Character & Calling (Part 5)

My spring reading: James Hillman’s classic The Soul’s Code – In Search of Character and Calling (Random House, New York, 1996)

In earlier posts, we examined Hillman’s assertion that rather than mindlessly falling in line with the popular Western idea of the self-made hero/heroine for whom the ‘only way is up’, we’d do ourselves a favour by taking closer look at the Plato’s The Myth of Er. In that ancient classic we learn that prior to incarnation, souls not only make key choices about how their earthly lives should unfold, but they are also assigned a daimon, whose job it is to ensure once on earth, soul reconnects with and lives out his/her chosen calling. 

Hillman reminds us that the mere reconnection with one’s chosen calling is never enough. Soul must ‘grow down’ into its earthly incarnation and like a tree, establish a strong and stable ‘root system’ able to support that calling. When one fails to ‘grow down’, the whole exercise goes to hell in a handbag. 

Delving more deeply into the first of the four modes suggested by Platonic myth by which soul ‘grows down’, in this post we investigate the parental fallacy. 

In modern western society, we are addicted to the societal fantasy that in bringing us up (or failing to do so, our parents either screw us up or make us who we are. The story goes as follows: If my parents had been different (or had done things differently), I’d have been different. But given the circumstances, how could I be responsible for anything? Although we spend a good deal of time and money on therapies of all types to help us to ‘recover’ from the ill inflicted upon us by bad (or absent) parenting, Hillman reminds us that in clinging to the fantasy that our parents are responsible for the way we’ve turned out, we prevent ourselves from ‘growing down’ into the world as it is.

The fact of the matter is that events happen for a reason. In tossing a few wobbles like ‘bad parenting’ in our paths, daimon or soul might well be nudging us toward a different path. Interestingly, it’s quite likely those ‘bad parents’ were actually chosen by daimon or soul for that purpose. But we’re unlikely to even consider that possibility as long as we lay everything that we perceive to have gone wrong (or right) in our lives on our parents.

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