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On Soul, Character and Calling: An Interview with James Hillman
May 17, 2002 3:03 AM   Subscribe

On Soul, Character and Calling: An Interview with James Hillman Therapy, or analysis, is not only something that analysts do to patients; it is a process that goes on intermittently in our individual soul-searching, our attempts at understanding our complexities, the critical attacks, prescriptions, and encouragements we give ourselves. We are all in therapy all the time insofar as we are involved in soul-making.
And here is a link to all things James Hillman. Having just picked up a copy of The Soul's Code, I thought I'd post something about Hillman here. Here's yet another interview. See what you think.
posted by y2karl (6 comments total)

 
Thanks, y2karl. Interesting guy - I like his ambitious sensitivity, though his holism is exculpatory. I got the feeling this was "It's society's fault" turned into theory or ideological re-training to make one accept one's apparent failings. This must get good results in actual one-on-one therapy but, as he acknowledges himself, it's difficult to present collectively.

I don't know why but he reminded me of Terry Eagleton's literary criticism. He's a Marxist and his general theorizing is a bit wooden and predictable but when he bears down on a specific text or author he unfailingly illuminates it in the most useful and surprising way.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:37 AM on May 17, 2002


Is this the same James Hillman who wrote We've Had 100 Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse? I really enjoyed that book. This one has too neat an answer for me as far as I can tell, though it may be a useful illusion. I do agree that we've got too caught up in economics as a life goal and the joy of living is brushed under the carpet. We think in utilitarian terms but forget that in the end none of it matters if we don't enjoy being alive. Some people do find joy in "having" to work, in feeling useful in that sense, but others are squashed by that and would love the free time to pursue projects.

I know a pair of brothers who both came into a lot of money; one of them is depressive and spends all his time watching tv and reading genre fiction; the other took time off to take graphic design classes and hunted around until he found a perfect job at a magazine he likes. For one the money was freedom, but for the other it's like a prison. He doesn't have to work so he sees no reason to, but then he just sits around the house all day, bored and lonely.

So I guess the moral of that story is, there's a different answer for everyone - which sounds close to what Hillman was getting at.
posted by mdn at 8:10 AM on May 17, 2002


Yes, I believe it is the same Hillman.

I'm trying to slog my way through We've Had 100 Years . . . right now, but keep getting bogged down by the pseudo-serious bullshit that both he and the co-author spew.

It probably doesn't help that I've never been in therapy and so all of the stuff about the central role that therapists play in many people's lives rings hollow for me.

I'm not saying it isn't true, but I just can't relate.
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2002


And I also find his claim that psychotherapy is to blame for our deadened political cutlure and worsening environment to be silly. (But he would probably disagree)
posted by obfusciatrist at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2002


I don't know about this post, Miguel, I threw it up on a whim--the second interview linked, where he rants on politics is dated and hardly representative of what I like about Hillman, not that I necessarily disagree with much of what he says. Ian interview I found--but lost again--he speaks of a politics that cover elements of right, left and Up. I am very much in favor of the politics of up.

When he talks about dreams, the soul, Heraclitus or the Dream of Er, then my ears prick up. I've read his books, and he's that rare thing amog psychologists in that he can write.

What he writes appeals to me at times because it is difficult, does not reduce to a soundbite, and I really really wish I'd linked to better places with him.

I have a love-hate relationship with things new age and spiritual, on one hand, sneering at things like the cult of Joseph Campbell and all the airy fairy excesses I hear and read, and, on the other hand, sharing the same hunger for finding a deeper meaning in the world, which comes, I guess, from being a life long lost soul myself.

Here are Christine Nordman's notes from a Hillman lecture.

It's funny, though, I got a link from a lurker to this guy Ken Wilber, which I will pursue later. Here's an interview, an essay about his work Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution . He's a bit too systematic for my tastes but I'm grateful for the links.

Which is why I came here, in the first place, for links to things new, new ideas, so there's still some value in this failed post for me.
posted by y2karl at 10:32 AM on May 17, 2002


"It's Plato's myth that you come into the world with a destiny"

I kept reading, "with a density" instead of destiny. Then I realized that it was because I think that. Coming into the world with a destiny implies predestination, which rings false to me. Individual density is just about loose enough to mean something. I also symphatize with his accusation of psychiatry's role as social valuator. Yet, his lack of framing his arguments into their proper locus leaves me uninspired. Interesting link though. Thanks for it.
posted by semmi at 8:43 PM on May 19, 2002


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