Remembering the brilliant, cantankerous, imperfect James Hillman

I've written a pretty lengthy post on my personal blog, Sacred Disorder (linked below), about my struggle with James Hillman's work and my encounters with him during my years at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Here's the opening:


James Hillman, whose work I have long regarded as my  intellectual mentor, died Thursday, Oct. 27. The New York Times published his obituary with this opening paragraph:

James Hillman, a charismatic therapist and best-selling author whose theories about the psyche helped revive interest in the ideas of Carl Jung, animating the so-called men’s movement in the 1990s and stirring the pop-cultural air, died on Thursday at his home in Thompson, Conn. He was 85.

Thankfully, the obituary by a Times science writer doesn't continue to depict Hillman in such a pop-cultural way. Hillman called himself a "therapist of ideas" and I can see him recoiling and probably exploding on reading this.

Hillman was cantankerous, something about him that made me nervous when I was around him. In fact, I wrote an essay, both admiring and critical, about him in 2002 that begins with an account of his eruption when he came to Atlanta on a book tour in 2002.You can read my essay here.

I first discovered Hillman and his "post-Jungian" Archetypal Psychology after taking a class in Jungian psychology during my MA program. I read his revolutionary book, Revisioning Psychology, which is a critique of the medicalized perspective that has come to dominate psychology.

The book is based on a series of lectures he gave at Yale in 1972 which, as I recall reading, outraged many because of its attempt to return to the conceptualization of psychology as soul-based. In the book, he writes about the multiplicity of the psyche, represented in the pantheon of the Greek gods. He advocates the abandonment of notions of cure. "The wound is the eye," he would later say. Revisioning is one of 20-odd books Hillman wrote, along with countless journal essays.

(Please continue reading on my blog, Sacred Disorder.)


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