James Hillman:
The founder of archetypal psychology discusses Jung and Freud

by Cliff Bostock
(Originally published in the "Paradigms" column of Creative Loafing, Atlanta, Apr. 4, 1998)

Regular readers of this column know that I am a doctoral student in depth psychology atPacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. The school was founded to amplify the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology. Campbell's library is housed at Pacifica, as are Hillman's papers.

Hillman was director of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich for years but has long described himself as a "renegade Jungian." His archetypal psychology departs from some of the more dogmatic aspects of Jungian theory and establishes an aesthetic base for psychology. But his main contribution in the last 10 years or so has been to rescue psychology from the exclusive ownership of the therapy room. (Both Freud and Jung never intended psychology to be limited to therapeutic practice.) Thus Hillman has become one of America's most pointed critics of culture and psychotherapy.

Hillman, in his 70s, does his only teaching now at Pacifica. Every spring, he comes to Santa Barbara to conduct a seminar -- this year's on aging -- and then to teach classes. The radiance of Hillman's mind typically exhausts students within a few hours. He has a reputation as a curmudgeon and has no tolerance for what he regards as irrelevant or stupid. Thus, asking him a question is always partially an invitation to be eviscerated publicly.

However, I found him in exceptionally good humor when he visited Pacifica two weeks ago. Following are excerpts from some of his comments during one of my classes -- "Re-membering Jungian Psychology." As you'd expect, Hillman teaches almost entirely by the Socratic method. The questions posed here are either by me or my classmates:

What is the big difference between Freud and Jung for you?

The important difference for me is that Freud was a critical thinker and Jung was an organic thinker. This is a matter of typology that is not appreciated much today. Mainly, people assume that the critical thinker is the valid thinker, so Jung has been dismissed by academics while Freud, although he's come under all kinds of criticism himself, is celebrated. ...

If you are purely a critical thinker, you're going to ignore an awful lot about human existence. You're going to dismiss a lot. Thus Freud was an atheist and Jung, with a fascinated organic mind, explored stuff we still think of as completely weird: the I-Ching, astrology, alchemy, flying saucers. This was in addition to all his work as a psychologist coming out of the same tradition as Freud. He was able to see through these things to their meaning. Freud, as a strictly critical thinker, could not see through them. ...

My own problem is that I'm a highly critical thinker but I am not nourished by purely critical thinking. I read British and French philosophy and it's just not my cup of tea. It doesn't nourish me in the way the Greeks do. ... I do think it's important to understand though that Jung and Freud did have similar backgrounds. They both had enormously rich, huge backgrounds in classical studies. They were engaged in the study of romantic philosophy, they read Goethe. I always used to tell students in Zurich, if you want to study Jung, don't read Jung, read the books he read. You see, this is completely lost in psychology today. Nobody reads literature and philosophy. They just read psychology. ...

The consequences of an overemphasis on the critical thinking function are pretty obvious. But what happens when there isn't enough emphasis on that?

Of course, that's exactly what has happened to many Jungians. They've lost the capacity or willingness to think very critically. I don't know. They just read fairy tales. Everything is so damn internal! You especially see this in the way popular culture has come to understand Jung. Everything is literalized. Everything's about my internal life. The whole point of Jung's approach is to give free rein to thought, to give the freedom to investigate the different aspects of phenomena. ...

But then there's a reaction to that within the Jungian community too ...

Absolutely! We now have the London School, which is attempting to bring object relations theory, Kleinian theory, to Jungian theory -- an effort to make it more critical. The problem is that this sacrifices Jung's gift: the cultural perspective. It puts it deeper into the therapy room. Jung was running around the world talking to Africans and Indians. I just can't emphasize enough how much Jung -- and Freud -- were looking at culture. Jung said psyche is in the world, not inside ourselves. There's that constantly repeated criticism he made that in modern life, the gods -- the voices of the world's psyche -- became diseases. ...

What do you mean? Surely you don't mean that the gods are real. Aren't they projections of our own psyches? They are inside us, aren't they?

Let's look at this idea of "inside." Where is inside?

I mean inside my skin, inside my experience, my body, my mind.

OK, well show me where the gods live inside you.

I'd say they are here, in my solar plexus.

Well, tell me something. How the hell did the gods get inside your tummy?

I don't know. I just ...

I hope you get my point. To say the gods are inside your tummy -- or your brain for that matter -- is pretty amazing. This whole idea of "inside" and "projection" is suspicious. Jung knew this. Psyche is in the world. So, the gods are in the world. We are in the world.

We are in the gods?

You could say that. But the way we have banished the gods from consciousness has made what they represented diseases. This is why I have an irresistible urge to attack Christianity whenever I write. Christianity insisted on one god, one voice and everything else is a sin or a disease. The erotic, the Dionysian -- all banished to the shadow. I think we all well know the effects of this.

James Hillman:
On Richard Noll, therapy and the image

by Cliff Bostock
(Originally published in the "Paradigms" column of Creative Loafing, Atlanta, Apr. 11, 1998)

This week's column is a continuation of last week's excerpts from James Hillman's recent comments to my class at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Hillman, author of last year's best-selling The Soul's Code and countless scholarly works before that, is the main thinker of archetypal psychology -- a psychology based on soul and aesthetics. It attempts to address the collective cultural psyche instead of limiting inquiry to the personal psyche. It does not seek "cures" but a kind of resolution whose best metaphor, as Hillman says below, may be a coming to rest.

Most of the questions printed this week were posed by me, although some are by other students. Last week, Hillman talked about the lack of critical thinking he often encounters in the Jungian community. We resume this week with some questions in that vein:

I understand that you favor Jung over Freud because, as you say, you are nurtured more by "organic" than "critical" thinking. You also say, though, that there is insufficient critical thinking in much of the Jungian community. I'm curious to know what you think of Richard Noll's books, The Aryan Christ and The Jung Cult.

I hate them. I think he's a shit.

Um, that's a pretty strong statement.

Well, I think the books are mean-spirited. Noll was rejected by the Jung community and this is revenge.

But your own journal, Spring published him.

I never published him. That was the editor's decision. ... It is very unfortunate because it gives the impression that I agree with him, that Spring agrees with him. I don't. Noll takes literally what is meant to be metaphorical. If we are talking typology, he is only a critical thinker.

I agree that Noll's criticism of Jung's theories is often embarrassingly superficial. He has an almost mysterious compulsion to literalize everything. But I do find the way he historically contextualizes Jung's work valuable. He's also brought to light some information that wasn't available before. I think it's important that someone take Jung on.

I'm not so sure about the new information. But you don't have to literalize everything if you have a critical mind. That's my own struggle. ... I agree that Jung needs to be looked at critically but I still think Noll is no good, or not the person to be doing it.

I'm thinking about what you said earlier, that there hasn't been enough critical thinking in the Jung community. I'm wondering if the extremity of that position among the Jung orthodoxy hasn't constellated its radical opposite. Could Noll be the personification of that?

I would entirely agree with that. ... I'm considered a rebel myself so I know how this works, but, again, I don't think the need for a critical analysis in itself means that Noll's is accurate.

I'm curious to know what you think of David Tacey's book, Remaking Men. It's what I'd consider a well-reasoned critique of Jungian orthodoxy that remains completely faithful to Jung's spirit. It also includes a chapter about your analysis of Tacey.

Really? No, I haven't read it. Now, talk about a savagely critical mind, David Tacey certainly has one.

He actually remains loyal to you but he is highly critical of your participation in the mythopoetic men's movement -- with Robert Bly, Michael Meade ...

I know, I know. Many people are. Frankly, I think a lot of people are just jealous that Bly and Meade and I have written best sellers. We end up getting attacked pretty savagely.

I have a question. I'm afraid it's going to seem like a stupid question.

Then perhaps you should think twice about asking it.

No, I've wanted to ask this for a long time. Your famous dictum, of course, is to "follow the image." You talk about psychology as an aesthetic principle. Instead of analyzing the meaning of an image, you say to "follow the image itself." I have never understood exactly how this is therapeutic or what resolution means in this approach. Ultimately, what does it matter, what story we bring to the image? I recently wrote a paper in which I compared Lacan's, Jung's, Freud's and your own orientation to the so-called Oedipus Complex. I turned this image, this myth, in my head so completely, I ended up feeling dizzy.

I am talking about a kind of deconstruction of the image. We turn it until it comes to rest.

Well, how do you know when it has come to rest? I didn't feel that with my paper.

You simply sense it and you learn it. How does a painter know when the painting is done? Half of being a good painter is knowing when there's enough on the canvas. You learn to sense when something is complete. The feeling of completion, of coming to rest, is the point. I think motion is a good metaphor for psychology.

You used the word "deconstruction." It surprises me that you would use it, since it's a relativizing process, postmodern ...

Oh, you're bringing up the question of essentialism.

Well, yes. Deconstruction assumes you can't know a thing's origins ...

Have you ever heard me have any interest in origins?

Actually no, of course not. But I mean "origins" in the sense of the archetypes.

OK, that's at the heart of my difference with Jung. I don't use that word as a noun. That's why it's "archetypal" psychology. I am talking about action, a movement, a process -- not about a set of fixed principles. The origins matter nothing to me. Think of what a different world this would be if we weren't trying to learn the origins of the universe. Can you imagine a more ridiculous undertaking?

You don't like the word "hope" much.

Hope is an evil. It was the one evil left in the box when Pandora snapped the lid back shut. Hope is about the unknown future. It's like the promise of salvation in the afterlife.

So you're a pessimist?

Not in the least. In fact, I think I'm quite the optimist. I just think we should pay attention to what is here right now. It's this hope thing that has gotten the planet into such a mess. If we paid attention to what was true right now, instead of what we hoped would be true in the future, the world would look very different. ... I'm thinking about something I said at the lectures I gave on aging last week. You experience this thing growing old of having your prostate enlarge and you have to get up in the middle of the night several times to go to the bathroom. Well, you can call this hopeless or you can say you "hope" it will get better. What I prefer to say is that in old age, I "wake up to the night." Do you see? This is a metaphorical reading of it. I think it's optimistic. It takes care of the problem and gives my experience meaning. But it's not a hopeful position.

Copyright 1998 by Creative Loafing | Published Apr. 4/11, 1998

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