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James Hillman (1926- ) is considered to be one of the most original psychologists of the 20th century. Trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, he developed Archetypal psychology. Hillman is a prolific writer and international lecturer as well as a private practitioner.
James Hillman was born in a hotel room in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1926. He served in the US Navy Hospital Corps from 1944-1946, after which he attended the Sorbonne in Paris and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 1950. In 1959, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich as well as his analyst's diploma from the Jung Institute. He was immediately hired as the Director of Studies at the Jung Institute, a position he held until 1969. In 1970, Hillman became editor of Spring Publications, a publishing company devoted to advancing Jungian and Neo-Jungian thought. His magnum opus, Re-visioning Psychology, was written in 1975 and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Hillman then helped co-found the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture in 1978. His text The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling was on the New York Time's best seller list. Hillman currently lives in Connecticut.
- My war- and I have yet to win a decisive battle- is with the modes of thought that and conditioned feelings that prevail in psychology and therefore also in the way we think and feel about our being. Of these conditions none are more tyrannical than the convictions that clamp the mind and heart into positivistic science (geneticism and computerism), economics (bottom-line capitalism), and single-minded faith (fundamentalism).(The Force of Character, 1999, p. xxiv.)
Archetypal psychology is a polytheistic psychology, in that it attempts to recognize the myriad fantasies and myths (gods, goddesses, demigods, mortals and animals) that shape and are shaped by our psychological lives. The ego is but one psychological fantasy within an assemblage of fantasies. It is part of the Jungian movement and related to Analytical psychology but is a radical departure from it.
Whereas Jung’s psychology focused on the Self, its dynamics and its constellations (ego, anima, animus, shadow), Hillman’s Archetypal psychology relativizes and deliteralizes the ego and focuses on the psyche, or soul, itself and the archai, the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, "the fundamental fantasies that animate all life" (Moore, in Hillman, 1991).
Hillman (1975) sketches a brief lineage of archetypal psychology
- By calling upon Jung to begin with, I am partly acknowledging the fundamental debt that archetypal psychology owes him. He is the immediate ancestor in a long line that stretches back through Freud, Dilthey, Coleridge, Schelling, Vico, Ficino, Plotinus, and Plato to Heraclitus - and with even more branches yet to be traced” (p. xvii).
The development of archetypal psychology is influenced by Carl Jung's analytical psychology and Classical Greek, Renaissance, and Romantic ideas and thought. Indeed, Hillman’s influences are many, and include other artists, poets, philosophers, alchemists, and psychologists. One could easily include in this list Nietzsche, Henry Corbin, Keats, Shelley, Petrarch, and Paracelsus. Though all different in their theories and psychologies, they appear to be unified by their common concern for the psyche - the soul.
Psyche, or Soul
Hillman has been critical of the 20th century’s psychologies (e.g. biological psychology, behaviorism, cognitive psychology) that have adopted a natural scientific philosophy and praxis. Main criticisms include that they are reductive, materialistic, and literal; they are psychologies without psyche, without soul. Accordingly, Hillman’s oeuvre has been an attempt to restore psyche to its proper place in psychology. Hillman sees the soul at work in imagination, in fantasy, in myth and in metaphor. He also sees soul revealed in psychopathology, in the symptoms of psychological disorders. Psyche-pathos-logos is the “speech of the suffering soul” or the soul’s suffering of meaning. A great portion of Hillman’s thought attempts to attend to the speech of the soul as it is revealed via images and fantasies.
- Main article: Dream analysis
Because archetypal psychology is concerned with fantasy, myth, and image, it is not surprising that dreams are considered to be significant in relation to soul and soul-making. Hillman does not believe that dreams are simply random residue or flotsam from waking life (as advanced by physiologists), but neither does he believe that dreams are compensatory for the struggles of waking life, or are invested with “secret” meanings of how one should live (a la Jung). Rather, “dreams tell us where we are, not what to do” (1979). Therefore, Hillman is against the traditional interpretive methods of dream analysis. Hillman’s approach is phenomenological rather than analytic (which breaks the dream down into its constituent parts) and interpretive/hermeneutic (which may make a dream image “something other” than what it appears to be in the dream). His famous dictum with regard to dream content and process is “Stick with the image.”
For example, Hillman (1983) discusses a patient's dream about a huge black snake. The dream work would include "keeping the snake" and describing it rather than making it something other than a snake, such as a symbol of the penis. Hillman notes that "...the moment you've defined the snake, interpreted it, you've lost the snake, you've stopped it and the person leaves the hour with a concept about my repressed sexuality or my cold black passions" (p. 53). One would inquire more about the snake as it is presented in the dream and by the psyche. The snake is huge and black, but what else? Is it molting or shedding its skin? Is it sunning itself on a rock? Is it digesting its prey? This descriptive strategy keeps the image alive, in Hillman's opinion, and offers the possibility for understanding the psyche.
The Soul's Code
His book The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling outlines what he calls the acorn theory of the soul. This theory states that each individual holds the potential for their unique possibilites inside themselves already, much as an acorn holds the pattern for an oak, invisible within itself. It argues against the parental fallacy whereby our parents are seen as crucial in determining who we are by supplying us with genetic material and behavioral patterns. Instead the book suggests for a reconnection with what is invisible within us, our daimon or soul or acorn and its calling to the wider world of nature. It argues against theories which attempt to map life into phases, suggesting that this is counter-productive and makes people feel like they are failing to live up to what is normal. This in turn produces a truncated, normalized society of soulless mediocrity where evil is not allowed but injustice is everywhere—a society that cannot tolerate eccentricity or the further reaches of life experiences but sees them as illnesses to be medicated out of existence.
In this way Hillman diverges from Jung and his idea of the Self. Hillman sees this as too prescriptive and argues against the idea of life-maps by which to try and grow properly.
Instead, Hillman suggests a reappraisal for each individual of their own childhood and present life to try and find their particular calling, the seed of their own acorn. He has written that he is to help precipitate a re-souling of the world in the space between rationality and psychology. He replaces the notion of growing up, with the myth of growing down from the womb into a messy, confusing earthy world. Hillman rejects formal logic in favour of reference to case histories of well known people and considers his arguments to be in line with the puer eternis or eternal youth whose brief burning existence could be seen in the work of romantic poets like Keats and Byron and in recently deceased young rock stars like Tim Buckley or Kurt Cobain. Hillman also rejects causality as a defining framework and suggests in its place a shifting form of fate whereby events are not inevitable but bound to be expressed in some way dependent on the character of the soul in question.
- A Terrible Love of War (2004)
- The Force of Character (2000)
- The Soul's Code: On Character and Calling (1997)
- Kinds of Power: A Guide to its Intelligent Uses (1995)
- Healing Fiction (1994)
- We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy (and the World's Getting Worse) (with Michael Ventura) (1993)
- The Thought the Heart and the Soul of the World (1992)
- Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion (1985)
- Inter Views (with Laura Pozzo) (1983)
- The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology (1983a)
- The Dream and the Underworld (1979)
- Re-Visioning Psychology (1975)
- Loose Ends: Primary Papers in Archetypal Psychology (1975a)
- Pan and the Nightmare (1972)
- Suicide and the Soul (1964)
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