When the Father is absent.

WHEN FATHER-ING IS ABSENT,  What happens to the sons? What happens to the world

The missing father is not your or my personal father.   He is the absent father of our culture, the viable senex who provides not daily bread but spirit through meaning and order.   The missing father is the dead god who offered a focus for spiritual things.   Without this focus, we turn to dreams and oracles, rather than to prayer, code, tradition, and ritual.   When mother replaces father, magic substitutes for logos, and son-priests contaminate the Pure spirit.

Unable to go backward to revive the dead father of tradition, we go downward into the mothers of the collective unconscious, seeking an all-embracing comprehension.   We ask for help in getting through the narrow straits without harm; the son wants invulnerability.   Grant us protection, foreknowledge; cherish us.   Our prayer is to the night for a dream, to a love for understanding, to a little rite or exercise for a moment of wisdom.   Above all we want assurance through a vision beforehand that it will all come out all right.

Without the father we lose also that capacity which the Church recognised as “discrimination of the spirits”:   The ability to know a call when we hear one and to discriminate between the voices …

The mother encourages her son: go ahead, embrace it all.   For her, all equals everything.   The father’s instruction, on the contrary, is: all equals nothing – unless the all be precisely discriminated.


James Hillman

The Rag & bone shop of the heart.

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