Character & Calling (Part 4)

My spring reading: James Hillman’s classic The Soul’s Code – In Search of Character and Calling (Random House, New York, 1996).

In earlier posts, we examined Hillman’s assertion that rather than mindlessly falling in line with the popular Western idea of the self-made hero/heroine for whom the ‘only way is up’, we’d do ourselves a favour by taking closer look at the Plato’s The Myth of Er. In that ancient classic we learn that prior to incarnation, souls not only make key choices about how their earthly lives should unfold, but they are also assigned a daimon, whose job it is to ensure once on earth, soul reconnects with and lives out his/her chosen calling. 

Hillman reminds us that mere reconnection with one’s chosen calling is never enough. Soul must ‘grow down’ into its earthly incarnation and like a tree, establish a strong and stable ‘root system’ able to sustain that calling. When one fails to ‘grow down’, whole exercise goes to hell in a handbag. 

Case in point, is Judy Garland who most certainly connected with her calling as a talented performer. But eschewing the requirement to ‘grow down’ and get comfortably stuck in her earthly realities, she instead chose (as Hillman puts it) to cling to America’s most treasured drug – the myth of innocence – the psychology of denial. As the result of this, her life took a tragic turn. 


Astrologically, when see that Garland’s daimon (which because she had Cancer rising, was the Moon, we understand a bit more why this happened. At 29 Sagittarius, her moon/diamon was in an anarectic degree, astrologically a very bad place.


Interestingly, Hillman points out, the life of another amazing performer, Josephine Baker, who shared many similarities with Garland, had a very different outcome.

Because she had Virgo rising, Mercury was Baker’s diamon and her Mercury enjoyed not only a prominent place in her chart (high in the sky in the 10th house) but also exaltation both by sign and term. Likewise Baker’s Mercury is strong in sect (and in hayz). 


Although born into extreme poverty (and all around bad luck) in turn of the last century United States, Baker, a sassy, savvy, black woman ran off to Europe and there, took the world by storm. But as we know from Garland’s sad story, that is never enough. Whilst although provided with several opportunities, Garland failed to move past her magical, stark-stuck success Baker used her fame and fortune to address some of the worst social evils (i.e. fascism, racism, abandonment of children, and injustice) of her day.

Doubtless having a strong daimon (as show astrologically) contributed to Baker succeeding where Garland failed. But there must be more to why Baker ‘grew down’ in accord with Plato’s The Myth of Er whilst Garland didn’t. I suspect we’ll understand more when we more closely examine the four modes suggested by the Platonic myth by which soul ‘grows down’: (1) via the body, (2) via the parents, (3) via place, and (4) via circumstances.

(to be continued) 


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