Personifying permits us to loosen our tightly held grasp on life. We enter into a relationship with soul instead of an autocracy and this allows us to soften our response to the movements of psyche. Hillman (1992/1975) called the insistence of personal soul alone a “personalistic fallacy” (p.49) where we believe we have ownership of the events of psyche, the symptoms and rumblings. When psyche stops being personal and becomes personified, we become present to the metaphorical nature of it and its expressions.
In their book Metaphors We Live By, Lackoff and Johnson (2003/1980) say, “Love is not love without metaphors of magic, attraction, madness, union, nurturance, and so on” (p. 272). What personifying helps us do is notice the metaphors we assume and find the ones psyche desperately needs us to embrace. The archetypal persons of the imaginal aren’t conceptual but experiential, and personifying invites us to the task of experiencing life.
Hillman’s (2015/1992) reintroduction of the heart as a sensing and thinking organ, where “events of the heart may be conceived as philosophic” and imaginal, is a personification away from the “personalistic fiction” of Moore (1996, p. 27). Then the matters of heart are mythic and we find “the story we tell when our mouths are shut” (Moore, 1996, p. 24). The sense-experience of soul being lived through us ensouls everything and, as Moore suggests, we can “live in a mythic, animated (imagination-filled) world where everything is sacred, where angels appear unexpectantly and in many guises and where devils make it all interesting and complicated” (p. 27).
Hillman, J. (1992). Revisioning psychology. New York: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1975)
Hillman, J. (2015). In McLean M. (Ed.), The thought of the heart and the soul of the world. Thompson,
CT: Spring. (Original work published 1992)
Lackoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1980)
Moore, T. (1996). Developing a mythic sensibility. Sphinx. London, England.