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The Life and Ideas of James Hillman: Volume I: The Making of a Psychologist Hardcover – June 4, 2013
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About the Author
Dick Russell is a nationally respected activist, environmentalist, and author of critically acclaimed books, including, with Jesse Ventura, The New York Times bestsellers 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read and American Conspiracies. He is also the author of On the Trail of the JFK Assassins and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Russell has been published in many of the nation's top magazines and has been a guest on numerous national TV and radio programs, including the NBC Nightly News.
Sonu Shamdasani is a Jung scholar, who is also an author and professor at the University College of London. He is best known for assembling The Red Book, and for his work on the history of psychology. He lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
As we might expect from the biography of the man who encouraged us to read our own lives backwards (in his 1996 book "The Soul's Code"), Hillman and his biographer interpret this story of a life in the terms of the soul-making world view that emerges from it. We see key moments in Hillman's life and how they influenced Hillman's thinking and awakened him to his daemon's hand. It's theory bought to life by the story of a life.
The book covers the first half of Hillman's life from its ancestral beginnings in 1926 to his departure from Zurich in 1967 under a cloud but not in one. This gives its subject time to grow down [sic!] in the boardwalk empire of Atlantic city, serve in the army, stumble around the world, land in Zurich and train as a Jungian analyst, write some books and give some lectures that upset the old guard, get himself in trouble, and emerge with the foundations of an archetypal psychology, his calling, tantalisingly in place but not yet fully realised.
Whether psychologist, Hillmaniac, myth maker, soul seeker, or just lover of a good story, there's something for you in this tale of a life well told. I expect you'll have trouble putting it down, as I did, and will join me in urging its author to hurry up with the sequel!
PS: Given the subject's love of the aesthetic, I find it ironic that the physical object of this book is so ugly: Commercially set for maximum page count and printed on nasty paper (with no acid-free assertion), compare it to the beautiful Hillman Uniform Edition... and weep.
This first volume of a two-part work begins with Hillman's birth and childhood in Atlantic City (he was born in Room 101 of a hotel no less), goes into Hillman's ancestral roots, and moves forward through his school days, training as an analyst, and meetings with Jung, ending with Hillman's sudden insight that what he offered would differ significantly not only from mainstream psychology and psychotherapy, but with classical Jungian theory and practice too.
The book is packed with interesting anecdotal material, including Hillman's letters to various colleagues and loved ones, his observations about the course of his life, and--to name one of many humorous events--his staging of a Jung Institute play so naughty that Jung himself laughed uproariously while watching it. We also see a bit of the turbulence within the early Institute, some of whose founding practitioners seem to have been as unstable as the patients they analyzed. For a biography about a psychologist the book remains mercifully free of jargon; the psychology it does apply receives a clear explanation, often in Hillman's own words. (I found the symbolic connection between peaks / mountains and what Hillman understood as his mother complex most interesting.)
As one who knew Hillman--not through friendship but as a colleague who spoke and corresponded with him on occasion--and whose work greatly benefited from his (see Terrapsychology: Reengaging The Soul Of Place and Rebearths: Conversations with a World Ensouled), I found much here that explained aspects of Hillman I had always wondered about. Readers who are curious about a pioneer who normally said so little about himself and his upbringing will find many intriguing observations in this book. I read it straight through and look forward to the second volume.
I have read (and re-read) quite a few of James Hillman's works, and I was fortunate to have several conversations with him in his later years. To his last days, he was hugely interested in life and in people, and this voracious interest in life shines through the whole book. In a conversation, Hillman would go to the heart of the matter very quickly and leave me with nuggets that would keep rippling and expanding through my life. I will miss him very much, and that makes me even more grateful to have this biography.
Russell's book is both broad and intimate. Hillman had asked him to write this biography, and he gave Russell every assistance in research and in personal conversations. But clearly he made no attempt to limit what Russell could write or have access to, and the book examines both Hillman's brilliance and his indiscretions. (The indiscretions make for some of the best reading....)
Upon finishing this biography, I wanted to re-read much of Hillman's works, with the deeper understanding that I had gained of the man himself. As an example, I just read again A Terrible Love of War, his book about the unavoidable and archetypical drive in man toward War and the god Mars (Hillman being an Aries, had much Mars in himself). Reading about Hillman's working with returning disabled soldiers during World War II adds even more depth to his writing. He had a remarkable life.
If you have enjoyed or been inspired by James Hillman's writings, you will want to read Dick Russell's biography, and then begin another round of reading Hillman himself. He was a remarkable man.