|The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Mid-Life (1993)|
The Middle Passage occurs when the person is obliged
to view his or her life as something more than
a linear succession of years. The longer one remains
unconscious, which is quite easy to do in our
culture, the more likely one is to see life only
as a succession of moments leading toward some
vague end, the purpose of which will become clear
in due time. When one is stunned into consciousness,
a vertical dimension, kairos, intersects the horizontal
plane of life; one’s life span is rendered
in a depth perspective: “Who am I, then,
and whither bound?”
The Middle Passage begins when the person is obliged to ask anew the question of meaning which once circumambulated the child’s imagination but was effaced over the years. The Middle Passage begins when one is required to face issues which heretofore had been patched over. The question of identity returns and one can no longer evade responsibility for it. Again, the Middle Passage starts when we ask, “Who am I, apart from my history and the roles I have played?”
|Under Saturn's Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men (1994)|
|In focusing on men’s issues, it is not my intention to minimize the wounds of women. We of the male gender owe a deep debt of gratitude to those women who have spoken out, not only to express their own pain within our sexist culture, but also to free men to be more fully themselves. Their cri de coeur has helped men look more consciously to their own wounding, and we are all better served as a result. The example of women struggling to free themselves from the shadows of the collective gives courage and makes it necessary for men to do likewise. Unless men can emerge from darkness, we shall continue to wound women and each other, and the world can never be a safe or healthy place. This work we do, then, is not only for ourselves but also for those around us.|
|Tracking the Gods: The Place of Myth in Modern Life (1995)|
By definition we cannot know the mysteries, but we
are driven by our nature to stand in meaningful
relationship to them. (The first sentence of Aristotle’s
Metaphysics is “All men, by nature,
desire to know.”) The images of myth, when
drawn from the depths, stir and touch us even
when we do not know why, because they intimate,
even activate, the mysterious depths we embody
as well. Myth then resonates because it intimates
what we already carry in our nature but can only
dimly perceive by cognition.
Many of us were inured to the voice of myth by early exposure to Greek or Judeo-Christian myth. We were badly served by teachers or clerics, who construted them as interesting but faded narratives of a remote past, or insisted that we accept as literal what offended common sense. Perhaps such purveyors of myth had themselves never tumbled to the resonant depths of mythic materials; whatever, they damaged myth for us. Both trivialization and literalism are egregious affronts to the soul. Both miss the point.
The soul… expresses itself through images but is not that image. As Sören Kierkegaard reminded us, “The god which can be named is not God.” The dynamic incarnation of soul through the image manifests this mysterious energy. When we resonate to this incarnated energy, we know we are in the presence of soul. When, for whatever reason, the energy no longer enlivens that image for us, then that structure dies for us as a source of the divine. There remains but a dead myth or ritual that touches us not. This is how a god or an entire religious institution can die. The energy has departed, leaving a dry husk.
So it is with us – life energy enters us at conception, mysteriously, and departs, mysteriously, leaving only a husk. What is living in a symbol, a myth or a person is the divine energy, not the vessel. Thus we see how our teachers and religious leaders misunderstood. To see myth simply as interesting old stories is to say that the energy that once entered those images and rendered them luminous has now departed, seeking incarnation elsewhere. To literalize a myth or symbol and require its worship, on the other hand, is the oldest of religious sins: idolatry. The mystery the image once contained is now lost and one worships an empty shell no longer worthy of adoration. When the image (that is, the symbol) no longer points beyond itself to the precincts of mystery, then it is dead. But the mystery lives on, elsewhere.
These twin tasks – to live one’s own life and to serve the mystery – are, paradoxically, aspects of the same thing, for the former obliges not only a willingness to accept responsibility for the course of one’s life and for the meaning it embodies, but also the right to experience the absolutely different path it may take from those who have gone before. To reach the end of one’s life and to know that one has not truly taken the journey is more terrible than any terrors one would have had to face on the way.
To feel that linkage to the larger order of things, a linkage by way of relationship, by way of meaningful social engagement, by way of wonder and terror at the forces of nature, by way of dream work and dialogue with the splintered psyche, is to experience the paradox that by the humble task of simply being ourselves we are thus more than ourselves. Then, in a time when the gods seem to have gone away, we may nonetheless glimpse the divine.
|Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (1996)|
We may well experience moments of happiness, but
they are ephemeral and can neither be willed into
being nor perpetuated by hope. Rather, Jungian
psychology, as well as much of the rich religious
and mythological tradition from which it draws
many of its insights, avers that it is the swamplands
of the soul, the savannas of suffering, that provide
the context for the stimulation and the attainment
of meaning. As far back as 2600 years ago, Aeschylus
observed that the gods have ordained a solemn
decree, that through suffering we come to wisdom.
In the final analysis we do not solve our problems, for life is not a problem to be solved but an experiment to be lived. It is enough to have suffered through into deeper and deeper meaning. Such meaning enriches and is its own reward. We cannot avoid the swamplands of the soul, but we may come to value them for what they can bring us.
We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion Through the dark cold and the empty desolation.
|The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other (1998)|
We need to acknowledge that the character of all our relationships arises out of our first relationships,
which we internalize and experience as an unconscious,
phenomenological relationship to ourselves as
well. Out of that relationship comes the depth,
tenor and agenda of all others. Thus we will necessarily
explore the origins of our sense of self, whence
derives our interaction with ourselves, with others
and, finally, with the Wholly Other – the
If there is a single idea which permeates this essay it is that the quality of all our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves. Since much of our relationship to ourselves operates at an unconscious level, most of the drama and dynamics of our relationships to others and to the transcendent is expressive of our own personal psychology. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others, and with the transcendent, then, is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious.
This is not a narcissistic activity. In fact, it will prove to be the most loving thing we can do for the Other. The greatest gift to others is our own best selves. Thus, paradoxically, if we are to serve relationship well, we are obliged to affirm our individual journey.
|The Archetypal Imagination (2000)|
What we wish most to know, most desire, remains unknowable
and lies beyond our grasp. Thus, as the meaning-seeking,
meaning-creating species, we depend on the image
which arises out of depth encounters. This image,
as we have seen, is not itself divine, though
it carries and is animated by the eternal exchange
of that energy which we may call divine. The husk
which such energy inhabits is perishable, as we
know our own bodies to be. While we would understandably
cling to that husk, be it this body, or this ego-concept,
or this god, we would be better served trying
to hold the ocean in our hands.
The deep stir and tumult has another source, and another end, beyond that which our limited consciousness could ever frame. Yet that fragile reed, as Blaise Pascal reminded us, is a “thinking reed” and courageously conjures with that infinity which could so casually destroy it. That disparity, the longing for eternity and the limits of finitude, is our dilemma, the conscious suffering of what is also what most marks our species. It is the symbolic capacity which defines us uniquely. The images which arise out of the depths, be they the burning bush of biblical imagery, the complaint of the body, or the dream we dream tonight, link us to that throbbing, insistent hum which is the sound of the eternal. As children we listened to the sound of the sea still echoing in the shell we picked up by the shore. That ancestral roar links us to the great sea which surges within us as well.
|Creating a Life: Finding Your Individual Path (2000)|
Were therapists required by “truth in advertising”
legislation to tell their reality, then virtually
no one would enter therapy. The therapist would
be obliged to say at least three things in return
to the suffering supplicant:
First, you will have to deal with this core issue the rest of your life, and at best you will manage to win a few skirmishes in your long uncivil war with yourself. Decades from now you will be fighting on these familiar fronts, though the terrain may have shifted so much that you may have difficulty recognizing the same old, same old.
Second, you will be obliged to disassemble the many forces you have gathered to defend against your wound. At this late date it is your defenses, not your wound, that cause the problem and arrest your journey. But removing these defenses will oblige you to feel all the pain of that wound again.
And third, you will not be spared pain, vouchsafed wisdom or granted exemption from future suffering. In fact, genuine disclosure would require a therapist to reveal the shabby sham of managed care as a fraud, and make a much more modest claim for long-term depth therapy or analysis.
Yet, however modest that claim, it is, I believe, true. Therapy will not heal you, make your problems go away or make your life work out. It will, quite simply, make your life more interesting. You will come to more and more complex riddles wrapped within yourself and your relationships. This claim seems small potatoes to the anxious consumer world, but it is an immense gift, a stupendous contribution. Think of it: your own life might become more interesting to you!
Consciousness is the gift, and that is the best it gets.
|On This Journey We Call Our Life: Living the Questions (2003)|
One way of looking at this journey is to observe that
psyche presents us with two large questions, one
for the first half of life and one for the second.
The question of the first half of life is essentially
this: “What is the world asking of me?”
That is, what do I have to do to respond to the expectations of Mother and Father; and, later, how do I meet the demands of school, work and relationship? Our response requires the development of ego strength and an operational sense of self. We cannot know the Self, which is a metaphor for the organizing, purposive energies of psyche which have a life and a telos transcendent to consciousness. But we are challenged to gain some provisional, adaptive sense of identity in the world into which fate has thrust us.
The question of the second half of life, however, is quite different: “What, now does the soul ask of me?” When we recall that the word psyche, from the Greek, means “soul,” then we realize that we have shifted from a biological and social agenda in the first half of life, to a psychological and spiritual agenda in the second half.
Each of these questions is necessary for the development of personhood. First comes ego development and social participation, then comes the relocation of the ego in a larger context, a reframing by and in response to what is transcendent to the ego’s limited capacity. The person who has reached midlife and still not created an ego identity, and a stake in the social context, has much unfinished business. But the person who clings to the values and idols of the first half – youth, status, continuous reassurance from others – is locked into a regressive and self-alienating pattern in which he or she colludes in the violation of their soul and their summons. Thus, not only do we have questions, but life has questions for us.
|Mythologems: Incarnations of the Invisible World (2004)|
When we take the gods as facts, rather than metaphors,
then we get lost in debating the merits of the
facts rather than apprehending their meaning.
The fundamentalist ties his or her beliefs to
the facts and narrows the spiritual vitality by
fighting rear-guard actions against disputation.
On the other hand, the atheist disputes the evidence,
gets confused by the institutional forms to which
he or she has been exposed, and misses the possible
deepening which occurs whenever one confronts
the meaning of divinity.
When institutions prevail over private experience, the oppression will manifest as depression and reification, precursors to the horrors of pogroms and crusades. This is the meaning behind the critiques of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in the nineteenth century and the so-called “death of God” theologians in the twentieth. Each had observed that the imago Dei ossified and ceased to move its communicants to awe. In time, the momentum and self-interest of the institution can even serve to prevent people from primal, religious encounter which could actually threaten its stability and the social vision it guards.
As Jung said, the gods had become diseases. The names they once rendered luminous had become husks. As I have previously noted, the oldest of religious sins is to worship the husk after the energy has departed. It is called idolatry, and we have raised up many false gods in our time. Consider our contemporary Pantheon: plenipotentiary Progress, massive Materialism; heroic Health; normative Narcissism, nasty Nationalism; sophistic Scientism, and many others. None saves, none connects, none abides, and we all damn well know it.
|Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life (2006)|
Your life is addressing these questions to you:
What has brought you to this place in your journey, this moment in your life?
What gods, what forces, what family, what social environment, has framed your reality, perhaps supported, perhaps constricted it?
Whose life have you been living?
Why, even when things are going well, do things not feel quite right?
Why does so much seem a disappointment, a betrayal, a bankruptcy of expectations?
Why do you believe that you have to hide so much, from others, from yourself?
Why does life seem a script written elsewhere, and you barely consulted, if at all?
Why have you come to this book, or why has it come to you, now?
Why does the idea of your soul trouble you, and feel familiar as a long lost companion?
Is the life you are living too small for the soul’s desire?
Why is now the time, if ever it is to happen, for you to answer the summons of the soul, the invitation to the second, larger life?
|Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves (2007)|
|How is it that good people do bad things? Why is our personal story, our societal history so bloody, so repetitive, so injurious to self and others, so self-defeating? This book operates from a central thesis that is relatively unknown to the general public but is a truism for depth psychology, namely, that the human psyche is not a single, unitary, or unified thing, as the ego wants us to believe. It is diverse, multiplicitous, and divided... always divided.|
|What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life (2009)|
|This book is designed to stir thoughts in the reader, possibly to reorient directions, priorities, and values. If we fail to engage in some form of cogent dialogue with the questions which emerge from our depths, then we will live an unconscious, unreflective, accidental life.... Having a more interesting life, a life that disturbs complacency, a life that pulls us out of the comfortable and thereby demands a larger spiritual engagement than we planned or that feels comfortable, is what matters most.|
Through The Dark Wood: Finding Meaning In The Second Half of Life (2009)
Audio Book (6 CDs)
Have you ever looked at your career, your relationships,
or your role in life and wondered, "Is this why I'm really here?"
If so, then you are ready for your "midlife crisis" - the pivotal time
when you have the opportunity to become the person your soul seeks to be.
"When the illusions of our youth begin to crumble," explains James Hollis, "we reach a turning point that the poet Dante called the 'dark wood.'" With Through the Dark Wood, this author and Jungian analyst reveals the steps we all must take on our road to true maturity, meaning, and fulfillment.
How do you know when you've reached the "second half" of life? According to Hollis, the first sign comes when you feel dissatisfied by where you are today - and hear a call from within to live a more purposeful life. This marks the collision between your "False Self," created from the expectations of others, and your instinctive "True Self."
Drawing upon his experiences with hundreds of clients, Hollis provides an essential map for traversing the universal challenges of midlife, such as building genuine relationships, cultivating a mature spirituality, and letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve you.
"The second half of life isn't about looking for easy answers," James Hollis says. "It's about honestly exploring the questions that bring richness and value to your life." With Through the Dark Wood, this penetrating thinker shares a lifetime of insights about how to navigate your life's most turbulent passages - and emerge from the darkness wiser, stronger, and in greater harmony with our soul's purpose.
|Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts Who Run Our Lives (2013)|
Hauntings considers how we are all governed by the
presence of invisible forms—spirits, ghosts, ancestral and parental influences,
inner voices, dreams, impulses, untold stories, complexes, synchronicities,
and mysteries—which move through us, and through history.
Hauntings offers a way to understand them psychologically, examining the persistence of the past in influencing our present, conscious lives and noting that engagement with mystery is what life asks of each of us. From such engagements, a deeper, more thoughtful, more considered life may come.
|Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey (2018)|
How do you define "growing up"? Does it mean you achieve
certain cultural benchmarks--a steady income, paying taxes, marriage, and children?
Or does it mean leaving behind the expectations of others and growing into the
person you were meant to be? If you find yourself in a career, place, relationship,
or crisis you never foresaw and that seems at odds with your beliefs about who you are,
it means your soul is calling on you to reexamine your path.
Living an Examined Life serves as an essential guidebook for anyone at a crossroads in life, guiding you through 21 areas for self-inquiry and growth--such as how to exorcise the ghosts of your past, when to choose meaning over happiness, how to construct a mature spirituality, and how to seize permission to be who you really are.
|Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times (2020)|
Often personal crises, sea changes in our values, or shifts in cultural forms thrust us between worlds--disoriented, frightened, and lacking guidance.
This book addresses how we can better cope with loss and change, and recover the innate, resilient sources of guidance which nature has given us from the beginning.
A Life of Meaning: Exploring Our Deepest Questions and Motivations (2020)
Audio Book (8 CDs)
Eight CDs on various subjects from how we become separated from ourselves, how healing occurs, and how one may live more vigorously.
This book contains eleven essays on subjects ranging from reframing our sense of self in plague times to aging issues to narcissism and disorders of desire, the need for personal myth, the nature of comedy, a profile of the wounded healer, and other topics.
|The Best of James Hollis: Wisdom for the Inner Journey (2021)|
Compler Logan Jones deftly lifts out the recurrent themes of this oeuvre and provides compelling citations to illustrate their value.
|The Broken Mirror: Refracted Visions of Ourselves (2022)|
The Broken Mirror identifies the intra-psychic factors that keep us from seeing ourselves more clearly, the enormous powers of resilience found within each of us, the importance of engaging failure and disappointment, and illustrates the utility of examining key memories in one's history.
|A Life of Meaning: Relocating Your Center of Spiritual Gravity (Summer, 2023)|