James Hillman

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Healing Fiction - James Hillman [Book Cover]I recently listened to a Podcast of an interview by the anthropologist, Jeremy Narby (KUOW.ORG, 2012). Jeremy was studying for his PhD at Stanford in the 1980’s, and lived with the Ashaninca Indians of the rainforests of Peru. The Shaman there, coaxed him to drink the hallucinogenic Ayahuasca tea, so that he could participate or enter into their experience. You can listen to his experience (if the link above persists) or read his book The Cosmic Serpent (Narby, 1998) where he reflects on what it all meant to him.

Jeremy went to Peru ‘as a marxist anthropologist, a materialist scientist’, interested in recording, objectively, the experiences of the indigenous people there. He describes himself as ‘Agnostic to belief’ (2012). After ingesting the tea, he was ‘confronted by two massive serpents who helped him understand how small and insignificant he was in the total scheme of the things’ (2012). He was transported ‘out of his body, many miles above the earth, then the Ayahuasquero (Shaman singing or chanting the song underlying his experience), brought him down to his body, where he saw 100,000 images, including the many veins of his hand, and how these corresponded with the veins of a leaf.’ (2012). Jeremy reflected that ‘these images were of nothing that he had seen before…not images repressed into his subconscious'(2012). They seem to have been images and communications with ‘spirits’ independent of his life memory system.

In his seminal work, Healing Fiction (1983, pp 78-81), James Hillman describes the process of Active Imagination, which I believe, as an experience, could be similar to what Jeremy Narby experienced with the Shaman of Peru, although Hillman might take exception with the drug induced state of experience (1983, p. 79).

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