November 8-9, 1996: Dennis Merritt

Lecture: Seasons of the Soul: Archetypal Patterns in Weather and Climate

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”

Mark Twain


Weather and climate have powerful psychological and spiritual effects upon the human psyche. The pathological dimensions of the weather have impressed themselves upon the American conciousness this past year as news reports have given us a sense of the potential effects of global warming. Our attitudes toward weather and climate reveal our relationship to nature and the unconscious. Joseph Campbell pointed out that the most recognizable, universal form of myth and analogy is that of the seasons to the human life cycle. The archetypal and imaginal apsects of these phenomena will be elucidated by an examination of weather and seasonal metaphors, myths, Native American stories, the I Ching, dreams, and Hillman’s presentation of Aphrodite as the World soul, or Anima Mundi. 

Workshop: The Greening of Psychology: Jung’s Contribution to Evolving Environmental Paradigms

Jungian psychology can make an important contribution to environmentalism at the most fundamental-by offering a new psycho-spiritual paradigm that can help change Western culture’s perspective on nature. Joseph Campbell felt that the next world myth was likely to have an environmental orientation. Jungian psychology is ideally situated for the task of exploring possible new paradigms. Jung’s concepts about the psyche and its connection to the natural world were born out of his intimate connection with nature. This connection was put into historical context by his study of alchemy, primal cultures, mythology and the I Ching. Jung’s concepts of synchronicity and the pychoid dimension of archetypes are radical natural paradigms, in contrast to the reigning scientific world view. 

This workshop will begin with an examination of Jung’s life and Big Dreams as presented in his autobiography, to establish Jung’s paradigm of the human connection to nature. Jung felt that a person not connected to the land is neurotic, and he emphasized the cthonic dimension of the psyche. Our attention will then shift to the Greek god, Hermes. The very practice of Jungian Psychology is a hermetic endeavor that, if true to the spirit of Hermes, opens us to a deep connection to the environment. The archetypal life pattern illuminated by Hermes will be examined as a basic Western myth for our relationship to body and nature. These perspectives will be used to illustrate a holisitic approach to nature education by looking at the most succesful form of life on the planet-the insects. Our cultural attitudes toward insects, particularly the pesky ones, to a large extent reflect our attitude toward the unconscious. The psychological significance of insects in dreams and myths will be explored. The importance of animals in dreams and the concept of the spirit animal and animal medicine will also be examined. 


Dennis Merritt Ph.D., holds a doctorate from Berkeley in Insect Pathology and is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institure in Zurich. He is in private practice as a Jungian analyst, Ecopsychologist and Sandplay therapist in Madison, Wisconson. He and his wife have conducted week-long Spirit in the Land Institutes combining scientific, Native American, and depth psychological perspectives on the environment. He is writing a book-The Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe: the Greening of Psychology and Education, and co-editing an book with Chris Merritt-Spirit in the Land: Developing a Sense of Place. 

Seasons of the Soul: Archetypal Patterns in Weather and Climate