One Coin, Two Faces: Interlude
I received some mail commenting on the preceding five parts of this essay on the one coin with two faces. It was an exceptional commentary and exchange and the writer has granted me permission to reprint it in the SPLASH column on the mainpage of mythopoetry.com. His perspective is worth reprinting but also he has a legitimate plaint. He wants me to provide the translation I used for Ovid, Fasti so he (and you) can compare for yourselves Virgil’s point of view with what Ovid has to say.
And the land was Latium, from the god’s hiding (latente) there.
One thing this translation reveals to me is that forces of embodied experiences (soul-psyche) give rise to Janus. The embodied experiences include affront and terror in war. These experiences are often left out of the historical account and will resurface in the poet’s mythopoetic, historical re-turn of the new god’s arrival.
In 2004 the late cultural mythologer Maggie Macary taught an on-line course called The Musing Life. It was a course in personal mythology but she discovered she could not separate the natural body-psyche or ego-soul from the cultural soul and psyche-soul, mundus imaginalis. The personal myth does not mean something kept completely private. She discovered there is a public aspect to the personal along with the private. In opening the course, she honors as its muse Clio, the Muse of History. She does not merely mean the literal facts of historical events, but rather, the collective memory psyche retains in embodied experiences. And so she writes,
We invoke the Muse of History, Clio, first daughter of the goddess Mnemosyne in our musings, remembering that Clio remembers best the heroic moments in which the "archetype at the soul's core is revealed", (Hillman) redeeming events from the blindness of mere fact … Her history is not the kind of history found in our books. There are no facts and dates in Clio’s work. Instead, there is recognition that personal history is a way of musing about life – a way in which we get the chance to enter our symptoms via historical imagining (Hillman, Healing Fiction 44).
Macary cannot leave it there and goes on to tell something more.
But see, I think of Clio and history in another way. We often hear that history is written by the victors – that a whole darker side is lost. That is because history is the daughter of re-membrance and re-membrance is never objective, regardless of our misguided attempts to make it so. We view our histories through our own lens of life, remembering that a lens reflects in the seeing-through.
-0000000000000000000---House of Mnemosyne, mosaic, 00000Antakya Museum, Antakya, Turkey 2ndC-3rdC A. D.
We may enter our symptoms via the historical image, in this case, we may enter a cowboy resolve via a coin with two faces, a trinitarian metaphor. (see endnote 2) And we may see again what we have failed to remember properly.
Within the body of this coursework is also a lecture on masks. Macary unfolds a connection between the mask, personae and personal identity through the etymology in the word, ‘mask’. It is well-worth repeating here.
The word mask comes from a Latin word, meaning specter–something ghostly, imaginal and unreal. But what is really curious is that the word person comes from a Latin word persona - meaning an actor's mask. And in psychological terms, the word persona still reverberates with the idea of presentation and role. We speak about our outer personae sure that there is an inner true self that we can find when we discard the masks in our lives. We have yet to recognize that we are the variety of masks that we wear.
Ginette Paris concurs with Macary. “We are actors on a stage,” she writes in Pagan Grace, more or less free to rewrite roles when boredom or oppression is killing us" (58)
Ginette also comments on the danger of refusing to identify with the masks we wear because they carry "a dangerous separation between our True Self, on the one hand, which the individual defines as good, deep and authentic, and, on another hand, the social role, which doesn't depend on us, which is only a mask we are obliged to wear to live in the world and which excuses us from questioning the sanctity of our deep self" (52). ---------4thC floor mosaic from House of Aion, Dionysos in the Lap of Hermes
How good is our own good really? Ginette also grounds the image of grace Dionysos confers as in tripartite soul as such: Dionysos-Hermes-Mnemosyne.
Macary thinks it is this refusal to accept the masks as part of who we are that allows us to do terrible things and still believe that this isn't really who we are. This refusal is what creates the embezzler and the cheating spouse and the mass murderer. It becomes apparent such a detour in the way, door, threshold crossing, and/or gate in our coming to presence as such we come to see this that creates the false face of our own delusional "cowboy resolve" — a kind of resolve that drove America and Americans into believing a war as first resort is a legitimate and moral response to the tragic suffering in the deep self at the heart of 911.
Paris ponders the same point regarding the quest of the so-called "authentic self" as if it were a fantasy about seeing behind the mask as if the "True Self" is separate from the roles and social masks we wear in the world. Macary summarizes
Can we ever separate ourselves from our masks and our roles and should we even bother? Do we have a monotheistic need to identify the One True Self like we do the One True God, believing that this is all that we truly are in life? Are we opposed to the multiplicity of selves that the masks and roles we play in life, represent? If we open up to the polytheistic nature of our psyches, can we in fact openly play with our masks and roles, finding completeness in the sense of a fractured self?
The god left us long ago, leaving the answer like the gate, open.
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1. Here is how Maggie Macary approaches the distinction between the false and the true imagination in her 2004 course, Musing Life. The word imaginary and the word imaginal do not convey the same thing. When we hear the word imaginary, we immediately think of something that is unreal. The imaginal relates to the world of images and its use in archetypal psychology comes from the work of Henri Corbin who describes the mundus imaginalis - the world of the image, a soul-world, if you want, that is as real as the world of the senses (the body) and the world of the intellect (the mind). The idea of a mundus imaginalis is that of an intermediate world between the world of the body and the world of the intellect. It is a world of subtle bodies - subtle in terms of that which is delicate, precise, difficult to analyze or describe. The art of subtlety is something that we seemed to have lost in our culture, as we demand more and more proof of the existence of UFO's and conspiracies.
2. For more on Trinitarian metaphors see David L Miller, Three Faces of God, Part II. Contemplating the Trinity.
Two Faces, One Coin: Comments From Readers
Two Faces, One Coin Part 1
Two Faces, One Coin Part 2
Two Faces, One Coin Part 3
Two Faces, One Coin Part 4
Two Faces, One Coin Part 5
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