The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling

( 4 )


Some call it" genius". Others have named it "spirit", "daimon", and even "guardian angel". But while philosophers and psychologists from Plato to Jung emphasized the fundamental essence of our individuality, our modern culture refuses to accept that a unique, formed soul is within us from birth, shaping as much as it is shaped.

Now in this extraordinary bestseller, James Hillman presents a brilliant new vision of our selves not defined by family relationships or the mentality of...

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Some call it" genius". Others have named it "spirit", "daimon", and even "guardian angel". But while philosophers and psychologists from Plato to Jung emphasized the fundamental essence of our individuality, our modern culture refuses to accept that a unique, formed soul is within us from birth, shaping as much as it is shaped.

Now in this extraordinary bestseller, James Hillman presents a brilliant new vision of our selves not defined by family relationships or the mentality of victimization. Drawing on the biographies of such disparate people as Ella Fitzgerald and Mohandas K. Gandhi, James Hillman argues that character is fate and shows how the soul, if given the opportunity, can assert itself even at an early age. The result is a reasoned and powerful road map to understanding our true nature and discovering an eye-opening array of choices -- from the way we raise our children to our career paths to our social and personal commitments to achieving excellence in our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The inspiration for Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul), Hillman espouses a kind of altered or refined Jungian notion of the essential self to encourage readers to make real choices.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 protg, 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. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Hillman has written ten books, but he is best known as the inspiration for Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul. Now, for this book on finding one's personal calling, he's getting a big print run himself.
Kirkus Reviews
What set of factors most influence the course of an individual human life? Nature? Nurture? The choices a person makes, including one's intimate relationships? Or is it the complex interplay of all of these? For Jungian analyst and prolific writer Hillman (Kinds of Power, 1995, etc.), the correct answer is apparently "none of the above."

Rather, Hillman focuses single-mindedly on each person's special daimon, an abstract, almost mystical notion lifted from Neoplatonic thought that he defines as "an invisible nonhuman escort," and "the lot your soul chose before you ever took a breath." This daimon, he argues, "the essence" or blueprint of each life, calls us to a very particular destiny, and it does not willingly suffer our neglect. In developing endless variations on this idea, he comes out sounding extraordinarily fatalistic, positing, for instance, that "assassination was written in Gandhi's script." Thus, he largely downplays such basic aspects of the human condition as choice, conflict, ambivalence, chance, irrationality, and madness. And Hillman's intense focus on individuals and their unique fates means that the communal side of life, and specifically altruism and other positive social values, are also given little weight. Finally, as the following passage exemplifies, Hillman's prose often seems both confusingly bloated and maddeningly ethereal: "I am different from everyone else and the same as everyone else; I am different from myself ten years ago and the same as myself ten years ago; my life is a stable chaos, chaotic and repetitive both, and I can never predict what tiny, trivial bit of input will result in a huge and significant output." This, and passages like it, are likely to leave many readers scratching their heads.

This verbose book would have benefitted by being pruned into a stylistically far tighter essay, less declamatory and more reflective.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446673716
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 125,338
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

A world-renowned lecturer, teacher, author, Jungian analyst, and former director of the Jung Institute, James Hillman was born in New Jersey and spent much of his life in Europe. He is the author of over twenty books, translated into ten languages, including The Myth of Analysis and Reinventing Psychiatry (nominated for a Pulitzer in 1975). He lives in Thompson, Connecticut, and is the father of four.

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Table of Contents

Epigraphs in Lieu of a Preface
1 In a Nutshell: The Acorn Theory and the Redemption of Psychology 3
2 Growing Down 41
3 The Parental Fallacy 63
4 Back to the Invisibles 92
5 "Esse Is Percipi": To Be Is to Be Perceived 113
6 Neither Nature nor Nurture - Something Else 128
7 Penny Dreadfuls and Pure Fantasy 155
8 Disguise 172
9 Fate 191
10 The Bad Seed 214
11 Mediocrity 249
Coda: A Note on Methodology 275
Notes 287
Bibliography 307
Index 321
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2013

    Platonic idealism and the psyche

    There are 4 basic world hypotheses that underlie our scientific models, including pdychology. We are all familiar with the mechsnistic model, which manifests as behavioral and cogbitive-bdhaviorl theorypies; the organismic model, which is reflected in the stage theories of development, such as Freud and Piaget, and: the contextualist models, such as Harry Stack Sullivan. The fourth model, which is based on the Platonic theory of ideal images, is represented only in the theory of the archetypes of C. G. Jung and the subsequent Archetypal Psychology of James Hillman. Jsmes formulation is as valid scientifically as any of the others, but is not taken seriously by the mechanistic theorists predominating in American psychology, largely due to a tendency to be unable to extricate themselves from the fundamentalist faith in embracing their favored world view. Hillman, standing outside of he currently prevailing zeitgeist of the cognitive-behavioral mythos, provides a very lucid expoosition of an alternative framework that places the immediacy of our felt experience, squarely at the center of the psychology of the soul. Based on the Platonic theory of the ideal image, Hillman's Archetypal Psychology brings meaning back into the practice of psychology, and offers a view of the lsndscape of the soul, revealing the depths of our experience as living beings in a living world. His work offers us an antidote to the flat, horizontal world of behavioral psychology by opening perception to the vertical dimension of the upper and lower worlds of our being that we so desperately need to see and integrate into our individual and collective lives so as to bring healing into contemporary society. You will find Hillman's work offers true sustenance for your hungry soul.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2004

    Destiny as a Daimon?

    As I read Hillman's theory of 'the acorn' the more it seemed to me that it sounded like the old fashioned concept of 'destiny' or 'calling.' Sometimes i thought he was indulging in more than a bit of creative fantasy--pushing his cases history to their 'imaginal' limits. I did not get anything out of it, went back to my beloved and much read 'Puer Papers.' Late Hillman is not as impressive as early Hillman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2011

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    Posted March 25, 2010

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