ANIMA An Anatomy of a Personified Notion by James Hillman, with excerpts from C.G. Juing and original drawings by Mary Vernon, Spring Publications, 188 pp, $22.00
Myths love to enchant us with the figures of innumerable maidens, such as the Gopi girls of Krishna, the Houris of Persian paradise, or the multiple daughter of the Sun who show Paramenides the way to truth.
Jung’s legacy is rich, variegated, ongoing. Many outstanding practitioners populate the Jungian and neo-Jungian landscape. Unique among them is James Hillman. Hillman is provocative, even subversive; deep rooted while towering, multi-faceted, striped, dappled and many hued. Indeed, engaging Dr. Hillman is much like the challenge a climber confronts in the task of ascending a new mountain; more poignantly of gaining the dimension of experience by assimilating the way of the mountain.
Hillman does not so much attempt to teach us however, or serve up formulas for explorers, or even answers, as to stimulate a desire to learn and arouse the intelligence to imaginatively venture forth and think. As can be expected by such an introduction, James Hillman is personally held in high esteem—offering, I might say, something of a dialogic playground; an active engagement promising excitement—and I value him along side other favorite pathfinders of psychology, such as RD Laing, Stan Groff, Michael Eagon and several of the key guides and new shamans of ecopsychology.
This present title, ANIMA, like others from the full body of Dr. Hillman’s decades of dedicated work, opens the way to his refreshing, surprise-embedded, even occasionally startling, while unique and reflective style and content. Hillman’s prose flows like the musings of a disciplined, subtly impassioned and oft bemused troubadour of the psyche.
One of the more seductive qualities of James Hillman’s work is his assertion that new language is needed for remapping the periodically institutionalizing (shall I say also fossilizing?) science of psychology, as well as for such significant and ultimate categories of experience as death, the underworld and modes of communication, symbolization and relationships with other than human realities—archetypes and animals. The Hillman suggestion; actually more of a pressing invitation; invokes a similar sensibility and feeling-thought beyond the ordinary found in a small but potent and mysterious poem by Wendell Berry: “To know the dark, go dark.”
With both Hillman and Berry, the searcher after the other half of the encircled Yin-Yang Dynamo, of the Mystic Mountain of the West, of the Valley of Fertile Shadow and the Glacier Lake of the Blue Androgyny and Firebird of the Alchemic Sun, encounters thinking on the edge; or what Buber would have called the “between;” a beckoning alternative to the limitations of normalcy and a meeting rich roaming outside the boxes of habitual confinement and numb-downed, dumb-downed, social dwarfism.
ANIMA An Anatomy of a Personalized Notion is not a particularly new publication (from the perspective of market driven fad and fashion); I am using the 1993 sixth edition; but the title’s appeal and merit endures. Throughout there are strategically placed original drawings by Mary Vernon, many of which are ripe with humor, both lightsome and shadowy. On page 110 is a series of black lines and small smudges depicting what could be a grouping of grasses or a clump of weeds. Underneath the image is a one liner from Jung, “The gods have become diseases…” Throughout there are quotations from Carl Jung, on the left side pages interfacing with running reflections and responses by James Hillman on the right. Such is Hillman’s structure, such the mode of conveyance he would have his readers travel. Here is an example.
Jung (pg.158): “The Christian principle which unites the opposites is the worship of God, in Buddhism it is the worship of self (self-development), while in Spitteler and Goethe it is the worship of nature symbolized in the worship of woman. Implicit in this categorization is the modern individualistic principle on the one hand, and on the other a primitive poly-daemonism which assigns to every race, every tribe, every family, every individual its specific religious principle.”
Hillman: “In this fantasy of soul, Christian and Pagan constellate and compensate each other. The fantasy of barbarian hinterlands, Wotan, Dionysus, and the “poly-daemonic” unconscious that has not been Christianized—all contrast strongly with the fantasy of the individualized “uni-personality” of soul which is the guide of individuation toward unified wholeness. Anima is thus anima naturaliter Christiana, the soul as naturally Christian because of her uni-personality definition. But!—should the contrast between the one and the many be placed within the model of compensation, then the more the soul image coalesces into unity, is not the likelihood increased at the same time of ever more psychotic and barbaric threats behind the thin wall?
“To say it another way: a unified, unconscious anima constellates its opposite, polygamous consciousness, in the masculine ego. The multiple unconscious animus constellates its opposite, monogamous consciousness, in the feminine ego. Archetypally, what is going on is project in a reverse direction…
“By evoking the Christian-Pagan conflict, I am trying to make explicit the historical background in Jung’s fantasy regarding this question. I am trying to grasp why he had to insist on unity of anima in face of evidence that could just as well have turned it the other way. But evidence is not the determining factor, neither in our discussion nor probably in Jung’s notion. There is something deeper at work, the subjective factor, which partly formes the empirical ground of every anima definition.”
This way of thinking goes hand in hand with Hillman’s view that the soul is a way of seeing and soul-seeing is a psyche point of view activity messaged and motivated from the dark realm of archetypes with that territory’s poly-personated masks, voices and stories.
Charles Hampden-Turner in the first chapter of MAPS of the MIND, evaluating the archetypal psychology of James Hillman refers to this as “the view of polycentrism.” Polycentrism is either a puzzling or an engaging term. So let us take it to suggest the configuration of self or personal identity as that circle with a center that is gypsy like and everywhere, and that thus even our inner monologues are dialogues played out before observant and overhearing witnesses.
Now to a second, wrap up set of Jung contra Hillman quotations from the book ANIMA.
Jung (pg.166): “The transformation of libido through the symbol is a process that has been going on ever since the beginnings of humanity and continues still…The age-old function of the symbol is still present today, despite the fact that for many centuries the trend of mental development has been toward the suppression of individual symbol-formation.:”
Hillman: “Anima is the function that gives psyche to multiplicity by being the psychological correlate to polytheism and the individual symbol formation. Anima enables the many not to become one but to become psychic materia… Anima refers to the viewpoint of soul that we bring (or she brings) toward experience.
(And) “The archetypal field presents a polycentric picture, a theater of personified powers always implicating one another. The perspective that would clearly etch out their distinct lines reflects the monotheistic consciousness of the scientific and philosophical approach; the perspective that would speak of them ambiguously and in images reflects the polytheistic, hermetic, or anima consciousness of the psychological approach.”
But now, like Virgil to Dante at a certain level in the ascent, I relinquish further guidance to a higher power—James Hillman. Should you wish to travel on: Pilgrim, take up the book!