Carl Jung

Carl Jung

Carl Jung

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.

Updated 2019

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