I often wonder what James Hillman (1926-2011), the most widely known post-Jungian thinker and someone whose work continues to inspire me, would make of our current times.
Yesterday I found a clear indication in this excerpt from an interview, published on youTube four months before he died of bone cancer. To me, this brief conversation ( just over seven minutes) is far more important to consider than any other message I’ve seen on the eve of our nation’s birthday. In it, Hillman says:
“Where are we now? What’s psychology worth now? I mean look at the world, look at the USA. Look at all the people who have taken psychology courses and look at the lack of psychology in our government and in our attitudes. I mean we haven’t a clue!
We go around the world as if there was no such thing as a psyche, no such thing as a soul. I mean we bomb and exploit and take and kill as if this had no effect on the soul of our own people, let alone other people…I’m worried about the soul of our country from the effects of what we do.” Remember – this was said in 2011.
Hillman’s was never a “comfortable” psychology, for he always aimed to help us “see through” our comfortable illusions, ever deeper into the often uncomfortable dynamics that underly what is visible on the surface of personal and national life.
Some of the comfortable illusions I would like to believe but cannot include ideas like:
- Our problems began in 2016.
- One man (or) one party is responsible.
- We are better than this.
This last one I find to be the most harmful illusion of all, for it suggests there may be (relatively) straightforward fixes, as if we simply got off on the wrong freeway exit.
If we were better than this, it wouldn’t be happening!
And if we aspire to be better than this, Hillman would likely suggest we take a clear eyed a look at where we are, and how we got here, and what we can do now in service to Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World.