Dreaming the Myth Onward: Jungian Neo-Paganism

Carl Jung's ideas have been influencing the development of Neo-Paganism from its inception in the 1960s and 1970s. But what if Jung's ideas have been misunderstood by many Pagans: literalized on the one hand and oversimplified on the other? What fresh insights can a Jungian Neo-Paganism contribute to Pagan discourse and practice today? And might Jungianism serve as a bridge between the earth-centered and deity-centered Pagan communities?

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John Halstead

John Halstead

John discovered Jungianism and Neo-Paganism at the same time through the writings of Vivianne Crowley, Margot Adler, and Starhawk, and the two have remained intertwined for him ever since.  John is the managing editor at HumanisticPaganism.com, a community blog for Naturalistic Pagans. He also writes about his spiritual quest on his blog The Allergic Pagan (www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/), where he explores his personal religious history, Paganism, UUism, and Jungianism.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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I have heard hard polytheists come up with all sorts of words to distinguish their gods from Jungian archetypes.  The gods, they say, are "real", "literal", "individual", "distinct", and "separate"; they are "persons", "beings", "entities", or "agents".  The archetypes, it is implied, are none of these things. 

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_zeus.JPGI have heard hard polytheists come up with all sorts of words to distinguish their gods from Jungian archetypes.  The gods, they say, are "real", "literal", "individual", "distinct", and "separate"; they are "persons", "beings", "entities", or "agents".  The archetypes, it is implied, are none of these things. 

I think much of this is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the archetypes.  In the next four posts, I want to talk about four terms that polytheists use to distinguish gods from archetypes: "real", "literal", "separate", and "agents".

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Some time ago, I was asked by a devotional polytheist what "Jungian polytheism" is.  In this post, I'm going to try to answer that question without all the psychological jargon and Jung quotes that I usually fall back on.

For me, being Pagan means that I find the divine (1) in myself and (2) in the world around me. These are two aspects of my Paganism that I struggle to bring together: the Self-centric Paganism and the earth-centric Paganism. Anyway, "Jungian polytheism" is (mostly) part of the former, the part of my religion that locates the divine in myself. 

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"It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living god."

-- Hebrews 10:3

Recently, Pan-devotee Jason Mankey stirred some pots by asking whether the current interest of many Pagans in the Morrigan is "just a fad." Jason, who is himself a polytheist, was not suggesting that the Morrigan is not real. After all, he admits, his own patron deity, Pan, was once a "fad" circa 1800-1920. But, nevertheless, the word "fad" is a provocative term. morriganMorpheus Ravenna, herself a devotee of the Morrigan, responded that the use of the word "fad" in this context is dismissive and direspectful. More importantly, she says, it's shallow:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_banff12.jpgFor the past 2 years, I've been circulating a Dropbox link to a collection of files containing Jung's Collected Works, which someone had scanned.  Unfortunately, the text recognition feature on the scanner was imperfect, which made searching and reading frustrating. 

But I have good news Jung-o-philes!

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b2ap3_thumbnail_lumia-730-selfie.jpg"10,000 Pagans Raise Their Voices For Environmental Action"

This might be the headline this summer. 

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    When I learned Wicca, I was told that Wiccans believe in abundance of Mother Earth. I now find all these doom and gloom prognosti
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I don't think Jung was saying that the Germans' collective guilt was unfounded, only that it needed to be brought to consciousness
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"Thinking Like a Mountain" by Robert Bateman

In this time of accelerating environmental change, many of us feel a sense of urgency to help transform humanity’s relationship with the Earth.  This sense of urgency is what drew together a large group of diverse Pagans, including Pagan leaders, authors, artists, and bloggers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia to draft “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.”  In honor of Earth Day, the statement has been published at ecopagan.com where you can add your signatureThe statement represents the beginning of a conversation, not the final word. Join us in our call to all people to rise to this historic moment in order to protect all life on Earth by signing the statementYou can sign on your own behalf or on behalf of a group or organization.


A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment

Who we are

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  • irene boyce
    irene boyce says #
    Hi John, mother earth needs drastic measures to save her, I have drastic. Please check out the following, we're here to save. In

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