Workshop Review – Mark Patrick Hederman

by Jane Bailey

The Annual General Meeting of IAHIP was held in the Ardilaun House Hotel, Galway, on Saturday 6th. March. In recent years the Governing Body has organized a pre-AGM lecture/workshop for the Friday night. This year we were privileged to have as our Guest Speaker Mark Patrick Hederman OSB. Educator, philosopher and author, Dom Hederman has been a Benedictine monk of Glenstal Abbey for over thirty years and is a former Headmaster of the school. That he is an embodiment of the Benedictine tradition of scholarship in engagement with the contemporary world is evidenced by his published works which include “Kissing the Dark”, “The Haunted Inkwell”,Manikon Eros: Mad, Crazy Love”, and, most recently, “Tarot:Talisman or Taboo?”.

Speaking on the theme of “Reading the World as Symbol”, Hederman argued that education, as we have known it, has been largely responsible for our diminished capacity to think mythically and consequently impairing our ease of access to the Unconscious. Beginning with the history of the development of the technology of writing, he demonstrated how our communication as humans has changed from an oral form using speech and hearing, to one largely dependent on the written word, using sight. While sound and speech are shared, communication by writing has the potential, at least, to be private – as Hederman pointed out, “Sight isolates; sound incorporates.” The development of the alphabet, which favours left-brain, rational, analytical thought, has changed the way in which we live in the world. He maintained that the historical replacement of the mother-tongue by “Learned Latin” as the language of Western education, served to promote the rise of modern Science and abstract thought at the expense of myth, symbol and art. According to Hederman, our great artists have come mainly from the ranks of those who have been marginalized by the education system.

The talk was followed by an open forum and the degree to which the audience had been both stimulated and entranced was evident from the number and range of the questions and comments. Topics like, “How can I keep my symbolic life healthy?” to questions about Indigo Children and discussions about the Rudolf Steiner Method arose. For those of us who came into psychotherapy from a teaching background, and for the parents in the audience, it was refreshing to hear such a critique of our educational methods delivered with authority, wisdom and humour!

Jane Bailey is a psychotherapist working at ‘Kedron’, Edenderry, Co. Offaly  and is currently serving on the Governing Body of the IAHIP.