No Road Map to Self-Fulfillment James Hillman Examines the Process of Becoming

By Singer, Reviewed Dale | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

No Road Map to Self-Fulfillment James Hillman Examines the Process of Becoming


Singer, Reviewed Dale, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


THE SOUL'S CODE

By James Hillman

334 pages, Random House, $23.00 ***** IN HIS LATEST book, prolific psychologist James Hillman chooses as his thesis "great oaks from little acorns grow." The question he explores in "The Soul's Code" is how the acorn becomes the oak, and why so many acorns fall short of their potential. While the issue is intriguing and Hillman's technique is often engrossing, his analysis is ultimately unsatisfying. Hillman's acorn theory isn't as simple as it may sound. To put it, as his first chapter says, in a nutshell, t"each person bears a uniqueness that asks to be lived and that is already present before it can be lived." The major question, of course, is how to make sure that each person's uniqueness has the opportunity to flower. Even though Hillman has become a well-known figure in the men's movement, with people like Robert Bly, his book is not a superficial, easy-to-read road map to self-fulfillment. His discussion of the process of becoming is often difficult to follow, with a writing style that can be dry at best, opaque at worst. In his effort to make clear what he means, he uses an interesting technique: biography. Telling in miniature the stories of a wide range of famous people - from Adolf Hitler to Ella Fitzgerald JO- he relates examples from their childhood that purport to forecast what they will be when they grow up. Many of the anecdotes are fascinating. James Beard gives hints of the famous chef he was to become, Hillman says, when as an overweight toddler, he crawled into the vegetable bin and ate a giant onion, skin and all. Richard M. Nixon, a favorite subject of biographers, was so taken with his favorite tale from "Tom Sawyer," about how Tom tricks his friend into whitewashing the fence, that he learned it by heart and crecited it verbatim when he was in the White House. …

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