“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and therewith I, they say, bring joy. Now of the joy I bring to the mother let none speak for miracles are not neatly to be caged in sentences, nor is truth always expedient. To the father I bring the sight of his own life, by him so insecurely held, renewed and strengthened in a tenement not yet impaired by time and folly: he is no more disposed to belittle himself here than elsewhere; and it is himself that he cuddles in the small, soft, incomprehensible and unsoiled incarnation. For, as I bring the children, they have no evil in them and no cowardice and no guile.” Figures of Earth — James Branch Cabell
Not long ago, I wrote a post about the commercialization of culture and its deeper psychological effects based on Erich Neumann’s insights. After seeing an advertisement by Target in which the words “What’d ya get?” were repeated ad nauseam for the reinforcement to our children of what Christmas is really about, I was reminded (post vomitus) of the stork’s soliloquy in Cabell’s, Figures of Earth:
“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, when I later return, to those that yesterday were children. And in all ways time has marred, and living has defaced, and prudence has maimed, until I grieve to entrust that which I bring to what remains of that which yesterday I brought. In the old days children were sacrificed to a brazen burning god, but time affects more subtile hecatombs: for Moloch slew outright. Yes, Moloch, being divine, killed as the dog killed, furiously, but time is that transfigured cat, an ironist. So living mars and defaces and maims, and living appears wantonly to soil and to degrade its prey before destroying it.”
Were it that time and living the only things that soil and degrade. For Cabell, such ideas were much too vague and convenient to let the real truth of the matter escape unspoken:
“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and I leave them to endure that which is fated. Daily I bring into this world the beauty and innocence and high-heartedness and faith of children: but life has no employment, or else… no sustenance, for these fine things which I bring daily, for always I, returning, find the human usages of living have extinguished these excellences in those who yesterday were children, and that these virtues exist in no aged person. And I would that Jahveh had created me an eagle or a vulture or some other hated bird of prey that furthers a less grievous slaying and more intelligible wasting than I further.”
So, “human usages” (conscious intent) were the ultimate source of the stork’s disillusionment. An old allegory of Christ as well as the instinct for reflection, the stork (like any animal) symbolizes the laws of unconscious nature which “have no evil in them and no cowardice and no guile.” The openness of children is a source of wonder but, like animals, being still under their direct influence, they’re also easily manipulated by those “intelligent” enough to deem them useful for their own ends.
It’s difficult for young minds to conceive life outside the all-pervasive web of commercial deception defining today’s culture; just as it was for my generation to think outside the cult-like religious beliefs of my youth. The narrow views of yesterday, however contrived and self-centered, held one big difference: most were guided by higher values than unabashed material gain.
Though the “particle in the mass” has ever been manipulated for the wealth and power of an elite, there was, historically at least, some purpose behind “human usages” that still reflected the urge for development. However unconsciously, nature herself managed the conflicts between individual and group that pushed humanity forward: Neumann’s centroversion.
“… we prefer to call the sub-man who dwells in us moderns the “mass man” rather than the “group man,” because his psychology differs in essential respects from that of the latter. Although the genuine group man is for the most part unconscious, he nevertheless lives under the rule of centroversion… a psychic whole in which powerful tendencies are at work, making for consciousness, individualization and spiritual growth… in spite of his unconsciousness, in spite of projections, emotionality… the group man possesses… creative powers which manifest themselves in his culture, his society, his religion, his art, customs, and even in what we call his superstitions.
“The mass man lurking in the unconscious of the modern, on the other hand, is psychically a fragment, a part-personality which, when integrated, brings with it a considerable expansion of the personality, but is bound to have disastrous consequences if it acts autonomously.
“This unconscious mass component is opposed to consciousness and the world of culture. It resists conscious development, is irrational and emotional, anti-individual and destructive.”
This collective beast is cultivated outright today, and the “elite” political and corporate interests reaping the immediate benefits not only encourage these qualities but live them. It began with the careful management of consumption in the minds of children, the first to absorb the effects of the powerful new tools of that part-personality called intellect: science, technology, and mass media which took control of our culture in the fifties: the “candied pap of television”, as Philip Wylie phrased it.
Today, we sacrifice our children to a new brazen god who is more opposed to consciousness than any idol history has yet borne in the human mind. You may not live to see the extent of the destruction — but your child will.
Where are the living examples psychology fancied it would provide for the growth of human consciousness? Though it’s a roundabout way which is often opposed to the under-philosophy of today’s technical facade, it is possible to re-connect with the values that reflect our children’s future instead of unthinkingly devouring it in the frenzied consumption which once was Moloch’s, today transfigured by the irony of time.