Dennis L. Merritt, PhD, is a Jungian psychoanalyst and ecopsychologist in private practice in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dr. Merritt is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich and also holds the following degrees: M.A. Humanistic Psychology-Clinical, Sonoma State University, California, Ph.D. Insect Pathology, University of California-Berkeley, M.S. and B.S. Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over twenty-five years of participation in Lakota Sioux ceremonies have strongly influenced his worldview.
The First International Conference on Jungian Psychology and Chinese Culture was held in Guangzhou, China in December, 1998. My paper was among the conference papers translated into Chinese and later published in English in Quadrant XXXI (2) Summer 2001. An abridged and slightly revised version is presented here.
For many Westerners an introduction to Chinese culture comes through the use of the I Ching. This profound book, a compendium of wisdom extending back to the roots of one of the planet’s most ancient cultures, has become an important companion for many in the West, including myself. Use of the I Ching challenges the reigning scientific paradigms in Western culture and brings a dimension to the Jungian psychoanalytic process that is sympathetic to the deepest and truest spirit of Jungian psychology.
In Jungian terms, one could say the I Ching is a book that emerged out of the archetypal depths of the human psyche and the psychoid dimensions of the Self. The origins of dreams and the genesis of hexagrams in response to questions addressed to the I Ching are grounded in the same source. The Chinese ideogram for the sage, “the ear listening to the Inner King,” describes the process and goal of Jungian psychology.
Scientists are giving ecological perspectives more credibility, where patterns of relationships are central. Psychoneuroimmunology research and the statistical verifications of the power of prayer and belief blur the distinctions between mind and matter. Our outlook on life, the way we perceive the world, and our ability to reflect and see meaning in experiences have been shown to affect our health and physical well-being. Dreams, particular psychological approaches, certain spiritual practices, and the I Ching address these issues at deep and subtle psychogenic levels where mind and matter meet (1).
Analysts are in a good position to notice synchronistic events because we work with dreams at an archetypal level. Synchronistic events are usually related to archetypal events like birth, death, strong love relationships, and jealousy. Circumstantial evidence that synchronicities occur prompted me to develop an experiment to statistically test the possibility. This was part of my thesis (1983) at the Jung Institute in Zurich entitled “Synchronicity Experiments with the I Ching and Their Relevance to the Theory of Evolution.”
Synchronicity convinced Jung there was an element of the psyche outside time and space: space and time are relative to the psyche (3). Incorporating the concept of synchronicity into his theoretical system late in his life led Jung to substantially reformulate his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, putting them on a transcendent basis. Jung thought of archetypes as forms of existence without time and space, with the archetype per se being a “just so” ordering principle, an imperceptible structural element giving order to ideas and completely integrated with physical reality (4). Archetypes have a psychoid nature, meaning they have both a psychic and a physical dimension: psychic and physical are two sides of the same coin (5). An analogy in physics would be light, which behaves as a particle and a wave; matter (particles) and field somehow being two sides of the same phenomena…
Dennis L. Merritt, Ph.D., is a Jungian psychoanalyst and ecopsychologist in private practice in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Dr. Merritt is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich and also holds the following degrees: M.A. Humanistic Psychology-Clinical, Sonoma State University, California, Ph.D. Insect Pathology, University of California-Berkeley, M.S. and B.S. Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over twenty-five years of participation in Lakota Sioux ceremonies have strongly influenced his worldview.
Dennis Merritt, Ph.D., LCSW has an MA in Humanistic Psychology, a PhD in Insect Pathology from UC-Berkeley, and is a graduate of the Zurich Jung Institute. He practices as a Jungian analyst, sandplay therapist, and ecopsychologist in Madison and Milwaukee, WI. He authored four volumes of The Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe – Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology. His influences include D. W. Winnicott, complexity theory, the I Ching, and Native American ceremonies, in which he has participated for over 30 years.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a unique moment in the history of our species. Something so small it takes an electron microscope to see is disrupting millions of lives and threatening the world’s economy. Frontline workers risk their lives trying to save patients who may die alone without friends or family at their sides. A virus, a strand of nucleic acid that highjacks the functioning of a cell to reproduce its unique viral form, is bringing our species to a near standstill. Despite the wonders of science, technology, and economic systems we can still be humbled by nature, indeed, by a strand of nucleic acid. It is crucial how we respond to the situation. What can we learn from it and how do we go forward?
We start with an adequate framing of the issue. This is a matter of life and death, which means it is in the most fundamental archetypal realm and requires an archetypal perspective. The fear of death from the pandemic is bringing a sense of immediacy and urgency on a planet-wide scale. Death cannot be separated from life, death makes us aware of the preciousness of life, and death confronts us with questions about the meaning of existence and our place in the bigger scheme of things. Death can bring an end to systems and beliefs that no longer support life and a healthy existence, and that could be the most important outcome of the present crisis.
The virus is demonstrating to what degree we are interconnected and how much we need each other. The forced social isolation and six-foot distancing has cut us off from intimate contacts and group experiences making us aware by absence how important we are to each other. The ghostly empty streets in otherwise bustling cities are eerie reminders that our systems are in shock at all levels. Like a nightmare that wakes us in the middle of the night, this shock is meant to shock us into a new awareness.
Our species needed to be shocked into an awareness that we have been barreling towards the edge of a cliff for many decades while showing no signs of being able to halt our “progress”. Well before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the first Earth Day in 1970, environmentalists have been warning us about overpopulation, destruction of natural habitats, loss of biodiversity, mining our lands with modern agricultural practices, collapsing ocean fisheries, etc. Greta Thunberg rallied millions of young people to demand action on climate change but powerful oil lobbies and vested political interests have been unmoved. The long term consequences of climate change will make any losses from a virus seem inconsequential, making this a moment for us to re-examine our fundamental relationships with each other and with the environment.