Going Bugs

James Hillman


A Talk given in 1990. Transcribed by the Gypsy Scholar. The GS’s annotations are in a different size and color font.



“His anima liked its animal / And like it unsubjugated. . . .” –Wallace Stevens


 I want to tell you now about the insects to whom God gave “sensual lust.” … I am that insect, brother….. All we Karamazovs are such insects and, angel as you are, that insect lives in you too, and will stir a tempest in your blood. Tempests, because sensual lust is a tempest—worse than a Tempest! —F. M. Dostoevski, The Brothers Karamazov


Dr. Hillman re-imagines the bugs of our souls, explaining the importance of insects in our psychic ecology and how the wholly negative valuation of bugs (largely due to religion) comes back to haunt us in diseases, to which we wrongly try to eradicate with pesticides.  Indeed, Dr. Hillman argues that our modern, scientific methods of pesticides is an unconscious Christoid war against the demons (i.e., the daemons) of the underworld. To do this, Hillman uses a collection of dreams about bugs from patients undergoing therapy.


In his opening statement, Dr. Hillman attributes his need to collect animal and insect dreams with his passion for the anima: “. . . only in the last years could I begin to put into words my devotion to animals—that anima, love, and animals come to my psyche together, indistinguishable—a connection between soul and beast, desire and divinity, anima and animal. The mystery of my devotion is expressed in part by this passage from Proust:


I feel there is much to be said for the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object and so effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by the tree or obtain possession of the object which forms their prison. Then they start, tremble, they call us by name and as soon as we have recognized their voice, the spell is broken. We have delivered them: they have overcome death and return to share our life.


“The dream of the lowly bug is one such place where they start, tremble, call us by name. So, we shall be looking into dreams in order to deliver their bugs from the dayworld frames in which they have been fixed, ‘pinned and wriggling on the wall’ (T. S. Eliot). By ‘bugs’ I mean all creepy-crawly things, including spiders, beetles, lice, moths, ants, bees, wasps, flies, larvae, and some creatures not entomologically classified as insects.


This unrecognized connection between the lowly insect and divinity—animal and anima—is demonstrated in a recent film, Angels and Insects (1995).


Dr. Hillman begins by pointing out the Western cultural prejudice against bugs in religion, literature, and modern psychoanalysis.  “Our history is wholly dark, wholly prejudiced against these varmints. A locus classicus of our culture’s view going back to the Bible is Goethe's Faust (Part Two, 2, I) where a chorus of insects greets Mephistopheles, singing:


“O welcome, most welcome

Old fellow from hell

We’re hovering and humming

And know thee quite well.

We singly in quiet

Were planted by thee

In thousands, O Father,

We dance here with glee.”


 “Mephistopheles says: this young creation warms my heart indeed. Lord of the Flies, Beelzebub, the Devil loves the bugs, and the bugs, like demons of the air and the night, and of hiding places in the earth, are his children. To consider the insect, to entertain its voices, is to listen to the devil. This tradition bedevils our view of them in dreams. Artemidorus (ca. 150 A.D.), who wrote the first book we have on dream interpretation, said:


. . . whenever ants crawl around the body of the dreamer, it portends death, because they are cold, black and the children of the earth. [III: 6] Bugs are symbols of cares and anxieties.. . discontent and dissatisfaction. Gnats. . . signify that the dreamer will come into contact with evil men. [III: 8] . . . if there are many lice. . . it is unpropitious and signifies a lingering illness, captivity, or great poverty. . . . if a person should awaken while he is dreaming that he has lice, it means that he will never be saved. [III. 7]


“The words themselves bear anxiety.  The word ‘insect’ means notched, jagged, cut into; emphasizing the sharp, pointy, piercing, as well as the mechanical automation effect of the creature. The word ‘bug’ means spectre, apparition, an object of terror. Bug is cognate with ‘to frighten’ and also with ‘bow, bend, and turn aside.’ The ‘bug’ deflects or turns others from their paths. . . . So in popular Western culture, in the history of our language, these words all have a dark, negative, frightening connotation. Many of the names for bugs—bee (to fear), beetle (to bite), moth (eats away), mosquito, fly, gnat, flee, mite, louse, cricket—all share a common denominator in popular speech mean smallness or inferiority, which are insulting.”

Dr. Hillman then mentions how this negative take on “bugs” has entered our digital world. “The word ‘bug’ for a computer virus crept into computer language with the Mark II, the first large mainframe digital computer in 1945, and ever since that literal instance of a real bug creeping into a computer, computer programmers have been obsessed with getting the ‘bugs’ out of computer programs—‘de-bugging’.”


Dr Hillman next reviews the history of the negative take on “bugs” in his own tradition of psychoanalysis.  “There is a long tradition of hating the bugs.”  In the psychoanalytic tradition, the insect or bug is, for the most part, in dream interpretation associated with excrement and anality, cares and anxieties, negative self-image, disassociation, latent psychosis, plagues, death, blackness, evil. “Bugs have long been part of psychiatry, whether its creepy-crawly skin hallucinations, coke bugs, obsessional worries, and the place where people who are ‘going bugs’ can be housed, the ‘bug house’.”


We should remember, in making the necessary connection between bugs and the underworld, or the Christian Hell, that the demon known as “Beelzebub” was called “The Lord of the Flies.” (Zebûb being a Hebrew collective noun for “fly,” thus the common lay translation “Lord of the Flies.” Beelzebub as a giant fly is depicted in Collin de Plancy’s 1863 edition Dictionnaire Infernal.)  The use of the term “Infernal” is telling, since not only (as has been pointed out) does our language for insects connote them as “inferior,” which is cognate to infernal, but the word itself derives from Latin word inferus, which means “lower” or “lower down” and is associated with the “infernal region,” or Hell.


Dr. Hillman again discusses the Western religious origins of our “bug” phobia and contrasts it with the Amerindian tradition. “The bugs are the Devil’s kin, his ilk. So to work on the insect, to hear their voices, is to listen to the Devil. This dark tradition runs through our tradition. . . . In other traditions, the lord of the insects is not the Devil as in ours, Beelzebub, but a trickster. For example, the Navaho have a figure called Begochidi, who is the son of the sun. And he had intercourse with everything in the world, say the Navahos, just like a bug will land on anything or jump on anybody. . . .  Once when this horny trickster was caught, it is said that hornets swarmed from his mouth, junebugs from his ears, and mud beetles from his nose. . . .  He could also change himself into any sort of bug.”


The Navajo Nation—the Diné—began their great mythic journey as Insect People or Insect Beings in the First World or underworld. Bees, grasshoppers, cicadas, and many other insects are important in the Creation story and in other Navajo mythology.  Begochidi is a complicated and ambiguous figure in Navaho mythology. Although neither the Navahos nor anthropologists can pin down his exact identity, Begochidi was is seen as a creator deity, a trickster and hermaphrodite fertility deity of sexual excess and incest and the god of monsters. (Cf. the 1995 film, Angels and Insects; a drama about illicit sex—incest—and a British naturalist and entomologist who studies insects. Here we see the connection between heavenly creatures and hellish ones connected to the underworld.) He is also thought to be a trickster, closely associated with Coyote as trickster. He is also an insect, musician, warrior, and hunting magician. He is also the tutelary deity of the Butterfly People, who turn into moths. One anthropologist thinks that Begochidi “was in charge of insects, called them at will, and even sometimes appeared as a worm or insect.” Insects, we recall, were the first people of the underworld, or the “Black World.”


“Now, you see, the tales of this Bug Lord is very different from what the Bible and what Goethe’s Faust says about Mephistopheles and Beelzebub and how terrible bugs are in our tradition, or Kafka’s Metamorphosis, or Les Mouches (The Flies) of Sartre . . . .  No, the Navaho Bug Lord presents us a clear insight into the seeming spontaneity of insects, their irreverence for human intentions, and their lordly power over us. . . .”


“Bugs are like us.”


The bugs are like us but have powers over us, or superhuman powers—like Spiderman and the Green Hornet.


Dr. Hillman next sounds the keynote of his talk—to re-vision and reclaim our eco-psychological kinship with “bugs.” “So there is much to redeem . . . . And if we’re going to work with the animals and find soul in them, we must start not with them in their splendor  . . . but with these we fear the worst—the bugs and our fears of going bugs.”


In this connection, Dr. Hillman discusses the “intentionality” of bugs. “The bugs keep on coming. They seem to have some strange intention.”


Usually, these dreams have bugs going after the dreamer. The insect wants to get inside the house; i.e., wants to get inside the psyche. “The insect reveals its intentions partly through the behavior of the dreamer.” The dreamer wants to keep the insect outside; i.e., “projected.” The insects “come into the dreaming mind and disturbs it into awareness. Disturbance, even if not sudden, seems inseparable from the bug’s intentionality. . . .” Like our petty worries, the bugs keep us awake at night. They are going somewhere and have their own purposes.


Dr. Hillman connects our fear of bugs with our psychic pathologies. “The fear of the insect here touches on the relation of the symptom or the complex; the complex as that which crosses your path, as Jung says, does its thing despite you. . . . Now we can also look at dream bugs with this passage from Jung in mind: ‘To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path, violently and recklessly; all things which upset my views, plans, and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or worse.’ Remember, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. So that fear of the bug may indicate its tremendous power and that its intentions seem to remain very obscure, but it wants something contrary to the dream ego.” The bug coming from inside of the body, or from the outside it gets under your skin. The bug must find “a little vulnerable spot” in order to bite or “wound” the human being.  “There is a close connection between the insect and the wound, the hurt, the pain of the symptom.” [Insect, from Latin word insecure; to cut into, from in- + secare to cut.]


Dr. Hillman here offers a dream as an example. A dreamer is in a garden restaurant and finds a bug on his leg. He burns it with a match to get it off, until it is blackened. “The dreamer tortures what tortures him. .  . . Is the subject the torturer or the victim of it? In order words, why are we tortured? What goes on in the torture of the analytical work or the individuation process? In the dream, the source of the suffering lies in the means the dreamer uses to rid himself of the bug in the garden. Yet this same torture—the fire—ignites a process that transforms this green creature into a black creature. . . .”


The current “Torture Memos” describe, among other torture techniques, locking prisoners up in dark boxes with insects in them.


Dr. Hillman next elucidates our irrational responses to our fear of bugs in our environment. “We have to understand why the bugs raise such anxiety so that eradication becomes the automatic response.” It’s all about the fear of insects in the psyche and the insecticide overreaction.


Cf. California bug eradication projects like that of the light-brown apple moth.


Dr. Hillman accounts for this fear of bugs with three factors. “This overkill of insecticides may have its source in three frightening fantasies.” (1) Multiplicity. “Imagining insects numerically threatens the individualized fantasy of a unique and unitary human being. (There are around 640, 000 species of insects.) Their very numbers indicate insignificance of us as individuals. So usually bug dreams indicate fragmentation, the lowering of individualized consciousness to a merely numerical or statistical level.  The invasion of insects in a dream, they say, indicates psychotic dissociation and the loss of centralized control. Eradication then is an anti-psychotic. Hence we use the pesticides . . . to keep from going bugs. Whereas the source of the psychosis . . . may not lie in the multiplicity of the bugs but in the defensive unity of the exterminator.” (2) Monstrosity. “Bug-eyed, spidery, worm, roach, blood-sucker—these are all terms of contempt—louse—characterizing supposedly inhuman traits in people. To become an insect is to become a creature without the warm blood of feeling, as horror fiction and films depict. Nature corresponds to these fantasies. . . .  Insects in dreams suggest the psyche’s capacity to generate extraordinary forms almost beyond imagining, and that these inhuman monstrosities show the reactive potential of the psyche to imagine way beyond its humanistic definitions.  The bug takes us out of ego-psychology, out of humanisms. Isn’t that the horrifying point of Kafka’s classic tale, The Metamorphosis? In fact, that the monstrous comes in such minute forms . . . and if we fear it so shows just to what extent the human world has separated itself from the non-human cosmos. What is man, or woman? A little less than angel, lord of the universe, crown of creation, who wakes in terror from a dream of an ant.” (3) Autonomy.  “They will be crushed and burned and poisoned because they will not submit. They have other intentions, and they even compete with me for my apples, my corn, and my roses. They walk uninvited through my kitchen, nest under my eves. They represent the autonomous nervous system’s persistent symptoms—they bug me! They are autonomous. The me, believing itself in possession of autonomous free will, is relentlessly pursued by the imagination, or unconsciousness upon which it rests—in which it nests—, so that this ‘I’ is driven to exterminate whatever threatens its delusion of autonomy. The radical freedom of the bug from human control makes it ‘the great enemy’ to whom is attributed all the ruthless traits used by this exterminating, pesticidal ego to maintain the delusion of its lordliness and its autonomy.”


Dr. Hillman next discusses the Bug and Mystery. Significantly enough (for the GS), he opens this part of his talk with an epigraph that uses the metaphor of radio.



The bug slides

out from behind

the radio dial

where all winter

he lived

eating music.


— Bill Holm, Boxelder Bug Variations



There is a cosmic connection between bug and world. “Children like bugs. The bugs connect children. They are not severed like adults from the cosmos and their immediate environment.”


“Perhaps there is a cosmic push in the intention of the bugs. That is, if Navaho lore says insects are at the primordial beginning of things, and Hindu lore says all the world is spun in the web of Maya, and Bushmen lore gives kingship over living creatures to the praying mantis, then perhaps the movement of dream insects announces a new beginning, and, in Jung’s language, they would be the small persistent instigators of individuation, its instinctual image, smaller-than-small in appearance, bigger-than-big in effect. They may be the animal compulsion in the sensate body of the world beyond human feeling, that brainless, bloodless insistence upon moving out and moving on.”  


Dr. Hillman next bugs us about our devious ways of avoiding and denying our affinity to the insect world through escapes—escapes that even deceptively disguise themselves as spiritual exercises. “The urge to get away from bugs occurs to all of us, whether I daily life, or out in the woods, in the house—the flies come—or in our dreams. Does the bug urge the getaway . . . is that the intention of the bug expressed in our response, a kind of autonomic, inexplicable, compelling swatting of the bug? Is perhaps the urge to move—to move out, to move on—an expression of a primal life instinct? Then the opus contra naturum of spiritual disciplines (the work to overcome nature), of the disciplines of the spirit—za-zen, meditation, the dark night of the emptying out, ‘teach us to sit still’—actually aims at overcoming going bugs.  Their incessant, driving pullulation out of the holes and through the screens, flatting toward the light or burrowing toward veins of blood, are styles of desire desiring to live. When we fantasize that only insects will survive a nuclear fire and the winter that follows, what cosmic potency are we attributing to the bug? No wonder our fear of its minute force. And this force is ancient. It has been argued, perhaps established, that the chronology of insect life is older than plant life . . . .”


Dr. Hillman exposes our hatred of bugs as psychological projections—projections of our own disowned human behavior.  In other words, what we’re looking at is our fantasies of insect life. “Whatever the speculation about the mystery in their force and our fright (speculations beyond television’s ‘Nature’ themes of ruthless competition, insatiable consumption and paranoid defenses against predators—all of which tell as much of our way of looking at insect life as about insect life itself), one theme repeats often enough in dreams: the bug and the soil. They appear in the dirt, under the earth, in the toilet bowl. The fly buzzes over the manure pile, the scarab rolls its ball of dung; crabs in the pubis, lice in the scalp, parasites in the entrails, maggots in the rotten meat. Especially the hair and the lower body are affected. Abenheimer interprets spiders and centipedes into anal symbolism, a move which repeats the idea of the bug as the evil outcast, smelly, sulphuric, of the Devil.” 


Dr. Hillman now offers a view of the secret identity of “bugs” that flies in the face of our conscious view of bugs as merely as bothersome, inferior forms of life. “The low evaluation corresponds with the bug’s underground, surreptitious concealment—hidden, buried, interior; appearing at night through small openings in dayworld structures. These attributes suggest the underworld.  Maybe it isn’t enough to say insects in dreams are the return of the repressed; maybe they refer neither to the morally repressed (evil, the devil), or the aesthetically repressed (bugs are ugly creepy-crawly), nor the primordially repressed (death, maggots, the sting of the wasp that can kill you), but of the chthonic gods—maybe that’s the return of the repressed: Hades, who emerges through and whose intentions live in those holes we feel as wounds. If the bite of the bug is an underworld wound, then a pesticide is a theological instrument.  Get that?” 


Get that, indeed! Dr. Hillman then connects this fear and hatred of bugs to its theological (Christoid) source in Western culture. Thus the infernal “bugs” are the return of the repressed—the chthonic pagan gods! 


“If the bite of the bug is an underworld wound, then a pesticide is a theological instrument, a chemical Christ, who harrows Hell in the words of Hosea and Paul (First Corinthinans): “O Thanatos, where is thy sting (kentron)?”, in order to rid the world of Thanatos and Hades, imagined as a black figure with wings. Kentron, the word for sting, literally denotes the sting of bees, scorpions, fiery ants, etc., while the same word provides the root of our word ‘center,’ meaning originally prick or goad. The goad in the center of the deeps is both the presence of death and the cosmic urge of desirous life to live, like the Karamozov’s ‘sensual lust.’ Like Hades, who is also Pluto’s riches, and also Dionysus’ zoë [everlasting life]. The Christian revolution, which recentered the cosmos in an upper world—and an upper body, resurrected Christ—removes the sting, both of desire and of death, We re-enact the conquest of Christ over Pluto with our aerosol can of bug-spray, swinging that censor in secular ritual, ridding each our own Garden of underworld demons.” 


In other words, one could say that our industrial method of pesticide eradication of “bugs” is subliminally Christianism in action!


In the concluding section of his talk, Dr. Hillman sums up the significance of the “bugs” in our interior and exterior lives. “If the dream world is the return of the repressed (Freud), turning the face to us that we unconsciously turn to it (Jung), then it appears so stinging, buzzing and persecutory when our cultural consciousness treats our symptoms as vermin, our complexes as parasites. Yes, we want to rid ourselves of the underworld, using the nice white powder of destructive abstraction available from any pharmacy and/or physician, and in any session of ego-psychology. The source of the pharmacology fantasy and industry lies in the fear of going bugs. That we need an ecology movement, animal rights advocacy, and a world wildlife fund begins in our dreams.”


“The fears aroused by bugs ascribes to them (like we always do with enemies) attributes of our eradication behavior—autonomy, monstrosity, toxicity, proliferation. We see the bugs as monstrous, toxic, and proliferating, but it’s what we do. Poison spreads by human hands through the rivers and soils; kinds of toxins multiply, acres and acres of profligate overkill, Bopal and Seveso, monstrous underworld infestation hidden in the underground aquifers, buried in the food chain, not in the insects but what we’ve done with the aquifers, what we’ve done with the food chain. The ‘problem,’ as it is called, has become so autonomous that science, government, agriculture, and industry cannot bring it under control. As prophesied, the bugs are winning, although not so much out there as in our eradicating minds that mimic the ‘enemy.’ By fighting going bugs, we have become killer bees, the fire ants, and black widows.”


Dr. Hillman now makes the following equation: Christianism = spiritual pesticide!


“How we got here is too long and sad to tell. But briefly: the animals were mere property in Rome, soulless for scholastics, mindless machines for Cartesians and Kantians, carriers of bestiality, flesh and sin for Christians, and lower levels of evolution for Darwin, while insects, in particular, suffered Christ’s harrowing of the underworld in the first generic pesticide.”


Dr. Hillman takes the radical ecological view: Western/Christian progress from a bug-eyed perspective. “This history is embedded in our reactions in dreams. The dream ego is also the historical ego going through its conditioned responses. That figure we call Ego—were we Amerindians or from some other culture, some other tribe, we might call ‘roach-killer,’ ‘fly-swatter,’ ‘bee-burner,’ ‘ant-crusher’—rides the back of a beast which it considers soulless private property.  What we call the ‘progress’ of Western civilization, from the ant’s eye level is but the forward stride of the Great Exterminator. Who is the parasite who lives on dead carcasses? Who is the parasite embedded in insatiable consumption, chewing the leaves of the plants the world over, breeding ever new hybrid varietals that bugs will eschew and only it, the human, can enjoy?”


“The dreams we have reviewed show something in the dream world also suspected and predicted for the world at large: the bugs mysteriously survive. They withstand the fire. They seem to bear an indestructible life—annoying the eradicators who continually alter the formulae for their poisons.”


Dr. Hillman suggests that the inferior “bugs” have something to teach us superior creatures. “The dreams show something further, not suspected or predicted: the bugs have something to teach. They demonstrate the intentions of the natural mind, the undeviating faith of desire, and the urge to survive.”


“They bring the community consciousness of a swarm and hive, a Gemeinschaftsgefuehl, a cosmic sympathy, deeper than a social contract or a constitution. They conjoin and enjoy the contrary elements of earth and air, show amazing capacities to conform and transform, and are resolute in their persistence to draw a dreamer out of the shelters of human habitation, the sheltering limits of human habits. At the end we feel they want us to join the animal community, these winged creatures with their astonishing eyes. They come to us in dreams, which is what angels are supposed to do. Startling, terrifying, sudden: is this the only way angels can now enter our world which has no openings for their welcome?”


This last statement will bear remembering when we come to Dr. Hillman’s concluding observation about “the gods have become diseases.” In our modern world, we have so diminished and exiled the archaic and ancient gods that they can no longer appear in their native forms.  This is because, briefly, what happened with the coming of Christianity was a wholesale overturning of the pagan gods to an inferior status. On one level, they were literally demonized and consigned to Hell (e.g., the goat-footed Pan became the Devil) or, on another level, made diminutive as fairies (e.g., the Celtic gods). Dr. Hillman is here suggesting that our inferior winged “bugs” were in earlier ages recognized as angels. (Again, this secret connection is suggested in the film, Angels and Insects.)


 “At least we may consider this angelic interpretation—the bug a strange angel, almost small enough to fit its definition of beauty dancing on a pinhead (the very instrument we use to fix bugs in classificatory death). To survive as they survive, we must utterly transform the shapes of our thought, as they risk all in their transformations. Our minds cannot go far enough out on a limb. This angelic view calls us to look again, re-specting who they are, what they are, why they are in the dream, and further, how to meet them, even care for them—these miraculous shapes and behaviors, each intricate appearance, a superb archaic ability, faultless, pious, comical, grave, intense, seeking us out while we sleep.”


Dr. Hillman goes far enough out on a limb to make a connection so foreign to our theology—the animal/divine connection. “For archaic psychology in cultures the world over, the divine is partly animal, and the animal partly divine. Theology says that the divine is a tremendum, but a tremendum can come in small tremulous ways, a mere tremor, a shake, brush, shrug—the swift reaction to an insect. Because we are among the very largest of the animal species, we expect the larger to be more tremendous. That God must be as large as Behemoth is one more biblical anthropomorphism. Actually, behemoth means merely ‘animal,’ so what Job saw may have simply been his animals in a new light so that they could be restored to him and he to them. Just look. Watch the animal and see the divine in self-display. Study the shiny shell and veined wings, the feeling feet, the determination. Study the head, the coat, the motions. Study the eye, each its own kind, like a bead, a dot, millionfold like a fly.”


The term in the phenomenology of religion for gods that are part animal and part human is “theiromorphic gods.” The prime example of which would be the Egyptian gods. In keeping with the theme of insects, the Egyptian Scarab Beetle was the personification of the scarab god Khepri, a solar god of resurrection. As the scarab pushes its dung behind it in a ball, so the Egyptians thought that Khepri pushed the sun across the sky. Young scarabs emerged, born out of the dung, and so the scarab also came to symbolize new life and creation. The scarab was also linked to Amen, as was Khepri himself.


“Archaic cultures also kill animals on the altars of the Gods. Of course: like unto like—animals, gods. By taking the animal to the altar, we are not ridding ourselves of it nor making it more pure and holy. It goes to the altar to feed the animal in the God, the divine that is partly animal, thereby keeping the God alive, and alive in that space, that temenos or altar. The altar is an animal’s keeper; it keeps the God from roaming, its dreadful power tethered to a concentrated location. Get back, stay there behind smoking candles and grillwork.  Don’t cross over suddenly.  The altar is a cage, each cathedral a great zoo.  And the God, like Yahweh, who distained Cain’s sacrifice of gains, wants Abel’s animal meat, just as do wasps, maggots and flies. We keep the Gods alive with flesh, our animal flesh, the animal of our meaty imagination, infested and buzzing with stinging winged things. So, of course, the bugs in our dreams pierce into us, bite and draw blood, reminding us we too are meat. They eat their way into our reluctant recognition, forcing us to remember them. What else is incarnation but the God driving himself, herself, into and under our skin? God, a bedbug, crab, chigger, tick. The Incarnation—the mystery of a louse. The gods become diseases; ourselves infested by Gods, forced to religion by bodily sensations; the religious instinct, the religious insect.”


Again, this is psychological insight is important—“the gods have become diseases”—and it comes from C. G. Jung: “We think we can congratulate ourselves . . ., imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious symptoms for the doctor's consulting room. . . .”  The GS will make use of this insight at the end of this exposition.


Dr. Hillman concludes on a positive note, reiterating the psychological insight that our animal “bugs” are the polytheistic pagan gods in disguise. “All is not lost. Much is recoverable—if only at moments, suddenly. Our dreams recover what the world forgets. Forgotten pagan polytheism breeds in animal forms. In those animals are the ancient Gods: the Celtic horns and salmon, the Viking bears, the Egyptian pigs and river horses, crocodiles and cats, the Roman wolves and eagles, and Navaho be'gotcidi. The old Gods are still there in our dreams—those zoological cathedrals, where there is a mansion for the insects of Beelzebub and Mephistopheles. The animals may go on like Gods, alive and well and unforgotten, in the ikons of our dreams and in the vital obsessions of complexes and symptoms, the little bugs indestructible. Sing praise. Gaudeamus.” [“Let us rejoice”]









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