A Terrible Love of War

Title:                      A Terrible Love of War

Author:                  James Hillman

Hillman, James (2004). A Terrible Love of War. New York: Penguin Press

LOC:       2003069049

U21.2 .H5435 2004

Date Posted:      February 11, 2013

A Publisher description of the book says:

From world-renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Soul’s Code, a profound examination of the roots of man’s primal love/hate relationship with war.

War is a timeless force in the human imagination-and, indeed, in daily life. If recent events have taught us anything, it is that peacetime is not nearly so constant and attainable as wartime. During the 5,600 years of recorded history, 14,600 wars have been fought-2 to 3 for every year of human history. War is a constant thing. And yet no one really understands why that is.

In A Terrible Love of War, James Hillman, one of the central figures in psychology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, fills this great void and undertakes a groundbreaking examination of the origins, needs, and rewards of war. Moreover, in this brilliant inquiry, Hillman explores many other essential questions, such as:

  • Is war a necessary part of our human soul and, therefore, a necessary part of our lives?
  • Why do we need enemies?
  • What scars does warfare carve on the psyche of its soldiers? And why does it have such a permanent effect?
  • If war is such a “normal” part of our existence, why do we fear it so much? And alternately, how could we ever embrace a force so destructive, so wanton, and so inhuman?
  • Can the impulse to engage in war be tamed?

Hillman asserts that “if we want war’s horror to be abated so that life may go on, it is necessary to understand and imagine.” A Terrible Love of War is a crucial tool to understanding war-a crucial book for us all.

This book was reviewed in a publication by the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

Hillman is a Jungian psychoanalyst who firmly believes that human kind love war. For him, war is an archetypal impulse and an authentic religious phenomenon, a worship of Mars. War is an implacable force, a primary element of the human condition, and what he calls a beautiful horror. As evidence, Hillman cites various memoirs and letters written in the heat of battle that reveal in the fighters a sense of such beauty and of their god-like invincibility. For those far from the battlefield, there is an appetite for viewing war whether real or on film that is akin to a taste for pornography, making voyeurs of us all. Christianity, Hillman says, is a warrior religion, something that not many Christians, clerics or laymen, are likely to agree with. He is least convincing when he suggests that the impulse to war can be checked by devotion to beauty as represented by Venus. [WIN 12 April 2004]