Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the footsteps of James Hillman 4

Hillman's opening sentence in his extraordinary book The Soul's Code is a truism to say the least: "There is more in a human life than our theories of it allow." (p. 3)  One cannot but agree with him, and see that there is much in this sentiment that agrees with the more existentialist approch to psychotherapy which we have discussed in these pages a while back.  He launches into his myth of the acorn immediately.  Those of us brought up as Roman Catholics have always been taught that each of us has a vocation or calling in life.  Obviously priesthood, religious life, nursing and teaching were traditionally seen to be the real vocations in life - in other words these professions were more than mere jobs, they were sheer commitments to a way of life and a way of being.

Now, here in a non-religious but very spiritual sense we have a psychologist/philosopher proposing his own unique sui generis take on what vocation is through the myth of the acorn.  This book is all about this sense of fate in the sense of a calling, what each of us is uniquely cut out to be.  He proposes his theory of the acorn as "the redemption of psychology" which is a grand proposal to say the least. 

Hillman makes the interesting point that we are "less damaged by the trauma of childhood than by the traumatic way we remember childhood." (Ibid., p. 4)  He suggests we can repair all the damage caused by this faulty remembering by learning to become aware of what our real nature is, what our real calling is.

Terms Hillman uses for is sense of Calling:

Rather than summarising the chapter I'll bullet the terms he uses for his myth of the acorn in the first chapter.  We are born with each of the following:
  • sense of fate (p. 3)
  • calling (p. 3)
  • vocation (p. 3)
  • destiny and meaning (p. 4)
  • acorn (passim)
  • destiny is written into the acorn (p. 5)
  • the plot of one's story (p. 5)
  • more than nature (genes) and nurture (rearing) - it's about myth and mystery  (p. 6)
  • character (p. 6)
  • innate image (p. 6)
  • "I don't develop, I am" - Picasso (p. 7)
  • Plato's myth of Er, the soul is companion = the daimon (p. 8)
  • daimon (Gk) = genius (Latin) = guardian angel (Christian) = genie = jinn (p. 9)
  • a call that comes from the heart - English Romantic poets, especially Keats.  (p. 9)
  • Neoplatonists referred to an imaginal body, the ochema, which carried you like a vehicle. (p. 9)
  • Lady Luck or Fortuna (p. 9)
  • Egypt, it was the ka or ba with whom one could converse. (p. 9)
  • For the Eskimos, and others who follow Shamanistic practices, it is your spirit, your free-soul, your animal-soul or your breath-soul.  (p. 9)
  • Ethnologist Ake Hultkrantz: "the soul originates in an image," and is "conceived in the form of an image." (Quoted, ibid., p. 9)
  • Spark of uniqueness = inspiration (p. 11)
  • Guiding providence (p. 12)
  • motivation = "the oakness of the acorn." (p. 27)
  • A genius belongs to everyone (p. 29)
  • enchantement = romantic enthusiasm = imagination and poetry and story (p. 32)
  • importance of beauty (p. 35)
  • beauty redeems psychology (p. 37)

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