When I started to write this book, it seemed to develop quite naturally out of other work I was doing on dreams, but as the book developed it became clear to me that there was more going on than what I had, at first, taken for granted.

So, though I had every desire to keep my own personal experiences buried in my chest, it became clear to me that it would be intellectually dishonest, as well as unfair to the reader, to keep hidden relevant motives that were now becoming conscious and that could help explain the reason for writing the book as well as the structure it came to have.

Even this, however, would possibly not have been enough to induce me to reveal a secret that I have guarded so closely over the past ten years had I not seen that the very theme of the book was made more glaringly clear by putting the research material I have gathered on mountain experiences next to my own mountain experience. My own experience contains the mountain archetype, and this book is about the mountain archetype.

While writing this book, I seem to have been under the “spell” of this archetype without knowing it, that is to say, unconsciously. And the work on this book, though consciously undertaken to help others and to contribute to the body of psychological knowledge, seems to have been, in addition, and, perhaps, more fundamentally, an unconscious attempt to become more conscious of my relation to the archetype and to release myself from its spell.

I must also say that I am in no way a mountain climber or anything like it. It is true that I climbed certain uncelebrated mountains as a boy (at a Summer camp with all the other campers), and it is true that I found these climbs exhilarating, breath-taking, dramatic, awe-inspiring, and all the other feelings typical of an ordinary boy on a mountain. It is also true that I recall, even further back, climbing up to what we boys called Saddle Pass on the top of a peak in the Santa Monica range (California, USA). But these were not really climbs as much as walks or hikes, and, in fact, I cannot brag about any mountain climb or rock climb that I have made. Oh, I almost forgot a hike up a Sierra Nevada peak, on which I stayed on the path religiously all the way, but which, nonetheless, was quite tiring.

My most powerful mountain experience did not come from conquering some high, uncharted peak, but in walks in a rather tame area of the foothills of the High Sierras in Northern California. I can tell the reader that it was this experience that was intimately connected with the writing of this book in a way that, when I realized it, was quite surprising to me and that I will (ungladly) reveal in some detail in the appropriate places.

I also wish to mention that contemporary psychology interests me most when it has helped me understand archetypal experiences like this. This is a book, not about the ordinary or even extra-ordinary mountain conquests, but about the very strange and personal experiences that, as documented throughout this book, have happened to many people in all parts of the world and at all times (including, it turns out, myself).

These experiences take place on (or in relation to) the highest peaks in the world, but they also occur just as readily on (or in relation to) smaller mountains. And many of these smaller mountains barely rise to the level of being called mountains and may better be called hills. Saddle Pass held a fascination for us boys even though the Santa Monica mountains are hills compared with the Himalayas.

And, as we will see, mountain experiences can take place in relation to artificial mountains and — most relevant for our study — on (or in relation to) inner mountains as well.


The Mountain Archetype Copyright © 1988 by Thomas R. Hersh. All Rights Reserved.

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