At my weekly lecture on Wicca
, I recently heard my instructor say something very interesting about Carl Jung
. She said “Ah yes, Carl Jung, a man that was not a Pagan
, but should have been.” The words stuck in my head and have remained there for weeks. Jung’s principles are cited or quoted in almost every worthwhile book about Wicca or Neo-Paganism
. His ideas about archetypes
and the collective unconscious
are extensive espoused
. Perhaps the most famous of these books is Drawing Down the Moon
and Other Pagans
Today by Margot Adler
(the granddaughter of Psychologist Alfred Adler
). Adler writes:
“Much of the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism comes from Jungian psychologists, who have long argued that the gods and goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower, permit us to be more fully human" (Adler 28).
Jung’s idea of archetypes seems to be quite relevant. In almost all cultures in every part of the world, some of which have been completely cut off from mainstream western or eastern religion and culture, there is the story of The Divine Child, the child born with no father and spirited away in secret after his birth to insure his safety from those who would harm him. With the divine child, there is his mother who helps him to become strong enough to fight his foes. Even more interesting is that while the name of the divine child-saviour varies from culture to culture, the name of the mother is quite similar:
Maya Maria Sommona Cadom (Siam)
Mariama (Title) Krishna
The similarity of the names is not all that extraordinary since they are all derive from a word meaning “ ‘Water
’ symbolic of the waters of the abyss from which the Goddess created everything" (Conway 14).
It is clear that Jung paved the way for many of these ideas to be at least partly accepted by mainstream society. His ideas may have even been the catalyst for the neo-pagan revival in the early 20th century.
“…on the understanding of dreams and of many other things, for witches and occultists it is Carl Jung who towers head and shoulder above all other psychological teachers…" (Farrar 132).
This does not mean, however, that all witches and Neo-pagans are Jung-heads. Many of the books published on this subject now have tenth and even twentieth anniversary reprintings published with a section of author’s notes commenting on their own work of years ago. Many of those reprints contain their newfound rejection of some, if not all of Jung’s concepts. Starhawk writes in the introduction to the tenth anniversary edition of her book The Spiral Dance:
“When I originally wrote this book, I saw femaleness and maleness as reified qualities, like liquids that could fill us. I believed, along with Jung, that each women sic had within her a male self and each man a female self. Now I find these concepts unhelpful and misleading" (Starhawk 12).
While the praise awarded to Jung from many Neo-pagans is quite justified, there are just as many reasons why his ideas were not in line with the modern Pagan tradition as it stands today. Modern Paganism, just like any other living entity, has grown and evolved since its Americanrevival in mid 1950s. The English witches, Janet and Stewart Farrar still strongly hold to their Gardnerian/Alexandrian beliefs that were gleaned from Jung’s writings. In their book The Witches’ Way. They explain that in the context of the Wiccan ritual, a woman may assume the role of a man, but a man must never assume the role of a woman.
“When it is necessary, a woman witch may act the role of a man…but the tradition insists firmly that in no circumstances may a man enact the role of a woman…remember Carl Jung’s dictum: ‘A woman can identify directly with the Earth Mother, but a man cannot (except in psychotic cases)’“ (Jung paragraph 193 and Farrar 78.)
While many Wiccans staunchly held the above idea about 20 years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a Witch who would even entertain that idea today. The reason being that so many Witches and Pagan have turned to this faith as part of their rejection of the patriarchal religions which are notoriously gender-specific, and the aforementioned viewpoint is just as stifling. Another reason is that there is a growing number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people following the Pagan path and gender can no longer be so specifically categorized by a person’s biological makeup. The Farrars’ adress this issue as well. “All woman covens do exist…and they can work…but an all-male coven, in our opinion, would be a mistake” (Farrar 169).
This kind of attitude today is the exception rather than the rule. There are many all-male Pagan groups, the Radical Faeries being one of the most popular. Margot Adler interviewed a man named Jody about his experiences as a gay male pagan:
“…when you first entered the Pagan community, you could not even touch another man. And there were regular polarity checks in circle – you know, boy, girl, boy, girl. There’s been a wonderful loosening and blossoming in the last few years, but there is also much resistance" (Adler 347).
The Neo-Pagan movement has attracted people from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, grocery clerks, construction workers, and even psychologists and psychiatrists. In a startling number of these cases, the explanation has not been one of newfound revelations and mystical experiences, but one of “coming home”; the feeling that “I finally found a group that has the same religious perceptoins I always had.” or “I always knew I had a religion, I just never knew it had a name” (Adler 14). When Witches and Pagans decide to no longer hide their religion, it is commonly referred to as “Coming out of the Broom Closet.” The similarities between the struggles of Pagans and the struggles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are startling. Thus, maybe Jung should not have been a Pagan.
Whole Pagan traditions have been started based on psychological principles. The Church of All Words (CAW) was founded in 1961as an amalgamation of ideas presented by Abraham Maslow and the novels of Ayn Rand.
“Maslow’s attraction stemmed from his theories about the characteristics of those he called ‘self-actualizers’ – people who perceived reality more clearly than others…they…tolerated, even gravitated toward the new, the ambiguous, and the unknown…but Maslow’s ‘self-actualizers’ were, he found, alienated from ordinary convention. They felt detached from the values of the culture" (Adler 289).
While many psychologists have helped (probably unknowingly) to feed the ideas inherent in Neo-Paganism, other psychological experts have done their best to denigrate the Neo-Pagan movement.
“A psychologist might attribute this resurgence to the need of certain neurotics to regress to a beatific infant stage…At the most simple level, the psychologist views the various groups as simple souls, devoid of the possibility of growth and maturity.” This kind of attitude has plagued occultists* of all kinds, not just Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. With the idea that “these various groups” are simple-minded people, comes the false ideas that Pagans are nonconformists, “Hippies” and in desperate need of psychological therapy. However, as observed earlier, Pagans come from all walks of life, and probably are the “Self-actualized” people that Maslow described.
* Using the word “Occult
” is very tricky “By ‘occult’ I understand intentional practices, techniques, or procedures which (a) draw upon hidden or concealed forces in nature or the cosmos that cannot be measured or recognized by the instruments of modern science, and (b) which have as their desired or intended consequences empirical results, such as either obtaining knowledge of the empirical course of events or altering them from what they would have been without this intervention.” (Edward A. Tiryakian, Toward the Sociology of Esoteric Culture, American Journal of Sociology, No. 78 (November 1972).
Adler, Margot, Drawing Down The Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Neo-Pagans in America Today (New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1975)
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1979)
Jung, C. Collected Works, Vol. IX, Part 1, 2nd edition
Farrar, Janet & Stewart The Witches Way (Washington, Phoenix Publishing, Inc., 1996)
Conway, D. J., Lord of Light and Shadow (Minnesota, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., 1997)