Festival: « Money is Soul »?

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This article addresses the finances of the Myth and Theatre. The theme for 2018 is Nekyia, the descent to the pagan hell, the kingdom of the dead, whose lord is Hades, known to the Romans by his other Greek name: Πλούτων, Pluto, which makes him a millionaire. Πλούτων, Plouton, means wealth. Let us keep that as our underworldly backdrop.

What finally triggered this article was an offer made to the festival (i.e. to me as its ‘owner’, and director, with Linda Wise) by singer-actress, and longtime friend, Pascale Ben. I say “finally” because I owe an explanation, rather urgently, to many friends and collaborators who have asked me to clarify their financial status and contribution towards the festival. Pascale Ben is the latest case in point, and she is not a wealthy artist. Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, who visited Malerargues in the early 1980s, told her: “you and your friends are penniless millionaires”. Pascale was part of the first festival team in 1985; she is also a great cook and ran a delightful and delicious restaurant. We were hosting James Hillman who came with his close circle of friends and fellow archetypalists, mostly American, and (or so we thought), millionaires. We provided the best French wines for the occasion. The restaurant was called Les Pensées de Pascale, by Charles Boer who is also the author of the statement in the title of this article: Money is Soul. I include at the end of this article my exchange with Pascale Ben, finishing with some practical finances.

Jungian and Hillmanian archetypal psychologists have written occasionally about money and soul – especially in relation to the analytical contract. I have also heard some pointed ironical takes on the metaphors of alchemy: the transformation of base matter into (Swiss) gold… Still, Charles Boer’s statement remains the most provocative. I will share here some reflections on his statement in relationship to the financial spirit and reality of the festival. I hope to write further about Charles Boer’s statement at a later point, more in terms of Psyche and Money – with the inclusion of Eros, and his parents: Poros, his rich and “resourceful” father, and Penia, his poor and necessitous mother – this, according to Plato in The Symposium, quoting Socrates quoting Diotima.

I would add, and I think this is important, that the notion of soul is somewhat foreign to me. Let’s say that as a Latin catholic I was not brought up with it – nor with Broadway or Hollywood songs. To me, soul belongs mostly to Anglo-Germanic romanticism, which did inherit, or pick up Neoplatonist magical strands. I think this was one of the main reason why James Hillman turned so often to the notion of soul and to the romantic soul poets, to Keats and Shelley in particular. Historically, soul romanticism did provoke one huge exception-deviance: the Afro-American take on soul, and especially the emergence in the 1960’s of soul music – which I think did “poetic justice” to the Protestant singing legacy of spirit (I do not think soul was in their picture), and the songs and chants called “Negro Spirituals”. Soul came to include sex. One could even call soul music a form of Nemesis, a fateful revenge on the imposed WASP (white, anglo-saxon protestant) spirituality. Nemesis is a mythological figure and a vengeful move which is not far removed from Nekyia – especially given the historical hell lived by Afro-Americans through slavery.

Roy Hart’s use of soul terminology is also well known, especially the paraphrase of the famous quote from American romantic poet Longfellow, in his Hyperion (1839): “The voice is the muscle of the soul”. I have often written on these notions, given particularly James Hillman’s take in his: Anima: anatomy of personified notion – a key book for me, in which he ‘dissects’ the different anatomies of anima, soul and psyche.

But back to money. With Charles Boer’s statement in mind, I came across a book titled The Soul of Money – Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources, (2006), by Lynne Twist and Teresa Barker. I took special note of two commentaries on its Amazon page[1]. The first thing I would say: for Americans, money-talk is, to say the least, very important. Their technical vocabulary is especially elaborate and diversified, in, of course: investment, yield and capitalist terminology. The deployment of such specialized language made me feel: this is reality for them, a bottom-line ontology – ‘real’ soul value. The title has a ring that could sound like: “How to claim and exploit our inner resources”. Some, if not most of the French philosophers I frequent in Paris, especially Pierre Caye, lean towards ecological post-Marxism. Caye’s reflections echo Neoplatonist and especially Plotinus’ eco-philosophy (Caye is a Neoplatonic specialist[2]); he addresses, for instance, “the salary due to the Earth” (and the Sun – but that is seriously long-term), in terms of durable development (as distinct from ‘only’ sustainable development) in the use and profit we draw from the Earth’s limited resources. The title of our book could then turn into something like: What is the salary due to culture for the ‘inner’ resources made available to us? The salary due to Psyche, or call it soul, or Anima Mundi

I see the Myth and Theatre Festival as a place and a time to re-source: to learn, certainly, but, more so, to renew, overhaul and regenerate philosophical and artistic resources, especially ideas (myths) about performance in the broadest sense possible: to question our place and behavior in this world. In these terms, the ‘claim’ made on the “Wealth of Our Inner Resources” is ethically suspicious, particularly when talking of culture. It brings to mind James Hillman’s call for us all to “Stop looking into the mirror and look out the window” – very much in line with his controversial: Weve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy & the World’s Getting Worse. See extracts. Stalin, on the other hand, is supposed to have said: “When I hear the word culture, I go for my gun.” He clearly knew where his opponents were. And he did pull the trigger heavily.

Charles Boer’s statement that money is soul is more complex. I can certainly vouch for the intellectual intricacy and acuteness of his insights; he was one of my main teachers, certainly in mythological thinking, having been for many years James Hillman’s close and sometimes closest collaborator. They fell out, ostensibly over royalties, i.e. money[3]. From what I gather, Charles Boer was a left-wing beatnik as a student; poet Charles Olson was his friend and mentor figure[4]. He retired early from teaching at Connecticut University and dedicated much of his time to betting on horse-racing at first, and then to speculating through internet in the Stock Exchange markets. Those were the days, the 1990’s and early 2000’s, when such speculation could easily yield incomes of over 30%, and he probably made quite a fortune, maybe even became ‘plutonic’, a millionaire[5]. Money matters also put an end to our friendship; not through direct conflict but to do with a terrible lawsuit a close friend of his brought against the Roy Hart Centre; money again… Charles Boer passed away in 2014. As I write below to Pascale Ben, he probably would have voted for Donald Trump. He actually become something of an enemy to me by the end of his life, in his attitude to art, to theatre and to Europe – especially socialist Europe. (Important last minute proviso: these reflections were valid BEFORE the May 14th Gaza massacres – yesterday – provoked by Trump’s Jerusalem move. I doubt Charles Boer would have condoned them.)

If a valued teacher turns into an enemy figure, I think one can carry on learning from him, at a distance and selectively. I take this operation to be part of what Alchemy calls The Raven’s Head. A difficult voice to listen to. One can also remain in friendly terms with members of the opposition, though rarely after money disputes. And, yes, one could actually speak of soul here, of the dark, shadow aspect of soul, linked even with black magic. For me there was a prevailing sense in which money, which can be, precisely (see footnote above), “psychopathic”, came to rule soul, override its ideals and even its most valued altruistic convictions. Mind you, Eros too can wreck friendships and ideals with his undemocratic, selective affinities (again: magic). There is, inherent in these reflections, an important question that I hope to address later – and which includes aspects of Roy Hart’s philosophy: if and when does so-called psychological initiation, or call it superiority (or call it consciousness), justify and allow for acted-out hierarchies, i.e. material advantages with ethical and political exceptions to the ethics of democracy – and if so, where does hubris begin, or cynical greed and heartless cruelty? Or even, what Anna Grieve calls “radical evil”?

Having said all this, I do not write-off the fact and implications that it was my choice to have such a mentor-friend, from whom, as mentioned, I learned a huge amount, especially on the intelligence of mythology, which is what makes his statement complex. Charles Boer was part of the founding trio of the Festival in 1985, with James Hillman and Paul Kugler. They each vouched one thousand dollars in case of loss! Charles Boer also wrote a play for Pantheatre: Ovid’s Last Temptation. And all three were very generous with me, Pantheatre and the festival.

The Myth and Theatre Festival is unquestionably my main enterprise and pleasure, and my most important investment, certainly in terms of time and study. So, I will finish with Festival prices and practicalities, but first, please read my exchange with Pascale Ben.

Hello Pascale. Back in Malerargues and first free day for ages. Your abode is impressive : Le Cadran Solaire (The Sundial)!
Responses and friendship in brief:

On May 10, 2018, Pascale Ben < > wrote :  …
I would like to inform myself on this year’s Pan Theatre.

Welcome.

Are you in need of feasting or of songs and stories, beautiful and vibrant, in exchange for a student’s participation ( me!)

To be considered with much pleasure, in order to move events as close as possible to Marsilio Ficino’s Symposia.
…This exchange will stand as a document I intended to write for Festival potential participants. We have reached the point where easily 80% of participants, plausible or confirmed, deserve – some make the request – that they be offered preferential discounts, most often requested in good faith and in all loyalty, ardor and justification; some even ask to teach! For the record: the house extends credit and scholarships to those with low ‘resources’ from poor countries; Haitian friends are welcomed free. Others make the request because they feel they are honorary members, which is true in most cases. All these good people and excellent artists must take on the destiny of the festival to the degree they feel it belongs to them.

So, with that in mind, I come to agree with our dear Professor Charles Boer, which is rather rare nowadays – and may the gods take care of his soul. And the goddesses: may they transform their fierce antagonism (admittedly sometimes justified) into guarded and if possible neutral distance towards him. To ask them for benevolence would be asking too much. But in this specific case, concerning financial contributions to the festival, I could go along with dear Charles, from whom I learnt so much, when he stated with his unmatched ability to provoke, that “money is soul”. And I have to include in this the putative fact that he probably would have voted, (but “in secret”, as our common friend Ian Magilton posited), for Donald Trump. This makes it all the tougher to envisage that “money is soul”.

A sudden note : Randy Fertell, from New Orleans, presented a talk during our 2017 PanNYC project at Punto Space in Manhattan, on: Trump, Infernal Trickster. He must come over and update his paper for Nekyia! I will invite him straight away.

The festival is from June 19 to July 1st included. You will be in strong feminine company: Maria Fernandez, Anna Griève, Amy Rome – and maybe, if she agrees to cut short the leisure of her Tuscany holiday: Kaya Anderson – who has just plunged, body and soul, into four days of intensive laboratory with us. There will also be five Brazilian performance PhD ladies with us. And a full circle of artist friends.

Well, that’s it. Kisses, friendship and thirst for expressive soul.

Do I appreciate what that thirst means and costs! When I am asked how does one enter into performance in choreographic theatre, especially with regard to Nekyia, I answer: “Through the portico of Hell”, or, in this case, through the artists’ side entrance. We all know what is written over the main portico: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”. Over the artists’ entrance one reads: “If you wish to enter here, roll on the ground and scream”.
….

Festival INFORMATION & REGISTRATION

Fees (comments in red).

950 € – Full fee includes all festival events.
800 € – Discount fee : 2017 2018 professional workshops participants. Persons who took part in the Grand Stage, Voice Music Workshop, in Paris, or in the 2017 Myth and Theatre Festival.
650 € – Reduced fee for active members or under-26. Active members are those invited to vote to elect the administrators and approve the budgets of Pantheatre as a French not-for-profit association. (All participants in Pantheatre events must become associate members which includes professional insurance coverage. Cost: 20€ valid until October 1st of the following year.)

Exceptions. As in choreographic theater: “rules are made to confirm exceptions.”


FOOTNOTES

[1] See link : https://www.amazon.fr/Soul-Money-Reclaiming-Wealth-Resources/dp/039332950X, for interesting commentaries by Steve Schullo (five stars), a long and detailed review: “Winning is much sexier and powerful sounding than balance, soul, emotion and “touchy-feely” experiences”; and another by Kissiah Y. “Not designed for the middle income folks…” i.e. only for the rich who can afford “compassionate” attitudes – (only three stars).

[2] Pierre Caye ; see especially : Critique de la destruction créatrice. Humanisme et production, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2015.

[3] Charles Boer took over as executive editor of James Hillman’s Spring – A Journal of Archetype and Culture. Their split happened not long after, but before it happened, Charles Boer wrote an editorial for a journal issue claiming that Spring and Hillman, especially, should have copyright on the use of the word soul.

[4] See his Charles Olson in Connecticut (1975). See also his thirty or so pages foreword to classicist W. B. Stanford, The Ulysses Theme: A Study of the Adaptability of a Traditional Hero. 1992. Boer’s foreword is titled “The Classicist and the Psychopath”. A foreword that absolutely destroys Stanford’s book and stand on Ulysses (the Psychopath), with the result that it makes you want to read it immediately.

[5] Who paid the salty ‘salary’ for such profits? The house owners of the infamous sub-prime crisis, among others.

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