It seemed, on that spring evening so long ago, as if I were seeing through a gossamer, invisible, curtain whose sole purpose was meant to protect the towering, birdlike, human figure standing alone on that empty, well-lit stage. With the help of Mnemosyne, the Greek personification of remembrance I am guided back there now. Again, I re-experience the sense of distance and faraway perspective that embraced the tall, gazelle-like figure, all tweeded-up in suit and tie, looking ever so academic, ever so professorial...then.
It wasn’t long, before unfamiliar, strange sounding terms issued forth from his professorial mouth, specific, air-bound and with destinations all their own. Were they word-angels, destined like butterflies, to land only upon those fortunate few who might catch and comprehend their mysterious message, and/or angelic essence?
The year was 1979, thirty-four years ago, the month May, the place, an elementary school auditorium in Beverly Hills, California. The man, was soul-dier James Hillman. Then, terms like psyche, soul, incest wound, gods, anima/animus, archetype seemed to me to be incomprehensible foreign invaders into the heart and life of myself, a then much younger woman whose main struggle was how to get out of a stultifying job and into graduate school.
This past Sunday, on another day in the month of May in the year 2013, I was given and granted close to another three hours of grace when attending a gathering in honor of that same treasured man, now the late James Hillman.
There, in the classic, darkened, wood and stone hallowed halls, and triple-rowed candle lit stage of The New York Society for Ethical Culture, Hillman’s life, his thought, and his art, were brilliantly, poignantly, humorously, creatively, musically honored and memorialized. If given a choice, would “the thought,” in our own hearts ever have chosen to include attendance at such a sadly, beautiful event? Of course not.
We soldiered on, there on that gorgeous Sunday afternoon, backed by the inevitably of our shared human fate, offering the many spoken, sung, danced, played, and read tributes that were, as might be expected, all soulfully brilliant. Were the musical pieces, poetry, performances, testaments of love, friendship and family readings poignant beyond belief? Were the photos of family, along with the personal and professional pics of James from birth up to and including just hours before his day of death moving in ways that for me and I’m sure for others, enough to leave eons of imprints upon our souls? Of course they were. And lastly, wasn’t the footage of James tap-dancing brilliant? And I do mean brilliant. His seemingly effortless moves laced with sprinkles of humor, joy, animation and grace, were the most incredible mix of pure spirit and soul I’ve ever seen.
It seems that in revisiting and recounting this treasured event that I’ve indeed saved the best for last. A huge expression of gratitude must go to Margot McClean-Hillman. Margot, has the uncanny ability to morph between decades. At times I imagine her as a member of European Danish aristocracy. Or, then, I’ll recognize in her a sturdy, non-complaining woman of the old west, survivor of the thirties depression, high–end thrift shopper, or stunning, ethereal, fashion model from the sixties, and on and on. No matter where, how, or in what form her outer image appears, the inside Margot is and lives the life of a caring, brilliantly talented artist, genuine humanitarian, saver and lover of animals, earth and souls .
My/our thanks to you Margot, for being such a remarkably, talented, human being , and the perfect loving, caring, and “last ” when “the life is read backwards” mate, for James Hillman. I think I speak for everyone when I say that it does “the thought of ” our hearts good to know that Hillman spent his last “few precious days” still so terribly in love, “with you.”
It’s my hunch that James Hillman would be very pleased to know of the continued existence of a community forum such as the now world wide Depth Psychology Alliance has been and is for those in need of continued connection with like-minded and soul searching others.
And, thank you to Bonnie Bright for providing a forum in which this particular kind of statement of gratitude could be made.
James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart
Eranos Foundation, Ascona, Switzerland, 1981,
James Hillman, The Soul’s Code , New York, N.Y. 1996
Music Kurt Weil
Lyrics Maxwell Anderson
Hillman’s Favorite by
Hi Judith - what a lovely personalized tribute you have posted, shared with us that has left me in awe. Regards Linda
Thank you so much Linda for writing to me. It means a lot. I wish you all could've been there. It would've meant so much to JH as, I'm sure this alliance does. Somehow his spirit has always seemed to be here with us at the DPA, as it personifies the depth, breadth and openness of soul that James Hillman so loved. At least that is how I would characterize him. All the best. Judie
Judie: Thank you so much for sharing this remarkable memoir. For all of us who were unable to attend the official tribute for Hillman, you have truly delivered his spirit to us here and it will live on in our hearts and in the heart of the depth community.