image and myth
WHEN I THINK THEN OF THE LAW, I SEE A PRINCESS MIGHTIER THAN SHE WHO ONCE WROUGHT AT BAYEUX, ETERNALLY WEAVING INTO HER WEB DIM FIGURES OF THE EVER-LENGTHENING PAST-FIGURES TOO DIM TO BE NOTICED BY THE IDLE TOO SYMBOLIC TO BE INTERPRETED EXCEPT BY HER PUPILS, BUT TO THE DISCERNING EYE DISCLOSING EVERY PAINFUL STEP AND EVERY WORLD-SHAKING CONTEST BY WHICH MANKIND HAS WORKED AND FOUGHT ITS WAY FROM SAVAGE ISOLATION TO ORGANIC LIFE.
When we think about lawyers, we focus on their role. The psychological precursor of a role comes into play even as individuals adopt a role and evidence a style as they put a role to use. Everyday role routines are linked to images that we translate into an ethic that becomes associated with an ethos. In professional life these routines are systematized and contested as disciplinary practices backed by scholarly disciplines and discourses. Our practices and routines nourish some images, while staying away from others. Some images drive us, some are driven underground.
Images, no less than our assumptions about reality, are, according to James Hillman, "the shaped presence of necessity. The necessity of work and life seizes us through images. Our imagination does not free us but captures us and yokes us to its myths. . . ." [James Hillman, "On the Necessity of Abnormal Psychology: Ananke and Athene," in James Hillman (ed.), Facing the Gods 1-38, at 10 (Irving, Texas: Spring Publications, 1980)]
Images have a life of their own. They come on their own, stay as long as they choose, and leave without warning. Images instruct, warn, seduce, confuse, and liberate. Images portray a universe of social relations, an ethos, an ethic, and ultimately, a way of life. "An image tells a compressed story," says William May. [William May, The Physician's Covenant: Images of the Healer in Medical Ethics 17 (New York: Westminster Press, 1983)]
"[W]hen we search for what is implacably determining our lives and holding them in servitude, we must turn to the images of our fantasies within which necessity lies concealed." [James Hillman, "On the Necessity of Abnormal Psychology: Ananke and Athene," in James Hillman (ed.), Facing the Gods 1-38, at 10 (Irving, Texas: Spring Publications, 1980)]. It is the silent way of our images that conceals the working of myth.
"Images . . . are intricately structured condensations of the individual's deepest wishes and fears joined with representations of the self and significant others and their environs." [Stanley Rosenman and Irving Handelsman, The Collective Past, Group Psychology and Personal Narrative: Shaping Jewish Identity by Memories of the Holocaust, 50 Amer. J. Psychoanalysis 151, 154 (1990)]
"The concept of the world without imagination is euphemistically referred to as 'reality'; but as the poet Wallace Stevens said, 'the absence of imagination has itself to be imagined.' . . . The images we create in turn create us. The ways that we image the world . . . in turn give us the perspectives (images) we have on ourselves. . . ." [Lynda Sexson, Ordinarily Sacred 69 (New York: Crossroad, 1982)]
A professional life encompasses images that lie at the heart and soul of legal work, images faded with age and images newly formed, images traditional and radical, images that play around in our working lives: counselor, advisor, problem-solver, technician, mediator, friend, fighter/warrior, teacher, therapist, trickster, magician, shaman, politician, guardian, gate-keeper. We embody images, eschew images, suffer with them and without them. Some images are more mythic than others. A mythology of lawyering encourages inquiry into images and their place in our lives.
Images push us toward and pull us away from provincial ideas and practices. They ground us in conventions and allow us to push away from them. They can impoverish us and prompt us to reach beyond everyday routine, practices, and roles. Some images entangle us in conformity, others infuse our work with a high sense of purpose and communal ideals.
Legal scholars know the power of images. William Conklin, for example, in his study of the Constitution points out that, "A constitution is an image; it is a product of the legal community's imagination. A constitution does not live except through the consciousness of a legal community. I call this shared consciousness an image. Its parameters make up what has hitherto been called a constitution. The more deeply an image is ingrained in the prejudgments of a lawyer, the more the lawyer thinks and feels as if the image actually exists as an objective fact. When that point in time arises, the lawyer begins to decide and act as if one can actually define, quantify, and justify the image's existence in the phenomenal world. The constitution (that is, the image) takes on a life of its own. And the more one believes that the constitution actually exists 'out there' as an objective, scientifically verifiable fact, the more authoritatively and legitimately does one assert one's role as law professor, judge, lawyer, public official, or law student." [William E. Conklin, Images of a Constitution 3-4 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989)]
In law, we actively participate, unknowingly, in what Jerome Bruner has called a "mythologically instructed community." The community of legal actors—lawyers who practice law, teachers who teach it, and students who learn it—is "mythologically instructed" because we have a "corpus of images and identities and models" that provide us with a "library scripts" with a "range of metaphoric identities." [Jerome S. Bruner, On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand 36, 38 (New York: Athenaeum, 1966)]
Some of the scripts and "metaphoric identities" we adopt become
routine in the practice of law. And it is with reference to the library
of mythic scripts that
we discover aspirations and perspectives from which to judge our faith
in law. The law myth in our stories shapes our imaginations and exercises
a gravitational pull on our lives, on our sense of self, our politics,
and our culture. It is our myths that fuel our aspirations and set-up
the dramas of success and failure, exhilaration and despair that we find
in our stories. "Life," Bruner argues, "produces myth and
finally imitates it." The law, like life, produces myth and shapes
the social and political terrain on which both the imagination and reality
of law are played out. Law in its mythic shape exercises a gravitational
pull on our lives, our sense of self, our politics, and our culture. It
is when lawyers live with law, imagine it, and work with it that law becomes