November 18, 2005

We are all in therapy all the time

"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." - James Hillman, Re-visioning Psychology
James Hillman's Archetypal Psychology is inspired by Carl Jung, yet Hillman, in the spirit of Jung himself, moves beyond him to develop a rich, complex, and poetic basis for a psychology of psyche as "soul." Hillman's writings are of the most innovative, provocative and insightful of any psychologist this century, including Freud himself. What makes Hillman's work so important is its emphasis on psychology as a way of seeing, a way of imaging, a way of envisioning being human. His work is truly originary and involves a radical "re-visioning" of psychology as a human science. Hillman's roots are mostly classical, but in the service of retrieving what has been lost to psychology and, thus, in the service of psychology's future disclosure of "psyche" or "soul."
Soul-making is a method, a way of seeing, and this cannot be forgotten. Hillman's roots include Renaissance Humanism, the early Greeks, existentialism and phenomenology. His thought is rhetorical in the best sense of the word; thus, imaginative, literary, poetic, metaphorical, ingenius, and persuasive. If nothing else, one cannot read Hillman without being moved. Hillman's work is "soul-making" and, in this sense, psychological (the "logos" of the "psyche") in the truest sense of the word. Hillman listens to the saying of the soul, and it speaks in his writing through him. Of Hillman's use of the term "soul," Thomas Moore writes:
"Hillman likes the word for a number of reasons. It eludes reductionistic definition: it expresses the mystery of human life; and it connects psychology to religion, love, death, and destiny. It suggests depth, and Hillman sees himself directly in the line of depth psychology, going all the way back to Heraclitus, who observed that one could never discover the extent of the soul, no matter how many paths one traveled, so profound in its nature. Whenever Hillman uses the forms psychology, psychologizing, and psychological, he intends a reference to depth and mystery."
For Hillman, "soul" is about multiplicity and ambiguity, and about being polytheistic; it belongs to the night-world of dreams where the lines across the phenomenal field are not so clearly drawn. Soul pathologizes: "it gets us into trouble," as Moore writes, "it interferes with the smooth running of life, it obstructs attempts to understand, and it seems to make relationships impossible." While spirit seeks unity and harmony, soul is in the vales, the depths. In his magnum opus, Re-Visioning Psychology, Hillman writes of "soul":
"By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment -- and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground. It is as if consciousness rests upon a self-sustaining and imagining substrate -- an inner place or deeper person or ongoing presence -- that is simply there even when all our subjectivity, ego, and consciousness go into eclipse. Soul appears as a factor independent of the events in which we are immersed. Though I cannot identify soul with anything else, I also can never grasp it apart from other things, perhaps because it is like a reflection in a flowing mirror, or like the moon which mediates only borrowed light. But just this peculiar and paradoxical intervening variable gives on the sense of having or being soul. However intangible and indefinable it is, soul carries highest importance in hierarchies of human values, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even of divinity.
In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggest that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance of soul makes possible, whether in love or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, fantasy -- that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical." James Hillman Web Site

1 comment:

  1. Thomas Moore studied with Hillman and edited his collection A Blue Fire. Check out Barque: Thomas Moore at for information about Moore's work.