Goodbye to Greatness?


With shock and horror I arrived home today to learn that James Hillman died. From reading a recent piece by him I thought that he had overcome his illness and would be with us for a while longer. Immediately after receiving my doctorate I had the unique opportunity to meet Dr. Hillman at a party in the home of Chris Downing, my chairperson. He wasted no time and asked me, "What does soul want?" I was stupefied and couldn't answer. These were the days immediately following the publication of his breakthrough book, Re-Visioning Psychology. Now, some thirty years later I am still working my way through his opus, the latest being, the new edition of Alchemical Psychology - a subject I adopted pursuant to his influence. In the interim I attended a number of his seminars and read many of his books; in any forum, Dr. Hillman was a master whose encyclopedic knowledge seemed to rival Jung. In fact, there was for a time talk of him being the "new Jung." Indeed, it is one of the last of the old guard whose work blazed new paths for Jung's psychology. I'd like to say he'll be missed but his indomitable presence will always be with us, for he reached a truth seldom expressed with such eloquence and profundity. The collective psyche is richer for him.

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  • Hearing about your personal experiences with Dr. Hillman, Thom, reminds me of the indelible impact he made on me during a teaching session and later over dinner at Pacifica Graduate Institute two springs ago.  As a new psychotherapist I asked him if what I was trying to give my clients was love.  Dr. Hillman paused and then said he felt that giving the soul our interest was of even higher value.  On another occasion, during his last appearance at "The Evolution of Psychotherapy" conference in Anaheim two or three winters ago, I went to the podium and asked Dr. Hillman for his thoughts on the meaning and value of fear.  Dr. Hillman invited me to enter into and engage the images connected to the fear into the most intimate particularity I could.  These are two moments in his long life.  I expect them to continue animating me for the rest of mine.        

  • Thom--thank you for this post. Hearing personal recollections from those who knew James Hillman does much to animate the man who has had such a tremendous influence on most of us in this community through his writings or lectures. Fewer of us, of course--myself included--had close personal interaction with him. You are indeed lucky and I appreciate that you're willing to share that with the community at large. 

    While Dr. Hillman will be greatly missed, he has left a body of work that will last forever. He was indeed a great man--and a very human one at that. I'm grateful for his influence on the field of depth psychology and his commentary on the culture as we move forward in difficult times.

  • Thanks for your comments and personal recollections. Yes, it was a sad message to hear.
    • I, too, was saddened by Hillman's death and have had much education from all of his writings.  About 20 (??) years or so ago, I attended a meeting hosted by Brewster Beach where Jim was the invited guest.  His wit and wisdom will always be remembered by those of us who were privileged to be there.
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