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The Dream and the Underworld

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  800 ratings  ·  37 reviews
In a deepening of the thinking begun in The Myth of Analysis and Re-Visioning Psychology, James Hillman develops the first new view of dreams since Freud and Jung.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 25th 1979 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1975)
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Eddie Watkins
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very strange and radical book, especially from a man who later achieved very mainstream success in his field with The Soul's Code. Hillman here tries to reverse our relationship to dreams inherited from Jung and Freud.

He says that these two titans were too prone to fish out dreams from the darkness of our souls and fry them in the light of day in the fires of our waking rational consciousness in order to dissect, comprehend, and consume them. To oppose this Hillman posits that dreams are a li
May 08, 2012 added it
This book is typical of Hillman ideas about Jung. Hillman did not like what he called Jung's bias towards unity and wholeness. In this work Hilman makes it clear he does not want the dream brought up into daylight meaning into ego consciousness. Hillman wants the dream images left in what he calls the Underworld. Hillman preferes to leave the dream in its parts. He does not want to interpret the dream. He feels by leaving the dream in its parts and be doing so creates soul, or what he calls soul ...more
John Kulm
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book changed the way I look at dreams, or maybe the book taught me what my heart always wanted me to understand. Hillman looks at the dream as happening in the “Underworld” – a place of death – and wants us to enter into that world to understand the dream instead of trying to drag the dream up into the day-world by interpreting it.

Some quotes from the book:

“Freud’s method projects the persons in a dream back over the bridge into the dream-day, even if for the sake of their latent meaning.
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is, frankly, bizarre, but in a beautiful, complicated, confounding rather than repelling way. I have the sense that Hillman's version of mythology is a myth spun about myths, but in a certain sense it doesn't matter whether any particular claim in this book is true or false. Through opening up new (old?) layers of depth and inviting one to view and feel things from a different perspective, Hillman's achievement is not contained within his own imagination but rather within what he inspi ...more
Sep 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is now my favorite of James Hillman's books, and the best book on dreams I have ever read. Read it; it will change your life (or at least make you feel less grumpy at work on Monday morning).
Craig Werner
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, dreamwork
Brief note before the review (see my review of The Tempest for complementary preface note). As I contemplate retirement in a couple of more years, I'm reengaging the process of engagement with my dreams that began when I encountered Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections in high school and has continued over what's now almost 35 years of (very) intermittent work with my dream guide/analyst, Dennis Merritt). Part of that will involve reading/revisiting some of the base texts of "Jungian" psychology ...more
Barbara K.
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'd forgotten to add this until I saw it here as a recommendation.

I had a little trouble with this book when I read it. It's very good, and right down my alley, but there were some concepts that my mind for whatever reason wanted to resist, such as the idea of dreams not having any time element, or rather the interpretation not needing to address time. It's possible I misunderstood this and a lot of Hillman's other ideas. It's a thought-provoking book that I will likely reread, possibly at a ti
Johnny Cordova
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
The dream as a descent into the underworld and Dionysian dismemberment of the ego-self, dream work as a process of revealing and building soul, the dreamworld as a more real reality than the day world, some interesting ideas about clowns.

You'll need a good dictionary. You'll need to carefully re-read many paragraphs. It will change the way you think about dreams.
Slap Happy
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Giving a bit of sacredness back to the underworld and dreams.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
James Hillman is winding up being one of my favorite post-Jungian 'philosophers', for lack of a better term, a definition which I fully believe the man himself would chafe under.

His reworking of dream therapy invokes the classical underworld of Greco-Roman mythology, not as an interpretive symbol or force, but as literal as the 'self' in the dream, that must be taken as it is, without analysis, for any sort of eventual therapy to begin. His eventual use of the patients recognition of the dream-
Simão Cortês
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I quite liked this book but it took me a long time to read considering my usual reading pace. This was the third book I read on psychoanalysis and dreams. Hillman is the teacher of Bosnak, the writer that introduced me to the world of dreams, but his writing is much more hermetic than Bosnak's. Actually, you really need to be in a contemplative mood and also extremely concentrated in order to get anything of what he is saying.
Hillman had a project of revisioning psychology in general and he is
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
James Hillman's take on dream interpretation or rather his method of resisting the temptation of dream (over-)interpretation is certainly fresh. Be prepared for lectures on more what not to do than on what to do. Maybe it is necessary, who knows? I can't say I have a good feel for how entrenched Freudian and Jungian dream interpretation was, but Hillman sets out to shake us free of the influence of the two giants of psychology. Hillman is persistent and repetitious, and this was actually what I ...more
This book was helpful to me for several reasons, but most notably in how it associated the Imaginal/imagistic method of Swedenborg and Henry Corbin with the dream. The dream is fundamentally image and symbol, and any attempt to literalize it through interpretation is to kill its vitality (the life hidden within death). It also helped me understand the imaginal world of dreams as something that synthesizes opposites, for in dreams an image can mean any number of things at once. I developed that s ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an interesting book. It was recommended in the reading I did of Bill Plotkin. I wanted something on dreaming that was neither Freudian nor Jungian. However, this author is still tied to psychology and grecoroman myth0logy. I confess some terms were like those in a philosophy text. I know what the words mean ostensibly, and yet I do not understand the sentence, and I feel the author waxing rhapsodically rather than attempting to seriously convey an approach. I do acknowledge that his appr ...more
Don Wentworth
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An offshoot of 'traditional' Freudian and Jungian dream work, Hillman posits an approach to dream as image, a corollary of the myth of the Underworld (in contrast with the unconscious), not to be interpretated as symbol or archetype but as pure image.

A bit of a muddle, but a stimulating muddle, allowing the reader to see dreams, and analysis, in a different, if related light.

The extra star is for effort, acknowledging the author's willingness to expose his theories shortcomings as well as stren
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This is a great book on the dark shadowy dreams that we all have. Hillman stretches Jung's work (as usual) almost beyond recognition. However, it is an important book to read for anyone familiar with Jung's or Stephen Eisenstadt's work on dreams
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some mythology mixed with Freud and Jung's ideas on dream interpretation, all brought together in a new way of looking at dreams and the underworld. Gave me a lot to think about, but then I like this kind of stuff already!
Joli Hamilton
Critical reading for depth psychologists and anyone who wants to come into a relationship with the dream world. Hillman takes the basic ideas of Jungian psychology, flips, twists, turns, and son you find you've got an entirely new perspective on what it means to be human.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Very dense and esoteric read. Understood about 10% of the subject matter. Great historical background on the many different cultures and psychologists who have studied the Dream. Overall not a book recommended for someone casually wanting to know about dreams.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gave me nightmares. Literally.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
i read this over and over again
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
James Hillman, on his birthday April 12
"It's important to ask yourself, How am I useful to others? What do people want from me? That may very well reveal what you are here for. "James Hillman

Everything James Hillman has written is wonderful and more important, will help you navigate through life. You could make his work a field of study; I certainly did, coming from a Jungian background as did he and with similar concerns for the culture in which we are embedded.
One could begin with The Esse
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: "Re-Visioning Psychology" was one of the most (if not THE most) important books I've read. No surprise then that I would find "The Dream and the Underworld" both brilliant and refreshing, especially after a multi-month slog through Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams." James Hillman, always staying with the essence of things, rejects the tendency to extract hidden messages from the dream using "ego-consciousness," and "dayworld" interpretations; instead he restores the dream to the ...more
Dana Reynolds
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
A very difficult slog to read, but well worth it. Someone more versed in Greek mythology than I am would undoubtedly have a much easier time of it. And oh, by the way, this is my second read of it.

My description begins with the often used metaphor of horizontal and vertical dimensions where the horizontal is our relationship to the "day world" and the vertical one is our relationship to the divine, is in the heavenly or, I would say, to the underworld also, the "other" end of the vertical axis.
Kirsten Mortensen
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love love love this book.

It is often meandering, written more in the spirit of teasing at ideas than asserting them, but given how mysterious and swampy dreams are, the style fits the subject rather perfectly. Highly recommend if you are interested in dreams and "get" the Jungian way of thinking about the psyche.

Animal Presences: Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman is a great companion to this one btw :)
Anita Ashland
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
“There is a loving in dream work. We sense that dreams mean well for us, back us up and urge us on, understand us more deeply than we understand ourselves, expand our sensuousness and spirit, continually make up new things to give us.”

“The depth of even the simplest image is truly fathomless. This unending, embracing depth is one way that dreams show their love.”

“Dreaming is the psyche itself doing its soul-work.”
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I personally found the book hard to read. It consists of many historical knowledge and references from psychologists who studied Dream (although I really enjoyed comparing Freud’s and Jung’s theories on the matter as the author explains them in a great detail back and forth). Dream itself is a complicated subject but also a very interesting one.
Very well said:
“We cannot see the soul until we experience it, and we cannot understand the dream until we enter it.” -James H.
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Dream and the Underworld was a book I have been looking for, for a long time. This book is enjoyable for those of all reading levels despite what some of the reviews say but it needs to be approached in a slow manner. I have almost zero knowledge of Greek mythology until this book. Not only did I finish this book with a relational understanding of the Dream world in relation to Thanos and Hypnos, the River of Styx, and Hecate...But I left this book with seeds of wanting to learn more about m ...more
Matthew Pritchard
May 11, 2019 rated it liked it
One or two grains of insight in a mountain of pseudo intellectual psychobabble.
Albert Williams
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just ordered a copy to own. I have reviewed several texts of Mr Hillman, this text was
very brave and to some extent was Hillman's most solid departure from his fore-bearers.
Not giving to much away, the book is about Hillmans idea of 'the image' and being very true to it.
It's much more for 'the dreamer' then 'the reflector' in that it's more about being 'in' the dream.
Very strong. 5 stars.
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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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