Giegerich on his Relationship to Archetypal Psychology

In answer to Marcus Quintaes' request to give in a few words my opinion about Archetypal Psychology and my own contribution to it, I would like to point out the following: James Hillman's “Why Archetypal Psychology?” of 1971 was not only for me personally, but also objectively for the field, a real breakthrough overcoming the rather sterile state in which Jungian psychology was (and often still is), a state in which what Jung had worked out was more or less routinely repeated and applied to the new cases that the therapists had to deal with as well as to mythic and fairytale material not already interpreted by Jung himself. The fundamental significance of Hillman's paper lies in his raising a question, in his pushing beyond the level of what Jung had taught, the level of his dicta, to the question of what was the underlying deeper interest that inspired and motivated Jung's psychological investigation in the first place, and what was the pulsating heart of his psychology. Hillman thereby showed that he was no longer satisfied with simply taking over Jung's work as a ready-made (which is always a mindless business). He searched for the root principle of a true psychology in order to be able to construe our conception of psychology out of this productive center.

His attempt was to think psychology, to develop a psychology that was a living organic whole, because grounded in a living center it was not a set of convictions and theorems, but an animating spirit and a general way of seeing and proceeding. This was the purpose that he tried to realize a few years later under the title of a “Re-Visioning” of Psychology. Unfortunately, at least this is my impression, in the further development of Archetypal Psychology this living spirit slowly solidified again in the direction (1) of a fixation, if not reification, of certain essential concepts such as “soul” in an anima-only sense and “the imaginal” as a strictly idealistic, (despite its officially metaphorical character but nevertheless) quasi-metaphysical given, and (2) of an oppositional thinking that (implicitly and partially explicitly) excludes certain essential areas or aspects of life as “not-soul,” e.g., what we call “the animus,” logical negation, historical Time, and much of the modern world (as a fallen soulless world). My own need, by contrast, is to keep the original questioning spirit of Hillman's 1971 paper alive, which leads me to speak of “the soul's” logical life, to conceive of true psychology as the discipline of interiority and absolute negativity, and to understand “the soul” predominantly as the soul of the real.

Wolfgang Giegerich, Berlin, February 2011