When John Hill performed the role of Father Victor White in The Jung-White Letters, he seemed possessed by the spirit of the man. In John Hill’s recent publication, At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging, leaves me wondering if he has now been possessed by an entire cloud of witnesses comprised of Irish poets spanning centuries. There is a lyrical quality that pervades the book and the publisher, Spring Journal Books, has done a marvelous job with the layout, cover design, the references, and every detail of the book. Perhaps John Hill pulled his inspiration from a Fairy fort but the result is magical.
As the February 4th conference Architecture of the Soul: The Inner & Outer Structures of C G Jung, (with Murray Stein & Andreas Jung) approaches, this is a timely read. Hill’s scholarship is systematic and rigorous, but the book is replete with powerful and evocative language. Hill gently weaves into the text many others who have shaped and influenced him like Paul Ricouer, Ernst Cassirer, along with one of my favorite fiction writers, Jhumpa Lahiri. The thesis of his book may appear self-evident but I could not have imagined the depth and breadth of material I found in this book.
John Hill has been practicing Jungian Psychoanalysis for forty years and it shows. He has been devoted to matters of the spirit even longer. The reader will enjoy the subtle, perceptive way Hill incorporates clinical material from client’s dreams and narratives. It is refreshing to encounter a writer who also lays himself bare to the reader without crossing the line into self-indulgence that can easily become a spectacle. This is an analyst who comprehends that self-disclosure, even within the pages of a book, can be a powerful tool. And I suspect he also understands that self-disclosure can also be unwieldy. Therapists do well to stay alert for moments when self-disclosure serves their own unmet needs for mirroring and affirmation since they may easy remained it is for their client’s benefit.
Modernity has ushered in unprecedented opportunities for homeowners to furnish their dwellings in cohesive, well designed styles that may sold as an entire package. Some furniture retailers make it easy to avoid making mistake by standardizing entire groupings of furnishings. IKEA is not unique in its ability to commoditize home furnishings and to impart a sense to its customers that a unique look can be achieved on a budget. The sheer volume and global reach of an IKEA testifies to the inclination to make a home unique through elements that are in fact standardized. Such a home, according to Hill may be at risk of being left “…. without a soul.”
In contrast, we will have the opportunity on February 4th to participate in a conference whose outer, visible subject is
The Home of C. G. Jung. After reading Hill’s, At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging, I suspect the upcoming conference presented through Asheville Jung Center will end up being about our own magnum opus, our home. We each approach this differently, just as we each approach the magnum opus of our individuation differently. For some, the reliance on a standard assortment of furnishings provides a personal space that avoid too much personal disclosure but also impedes personal discovery. For others, the home provides a platform of self-expression. There are homes I have entered where I could sense the disconnection between the soul of its inhabitants and the structure itself. There are limitless permutations for combining the inner dimensions of our being and the outer structure of our home. And according to John Hill, “When a home becomes a mere product, dissociated from one’s own personal and collective history, it is probably in danger of losing its soul.” (pg11)
Some individuals delight in assembling elements into a home. They strive for that ineluctable symmetry between the inner call of the soul and the outer manifestation of their home. When we speak of homemaking as a function of managing the household we miss the much deeper connection between the demands of keeping things going in a family and the making of a home. Hill notes, “We live in a world that offers us two different ways of seeing it — one functional and the other symbolic.” (pg47) It seems there as many different modus operandi for fashioning a home as there are styles of composition, materials and technique for the artist.
Good teachers like John Hill convey complex subjects in clearly understandable ways. The five or six pages on transference provide a good illustration and despite their conciseness Hill does not sacrifice the rich, evocative quality of his prose.
Images alone do not necessarily address key psychological issues or cross the great divide between Thou and I … (pg112)
Often in the deep constellations of transference and countertransference, the client finds the opportunities to relive much of the past. … The analyst must realize that he cannot indulge in the fantasy of providing a home for all those who need one. (pg113)
I live on the hyphen as a Cuban-American. My soul has one foot firmly planted in the United States of America where I was born while the other foot, the one possessed of dreams of return to an island I have never known, has nowhere to step. Countless others share my experience of life on the hyphen. The nations that bookend their hyphen do not separate us nearly as much as the hyphen unites us. We who are hyphenated are a diaspora in our own right. We are caught between two homes the one we left and the one where we dwell. But we are all likely to find ourselves somewhere along the continuum of a home we have known, a home we know now, and a home that awaits us.
Salmon Rushdie writes that, “Exile is a dream of a glorious return.” Like Odysseus, we may find ourselves in a seemingly endless pursuit of a return home. John Hill reveals to us some of the personal details of his own life away from his native Ireland without being mawkish. At Home in the World would be wonderful preparation for the upcoming conference Architecture of the Soul: The Inner & Outer Structures of CG Jung, (with Murray Stein & Andreas Jung). It will also be a great resource for anyone interested in the psychological implications and underpinnings of home from a Jungian perspective.
John Hill gave a gifted performance of Father Victor White in The Jung White Letters that moved me to examine the chords that resonated through Jung’s relationship with Sigmund Freud and later Father White. It also deeply moved me to consider what chords resonate through my relationships with men in my life. Now At Home in the World has moved me to examine from a fresh perspective my relationship to place. It has stirred a renewed interest in exploring the spaces and structures, past, present, and future that are called home in my life. Hill’s last paragraph reads like a closing hymn in prose and here he reveals a dream that arrived as he brought the book to completion.
… All at once the dream flashed across my mind, and I “knew” what it was trying to say.
…The house was my book on home. The brickwork symbolized the thoughts and ideas of others who had influenced me, and contributed to its making. The rough-hewn stones indicated that the work was connected with my identity.
… I have built the house from the materials of the earth. It is a house that contains, but it is also open to the world and to the spirit. Hopefully it can be an object of delight and contemplation, not just for me, but also for all who have crossed its threshold, so that you, dear reader, may appreciate your own home in new and creative ways.
Take a moment to consider the word “home”. Let your imagination run free and let yourself be transported to homes you have occupied, homes you have wished to occupy, homes you have left, homes you have awaiting you in the future. Consider what home means in your interior life and notice where the interior experience or awareness of home is in sync with the structure you call home and where the two seem out of sync. Please consider posting a comment about “home” so that we might open the doors and let one another peak in.
Len Cruz, MD