Walking a Spiritual Path by Deborah Bryon, Ph.D.



 Von Franz wrote, “There exists no individuation process in any one individual that does not at the same time produce this relatedness to one’s fellow man.”Both Jung and Von Franz believed that the role of a spiritual figure or mystic in many cultures is to facilitate a numinous religious experience as a community. Both Jung and shamans agree with the need to “give back” to the collective. However, there is a distinction between the two approaches concerning timing – at what point along the spiritual path an emphasis on “giving back” begins.

In shamanism, everything in life begins, exists and ends through direct dialogue and interaction with the land. Q’ero shamans of Peru teach that one must re-member to “source” from pacha mama because unlike people, pacha mama remains constant and is always there. To complete the uroboric circle, what is taken from the land is returned to the land so that it can be born again. The land is not only understood as a symbol of the Great Mother, the land is the Great Mother. A reciprocal relationship and dialogue is developed between the shaman and the land, which serves as a functional spiritual gateway between ordinary and nonordinary reality. Everything is understood within the context of the natural order and relationship existing between all living things, which the Q’ero refer to as kawsay pacha.

In Jungian psychology, the relationship with the unconscious serves the same function as that of the shaman maintaining a state of communion with “the land.” For Jung, the Self might be understood as similar to “the land.” “The land” might be understood to be a symbol of the Self. Jung wrote:

“The more one concentrates on one’s unconscious the more they become charged with energy: they become vitalized, as if illuminated from within. In fact they turn into something like a substitute reality.”

The distinction between the Jungian approach of drawing psychic energy from the unconscious and shamanic practice of sourcing from “the land” as a means of experiencing the numinous may be understood more as a function of introversion vs. extroversion rather than as an individual vs. a collective orientation. Both shamans and Jung would likely agree that “sourcing” occurs in the collective rather than the personal unconscious. In shamanism, this is done in ritual as an outward expression of connecting with the land. In Jungian psychology, this may occur in active imagination, dreams and synchronistic events.

 M. L. Von Franz, “Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology,” (p.177)

CW Jung, “Psychological Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation,” in Psychology and the East. (p 124, par 793)