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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 28 February 2013
Only 5 reviews for this book? This was the first Hillman book I read and his best seller. I think it makes a good gateway into the subversive complexity of his ideas. Hillman is not interested in espousing systems but more in exploding ideas with other ideas. This sounds destructive, but it is to Hillman's credit that his use of ideas is nothing if not creative. So the "parental fallacy"that takes on almost an entire arm of psychology and psychotherapy is argued not on the ground of attachment theory and its relative merits, but on the ground of a psychological need to have ideas about character formation that is not based on attachment or genetics. You could see the whole force of the book as pointing in this direction, arguing for seeing one's life as unique based on the evidence of the lives around us. This kind of robust intuitive imaginative approach is going to alienate some, but it does make the book necessary in redressing a balance. It opens up a new room in psychology that had been locked shut. As such, the book is a tour de force, flawed interesting and brilliant, it allows a person to re-imagine themselves without recourse to the hopeless platitudes of self help manuals. His earlier books are better, I would recomend InterViews as a great further introduction.
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on 6 April 2010
When I first read Hillman's 'souls code' I found it difficult to approach and assess. Having read it through on third reading this is probably my favourite Hillman book. It weaves a clever but accessible imaginal revisioning of psychology, childhood and ontology that turns all the assumptions of developmental psychology on it's head. If read and taken literally it can lead you astray. There is a powerful agenda however that reinforces Hillman's central aim of raising awareness of the fundamental role that imagination has in structuring ideas, beliefs and assumptions, particularly in psychology, and how these can constrict our vision and view. A wonderful book that has faults and virtues. Hillman is possibly entertaining a different imagination of who we are replete with Platonic Daemons.
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on 9 January 2015
Hillman weaves a lovely tale.
When reading it, I wished so much for it to be true. Unfortunately, there can be no dismissing ones dismal beginnings: the unwillingness or inability of a parent to offer a suitable attachment, suitable nurturing and the all important, essential, unconditional love, can make or break during a child's formative years.
Berne (father of transactional analysis) writes of a 'Script,' that part of us formed very early on in life and that reflects levels of nature / nurture.
I admire the mind that conceived of such a treasure. The, 'Acorn-Theory,' is a wonderfully optimistic endeavour and offers much in the way of hope.
Personally, I don't fully buy into it - perhaps neither should you: like all good theories, they should be questioned and submitted to scrutiny, not taken laying down.
A good book - author waffles wildly and at random throughout, but a great sentiment nonetheless. A wonderful and much needed worldly tonic, in these dark and difficult days….Buy it!
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on 18 November 2003
This book tries to form a coherent whole of the thoughts of Plato and Jung without really succeeding despite Hillman's many interesting ideas thoroughly exposed in his book. It is mainly centred around the philosophical struggle of Hillman in trying to conciliate the two thinkers in his own soul and mind. The engaging concept of the acorn can be traced back to the "Seven sermons to the death" written by Jung himself. Unfortunately, Hillman does not analyse these sermons that were published together with the German version of "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" by Jung. Moreover, one of the key tenets in the book is the so-called "parental fallacy" goes against many ychological studies that should have been at least mentioned in some footnotes.
- Briefly: Plato's and Jung's thoughts surely overlap to some extent but why shall we bother to force them together? To those interested in the Hillman's metaphor of the acorn I would recommend "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" by Stephan A. Hoeller instead.
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on 8 October 2016
This book marked a turning point in my life. From chronic depression and anxiety to a sense of inner peace and purpose. And not the boring fluffy new age buddhist kind of inner peace, an inner peace born of true acceptance of a chaotic and s**t-filled world.

This was the first book I bought extra copies of so I could give to people.

In my opinion James Hillman is one of the greatest thinkers and life-givers since DH Lawrence, an author he quotes from occasionally. Life-giving in the sense that he gives you back your life! His words incite new life and desire and purpose and passion, all of which we are sorely lacking in our dead-eyed, drone-filled mechanical world. We're too comfortable, too passive and accepting of our numbness in the Western world.

Read this book for an understanding of the world and your place in it. Read this is you're sick of the easy answer superficial self-help industry. Read this if you want something deep, soulful and rich with meaning and vitality.
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on 19 April 2015
This is really a 3.5 because the book is well worth reading, and the core of the "acorn theory" is something that resonates with me. But there were so many areas that seemed to go nowhere, and the examples from history were at times poorly chosen or with a completely American focus that is a bit difficult for non-Americans to relate to.
I'd also expected a bit more about how to start to understand one's own "acorn" but there was little about that and the feeling was that with all the emphasis on well-known & great personages, the ordinary folks' "acorns" have less importance.
It's a good clear read, though, and as a starting point has much to recommend it.
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on 15 January 2014
This book is exactly what the title says....there is no avoiding your souls calling and learning how to see the signs/ opportunity along the way ., the acorn theory affirms our uniqueness and destiny
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on 26 April 1999
Hillman moves on from blame of the mother, to examining the inate core of one's being. He introduces the concept of "the acorn" theory of psychic development, how suffering develops soul and what it means to be a human being. This is a book that puts one to pondering.
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on 8 December 2003
The part which ruins this otherwise superb book is the author's cruel and sickening - but repetitive - linkage between unpopularity and victimisation in childhood with later evil crimes. To implicitly associate the average class 'nerd' who suffers from poor social skills with Adolf Hitler and Mary Bell, is revolting - and surely extremely damaging to unpopular people reading it. Nevertheless, encountering the attitudes of Hillman will hardly 'soothe the savage breast'. The obvious concept - that in a VERY FEW cases generalised and totally understandable misanthropy generated by prolonged unfair bullying and ostracisation can result in later, particularised psychological eruptions of sadistic revenge (often at indiscriminate targets) is overlooked. ALL mass shootings etc are depraved, vile and utterly unforgiveable but according to media reports in many cases the culprits have been viciously antagonised over long periods by (usually) unprovoked and over-judgemental acquaintances and neighbours.
Is it right that Hillman implies I should be cold or mean to someone purely because of their body language, 'rigid personality structure', lack of humour, obsession with time and -unbelievably - their 'vulnerability'? A professional psychologist should never use terms like 'bad seed' about people either. Leave that to the horror-film directors.
However, Hillman's theories about personal progress and positive ideas about the role of suffering are fascinating and worthwhile. In the early pages this book is excellent and very thought-provoking. That's what stops this book getting a 1 mark. But then Hillman does care about 'Normal' People!
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on 1 December 2015
I found this a difficult book but that is not to say uninteresting. It is densely written and puts foreword a fascinating hypothesis - that we all carry within us the kernel of what we are bound to become. Sometimes things go wrong and we don't live the life we were destined for. At least this is what I understood.
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