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It’s Donald, Not Demon

August 13, 2016

In our walking, loving-kindness meditation, we might wish the best for Donald Trump as much as for anybody. If he were to come to enlightenment, it would be good for us all.

The point is that he’s a person, as much as anybody, not a demon. He’s a racist politician who incites racists to violence; but in protecting ourselves against his demonic campaigning, it is important that we not demonize him.

It is important that we not adopt a sick imagination of the archetypes, or misapply the images in the archetypal imagination, literally, to a person. That’s in addition to the fact that we can’t psychoanalyze a person outside an actual regimen of therapy—especially in Hillman’s sense of psychotherapy as a loving, healing attention to the soul, in it’s pathologies.

Do demons even have souls? I’m guessing that a lot of people would say, no.  This classic story of what a demon is, loaded with archetypes, exemplifies a disguised Manichean vision in which it is difficult to decide whether a demon is a soulful being; because if he is, why doesn’t he act like it.  Let’s not fall for the Manichean.

It’s simpler simply to think of a demon as an archetypal pattern of the imagination that “dwells” in everybody’s unconscious, and sometimes gets projected into conscious fantasizing and campaign behavior. But that doesn’t mean that the person is a demon, lacking a soul. If we make the mistake of demonizing, we’re just projecting, we’re demonizing ourselves.

To demonize is to depersonalize, and thus to dehumanize. We’ve seen that clearly and forcefully in our history of genocide, slavery, and color racism.

I’m thinking about this because he is becoming more extreme and more dangerous, and I recently read Arianna Huffington’s tour-de-force of (maybe) demonizing, in a wonderfully well written essay, using for it’s vehicle a literary analysis of Rowling’s H P and the Prisoner of Azkaban. AH likens Trump to the characters called Dementors:

In fact, that’s how the dementors exercise their power — by sapping their victims of their warmth and vitality, leaving them cold, emotionally shrunken and diminished. “Get too near a dementor,” warns Professor Lupin, “and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself . . . soulless and evil.”

The dementor’s worst evil act is to plant its lips on a person’s lips and suck out the soul. Yuk.

“Sound familiar?” AH asks, and then she names some notable Republicans who have been sucked soulless, as seen in their failure to denounce T after his attack on the Khans.

AH’s ultimate concern is that Trump and the Republicans will “suck the soul out” of our nation.

But that’s a metaphor. That is, they are so lacking in sensitivity and integrity that it is as if they are people without souls, and if we succumb to their evil ways, we will act as if we are a nation of people without souls.

Of course I agree with AH, her indictment is right on; but my concern on this page is that we not become demonizers; and as I read the essay (maybe wrongly), she comes perilously close to saying that T is a soul-sucker, that he is without soul and causes other people to lose their souls. A demon of the worst kind.

Two of our poets, E. A. Robinson and Robert Frost, pointed out the importance of the “as if.” It engages the imagination in a healthy way, as Rowling does, even when imagining evil, because the imagination is being aesthetic. When we take away the aesthetic distance and literalize the image (the way fundamentalists, for instance, are so prone to do), we sicken the imagination and cloud our perception of reality. In the case of demonizing, we throw the veil of our own negative shadow over the facts. We succumb to demonic suggestion.

The facts are necessary and sufficient; call Trump what he is, a recklessly destructive, power-hungry person, etc. If archetypal image is needed, in order to express the depth of his attack on soulfulness, and very likely it is, then we must image the factual with a healthy consciousness that we are perceiving and expressing psychological reality, in images and stories that draw the analogy, the “as if”—even the archetypal as if, as Rowling is so good at doing.

Trump and certain Republicans do act “cold, emotionally shrunken and diminished;” but they are not “soulless and evil.” In fact the agony lies in just the opposite perception, that the soul writhes in agony when it is denied.

Okay, I admit I’ll be thinking about whether Trump is factually evil, on another page.

Sometimes Trump reminds one of the Dementors in that Harry Potter novel.

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