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Archive for October, 2011

Renegade Psychologist

“Here I am working toward a psychology of soul that is based in a psychology of image. Here 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”

James Hillman

The world has lost a very soulful man. Today we find ourselves with less soul. James Hillman has left this world, a world where he spent much of his life exploring soul. His passing saddens me for his works have had a profound influence on my life. He opened me to looking at the world in a different way. Soul for Hillman was more of a process than a thing. Living a soulful life means looking below the surfaces into the deep interiority of matter and spirit. Living a soulful life invites us to experience reverie, a reverie sustained and fructified by imagination. James Hillman awakened us to an old way of life forgotten in this all too modern world, a richer way of experiencing life. Hillman brought us back to the essence of Jung: Stick to the image!

James Hillman accomplished these awakenings by reminding us how important it is to invite the arts and humanities back into psychology. His love of culture, especially Greek and Renaissance, reopened doors of experience that had been closed to psychology for centuries. He constantly reminded us of the importance of soul in life. He was also a social conscience in a world gone mad. He reminded psychologists that the world outside of the consulting room is far more important than therapists would like to believe. I am indebted to his invoking the image of the Anima Mundi in describing how important our outer world is for living a full life.

I last saw James Hillman at the International Association for Analytical Psychology conference in Montreal last year. He was as feisty as ever, encouraging everyone to have a good fight! I remember seeing him on the dance floor on the final night of the conference. He was having a great time, Dionysus reborn. Let us all continue the soulful dance that he brought into our worlds.

Let us give the final words to James Hillman…

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20 Maresfield Gardens

“The psychoanalyst like the archeologist in his excavations must uncover layer after layer of the patient’s psyche before coming to the deepest most valuable treasures.”

S. Freud

I visited 20 Maresfield Gardens today. This was the home of Sigmund Freud from 1938 to 1939. After fleeing Vienna, which was under Nazi control, Freud moved to this wonderful house in north London. It is now a museum dedicated to Freud. It contains all of the furniture and personal belongings of Freud, which he moved to London from Vienna. I was most struck by Freud’s office and study. There against a wall is the famous couch with his chair at the end. In front of the couch is his desk, which contains the items as they were the day he died, including his spectacles and a cigar in an ash tray. The desk and walls are lined with his collection of rare archeological artifacts. Everywhere I look are ancient statues from Greece, Rome and Egypt.

I am moved by this place because it symbolizes the birthplace of depth psychology. Although the original birthplace was his home in Vienna, the fact that every item from that place was moved here to London makes this place feel more like the birthplace of his ideas. I stand amidst the elements that he gazed on when reflecting on the depths of psyche. It is no coincidence that this place is full of the ancient and symbolic. Mythic gods abound in this place. The walls are lined with bookcases, floor to ceiling. It is difficult to see the titles of many of the books.

I came to this place to pay homage to a man who I feel was very courageous. Who among us would have the courage to propose the ideas that he did, when he did? We can certainly question Freud ‘s ideas, but I don’t think we can question his courage. His clinical observations were astute. Apparently, at his height, he was working 10 hour days and never taking notes. By the time he moved to London, his health was failing and he saw only four clients. He was in much pain by then, a result of his love for cigars. He once said that without his cigars he could not have produced his work. Who am I to judge this passion given the gifts produced.

I walk out back to the garden. Apparently, Freud loved to sit in this garden no matter what the weather. It is a very peaceful and quiet place. I can see why he would want to spend so much time here. As I leave the house, I look back and am reminded of the time – 1938 – when Jung was in Oxford for a conference. He was so close (physically) to the home of his old friend and colleague. What would have happened if Jung had decided to walk up the street to this house to say a final farewell?

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