The Pathologizing of the World Soul

The Pathologizing of the World Soul

Sick Maria, Joaquín Sorolla, 1907


The world, because of its breakdown, is entering a new moment of consciousness: by drawing attention to itself by means of its symptoms, it is becoming aware of itself as a psychic reality (Hillman, Thought, 97).

Does this statement  resonate with you? Do you feel that sense of assent deep within that Hillman is absolutely right? Even though he penned these words in the early Eighties, he is right on the money. He saw it happening even then.

The world is in trouble, just as an individual in Jung’s heyday might have been plagued with symptoms of schizophrenia. And Jung, in his wisdom, would have pointed that person back to health with his amazing therapeutic ideas. In his day, the world was considered isolated from our concerns, something to be ruled over and dominated. In our day, however, the world is no longer separate from us, cold, dead, and material. It is just as much part of us as our organs or senses. But the world is breaking down. Although it has been occurring for some time, last year, 2016, brought us the stark realization that we may be living in the last days. Or, are we?

James Hillman has made the pathologization of the soul one of the main tenets of his archetypal psychology. The evil and ugliness we see in our world are psychopathologizations of the Anima Mundi, symptoms that provide clues as to her psychic state of affairs. According to Hillman, pathologization is “the psyche’s autonomous ability to create illness, morbidity, disorder, abnormality, and suffering in any aspect of its behavior and to experience and imagine life through this deformed and afflicted perspective” (Hillman, Revisioning, 57). If the Soul of the World desires to engage in metamorphosis, and we know she does, then, according to Hillman, she will autonomously create abnormal and disordered situations that will ultimately further her transformation. Isn’t that what we’ve been witnessing for many years now? These scenarios seem to be accelerating in their frequency, as well. Does this mean the World Soul is drawing closer to departing from the cosmic chrysalis?

Considering all of this, are the afflictions of the World Soul necessary for her individuation? Again, referring to Hillman, “without psychopathology, there is no wholeness; in fact, psychopathology is a differentiation of that wholeness” (Hillman, Revisioning 108). I think it is safe to say, then, without pathologization, there is no soul-making.

So, all the turmoil we are seeing, especially in the United States, today, will lead to the further metamorphosis of the Anima Mundi, something we are in desperate need of. At some point in the history of the world this may lead to an evolutionary leap in consciousness. That, in turn, may provide the means for establishing Utopia, which American progressives so eagerly crave, although I very much doubt whether that will ever be accomplished. As long the World Soul has a need for individuation, there will be a need for pathologization.

Works Cited
Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper Collins, 1975.

Hillman, James. The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World. Putnam: Spring, 1992.

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4 thoughts on “The Pathologizing of the World Soul

  1. Very interesting contemporary application of Hillman’s ideas! He spoke of and saw this current state of the world soul way in advance of its present global state of soul
    Judith Harte

  2. When I attended a conference led by Hillman, Bly and Meade, back in the mid-nineties, the three of them spoke comfortably about the end of Western Civilization as we’ve known it. Hillman passionately repeated, “We’re losing our language.” I was a bit younger, more naive, and less appreciative of what I heard, but it sparked something in me that remains to this day, and that is to seek a historical context for every thought, action, impulse and event, especially trying to understand the deep emotion around politics and world events.
    As the years have gone by, and technology has brought us an opening to the world, especially the shared, public world, instead of conflicts finding resolution, the battle lines are more evident than ever, with political and corporate forces exaggerating them for their own control and gain.
    It’s as if the World Soul is awakening to its own power, potential and pathology.

    I like this post because it touches upon pathology and its underlying ground which I think is movement, the greek pathos. While it’s always transformative, psyche herself doesn’t have a moral certainty. The dangers that lie ahead have much to do with the inherent and unseen powers that come through cultural consensus, where a lack of differentiation between oneself and the power of cultural consensus, can become very dangerous, as Jung often suggested.
    The monopolies of government and corporate powers perhaps reflect some inner situation for each of us, and especially as we drink from the well of consensus ideas, news, and the emotions around them.

  3. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    When I began studying Jung and Hillman in the mid-nineties, I was mostly concerned with my own journey, which I suppose is normal. After 9/11, especially, I began to take notice of what Hillman wrote about the World Soul and how we should be putting more focus on her. He was prescient; he saw what was coming. Now, we need to think of the World Soul more than ever. If she breaks down, we are doomed. But I believe it only takes a few dedicated to her health to change things.

    Pathologizing always occurs in things of the soul. Our era is extraordinary, but not unprecedented. There are already in this world enough people who will make a difference, I believe.


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