Gods and Archetypes: Jung and Postmodern Spirituality

I am writing a series of posts that focus on Archetypes and Gods. As a Polytheist, I am often told that the Gods are Archetypes and vice versa. As I explore this topic, I want to state that I do not subscribe the notion that Gods are Archetypes.

Margot Adler in her book, “Drawing Down the Moon,” asserted that the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism came from Jungian psychologists. (Note 1) The basis for her statement was Carl Jung’s theories about Archetypes, (Note 2) which he regarded to be the Gods and Goddesses of mythology and religion. From studying Jung, I perceive that he strove to merge psychology and spirituality. By declaring that spiritual forces arose from and were empowered by humanity, Jung could weld psychology and spirituality into one belief system. This became the basis for Postmodern Spirituality (Note 3).

When the West became Monotheist, the center of focus for religion moved from the home to the church. Instead of devotions by individuals, God was worshipped by a congregation. Therefore, punishments for missing services were codified in the Monotheistic religions. The God of the congregation was placed on a throne in heaven. Following the availability of printed copies of “The Bible,” individuals could do personal devotions. However, they had to adhere to the official versions and interpretations of Scriptures by centralized religious authorities.

During the Scientific Revolution, God became the Divine Watchmaker or the First Cause, and was further removed from humanity. Moreover, the rise of Humanism focused on the individual determining “The Truth” through reason and science. Furthermore, the Romantic Movement of the 1800s challenged the divine power of God.

Modernity, in the form of the World Wars, brought about the fragmentation of communities which led to less participation in group religious activities. Society placed the emphasis on the individual instead of the community, thereby sidelining religion. Thus in the various “Star Trek” series, the Gods were always depicted as space aliens.

In today’s postmodern society, the individual focuses on their own religious impulses. Religion is now something that is created by humans for their own uses. People are “spiritual but not religious.” Their spirituality is now centered on obtaining transcendental experiences to achieve an “enlightened consciousness.” Therefore, Atheism can be combined with Neo-Paganism to form a distinctive religion. In Atheo-Paganism, the individual strives for a spiritual transformation that is solely grounded in empirical rationality (i.e. science).

Jung’s blend of spirituality and psychology is a major basis for Postmodern Spirituality. He hypothesized that the ultimate Archetype within the human psyche is the Higher Self. (Note 4) Jung add that God was the Archetypical Light (i.e. the Higher Self (or the Christ Archetype according to Joseph Campbell)). He believed that addiction was the spiritual hunger for this Higher Self.

Because the Higher Self is rooted within each person, Jung said that belief in the Gods was the primitive view of the world. This is the common meme in Western intellectual thought about religion. Belief progresses from primordial superstition to Monotheism to Atheism, the highest form of intelligence and civilization. Raven Kaldera, Northern Tradition Shaman, calls this as Urdummheit, the idea that everyone who lived in “…ancient-historic times was less intelligent than modern man, and that the progression of culture has been a progression of IQ.” (Note 5)

Jung’s bias formed the widespread belief that Archetypes are Gods, which arise from human unconsciousness. This belief promotes an “I-Higher I” relationship instead of an “I-Not I” or “I-Other.” Religion in the West is now centered in each individual and their needs.

Note 1. As a Polytheist, I do object to Adler’s assertion.

Note 2:  Archetype. “Primary structural element of human psyche. The archetype is a predisposition for specific human experiences such as birth, motherhood, death, love etc. It is on the psychic level the correspondence of the pattern of behavour of biologists.”

Archetypal image. “The form or representation taken by the archetype in dreams, fantasies, cultural and religious (mythical) products.” From Carl-Jung Net

Note 3: Postmodern Spirituality can be described as people are “spiritual but not religious.” It includes the New Age religions, Neo-Paganism, and Neo-Shamanism.

Note 4: Jung called it “the Archetype of the Center,” where The Center is the unity of the Unconscious and the Conscious of the person. “Enlightened Consciousness” is the awakening of the Higher Self.

Note 5:Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities,” Page 2.

Works Used:
Dino Felluga, “General Introduction to Postmodernism,” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/postmodernism/modules/introduction.html
Raven Kaldera, “Dealing with Deities.”
Romanian Association for Psychoanalysis Promotion (AROPA), Resources for Carl Jung. carl-jung.net/index.html
Ken Wilbur, “Postmodern spirituality by Roland Benedikter: A dialogue in five parts.” http://www.integralworld.net/benedikter1a.html


2 thoughts on “Gods and Archetypes: Jung and Postmodern Spirituality

  1. Pingback: Gods and Archetypes: Archetypes and Postmodern Spirituality | Neptune's Dolphins

  2. Pingback: My Polytheism and Jung’s Archetypes | Neptune's Dolphins

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