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.

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Every so often, the devotional polytheistic community comes up with a new way to try to distinguish gods from archetypes.  In the past, terms like "real", "literal", or "separate" have been emphasized.  Now it's "agents".  The gods have agency while archetypes do not -- so the argument goes. 

One of the most visible exponents of this idea has been Morpheus Ravenna. Morpheus has written two essays -- here and here -- about this issue, and more recently delivered the keynote speech at the Many Gods West polytheist conference: "Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods" (which I urge you to read in its entirety).  Morpheus argues that "if your Gods are real to you, treat Them like beings with agency." Agency, she says, is "the capacity of an entity to act ... something like will."  This, she says, is what makes gods distinct from archetypes.  And, on this point, I have to disagree with her.

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  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    Just a point of information regarding this quote-" 'In one passage (I believe in the volume _Alchemical Studies_) Jung argues that
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Thanks for the reference to O'Neill. I'll check it out.
  • Billybareblu
    Billybareblu says #
    Very good and thought provoking article John. This is one of those subjects that will be difficult for individuals to wrap their

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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This is the third in a series of posts in which I discuss four terms that polytheists use to distinguish gods from archetypes: "real", "literal", "separate", and "agents". In this post, I want to address the position the the polytheistic gods are separate from us in a way that archetypes are not.

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  • Fábio
    Fábio says #
    And if we consider another point of view: that the Gods are not part of nature, but the nature is part of the Gods? That the natur
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Sorry, I can't make sense of any of that.
  • Fábio
    Fábio says #
    That´s the reason about all your appointment. You´re not looking, you´re only thinking and believing that thinking is enough to kn
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Kristen: You can email me at allergicpagan [at] gmail [dot] com or FB message me.
  • Taffy Dugan
    Taffy Dugan says #
    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horat

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!

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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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And in my heart the daemons and the god
Wage an eternal battle ...

-- W.B. Yeats

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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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"Don't mix pantheons."  I hear this frequently in Pagan circles.  I have heard it for as long as I have been Pagan.  And I've never heard it challenged.  The idea is that we aren't supposed to invoke Kali and Loki in the same ritual, for example, or Zeus and Odin, or ... pick two any deities from any two pantheons.

This injunction is often made by hard polytheists, but is made by some soft-polytheists too.  Often they are quite open about their disdain for those who mix pantheons.  It is seen as a form of immaturity or ignorance.  Others see it as a sign of disrespect.  I hear this no-mixing-pantheons talk so often, it seems it must happen a lot, so I wonder why all the pantheon-mixers aren't speaking up in their defense.

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Here's what I might say about the subject. I love Thai food. I mean I really love Thai food. I also love the experience of Thai f
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I took a college class on the History of the Ancient Near East. I remember the teacher telling about a king of Babylon sending a

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