In this engrossing volume, Thomas Moore presents an erudite introduction to the writings, articles and lectures of Jungian analyst James Hillman. Here is an excerpt on beauty by Thomas Moore.

"Archetypal psychology recognizes that the soul needs a vital relationship to the gods. The soul thrives when it acknowledges a divine factor in any human endeavor. Hillman's psychology of beauty restores sensitivity to one of the most neglected, and therefore, for human life, most troubling of the gods, Aphrodite. He understands her as the divine figure immanent in the world of sense. Naked, jeweled, alluring Aphrodite is nature and culture exposing itself to the soul with its beauty, ornament, and form. The soul delights and, to use a Renaissance term, feeds on this beauty.

"Beauty may not be the primary concern of a literalistic, achieving attitude toward life, but when soul is placed in the center, beauty takes on absolute importance. To the soul, beauty is not accidental or peripheral. Neoplatonic tradition would say that the human soul longs for union with its matrix, the world soul. A vital, sensitive aesthetic sense is the means by which the human soul finds that reunion, that intimacy with the world. When society splits its relationships to the world into functioning on the one hand and entertainment on the other, soulful work and pleasure are lost.

"Admittedly, beauty and aesthetics, like everything else, cast a broad, dark shadow. Hillman writes about certain aspects of the shadow of aestheticism. It can have a pure preciousness and shallowness. It can glorify the beautiful to the extent that it represses the hardness and sharpness of life. It is possible to become a monotheist in the religion of Venus.

"In spite of these dangers, the aesthetic life is particularly important in our time because it is so overlooked and undervalued. Hillman recommends that to revive this aesthetic sense we might look to the animals and see the beauty they reveal in expressing their own natures so directly. Our proper form of display, he says, is rhetoric, our fantasy-filled capacity to speak, tell stories, paint, dance, sing, make music, build buildings, write letters, make movies, and so on. The beautiful, and therefore the soul, is in the everyday display of our natures.

"Narcissus was saved when he saw the beauty of his own face reflected in a pool of water. We are saved from our narcissistic distancing from the world when we see our own beauty in the display of everyday life and in the daily arts of the soul. We find our own face, the unique visage of our soul, in the world's display of itself."

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