We rise upon the earth as wavelets rise upon the ocean. We grow out of her soil as leaves grow from a tree. The wavelets catch the sunbeams separately, the leaves stir when the branches do not move. They realize their own events apart, just as in our own consciousness, when anything becomes emphatic, the back ground fades from observation. Yet the even works back upon the back ground, as wavelet works upon the waves, or as the leaf's movements work upon the sap inside the branch. The whole sea and the whole tree are registers of what has happened, and are different for the wave's and the leaf's action having occurred. (A Pluralistic Universe, p. 79)

Many thinkers have influenced archetypal psychology. Whether the ideas of these thinkers were literally or directly incorporated into it is, at best, negligible; however, there are definitely vestiges of these thinkers' ideas that have had a profound influence. What follows are the vestigial influences of William James, beginning with the personal and the collective unconscious (emphasis on the personal), including a philosophical definition of the personal unconscious and James' ideas or thoughts. The ambiguity of soul, according to both William James and James Hillman follows, including contrasting definitions and ideas regarding anima mundi--the soul of the world. Analogies are then presented to demonstrate the personality as being multiple, which apparently has seeds of James' thought in it as well. The following categories conclude with ideas concerning a pluralistic universe, polyviewism [author's word], and polytheism, with James' thought serving as seeds for polytheisticthought in archetypal psychology.

The Unconscious:

Archetypal Psychology would have never become an entity in the field of psychology without the existence of the collective unconscious. However, the collective unconscious would have never become an entity in depth psychology without the personal unconscious. William James (1952) said that

actions originally prompted by conscious intelligence may grow so automatic by dint of habit as to be apparently unconsciously performed. Standing, walking, buttoning and unbuttoning, piano-playing, talking, even saying one's prayers, may be done when the mind is absorbed in other things (p. 3).

Unconscious is defined in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy as:

The idea that the brain is constantly processing information of which we remain unaware is widely attested in the brain and behavioural sciences (see blindsight). It is also widely agreed that people may have beliefs and desires that they cannot represent to themselves without processes of assistance. The methodological problem that such processes face is to distinguish between uncovering genuine unconscious beliefs and desires, and gratuitously reading them into a subjects behaviour. More detailed theories of the form such assistance should take, and of the lurid content unconscious beliefs and desires are often supposed to possess, are controversial (p. 385).

James' ideas are a derivative of earlier thinkers, as Freud and Jung's ideas are. When James (1952) addresses Do Unconscious Mental States Exist, he gives a brief list of so-called proofs, then follows each by its objection, which can be found in scholastic books. The scope of this paper is limited; therefore, only a couple of proofs follow. His fourth proof states that,

problems unsolved when we go to bed are found solved in the morning when we wake. Somnambulists do rational things. We awaken punctually at an hour predetermined overnight, etc. Unconscious thinking, volition, time- registration, etc., must have presided over these acts."

The reply to this proof is that consciousness is forgotten, as in hypnosis. In proof seven James explains that

every hour we make theoretic judgments and emotional reactions, and exhibit practical tendencies, for which we can give no explicit logical justification, but which are good inferences from certain premises. We know more than we can say. Our conclusions run ahead of our power to analyze their grounds. A child, ignorant of the axiom that two things equal to the same are equal to each other, applies it nevertheless in his concrete judgements unerringly. A boor will use the dictum de omni et nullo who is unable to understand it in abstract terms.

James goes on to explain how we seldom consciously think about how our house is painted, or whether the door opens to the left or right, but how quickly we would notice a change in any of these things. "All this co-operation of unrealized principles and facts, of potential knowledge, with out action thought is quite inexplicable unless we suppose the perpetual existence of an immense mass of ideas in an unconscious state."

The reply to this is too long to quote; however, at the end of the reply James quotes Wundt as saying it is a predisposition to bring forth the conscious idea of the original subject, a predisposition which other stimuli and brain-processes may convert into an actual result. But such a predisposition is no "unconscious idea"; it is only a particular collocation of the molecules in certain tracts of the brain (p. 110).

Is it not convenient to fall back on the medical model to explain everything, even a treatise on philosophy?


Hillman (1983) describes soul as a "deliberately ambiguous concept resisting all definition in the same manner as do all ultimate symbols which provide the root metaphors for the systems of human thought" (p. 25).

In A Dictionary of Philosophy (p. 308), there is almost a full page giving definition to the word "soul." However, in the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, there is this brief statement: "Outside of the realm of theology: 1. An obsolete term for psycheor mind"(p. 739).

Is it not convenient for psychology to disregard or minimize a word as obsolete because their scientific method cannot satisfy it?

James (1952) agrees:

The "associationist" schools of Herbart in Germany, and of Hume, the Mills and Bain in Britain have thus constructed a psychology without a soul by taking discrete "ideas," faint or vivid, and showing how, by their cohesions, repulsions, and forms of succession, such things as reminiscences, perceptions, emotions, volitions, passions, theories, and all the other furnishings of an individual's mind may be engendered (p. 1).

Contemporary psychology would have us believe that our reminiscences, perceptions, emotions, volitions, passions and theories are made operational through the brain. Positron- emission tomography (PET scan) has supposedly gone beyond anatomy to record biochemical changes in the brain as they are happening; therefore, the soul is dead--obsolete.

James' ideas regarding soul also go beyond the personal soul. "For my own part I confess that the moment I become metaphysical and try to define it, the more I find the notion of some sort of anima mundi [soul of the world] thinking in all of us to be a more promising hypothesis, in spite of all its difficulties, than that of a lot of absolutely individual souls (p. 223). James is clearly presenting a collective idea here that exceeds the personal unconscious discussed above.

Similarly, Hillman writes that "for all its emphasis upon the individualized soul, archetypal psychology sets this soul, and its making, squarely in the midst of the world" (p. 35).
Personality Theory:

Archetypal psychology's personality theory is multiple. "Multiple personality," says Hillman, "is humanity in its natural condition. In other cultures these multiple personalities have names, locations, energies, functions, voices, angel and animal forms, and even theoretical formulations as different kinds of soul" (p. 62).

James (1952) emphasizes that

either threats nor pleadings can move a man unless they touch some one of his potential or actual selves. Only thus can we, as a rule, get a ‘purchase' on another's will. The first care of diplomatists and monarchs and all who wish to rule or influence is, accordingly, to find out their victim's strongest principle of self-regard, so as to make that the fulcrum of all appeals (p. 201).

During the American Civil War if Robert E. Lee would not have had the ability to phenomenologically place himself in the mind of his adversaries, he would not have won his place in history as one of the best commanders in world history. Lee did not simply imagine himself in his enemy's place then do the most logical thing or refer to the books on tactics and strategy; he studied his opponent's mind--learned to think like him, then made his move.

To access one of our own "selves" or "personalities" for attributes to enhance one of our other "selves" or "personalities" is common practice; however, it is not generally thought of that way. A recovered drug addict can convert his or her abilities of manipulation for fund raising in the church. The ex-car salesman can convert his verbal abilities of persistence and cunning toward a political career. And the practicing Christian could convert his or her abilities of honesty and good will to engender direction for recovering gang bangers.


William James (1958) wrote: "But the term ‘godlike,' if thus treated as a floating general quality, becomes exceedingly vague, for many gods have flourished in religious history, and their attributes have been discrepant enough" (p. 48).

The idea of polytheism today is absurd to the Christian world and many others. However, polyviewism--having multiple views, is not thought of as unacceptable to most. If one's view is thought of as unacceptable in one way, it can be acceptable in another. If it is one's opinion that foul language spoken among men is acceptable, but unacceptable in the presence of ladies, then one has a poly-view of foul language. James (1977) uses another approach--an analogy of two people:

One man may care for finality and security more than the other. Or their tastes in language may be different. One may like a universe that lends itself to lofty and exalted characterization. To another this may seem sentimental or rhetorical. One may wish for the right to use a clerical vocabulary, another a technical or professorial one (p. 10).

If one has a footnote, then his idea is credible. James gives the example of the student saying "Oh, somebody must have thought it all before." James, concerning academia, emphasizes that "this is the habit most encouraged at our seats of learning. You must tie your opinion to Aristotle's or Spinosa's; you must view by identifying it with Protagoras's" (p. 13).

Is it not different today? Today we do not quote Aristotle as much as we quote Skinner. Is religion any different? James asks us to

think of german books on religions-philosphie, with the heart's battles translated into conceptual jargon and made dialectic. The most persistent setter of questions, feeler of objections, insister on satisfactions, is little technicality. The wonder is that, with their way of working philosophy, individual Germans should preserve any spontaneity of mind at all (p. 14).

"Who cares for Carlyle's reasons, or Schopenhauer's, or Spencer's?" says James. "A philosophy is the expression of a man's intimate character, and all definitions of the universe are but the deliberately adopted reactions of human characters upon it" (p. 14).

Archetypal psychology's ideas concerning polytheistic psychology and religion has drawn from generalistic views of polytheism, which can be viewed as a derivative of ideas presented above from William James' A Pluralistic Universe--a polyviewism. Hillman (1983) shares that "The tradition of thought (Greek, Renaissance, Romantic) to which archetypal psychology claims it is an heir is set in polytheistic attitudes" (p. 42.)

Polyviewism and polytheism in this context are close to synonymous. In The Varieties of Religious Experience James (1958) explains that

the practical needs and experiences of religion seem to me sufficiently met by the belief that beyond each man and in a fashion continuous with him there exists a larger power which is friendly to him and to his ideals. All that the facts require is that the power should be both other [italics mine] and larger than our conscious selves. Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough to trust for the next step. It need not be finite, it need not be solitary. It might conceivably even be only a larger and more godlike self, of which the present self would then be but the mutilated expression, and the universe might conceivable be a collection of such selves, of different degrees of inclusiveness, with no absolute unity realized in it at all. Thus would a sort of polytheism return upon us (p. 432).

To eliminate all other ideas and/or belief systems and focus on one, is to many, reaching the height of limitation. Infants and toddlers are universally clothed in egocentricity. Many cultures, as ours has been in the past, are ethnocentric-- believing their way is the only way. Why then, it is wondered, should anyone insist on being theocentric [author's word], when there is so much to be gleaned from a polytheistic approach? When it comes to belief systems, however, it is hardly advisable to catagorize any of them as right or wrong.


As the opening quote suggests, only remnants of past occurrence are visible afterwards. Thought will be reinterpreted and changed for the next generation, and new thought will sow future thought, ad infinitum. William James, psychologist-turned philosopher, has had a profound influence in many more areas than archetypal psychology.


Blackburn, Simon. (1994). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Flew, Antony. (Ed.). (1979). A Dictionary of Philosophy(1st ed.). New York: St Martin's Press.

Hillman, James. (1983). Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account. Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications, Inc.

James, William. (1952). The principles of psychology. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Ed.), Great Books of the Western World(Vol. 53). Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. William Benton, Publisher. (Original work published 1890)

James, William. (1958). The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Penguin Books.

Burkhardt,Frederick. (Ed.). (1977). The Works of William James: A Pluralistic Universe. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press.

Reber, Arthur S. (Ed.). (1985). Dictionary of Psychology(2nd ed.). New York: Penguin Books.

Author's Bio: 

After 40 arrests, five formal probations, four country jail sentences, and a prison term (as a result of chemical dependency), I turned my life around. I was released from prison in Dec 1989, and have been clean and sober since. I started at Barstow College in Feb 1990. Received my AA degree in '92 from Barstow College in Barstow, CA; BA in '94 from Chapman University in Orange CA; MHS in 98 from National University in San Diego CA, and finished with a Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA in Feb 2004. I have taught as an adjunct instructor for Park University and Barstow College. I can be contacted through my website www.ScumbagSewerRats.com or directly to my email account ScumbagSewerRats@verizon.net