Wednesday 21 November 2012

James Hillman 1926-2011 - a colossal waste of my time


I didn't hear until a couple of weeks ago that James Hillman had died last year. He was probably the major intellectual 'heir' to CG Jung in terms of writing both on myth, and on psychological therapy in relation to modern man and the modern condition; and a few years back (before I became a Christian) I spent an inordinate amount of time reading him (as my bookshelves testify).


I came across Hillman in the late 1980s from an excellent little article in the Resurgence magazine (of the Schumacher Society) - which I tore out and still have somewhere. It was about work as a writer being like that of a farmer; and there is always something to do on the farm - even if not the actual composition. I tell students something like thsi about large projects - writing a dissertation, project or thesis for example.


I went back to Hillman after reading Daniel C Noel's Soul of Shamanism which was a great favourite during my neo-pagan/ New Age period.

Hillman was regarded in this circles as the intellectual and scholarly heavyweight - so I set about trying to understand him.

This was difficult; since the easily understood work - interviews and popular books - was very obviously incoherent; while the scholarly work was very difficult to understand (and dull). I thought I must be missing something crucial.


After some years of grappling, I realized that the scholarly works were, in fact, saying exactly the same thing as the interviews and pop books - but that the deficiencies were more effectively concealed.

The moment I noticed this (actually it took longer than a moment) was in an extended interview when the  conversation revealed that - whatever his intellectual productions might imply - for Hillman, and for the whole New Age/ Myth/ Growth movement, all the vast and wide-ranging explorations are predicated on the wrongness and harmfulness of Christianity - and that, come what may, Leftism is the bottom line

The one and only place that Hillman came off the fence and spoke in clear and unambiguous sentences was politics, and mainstream party politics at that.he was a Democrat, a Liberal, a Leftist first - and everything else was up for discussion.


So, although (like many writers in this area) Hillman has much to say that is acute in diagnostic terms; in prescriptive terms he is not just useless, but worse than useless - actively harmful in that his writings are wrong where they are not incoherent, and have a tendency to waste a great deal of the reader's time and energy - which in itself tends to seduce the reader into falsehood, despair and destruction.


1 comment:

deaieme said...

I find it interesting that The Man on the Clapham Omnibus - though notoriously ignorant, stupid, and lazy - was dead right about Marx et al, Modernart, and Freud-and-company.

Quite what the lesson is I'm not sure - perhaps that intellectuals could do with a dose of intellectual humility?