It has been a sad time since we learned that James Hillman passed on October 27, 2011. He was a giant in the post-Jungian world who touched many with his life and his work. We have decided to dedicate an issue, or two, in his memory this season. Those who wish to contribute to this volume in our newsletter may want to share their insights, inspirations or memories with us by writing to the editor. The length and nature of your offering will vary as befitting Hillman’s own style of preferring the diverse over the uniform. We are looking for anything that may have touched your soul. In the meantime you can check out Thomas Moore’s tribute to James Hillman at A tribute from the Pacifica Graduate Institute staff can be found at


Our last newsletter of the season has been dedicated largely to James Hillman. We have added the contents of this newsletter to our website.

Re-Visioning James Hillman

We all know that the geniuses of the world have a plethora of interests and abilities (some rather odd), any one of which could lead them to a particular occupation. As an example, Leonardo da Vinci springs to mind, who occupied himself not only as a painter, but as a scientist, inventor, philosopher, military strategist, and so on. And we all know that James Hillman is a genius, acknowledged even by those who find this genius maddening, frustrating, and far superior to their own. But in celebrating the life of such a man, we might pause to consider our great good fortune that he followed his daimon and occupied himself as he did, instead of doing something else. Which brings up thoughts of what-might-have-been, and what-might-have-been-lost.
         When you think of all the subjects about which James has written, spoken, joked, theorized, or fantasized, the occupational possibilities that might have seduced him are countless. He might have been an architect, if he’d been more interested in measurement with compass and ruler than with the precision of image and language. He might have been a historian if he had been more interested in using ancient texts as primary sources rather than as interpretations themselves of the primary source of the imagination. He might have been a theologian, but that would have limited his psychological faith and his pleasure in playing in the garden of the untheologized gods. Lucky for us, he was incapable of any kind of orthodoxy.
         James Hillman could have been a circus ringmaster, top hat and tails, Luciferian grin directing three rings simultaneously, enjoying the dog and pony show. But he didn’t have the patience for the repetition of rote performance, the fluffed cotton candiness of thoughtless spectacle, or the forced domestication of wild animals.  He could have had a stunning career as a politician or an intinerant
seller of snake oil, since he was on intimate terms with Aphrodite Peitho, the lovely goddess of rhetoric, but he preferred to give oratorical voice to psyche’s shifting, hermetic, elusive reality. He might have been a painter and shown his vision to the world, but he preferred that the world see the art of the imagination.
         James Hillman might have been a novelist, having a gift for written language, or a poet, having a gift of lyrical metaphor, but he preferred to be a wildcat raconteur, telling stories of psychic life. Instead of constructing plots and inventing characters for novels, he took the psychic figures of fantasy and told their stories as if they were novel characters.
          He could have been a dancer like Fred Astaire, his lanky long-boned body happy to do a more-than-passable soft-shoe routine, fedora or top hat and all, but he wished to dance like Gene Kelly, athletically leaping across vast stages, an eternal American in technicolor Paris. And he actually made such leaps in the theater of the mind, a ballet of elegant psychic moves.
          Perhaps James Hillman’s most successful alternative career would have been as a bet runner for bookies, for this was the occupation that he actually did pursue for practical purposes: it was how he earned some of his college tuition. Bookmaking at that time was an illegal activity, so it certainly suited his penchant for unorthodox approaches to dealing with necessities, psychic or otherwise. He was either honest enough or scared enough not to run off with the customers’ bet money and get himself killed on a hit contract. But the tension and danger must have taken its toll, for all his life he was never known to wager more than $2 to show on any horse, and then only once a year. Here is a remarkably risk-averse conservative side of James, an aspect that most people would never guess at since he is usually perceived as an iconoclast, a rebel, a reckless (and/or fearless) puer. But most people have never been bet runners during the Golden Age of Illegal Bookmaking. And, as it turned out, the senex who was also James Hillman made books of his own, full of profound and original ideas, and, at least for the moment, they are still legal.
     How fortunate for all of us, for the world, that James Hillman pursued none of these possibilities in his passage through lifenot architect, not historian, not ringmaster, not dancer, not bookie. What immeasurable gain that he turned his renaissance mind and indefatigable spirit to Psyche, and thereby leaves his marvelous, permanent, non-carbon giant footprint on the imaginal landscape of the soul.

                                                                                            Lyn Cowan

Lyn Cowan is a Jungian analyst practicing in Eagan, Minnesota. She is the author of Tracking the White Rabbit: A Subversive View of Modern Culture, Masochism: A Jungian View, and Portrait of the Blue Lady: The Character of Melancholy. She knew James Hillman since the 1970’s.


One thesis of James Hillman’s Kinds of Power suggests that instead of focusing on the more dramatic, elaborate and heroic goals of our lives, we instead improve our janitorial skills and become good concierges, and sweep up the difficult details of our own lives. 
    Hillman suggested that it is the more humble values of personal maintenance, the removal the sharp pebbles in our own shoes that far exceeds mountaintop heroics.
    I liked that idea and have always remembered his sage advice.

                                                                            Eleanor Cowan, Wemindji, QC

Eleanor Cowan is a retired teacher who has worked in native communities in Northern Québec for the past several years.


Minority Psychology: 

Homage to James Hillman

An obituary posted at refers to «a recent newspaper profile [that] called James Hillman “the wisest man you’ve probably never heard of.”» Why is that? Why do many people who have studied his work hold this man and his ideas in such reverence, while so many others, knowledgeable in psychology, don’t even know who he was? According to many who value his contributions, the answer is that he was the greatest American psychologist since William James but somehow suffered the fate of the ignored or overlooked genius. Though history will have the final say about his place in the evolution of psychological thought, I don’t think that superlatives will help us understand this paradox. I believe the answer lies elsewhere.
        As a psychologist, someone who cared for soul, he recognized the usual forebears – Freud, Jung, Adler – but also some unusual ones such as Corbin, Keats, Bruno, Ficino, Plotinus, Aristotle, Plato and Heraclitus.  He proclaimed that the father of psychology was none other than the Greek god Eros. Odd company for the average psychologist trying to deal with the somewhat prosaic problems of patients.
        Perhaps both the reverence and the anonymity derive from the same source: Hillman's psychology is a minority psychology. Not in any elitist sense, for sure; he was too much of a democrat for that. But perhaps he appeals only to a minority of people. Why? First of all, he was a writer who became a practitioner, and not the other way around, as is usually the case. One might even say a fiction writer. His subject matter was neither precisely definable concepts nor a how-to method, but ideas – ideas made real and immediate and sensuous, ideas with a face and a body, autonomous ideas with consistency, authority and a history of their own,  ideas of soul and the multiplicity of its essences. He most often called them images. 
        But to those of us – a minority? – who cared to follow in his wake, he taught that images are more fertile than symbols, that imagination is the reality of the unconscious, and that dreams initiate the ego into an underworld of mystery. He suggested that image sense is more important than the meaning of images, that certainty (certum) is truer to soul than truth (verum), that aesthetics are as important as ethics, perhaps even central to them, that the heart thinks, and that you can find interiority in appearance and display. He showed us how the world is ensouled, animated, and gave weight, evidence, and specificity to Jung’s statement that soul is not in us, but that we are in soul.
         He wrote and spoke about mythology and the gods, yet seldom the major gods. Rather the minor ones, the neglected or invisible gods, the chthonic demigods and other mythological figures who people the underworld. He toiled to redeem such outmoded notions as paganism and fate, and even the devalued one of mediocrity. He valued pathology, the deformed, the ugly, the monstrous for what they carry and bring forth. He showed how even the simplest, minor image in a dream can aspire to archetypal status when invested with value by way of active imagination.
        Most significantly, he almost singlehandedly pushed and pulled psychology southwards, up and over the Alps, back to the Mediterranean soil that had begotten it. But let us be wary of the vista that opens before us lest we think that all that is left to do is to relax and enjoy the view while coasting into the sun filled paysage. Southern Europe is not Southern California, and we must not forget that the ground of this psychology is dark and deep, devious and devilish, with valleys, crevices and depressions, whose depths we have only begun to fathom.
        What to call this man, this thinker, this groundbreaker? Some have said founder or Renaissance man; one might suggest modern day alchemist or even magus. He himself offered renegade psychologist. I prefer poet. Georges Bataille wrote: "Poetry leads from the known to the unknown." Bravely, lucidly, James Hillman did just that: he led us away from the known and, we, standing in awe before the unknown, are profoundly grateful to him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mathieu Langlais

Mathieu Langlais has a private psychotherapy practice in Montréal. He has a particular interest in psychosomatic medicine, dreamwork, and working with images in art therapy. 


James Hillman

In Memoriam


The death of James Hillman marks the end of an epoch of Jungian psychology. With the help of a few friends, James spearheaded an attempt to save the depth psychology of C. G. Jung from backsliding into an ego-psychology in theory and in practice, a misguided use of Jung’s insights for assistance to the ego and its interests. The loss of the depth dimension was noted by James in an interview with Jan Marlan only five years ago. James said:

I am critical of the whole analytic discipline ... It has become a kind of New Age substitute for life, on the one hand; a substitute for rigorous education in culture, philosophy and religion, on the other; and third, a “helping profession.” … I think Giegerich is right—and Ziegler was, too—the whole thing has lost its way.  Something is deeply missing.
(IAAP Newsletter, 26: 193f) 
For James, what is missing is soul.

In the Terry Lectures at Yale University in 1972, James attempted to correct the Jungian misprision by insisting upon the importance of personifying rather than personalizing, on pathologizing (i.e., deepening) rather than saving, on psychologizing or seeing through non-literally, and dehumanizing rather than humanizing (i.e., ego-fying). His strategy was to introduce the ego to the underworldly dimensions of the psyche, rather than to save the ego from the underworld and lift it out of the underworld.  He followed Jung in viewing human neuroses as best friends, rather than as the enemies that ego makes of them. He insisted on an archetypal perspective (for him “archetypal” is equivalent to the word “important” in Whitehead’s philosophy), rather than upon a psychology of essentialized and substantialized archetypes (which, by Jung’s definition, are unknown and unknowable).  Alas!—even before he died, his self-appointed followers continued the backsliding out of depth by trying to make his archetypal, poetic and imaginal insights into resources to help ego and its interests.

      A Japanese analyst told me in 1988 that she thought that the genius of James Hillman’s theorizing and practice was its healing power. She described this power by a Japanese proverb: “The tea bowl has two handles. Always pick it up by the other one!” I think that she is right that James’ healing ability was always to pick up an idea or a fantasy or an emotion by the “other” handle.  I experienced this once at first hand.
It was at one of those remarkable Eranos conferences in Ascona, Switzerland. We had had lunch and I was waiting to talk with James. He meanwhile was in conversation with a Frenchman, a brilliant and incredibly handsome person who always had many women following after him. I overheard the Frenchman say to James: “I shouldn’t tell you this, but I always dream of being in hotels. I know that you Jungians think that this means I am a flying puer aeternus who does not have his feet on the ground, and that I should get grounded and come down to earth.” Without missing a beat, James responded:  “No.  I would say that it means that you are flexible!”  
He picked it up by the other handle.  That is soul-work!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    David L. Miller

David L. Miller is Watson-Ledden Professor of Religion, Emeritus at Syracuse University and a long-time friend of James Hillman. He is the author of numerous books including The New Polytheism: Rebirth of the Gods and Goddesses, Hells and Holy Ghosts and Christs: Meditations on Archetypal Images in Christian Theology.


Homage to James Hillman

Many words may come to be written about the archetypal psychologist James Hillman in the wake of his death last October. Many will accentuate his intellectual erudition and the extensive scope of his learning; he was a singular and seminal figure in the post-Jungian landscape. Others will write about the personal influence of the man on their lives. Some may wonder about the hoopla over this scholar of psychological matters, who added a heavy dose of philosophical speculation and historical perspective, returning psychology to its origins, whether neo-Platonic thought or the more familiar classical, Greek pagan world. Like the polytheistic world that he invoked, the man was the complex sum of many rich and colourful parts.
    I first saw Hillman in Montreal in the mid-eighties, at a lecture that he titled “The Elephant in The Garden of Eden.” (Available in ANIMAL PRESENCES,
 Uniform Edition; Vol. 9.) The Garden of Eden was the last book that Ernest Hemingway wrote, and never completed. It was published a quarter century after his death, and contained a gender-bending twist. Hillman focused on a dramatic scene in which an elephant was killed. In exploring the details of the kill, and particularly the suffering of the animal, Hillman was highlighting the sensibility of animals, not only in our dreams, obviously an important subject, but also in other places like literature. It was this detailed, phenomenological method that was emblematic of his approach and adopted by many who followed in his footsteps.

We would save the phenomena just as they are, untreated, uncured.


Although he included in his analysis where the elephant resides in the Kundalini chakra system, Hillman was in no way advocating a spiritual awakening. His psychologizing intended to show that “seeing through” a text or a dream might offer insights by way of further reflection or a deeper way of seeing.

The story described a couple on honeymoon in the south of France but there was also a touch of madness. It was pathological matters that concerned Hillman and drove his psychology. Just as Jung wrote that the Gods were now present only in our diseases, Hillman suggested that pathologizing was the primary way through to the soul.

Some may balk at the use of once familiar words like soul in modern times where science, reason, and technology have become the shibboleths of our culture. Jung was accused of obscurantism by many of his detractors so Hillman was taking a position by raising soul to the highest ranking. His mission was to re-vision psychology. (Psyche/Soul + Logos/Study) Perhaps raising soul above spirit was also a reaction against those who followed Jung into the New Age, enamoured of the flight into spirit. No doubt he was echoing Keats and the Romantics who insisted that the world was “the vale of soul-making.”

The call of soul convinces; it is a seduction into psychological faith, a faith in images and the thought of the heart, into an animation of the world.


Thomas Moore’s books sold much better than Hillman’s until The Soul’s Code brought Hillman some well-deserved and overdue credit. There he revisited a notion he had explored much earlier, in Healing Fiction.


 It is the daimon, not the ego, who is our preceptor, our spiritus rector.

His wrestling with soul matters was revisited in a later book The Force of Character and the Lasting Life where he addressed the delicate subject once again. Here he adopted a more familiar notion, a less esoteric writing style.

Hillman always challenged the conventions of his day. A mercurial thinker, his contrary and subversive spirit was perhaps due to the martial nature he had been given by fate.


… through depression we enter depths and in depths find soul … The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression.


Hillman met his match in the iconoclastic Wolfgang Giegerich, with whom he maintained a decades-long friendship. Their relationship seemed to rest on a rigorous exploration of the ideas that fueled archetypal psychology. Their arguments often spilled over into countless essays in the Spring Journal, which Hillman founded along with his wife Pat Berry in the 1970’s. The contentious arguments would often spark more fire than light but this probably hinted at Hillman’s approval of the fiery conversations. However the soul envisioned by Hillman and Giegerich seemed to be poles apart. 

Aesthetics, the Underworld, and anima mundi were other ancient subjects that were re-introduced to the lexicon of psychology, whose orientation had departed for more prosaic, behavioural pastures or enlightened spiritual zones.

Just a year before he died Hillman referred frequently to The Force of Character at a conference he gave on Senex-Puer at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, where he was a frequent lecturer and where his collection of works is housed. He had mellowed considerably by then, weakened perhaps by bouts of cancer. He was a kinder and more patient man but not without his passions. Although he had given a sensitive reading to the Senex/Old Man in the Character book, here he showed his true colours, still very much taken by the spirit of the Puer. Like his essay on Pothos, written in the 1980’s, he seemed favorably inclined to the noble and tragic features, and the irreconcilable and untreatable elements in this psychology. The romantic notion that we have a yearning to join with something greater than ourselves seemed to be the very leitmotif of Hillman’s work. 

Perhaps the most important part of James Hillman’s legacy is his evocation of the Imaginal. Although he was not a poet like Blake, who championed the Imagination (Los) over Reason (Urizen), he advocated for “a poetic basis of mind.” He loathed the literal view of matters. (Likewise Jung was not a painter, although his Red Book has stirred many with its brilliant visual record of his encounter with the unconscious.)

In a 1990 New York Times review of A Blue Fire, Annie Gottlieb quoted from Hillman’s ''Re-Visioning Psychology'' (1975), which she described as “the book that comes closest to being Mr. Hillman's manifesto”:


I am suggesting both a poetic basis of mind and a psychology that starts neither in the physiology of the brain, the structure of language, the organization of society, nor the analysis of behavior, but in the processes of imagination.

A celebration held in Pittsburgh in 2008 paid tribute to Hillman with the launch of a book called Archetypal Psychologies: Reflections in Honor of James Hillman. Dick Russell, who had been chosen as Hillman’s biographer, presented an opening chapter that offered rare personal glimpses into his life. We can only hope that the book is completed some day.

At the closing night, two musicians took requests. I asked for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” I do not know if he was familiar with Cohen’s music or whether he was moved by this piece and the spell-binding performance. Hillman did not show obvious emotion, a man seemingly in control of his public face.

I do know that in the weeks after his death, tears welled up frequently and once or twice I sobbed at the loss of this great man. He was a mentor and an inspiration, a psychological father.

It was a blessing to have known him even from a considerable distance, and to be moved by his words. As he reflected publicly over the works he had created at the Pacifica conference last year, it struck me that his words will surely have a lasting effect in the years to come. It matters little whether there is a world to come or if souls return or where they go; the force of his character will endure.

The Force of Character consists of three sections, designatedlasting”, “leaving”, and “left”. As he neared the “finish line” Hillman offered a final poetic flourish: what if we dared to consider our lives as epiphanies!?

And then:


Lasting no longer than a little melody, a unique composition of disharmonious notes, yet echoing long after we are gone. This is the thinness of our aesthetic reality, this old, very dear image that is left and lasts. (p. 202))



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Murray Shugar



The following text comes from Ginette Paris who presented it at a memorial service on the weekend of March 2-4 at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has shared it with us in a spirit of generosity. Our thoughts are with her and the Hillman family at this time.

James Hillman Memorial

Pacifica Graduate Institute, March 2-4, 2012


Ginette Paris


"Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right philosophy, are directly, and of their own accord, preparing themselves for dying and death. If this is true, and they have actually been looking forward to death all their lives, it would of course be absurd to be troubled when the thing comes, for which they have so long been preparing and looking forward."


These words were supposedly spoken by Socrates, who held that philosophy is "the practice of dying."[1]  At the hour of his death, Socrates was still teaching, explaining the soul's journey to his student Crito, as the hemlock was killing him.   

    I know of only one other person who was capable, like Socrates, of discussing ideas until the poison of cancer took his last breath.

    James Hillman died on October 27. A month or so before, on September 21, he sent the following email to concerned family and friends:

“We are following a middle road, neither upbeat nor downbeat.  And I am more and more convinced that upbeat tends to constellate its counter, so before wishing for recovery in the old sense, one should think twice. It's what's going on now and not what the imagination conjures regarding a so-called future. I am dying, yet, in fact, I could not be more engaged in living. One thing I'm learning is how impossible it is to lay out a border between so-called "living" and "dying."  

   To the very end, James was engaged in the task of living, relating to the people in his life, sending emails, making phone calls, concluding the many writing projects that had been so important to him. True to his character, he never lost his sharp sense of humor, nor his edge in fighting against a medical establishment, stubbornly refusing the kind of medication that would have deprived him of his ability to think, his ability to relate, his ability to remain engaged in living.

    All his life he fought against the technicalities of a psychology that ignores the tragic emotions of pity, bereavement, despair. When his time came to die, he faced those emotions bluntly, directly. All his life he pointed at the problem of our culture's emphasis on youth, control, success, and the obsession of getting above it all, an obsession that makes us think of dying as only a medical failure. Contrary to this fantasy of success, he taught us how the soul sends roots down, just as much as it grows branches and expands upward. He called that “growing down”[2] and gave a most moving demonstration of this “growing down” in the way he died.

    To use D. H. Lawrence’s expression[3]James built a magnificent "ship of death." Not everyone wants to die the way he did, working on new ideas, revising manuscripts, up to the very last moment. The art of dying, “Ars Moriendi,” implies that we each build a different ship, finding our own style of dying. As Hillman wrote: 

“Rise and fall.  It is one of the archetypal patterns of life, and one of its most ancient, cosmic lessons. But how one falls, the style of coming down, remains the interesting  part”. [4] 

    To die “in character” takes some force of character, and James undoubtedly had plenty of that.

    A few days before he died, his wife Margot McLean sent an email, inviting a few friends and family to get ready for the trip to his home in Thompson, Connecticut, because James had moved into his final days, and his death could come at any time. She was suggesting that those of us who would have to travel a long way to come to his funeral needed to get ready. At that time, I was enjoying a sabbatical from Pacifica, and residing in the Laurentian mountains, north of Montreal.  Reading Margo’s email that evening, I decided to leave immediately, in the hope of arriving in time for the last farewell. But I then realized that I had left my winter coat in the overhead bin of the airplane, the week before, which meant that all I had to drive 400 miles in a menacing snowstorm was an old lumberjack jacket. Knowing James's esthetic sensibility, a man who believed that aesthetics can be as important as ethics, I resolved to postpone my departure until the next morning, to buy a decent black coat. I don't know how to qualify this primitive emotion; is it a cultural leftover from times past, when people dressed in their finest in the presence of death? Is it fear? Is it cowardice in having to say my last goodbye? Is it pure girlish narcissism? I would have needed James to help me sort this out …

     I still don’t know how to interpret this emotion; all I know is that it cost me the chance to say farewell while he was still alive. James died while I was shopping! From the store, I left for Thompson. The snowstorm intensified, and instead of the usual 6 hour drive, it took me 14 hours and two days, because some roads, and airports, were closed. When I arrived in Thompson, his body had just left for the morgue and I had missed the vigil.  

    The first person I saw as I entered the house was Mermer Blakeslee, a close friend of James and Margot, and an author I have known and appreciated for a long time. She had been of the team of friends and family who cared for James at home, as he wanted.

    To conclude, I will use her words, a poem that she wrote a few days before James died, words that express all that I would have liked to say, had I had the courage to appear in a lumberjack coat.

    Mermer, like most of those who knew James, had experienced the two men residing in one body: one is called James, a long-time friend that I admire for the way he fought the medical establishment to the very end, giving all those around him, one last lesson in “the art of dying.”

    The other personality living in the same body is Hillman, who never, in the face of James’s personal tragedy, betrayed the Hillmanian psychology, his life-work.

    Hillman’s legacy is what will continue to live here at Pacifica, getting stronger with each generation of students exposed to these strong ideas, ideas that help us live, and will help us die.

    Now, here is Mermer Blakeslee ’s poem, the title of which is:   


Letter to James, and Hillman too

James, I love you.

This is no way to start a poem.

Hillman would hate it. 

First the divisive, ever-conquering I,

capitalized by default;

its assumed prerogative causing,

in the very structure of the phrase,

the unbearably stark separation from you,

leaving love to build

its thin, translucent bridge.

James, you said we didn’t have to miss you.

I am here, you said, your voice light and deep.


                                                                 Mermer  Blakeslee

[1][1] Plato, Phaedo, 64A, in The Last Days of Socrates, trans. Hugh Tredennick, London, Penguin, 1980

[2] The Soul's Code. Random house,  New York  1996.  Chapter 2, "Growing Down".

[3] "So build your ship of death, and let the soul drift to dark oblivion".  The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence. Wordsworth Editions, first published London, 1994.

[4] The Soul’s Code. Random house,  New York  1996.  Chapter 2.