Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy

Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy
Open Access

ISSN: 2161-0487

+44 1478 350008


Was C. G. Jung a Shaman?

Tony B Benning

Within the published literature that purports to ask if Carl Gustav Jung was a Shaman, this paper identifies and critically compares two waves of scholarship. The first, in identifying affinities between Jung and Shamanism, has arguably been somewhat one-sided in that it neglects to take into consideration in its analysis points of distinction between Jung and Shamanism. As such it suffers from an overstatement of the similarities. That scholarship also suffers from an overly essentialist approach to the shamanic experience, neglecting to incorporate into its analysis socially constructive considerations. The second wave achieves more of a balanced analysis in that it identifies both similarities and differences between Jung and Shamanism, but it is also limited by the privileged position it accords to essentialist considerations at the expense of constructivist ones. This paper calls then for a more epistemologically integrative approach to the study of the relationship between Jung and Shamanism, one that can build on existing scholarship by complimenting essentialist and constructivist perspectives. When the latter are brought into the analysis, the conclusion that Jung was a shaman is rendered problematic. Such a conclusion also obscures the growing awareness about the true nature of Jung’s intellectual ancestry. If one were to draw up a list of traditions to which it might be said that Jung was an heir, this paper argues that high on that list would be German classicism, Gnosticism and Hermeticism. Unfortunately, that is something that the extant scholarship on Jung and shamanism completely ignores.