This essay was originally published at Neo-Paganism.com.
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Before proceeding to describe the nature of the archetypes, I want to return to the structure of the psyche which I discussed in a previous post. In that post, I depicted the structure of the psyche as an iceberg. Jung describes the psyche using other metaphors, including a building and a plant. Both of these analogies bring the discussion of archetypes down to earth, so to speak. The connection of the archetypes to the earth or to matter is of special interest to earth-centered Pagans.
You don't know Jung ... and it's his own fault. Jung concepts are frequently misunderstood by Pagans, both by those who love him and those who hate him. Part of the confusion surrounding Jung is due to his choice of terminology. Jung chose terms that -- at least when translated into English -- are commonly used to mean something very different than what he intended. In this series, I discuss five Jungian terms which are easily and commonly misunderstood: psychic, energy, self, individuation, symbol, and archetype. In this part, we'll talk about "Self".
"Self" is a terrible Jungian term because Jung means it in almost opposite sense in which people commonly use it. What we usually mean when we speak about our "selves" is our sense of "I", often restricted to our waking consciousness. What we commonly think of as our self is what Jung called the "ego". The ego is the central organizing complex of consciousness. What Jung meant by the "self" was a much broader term. It is, according to Jung, that "wholeness that transcends consciousness" (CW 9i, P 278) and "the psychic totality of the individual" (CW 11, P 232). It is what we might call our "True Self", "Deep Self" or "Big Self"....
I'm taking a break from my Jungian Pagan practice series to talk a little about Jungian terminology. Jung is one of the most used and abused thinkers in Pagan discourse. His concepts are frequently misunderstood, both by those who love him and those who hate him. Part of the confusion surrounding Jung is due to his choice of terminology. At times Jung could be very specific about what certain terms did and did not mean, and at other times he seemed to use terms in precisely the way that he said they should not be used. To make matters worse, Jung chose terms that -- at least when translated into English -- are commonly used to mean something very different than what he intended. I want to discuss five Jungian terms which are easily and commonly misunderstood: psychic, energy, self, individuation, symbol, and archetype. In this post, I will address the first two terms: "psychic" and "energy".
I like to travel several paths. As a seeker, I know that I am not alone. I welcome you to this blog and invite you to journey with me. Our paths may be different—or maybe not. I can best introduce myself as a traveler. Although you and I may be different from each other, perhaps we travel the same road.
Curiously, I like to be in the borderlands. Between here and there. In such crossing spaces I feel both like an outsider and an insider—familiar, and yet, stranger. This duality has accompanied me all my life. At first, finding my way was difficult. When I was a child, I tried to believe what I was taught. However, my religious education fed my mind at the expense of my heart. I was thirsty for something that I did not know. It was not until I became a woman that I found myself. Spirituality, instead of religion, seemed to quench my yearning. My forebears’ teachings showed me the way. Mind, heart, and body connected when I remembered my ancestral knowledge. I am indebted to my ancestors’ exploration....
... and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on ...
-- Mary Oliver, "Bone"