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James Loder, Mystical Spirituality, and James Hillman


Eolene Boyd-MacMillan

Transformation is a desired outcome of Christian spirituality. Christians pray, trust, and hope that their responsive embrace of God will transform them. Interdisciplinary study of this process, as journey and as significant movements, hits upon key philosophical, theological, and psychological debates. Are all spiritualities the same core with an overlay of traditional practices and beliefs? How is the Holy Spirit involved in human life as the potential for this transformation process unfolds from birth? Can psychological theories of transformation that do not affirm divine reality have explanatory and descriptive power for Christian understandings of transformation?
These areas of focus and related questions encompass broad landscapes. This book places a magnifying glass on one piece of the terrain by engaging the work of philosopher, theologian, and psychologist James Loder, mystical spirituality scholars Andrew Louth, Bernard McGinn, Denys Turner, and Mark McIntosh, and archetypal movement founder James Hillman. Without denying differences, this work is the first analysis to identify connections among these thinkers. The significance of the connections is both substantive and methodological for intra- and inter-faith (broadly understood) spirituality discussion, as well as for the engagement of the Christian church with the culture of the twenty-first century.


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Chapter Four The Ego-Relativization Theory of James Hillman 175


Chapter Four: The Ego-Relativization Theory of James Hillman 1. Introduction This chapter lays the foundation for testing my application and modification of Loder’s methodology for spirituality discourse. Recall that he formulated his methodology for the inter-disciplinary study of transformed human knowing through ‘deep, transforming engagement with God.’ I am applying his methodology to the area of spirituality discourse, expanding it for inter-faith (broadly understood) discussion. I have modified it by arguing that researchers in the human sciences should consider divine reality at least as a possibility. Of course, Loder’s area of Christian Education in Practical Theology affirmed God’s active presence as a reality, not as a possibility. And Christian theological researchers who focus on spirituality as inter-disciplinarians will also approach their field with the assumption that God is real. But human science researchers do not necessarily do so. My argument is that they must include divine reality as a possibility in their methodology or else render their research inadequate. The discussion of this chapter solely analyzes James Hillman’s arguments, following the structure of the chapter on Loder with the headings of Ego, Ego- Relativization, and Results. 176 As a depth psychologist,1 James Hillman does not deviate from many of the broad characteristics of classical depth psychology. He understands it as aiming to bring unconsciousness to consciousness, asserting that the unconscious affects our thoughts and behavior to a greater extent than consciousness.2 Sigmund Freud’s ‘topographical model of personality organization’ illustrates this presupposition: consciousness represents only the tip of the iceberg,...

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