute base metals into gold. It is filled with bizarre images and recipes that science cannot relate to. But to the soul spelunker, it a twisted and labyrinthine journey filled with adventure.