Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Nara + 20: and the truth will make you free

Annibale Carracci, An Allegory of Truth and Time, 1584
Intuition is a funny thing. While many might think that it will deliver nice clear-cut answers to you, it most often only gives you a feeling that a particular course of action is either attractive or unattractive. It is only later that you discover why. Many decades ago, I decided that I would only tell the truth (at least, as I see it at the time). Since then, I have not even told white lies. Women who know me never ask "Does this dress make me look fat?" If I cannot state the truth about something for some reason then I say nothing at all. Since the mid-nineties I have written thousands of things for web pages and Internet discussion groups, Search as hard as you like, you will not find a single lie in all of it. You will find examples where my opinions have now changed, and you will find examples where I might have some detail wrong (especially when it comes to very old memories and my faulty sense of personal chronology), but none of that is lying.

The painting shows the naked figures of Truth and Time trampling on Deceit. To the left is Felicitas and to the right is Bonus Eventus. Some commentaries say that Truth had fallen in the well and Time had rescued her, but I see it as meaning that the truth can remain hidden for a long time, but eventually, all will be revealed. It is also said that Truth is looking in the mirror, but it seems to me that she is holding the mirror at such an angle that Bonus Eventus can see her face reflected in it. If you keep to the truth, it will eventually pay off.

When I read the latest Nara document, I wondered if its message of authenticity, reliability and truth would be ignored by the cultural heritage blogosphere, so I was not surprised by the absence of its mention on certain blogs that I follow. It is a very "inconvenient truth". I did this morning, however, see that truth was the main topic of a piece by John Howland on the latest Stout Standards blog (Dick Stout).

So, while these things were running around in my mind, I started thinking about "and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32), and why I thought that most people have completely misunderstood that passage. And then, inevitably, I started thinking about Bertrand Russell's essay on Nice People. From that, I remembered a small book that my wife had written under her Jesse Ancona nom de plume (the name refers to a gessoed panel, and Carrie was in the process of preparing the same. She would slake her own plaster to produce gesso sottile according to Cennini's method. I would sometimes help her by stirring the bucket. The stuff smells like rotten eggs. I missed, unfortunately, an incident from some time before we met when Carrie was still experimenting with the method. Working topless, she was up past her elbows in wet plaster when it started to rapidly set. The Fire Department had to be called).

Anyway, she titled her book Lying with the Truth, which was a fairly well known phrase, and it was about her experiences of leaving a cult just before we met. Upon finding the link and reading some of it again, I was happy to see that I had been given a mention:
"I am thankful that I have been blessed, from the very beginning, by knowing people who have fought other cults. Because my husband was one of them, I was not able to squirm away from learning the mechanisms and their distinctive, subtle signs -- because he made me face the truth (just like he made me go to the doctor when I found a lump in my breast). Thanks to him, I can see cults more clearly than most, though I am still somewhat disadvantaged by my own emotional reactions."
 I might have forgotten about that passage, or might have read an earlier draft, but I was pleased to see it and thought it rather timely. Truth often finds me.

The well in the painting, of course, leads to the unconscious where Truth finds a restful home ― knowing that anyone looking for the truth would never think to look there. Before remembering Carrie's book, I had decided to close with a paragraph (425) from Jung's On the Nature of the Psyche. Its contents explain quite well why Nara +20 can be conveniently ignored and the sort of mind that would do so. But as everything is related, it fits quite well with everything else:
"If the subjective consciousness prefers the ideas and opinions of collective consciousness and identifies with them, then the contents of the collective unconscious are repressed. The repression has typical consequences: the energy-charge of the repressed contents adds itself, in some measure, (Note 124) to that of the repressing factor, whose effectiveness is increased accordingly. The higher its charge mounts, the more the repressive attitude acquires a fanatical character and the nearer it comes to conversion into its opposite, i.e., an enantiodromia. And the more highly charged the collective consciousness, the more the ego forfeits its practical importance. It is, as it were, absorbed by the opinions and tendencies of collective consciousness, and the result of that is the mass man, the ever-ready victim of some wretched "'ism." The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once. However, the necessary insight is made exceedingly difficult not by one's social and political leaders alone, but also by one's religious mentors. They all want decision in favour of one thing, and therefore the utter identification of the the individual with a necessarily one-sided "truth." Even if it were a question of some great truth, identification with it would still be a catastrophe, as it arrests all further spiritual development, Instead of knowledge one then has only belief, and sometimes that is more convenient and therefore more attractive."
Note 124: It is very probable that the archetypes, as instincts, possess a specific energy which cannot be taken away from them in the long run. The energy peculiar to the archetype is normally not sufficient to raise it into consciousness. For this it needs a definite quantum of energy flowing into the unconscious from consciousness, whether because consciousness is not using this energy or because the archetype attracts it to itself. The archetype can be deprived of its supplementary charge, but not of its specific energy.

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