The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Callingby James Hillman
Plato and the Greeks called it "daimon," the Romans "genius," the Christians "guardian angel." Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore's bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling "acorn theory"in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak's destiny is written in the tiny acorn.
In this new look at age-old themes, Hillman provides a radical, frequently amusing, and highly accessible path to realization through an extensive array of examples. He urges his readers to discover the "blueprints" particular to their own individual lives, certain that there is more to life than can be explained by genetics or environment. As he says, "We need a fresh way of looking at the importance of our lives."
What The Soul's Code offers is an inspirational, positive approach to lifea way of seeing, and a way of recovering what has been lost of our intrinsic selves.
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.
“Champions a glorious sort of rugged individualism that, with the help of an inner daimon (or guardian angel), can triumph against all odds.”—The Washington Post Book World
“[A] 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.”—Publishers Weekly
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st ed
- Product dimensions:
- 6.07(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.17(d)
Meet the Author
A world-renowned lecturer, teacher, author, Jungian analyst, and former director of the Jung Institute, James Hillman (1926-2011) was born in New Jersey and spent much of his life in Europe. He was the author of over twenty books, translated into ten languages, including The Myth of Analysis and Reinventing Psychiatry (nominated for a Pulitzer in 1975).
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