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Force of Character

And the Lasting Life

by James Hillman
Information About the Book Copyright © 1999 by Random House,

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James Hillman, The Force of Character: and the Lasting Life (New York, NY: Random House, 1999). Order on-line | Large Print paperback | Audio Tape

James Hillman is the author of the best-selling The Soul's Code and Kinds of Power: A Guide to its Intelligent Uses, to my mind one of the most important and underrated books in recent years. MenWeb has an interview with James Hillman and a MP3 Webcast of a segment from a tape of a workshop he did with Michael Meade, Character and Destiny, based on this book. Here is information about his latest book, from Random House and

Book cover
The Force of Character: and the Lasting Life
by James Hillman
Order on-line
Large Print paperback
Audio Tape

Character and Destiny audio tape

Review of this tape

Listen to an MP3 WebCast

Hear an MP3 excerpt

Order on-line

The Soul's Code
The Soul’s Code

(order on-line)
(order paperback on-line)
(Audio Tape)

Book cover
Kinds of Power
Order on-line
About this Book

In his bestselling The Soul's Code, James Hillman restored passion and meaning to the concept of identity, arguing that each of us is born with an innate character, the "daimon" or "spirit" that calls us to what we are meant to be. Now, in The Force of Character, Hillman brings the idea of character full circle, offering a revolutionary new vision of life's most feared and misunderstood chapter: old age.

"Aging is no accident," Hillman writes. "It is necessary to the human condition, intended by the soul." We become more characteristic of who we are simply by lasting into later years; the older we become, the more our true natures emerge. Thus the final years have a very important purpose: the fulfillment and confirmation of one's character.

Contrary to the current genetic determinism that sees increased longevity as a wasted aberrance created by civilization, The Force of Character presents an explosive new thesis: The changes of old age, even the debilitating ones, have purposes and values organized by the psyche. Memory for recent events may falter, offering more place for long-term recollections. A heart condition in later life brings an opportunity to remove blockages from constricted relationships, while changes in sleep patterns allow the old to experience the profound elements of nighttime that we usually overlook. As Hillman says, "Aging makes metaphors of biology."

In this empowering and original work, James Hillman resurrects the ancient, widespread, and socially effective idea of the old person as "ancestor," a model for the young, the bearer of a society's cultural memory and traditions. America disregards old people who aren't young-acting and young-looking. We don't realize that "oldness" is an archetypal state of being that can add value and luster to things we treasure, places we revere, and people's character. When we open our imaginations to the idea of the ancestor, aging can free us from convention and transform us into a force of nature, releasing our deepest beliefs for the benefit of society. For all who read it, The Force of Character will be a seminal, life-affirming experience.

Click here to read a brief excerpt from The Force of Character

Excerpted from Force of Character:, The by James Hillman. Copyright© 1999 by James Hillman. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From Kirkus Reviews
The coming ``age wave'' has a new champion in Hillman, who investigates the brighter side of growing old. Although he has written or edited over two dozen books, psychologist Hillman made his splash in 1996 with The Soul's Code, in which he argued in almost fatalistic fashion that individual destiny is shaped by a soul's ``daimon.'' Whatever. Here, he seems to qualify that predetermination by exploring how human character is only gradually developed/revealed, largely as we age. Like a fine wine or cheese, people become more ``in character'' as life progresses. Part one looks at ``Lasting,'' the natural human effort to stay young and hang on to this life, the only one we know. He seeks to ``decouple death from aging,'' challenging the prevailing view that we are only marching closer to death with each passing year. There are some fine insights here, such as when he notes that, until this century, death was associated with being young (dying in childbirth or on the battlefield, for example), not being old. He also embraces the elderly's reputed fear of the young as an important and instinctive self-defense mechanism. Older people should preserve their deeper, wiser character by keeping ``youthful attitudes at arm's length.'' Part two examines ``Leaving,'' and is perhaps the meat of the book. With an optimism that borders on Pollyanna's ``Glad Game,'' Hillman takes on a dozen common complaints of aging and shows how they can help develop true character (e.g., impotence improves the erotic imagination and sexual fantasy; the irritating loss of short-term memory only helps to emphasize truly significant memories of pivotal life events). The final section, ``Left,'' experiments with a refreshing concept: how to remain fully in this life while we are also leaving it. ``Can we imagine both going and staying?'' he asks. Some fresh and useful approaches, but the second part's relentless sanguinity may alienate some who are aging painfully. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
This philosophy/psychology work on character and aging is not a self-help book but rather a self-perception book--philosophical, wise, and deep. "What does aging serve? What is its point?" asks James Hillman, and proceeds to examine those questions fully. The loss of short-term memory, for example, enables us to better recall the past and review our lives. "On the one hand, brain cells may be flaking off like autumn leaves in a deciduous forest; on the other hand, a clearing is being made, leaving more space for occasional birds to alight." Hillman also likens short-term memory loss to a warehouse packed full of the inventory of life, emptying the latest files "to preserve enough emotional space for evaluating what has been there for a long time." Other aging markers also have benefits for character, reflection, and imagination. We wake up at night not only because our old bodies have to urinate, for example, but also because our minds are open to the wonders and mysteries of night.

Hillman discusses the three major changes that character undergoes in later life. First is "lasting," which is the desire to live as long as possible. Next is "leaving," where we change from holding on to letting go, and our character becomes more exposed and confirmed. The final stage is "left": "what is left after you have left," and Hillman interweaves all the connotations of that word. --Joan Price

Author Biography

James Hillman is a psychologist, scholar, international lecturer, pioneer psychologist, and the author of more than twenty books, including The Soul's Code, Re-Visioning Psychology, Healing Fiction, The Dream and the Underworld, Inter Views, and Suicide and the Soul. A Jungian analyst and originator of post-Jungian "archetypal psychology," he has held teaching positions at Yale University, the University of Chicago, Syracuse University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Dallas, where he cofounded the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. After thirty years of residence in Europe, he now lives in Connecticut.


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