by Marie-Louise von Franz
As professor of psychology at Harvard, William James became the most famous American psychologist and philosopher of his time and is still considered to be among the most insightful and stimulating of American philosophers, as well as one of the three great pragmatists (with Charles Sanders Peirce and John Dewey). His focus was psychological rather than theological, and his work influenced Jung’s theories of the psychology of religion, the collective unconscious, and the self. In his classic work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, James defines religion as the feelings, acts, and experiences of individuals in their solitude, as they apprehend themselves in relationship to the divine. He distinguishes between “healthy-minded souls” and “sick souls” as two extreme types of religious consciousness, the former characterized by optimistic joy and the latter by morbid pessimism. We have much to discuss on religion here, with James and Jung
I posit the fifth century BCE Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the myth of day-old Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle, as a significant mythological base for Jungian ecopsychology. The Greeks joined the opposing forces of Hermes, associated with nature, animals and the somatic unconscious, with his brother Apollo, god of purity, far-sightedness and knowledge of the structure of the universe. Hermes essential nature is displayed in his wand, a figure 8 with a gap at the top. Hermes is what happens in the gap as opposites of any nature interact, including between the opposites of stability and chaos, the domain of chaos theory with Hermes as its mythic base. Hermes’ bee oracle and his association with transitional spaces can be associated to the Taoist link between the “dark enigma” originating source and the yin-yang symbol as the first to emerge towards the “ten thousand things” of existence in space-time.