The sections below are the containers—the alchemical vessels—for the work I am now doing, which has been influenced by two mentors -- James Hillman and J.H. van den Berg. I will speak to how these mentors did not just pass on information, but offered a vision, a way to experience and to see, which freed me to do my own work.
For 30 years James has been a mood, an atmosphere, an ambience in my life and work. I will be specific about James, paying a debt like I did for my other teacher — Van den Berg — to whom I brought a volume I had edited in his honor as he was dying. We have an obligation to look back and to look forward, to take our place in the line, to take up what they have given as a heritage for the sake of transforming it, of carrying the work forward. The best student is not a disciple; he or she is a heretic, as Hillman himself has been with respect to Jung’s psychology. By being so, he has been the one who has been most faithful to that tradition.
So this will be a homage, an elegy, a song of lament, and a celebration! What is the context of how I came to be here? For the past two weeks I have been feeling a deep sadness about his probable passing. Then a call came, offering an unexpected invitation to offer a workshop in place of James, who is gravely ill.
I offer two dreams, both very detailed, so these are just brief overviews. A few days ago I had a dream in two parts: James and I in a large hall with many people in the audience. I am quite near the stage where he is and we make eye contact. He smiles. We chat as friends, reminisce about our relationship. The scene shifts and I am asked to speak at a memorial service for him, to honor his life and work in service to soul.
Last night my dream book randomly opened to an alchemical dream I had last August, when I was considering retirement, which is a kind of dying: I am given 14 gold coins that become 14 bright diamonds and the sense of that dream is, How do I carry forward the work of soul?
I am amazed by all the synchronicities, the intertwining of events and dreams, of inner and outer, that surround this invitation. My feeling sense is that to accept this invitation is to be responsive to psyche.
It is not possible for me to replace James for this weekend. I could not do that. It would be very inappropriate for me to believe that I could do so—James is a legend, unique and beyond replacement. But because of dreams I had had about him and my feeling about who he has been for me I said I could speak not for him but symbolically with him and in so doing pay homage to how his life and work has deeply influenced me. I emphasized that as a teacher and mentor—one of two in my life—James taught me to do my own work, giving me not just information but a vision, a way of being psychological. It is essential, therefore, that those who come understand they will get my experience of Hillman as I have known him and learned from his life and his work.
...................**** THE EVENT ****
April 28 - May 1, 2011
2011 Rowe Center, Rowe, MA 01367 .....Register by writing info@RoweCenter.org
or call: 413-339-4954
"ON THE WAY HOME" Late Night Thoughts on Aging, Friendship, and Transformation
a weekend with Robert Romanyshyn April 28- May 1 (Thursday-Sunday)
...............**** THE EXPERIENCE ****
Seven Alchemical Vessels
I will use stories, images, music, poetry, and movement to invite those who come to experience being “on the way home.” When appropriate I will make specific references to Hillman’s work, especially some reflections on alchemy.
1. Left by the Side of the Road
The pivotal moments in a life, moments of transition when one is called to re-collect, re-member, and redeem what has been forgotten, ignored, or abandoned. These moments of transition await our return.
2. Portrait in Dreams
Beneath the stream of one’s life, the current of dreams runs silent and deep. Alongside each of us the companions of the dream walk with us. We see the world through the eyes of the dream. Alchemy is the voice of the dreaming cosmos in us. While we might forget our dreams, they do not forget us.
3. In the Company of the Poets
Poetic discourse is the voice of soul and Hilllman has championed the poetic imagination as a foundation for psychological life and work. The poet is a necessary companion “on the way home.“ Poetic images have been guides for me as a way for carrying Hillman’s influence. What are poets for in a destitute time? Orpheus is the eponymous poet and his story/myth is one of love, loss, descent, and transformation—an alchemical tale. Rilke is a modern orphic voice. It is important to read poetry aloud, giving voice and body to soul and its healing, therapeutic aspects.
4. Epiphanies in Dark Light
At the University of Dallas, where Hillman and I first met more than 30 years ago, the conversation between phenomenology and archetypal psychology began. Phenomenology is an aesthetic, a love affair between the flesh of the body and that of the world. It is a way of being responsive to the beauty of the world. This has been a key aspect of my conversation with James over the years. His turn toward the world has been influenced by phenomenology, so I will use some images to show the power of the appeal of the world
5. Living with ancestors
Jung still lives, and so will Hillman; indeed, even in life he was already an ancestor, a subtle presence for many of us. We walk in the shadow of the ancestors. Between us and the ‘dead’ a mutual and reciprocal relation goes on. The world is ‘haunted’ by the absence-presence of the ancestors. As we get older their absent-present becomes more clearly a presence through their absence
6. Inner Journeys in the Outer World
One of the major themes in alchemy and in Jungian/archetypal psychology, as well as in phenomenology, is the way in which the dualism of subject-object, psyche-world, and so on, is undercut. The inner world is the outer. The outer is the inner. A kind of mirror play exists in which the image is the depth of the ‘real.’ In November of 2009 I went to the Antarctic, a journey that began more than 30 years ago with a dream. I made a DVD with music and a voice over written especially for the images. This is at the edge of the ways in which I have taken up the journeys with James, a specific example of what a radical eco-psychology is, which is also a later theme in James’ opus
7. A Life Unfinished
As one ages, one becomes increasingly aware of this fact: one’s life and work might be done but the life and work are not finished. When this is recognized, one is on the way toward becoming an ancestor, to take his or her place in the larger generational family. The importance of “dying” in a conscious way offers the opportunity to leave one’s life and work behind as a heritage for others to take up and transform.