After Robert Graves, the second most important influence on Neo-Paganism was Carl Jung. In Dawning of the Pagan Moon (1991), Christian author, David Burnett observes, “It is only by understanding Jungian psychology that the outsider will gain any appreciation of the rationale of the neopagan movement. Without it, the movement will appear a collection of exotic ideas and practices.” Margot Adler has documented that, by the 1970s, much of the Neo-Pagan community had adopted concepts from Jungian analytical psychology to explain the belief in gods and goddesses:
“The Jungian conception that images of divinity and the sacred are representative of archetypes within the Collective Unconscious has given the neo-Pagan movement a conceptual framework within which it has been possible to accommodate polytheistic religious belief.”
Drawing on Jung, Adler reasoned that the gods and goddesses of myth represented “real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower, permit us to be more fully human.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, as British Traditional Wicca lost its dominance and Neo-Paganism flourished, there was a corresponding shift away from claims of historical authenticity toward a search for images that evoked a strong sense of affinity and could be interpreted in terms of Jungian archetypes. As Adler explained, “The Old religion may not have existed geographically or historically but existed in the Jungian sense that people are tapping into a common source.”
Historians, David and Sharn Waldron, explain Jungian Neo-Paganism thusly:
“From the perspective of Jungian-based neo-Pagan mythology, all symbolism and ritual serve as a metaphor of psychic development and the meaning and significance of these symbols is defined by their role as representations of the Collective Unconscious. Psychic development and human contentment cannot be achieved through will or intention alone. People require symbols and rituals to express realities beyond the scope of conscious thought in order to achieve wholeness. The Collective Unconscious, the wellspring of intentional and unintentional thought is, by definition, unknowable and cannot be grasped within the confines of conscious rational intent. The mediation of symbols is required to give a person’s psychological development meaning beyond that of the purely rational. From this perspective, when a Jungian-oriented neo-Pagan utilizes ritual, it is a metaphor to describe psychic realities in relation to certain archetypes, within the Collective Unconscious, which prescribe universal meaning to a person’s psychological state.”
Jung was a significant influence on several prominent leaders in the early Neo-Pagan community, including Fred Adams, Margot Adler, Starhawk, Janet and Stewart Farrar, and Vivianne Crowley.