This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend A Gathering to Offer Tribute and Celebrate the Life and Work of James Hillman at Pacifica Graduate Institute. I plan to write a series of posts about the event, summarizing and reflecting on some of the wonderful presentations and events I participated in. James Hillman was a visionary, an archetypal psychologist, a writer, an educator, and an inspiration to countless individuals. This weekend I heard his colleagues sing his praises. He didn’t just have an impact on the academic community: he influenced the world of soul.
On Saturday morning, March 3, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat began the day-long program, reflecting on the importance of dream, psyche, and imagination, all elements prevalent in Hillman’s work. Furthermore, Aizenstat discussed the importance of Pacifica, an educational institution founded in the ideas of Hillman. He mused that Pacifica provides “a homecoming for those who think in odd ways.” The audience chuckled, and those of you who are a part of this wonderful community understand how accurate and complimentary the term “odd” is used here. Pacifica, which offers programs in Psychology and Mythology, is a unique place, infused with soul, that is a bit off the beaten path. There is something ineffable that draws us in and calls us to study here. Though our majors and research interests vary, we are all guided by our motto: “animae mundi colendae gratia” (for the sake of tending the soul of the world). And Hillman’s work is at the heart of this motto.
In the next introduction, Pacifica’s new president Dr. Carol Pearson reflected on the impact Hillman maintains in our community. She focused on some important ideas, including: 1) archetypes help people be who they are and 2) re-souling the world begins with re-souling ourselves each day. She concluded that the best way we can honor Hillman is to hold his spirit of questioning everything — and to say it like it is!!
Next Saffron Rossi discussed the The James Hillman Collection at the OPUS archives. She spent time with Hillman before his passing gathering materials that were given to OPUS. The archiving process is lengthy, but some materials were already available for viewing throughout the weekend. Hillman took notes of his ideas whenever inspiration struck, regardless of what material he had to write on. All such items are treated with care and cataloged. The collection is invaluable for students, faculty, and researchers. So much more is provided here than you will find even between the dust jackets of Hillman’s own published works.
During the morning conversation, Robert Walter, the president of the Joseph Campbell foundation, mused that we’re “mythic misfits.” As he continued, he emphasized something beautiful that I believe summarizes much of what Hillman did: “It’s not about you; it’s about the work.” This isn’t to undermine the importance of the individual, but it highlights that the work we do, from our research to our therapy sessions, isn’t done for singular individuation. It’s done for the collective. For the mythic imagination. For the tending of the world soul.