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Resource: Exploring Your Souls’ Code

James Hillman

James Hillman, one of the unsung heroes of modern psychology wrote a wonderful (albeit heady) tome called The Souls’ Code where he explores the mysteries of human nature – the greatest being character and calling.  He passed away last fall, leaving behind an innovative body of study and pearls of wisdom for us all.

In an information-packed interview with Scott London he talks about how our souls chose our parents, how to explore your calling and a cornerstone of his work: the Acorn Theory. Here’s a taste:

London: In The Soul’s Code, you talk about something called the “acorn theory.” What is that?

 Hillman: Well, it’s more of a myth than a theory. It’s Plato’s myth that you come into the world with a destiny, although he uses the word paradigma, or paradigm, instead of destiny. The acorn theory says that there is an individual image that belongs to your soul.

The same myth can be found in the kabbalah. The Mormons have it. The West Africans have it. The Hindus and the Buddhists have it in different ways — they tie it more to reincarnation and karma, but you still come into the world with a particular destiny. Native Americans have it very strongly. So all these cultures all over the world have this basic understanding of human existence. Only American psychology doesn’t have it.

London: In our culture we tend to think of calling in terms of “vocation” or “career.”

Hillman: Yes, but calling can refer not only to ways of doing — meaning work — but also to ways of being. Take being a friend. Goethe said that his friend Eckermann was born for friendship. Aristotle made friendship one of the great virtues. In his book on ethics, three or four chapters are on friendship. In the past, friendship was a huge thing. But it’s hard for us to think of friendship as a calling, because it’s not a vocation.

I love the beauty and possibility he sees in us.



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love Hillman. I still remember when a very important figure in my life gave me a copy of The Soul’s Code years ago. In the wake of his death last fall, this quote absolutely demanded my attention. It’s so dead on: “Ecology movements, futurism, feminism, urbanism, protest and disarmament, personal individuation cannot alone save the world from the catastrophe inherent in our very idea of the world. They require a cosmological vision that saves the phenomenon ‘world’ itself, a move in soul that goes beyond measures of expediency to the
    archetypal source of our world’s continuing peril: the fateful neglect, the
    repression, of the anima mundi.”

    March 20, 2012
    • The World Soul, the universal soul. I think of the Aspen trees – individuals above ground, but under the soil they are bound to each other through their interconnected root system. We are like the Aspen trees. We just need to dig a little deeper to see it.

      March 23, 2012

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