The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1498 - Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris

How Do We "Speak" Psychology?

My notes on James Hillman's Benefit Lecture for the Joseph Campbell & Maria Gimbutas Library at Pacifica Graduate Institute, given in Santa Barbara on March 4, 1999

Language: The psyche is yearing for expression and imagination.

New title for lecture: How do we be psychology, how do you keep the the psychological view of things? How do you stay psychological?

Everybody in our age is psychological. We focus on the ills of ours age. Everyone is in therapy whether they are or not. We’ve been doing therapy for 100 years and are more intent than ever on it.


Hillman says he produces his kind of psychology in such arenas as this lecture. Removes the psyche from the oppression of its unthought ideas. The ideas we have and don’t know we have, have us.

Hillman is in the business of uncovering repression, or raising consciousness as it’s called in California.

Hillman is a doctor of psychology – his step from private to public is not idiosyncratic but necessary to the therapeutic process. It’s a therapy of the world, not us each individually.

Psychology as a discipline still practices as if it is in the 15th / 16th century, fantasy of an inner and outer world, a subject – object dichotomy à la Descartes. This worldview sees the outside as nonliving objective matter, inside is thought and feeling. The more that psychology focuses on inner, the more it perpetuates this Cartesian fallacy that postulates no extension of self. That the world itself is without Eros but all power is the prejudice of Psychology vs. the world. The idea that we lose sensitivity, flair, and touch when we begin to deal with the world.

Can one stay psychological and be engaged with the world? The absence of soul from the world, Descartes’ soulless world that is just there for us to use and abuse as we wish, objective. The millennial soul of the world is revealing the apocalypse, a word that itself means revelation.

What if the messes and dysfunctions are where myth (or world myth) in action appears most personally. One method of doing therapy: See the mess as myth.

Y2K, the Apocalyptic Myth

The Apocalypse is the moment when the veils are lifted. Revelation is a radical millennia catastrophe, literalized as Y2K. Four horses appear: Red, White Black, and the Pale Horse. Death and Hades Image, the Pale Horseman – these millennia is right around the corner and these images are here already. Millennia is both a literal and mythical event, literalized in the calendar but mythological beyond all calendars. Hence, the Y2K apocalypse fantasy.

Keats tells us the world is a place for soulmaking. The Cartesian world is condemend as a place of not god, but material world. But the world is where we engage these myths. Right now, the four horsemen are among us.

The transition to a new time period means no millennial change can occur without the four horsement. These are issues that threaten the soul of psychology and make it different to stay psychological. We are dealing with something of cosmological importance.

White Horse and Rider

– Jesus, Light, Clean, Good, and the fundamental force that works to literalize and kill. Conquer the soul in the spirit of the whiter, cleaner, purer, and better.

Red Horse and Rider

- The second horse brings war, but war against all. The spirit of competition, backed by the economics of the industrial revolution, a worldview of Daniel Dennett and Dawkins. Predatory survival. New Genetics. The Free Enterprise System (gone mad). Psychology itself is oppressed by the entire managed care red rider.

Black Horse and Rider

- The Black Horseman carries a scale. He weighs things in terms of coins, of economics. He is a mythical and invisible demon who is out to destroy the world and will do so by means of economics.

Pale Horse and Rider

Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name tht sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

This horseman is more difficult to see than the others. He can join with Hades, who is always invisible. The horseman brings death, famine, and pestilence. We don’t see, don’t want to see, are fixing, accommodating, handling things. The pale rider of Denial, Forrest Gump style – ignorance of horror, ignorance of compexity, "have another chocolate". A reach for serenity – "Serenity", the most popular name for boats in the USA. Serenity is famine and pestilence. Robs us of our individuality, each a pale rider of denial.

How can we stay psychological? We will succumb to these riders because they run the apocalyptic show. A mythical power in white, transcendant, reductionist, in pale niceness. Red in power and competition. Black in economics. And Pale in denial. We can’t step out of this paradigm, we’re in its bag – but we can push the envelope.

Pushing the Envelope