Living between realms: Introduction

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Between

First in a series of three articles ‘The effect of the death experience is to bring home at a crucial moment a radical transformation.’ – James Hillman, from Suicide and the Soul Castaneda’s Don Juan taught that ‘death is the only wise advisor we have.’ Even though Castaneda’s path is fundamentally different from ‘a path of soul’ in many ways, his ideas often touch authentically into the realm of archetypal images, and so resonate with profound meaning. Whether death is our only wise advisor, may be a worthwhile enquiry. But is there not something deeply profound about the idea that death is our ‘advisor’? It […]

Invoking Sophrosyne

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sophrosyne

‘Sophrosyne is the greatest virtue, and wisdom is speaking and acting the truth, paying heed to the nature of things.’ – Heraclitus, fragment 112 It happens fairly often. Inside ourselves or in others while in conversation with them, or when we’re alone. Suddenly a light goes on, a flash of insight hits home. With relief and perhaps a satisfied smile, we feel and we say, ‘ah, so it’s all a matter of balance then.’ As if we have found the one key that is so essential. As if in the end, the freedom of ‘enlightenment’ can be had if only we may have that one […]

Re-Visioning Psychology

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re-visioning psychology

Regarded by some as James Hillman’s magnum opus, Re-Visioning Psychology certainly is a groundbreaking, paradigm-shattering contribution to the field of Psychology. Not only at the time when it was written, which is more than forty years ago, but perhaps even more so today. This is a book that took Hillman to the shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize. The title is not to be taken lightly. Anyone who not only reads, but also deeply digests Re-Visioning Psychology cannot come away from it without being fundamentally shaken up. And realising that at least 80% of what is practiced under the banner ‘Psychology’ is not in fact logos […]

Literalisation

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literalisation

James Hillman says that ultimately there is only one sin, which he calls ‘literalisation’. Sin taken in its original meaning of ‘to miss the mark’. There are many layers and meanings to the notion of literalisation. One example is when we are open only to the literal meanings of events, ideas, myths or stories. Or fixate on their functional implications and applications, always turning them into allegories. Literalisation is a failure to grasp or acknowledge how poetic language more precisely captures inner experience than scientific formulation. Not grasping how metaphor has the power ‘to transfer us’ from one experiential reality to another. Ultimately, literalisation points […]

The imaginal

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imaginal

In his paradigm-shattering book, Re-Visioning Psychology James Hillman says, ‘The term “imaginal” for the realm of images, which is also the realm of the soul, comes from Henry Corbin.’ Perhaps this passage from the same book gives us a taste of what he means with ‘the imaginal’: ‘Today we are so unconscious of these persons that we call their realm the unconscious. Once they were the people of the imagination, as the unconscious was once the imaginal realm of memoria. But now we cannot distinguish between fancy and fantasy, between imaginary, imaginative, and imaginal. And we struggle in vain with the conceptual semantics of allegory, […]

Love is naturally transgressive

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love is transgressive

‘When love beckons to you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. … For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. … But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.’ – Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet Taboo Those who are absorbed by the values and culture of their society often experience others who follow their […]

Crafting a sense of soul

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soul-making

‘[P]sychic reality can only be grasped through non-rational awareness … [by] the fool (in the positive sense) … who does not follow a straight path, who surrenders the security of a rational, one-sided attitude … [whose] spontaneity is not destroyed by the tension between opposites, and so can follow every path, without being determined by reason or collective norms.’ – Françoise O’Kane, from Sacred Chaos Spirituality and transcendence Most of the various schools or centres of spiritual and metaphysical teachings breed cultures of goal-directedness, of achievement, of levels of advancement and hierarchies, of progress and of linear formulas for how we should change or be […]

Fear – our first teacher

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Opening to fear

‘The importance of fear has been given too little true psychological attention. … The biblical statement that fear is the beginning of wisdom is significant. … Fear is not merely something wrong, to be overcome with courage … but is rather something right, a form of wise counsel. … Love stirs fear. At the deepest level of fear eros appears. … Fear seems an inherent necessity to the eros experience; where it is absent, one might well doubt the full validity of the loving.’ – James Hillman, from The Myth of Analysis Opening to fear Fear is a most common emotion. Yet, few of us […]

The unfathomable vastness of being

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Unfathomable vastness

‘You cannot discover the end of the soul, even if you travelled every road to do so, so deep is its meaning.’ – Heraclitus Our being in this world is a gateway for deepening into awareness of the vastness dwelling in existence. But who or what is this vastness? Who reside there? What is the presence we experience when we touch into it? What is this ‘place,’ this live source, this sacred river that flows inside the very essence of being? And how do we open to being deeply intimate with it, while avoiding being consumed by its sheer force? And, how do we maintain […]