When I was at the Parliament of the World's Religions in October, I had the pleasure of hearing Drake Spaeth speak briefly. Drake is a clinical psychologist and professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. His professional interests include existential and humanistic psychology, transpersonal psychology, Jungian psychology, and shamanism. Drake is a also an ordained Pagan minister and ritual facilitator of the Sacred Hunt, an ecstatic ritual of consciousness transformation, which has become a fixture at Pagan Spirit Gathering and other festivals.
At the Parliament, Drake caught my attention when he said that "Carl Jung was not entirely kidding when he called himself a polytheist." Drake was responding to the notion that seeing the gods as expressions of Jungian archetypes diminishes the gods, an idea which he said results from a misunderstanding of what Jung wrote. When I got home, I listened to some of Drake's earlier interviews. This one, with T. Thorn Coyle, was interesting, as Drake discusses gods and archetypes -- a frequent topic on this blog. A portion of the interview is excerpted here. (You can listen to the entire interview by following this link.) My own understanding of gods and archetypes parallel's Drake's.
This past summer, Morpheus Ravenna delivered the keynote speech at the Many Gods West polytheist conference. Her speech was entitled, "Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods". It was later published at polytheist.com, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety. I’ve been meaning for some time to write a response to Morpheus’ speech, for a couple of reasons. First, I am always interested in the intersection of Jungian psychology and polytheism. In fact, it was the pairing of these ideas in Margot Adler's 1979 Drawing Down the Moon that drew me to Paganism in the first place. Second, I think Morpheus is one of the most interesting polytheist writers out there, and I am often surprised at how much of what she writes I agree with. Her keynote speech was no exception.
I recently came across these five questions posed to "Pagans who believe that the Gods are merely psychological archetypes and are created by the mind of [hu]man[s]." I will answer each in turn. (But first, let me say that I object to prefacing the word psychological with the word "merely" -- something I've written about before here.)
1. Do you believe that the Gods can assist you with anything physical in nature? If so how can the Gods assist you with anything physical in Nature given that they are only psychological?
We'll just skip over the stupid memes and the monkey poo flinging and get the substance of a Helsen's post. He implies that I am exceptional in in that I need to be "forced to care" about something that I don't feel a connection to. But I think this is the nature of modern humanity. Genocide, war, rape, racism, sexism, environmental desecration, etc. etc. -- all of these are evidence that we human beings need to be forced to treat others well, unless we first feel a connection to them. (In fact, the sheer nastiness of Helsen's post is also evidence of this.)
Helsen argues that the gods are “objective, discrete, and separate beings”. I’ve explained in Part 1 and in my original post about "The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism", why the “separate and distinct” language is problematic. More recently, I’ve written about how we confuse the question of the objective existence of the gods and the question of their subjective meaning — as if something must objectively exist for it to have subjective meaning. If you want to read more on those issues, follow the links above.