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A Library Guide to Jung's Collected Works

Explore Jungian psychology resources available from the Pacifica Graduate Library

Reference publications: Psychopomp

Figure XII. Book of Lambspring (1677)
Figure XII. Book of Lambspring (1677).

See also the 16 entries on "psychopomp" in Bane's Encyclopedia of spirits and ghosts in world mythology.

Jung on the Psychopomp

Jung's comments on "Psychopomp" from his Collected Works:

Vol. 9i: 77
Vol. 13: 106, 171n
—anima as, 9ii 56, 12 74; 14 282, 540
—animals as: dog, 13 278n: fishes, 9ii 225: horse, 5 427
—animus as, 9ii 33
—Indra as, 5 659
—Mercurius as, 9i 238, 689: 11: 160n: 12 84, 404, 409, figs. 9, 23: 13 106, 270, 284, 303
—Proteus as, 9ii 338
—Virgil (Dante) as, 5 119n

Fig. 23. The mystic vessel where the two natures unite (sol and luna, caduceus) to produce the filius hermaphrodilus, Hermes Psvchopompos, flanked by the six gods of the planets.—"Figurarum Aegyptiorum secretarum" (MS., 18th cent.)

Additional resources on the Psychopomp archetype

Kowalewski, D., & la Iglesia, L. de. (2014). Psychopomps: Why they matter. Journal for Spiritual & Consciousness Studies, 37(1), 5–13.

For millennia, shamans have provided services for their people, including psychopomp work, namely the escorting of discarnate souls to their next adventure. While most shamanic skills, such as physical healing, are clearly useful, the utility of psychopomp work is less obvious. We map out these benefits for discarnate souls, survivors, haunted and possessed parties, near-death experients, and the wider public.

      Academic Search Premier

Moreman, C. M. (2014). On the relationship between birds and spirits of the dead. Society & Animals, 22(5), 481–502.

Birds have an ambiguous symbolic significance across cultures throughout human history, ubiquitously relating to both life and death. Birds are routinely seen as portents of impending calamity and death, while they are also often thought to bear away or steal spirits of the dead, sometimes even embodying those very spirits themselves. On the other hand, birds are also commonly associated with life, fertility, and longevity. This paper brings together cross-cultural evidence for the practically universal associations between birds and both life and death. This paper offers an explanation for this association as an expression of the deep-seated human ambivalence to mortality. As a form of Jungian archetype, birds reflect a fundamental aspect of human nature—the denial of death as finality through a desire for renewal, transformation, and rebirth.

      Academic Search Premier

Stromer, R. (2015). Hermes as god of liminality and the guide of souls.

"Hermes is a god who wears many masks: messenger of the gods, god of communication and commerce, trickster and magician, and, in perhaps his most mystical guise, god of liminality and guide of souls. It is on these last two roles of Hermes—as master of the in-between spaces we call “liminal” and as psychopomp guiding both the souls of the dead to the underworld and of the sleeping to the realm of dreams—that this essay will focus. The observations of some key psychologists, classicists, and other scholars who have commented extensively on the meaning and implications of these two interrelated roles of Hermes also will be considered."

      Richard Stromer's Soul Myths web site

Todd, J. (2023). The shadow of the bat: Batman as archetypal shaman. In D. M. Odorisio (Ed.), A new gnosis: Comic books, comparative mythology, and depth psychology (pp. 197–220). Springer.

Most early human cultures revered the bat. Not only was the bat held sacred for the essential role they play in our ecosystem as pollinators, seed dispersers, and natural insect control, they were also appreciated for their uniqueness. Bats are the only mammals that possess the ability for sustained flight, they nurse their young, and even share brainwave patterns common with those of primates. And yet, they mostly live underground in caves, sleep upside down, have the ability to see in the dark, and are nocturnal. Despite their clear benefit to humans and our ecology in general, Western culture has demonized the bat and therefore one is forced wonder why so much negative shadow material has been projected on the bat. What does the image of the bat hold for the Western psyche? What aspects of ourselves have been deemed demonic that are essential to our own inner ecosystems? And why, despite this fear of the bat, have we as a culture embraced Batman, a man dressed as a bat? A deeper exploration of the image of the bat as not only holding negative shadow material, but also holding that of the light bringer or psychopomp reveals a great deal about the human condition in the modern Western world. This chapter explores the image of the bat, Batman, and what it holds for the modern Westerner.

      Ebook Central

Book chapters available from the library:

Strong, L. (2005). Psychopomp stories: Contemplating death in a spiritually diverse society. [Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global (305392537).

      ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

Abstract: Humans have always wondered what survives the death of the body and how it makes the transition from this existence to the next. Imagined solutions have become embedded in many of the world's mythological tales, religious texts, and sacred narratives. Psychopomps, which act as escorts to the afterlife, appear repeatedly throughout these stories and are the focus of this exploration. The idea of an eternal psyche or soul that can be guided at the time of death was once a common concept in the West. Rites of passage, including the Eleusinian Mysteries and the bedside reading of Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) literature, assured people there was life after death and a guide would be there to assist them. Yet, a number of historical events created an atmosphere where death became such a taboo in the mid-twentieth century that even "terminally ill" patients were not told they were dying. The accompanying shift towards prolonging life at all costs created new fears and anxieties, and now leaves many underprepared to face their final journey. Over the past few decades, many have worked to reverse this trend. At the same time, psychopomps have been reemerging in the collective imagination through such means as Jungian depth psychology, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, shamanism, near-death experiences, and the work of psychics, mediums, channelers, and other contemporary explorers. To gain a better understanding of these compassionate guides, this work examines the archetypal attributes of the Greek god Hermes, as well as psychopomps from other cultures. These include Barnumbir, the Australian Morning Star; the Aurora Borealis of Labrador Eskimos; Anubis, Egypt's jackal-headed god; Daena, the Zoroastrian self-guide; the Valkeries of Northern Europe; the Japanese Bodhisattva Jizo; angelic beings including Islam's Azrail and the Christian Archangel Michael; and various animal guides. I believe psychopomps are returning to our consciousness at this time to lead our multicultural and spiritually diverse society towards a better relationship with death. Consequently, I conclude with a discussion of the "mythological advantage" of sharing archetypal images and stories in an effort to expand such difficult discussions as the transition to the afterlife.

Lackenbauer, S. E. (2003). Poem as psychopomp, poem as prayer: A reading of T. S. Eliot's “Four Quartets”. [Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (305233131).

      ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

Poem as Psychopomp, Poem as Prayer: A Reading of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, by Sandra Lackenbauer, explores the mythic dimensions of Four Quartets, focusing primarily but not exclusively on the poem's concerns with psychopomp, the Underworld, and with the sayings and unsayings of prayer. A novel interpretative template is developed to investigate psychopomp and prayer and other themes and to ascertain the ways in which seemingly disparate images from the poem relate to one another mythologically. After researching literary, psychological, and historical analyses of Four Quartets, comparative studies of Eliot's poetry and plays, and critical biographies of T. S. Eliot, the author found no exegesis of the interrelationships of the various mythic themes of Four Quartets. In response, she founded a figural theory of art on eight archetypal and interdependent perspectives of imagination. This method, inspired by the Amerindian Council process and the Sufi Enneagram, is represented by a mandala, a circle with eight different aspects of imagination around its circumference. These imaginative perspectives include creation (represented by the Clown archetype), contemplation and prayer (Peacemaker), passion (Lover/Warrior), aesthetics and psychopomp (Shaman), domesticity (Keepers of the Hearth), ethics (Lawmaker), alchemy (King/Queen), and wisdom (Advisor). Even though works of art may be evaluated from any of the imaginative perspectives individually, this hermeneutical and experiential reading of Four Quartets engages all eight, together with some of their interactions, to call forth the ways in which the poem's themes echo and respond to one another. First, each imaginative perspective is introduced and the archetypal patterns of Greek, Roman, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian myths that underpin them are described. Then, using these eight perspectives of imagination as a template to read Four Quartets, an interpretation of the poem is presented.

McGrath, S. M. (2023). The psychopomp function: Correlations between psychotherapists and mythic figures who guide souls after death. [Master's thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2784392737).

      ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

This thesis explores how the role of the depth psychotherapist symbolically correlates to the role to the psychopomp (a guide of souls after death). Using a hermeneutic research methodology, the research presents a cross-cultural examination of mythic figures who guide death-departed souls to the otherworld and how their function correlates to the work of depth psychotherapists. The thesis further explores how depth psychotherapists naturally invoke the psychopomp function in their approach. Heuristic and participatory epistemology research methods are employed to explore how the psychopomp function may be experienced in clinical application. This research concluded that engagement with the psychopomp function can be an empowering emblem for clients as well as depth psychotherapists when themes of death, rebirth, and transformation arise in the therapeutic process.