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MJ 2006
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Mythic Podcast
Produced by Dahna Barnett
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War, Peace and the American Imagination

Deepak Chopra, author of Peace Is The Way, believes it is possible for individuals to transform their consciousness to such an extent as to bring war to an end. James Hillman, author of A Terrible Love of War, believes that we are ceaselessly driven to war by psychological realities that reveal themselves in a multitude of ways. Perhaps we can tame this drive, but can it ever be transformed?

On September 20, 2006,in Glenn Memorial Auditorium at Emory University these great minds discussed and debated the causes of war, examined the possibilities of peace, and explored the role of the imagination during an evening's conversation moderated by renowned philosopher and mythologist Jean Houston.

Jean Houston's Opening Remarksaudio image
14MB, 20 minutes

Jean Houston

I'd like to begin where we are, in Atlanta, but not now, no, one-hundred-and-forty-three years ago. Perhaps around Peachtree Creek or Nancy [Creek] or in Inman Park. It seems to me that I can almost hear it: the shuffling of dusty feet of men in tattered gray and blue. The horses neighing. The old songs picked out on the banjo around some campfire the night before the battle: Tenting Tonight, My Old Kentucky Home, Just Before the Battle Mother, When the Cruel War Is Over, Somebody's Darling. I can hear the soft, southern voices reading aloud the letters from home, and I can hear the quiet tang of the northern ones writing the utter fullness of their hearts to their loved ones. I can see what happened across the various creeks where the southern soldiers were on one side and the northern on the other. But at night as many of you know, they would actually cross the creek and sing together and read their letters to each other and share tiny bits of food or a chaw of tobacco. And then the next day, across the creek, they would have to be enemies again. War and Peace.

Civil War camp by creekside

It has been called the crossroads of our being, this Civil War. It has been said that it defined us as to what we are and it opened us to what we became both for good and certainly for ill. It exists in our minds like a great, great passion play. A mystery drama that forever beckons only to recede into the smoke of some ghost of a battle when we think we have actually come close to it. And this Passion Play has spawned as much reflection, artwork, novels, studies, poems, films, plays, music of the last hundred and forty odd years as has the Passion of Christ. And for perhaps the same reasons. Whole industries exist to perpetuate its memory. Ken Burns PBS series, how many of you saw that? It stunned the public with the power, the truth, the mastery of its presentation.

We reflect on this war because it causes us to rise into another aspect of our being. It calls us into being. It chills our heart with its horror —the sheer horror of war. It cracks out mind by its enormity. And it draws us into myth by its very being. It is our Iliad, our Homeric epic; it is our Mahabharata.

But although it is long since over and done with, it continues to exist in a between-the-worlds place where on some forever landscape it perpetually plays itself out and there it remains unresting, relentless, demanding that we try to understand it, be available to its mystery, incarnate its passion and redeem its yet untold vision.

As Elliot said, "Redeem the time; redeem the unread vision of the higher dream." What is in this higher dream? And this is something that will be part of the discussion tonight. What is there beyond the polarity of war and peace? Is there something-is something new trying to emerge? Is there any saving for us at all?


We'll go back two thousand years and Virgil in this first line of the Aeneid writes "of arms and the man I sing." Of arms and the man I sing. The warrior is Aeneas who proclaims his willingness to fight to death for his country and what it stands for. And this line became the call to arms of generations of English schoolboys as they were sent out to rule the empire.

Several decades later, Jesus is reputed to have said, "Put up thy sword, for they that live by the sword shall die by the sword." The image of the man without armor.

Jonathan Schell

Jonathan Schell has observed that since then, these two great conflicting traditions: one worldly and sanctioning violence, the other spiritual and forbidding it, have existed. Each tradition inspires people. Indeed, as James Hillman shows in his profound and penetrating study, A Terrible Love of War, war has inspired both a sublime as well as a religious sensibility.

Many attempts have been made to reconcile these two traditions. St. Augustine writes of the two distinct realms of existence: the spiritual realm of love and peace and non-violence, called the Civitate Dei, The City of God; and then there's the public, political city of man where the law of force always reigns.


Machiavelli in The Prince...now Machiavelli was very interesting because at night he would take off his country garb...he would put on beautiful robes...he would go into his study...and he would dialogue with ancient men. And in these dialogues he would speak and he would listen. But in these dialogues, he was talking about the dualist perception between what is good for one's soul and what is good for the Republic.

Throughout history, we often find the Call to Arms occurs simultaneously with the Call to Spirit and the regeneration of the heart. And it's fascinating, isn't it, that when we consider the 20th Century, often called the century of total violence, it was also the century of the rise of extraordinary means of non-violent action: Peace.

Gandhi, and his movement of resistance to the British Empire in both South Africa and India-the resistance that inspired Martin Luther King's civil rights movement in the United States, as well as the non-violent movements in Europe, in Russia, the efforts of Anwar Sadat in Egypt, of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Vaclav Hovel in Czechoslovakia, Rosa Parks in the United States, as well as the great tides of women the world over who have resisted and risen above the seductive and clamorous dogs of war.

And I myself would say that perhaps the most important movement of the last 5,000 years is happening now: the rise of women slowly but surely to full partnership with men in the whole domain of human affairs. Which might just change everything. In fact, it might even result in the soul of culture no longer being a satellite to economics, but economics becoming a satellite to the soul of culture.

Two very ingenious, inventive, maverick minds here having written two very potent books representing this great, dual tradition: James Hillman, who writes from a lifetime fascination and study of war; Deepak Chopra did that-this is it for many, many reasons, not only the rise of women, but the technology-the global village-all of this suggesting that perhaps there is a new alliance for peace that is possible if we allow consciousness to evolve. Something else that I'm going to bring up between these two gentlemen is, in many ways, a very different take on consciousness. Dr. Hillman, with his extraordinarily astute archeology of mind and psyche, really having taken depth probings of the human psyche. Dr. Chopra, coming not only from a medical background but a very much of an Eastern background, a Hindu background, who looks at consciousness as being pulled along by the luminous strange attractor: the emergent form.

Teilhard de Chardin

When I was very, very young, I had the good fortune to walk for two years on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a man whom I called Mr. Tayer, but who turned out to be Teilhard de Chardin. He lived across the street from me. And he was saying: Jean, the people of your time, they will be taking the tiller of the world. But you cannot go directly; you have to touch every people, every consciousness. It has to be a great weave, a newer sphere, a sphere of mind.

I said, "But, but Mr. Tayer, how is it going to happen? There's so much war? How can this happen?" He said, "Oh, don't worry, it is coming!" But he never told me how.

But in Peace is the Way, Dr. Chopra does offer the ways and means that I think Teilhard would have been very pleased with — ways and means to move consciousness in an evolutionary direction toward an integral to peace. So we have here, as you see, the possibility of an extraordinary conversation. And I'm going to begin by asking James Hillman to speak first. Each will speak for about fifteen minutes and then I will give them a very zany question to open up the conversation for another forty minutes. And then we will open it to you.

So, let us begin...

Read more of Jean Houston on her website

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