Aspects of The Spiritual Psychology of Nature: Exploring concepts of the spiritual aspect of nature as provided by certain theories of C. G. Jung



The author, H.W. Schroeder paper that is being used as a subject for my thesis is no doubt from the Jungian School of thinking, and was also a Research Social Scientist at the North Central Forest Experiment Station in Chicago. With a Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology, M.A. in Psychology, and a M.A. in Mathematics all from the University of Arizona, appears to be looking for that age old theorem of a unified theory between Man, Spirit and Nature.



Defining the Indefinable?

The definition of the word “Spiritual” as the author seems to struggle to define while adding a disclaimer “Any definition must therefore be viewed as provisional and incomplete”, citing, “This word carries many nuances of meaning and refers to a complex range of phenomena” (Schroeder 1992). However the statement that he uses to “Sum Up” the usage of the word as he “encountered it in regard to nature” leaves much to be desired. The author refers to being in touch with or in relation with some “other” as the definition of “Spiritual”, which is vague at best. The author then sets us up with yet another disclaimer, “In a spiritual experience, one encounter’s something larger or greater then one’s individual self. The “other” that one encounter’s need not be conceptualized in traditional religious terms” (Schroeder 1992).



The author then goes on to expound that spiritual phenomena can only be explained if recognized in psychological terms and only then it becomes a legitimate topic for scientific discussion by citing (Abraham Maslow. 1974). My statement “Sum Up” of the use of the word “Spiritual” goes something like this as it relates to nature. “Spiritual” refers to the vital force or animating principle of life within all living things and existing independently of human activities or civilization, and the universe as a whole, with all its phenomena.


On Spirit, Nature, and the Supernatural:

What is Spirit?

Now the word or term “Spiritual” might just be the most misunderstood or undefined word in the English language. The concept of spirituality seems to exist beyond the mental understanding of any one point or state of being when it’s regarded outside the terms of religion and god which are only used in the context of “Spirituality”. Therefore I ponder: While I am Spiritual, but not Religious , nor do I need religion to believe in God if I want to believe in God.


However the author goes on to say that (citing Maslow once again), “Perhaps this is because phenomena such as spirit and soul have traditionally been conceptualized in supernatural terms, a viewpoint rejected by science” (Maslow 1974).


What is Nature?

Now nature as we are to understand it scientifically is: The phenomena of the material world collectively, including plants, animals, and all physical products of the earth and made from the earth existing independently of all human activities or rather everything that was not made by man. Jung states in his theories that “Our psyche is part of nature, and its enigma is as limitless. Thus we cannot define either psyche or nature. We can merely state what we believe them to be and describe, as best we can, how they function” (Jung 1964, p.23)



Supernatural or Metaphysical?

Now as we have seen Jung himself has stated that we cannot define nature, but the author of the thesis which is the subject of this research paper lays claim that we can, citing (Maslow 1974) by simply taking the viewpoint of regarding spiritual phenomena as being “Psychological” in nature we can have a legit topic for “Scientific Discussion”. Unfortunately Jung stated in that “Our psyche is part of nature, and its enigma is as limitless. Thus we cannot define either psyche or nature.” And since the author is taking, “The viewpoint from which I will look at the spiritual aspects of nature in this paper is based on the depth psychology of C.G .Jung” (Schroeder 1992). So if psychology is the science and study of the mind and of behavior and mental processes, and the founder of “Depth Psychology” was a psychologist and psychiatrist who just happened to also have founded analytical psychology came to the conclusion that the mind (psych) and nature ( all things not made by man) cannot be defined, the terms now become preternatural/supernatural: “relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe or to appear to transcend the laws of the natural material order”. And now that we are looking at the terms regarding spirit and nature from the viewpoint as being psychological in nature of that special “Science” we can now discuss the supernatural as a legitimate topic for scientific discussion. 😉 Vining along with the author put forth the idea: that “Spiritual phenomenon, on the other hand emanate from the intuitive side of the psych, which manifests itself in an ambiguous language of nonverbal imagery and symbolism” (Vining and Schoreder 1987). As I stated previously the concept of spirituality seems to exist beyond the mental understanding of any one point or state of being.


The “Sage of Kusnacht”:

Jung came to be known by this name as many believed him to be a mystic, which may not be so far from the truth for he was highly interested in the occult, philosophy, and that’s right Spiritualism! Going even as far as leading his students in experiments in the paranormal, but what he didn’t mention was that his family held séances, and he was an active member in these séances for many years. His dissertation “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena” was actually on the “séances” he took part in. Jung took great pains to distance himself from any involvement in the supernatural to protect his work from critics, always publically proclaiming himself a man of science, but in private dabbled with the preternatural, casting horoscopes and divination via the I Ching. From 1940 and thereafter Jung’s works centered on the ancient art known as alchemy, and no longer tried to hide that “other” side of himself which he kept in shadow for so many years.


On Archetypes, Individuation and Projections:

Archetypes: The “Other”, Giants upon the Earth?

Jung reminds us of the many layers or levels of the mind or psychThus we cannot define either psyche or nature. We can merely state what we believe them to be and describe, as best we can, how they function” (Jung 1964, p.23). In the upper levels of one’s psych we have consciousness, pre-consciousness and unconsciousness. But at a deeper layer below these lies the level of the:

“Collective unconscious, which contains basic, instinctive, patterns of behavior, emotion, and imagery that are common to all humans. These instinctive patterns, which are called “archetypes,” guide and give meaning to our interactions with other people and the world. They are the “other” that people encounter in spiritual experiences” (Schroeder 1992).


There is that word again “other”. Now according to Jung these archetypes can express themselves in various ways using myths, fantasies and dreams as symbolic expressions by means of projection. Schroeder states that a psychologist from the Jungian school, while looking at spiritual experiences in nature might ponder what archetypes are being projected and what this might mean to the individual and the collective unconscious. The author also continues on and states: “When archetypes are projected onto natural environments, these environments evoke powerful emotions and take on profound significance” (Schroeder 1992).


Individuation: Do we perceive each other the same way we perceive ourselves?

The author’s statement on this subtopic starts off by citing Von Franz: “Jung noted that archetypal symbols and themes arose from not only mythology but also in the dreams and fantasies of individual people.” (Von Franz 1964). “These archetypes are crucial to the process of personal growth and change, a process that Jung called “individuation” (Von Franz 1964).

The author goes further and states that according to Jungian psychology, the ultimate goal and guiding force behind the individuation process is an archetype called “the Self.” The Self represents movement toward wholeness and the balancing of different sides of the psych into a unique and integrated personality (Schroeder 1992).


Projections: If our thoughts suggest we are did we dream ourselves into existence? Giving shape and form to our unconscious thoughts and desires. Projecting our thought forms upon nature. Are we making patterns rhyme?


The author goes on to say that the Anima is what Jung described as the unconscious feminine side of man’s personality which is associated with the creative, intuitive, and spiritual aspects of life. The allure and fascination of wild setting may involve a projection of this archetype onto nature (Schroeder 1992). Citing Jung, he states that “Unconscious archetypes have a powerful effect on how people behave in the world (Jung 1960). The author states further that one must learn to see the difference between the inner archetype and the outer object or person onto which it is being projected. Then the author seems to give us some direction in the way of using this Jungian technique: “This archetype, projected onto forests and wilderness, could give rise to the perception of nature as the embodiment of perfect balance, beauty, symmetry, and wholeness” (Schroeder 1992).



In conclusion I feel know the basic aspects and ideas that Schroeder was trying to convey in regards to spiritual nature. After attempting to define and redefine the core essence of spirit, nature, and how humans relate to two important parts of our psych which are all interconnected and not separate. I believe my statement is supported by the author when he says: “We need to recognize that humans and nature or not separate and that spiritual phenomenon are therefore an inherent aspect of the natural world” (Schroeder 1992). In the end I think Schroeder finally had to admit that no matter how you look at it, or try to define it, or what viewpoint you take, you’re still left with many more questions than answers which is supported by the authors closing statement: “No single viewpoint can encompass all the dimensions of nature, but if we respect, listen to, and learn from each other, perhaps we can find a new management perspective that integrates both the sciences and the spirituality of natural environments” (Schroeder 1992).

Or maybe all the archetypes of the mythological gods and goddesses from our psych dreamed humanity into existence and have yet to awaken from their slumber.


Mike Strange.



Schroeder, W.H. (1992), The Spiritual Aspect Of Nature: A Perspective From Depth Psychology. North Central Forest Experiment Station Chicago IL. : 25-30.

Jung, C.G. 1964. Man and his Symbols New York: Dell. 23-413 p.

Jung, C.G. 1933, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. New York:

Jung, C.G. 1960. On the nature of the psych. In Read, H, et al. (eds) , The Collected Works of C.G. Jung (vol.8). New York: Pantheon 159-234.

Maslow, A.H., Lowry R.J. 1974. Dominance, Self Esteem, Self Actualization (The A.H. Maslow series). Thomson Brooks/Cole.





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