The founder of archetypal psychology discusses Jung and Freud
by Cliff Bostock
(Originally published in the "Paradigms" column of
Loafing, Atlanta, Apr. 4, 1998)
Regular readers of this column know that I am a doctoral
student in depth psychology
Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. The school was founded to amplify
the work of mythologist
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
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
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
On Richard Noll, therapy and the image
by Cliff Bostock
(Originally published in the "Paradigms" column of
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Archetypal Advice |