Quotes: Poiesis


Levine, S. K. (1997). Poiesis: The Language of Psychology and the Speech of the Soul (2 edition). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


  1. That psychiatrist and other psychotherapists are now turning to the arts for therapeutic purposes indicates that we have reached the limits of scientific psychology. It also indicates that our culture as a whole is awakening from the dream of the Enlightenment, the fantasy of a world without fantasy, controllable by reason.

  2. It’s turning to the arts for healing, we are re-discovering an ancient tradition. In early societies and indigenous cultures, all healing takes place through ceremonial means. Music, dance, song, story-telling, mask-making, the creation of visual imagery and the ritual re-enactment of myth are all components of a communal process in which suffering is given form. The healer, as shaman, medicine man, sorcerer or witch doctor, joins with the community to find the form to contain and release the suffering of the one who is ill. (Levine, 1997 p.10)

  3. The healing power of art is lost as artists lose their connection with a living community. (Levine, 1997 p.12)

  4. For Nietzsche, tragedy represented the essence of an artistic culture in opposition to our scientific one. The death of tragedy is the death of vital art. By losing art, we also lose the Dionysian, the connection to all the transcends our petty little individuality, our narcissism. (Levine, 1997 p.13)

  5. Dionysian power, then, has to be transformed by apollonian clarity. The result would be living form. The “chaos” of the Dionysian, joined with the “cosmos” (order) of the Apollonian, would give birth to the “dancing star” of an artistic culture. Artists must open themselves to the Dionysian forces in order to shape them into vibrant living forms In so doing they render a service to their entire community, communication (in the proper sense of the word) a vision of a world grounded upon the living Earth. A community that could affirm such a world could also affirm itself and its belongingness to something greater than itself. (Levine, 1997 p.14)

  6. Psycological suffering is intrinsic to the human condition; in the sense psychopathology is normal. The task of therapy is not to eliminate suffering but to give a voice to it, to find a form in which it can be expressed. Expression is itself transformation; this is the message that art brings. The therapist then would be an artist of the soul, working with sufferers to enable them to find the proper container for their pain, the form in which it would be embodies. (Levine, 1997 p.15)

  7. Shaman are the prototype of the artist as therapist. They are masters of ceremonies who employ diverse media for healing purposes. (Levine, 1997 p.11)

  8. Perhaps one day there will be a re-unification of the scientific and scientific approaches to mental health, a re-unification in which, as Nietzsche put it, the idea would be a “Socrates who practices music,” healers who can combine rational understanding with artistic sensitivity. For such people to avoid the fate of the historical Socrates, they must have the support of the community in their work. Artists and therapists need to join together to solicit that support. Only then can the therapeutic function of art come into its own. (Levine, 1997 p.16)

  9. Integration can be understood philosophically in terms of the age-old debate concerning the relationship of unity and difference.

  10. For Plato, each of the forms of ideas is already a unification of many particulars; each unifies by being a model for the others to imitate.

  11. In Kant and Hegel, in particular, we see this notion of unity as integrative overcoming of difference.

  12. Derrida in particular, has emphasized the significance of difference as living, creative power in opposition to the dead weight of reified totality.(Levine, 1997 p.18)

  13. James Hillman has spoken of the need for a polytheistic psychology, a psychology in which the forced unity of the ego would give way to a multi-dimensional play of imaginative realities. (Levine, 1997 p 19)

  14. (Kant) It is not the image but the act of imagination that unifies and integrates our experience of the world and of the self… Fantasy combines what is already present into novel formations; imagination brings the new into being. (Levine, 1997 p.20)

  15. The soul, then, for Kant, is not a psychic entity. It is not a particular experience but the origin or source of experience. It remains forever in the horizon of our experience as that which offers the promise of wholeness. (Levine, 1997 p.20)

  16. Their caring for clients will be demonstrated by a willingness to be there for them and to let the process happen without interference. Heidegger calls the “authentic care”, as opposed to the inauthentic kind, which is not willing to let others be but must leap in and correct their being. It is the therapists own fear of breaking down that prevents them from letting clients go through the experience of disintegration. (Levine, 1997 p.22)

  17. Artists must go through a similar experience of breaking down the stabilized form which they face. Creation depends upon destruction, a willingness to give up a previous pattern and experiment with a new form. Letting-go, the experience of emptiness of emptiness and the emergence of the new characterize the creative as well as the therapeutic processes.

  18. Art gives a voice to suffering (Levine, 1997 p. 23)