Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thought of the Heart

This is the season when the famous dead of the past year are remembered again, in a group.  I've checked many such sites on the Internet, replete with photos, but none of them include James Hillman, who died in October.  I will make my usual remembrances from the year past on other blogs, but since my last two posts here have involved Hillman and his work--and he's been key to earlier posts--I feel it's appropriate to give him this stage entirely.

It's also because I didn't know he'd died until I started these searches by going through the month by month lists on Wikipedia.  Somehow I missed this news on that October day, which I suspect wasn't hard to do.  As Thomas Moore says in his tribute at Huffington Post (which I no longer frequent)   "People don't generally know his work too well because it is so subtle and steeped in traditions of philosophy, religion, the arts and especially in the intricacies of Freud and Jung."  I've never claimed to understand all of his work, just as I don't understand all of Jung.  But Hillman speaks to me directly with some frequency, on levels beyond intellect.  I recall in particular a strong emotional response to one of his lesser known works, two talks collected as Thought of the Heart & Soul of the World.

Moore, who knew Hillman as a friend over many years, continued: "James's many books and essays, in my view, represent the best and most original thought of our times. I expect that it will take many decades before he is truly discovered and appreciated. He changed my life by being more than a mentor and a steady, caring friend. If I had to sum up his life, I would say that he lived in the lofty realm of thought and yet also like one of the animals he loved so much. He was always close to his passions and appetites and lived with a fullness of vitality I have never seen elsewhere. To me, he taught more in his lifestyle and in his conversation than in his writing, and yet his books and articles are the most precious objects I have around me."

Moore suggests he may write more about Hillman for more general readers, and that would be a blessing.  So would a real biography or two.  In his writings and lectures, Hillman was mostly silent about his own life, although he did tell some tantalizing stories in his last book, A Terrible Love of War.  Several years ago I emailed Michael Ventura, Hillman's co-author of one of his more popular books, We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse, asking if he knew if there was a Hillman biography in the works.  He emailed back that he didn't think so, and that Hillman felt his life was less important than his writing.  But I admit to being fascinated to know more, if only to add more human dimension to his books.  And now I read that indeed there's a two-volume biography in the works, with the first volume due in April.

Meanwhile here's a link to other Hillman tributes.  The "Turning 65" and "Turning 60" posts here at this blog are my real time testimony of how important Hillman has been to me in imagining and living my life.

1 comment:

Editor said...

Thank you for acknowledging James Hillman's death. Barque offers additional links at Remembering James Hillman. Your readers and you may be interested in these tributes. Also, the post "Dick Russell writes biography of James Hillman" describes Hillman's 2-volume biography that may be of interest.