Significantly, Hillman’s work sought to deepen some aspects of Jung’s intellectual context and down play others. So Hillman prioritized Jung’s ambivalent relation to the humanities (of which more below), and eschewed a rhetoric of science that might be seen as marginalizing the foundational importance that both men gave to the imagination. Hillman chose to emphasize a heritage of Ancient Greek philosophy deriving from Heraclitus and its Neoplatonic heirs in the Renaissance. Above all, Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology pivots away from Jung’s attempt to reconfigure Christian and monotheistic structures to a polytheism that he based on the Greek gods and goddesses.
Such a psychology is perspectival in that it refuses a central or fixed epistemological position from which to know. Epistemology refers to the ways in which we know and the ways we justify that knowing. To Hillman, Jung’s psyche of archetypes and archetypal images is still biased towards an essentially Christian epistemology because of the central role of the monotheistically functioning Self. Moreover, he saw the prime attention paid to the ego in individuation as a dangerous legacy of a hero myth, meaning that it is a vestige of a time when heroic warrior egos were necessary for survival. In a Nuclear Age, the building of a psyche predicated upon winning battles at any cost can be disastrous.
Polytheistic psychology means that archetypal forces in the psyche are best termed as multiple goddesses and gods, because they ‘see’ the world in many diverse styles. Hillman’s myriad archetypes are divine because they create who we are, and also destroy who we are. The gods are not devoted to human success, or to the narrow ambitions of a single human life. Nor can they be corralled, tamed, or tempted to adapt comfortably to our egos.
Hillman’s polytheistic, soul-making Archetypal Psychology therefore differs from that of Jung in its epistemology, or way of creating knowledge. The consequence of the relationship between of psychology and literature from an Archetypal, as opposed to a Jungian, approach is intriguing.