I believe that our Gods may be understood on a number of different levels. I accept the theory that they may be viewed as archetypes in a Jungian sense. Many modern heathens and I stress the word modern, are influenced greatly by Jung's work on archetypes, especially his essay Wotan (1936). Whilst I believe that Jung's contribution to the subject is useful and has a great deal of merit I do not accept that this is all that the Gods are. Let me quote the most relevant part of Wotan here:
"Archetypes are like river-beds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like an old water-course along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bed."
Of course the Germanic peoples were heathen for much longer than they were held under the grip of Christianity which by comparison is just (an unfortunate) blip in time. The people are thus able still to find their ancient deities with not too much trouble for in a sense they are part of our very nature and the fabric of our being. Jung believed that given the right circumstances they could manifest themselves within the collective life of a people. In his assessment of the phenomenon of the rise of National Socialism in Germany I believe that his analysis in this regard is correct. However it is sheer folly on our part to believe that this all that the Gods are. Jung was a scientist and the founder of Analytical Psychology but he was not a follower of the Ancient Ones. We should thus not feel ourselves to be constrained by his interpretation as it is the interpretation of a scientist but I feel that many heathens have been. In fact Jung took a rather scathing view of people who believed that the Gods had an existence independent of the people who honoured and believed in them:
"A mind that is still childish thinks of the gods as metaphysical entities existing in their own right, or else regards them as playful or superstitious inventions." (Wotan)
This is a typical materialist and almost atheist perspective. Jung, the scientist would seem to know better the nature of our Gods than our ancestors. Jung, like everyone was a product of his time and sought to explain the 'irrational' in rational terms and this simply does not work. Thus whilst I value Jung's contribution it is a grave mistake for us to regard his interpretation as the only valid one. Our ancestors certainly did see the Gods as existing "in their own right" and gave due reverence to them (See Tacitus's Germania). If all the Gods are are archetypes then why give them reverence or even honour? Are we not deceiving ourselves? For if they are only archetypes then all we do is give honour to a part of ourselves. I fail to see why our ancestors would think this way. The Gods as archetypes is a 20th and 21st century rationalisation of the divine and for some strange reason it is only the heathen deities that are rationalised in this way, not the Abrahamic one!
Edred Thorsson discusses the nature of the Gods in chapter 11 of his very interesting A Book of Troth :
"What are the gods and goddesses? To this question there can be many answers. Much depends on the level of understanding any one true man or woman has at one time. REAL gods, like REAL people, are not one-dimensional easily defined, pigeonholed entities. Some understand the gods as pure mental or psychological constructs, some as true living beings, and others as forces of nature. The troth does not put limits on types of understandings that true folk come to on this."
In my opinion Edred's presentation of the Gods is far more honest than that of Jung's. There is no reason at all why the Gods cannot be viewed in more than one way. They are complex and as Edred has said "are not one-dimensional easily defined, pigeonholed entities". I certainly do not think that anyone who has spent mere weeks or months meditating on this can come to a valid opinion. To know the Gods takes a lifetime and I have spent half of my life on this sacred quest and I am still searching for answers.
Stephen A. McNallen in his Asatru. A Native European Spirituality states:
"They exist on the very margins of our comprehension...yet, as we shall see, they are intimately involved in all that we are. Secondly, they are powers. They are potent, energy-filled, with capacity for action on a scale we can hardly imagine.
"For hundreds of generations, our ancestors believed the Gods and Goddesses to be as real as their own family, as real as the mountains hovering on the horizon, or the clouds blowing through the sky."
Modern man in his conceit believes that he is the pinnacle of all that is, that there can be no higher power. If you are a heathen and only believe the Gods to be manifestations of psychic impulses within the Collective Unconscious then how do you differ from a pure atheist? Is your understanding of the Gods thus superior to that of our ancestors who were not influenced by Christianity or materialist science? If we believe that there are forces and powers, sentient beings that exist in different dimensions or on a higher vibrational frequency then why is it so difficult to accept the concept that we are the product of a divine agency, not 'evolution', a purely materialistic and faulty concept, for modern man as he is today is not the product of 'evolution' but involution!