Thursday, December 4, 2014


These excerpts from depth psychologist James Hillman's A Terrible Love of War have been in my draft file for months.

The Pentagon is suggesting a 400 billion-dollar overhaul of our nuclear weapon system.

This seems a good time to run them.

"[T]o understand war you have to get at its myths, recognize that war is a mythical happening, that those in the midst of it are removed to a mythical state of being, that their return from it seems rationally inexplicable, and that the love of war tells of a love of the gods, the gods of war; and that no other account—political, historical, sociological, psychoanalytical—can penetrate (which is why war remains “un-imaginable” and “un-understood”) to the depths of inhuman cruelty, horror, and tragedy and to the heights of mystical transhuman sublimity. Most other accounts treat war without myth, without the gods, as if they were dead and gone. Yet where else in human experience, except in the throes of ardor—that strange coupling of love with war—do we find ourselves transported to a mythical condition and the gods most real?" p. 9

"The enemy provides the constellating image in the individual and is necessary to the state in order to collect individuals into a cohesive warring body. René Girard’s Violence and the Sacred elaborates this single point extensively: the emotional foundation of a unified society derives from “violent unanimity,” the collective destruction of a sacrificial victim, scapegoat, or enemy upon whom all together, without exception or dissent, turn on and eliminate. Thereby, the inherent conflicts within a community that can lead to internal violence become exteriorized and ritualized onto an enemy. Once an enemy has been found or invented, named, and excoriated, the “unanimous violence” without dissent, i.e., patriotism and the preemptive strikes of preventative war, become opportune consequents…If war begins in the state, the state begins in enmity."
pp. 24-25

how do we bury the dead
by Mermer Blakeslee

how do we bury the dead
stacking up on the patio against our picture window? I can barely see
over the last body blown here by another cluster bomb—
every forty minutes, every twenty every ten every five every two every one—
I can no longer see into the garden

what do we do with all these children
lying here outside our kitchen

until each of their deaths has been named a death
until each of us knows who it is we have killed
how young she is—eight? thirteen? twenty-two? did she often
hold her hands that way? was she about to ask a question?

her face once a freshly-turned field
but now

enunciate repeat
kill, death, kill, death

pausing after each as each deserves,
in our sleep, on TV
till our words become sand stinging blood from our palms
raised to the rising wind

look now what is left of her face, the torn, barren ground—
hers, then his, too— repeat


sand to cover at least her slight
once radiant body

Quoting Chris Hedges, from War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning:

"Look just at the 1990s: 2 million dead in Afghanistan; 1.5 million dead in the Sudan; some 800,000 butchered in ninety days in Rwanda; a half-million dead in Angola; a quarter of a million dead in Bosnia; 200,000 dead in Guatemala; 90,000 dead in Liberia; a quarter of a million dead in Burundi; 75,000 dead in Algeria; and untold tens of thousands lost in the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the fighting in Colombia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, southeastern Turkey, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Kosova, and the Persian Gulf War (where perhaps as many as 35,000 Iraqi citizens were killed). In the wars of the twentieth century not less than 62 million civilians have perished, nearly 20 million more than the 43 million military personnel killed.

The martial concatenation of sex and anger, together with frustration and helplessness, terror and grief, explodes into furious yet apathetic violence especially vented onto women. Rape accompanies war and follows in its path, even though rapes are not recorded in the statistics. . . 'Psychological injuries to the surviving rape victims are often lifelong.' [fn omitted]." p. 53

Quoting General Dwight Eisenhower, January 12, 1955:

“When you resorted to force…you didn’t know where you were going. If you got deeper and deeper, there was just no limit except…the limitations of force itself.”

"War is an act of force and there is no logical limit to the application of that force."
--Carl von Clausewitz, German-Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war

Plato observed, "The body fills us with loves and desires and fears and all sorts of fancies and a great deal of nonsense, with the result that we literally never get an opportunity to think at all about anything. Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and its desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth, and the reason we have to acquire wealth is the body."

--all from James Hillman, A Terrible Love of War


1 comment:

  1. I am strongly reminded of the reflections on force gathered at Andrew Wilson's page on the Iliad:



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