How The Soul is Sold – excerpt

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What was breaking through was that he no longer could accept what he saw as the smug assumption that he, or anyone else, could cure people. He also believed that since Jung’s death in 1961 his disciples had stopped thinking for themselves and were turning Jung’s work into a religion. Hillman’s answer for his crisis was an old one. It was the guiding principle behind the Renaissance and the Romantics: a return to Greece. As with all things Hillman, not a literal return but a return of the imagination. He began a serious study of Greek mythology, and found in those endlessly strange, profoundly imaginative stories, a way to reconnect to psychology.

Jung too was intrigued with polytheism, but for Hillman it became the organizing principle of the psyche. In a real break from Jung, he turned away from what was the accepted essence of mental health: a wholeness of personality, individuation. Instead he wanted to take the heroic self off its pedestal. As Moore explains in “A Blue Fire,” “Hillman’s psychological polytheism does not portray a life of chaos but one of many elements rising and falling . . . ” Hillman calls the school he founded (though he rejects the word founder as too heroic) archetypal psychology.

Hillman realized that in order to resume his vocation, he had to re-imagine it. He stopped seeing himself as a doctor curing people and envisioned himself as being in a sculpture studio, working with his patients on the contours of their psyches. In 1970 he started a journal devoted to archetypal psychology and a publishing company, both named Spring, which continue to this day and out of which have come some 70 books by himself and others.

Today Hillman stands at a peculiar angle to the Jungian world. He has both extended the work of Jung and broken with it. He is so controversial a figure in that universe that when I call some analysts for comment on him, they virtually hang up on me. Others both praise and criticize him for the same thing: They say he can be so brilliant that he neglects to come down to earth and deal with real people.

You can find the full article here.

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  • Matt Meiselman