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Jung's Contribution to an Ecological Psychology
Jeremy D. Yunt Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2001 41: 96 DOI: 10.1177/0022167801412007 The online version of this article can be found at: http://jhp.sagepub.com/content/41/2/96
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Jeremy D. Yunt Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology
JUNG’S CONTRIBUTION TO AN ECOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY
JEREMY D. YUNT is a writer and independent scholar whose particular areas of interest are environmental philosophy/ethics, depth psychology, BuddhistChristian dialogue, and the thought of philosophertheologian Paul Tillich. He recently completed an interdisciplinary master’s degree in ethics and depth psychology at the Pacific School of Religion (Graduate Theological Union), Berkeley, California, where he wrote a thesis on the significance of Tillich’s thought for environmental ethics and deep ecology. During his graduate studies, he worked as a writer and editor for the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, also in Berkeley. Prior to entering graduate school, he worked for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit environmental law firm, and prior to that made contributions to a multi-award-winning book on California’s natural and cultural history, titled Life on the Edge (Heyday, 1994). Currently taking a hiatus from graduate school to pursue his own writing and flamenco guitar studies, he plans to eventually complete a doctorate in clinical psychology.
This article connects the psychological concepts and philosophical insights of Jung with some of the basic postulates of ecopsychology. The thesis of the article is that Jung’s depth psychological approach is a relevant hermeneutic device for understanding and dealing with the psychic roots of the modern world’s ecological problems. Using the concepts of archetypes, the collective unconscious, repression, archaic consciousness, personal and collective shadows, and individuation, the article demonstrates how each has implications for the advancement of an ecopsychological approach to the psyche and our understanding of the world. Perhaps most important, the article exemplifies how Jung’s psychological research allows us to envision
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My thanks to Richard Payne of the Institute of Buddhist Studies (Graduate Theological Union, or GTU), GTU doctoral student Kimberly Whitney, Tom Greening, and all the peer reviewers who offered their constructive criticisms of this article.
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 41 No. 2, Spring 2001 © 2001 Sage Publications, Inc. 96-121
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par. These few words are of great importance for the theories and methods of ecopsychology. . To set the tone for this article. not earthquakes. —Jung (1966a . so our world has become dehumanized.sagepub. because he is no longer involved in nature. and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied. and sooner or later they will bring about its downfall. they will undermine any system that fails to take account of them. Going to the root of the problem. for they Downloaded from jhp. —Jung (1964. But an authority wise enough in its statesmanship to give sufficient free play to nature—of which spirit is a part—need fear no premature decline. not cancer but man himself who is man’s greatest danger to man” (par. as we will see. Penetrating and seeping through everything like water. For this reason. and spirit. 95) The facts of nature cannot in the long run be violated. many of his psychological concepts and much of his writing on humanity’s understanding of itself and its world have direct significance for analyzing and dealing with one of modernity’s primary problems: balancing human needs and desires with the ecologically discernible needs of the natural world. human being. 97 As scientific understanding has grown. Jung’s psychological insights and philosophical convictions often carried in them a strong foreboding of modernity’s swiftly changing relationship to the natural world. the process of individuation depends to some degree on our ability to participate actively in the vitality. 1358). . . Perhaps most important is Jung’s conception of the fully developed. Carl Jung never wrote anything explicitly about the science of ecology and in his lifetime probably never imagined there would one day be a field called “ecopsychology. Jung (1976) stated. richness.com at UQ Library on June 23. His contact with nature is gone. nature. or individuated. thus bridging the modern epistemological gap that has developed between them in the Western world. not microbes. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. Yunt the interpenetration of psyche. 2011 . p. for. 227) Even in light of the above quotations. it will be helpful to let one of Jung’s terse and timely insights shed light on the most fundamental reason we are now making the connection between psychology and ecology. “It is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine.Jeremy D. and depth of the natural world.” Yet.
For this reason. for. our ecological problems must be addressed in the context of two of life’s most prominent polarities: the personal and collective and the conscious and unconscious. as this outgrowth of humanistic psychology does not see ecological problems as being merely “out there” in the physical environment. repressed contents. from the perspective of ecopsychology. saved from acknowledging our own personal contributions to them. One difficulty in achieving both of these is that as helpful as psychology can be. shows us that we need to be called back to ourselves. inferior man. or captive breeding programs for the species we have endangered exist? Outside of natural ecological and evolutionary processes. these problems are rooted most fundamentally in the distorted understandings. until recently. Jung’s friend and biographer. Clearly. Jung believed that nature was one of four significant archetypal images to suffer repression in the civilized mind. 1996). conscious denials. psychology. would rampant loss of nonhuman species. However. we must agree with Jung’s now seemingly truistic insight: Humans are the greatest threat to themselves and the natural world. With this in mind. worldwide climate change. we cannot fail to recognize the many ecological problems our modern technological society is creating. probably not. 149-152). we often attempt to understand personal and collective issues such as ecological problems under the rather naive assumption that purely external. According to Barbara Hannah (1976. social. Unfortunately. ecological relationships (Mindell. its theoretical purview and practical applications have. and creative fantasy. been severely limited by Downloaded from jhp. and unconscious projections that exist in both the personal and societal dimensions of the human psyche. However.com at UQ Library on June 23. the other three being animals. pp.sagepub. back to our own culpability in personal. decimation of ancient ecosystems. When we face the basic origin of our ecological problems today—we ourselves—how can we deny the significance of this repression? If we appreciated the value and powers of nature. causes can be discovered for them. This neglect or repression of our introspective abilities can be seen as one of the main reasons for the birth of modern psychology. perhaps temporarily. and now. in our outward search for answers to our problems we are. or extrapsychical.98 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology point to the inextricable link between the state of health of the human psyche and its concrete social and environmental impacts on the world. 2011 . This holds especially true for ecopsychology. particularly humanistic psychology.
Yunt 99 its inherited biases and strict adherence to mechanistic understandings of humanity and its world. In his later work. When we experience the numinosum in the wilderness. are so important to Jung for relating the human psyche to the world in which it exists. 425) Resonating Tarnas’s point. 106) The nature of this permeable. ecological conception of the self will be discussed later. but for now it is important to point out that Downloaded from jhp. thereby in effect dissolving the modern subject-object dichotomy. which includes both our psychology and physiology. 2011 . however.Jeremy D. he was still under the impact of CartesianKantian assumptions concerning the psyche and its separation from the world. in which the divine is felt to be immanent by virtue of experiences of the Self. depth psychologist Lionel Corbett (1996) fleshed out the vital implications in Jung’s psychological approach for understanding the spiritual dimension of our ecological problems: The important point is that to assert the unity of psyche and nature is to repair a split which has bedevilled our culture. Unlike pretechnological societies which viewed the earth as sacred. we are experiencing the reality of the continuity of the Self across the barrier of the skin. ARCHETYPES. both the personal and collective. and particularly in relation to his study of synchronicities. (p. (p.com at UQ Library on June 23. Ecopsychology hopes to change these limitations.sagepub. Jung’s model of the psyche. The structure of the self. we are not “projecting” onto nature something that is actually inside ourselves. THE UNCONSCIOUS. Jung began to move toward a conception of archetypes as autonomous patterns of meaning that appear to structure and inhere in both psyche and matter. Tarnas (1991) said. By contrast. allows a sacramental understanding of the psyche as coextensive with nature. is determined by the same archetypal or spiritual dynamics as those which obtain in nature at large. Let me begin by briefly introducing why use of the concepts of archetypes and the unconscious. in our culture an apparent gap has emerged between the spiritual and the material realms. AND MODERN EPISTEMOLOGICAL PROBLEMS Philosopher Richard Tarnas (1991) has pointed out that in Jung’s middle-period writings. because of its stress on the numinosum.
Here. our modern understanding of the world makes it difficult for many to grasp the relationship between what happens in our psyche and what occurs “out there” in the material world of nature. In fact. and other materials to the bottom of the ocean? The answers to these questions. we act on nature. Cartesian (mind-nature dualism). Regardless of the intentions. For instance. but nature does not act on us. a corporate entity that must necessarily damage the environment in its oil exploration and extraction activities tries to paint itself as environmentally friendly out of both fear (for loss of profits) and guilt (for its clearly recognizable ecological transgressions). I believe. are fairly obvious. then why are we not liberally dropping much of our large industrial waste products.com at UQ Library on June 23. in our age of manufacturing perceptions with the aid of psychological insights. The relationship between what the mind conceives and the consequences these conceptions have on shaping the world often go unseen. As Tarnas (1991) and Corbett (1996) both elucidate. in one of its past commercials. such as oil barrels. scrap metal. and Newtonian (mechanistic) assumptions about the psyche and its relationship to events and objects in the world. or. our understanding of the world is still largely grounded in Kantian (limits of subjectivity). the world is seen as an inert. two questions immediately come to mind: (a) Why is this “habitat creation” even necessary if there was no previous disturbance at the bottom of the ocean requiring this “conservation measure” in the first place. In the final analysis. passive substance that conforms to our reason and expectations but that has no concomitant impact on our mind. ads such as these simply feed the public’s desire to feel as if someone in the corporate world is actually making reparations for all the damage we know it does in manufacturing our consumer products.100 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology for many people today.sagepub. Chevron’s “People Care” media campaign is one glaring example. in this unidirectional causality. Chevron showed an oil pipeline left at the bottom of the ocean as their way of “creating habitat” for the ocean’s creatures. and (b) if their claims are scientifically correct. In addition to many others. 2011 . The corporate world’s appropriation of mass psychology to manufacture the public’s perception of its needs and desires to sell a product or to “greenwash” its threatened ecological image through manipulative and misrepresentative advertising are but two examples of this type of conscious distortion. these psyche-nature relationships are misconstrued for reasons of convenience or profit. such ads create an effective mythology for the company that wants to be seen Downloaded from jhp.
For instance. in contrast with the predominant Western-style relationship of alienation and domination. productive activity. Thus. but an independent. For this reason.com at UQ Library on June 23. Jung’s conceptualizations of the unconscious-nature relationship countered modernity’s tendency to see life processes in terms of scientific rationalism’s strict one-way causality. such compensations point to a repression of the unconscious’s innate urge to express the Self—Jung’s term for the supraordinate archetypal reality seeking to bring all opposing tendencies within the personal self into an indissoluble unity and balanced wholeness.Jeremy D. Jung supports the ecopsychological truism that “the outer world”—that is. its realm of experience is a selfcontained world. Jung felt a primary task of psychology was to bring the modern mind back into contact with the archetypal realities that had been repressed or ignored in its overextension of scientific-technical reason. to regain contact. (par. Jung (1966a) summarized the significance of this reconnection by stating that Downloaded from jhp. once again. It is a compensatory device par excellence. Because the unconscious is not just a reactive mirror-reflection. nature— acts as a prime psychological determinant in a way not completely dissimilar from that of the unconscious. The realm of the unconscious is seen as a vast sea of wisdom from which the modern mind has become estranged and with which it needs. Yunt 101 as ecofriendly but that knows it will never be.sagepub. In addition to their clear dishonesty. These words also explain why attention and receptivity to the unconscious are so important to Jung’s theories of psychological development and healing. 292) Besides here establishing his clear opposition to Freud’s understanding of the unconscious as simply a repository for our repressed infantile and sexual psychic contents. he felt the self could be reconnected with its world in a relationship of healing and union. 2011 . Jung believed that any deliberate work on cultivating a relationship between one’s unconscious— through which the archetypes make their presence felt—and the workings of nature had significant potential for mediating meaning and healing in the psyche. having its own reality. of which we can only say that it affects us as we affect it—precisely what we say about our experience of the outer world [italics added]. Jung (1966b) stated. Through this therapeutic process.
The collective unconscious becomes even more telling of our interrelatedness with others and the natural world when viewed in light of experiences and events unexplainable in either purely psychic or purely physical terms. Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious may prove to be the most important concept in depth psychology for the development of an ecological psychology (pp.” a central ecopsychological concept in which psyche and world are consciously joined through a transformation in psychological perception of both one’s self and one’s place in the world. 351) He qualified this point by warning that the modern person needs to return. Because we assume that only the human species Downloaded from jhp. the momentary life of consciousness can once more be brought into harmony with the law of nature from which it all too easily departs. and the [individual] can be led back to the natural law of his own being. when we recognize the common symbolic realities arising from the collective unconscious. there is nothing he likes better than systems and methods by which he can repress the natural man who is everywhere at cross purposes with him. The world unconscious is considered the dimension of psyche that goes beyond the human collective unconscious to embrace the relatedness of the inner subjective natures of all life. par. His task is to find the natural man again. Depth psychologist Stephen Aizenstat (1995) has widened this potential union of psyche and world from being seen in terms of Jung’s collective unconscious to being seen instead in terms of a “world unconscious” (pp. (par. not to Nature in the manner of Rousseau.102 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology through the assimilation of unconscious contents. 1969a. it is suggested. 95-96). we begin to see that the boundaries we establish between the “I” and the “Other”—the borders of our personal identity—are quite arbitrary. such as intuitive dreams and synchronistic phenomena. 175). It was through such workings of the collective unconscious that Jung (1970) made the bold pronouncement regarding our interrelatedness: “In some way or other we are part of a single all-embracing psyche” (par.sagepub. 868) According to historian and ecopsychologist Theodore Roszak (1992). helps lead to an experience of one’s “ecological self. 2011 .com at UQ Library on June 23. That is to say. but to his own nature. Instead of this. (Jung. 301-302). For contact with this prerational and symbolic dimension of the psyche.
thus making our attention to the unconscious’s expressions and images just as crucial to self-understanding as that of consciousness. the unconscious is the “home” of the instincts—the conservative. 216) This relation between repression of unconscious contents and imbalanced psychic health—which can lead to imbalanced ecological health—will be covered in detail later. it is necessary to Downloaded from jhp. Although the instincts serve as our innate protection against dangers both internal (personal) and external (sociocultural or ecological). in two primary facts: First. Yunt 103 has a fully actualized psychic life. unable to express themselves. fall back into the unconscious and reinforce its energy. Age-old convictions and customs are deeply rooted in the instincts. If they get lost. among others. the diurnal dimension). (Jung. modern consciousness continues to move further from the past and higher and higher into the realm of pure rationality and consciousness.com at UQ Library on June 23. cautious expressions of the psyche that modern consciousness has neglected far too long and. This secret vis a tergo results in a hybris of the conscious mind which manifests itself in the form of exaggerated self-esteem or an inferiority complex. However. necessary as this may be at times. and it is a danger to the soul because the life of instinct—the most conservative element in man—always expresses itself in traditional usages. this may be a difficult postulate for many to accept. never realizing that the breakdown of a tradition. while the instincts. according to Jung.Jeremy D. par. the conscious mind becomes severed from the instincts and loses its roots. is always a loss and a danger. Jung’s insistence on placing due value on the unconscious is rooted.sagepub. Of course. to its own detriment. and second. 1966a. It is then that the rootless condition of consciousness becomes a real danger. almost half of our lives are spent in this nocturnal dimension of the psyche (as opposed to consciousness. we must consider that just as animals and nature manifest in the human psyche as symbolic powers. and thus reifying. 2011 . causing this in turn to overflow into the existing contents of consciousness. For now. this would not prove the ontological existence of a world unconscious— Jung warned of trying to prove the existence of. there exists the distinct possibility that human images appear in the psychic life of other organisms in similar ways. the collective unconscious and other psychological concepts—but the possibility of a world unconscious does point to the evolutionary and psychological continuity in life as a gestalt.
com at UQ Library on June 23. was an adequate psychological critique of our highly scientific-materialist worldview and technologically based lifestyles. He must learn that he may not do exactly as he wills. 2011 . the scientific-materialist worldview has come under closer scrutiny by both the general public and scholars in a wide range of disciplines. If he does not learn this. Western man has no need of more superiority over nature. in psychology. passionate admonitions. What was lacking. including psychology. sensitive people bemoaned the steadily declining state of the earth’s life system. Among other things. whether outside or inside. THE MERGING OF PSYCHOLOGY AND ECOLOGY According to Jung (1969a). there are connections being drawn between neurotic disorders and the synthetic and desacralized environment that the materialist worldview is fast creating. in recent years. Thus. What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around and within him. and ecological dimensions of life. In all this. nurturing living environs. however. 32). his own nature will destroy him. From within these disciplines issue many critical and constructive responses to the deleterious consequences our modern technological worldview is inflicting on the personal.sagepub. (par. it has still largely failed in getting to the roots of our environmental dilemmas. Downloaded from jhp. social. Unable or unwilling to see the human psyche and all its modern epistemological assumptions as the basis of our ecological troubles. He has both in almost devilish perfection. For instance. However. 1995.104 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology further discover why the modern world is making connections between psychology and ecology. and relentless moralizing. 870) Ever since widespread awareness of the ecological instabilities and environmental devastations wrought by human activity. conventional environmental attempts to “change the world” through political and social movements caused us to turn to dubious substitutes for facing the real need—changing ourselves (Shepard. the modern environmental movement has tried countless legal reforms. He does not know that his own soul is rebelling against him in a suicidal way. these ecopsychological findings are helping us discover more about the basic human need for natural. p.
sagepub. 1979). instinctual levels of the unconscious brought on by our “excessive interference with outer nature”: Downloaded from jhp. atmosphere. much like the field of conservation biology. This basic point has been framed in other ways by groups concerned with the psychology of power relations. But why exactly is this new field called ecopsychology? Roszak gives this definition: Like all forms of psychology. ecopsychology proceeds from the assumption that at its deepest level the psyche remains sympathetically bonded to the Earth. Because it is responding to a new and critical situation. the Swiss psychiatrist C. 1992.Jeremy D. the ecopsychologist is probing the depths of the human psyche to better understand how such a supposedly rational creature could allow the beauty and integrity of its own world to become despoiled to the point of threatening its own life support system—the biosphere. seas. for the two are intimately connected” (p. 5) Even prior to this definition. and the earth’s surface interact to control the temperature and chemical composition in the biosphere in a way that makes Earth continually hospitable to life.com at UQ Library on June 23. A. or mythologically speaking. we could say that ecopsychology is taking root in the tainted soil of our increasingly mechanized and technologically mediated society. And if there is validity to the Gaia hypothesis (Lovelock. succinctly stated ecopsychology’s main postulate: “Excessive interference with outer nature creates of necessity disorder of the inner nature. Yunt 105 Speaking metaphorically. can be seen as a crisis discipline. 2). Jung’s friend and colleague. for instance. Meier (1985). which postulates that one gigantic system composed of all the organisms. ecopsychology concerns itself with the foundations of human nature and behavior. From the ecofeminist perspective. the domination of nature is intimately tied to male domination of women through repression of the male’s feminine side (anima). Like the botanist who studies a plant’s root structure for signs of disease. 2011 . Unlike other mainstream schools of psychology that limit themselves to the intrapsychic mechanisms or to a narrow social range that may not look beyond the family. including. ecofeminists. Gaia. then humans are surely the greatest foe of this ancient Earth goddess—a point often stressed by ecofeminists today. p. (Roszak. Jung (1959a) himself lamented the modern mind’s lack of connection to the deeper. Even before Meier’s (1985) ecopsychological statement. ecopsychology.
beliefs. These wholly intrapsychic and interpersonal understandings failed to take into account not only our daily interactions with nature but also the diverse famil- Downloaded from jhp. Opinions. 40) Such an insight led Jung (1966a) to the early perception that wholly intrapsychic understandings of personality development and health lacked a basis for acknowledging the essential grounding of humans in the social and natural world: Try as we may to concentrate on the most personal of personal problems. until somewhat recently. (par. car exhausts and [artificial] sweeteners. thereby expanding psychological understandings and therapeutic treatments beyond the purely intrapsychic and interpersonal realms. the more unconscious and complicated a man is. the less he is able to follow his instincts. ecopsychology takes this fundamental fact and makes its recommendation: Broaden the application of psychological principles and practices to account for the influence of the phenomenal world (nature) on the psyche and vice versa. insofar as we assert the continuity of mind (psyche). with nature acting only as a lifeless backdrop to our unfolding relationships. However. psychology saw human interactions as taking place in a vacuum. neo-Jungian James Hillman (1981) challenged the psychological world to bring “asbestos and food additives. acid rain and tampons. but the seriousness of calling these into the fold of therapy is quite unhumorous. 212) Today. Such a suggestion may seem humorous at first. (par.com at UQ Library on June 23. televisions and ions” into the purview of therapeutic analysis (p. it may seem startling to many people that modern psychology could have ignored or downplayed the profound formative influences the natural world has on us. Recognizing this need for expansion of the field almost two decades ago. as all of the items Hillman specifies exert a profound impact on one or all of these three primary dimensions of life. body. 2011 .106 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology The more civilized. and earth. theories. From our perspective today.sagepub. 111). insecticides and pharmaceuticals. our therapy nevertheless stands or falls with the question: What sort of world does our patient come from and to what sort of world has he to adapt himself? The world is a supra-personal fact to which an essentially personalistic psychology can never do justice. and collective tendencies appear in its stead and back up all the aberrations of the conscious mind. His complicated living conditions and the influence of his environment are so strong that they drown out the quiet voice of nature.
These projections forged an identity between the inner (psyche) and outer (nature) worlds. natural processes. Their practices may not have been on the same scale as that made possible by our modern technologies. It might be a temptation to idealize this unconscious identity with the natural world as a paragon of ecological consciousness. We should bear in mind that many so-called primitive cultures. clever. Evolution toward our highly differentiated modern consciousness seemingly has moved us away from an unconscious identity with the world. However. but they were nonetheless characterized by an unnecessary infliction of harm and imbalance onto the natural world and its nonhuman creatures. which today in popular culture are often portrayed as entirely environmentally benign. or participation mystique. thereby diminishing the actual and valuational dichotomy between the human and nonhuman realms. as much as we may try to pretend they are not. and dependent on. the plurality of past cultures and their varied ways of relating to the natural world should keep us from seeking some once-existent form of ecological consciousness with which we can overcome our modern tendencies of domination and destruction. and creative—but. religious.” are still influenced by archaic. ARCHAIC AND MODERN CONSCIOUSNESS IN RELATION TO NATURE AND SOCIETY Jung was clear in his conviction that all humans.Jeremy D. Jung regularly borrowed this phrase of Lucien Lévy-Bruhl to describe preindustrial. or “primitive. One characteristic of this prerational part of the psyche is an unconscious identity with nature. or “primitive.com at UQ Library on June 23. highly emotional.sagepub. One example of this phenomenon is the various animal spirits experienced and named by cultures living close to the land. nonetheless.” peoples’ unconscious psychic projections onto the natural world. even the most “civilized. psychology ignored the fact that humans are animals— intelligent. engaged in their own destructive practices in nature. Modern psychology tried to shut out the fact that our lives are formed and affected by the cycles and powers of nature.” impulses. Jung tried to show that Downloaded from jhp. 2011 . but it was Jung’s belief that such identity remains latent in even the modern consciousness. beings living in. and cultural influences that help to shape our predispositions toward the natural world. In short. Yunt 107 ial.
such conformist tendencies are paradoxically commingled with a strong sense of individualism. when our mind went up to conquer the skies. we better understand Jung’s strong feelings about the dangers of repressing this “inferior. that suppressed barbarous individual. this realm of the psyche holds the potential for a significant increase in the evolution of human consciousness.” prerational dimension of the psyche. However. 1970)—a general sense Downloaded from jhp. In fact. Thus we became highly disciplined. it is true that the greatest infamy on the part of his group will not disturb him. because it was separated from the natural and primitive man. The conscious personality could be domesticated. the power to fly: we have accomplished the age-old dream of humanity! And think of the bombing raids of modern warfare! Is it not a rather convincing demonstration of the fact that. p.sagepub. our other man. went down to hell? (pars. Therefore. cut off from education and civilization. 1971. shallowness. so long as the majority of his fellows steadfastly believe in the exalted morality of their social organization. 101) In the modern Western world. organized.com at UQ Library on June 23. 2011 . he saw many problems issuing from the modern mind’s neglect or repression of this archaic level of consciousness. but the other side remained a suppressed primitive. Think of the great triumph of the human mind. This explains our many relapses into the most appalling barbarity. He continues this line of thought by stating of the modern collective person—the conformist—that in so far as he is normally “adapted” to his environment. The resulting “existential vacuum” (Frankl. and contact with. Jung (1970) clarified the inherent danger in this dissociation in the context of the evolution of consciousness: [Dissociation] was a liberation of consciousness from the burden of irrationality and instinctive impulsiveness at the expense of the totality of the individual. superficiality. 1008-1009) With these words. and it also explains the really terrible fact that. (Jung. Man became split into a conscious and an unconscious personality.108 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology our gaining knowledge of. the more dangerous and diabolical becomes the misuse of our inventions. the higher we climb the mountain of scientific and technical achievement. and debilitating loss of meaning and moral concern are almost sure to follow. with an understanding of individuality that is not in some sense also relational. he made a strong correlation between our dissociative split from this aspect of the unconscious and loss of psychic health. and rational on one side.
ecopsychology makes development of this participatory reason a primary goal. A driving force behind this growing existential dilemma is the controlling reason characteristic of our scientific materialist worldview. As stated earlier. its projections. in contrast with our highly differentiated modern consciousness is what Jung called archaic consciousness. or unconsciously repressing. as it were. in theological terms. to establish dominance over nature. social. In the latter form of reason. others.Jeremy D. Jung (1966a) claimed that with the integration of projections . we begin to reach a state of inflation or. Conversely. . The efficiency of technical reason. At a personal level. hubris.com at UQ Library on June 23. Positive inflation comes very near to a more or less conscious megalomania. participatory reason (Tillich. which predominantly focuses on humans and nature as means toward some predetermined end.sagepub. 1963. conscious participation in relations with others and the world predominates over detachment and calculation—primary characteristics of technical reasoning. By stressing the inextricable and potentially empathetic link between psyche and nature. and the earth. can hinder the possibility of social or ecological concerns and even lead to aggressiveness. if the individual identifies himself with the contents awaiting integration. and educational structures. our hypertechnical culture could not exist without such dissociation being built into its very economic. or relative unconsciousness. . 2011 . (par. Although technical reasoning is clearly useful. everything in existence—including the natural world—has a psychic endowment. Jung refers to this one-sidedness as the fragments (or complexes) of one’s psyche overtaking the personality. Yunt 109 of meaninglessness or spiritual emptiness—exemplifies the fact that our relationships with others and the world are being stultified by an overvaluation of social detachment and scientific calculation. In the case of our ecological problems. our differentiated consciousness seeks to eliminate any connection between the assumed objective and subjective realms by consciously withdrawing (rationalizing). 1988). In other words. political. it is a form of reason that needs to be balanced by its opposite pole. 472) Downloaded from jhp. the personality becomes so vastly enlarged that the normal ego-personality is almost extinguished. With projections seemingly mastered. In this state of consciousness. a positive or negative inflation results. In fact. one way this manifests is in our personal and collective dissociation from the painful knowledge we have of the damage we inflict on ourselves.
meaning.com at UQ Library on June 23. experiences the undisrupted unity and source of its power. a complex and often misunderstood term. Pt.” said Jung (1966a. 1981. is used here as the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich (1963.110 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology With our ever-increasing scientific knowledge and ability to harness and transform the natural world. the unconscious must then make an extra effort to express its repressed contents. saw spirit as the unifier of consciousness and the unconscious (Dourley. Thus. it is not difficult to see that Western. the individual and collective psychic projections manifested in the world as ecological problems can only be rectified through a conscious attempt to assimilate and. vitality. it is much easier to unload (project) our unwanted baggage (shadows) onto those around us than to “carry the weight” ourselves. From Jung’s perspective. Referring to the transcendent power uniting opposites. in line with Jung’s theory of projection. Vol. 3. 79). Tillich saw the creative spirit in humanity as bringing together power and meaning. technological consciousness has reached a state of inflation: “In this we can already see the modern man who has got to the stage of building his world on a single function and is not a little proud of his achievement. 491). as consciousness reaches higher levels of differentiation and asserts its rational self-sufficiency and self-certainty. which. 4) used it—as the dimension of finite human life that. par. due to their unconscious origins. it is my contention that if the psychological roots of our ecological problems are not Downloaded from jhp. shows how the regnant materialism of our day has tried to eliminate any spirit from our experience of the world. and/or projections. depotentiate the effects of these projections. therefore. and creativity. and understandably so.sagepub. the unconscious falls farther behind and is forced to compensate for its neglect. However. His clear reference here to the thinking function. and therefore meaningful. broadly speaking. p. Modern consciousness has diminished this creative and transformative human power by psychologizing away the archetypal projections previously used to saturate the world with a living. in being driven into transcendence of itself. as we all know from our own interpersonal relations. to claim responsibility for our own internal darkness and insecurities. In an effort to strike a psychic balance. It does this through dreams. Spirit. are usually not recognized or understood. From the perspective of a depth-oriented ecopsychology. 2011 . while Jung. We find it difficult. that crowning hallmark of “civilized” consciousness. psychic disturbances.
was to show that a truly healthy evolution of consciousness can come only when our psyches are directed by all of our available functions. SCIENCE. sensation. he became convinced that when one consciously understands. (par. Yunt 111 addressed in the context of these unconscious projections. AND THE “WILD” UNCONSCIOUS Reminding us that human development is based on a process of balancing the various functions of the human psyche. we have quickly developed and mastered the theories and methods of science. and that the intellect is only one among several fundamental psychic functions and therefore does not suffice to give a complete picture of the world. and we cannot always prove that the convictions of feeling are necessarily inferior. Jung’s point. denials. From the viewpoint of ecopsychology. psychoemotional (not an anthropomorphism in the case of animals. Through thousands of analytic sessions with his patients. and feeling. we can never hope for a more humane relationship with the natural world. Feeling often arrives at convictions that are different from those of the intellect. we often remain deep down inside just as primitive as the so-called primitives. and shadows— an evolution of consciousness and new vision of reality can take place that is grounded in a radical honesty. 600) For all the clear benefits spawned by modern science. However. as some might assert). and chemical damage we knowingly inflict on nature and ourselves. such an insight is of the utmost importance. not just one. and integrates all aspects of one’s self—including projections. we can still see the importance of Jung’s words in relation to the disastrous ecological effects arising out of modern science’s applied technologies. SHADOWS. therefore. On an intellectual level. For this another function—feeling—is needed too.Jeremy D. it seems that no matter how much our lives are filled externally with technological novelty.sagepub.com at UQ Library on June 23. for only Downloaded from jhp. Jung (1969b) emphasized that one should never forget that science is simply a matter of intellect. each of these intellectual and technical advancements has been achieved largely in isolation from the other main psychic functions that Jung felt were necessary for their prudent application: intuition. In fact. when we consider the physical. 2011 . accepts.
From this loss of symbolic meaning. and as we increasingly treat the world as our enemy. synthetic. the loss of contact with this wildness is of significance: “In the course of the millennia. modernity’s relationship with nature has become one characterized by dangerous projection.” For Jung (1969b). however. so it Downloaded from jhp. this guilt can be transformed into a true concern for one’s psychological growth and ethical maturity. 87). in addition to the concomitant alienation from our bodies. under the conditions of self-acceptance and self-actualization. The now deeply enculturated and firmly enforced Western dichotomy between the wild and tame helps lay the foundation for a number of alienating and mechanistic worldviews that keep one from having access to the latent healing forces of the unconscious. is a fundamental cause of the fear many civilized people have of nature or “outer” wildness. and fast-growing theme park–like suburbs and strip malls are striking enough. In fact. modern consciousness is increasingly left without symbolic power in the natural world to either threaten or inspire a sense of awe. and deep-seated archaic images—those elements we repress with an overemphasized rationality but that continue to make their presence felt—point to the fact that the human is a somewhat wild creature. I believe we need no more examples of the type of world such an alienated relationship creates to substantiate our need for contact with this wildness. Jung’s insistence on our need to reconnect to this unconscious “wildness” lends psychological credence to Thoreau’s famous maxim: “In wildness is the preservation of the world. it is a necessary response issuing from our innate psychological and moral constitution. that such a process need not lead to inescapable guilt.sagepub. widespread alienation from this “inner” wildness. but in subduing our own wildness” (par. our increasingly homogenized. It is important to note. we have succeeded not only in conquering the wild nature all around us. The chaos and imbalance within our own alienated psyches are thrown at the world like a rock at an enemy. archetypally induced affects. And because it is out of the unconscious that symbols arise to bring about wholeness and meaning. 2011 . In fact.112 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology in honesty can we consciously recognize and become accountable for the rampant and unnecessary pains we inflict on nonhuman life forms.com at UQ Library on June 23. Part of achieving this psychological maturity is in seeing that our instincts. guilt is a quite natural state through which one must pass on the way toward a more compassionate consciousness. However.
2011 . since the man without a shadow thinks himself harmless precisely because he is ignorant of his shadow. the whole world of the archetypes. conscious projections are thrown into the world and come back in the form of ecological imbalances. Like the repression of our shadows.sagepub. what one finds in the predominant Western worldview— what I have referred to generally as scientific materialism—is a Downloaded from jhp. Recognition of the shadow is reason enough for humility. which simply come back as inferior. which could no longer keep up with it. However. The man who recognizes his shadow knows very well that he is not harmless. (par. Jung (1970) stated that everything possible has been done for the outside world: science has been refined to an almost unimaginable extent. But what of man. into direct contact with the conscious mind and saturates it with archaic influences. for it brings the archaic psyche. technical achievement has reached an almost uncanny degree of perfection.” Jung (1959b) stated that the tempo of the development of consciousness through science and technology was too rapid and left the unconscious. Jung took this concept even further by warning of the collective shadow. our strictly rational.com at UQ Library on June 23. for genuine fear of the abysmal depths in man. Speaking of this collective darkness in relation to our modern notion of “progress. archaic impulses to haunt our psychic health. who is expected to administer all these blessings in a reasonable way? He has simply been taken for granted. For. (par. as Jung (1966a) wisely reminded those of us acutely aware of our own internal darkness. Jung and ecopsychologists recognize this need for continual self and societal criticism and make no excuses for challenging us to engage in it. 452) Recognition and assimilation of one’s personal shadows were of supreme importance for Jung’s theory of personality development. too. Yunt 113 becomes our enemy. thereby forcing it into a defensive position which expresses itself in a universal will to destruction. This caution is most expedient.Jeremy D. In a reproving strike at the unbalanced and unchecked powers of human rationality and its dangerous technological projections. far behind. 442) Far from advocating the misanthropism that some critics level at those concerned about developing right relations with nature. (par. 617) Unfortunately. so.
With its myth of the possibility for endless. this worldview rejects. the earth. a return to archaic consciousness to resolve our dangerous and improvident relationship with nature. 2011 . but in some worldviews. and quick dependence on. self. For us today. we certainly cannot expect.com at UQ Library on June 23. But the intellect of modern civilized man has strayed too far in the world of consciousness. so that it received a violent shock when it suddenly beheld the face of its mother. In the scientific worldview. However. (par. a rigid conformism to established norms is often required to achieve such advancement. or largely downplays. and others. ONE-SIDED MODERN CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE URGE TOWARD WHOLENESS (INDIVIDUATION) Jung (1966a) stated. The result can be an overly civilized and desensitized approach to life. with Jung. The unconscious is the spirit of chthonic nature and contains the archetypal images of the Sapientia Dei (Wisdom of God). nor desire. the shadow side of humanity and instead promulgates an (unwarranted and utopian) optimism about our abilities to better the world and ourselves. 480) Downloaded from jhp. novel technological devices. this process of self-discovery will lead us toward individuation.114 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology neglect of this dark shadow side of humanity. In the dualistic religious worldview. This work will then lend balance to our developmental process and reunite the tensions and warring opposites that block our path to both personal psychological health and collective ecological health. Certainly. unconscious force that cannot be consciously acknowledged or integrated because of social taboos or fear imposed through religious dogma. we should work toward personal and societal improvement.sagepub. we can believe that access to healing symbols will arise when we begin to acknowledge and relate with the personal and collective shadows arising from the unconscious. we see this exemplified by modern society’s fascination with. acceptance of. In Jung’s terminology. it is seen in desperate attempts of people to purify themselves of anything considered sinful or evil—often meaning nature and any wild. The following section will examine this process of individuation as it relates to ecopsychology. linear progress.
however. how much instinct insists that the higher level of consciousness be attained. 471) When Jung calls this drive toward wholeness an ethical duty.Jeremy D. instinctual nature and our ecological dependency. the ego is relativized and placed in the service of the Self.com at UQ Library on June 23. Without attaching any value judgment to the uniqueness of human consciousness. as he states in the previous quotation. Modern ecological problems wrought by a one-sided emphasis on rationality uphold Jung’s concern about this issue. he highlights ecopsychology’s own belief that individuation is approached only to the degree that one extends the concept of psychological wholeness to embrace the health and wholeness of one’s natural and social environment. Yunt 115 By now. it was Jung’s (1961) belief that modern humanity’s “rationality is won at the expense of [its] vitality” (p. and reflected in.” The temptation for some. Speaking of the natural urge toward wholeness in the evolution of consciousness. 2011 .torum. of nature herself. (par. and saw its potential actualization as a chance for a significant evolution in human consciousness. it is important to find a way of holding these elements—a highly differentiated consciousness and an archaic. instinctual one—in a unified balance. is to subscribe to the rather simplistic notion that if we simply acknowledge our archaic. This urge to a higher and more comprehensive consciousness fosters civilization and culture. Although this romantic perspective is indeed a vital motivator for many. Therefore. 245) and that we suffer from a “dangerous atrophy of instinct. through the ongoing process of individuation. it should be clear that Jung believed certain dangers inhere in any theory or endeavor too narrow in its concern or application. therefore. In Jungian terms. but must fall short of the goal unless man voluntarily places himself in its service. Jung (1966a) said that one is hardly conscious of the extent to which “nature” acts not only as a driving force but as a helper—in other words. Although this process can sink into a form of ecological Downloaded from jhp. widening the personal self’s scope of concern so that one’s concerns and well-being are seen as dependent on.sagepub.Jung (1963) called this process the complexio opposi. we will somehow transform our abusive and controlling relationship to the natural world. the quality of one’s relationship with the world at large. it fails to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that human consciousness is in many ways a propitious characteristic of our species and. the union or reconciliation of opposites.
ecological self. Reverence for all life (Schweitzer) is the furthest extension of embodying such selfhood. ethical. this act manifests the “ecological self. but difficulties that concern others as much as oneself. the more the layer of the personal unconscious that is superimposed on the collective unconscious will be diminished. and act accordingly. binding. fears. but participates freely in the wider world of objective interests. .sagepub. it is a function of relation to the world of objects. bringing the individual into absolute. Jung (1966b) balanced this by highlighting the deeply collective. In this way there arises a consciousness which is no longer imprisoned in the petty. Hence.com at UQ Library on June 23. . (par. implications inherent in the process of individuation: The more we become conscious of ourselves through self-knowledge. As stated earlier. and indissoluble communion with the world at large. The complications arising at this stage are no longer egoistic wish-conflicts. or the carbon we release into the air will make the atmosphere unbreathable”—the hope is that a widened sense of self will cause one’s concerns to reach beyond one’s personal self and species to embrace that of life itself. egotistical bundle of personal wishes. and ambitions which always has to be compensated or corrected by unconscious counter-tendencies. we at the same time extend our concerns beyond the merely personal and begin to embrace the concerns of Downloaded from jhp. which have activated the collective unconscious because they require collective rather than personal compensation. subjective and objective.116 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology anthropocentrism and/or speciesism—“we’d better curb our consumption of fossil fuels. 474) From the last words of his statement. a natural symbol far removed from all conscious intention. properly understood. 2011 . hopes. At this stage it is fundamentally a question of collective problems. 275) What Jung makes clear is that as we turn more of our attention toward more of our self. . instead. It is the “uniting symbol” which epitomizes the total union of opposites. This widened consciousness is no longer that touchy. that is. Jung (1966a) clarified this when he defined the self as both ego and non-ego. oversensitive. let alone expanding to this deeper. However. individual and collective.” through which one sees destruction of the natural world as destruction of one’s own personal identity and spirit. (par. personal world of the ego. it might seem as though one had no control over actualizing one’s self. and this carries radical implications for our reconceptualization of what it means to be whole. the self is not a doctrine or theory but an image born of nature’s own workings.
the essential reality of nature is not separate. Yunt 117 the world as a whole. of whom Jung was quite found: In this view. so that the human mind can examine “objectively” and register it from without. this necessitates a reevaluation of our priorities and an expansion of our worldviews. or possible nonexistence. another outgrowth of humanistic psychology. it was a simple truism that the psyche serves as both a subjective “instrument” for perceiving the world and as an expressive part of the world’s own depth.sagepub. and complete in itself. through which one gains contact with the numinous dimension of life. As Jung would propose in such cases of philosophical or scientific uncertainty. The ability to comprehend and give full expression to both of these essential and meaningful aspects of the human condition is a fundamental goal of life. to discover the “at-one-ment” of the world that transcends. prior to mass consciousness of the global ecological problems we now face. nor is it Downloaded from jhp. It also requires rediscovering and cultivating the inner reaches of our psyche and the outer realms of nature. In other words. In religious terms. we can incessantly discuss the nature. describes this act in terms of ego transcendence. For Jung. yet inheres in. Tarnas (1991) elucidated this process by following the theoretical lines of both Jung and Kant. of the psyche’s relationship to the world while the world crumbles down before our very eyes. 2011 . Jung’s previous quotation brings forth an inescapable truth of our modern world: the need to overcome our separateness and alienation from the material world in which we exist. Rather. we must place the psychological facts before the supposed physical facts.com at UQ Library on June 23. selfcontained. Nature’s reality is not merely phenomenal. including an appreciation of the various religious traditions that have given expression to the divine depth of the world. this is to open ourselves to the world’s own revealing (revelation) of its latent unity. Transpersonal psychology.Jeremy D. Clearly. nature’s unfolding truth emerges only with the active participation of the human mind. CONCLUSION Although written in 1928. or soul. our own individual interests and concerns. while avoiding falling into dualistic hairsplitting that causes philosophical noncommitment due to the unknown ontological veracity of a psyche-nature relationship.
galaxies and nebulae. He also continually warned of the physical. without it the world is in some sense incomplete. Every advance. 434) Tarnas (1991) rightly stressed the importance of developing a sense of inner psychic wholeness through the utilization of one’s imaginal. touched only by the breath of a primeval world. plants and animals. even the smallest. of course. rather.com at UQ Library on June 23. All Nature seeks this goal and finds it fulfilled in man. 2011 . in that one moment in which I came to know. I felt then as if I were the first man. The entire world round me was still in its primeval state. along this path of conscious realization adds that much to the world. (par. Nature becomes intelligible to itself through the human mind. as they had done from time immemorial. psychological. we can see this as the gift of consciousness. A developed inner life is therefore indispensable for cognition. Throughout his life. 177) Jung does not mean here that the world would not exist without human consciousness of it but. And it is only when the human mind actively brings forth from within itself the full powers of a disciplined imagination and saturates its empirical observation with archetypal insight that the deeper reality of the world emerges.118 Jung’s Contribution to an Ecological Psychology independent and objective. creative. . the first creature. after thousands and millions of years. someone had to realize that this wonderful world of mountains and oceans. but only in the most highly developed and most fully conscious man. that nature’s full capacity for experiencing and expressing itself arises most acutely through human consciousness. . Jung criticized the one-sided scientificmaterialist approach to life. suns and moons. And then. From a low hill in the Athi plains of East Africa I once watched the vast herds of wild animals grazing in soundless stillness. We can. without that moment it would never have been. and spiritual dangers arising from such Downloaded from jhp.sagepub. Jung (1959b) resonated Tarnas’s sentiments: I believe that. to know that all this is. the world sprang into being. (p. and intellectual capabilities. choose to interpret this arrogantly as humanity’s superiority over other life forms. exists. it did not know that it was. it is something that comes into being through the very act of cognition. inspiring responsibility and gratitude in us for our ability to appreciate and benefit from all the wonderfully diverse life forms made intelligible and emotionally affective to us. Describing one particular instance of his own cognitive kinship with nature. . rather. Alternatively. The human imagination is itself part of the world’s intrinsic truth.
Since he has been granted an almost godlike power. and live out of this worldview is. Gomes. and the question is whether he can resist the will to use it. Roszak. (1995). Most important. 2011 . E. In the end. & A. a worldview characterized by ecocentricity. perhaps only implicitly. I would now argue. ecological healing. par. as the facts bear witness. Kanner (Eds.Jeremy D.). and that everything ultimately depends upon whether the man who wields the science and the technics is capable of responsibility or not? Christianity has shown us the way.com at UQ Library on June 23. (Jung. for the dark God has slipped the atom bomb and chemical weapons into his hands and given him the power to empty out the apocalyptic vials of wrath on his fellow creatures. it requires nothing less than placing one’s self gracefully and gratefully within the cosmos. he can no longer remain blind and unconscious. Yunt 119 one-sided worldviews. M. is the possibility of developing a nondualistic worldview that sublimates the inextricable interconnectedness of our psyches. 747) I believe what Jung’s thought shows. Helping people recognize. Jung charted a path for human development consonant with the insights and principles of ecopsychology. 1969a.sagepub. D. however. Ecopsychology: Restoring Downloaded from jhp. it has not penetrated deeply enough below the surface. (Jung. In the end. and nature. develop. in fact. In T. and can temper his will with the spirit of love and wisdom. 455) REFERENCES Aizenstat. he helped clarify that for us to approach any psychological. bodies. we can only concur with his crucial and timely observation that everything now depends on man: immense power of destruction is given into his hand. we must transcend the desire for a romantic return to archaic consciousness—which is impossible anyway—as well as the pernicious anthropocentrism that places human rationality and all its increasingly nonvital desires over and above the vital needs of nature. and. In this way. Jungian psychology and the world unconscious. He can no longer wriggle out of it on the plea of his littleness and nothingness. Can we not understand that all the outward tinkerings and improvements do not touch man’s inner nature. spiritual. the therapeutic goal of ecopsychology. 1959b. 745. that is. but. pars. S. rather than egocentricity.
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