In Re-Visioning Psychology (1975), Hillman wrote that archetypal psychology is a psychology of perspective (p. xvi) and it encourages a special sort of vision—a metaphorical, mythic vision that generates universal meaning and insight. This sort of I-sight opens “the questions of life to transpersonal and culturally imaginative reflection” (Hillman, 2013, p. 28) leading us to that mode of perception “which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic and metaphorical” (Hillman, 1975, p. xvi). Accordingly, myths are the I-sight of the archetypal perspective, “they open” (Hillman, 2013, p. 28) vistas of imaginative meaning, just as the lens of a camera opens to allow for more abundance and possibilities in the total composition. This vision is different from the monotheistic attitude which primarily enjoys classifying mythic images into categories that give each archetype one face, one direction, one value.
A good example is the invigorating discussion of Mary in Paris’s Pagan Grace (1990). The monotheistic perspective places her in a limited role of passive mother who subserviently acquiesces to the brutal sacrifice of her son by the angry Fathers. In contrast, Paris explains how Demeter, as a mature woman Goddess with full powers, answers good with good and evil with evil—when her daughter is stolen, she rebels and doesn’t budge so Zeus acquiesces to her. Here we have metaphorical perspectives on universals of mothering, womanhood, and religion that open the imagination to reflection. I’m reminded of American Christian mothers who send their sons to die in wars, mothers who can’t stand up for their kids, won’t fight a corrupt system, who are conditioned to let their young be slaughtered in senseless wars, and how much this fits the mythic pattern of Mary as described by Paris (p. 38). Mary as fantasy and metaphor thus points to a relevant and modern cultural reality in need of tending. Both mothers are sad to lose a child, but the myths help us reimagine appropriate responses.
Hillman, J. (1975) Re-visioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Hillman, J. (2013). Archetypal psychology. The uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman, Vol. 1. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications.
Paris, G. (1990). Pagan grace. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications.