The Neurobiology of the Gods

How Brain Physiology Shapes the Recurrent Imagery of Myth and Dreams

By Erik D. Goodwyn

© 2012 – Routledge

272 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415673006
pub: 2011-12-15
US Dollars$48.95
Hardback: 9780415672993
pub: 2011-12-15
US Dollars$140.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Where does science end and religion begin? Can "spiritual" images and feelings be understood on a neurobiological level without dismissing their power and mystery?

In this book, psychiatrist Erik Goodwyn addresses these questions by reviewing decades of research, putting together a compelling argument that the emotional imagery of myth and dreams can be traced to our deep brain physiology, and importantly, how a sensitive look at this data reveals why mythic or religious symbols are indeed more "godlike" than we might have imagined.

The Neurobiology of the Gods weaves together Jungian depth psychology with research in evolutionary psychology, neuroanatomy, cognitive science, neuroscience, anthropology, mental imagery, dream research, and metaphor theory into a comprehensive model of how our brains contribute to the recurrent images of dreams, myth, religion and even hallucinations. Divided into three sections, this book provides:

  • definitions and foundations
  • an examination of individual symbols
  • conclusive thoughts on how brain physiology shapes the recurring images that we experience.

Goodwyn shows how common dream, myth and religious experiences can be meaningful and purposeful without discarding scientific rigor. The Neurobiology of the Gods will therefore be essential reading for Jungian analysts and psychologists as well as those with an interest in philosophy, anthropology and the interface between science and religion.


"[This book] is integrative and explains a great deal for people who have been perplexed by the difficulty of the Jungian corpus. Importantly, it lays a groundwork that might inspire other readers, both technical and nontechnical, to take a look at Jung as someone who built up astonishingly current concepts while living in a world that is now two centuries gone." - Richard Gray, PsyCritiques, August 2012, Vol. 57

Table of Contents

Part I: Definitions and Foundations. Symbols, Biology and Depth Psychology. Foundations. Mental Images, Symbolic Images and "Archetypal" Images. Part II: Individual Symbols. Human and Animal Spirits. The Anima/Feminine Symbols. The Animus/Masculine Symbols. The Mother. The Father. The Child. The Shadow. The Dreamscape. Deep Archetypes – Time, Number, Causation. Complex Recurrent Symbols and Self Symbols. Part III: Conclusions. Meaning. Molecules to Mandalas. Appendix: Affective Neuroscience.

About the Author

Erik D. Goodwyn is a practicing military psychiatrist for the Air Force in North Dakota, involved in teaching, research and patient care, including that of deployed soldiers. His essays on archetypes, Jungian theory and neuroscience as well as dreams reported by soldiers in combat have appeared in The Journal of Analytical Psychology.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Jungian
RELIGION / Philosophy
RELIGION / Spirituality
RELIGION / Psychology of Religion