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The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling Paperback – October 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

James Hillman, a former director of the Jung Institute who has written more than 20 books on behavior and psychology, delves into human development in The Soul's Code. Hillman encourages you to "grow down" into the earth, as an acorn does when it becomes a mighty oak tree. He argues that character and calling are the result of "the particularity you feel to be you" and knocks those who blame childhood difficulties for all their problems as adults. According to Hillman, "The current American identity as a victim is the flip side of the coin whose head brightly displays the opposite identity: the heroic self-made man, carving out destiny alone and with unflagging will." Hillman's theories seem disarmingly simple, but he backs them with a careful, well-practiced intellect. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Decades ago, pioneering Jungian analyst and author Hillman (Kinds of Power) challenged the assumptions of Western psychology by applying the ancient concept of "soul" to the modern psyche. Rendered in simpler terms by his protege, bestselling author Thomas Moore, Hillman's work on soul has fed the public imagination with the nourishing idea that we are vastly deeper and more permeable to the influences around us than we may think. Here, Hillman discusses character and calling, introducing an "acorn theory" that claims that "each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny." Borrowing the language of Plato's Myth of Ur, Hillman suggests that this imaginary sense of our lives or callings drives each of us like a personal daimon or force. Drawing on extraordinary lives from Judy Garland to Coco Chanel to Hitler, he describes the movements of the daimon, showing how it can use everything in our environment, from lucky accidents to bad movies, to allow the acorn to "grow down" and express itself in the real material of our lives. Without succumbing to oversimplification or wishful thinking, Hillman challenges the reductive "parental fallacy"?the contention that our early experience with our parents determines our selves and our futures. The daimon, he says, pulls us up out of mere conditioning to have a fate. In this brilliant, absorbing work, Hillman dares us to believe that we are each meant to be here; that we are needed by the world around us. Simultaneous Random AudioBook; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446673714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446673716
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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264 of 271 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Henriquez Lyon VINE VOICE on October 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am on my second reading of this book, having read it once a couple of years ago and let the ideas percolate in the back of my mind. It is one of the most liberating books I have ever read. As an adult survivor of child abuse, I was in therapy for over 16 years and never felt that mainstream psychologists have any idea of just how powerful our soul's nature is. A system of healing which leaves out our spiritual energies-- and our ability to transform our realities into the stuff of myth--is an impotent system, at least if you are someone whose roots run very deep. I made little progress in my own healing until I began working on the spiritual and soul aspects of my life. Hillman writes that we are not as shaped by the horrors of our early upbringing as we are told by psychotherapists. What an inspiration for transcending the past! Unlike authors such as Carolyn Myss, he offers this teaching in a way that does not blame people for their anger about the past. He simply offers a way beyond the anger and other self-imposed limits, cheerfully and graciously. The detractors of this book state that it is not scientific enough. Of course it is not scientific--it's about bringing the energies of the invisible into your life. You don't have to do reductionist studies of the principles involved to have them change your way of thinking about yourself... I recommend this book to anyone who is tired of the dry, sterile approach to healing offered by professional counselors who have not themselves explored the "realms beyond" and therefore cannot teach us how to experience them for our benefit.
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124 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Fulton on July 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Like other Hillman books I have read, The Souls Code seems best read as a myth rather than a statement of metaphysical reality. The myth either resonates or not. The Soul's Code thesis that human beings are born with a daimon - an encoded destiny - is best judged as an artistic work of imagination rather than an assertion of objective truth. I found Soul's Code well worth reading for its many provocative and creative ideas but less resonant than several other Hillman works such as Re-Visioning Psychology in which Hillman sets forth his vision of the human psyche as essentially plural, and the essay Peaks and Vales, which draws a fascinating distinction between spirit and soul.

I can't quite reconcile Hillman's notion of a destiny (which seems psychologically monotheistic) with his image of the polytheistic personality, which I understand to be one of the bedrock assumptions of archetypal physchology. If the human psyche contains many persons, it would seem that the pursuit of a destiny would require repression of the many selves and inflation.

I enjoyed Hillman's challenges to psychotherapy, which I believe has a huge power shadow. I agree that the fantasy that parenting is the source of all adult misery should be rejected. I believe, however, that Hillman may have misrepresented family system therapy as promoting this view. In my experience, the goal of family system therapy is to establish an adult to adult relationship that includes the capacity to know one's parents in their complexity. Parental wounds become only one element in a much larger and more paradoxical story. I also found it interesting that Hillman seems to disagree with his friend and colleague Robert Bly by questioning the notion that the "absent father" is a fundamental source of male woundedness.
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124 of 139 people found the following review helpful By G. Collins on June 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Soul's Code" starts with an interesting idea, the Acorn Theory, where an individual's talents lies as dormant and inevitable as the oak tree inside an acorn. Those essential qualities of one's talents are fed and nurtured throughout one's life, and while the final size, shape and appearance of a tree are determined by many factors, the acorn will grow into an oak as long as it is able to grow. Not a pine tree, not a rose bush, not a ficus, but an oak. And while this theory applied to humans is an interesting and somewhat far-fetched one, it does have a certain appeal, explaining why some people have an almost preternatural gift for art, music, writing, speech and so on. Basically, their acorns were allowed to grow into what they were destined to be, unfettered and unrestrained.
But maintaining this theory is a bit of a magic act, requiring some sleights-of -hand and diversions to keep the audience from picking up on those telling signs that something else is going on. Hillman tries to come up with a grand theory that can explain genius, but contradicts himself on some points along the way. The biggest one I found, or the one that bothered me the most, anyway, explained violent and destructive acts.
In Chapter 10, "The Bad Seed, " he uses as examples both Adolf Hitler and a woman named Mary Bell, who, at 10 years of age, strangled to death two boys, aged four and three, in two separate incidents. In both of these people, says Hillman, a lifetime of indicators showed that these were evil acorns leading to evil oaks. Hmm, interesting, except that in every other example and anecdote he related in the preceding chapters, people would become violent when their true talents were not allowed to take shape.
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