William James, Jung, Eckhart on Our Deeper Selves

This past weekend I taught in a “Teach In” with Steve Herrmann, Jungian analyst and author of the new book, William James and C. G. Jung: Doorways to the Self.  Meister Eckhart was part of our dialogs for Jung felt Eckhart gave him the “keys” to opening the doorway to the Self or God. 

Steve Herrmann, Ph.D. MFT. Photo from his website

Steve’s book is long overdue—bringing James and Jung together.  James’ classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience, represents the quintessentially American search for spirituality (which is primarily about experience, not religious institutions).  James was an important mentor to Jung who met him twice near the end of James’ life. 

It was good for me personally to revisit James since I had read Varieties in my twenties and in retrospect realize I employed several of its key insights in my first book, On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American Style and now called Prayer: A Radical Response to Life. 

The radical or root response to life that I called prayer back in 1971 and still call prayer all these years later is our deep Yes to life (mysticism); and our deep No to forces that interfere with life (prophecy).  That dialectic of Yes/No and mystic/prophet is still for me the essence of adult spirituality.  James wrote that mysticism represents the Yes function in our lives. 

He also wrote that there is a “germ of mysticism” in every person.  Creation Spirituality is about democratizing mysticism by bringing alive the mystic in every person.  Clearly I am indebted to James myself.

Shadow Tender is a performance/workshop series, a tender poem to the darkness told through the language of movement, costume, and the Jungian Shadow. Uploaded to YouTube by BirdSkullStudios

We discussed the shadow and how important it is look at it directly, not deny or repress it.  Lots of shadow emerging in America these days with racism in our police and finance and health care structures in particular lit up on our television sets daily. 

Steve feels Melville addressed the question of evil deeply in Moby Dick, and that Ahab is alive and well in America…and in a certain way inhabited the White House the past four years and haunts our collective psyche still. 

A big part of Moby Dick is grounded in the story of the Indigenous presence in our midst both as redemptive and as a reminder of the evil perpetuated on indigenous peoples over the centuries.  An Indigenous man is a major character of the book.

The transformational deathbed vision of Julian of Norwich. Icon by Father William Hart McNichols.

Further insights received during our dialogs include these:

–What Eckhart called breakthrough, Aquinas called ecstasy, Julian of Norwich called oneing, James called “primal eruption.”  All are synonyms for our mystical (resurrection) experiences that lead us to the doorway of “God’s house.”  

–For James, the religious function is “the most important of all human functions.” 

–Jung felt that Eckhart was so important that he said about him, “he was the fellow who could have been followed by a great religious movement.”*  

Might that great religious movement be creation spirituality?  

The richness of the weekend is available in video format (see below).

*Steven Herrmann, William James and C. G. Jung: Doorways to the Self, p. 156.

See Matthew Fox, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life, pp. 49-152.

Banner Image: Inner connection to the Infinite. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Do you have a history with either William James or C. G. Jung or Meister Eckhart or combinations thereof?  What do they teach you?

Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American StylePrayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer

Upcoming Events

Our wounding and heartbreaks – how can we face, heal and change these? Where can I find support and hope? How do I let go of wanting my life to be different? Cate Gaffney interviews Matthew Fox among other healers, magic makers and believers on April 15 at 9am PST (12 EST). Register HERE.
Join Matthew Fox and Steven Herrmann for a virtual teach-in on Psychology and Spirituality: William James, Carl Jung and Meister Eckhart hosted by FaithLead.org, This session is recorded to watch at your convenience. Purchase HERE, or click the image.
Join Matthew Fox & Bruce Chilton as they explore the meaning of Easter in a 2-session Virtual Program: “Resurrection” hosted by Cameron Trimble. These sessions are recorded to watch at your convenience. Register HERE.
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