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The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  353 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In his powerful bestseller The Soul's Code, James Hillman brilliantly illuminated the central importance of character to our spiritual and emotional lives. Now, in this magnificent new book, Hillman completes his exploration of character with a profound and revolutionary reflection on life's second half.

"Character requires the additional years," declares Hillman. "The last
Paperback, 270 pages
Published July 5th 2000 by Ballantine Books (first published 1999)
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Bionic Jean
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bionic Jean by: Donald
Interesting psychologist's view of "oldness" and wisdom, incorporating ideas from anthropology and sociology.

The author examines the common physical and mental factors of ageing, arguing that this is not so much a lessening of abilities as a new state of being or archetype in which we attain our true identity and character.

James Hillman postulates that it is a recent phenomenon to disregard people who are not young-acting and young-looking. Earlier societies revered the idea of "ancestors". The
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wrote this essay after reading Hillman's book. The tone of the book is more scholarly, but the essay will give you a good idea of Hillman's orientation in this book on the inescapable fact of growing old.

Letting Go

On this late autumn day, the elms and oaks around my house seem determined to let go of all the leaves that have died on their limbs. Everywhere I look there is a letting go. The sky has let go of blue and allowed itself to be covered with a thick mantle of gray.

I am reminded of the
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, mythology
Hillman's meditation on old age. Another amazing read where I want to keep making and highlighting brilliance on almost every page. Amazing man. Can't believe I only came to him now. This has radically changed my views on some of the phenomena common in older people I care for - from sleep disturbances to the "dirty old goat" to the reasons and propensities for retelling stories - and should be required reading for anyone in geriatrics. Too bad medical schools have totally overlooked Hillman.

Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Hillman’s central idea is that aging, particularly old age, is required for the development of character. Character is identified with such qualities as honor, dignity, courage, grace, and value. He laments that in American society attitudes toward old age seldom embody respect for such qualities. Without this “character” that he discusses, old age is lessened and becomes a matter of loss. Old people lose their beauty, their productivity, their health, and become burdens that have to be cared fo ...more
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hillman tells us that our last years fulfill our character, heightens our mystery and our unique awareness of life. I agree.
Gwen Walton
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Hillman who died in 2011 at the age of 86, was a leading interpreter and exponent of Jungian psychology, who published more than 20 books. I still have to read many of them, but I recently discovered "The Force of Character: and the Lasting Life". This is an excellent study of the psychology of life's later years and the aging process, linking the mental, spiritual and the physical. To Hillman old age was a time when each person's innate character could reach its full potential. He warns a ...more
Sarah Reinert
Dec 09, 2019 marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark McTague
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Though anyone with curiosity and a willingness to look at the world with an open mind, Hillman's book seems intended for people on the other side of 50. Among the ideas that he writes about is the notion that aging is somehow synonymous with decline, decay, and loss. He attempts, largely successfully in my view, to show the sharp limits of that idea, the way it ignores, when it is not simply misrepresenting, the changes that come with age. This is a facile simile, which obscures many insights wh ...more
Kirsten Mortensen
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
As I noted in my review of Soul's Code, I'm working my way through all (or at least "a lot of") Hillman's works.

I liked this one more than Soul's Code, but less than a couple other Hillman books that I have read & truly treasure (his book on dreams, "The Dream and the Underworld") and the collection Animal Presences: Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman).

"The Force of Character" does have one strong element in its favor: Hillman's implied suggestion that we re-conceptualize "old age
Ted Morgan
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this when I was on the wane from reading this sort of book but I read it with great pleasure, respect, and gratitude. I continue to think of the author as wise and most helpful. When I encountered the work, I was my late 50s and just realizing I was growing old but not fully feeling aged. "Aging is not accident," James Hillman writes. Human beings live longer than most animals though certainly not all and aging has a purpose, say Hillman. Aging speaks with an intelligence. He builds from ...more
Eric Ryniker
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this more than it's more widely read predecessor, The Soul's Code. It was the much needed second conversation I wanted after completing Soul's Code. The book itself is comprised of many small chapters that are almost in a random or non-order, but the further one ventures into the text the more apparent the purpose of his epistrophe becomes: our character is at stake. ...more
Pietro Guglielmi
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not as spiritual as the writer but it turned out to be a very, very interesting read nonetheless. ...more
Alyson Hinkie
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. I think everyone should read this In their 40’s and probably again at 65.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some parts a little cense but enjlyable .
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: purpose, intention

The mind likes ideas. It asks for fresh ones, even half baked ones. It busies itself cogitating. The mind is naturally curious, inventive, transgressive. Older persons are advised to keep mentally active so as to delay decline of brain function. Use it or lose it.

In 1998 when this book was published, Hillman was contemplating the idea of older age and how humans are evolving so that a perception of older age, is changing

T. S. Eliot: Old men ought to be explorers

Hillman advises us to become invol
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: understand the span of a life
from the library 1999

I have enjoyed this in some of the same ways that I like Care 0f the Soul Care of the Soul A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life(Why can't I find Thomas Moore?)

This book is not so much about soul as it is about the kernel in each of us which seeks the truth of who we are and show itself through the entire course of ones life. It is especially focused on aging and the special aspects of the human soul/spirit/persona which is revealed in older people.

Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Older people, people dealing with mortality, gerontologists
Recommended to Michael by: Don Webb
This was recommended to me as a means to "aid my lifelong commitment" to Working on myself. It also seemed appropriate at a point in my life where I am sorting out the death of one of my parents, a kind of turning point in which you can no longer think of yourself as young and immortal. Hillman argues that as a society we have become so focused on Youth that we fail to appreciate the value of becoming an Elder. He suggests that what makes us truly unique as we go through life is our "character," ...more
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: existence, psychology
the author tries hard to philosophize and reason about embracing the old age and urges to see it as a purposeful stage in one's life, to look beyond the surface.
he's against many ideas i believe in, such as my belief in our ability to improve our selves through technology and biosciences, and basically argues that "look it's a pie in the sky and in the meantime we have so much culture, so much character that is rotting" and then proceeds to give a vague recipe on how this culture and character
Steve Greenleaf
I’ve recently sang the praises of James Hillman in my review of Kinds of Power: A Guide to Its Intelligent Uses, so I won’t repeat that here. This book deals another big topic: aging. Like power, we sometimes wish it would go away and we try to ignore it. But remember: only the lucky get to age.

Hillman looks at aging through his unique lens, paying heed to the literal but focusing upon the figurative—the images of aging. And as he often does, he provides us with a fresh perspective on this age-o
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
As humans, we put off thinking about life as an older person. Read this book and you will gain a new perspective about that cranky old grandfather or the old neighbor who tells you that you haven't a clue how to plant your grass.

It is the force of character that takes us over as we age. Depending on how you look at it, that may be good or bad, but it is who we are. Fallen away are the goals and desires of youth, the striving at middle age, but it is character--what is really inside of us that co
Victoria Weinstein
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Much less carefully written than The Soul's Code (this, in fact, feels like a kind of hastily crafted sequel), Hillman's offers a Jungian take on the challenges of aging. He's riffing here, having fun and taking the reader on a kind of stream-of-consciousness argument. Not the most disciplined approach but still valuable. ...more
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
made it back through the prefaces and to page 14 where the author has introduced the idea that character is a "force" that is active ... very good foundation laid to enjoy the book :)

Once the time and mind is quieted, this book is a good read from any point and easily done all the way through if that is your preferred way.

Nice to assess the paradigms associated with life ... at any age.
Howard Mansfield
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
In The Force of Character James Hillman reclaims this old word – character – liberating us to think about our lives from a fresh perspective. The character book is much better than the preceding and very popular The Soul’s Code, but each are too slow in starting and they each go on after they should have ended. Still, one Hillman book is more important than a shelf-full by his contemporaries.

Mark Spano
Jul 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I recommend to nearly everyone. It is instructions on becoming a curmudgeon. Hillman does not believe we should grow gracefully. He tells us we should grow downward into ourselves. We should out of this life telling them all what for. I'm working on it right now. ...more
Mar 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A rich book ... loaded with evocative and provocative notions of aging, character, and the soul.
Brent Wilson
Feb 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help
I really like James Hillman's take on psychology; this book is about the condition of being old (not his words). Lots of good ideas - didn't hold my interest throughout, but I learned something. ...more
Oct 11, 2011 marked it as to-consider
Shelves: may-read
W.S. Merwin mentions this in his 10/11/11 WUNC State of Things interview with Frank Stascio.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
I have enjoyed other books by this author but this one was disappointing.
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lasting, leaving, left...the purpose of aging, to build, fulfill and confirm one's character. ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found The Force of Character to be an interesting, multi-layered read. The book will serve as a continuing source of inspiration as I explore the process of my own aging.
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James Hillman was an American psychologist. He served in the US Navy Hospital Corps from 1944 to 1946, after which he attended the Sorbonne in Paris, studying English Literature, and Trinity College, Dublin, graduating with a degree in mental and moral science in 1950.
In 1959, he received his PhD from the University of Zurich, as well as his analyst's diploma from the C.G. Jung Institute and foun

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“It seems, as one becomes older, / That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence,” wrote T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets, which meditates on time, age, and memory, goes on to say, “We had the experience but missed the meaning, / And approach to the meaning restores the experience / In a different form, beyond any meaning.” 6 likes
“What ages is not merely your functions and organs, but the whole of your nature, that particular person you have come to be and already were years ago.” 6 likes
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