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Hillman on Daimons

From Chris Wayan's journal, 1998/9/7

James Hillman, in The Sun magazine, says parenting is a Western myth--parents are mostly not responsible for how kids turn out. He argues we devalue culture and environment, genetics, politics, and one more little thing theoretical psychologists ignore (though not those in the trenches): the soul. We come into the world with a daimon, as the Greeks called it, that needs to be expressed--and the most parents can do is water the seed. It's already planted and it knows what species it is.

He parts with New Agers by pointing out that this seed can be bad by any sane definition. "How can a Hitler appear?...I think it's a mistake to try to reduce it to being brutalized by your parents or having grown up in some horrible situation... Jeffrey Dahmer had a wonderful father... he... had strange dreams in his youth that were very similar to some of the crimes that Dahmer committed. So the father took responsibility. But he was not a bad father at all. When Jeffrey was four, they were carving pumpkins for Halloween, and Jeffrey... would not let his father put a smile on the pumpkin's face. "I want a mean face!" he screamed. He was in a fury...."

This particular paragraph affects me so strongly because my own first clear psychic dream happened one night when a bunch of people were murdered nearby. My sister, my parents and I all dreamed of grisly murders that night. My father, good college Freudian that he was, assumed his dream meant his id was murderous--we're all savages under the skin. Then the paper came, with headlines proving our nightmares literally true. Not killers inside--just exposed, by our nature, to horrific broadcasts from the minds of people around us. Including mass murderers. A whole family of clairvoyants raised not to believe in ESP!

Too personal a parallel.

I do worry Hillman's view could be abused--the "bad seed" all over again. "Just a rotten kid." He warns against that. But he also points out that to assume we incarnate with some sort of purpose or plan isn't just a pleasant, empowering New Age myth. Some souls may have obsessive, vengeful, crazy agendas.

It explains the facts better and it involves uncomfortable demands on ourselves too. Responsibility to feed the daimon's needs without hurting others, so it doesn't, frustrated, become what Christians distorted it to: "demon".

I certainly had a daimon. I was never the sum of my parents or even much in reaction to them. The old journals I've been reading, as I compile dreams for publication, show all the signs right from the first. My mom noticed I'd worry and cry at the slightest suffering of others, even pratfall comedy on TV, when I was two or three. At the same age my sisters, highly gifted girls, just laughed and laughed. While I took on others' pain, and kept dreaming I was a wild horse reborn as a human, and wandered other worlds. A shaman at three.

Bad seed? Good seed? Who knows? But... a seed.

LISTS AND LINKS: a dream on James Hillman: Groundhog Day - inheritances - goals and values - daimons, life-agendas, spirit-goals - violence - ethics - My first memory, of being a horse: I am 3 - that family cluster of psychic dreams about The Murders - essays and rants

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