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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Carl Jung

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the previous two posts, I set out to show how Jung’s archetypal psychology might be of interest to polytheists and deity-centered Pagans.  In concluding, I promised to discuss how Jung may also be of interest to earth-centered Pagans.

Jung’s earthiness is sometimes easy to miss.  It is quite possible to read a great deal of Jung’s writings, as well as a lot of secondary literature on Jungian psychology, and not find much concern at all with the natural world.  In fact, it is easy to interpret Jungian philosophy as being introverted to the point of solipsism.  And yet, one of Jung’s biographers confidentially calls him “earth-rooted” as well as “spiritually centered”.  People who knew him called often described him as “earthy”, referring to his physicality and vitality, as well as his simplicity.  Olga Konig-Fachsenfeld, for one, wrote that Jung's "earth-rootedness" was for her "the guarantee for the credibility of his psychology". 

In his personal life, Jung had an intense love of nature, simple rustic lifestyle, and solitude, reminiscent of the Transcendentalists.  Jung writes in his semi-autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections that part of him always felt “remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures.”  His experience of nature bordered on the pantheistic:

“Nothing could persuade me that ‘in the image of God’ applied only to man. In fact it seemed to me that the high mountains, the rivers, lakes, trees, flowers, and animals far better exemplified the essence of God than men with their ridiculous clothes, their meanness, vanity, mendacity, and abhorrent egotism [...]

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Last time, I talked about how Jungian archetypes, far from being mere metaphors for natural and psychological processes, can accurately be described as "gods".  In this post, I want to discuss how the experience of Jung's archetypes closely resembles Polytheists' descriptions of their encounter with the gods. 

It is not uncommon for Pagans to draw on Jung’s concept of archetypes to explain the nature of Pagan deities.  Polytheists*, however, often reject Jungian or archetypal explanations of the gods because they seem reductive, and such explanations do not seem to account for the Polytheistic experience of the gods as “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”.  When Polytheists hear the gods described as archetypes, they may hear the speaker telling them that it is "all in your head".  In addition, talk about “archetypes” can seem abstract, which is inconsistent with the Polytheists' experience of the gods in all their specificity.  For example, the "Mother archetype" may not evoke the same devotion among Polytheists as the goddesses Demeter or Kali do. 

But is Jung’s theory of the archetypes really inconsistent with the experience Polytheists?  Is it possible that the archetypes have been misunderstood by many Polytheists and Pagans alike? 

Jung in dialogue with the archetypes

The way that many Pagans have applied Jung’s theories does admittedly render a divinity which is psychologized and abstract.  But Jung’s own description of the experience of the archetypes was very different.  Jung engaged his unconscious through a technique called “active imagination”, which he also taught to his patients.  Active imagination involves inducing a kind of trace or “twilight consciousness”, of the type which we experience just before falling asleep -- a waking dream, if you will.  Then Jung would attempt to consciously interact with the images that emerged. 

In his semi-autobiographical, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes about how he would dialogue with archetypal images, like his "anima", a muse-like mediating archetype.  The fact that Jung would talk to the archetypal images of his unconscious, by itself, is not all the surprising; but the fact that the images responded to him -- actually talked back to him -- is surprising.  (Jung admitted that he sometimes feared for his sanity.) 

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  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    >Jung's concern, like in the others in the psychoanalytic school, would be with something influencing our behavior that we are not
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Jung said it is the project of several lifetimes.
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I didn't mean to imply that he thought it could be avoided, just that the point is to work toward ever greater levels of conscious

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Recently, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus created some online controversy by arguing that one of the “points” of modern Paganism is to “bring back the gods”.  Lupus’ post was written in the context of a wider discussion about the place of Polytheism within contemporary Paganism, which began when several prominent Polytheists decided to disassociate themselves from the term “Pagan”.  (For more on this see here and here.)

Part of the reason for the antipathy of many Polytheists for Paganism is the perception that for Pagans the gods are personifications of natural forces or Jungian archetypes, whereas for Polytheists the gods are, in Lupus’ words, “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”.  Polytheistic practice, according to Lupus, “presupposes a definite being with volition and consciousness on the other end of the interaction.”  In contrast, Jungian archetypes are often understood by Pagans as mere metaphors of of natural or psychological processes.  A Polytheist who understands the archetypes in this way might well wonder why would anyone worship the creations of their own mind.

In the 1960s and 70s, Pagans seized onto Jung’s conception of archetypes as a way of legitimizing Pagan polytheism in the face of the crumbling claims to historical authenticity.  In the process though, the gods of Paganism became psychologized, and they lost their numinous quality.  (Numinosity refers, in part, to the mysterious “otherness” of an encounter with the divine.)  The Pagan gods had become archetypes, but Pagans had lost the sense of the archetypes as gods.  In reaction, many Polytheists in search of communion with numinous Others rejected Jungian Paganism in favor of a radical (or “hard”) polytheism which treats the gods as beings existing independent of the human psyche. 

I believe that this rejection of Jungian archetypes is the result of a misunderstanding by many Pagans of Jung’s concept of archetypes.  Jung would say that, while the gods may be a part of us, we must remember that they are also other than us, if by “us” we mean our conscious mind or ego-self.  Thus, Jung could say that “the world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me”, and in the same breath say that “the collective unconscious is the world of gods and spirits outside me”.  This is why Jung called the archetypes “gods” and compared the psyche to an “Olympus full of deities who want to be propitiated, served, feared and worshipped”. He wrote that moderns congratulate ourselves

"imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. [...] Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus."

The gods are not gone; they have just come home -- to the psyche.

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Chas Clifton reports that Robert Anton Wilson published an article in the old Llewellyn Publications magazine Gnostica, involving
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    "And if so, is it than 'my' unconsciousness where they reside or perhaps in the unconsciousness of that other place or person." T
  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    This is very interesting and I am curious how P. Sufenas will respond to this one. In any case it will lead to a more productive d

Carl Jung articulated a psychology in which myth emerges from biology, part of a natural process of individuation.  This 3-part guest post series by John Halstead explores the influence of Jung on major figures in Contemporary Paganism.

by John Halstead


Janet and Stewart Farrar

Janet and Stewart Farrar, from http://www.bewicked.be/P11JanetFarrar.html

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Carl Jung articulated a psychology in which myth emerges from biology, part of a natural process of individuation.  This 3-part guest post series by John Halstead explores the influence of Jung on major figures in Contemporary Paganism.

by John Halstead


Doreen Valiente

Doreen Valiente, from www.controverscial.com/Doreen%20Valiente.htm

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Carl Jung articulated a psychology in which myth emerges from biology, part of a natural process of individuation.  This 3-part guest post series by John Halstead explores the influence of Jung on major figures in Contemporary Paganism.

Carl Jung, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Jung_%281912%29.png

by John Halstead

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

@BenjySarlin is right:  Although today Mitt Romney told a crowd in Las Vegas that, "I'm convinced that the path [Obama's] put us on is the path to Europe.  Or, I jokingly say...to California," it's difficult to imagine Obama telling a crowd, even jokingly, that, "I'm convinced that the path Romney would put us on is the path to Mississippi."  And if he did, the outrage would be unending.

Old Dr. Jung was onto something when he wrote about shadows and projection.  For decades, the political Right has loudly insisted that the political Left holds "regular Americans" in contempt.  (They've been admirably vague about precisely who is a "real" American; allows everyone to image that they must be insulting someone else.)  Spiro Agnew announced that Americans who opposed the war in Viet Nam were an "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."  The Moral Majority whipped up lower-income, white Christians by implying that an "immoral minority" of snobby liberals looked down on the "moral majority" as it eroded "American values."  George W. Bush, a child of generations of financial and educational privilege, ran as a brush-clearing Texas rancher with whom you'd love to have a beer, against John Kerry as a rich, "French," jet-skiing (apparently, only rich liberals jet ski) liberal.  (We'll just ignore the fact that Bush bought that ranch just before beginning his political campaign, cleared brush only in front of the media, and sold the ranch immediately upon leaving the White House.)  Despite decades of economic policies that hurt working-class Americans, the Right has been able to paint the Left as made up of arugula-eating, latte-drinking, snobs.

In the current campaign season, the Right has oddly let slip the pleasant veneer of  regular-guy-respect for the middle class.  The slippage has been evident for some time (see, e.g., Anne Romeny's discussion of "You People"), but it went mainstream overnight when Mother Jones released  a tape of Mitt Romney talking at a private fundraiser to "his base<" -- people who could afford to attend a $50,000 a plate fundraiser at the home of a hedge fund manager with a taste for sex parties.  (Hey, I belong to a religion that believes that all acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess, but I do wonder how this is supposed to go over with those middle-class "value voters," the old "moral majority" people who hate sex unless it's being enjoyed by Sarah Palin's abstinence-supporting, unmarried daughter or a hedge fund manager who raises money for a Mormon millionaire.)

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  • Tom Terrific
    Tom Terrific says #
    Like old Dr. Jung, I think you’re onto something as you write about shadows and projection. As it happens, if Obama told a crowd,

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Greed & Rapacity: Loki BoundIn my last article I proposed to discuss an expression of Loki which tries to avoid the pitfall of declaring to be either for or against this complex and provocative figure. Unfortunately this will entail a bit of self-promotion on my part, because I intend to present and discuss the lyrics to a musical release called Loki Bound, which was released by Milam Records earlier in 2012. Loki Bound was performed by Greed & Rapacity, a band of which I am one half.

Loki Bound is a one-song 30-minute funeral doom metal descent into Loki’s stream of consciousness during his imprisonment by the Aesir, the primary Norse pantheon, for misdeeds real and (possibly) imagined. He lies chained by his son’s intestines to a deeply buried boulder, while a serpent drips venom upon him. His loyal wife, Sigyn, catches the poison in a cup, but when she goes to empty the cup, the poison falls on Loki’s skin. His agonized convulsions are the root of earthquakes, and it is fair to say that Loki is a deity of psychological tectonics.

Loki Bound is not easy listening. Yet the project was born out of a spirit of empathy – not, it must be said, sympathy. Empathy.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Henry Lauer
    Henry Lauer says #
    Think of me as a perennial weed
  • Robin Clear
    Robin Clear says #
    Wow, Everywhere I go there you are.
  • Michele Briere
    Michele Briere says #
    Your thoughts on Loki are very interesting. My path is Sumerian (actual Sumerian, not that Sitchen-Necro crap), and I have always

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