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More on resolving the “journey to the underworld” metaphor

So when we talk about the journey to the underworld, the metaphor indicates not a literal change of place: the individual remains in the same life they have been living already. Rather, it means a transformation in the way that individual lives, in the sense that their perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and behavior change. And although the details can vary greatly, the general direction is one...

A cautionary note on resolving metaphorical talk

When we discuss the journey to the underworld, we’re on a metaphorical level of speaking. “Metaphorical”, of course, can mean different things to different people. At the very least, however, it means that we should not take metaphorical talk “literally”: in our case, the underworld is not “below” the world in the sense that it would be a place, located in spatiotemporal terms somewhere “below...

Campbell on the return from the underwold

Joseph Campbell dedicates a whole chapter of The Hero with a Thousand Faces to “The Return” — so he has to say quite a bit about the return leg of the journey there.  1. In Campbell’s universe, living beings undergo transformation all the time, and all transformation follows the same general pattern. That pattern, universal as it is, has traditionally been expressed in countless variations:...

Hillman on the return from the underworld (contd.)

Having tracked how Jung amalgamates the nekyia and the Nachtmeerfahrt, we are now in a better position to continue and understand the distinctions Hillman wants to make. The descent to the underworld can be distinguished from the night sea-journey of the hero in many ways. […] the main distinction: the hero returns from the night sea-journey in better shape for the tasks of life, whereas the...

Are the descent to the underworld and the night sea journey the same thing?

I’m looking at a variety of possible answers to the guiding question (whether a descent to the underworld requires a compensating return trip — and if so, why) in the Jungian tradition. There is a particular difficulty with this question, however, and we might as well face it head-on. The difficulty is that in the older strata of the tradition the style of exploring the question seems to be...

Hillman on the return from the underworld

I have asked whether a descent to the underworld would necessarily require a compensating return trip. The occidental tradition frequently sets it up this way (just think of Plato’s cave in the Politeia or Dante’s Inferno/Paradiso layout; although there is also at least one major mythical form, namely that of Orpheus, which presents the return trip it as desired, but failing). In contrast, the...

Does the underworld journey necessitate a return trip?

During times when one moves into the depths of the inner world, one disengages proportionally from the external world. Or, expressed in the stark mythical imagery that Hillman has proposed, when one descends into the underworld, one leaves the world of the living (and one’s own life in that upper world) behind. The nekyia is always a journey away from something — social reality, envisioned...

Changes for the better, changes for the worse

Hillman is one of the most original and interesting writers in the tradition following Jung, and I have spent quite a few pages on this blog discussing his work already. Naturally, this means I have to combine several of his ideas and theories, which are distributed over multiple books, in order to gain a consolidated understanding. But there is a danger in this, too: Hillman’s work, as...

Hillmanian psychologism

The technique of perspective reversal, frequently as it is used throughout Hillman’s early work, is more than a neat rhetorical trick. (Although it must be said that Hillman does have a pronounced preference for the chiasm in any case.) I have already noted that both Jung and Hillman seemed to think that human hybris needs to be checked, particularly in the form in which the human person is...

The self-deceptive ego

My current excursion into ego theory started from an instance of perspective reversal in which Hillman suggested that “the shadow casts me”, that is, we might understand the ego as a projection from the shadow (in its original Jungian understanding).  But we would be mistaken if we construed this narrowly, as the view that the ego is a projection only from the shadow. In Hillman’s thinking (as in...

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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