Shakespeare and the Unconscious

“I have within me that which passeth show.  These are but the suits of woe.”

Hamlet uttered these words one day when moping about the castle he was confronted by his family about his despondent mood.  He was saying, “Hey, you think this is depressed.  This is nothing.  This is only a cloak of depression; but I have within me the real thing.”

Shakespeare knew that life was but a “show”, a display of what was going on within our hearts, individually and collectively.  He was the greatest psychiatrist that we have any real record of, though I think Jesus Christ and Lao Tzu…to name but two…could have given him a run for his money if we had more of a record of their wisdom.  Shakespeare had a grasp of the human heart because he had a grasp of his own heart and could therefore convey this wisdom in the characters of his plays.  Without this ability to sublimate into thoughts, concepts, and literary contrivance he well might have ended up escaping into the abyss of alcohol or some other worser fate.

The Bard knew of the unconscious realm long before Freud and Jung made it popular.  He was familiar with the heart’s ravenous impulsivity, its abysmal darkness which knows no restraint, which would not permit civilization without the intervention of the gods who provided that marvelous contrivance which we know today as the neocortex.  And, though he had no knowledge of modern neurological science, with his God-given intelligence, intuition, and humility he knew “it” was there though he could not define it as we can today.

I look at the insanity of our world today…and reflect back on my own, realizing that it is not a thing of the past…and wonder, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”  I then am reminded of my gifted guru, Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk in Albuqurque, Nm., who has interpreted the words of Jesus who on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” to mean, “Father, forgive them for they are unconscious.” And I reflect back on the stupid, ugly, self-serving, and mean-spirited things I have done and said in the name of religion and realize just how much I had no idea what I was doing and saying.  And, yes, that ignorance is still with me, no doubt!




2 thoughts on “Shakespeare and the Unconscious

  1. Anne-Marie

    Hello. I have been reflecting on this and I thought I would share something that was said at a family wedding. A relative of mine had a few drinks (he is a very popular and fun loving and wise), and he said, “When Anne-Marie says the word God, everyone moves away.” The funny thing was, at the time, I wasn’t saying anything…. However, I’m glad I’m meditating, I really am, because I could see a lot of truth in what he was saying and how I have turned people away with my God talk. I’m deeply sad about this.
    However, I got up the other morning and I thought, no matter what, I need to have compassion on myself and this compassion is not to depend on whether I’m good or not good or whether I achieve things or not. I can just allow myself to be. I also thought about the journey we make from the first half to the second half of life, and the journey is from sacrifice to mercy and we need to have mercy on ourselves as well.
    I appreciate your writing so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 21stcenturyxstian Post author

      T hanks for your support and for sharing this experience. Don’t know if the rebuff was warranted or not. But if not, on some other occasion, certainly it has been for we are human at best, certainly in our faith as in all other endeavors. But it sure stings!

      Thank you for being a friend.

      *Lewis Chamness* *575 770-9761*

      On Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 12:46 PM, literary lew wrote:




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