Human Development

Archetypal psychology

Archetypal psychology (pioneered by James Hillman) is a post-Jungian way of looking at human experience. It stresses the uses of metaphor, symbol and imagination in contrast to a literal or material view. Archetypal psychology is not however a psychology of archetypes. Its primary activity is not that of matching themes in mythology and art to similar themes in life. The aim is rather to enable the individual to see every fragment of life, and every dream, as myth and poetry. This presupposes a poetic basis to mind through which consciousness is freed from its thin, hard crust of literalism to reveal the depth of experience. Experiencing through the soul turns events into experiences and effectively re-souls the world. Images are therefore sought in events that give rise to meaningfulness, value and the full range of experience. There is consequently a drive for depth, resonance and texture in all that is experienced. Archetypal psychology uses the penetrating vision of the imagination to perceive those fundamental fantasies (or archetypes) that animate all of life. In this sense archetypal means fundamentally imaginal. Psychoanalytic concepts and ideas have therefore to be heard as expressions of imagination and read as metaphors. Imagination is given absolute priority over ego understandings and applications. Psychology can only tend to the soul when soul is perceived properly through image. The process of human development can therefore be seen as one of healing, or making whole, through imagery. The language of the soul is image. Soul is the unknown component that makes meaning possible. It "works" through the metaphor of deepening, namely deepening events into experiences, and is thus the medium through which individuals are able to reflect on their existence. Soul is thus the imaginative potential within the individual, the ability to experience through reflective speculation, dream image and fantasy. Through its special relationship with the mythical underworld and with death, it gives life and death meaning and purpose.