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Reply To: The Power of the Personal,” with Mythologist Dennis Slattery, Ph.D.”

Dennis Slattery

    Hi Norland: So good to hear from you. I had not received a notice that you had responded. Stephen alerted me that you had and here I am. Or hear I am. I recollect with great joy working with you on your magnificent dissertation and the marvelous images you painted to accompany it. In my study hangs a framed drawing of yours portraying James H. and me. James looks like a bird and I look like a blimp. I am saying to James: “Get out of my class, Thou vile miscreant!” To which James responds: “Who let the Ass come in?” The date on the email is Monday 13 June 2005. James is no longer with us and I weigh far less these days.

    The thoughtful missive you post above is deep and wide-ranging. It moves between the tensions of particularity and universality. When I seek some clarity around this tension I tend to gravitate to the poets, epic and otherwise.

    I would have to go back to James’ work to see if he carries the argument that the literal is soulless. I do remember him making a distinction between getting caught in the literal; his response was that some may see that the concrete is not the same as literal and that is where soul is lost, in the literal; the concrete, on the other hand is a poetic quality and without that “poetic basis of mind,” one can be stymied in the literal.

    I am all for unity, Norland, but you rightly point out what might be lost or jettisoned if unity is where the imagination tends. James was always very insightful about the particularity of things in their specificity, their phenomenal life. And I further recalls that in the Introd to Revisioning Psychology he states that soul is what turns events–literal?–into experience–the imaginal life of our lives? I am mixing James’ insight with my own naming of parts, as it were.

    What your insights light up in me is the area I am exploring these days: the mythology of belief. What do our beliefs contribute to our myth, both personal and collective. What beliefs do we cling to regardless of their basis in the literal, in history, in facts and which do we leave by the side of the road because their reality no longer serves our evolving myths? These last four years in both politics and in culture more broadly give us opportunities to rework or reimagine what Reality even is. That is an exciting area for those like us who are fascinated by yet questioning what mythos is.

    Much appreciate you, Norland for the time you gave to your reflections. I in turn have enjoyed a chance to respond to them so that we may indeed “think even further” about them (your words in quotes). Much gratitude.