"I do not want to overlook the fact that the psychological method I am pursuing, following from Jung and from Campbell, gives scant attention to the historical timeframe of the myths; their geographical locations, to the philological analysis of texts where they are recounted, to the authenticity of their transmission, to the disputed evidence from archaeology, to their sociological and political contexts. In other words, the psychological method I am advancing is shame-facedly syncretistic, and may offend the patient devotion to scholarly research by those who come at the same tales with different intentions. To uncover ancient myths and behaviour in the phenomena we unthinkingly absorb as usual reality and utterly unmythical; that is the revelation an archetypal psychology seeks. We ravage the scholarship of others, and pilfer whatever we can, justifying these violations in the name of bringing deeper understanding to psychological afflictions. Our method does cast a shadow...that wears the bright smile of the New Age; its innocent optimism.
We are...attempting to...open a long-closed door bolted from two sides: history and its scholarship bearing witness only to the dead, the past and gone; and psychology, utterly contained within the subjective soul, painfully present and personal...
When scholars speak only to documents, and psychologists only to patients, culture languishes; its soul shallow and unrooted in historical knowledge, and its knowledge without soul."
See video: 4.15 - 5.25
I'm reading Graham Harvey's Animism: Respecting the Living World.
I can't help doing so from a depth psychological perspective, and what follows are some jottings I need to make as I take a somewhat serpentine path through this very generous book.
Jotting 1. p. 10 Freud.
Jung isn't mentioned here, although his work as a psychologist was founded on the study of spirits. His thesis (Jung, C. G. (1903) On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena) focused on the mediumship of his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, and he conceived the spirits she experienced as split-off, projected entities from her own psyche. Here, he takes a 'scientific' approach to occultism, and is very close to Freud at this point.
However, his later work, after the break with Freud, tended far more towards the assumption that the 'psyche' isn't interior to, nor reducible to, the human subject. He wrote that the psyche is naturally dissociative, but also, that the processes that aren't made conscious within the experiencing subject manifest themselves externally, "as fate."
CW 9: AION: 126
(Sidenote: in Jungian references, the final number is the paragraph number, not the page number. CW stands for Collected Works, and the number straight after it for the volume. This is shorthand for this:
Jung, C. G. (1951). Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self (Collected Works Vol. 9 Part 2). Princeton, N.J.: Bollingen.))
His later theories of synchronicity develop this idea still further. In some aspects of his work, one is led to believe that the meaning of a "coincidence" comes from the meaning that a given concatenation of circumstances has for the people concerned, like the granary falling on the villagers (Evans-Pritchard, mentioned on p. 133 of Harvey's book). At other times, he waxes lyrical about a broader web of meaning that transcends the grey world and its little boxes, and his kinship with all things (Memories, Dreams, Reflections.)
The Self was the concept Jung used to give this web of interactivity a sort of developmental focus and invisible coherence. This concept was later challenged by Hillman, who agrees with Jung that the psyche is fundamentally dissociative, but not that wholeness is its inherent goal. Moving from 'the psyche' to 'soul,' he favours a Greek-based polytheistic perspective, criticising Jung's Self concept for imposing a monotheism on the soul of Western culture which isn't native to it, but rather native to the higher, drier realms of spirit. He takes seriously Keats' description of life as a 'vale of soul-making.'
Hillman refuses to define 'soul,' saying it is neither a thing nor a concept but a perspective that makes all meaning possible (not just the meaning of the hero myth, which includes Christ), turns events into experiences, is communicated in love (Eros and Psyche - "the goal of eros is always, in any case, psyche"), and has a special relationship with death (a soul perspective cannot leave out Hades, the abode of souls).
The soul is constituted of images… "the soul is primarily an imagining activity," he writes (in Revisioning Psychology). But this doesn't mean it's 'nothing but' imagination. Hillman wants a revolution in favour of the (mythic) imagination, privileging it at every turn over other modes of knowing, being and thinking.
To do this, we need to beware of literalism, he warns. Acting out (one's images/fantasies) could be one form of literalism, although he never pretends that humans could ever stop embodying mythic behaviour (see video above: "Mythology [is] talking about myth...myth is action....ritual...certitude..."). This is a largely unexplored area in his work, because Hillman mostly avoids telling anyone how to do anything. The closest he comes is telling psychotherapists not to chop up their patients' images (dreams or fantasies) into handy concepts and apply them as recipes for life, or not to literalise a patient's need to be more grounded by getting them to take up gardening, for example.
Instead, they should stick to the image, treat ideas as personified notions, and show some respect for the 'poor wild dream.' In other words, meet the image with further imagining in the mode proper to it and allow the image its own being.
Hillman has apologised in public lectures (see above video) to the people who study some of the 'things' that make appearances as images and personified notions. Why? Because depth psychology takes everything as an image; things, ideas, knowledge, external events, places, people we know (or think we know) all are dragged in and devoured by the depth psychological approach. From the depth psychological view of Jung and the post-Jungians, we cannot get out of the psyche, and so all our knowledges must also be, at heart, images (images aren't only and literally visual; they are rather the stuff of metaphorical life, which is the same as the life of the soul. The gods and myths are considered to be root metaphors of psychic life.)
I would hesitate to apply this perspective to traditions that we call indigenous or non-Western. To the study of what people in cultures not dominated by Western/scientistic/post-Christian assumptions do. That's not to say one couldn't try.
But there might be a stronger argument for bringing a soul perspective imagined by Western depth psychologists to bear on Western animisms (Dan Noel has already thought of this). Many of Jung's concepts, and even some of Hillman's ideas, pop up among Western animistic practitioners already as a way of making sense of their experience without reducing it.
This approach isn't without its problems. Hillman justifies the ravaging of the scholarship of others by saying that psychologists are seeking help from other areas of knowledge for psychological affliction. Jung says that the real is "what works," a theme taken up by Harner-type shamanic practitioners like Sandra Ingerman (this may be why this method depends heavily on imagining the shaman as healer). Inherent to using a depth psychological method is the fantasy that animisms are a way of addressing/deepening/curing/healing/resolving pathology, whether cultural (tragedy) or individual (neurotic/psychiatric). To use such methods with other intentions would violate the focus of depth psychology on pathology; on the gods in our diseases.
Whether that is true of a methodology of the imagination (PDF) is another matter; but I'll have to address that in another blog post.