The best books on art healing

The Books I Picked & Why

Jung on Active Imagination

By C.G. Jung, Joan Chodorow

Book cover of Jung on Active Imagination

Why this book?

C. G. Jung anticipated everything we do today, and more, with his practice of active imagination over 100 years ago. I have used this book as a primary reading in my courses. I also consider it to be among the best books dealing with the creative process, especially the emphasis on how the individual ego, or person of the artist, is a participant in a larger intelligence of creative imagination. We relax a grip on the controls to enable the expression to manifest itself, as Jung personally demonstrates in The Red Book, Liber Novus, just recently available to the public.

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The Dream of the Earth

By Thomas Berry

Book cover of The Dream of the Earth

Why this book?

In college during the 1960s I studied Eastern and indigenous world religions with Thomas Berry which informed my approach to art healing. Only recently I discovered how he evolved to become a leading figure in the ecological community, calling for a new depth of psychology of nature. His vision of how each person and all of nature participate in an inclusive creative force is for me the way forward with art healing. Among his books, including The Great Work and the new biography published by Columbia University Press, I recommend The Dream of the Earth as a starting point. We participate in a creative process that is within ourselves and larger than us, a convincing paradigm embracing the sacred dimensions of art healing as affirmed by my colleagues Bruce Moon and Pat Allen. 

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Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person

By Mary Caroline Richards

Book cover of Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person

Why this book?

This is a poetic masterwork with the potter’s wheel as a metaphor for creating our lives as “an ongoing process” in which every act integrates all of life. In our current era there is a tendency to cry cultural appropriation when we look beyond our immediate context and study art healing principles within the whole human community and find ourselves in others. Mary Caroline Richards offers good art medicine for this myopia in demonstrating how ideas are not the property of persons “but live in the world” as people and all of nature do. “The deeper we go” in the contemplative process of centering, the more separations “dissolve.”

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The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology

By James Hillman

Book cover of The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology

Why this book?

James Hillman called for the revisioning of psychology based on art, culture, and imagination. Of his many books, The Myth of Analysis, offering three essays on psychological creativity, language, and femininity, is the one that I reference most, especially his position that “the language of psychology insults the soul.” Social science and the therapy jargon of the “establishment” are not getting better, and as Hillman says, we become ill in sync with it. He said to me that art therapists can “be the carriers of imagination into the culture at the grassroots level. I really do want to encourage them with all my heart.”

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Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

By Shunryu Suzuki

Book cover of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Why this book?

I work with groups and communities in studio environments where people worldwide encounter past baggage about their artistic expression or lack of it, all of which invariably arouses intimidation, fear, doubt, and resistance. This concise, 138-page text has been the go-to book in affirming universal and quality participation. Less experienced artists appreciate the value of beginning and veterans let go and begin anew. The goal for all is authentic expression, or as Suzuki-roshi says, “to express your true nature in the simplest, most adequate way and to appreciate it in the smallest existence.”

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