December 2008


Psychosynthesis Egg of Being or egg diagram

Psychosynthesis Egg of Being or "egg diagram"

“I suggest, to begin, that Ecopsychology is best thought of as a project, in the sense of a large multifaceted undertaking. This makes room for a great number of perspectives and interests and rules out the idea that Ecopsychology will ever resemble a traditional discipline.” Andy Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology

 

 

“Nature is always trying to reestablish harmony, and within the psyche the principle of synthesis is dominant. Irreconcilable opposites do not exist. The task of therapy is to aid the individual in transforming the personality, and integrating apparent contradictions.” Roberto Assagioli, The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli

 

“In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means Psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behavior modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs.” Roberto Assagioli, The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli

 

“Growth is hard, regression is easy.” Ken Wilber

 

Ecopsychology is not defined by any one person, by any one discipline, by any one method. Put simply, it is a bridge between ecology and psychology and whatever comes after this is up to a psychologist’s or ecologist’s own “perspectives and interests”. The Earth Sanctuary, where I live and work, is made up of people who have experience with Psychosynthesis (among other things). It is through this, and other experiences, that we hope to approach Ecopsychology.

 

What can Psychosynthesis do for Ecopsychology? The principle of synthesis for a start. Although Psychosynthesis is perhaps not very different from some other schools of psychological thought (its inclusive nature in fact incorporates many ideas and practices into it) it tends to talk about synthesis, mainly the synthesis of the personality, where we find ourselves having to adapt our personality to suit our situations. Psychosynthesis takes the resulting “subpersonalities,” as it calls them (a similar concept in Gestalt Therapy talks of “creative adjustments”), and through recognising and integrating them they might be reconciled with the whole of the personality. One such subpersonality or creative adjustment may be the suppression of an ecological identity or ego. Many urban people are so submerged in a human environment that they have lost an ecological perspective which has usually been a natural and healthy part of human existence. If we are to live harmoniously with the planet then one psychological work is to reintegrate this wider, more-than-human, perspective as a part of us by seeing ourselves as a part of the more-than-human world.

 

One exercise in Psychosynthesis is to draw your personal life history from present to past, to get a sense of your development through your life, seeing it as a coherent process rather than just a string of random events. This same exercise may be done with how humans have appeared in the universe. In one book I have, called Thinking Like a Mountain, there are a few meditations that try to facilitate just this, guiding us through various images that link us back into the natural processes of cosmic and ecological evolution. After all, humans belong in this universe because its laws and evolution make us possible. James Lovelock also did his own synthesis on the Earth’s evolution, but more as a scientific exercise than a meditation, in The Ages of Gaia. These can help us to gain a perspective on the history of things and help us re-identify ourselves as a part of this history, synthesising our presence within the greater whole. With the current atmosphere of globalisation, human history is undergoing its own process of global synthesis, where we can look back and see the various stages we have gone through as a coherent process; from our evolution in and dispersal from Africa, and subsequent diversification, to our current reconnection across the globe. Psychosynthesis has tools to help us see that cosmic, ecological, human and personal evolutions are part of a coherent, synthesised, process.

 

In Ecopsychology there is a concept called the ecological unconscious, described as “the living record of cosmic evolution, tracing back to distant initial conditions in the history of time.” (Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth). The structure of it has been determined by the nature of our universe as well as the psychological evolution of our species and beyond to the start of life. The previous ideas about identifying with ecological and cosmic evolution can help us reconnect with the ecological unconscious within us. But we have to be careful that this reconnection to the “bigger picture” doesn’t mean regressing or becoming a mere product in its unfolding. We can, instead, be a positive contributing factor in our personal lives and as a species.

The ecological unconscious is something new to Psychosynthesis, its model of the human psyche, called the Egg of Being, describes several “types” or “aspects” of the unconscious but nothing explicitly ecological. So where does the ecological unconscious fit into the Egg of Being? At first, because of its description as something related to the deep evolutionary past of life and the universe, I thought that it could be in the lowest part of the lower unconscious (1) which can represent the individual psyche’s unconscious past or the physical body. Unfortunately this is still not a very whole picture, it still leaves the middle (present/emotional-intellectual) unconscious and especially the upper (future/spiritual/transpersonal) unconscious as somehow not related to what the ecological unconscious represents. Our choice then remains to either regress when connecting with the ecological unconscious or to detach from it when pursuing “higher” evolution. In either case it fragments the psyche, “dissecting” the Egg of Being.

Since the ecological unconscious is a developing model, there is room to look at in various ways as people define it as it best works for them. The Egg of Being model is quite versatile in that it doesn’t just have to represent an individual but also can be used to look at the psychological dynamics of various things, such as human groups. We can also use the Egg to look at the ecological unconscious and give it not only a deep aspect but also a higher aspect of spiritual or transpersonal evolution. This is made possible because the nature of the universe includes this potential within it, not as something imposed on it from “out there” in some spiritual dimension separate from our universe. Therefore humans represent a part of the unfolding potential of the universe, emerging within the living Earth just as a flower might, and also within the human psyche the ecological unconscious can be seen to somehow be “omnipresent” providing it with its structure and evolutionary potential.  The whole process of the psyche is embedded in the ecological unconscious. To put it into other terms, personal and human evolution of the past, present and future, are all a part of the universe’s own evolution. Our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual evolution are contained within the greater picture of the universe’s evolutionary processes especially that of the living Earth’s, though it is by no means diminished for being so.

Psychology shouldn’t just be about therapy and healing, it should also be about how we open up to and develop our “higher” potential. Many people have worked with this in mind when working with Ecopsychology, sometimes calling it Transpersonal Ecopsychology or Econoetics, which you can find on the internet. Psychosynthesis can be one contribution to this, facilitating every level of our evolution and integrating that into the wider ecological evolution of our planet of which we are a part.

Further refence to Econoetics can be found as a three part series, which is part of some work done between myself and the author:

EcoNoetics- Part I http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/673/

EcoNoetics- Part II http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/econoetics-part-ii/

EcoNoetics- Part III http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/econoetics-part-iii/

“Although many a Druid, both man and woman, wielded the sword of justice when needed, the role of the Druid transcends petty tribal rivalries and jealousies. The Druid-as-mediator walks between the worlds and the tribes, between the battle lines, between the living and the dying, between our world and the ‘others’.” Tom Cowan, Of Ancient Shapes and Memories (preface to the book The Rebirth of Druidry)

So, once again, I find myself inspired by a message board. This is an edited version of what I originally wrote for one message board. This grew out of another thread I was involved with which I’ll will publish a part of in the near future.

For me the Druids were an intertribal and transcultural network working spiritually and politically for their tribes. Their “wisdom tradition” wasn’t situated within any single cultural context, except a Celtic one. But even this wasn’t exactly one thing, as Druids have apparently been in Gaul, Britain and Ireland, and possibly further afield. And in these lands there were Goidelics and Brythonics and maybe others that I don’t know. And across this geographical range, around the time when Druids were supposed to exist, there were several different pantheons.

When I imagine what may have happened, I think that perhaps the priests and shamans of different conflicting tribes got together to forge a common understanding, a common wisdom, that transcended tribal loyalties and cultural context so that the tribes could better coordinate and collaborate and yet still keep some form of autonomy, focusing their energies in different ways than by all out war. Perhaps they had limited resources or environmental troubles, like today, and saw that collaboration was a better way of getting out of the situation than violent competition. Together these “proto-Druids” maybe have pooled together their wisdom, using their position within their tribes to influence their chieftains and kings for the benefit of all tribes. In time, Druid schools may have developed and more complex political systems arose. And over time this spiritual-political institution may have spread to other tribes and other Celtic cultures.

 In time though, the Roman Empire and later Christian conversion saw the disappearance of Druids, at least as an intertribal institution. What if they had not disappeared? What if Romans and Christian had never took over and left the Druids to their own devices? They may have spread further, perhaps seeding themselves and integrating the Germanic, and even Norse, tribes. Perhaps they may have gone south through Gaul and over the Pyrenees becoming part of the Iberian-Celts culture. Perhaps parts of Europe may have become a confederation of Druid guided tribes and nations. With this in mind, I do not envisage the Druid Way being of a specific culture. The Druids belonged to different Celtic peoples but their Wisdom transcended these peoples to somehow unite them. Today, this is what we need. For me a Druid’s mission is to work with others, across the borders of their native culture and provide a network of wisdom and transnational vision for the fragmented nations of the world, following a global vision through local action.

I am a Pagan Druid. My ethnic history goes deeper than the Christian-centric history of Europe. I am British and within that I have Germanic, Norse and Celtic roots, each has influenced what my culture is today. Each has its own wisdom that can be revived to show us what has been missing under the deep layers of Christian history and what other ways there are of viewing the world, through magic, through myth and through the sacredness of nature itself.

I am a Christian Druid. The culture I was born into and the childhood I enjoyed was very much Christian. It provided me with a deep optimism of the universe and of humanity. The humanist element within its ethics being part of my own conscience, and the conscience of my culture through its Law. But also we are all united “in Christ” or “in Humanity.” No matter what “type” I might be; male, British, white or European, and no matter what “type” you might be; [insert types here], we are still human and our history is a common one, which is now reconnecting across the globe.

I am a Gaian Druid. The Earth is a living system and I exist in and evolve as part of this system. Humanity has existed and evolved within this system and the future depends on our relationship with this living Earth. As we evolve, Gaia evolves and as Gaia evolves, we evolve; our qualities become qualities of Gaia. We are the mind of Gaia reflecting upon itself. This global and Gaian vision guides what we are and what we are to become in our local lives.

My Druidry is a synthesis. Christian-Humanist ethics, embedded within a Gaian Worldview and complemented by my ethnic background, this is my Druidry.

All of that, plus my membership and training in the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids lol.

“These days we are surrounded by debate and discussion about climate change. It is a complex scientific problem which is still not completely understood, and its implications could have major implications for the human species and indeed the rest of the world. Moreover, humans actions to reduce climate change and adapt to its effects could also have major implications. Inevitably, then, the issue is the topic of heated debate.” Richard Betts, Human-Caused Climate Change in Earthy Realism edited by Mary Midgley

After reading the science behind climate change AND the alternatives, I still wonder how people don’t understand it. Either they deny it completely or take the parts that are theory and think that it is fact. So I thought that I should explain a few of the facts behind it and reveal the legitimate doubt there is behind all of the confusion. This is a very simple overview, and there is more to climate change than just what humans are doing to it, but it’s a place to start…

Simple Fact: Greenhouse gases (like methane and carbon dioxide) absorb heat.

Too little and our climate cools down. Too much and our climate heats up.  Extremes either way make the atmosphere uninhabitable for life.

Not-So-Simple Fact (but a fact nonetheless): The collective action of life on Earth regulates and is regulated by the atmosphere to keep the atmosphere inhabitable.

The Earth is a closed system, barring the constant supply of solar energy and occasional meteorite and perhaps other cosmic phenomena, so it has its limitations, such as how well it can cope with stress to its system and how well it can maintain balance (see homeostasis).

Fact: The Earth’s climate changes naturally, being maintained between livable extremes of glacials (ice ages) and warmer interglacials (like now).

Fact: Humans are also having an impact on global warming.

Humans are digging up and burning carbon, as fossil fuels, and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  The capacity for the atmosphere to absorb heat is increasing, so, yes, it is getting warmer.

Another Fact: Humans are destroying a lot of ecosystems which weakens the Earth’s capacity to maintain itself at habitable levels for life.

One such destructive action is deforestation, which weakens the Earth’s capacity to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. If we see the Earth like a body, we can say that humans are poisoning the Earth AND taking away the Earth’s ability to remove the poison, which, as the saying goes, adds insult to injury.

Legitimate Doubt: It is known that we are contributing to climate change but it is not known to what extent.

A spectrum between two possibilities exists, a best case scenario and a worst case scenario.

Best case scenario: We might only be warming things up a little more than usual, in which case the Earth will resume its usual climatic course and return to an Ice Age.

Worst case scenario:  That we reach some sort of tipping point where the Earth may not be able to recover sufficiently to return to an Ice Age and move into hotter climatic levels in which humans won’t be able to survive.

So, these things are not doubtful:

YES we can and do affect the planet.

YES we do have to be careful.

YES we can overpopulate the planet.

YES we can overuse resources.

YES nonbiodegradable matter can choke up the system if there is too much of it.

YES we can end up making our planet uninhabitable for ourselves.

And YES, we do have to review our effects on our planet’s capacity for life and effective changes in our ways to avoid potential climatic catastrophes.

The FACT that humanity can contribute to climate change ought to tell us that we are capable of reaching tipping point. Its happened to local civilisations that misused the environment, but now it could happen on a global scale. Considering all of the carbon that can be dug up and burnt and all the forests we are capable of cutting down, it’s not hard to imagine the Earth heading into the Worst Case Scenario, it is not impossible.

Here’s three books that I recomment reading;

Healing Gaia by James Lovelock- This is a more up to date and clarified overview of his Gaia Hypothesis, as it has since been revised, put under testing and shows its successful predictions. It also integrates some of the criticisms leveled at it and works to resolve and include these arguments within it, such as biological evolution and defining life.

Earthy Realism edited by Mary Midgely- With articles written by several people this includes explanations about Gaian or Earth Systems science but also looks at its implications for it in several aspects of human existence, political, social, economical, philosophical, ethical and spiritual.

Collapse: How societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared M.Diamond- I haven’t read it yet, but from what I’ve found on the internet of it, it shows some good examples of environmental collapse that causes the collapse of civilisations. In my “to read” list.

Now, if you’re expecting a profound philosophical quote, I’m sorry but you can find none here. However, I have quoted a couple of things that analysed this blog, first one to analyse (or analyze) my possible gender and another to see what part of my brain I used to write this blog.

So first, on this site… http://www.genderanalyzer.com I’m apparently a gender neutral woman…

“We guess https://thegroveofquotes.wordpress.com is written by a woman (56%), however it’s quite gender neutral.”

Another looks at blogs; http://typealyzer.com

“The logical and analytical type. They are espescially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about. ”

I think its fairly accurate. Although the last bit isn’t quite right. I do understand the needs of others, but I guess this blog isn’t about understanding the needs of others, its about meeting my need to express and communicate my thoughts. Oops sorry, that might have sounded a tad too arrogant 😉

Put your blog through the test, see what it comes up with…

“Think globally, act locally”
Again this pops up. It’s because I’ve realized there are more dimensions to it than geographical. I think also there are historical dimensions to it. Thinking globally is looking at the global situation and acting locally is applying its implications to your life. But also we can say “Think historically, act in the present”. That is look at the history of things, both the events of the past and the possibilities of the future, because these too have implications on how we are living now.
Maybe we can say “Think globally and historically, act locally and in the present,” except that that is too much of a mouthful and not catchy enough.
Maybe we can say “Think transpersonally, act personally.” It’s nice and short, and encapsualtes the historical/global and local/present; however, people may not be too familiar with the term transpersonal.
I think “think globally, act locally” is good enough. Plenty of people know it, it’s catchy and has been for several decades. But now we know it doesn’t just reach around the globe but also into the past and the future, acknowledging where we have been and where we may be going.

“Often during initiation rites, Native Americans would take on a new or special name to reflect their new identity and to acknowledge that while still ordinary, the very purpose of their existence has changed. A man’s worldview is changed by his vision, and his life takes on a new or different meaning.” C.T.B. Harris, Ph.D., Emasculation of the Unicorn

The Fool from Philips Carr-Gomms Druidcraft Tarot

The Fool from Philips Carr-Gomm's Druidcraft Tarot

 

 “Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown.”  Claude Bernard

I stood on the edge of a precipice, looking into a vast chaotic confusion of nothingness. My stomach sank and seemed to fall into it. I felt like I’d lost my base, I’d lost the context which gave my life meaning. It supported me and stopped me falling in. It was the day I left my childhood behind and became an adult. Here I was standing before the raw power of a universe filled with nihilism. Events happened; stars were born and died; planets spun aimlessly around their suns; and humans committed the greatest atrocities and the greatest acts of benevolent service. All the while the universe remained seemingly unmoved, apathetic and without pity.

But then Life sparks something in me, and I feel hope and a will to live replace despair.

I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!

I looked at this nothingness with new courage, standing there and facing it. I did not try to escape from it; no running, no ignoring, no denying. I faced it and from the nothingness itself I extract my hope, meaning and infinite potential, using it as a source for raw material and transforming it through my dreams and visions, through the alchemical powers of my life-force in the depths of my being.

This day, the day I became the creator of meaning in my life, without needing the regurgitated meaning of others, was the day I became an adult. I stood for my independence. I stood for my life.

The universe is like a dying bonfire, and all stars are its embers. If it does not collapse in on itself, annihilating and restarting the universe, eventually all matter will dissolve and all energy dissipate into I-don’t-know-what (I’m no physicist!). All because of the entropic decay inherent in all things of the whole universe. But as our sun burns itself up, it sheds excess energy; scientists call it “free energy”, which is lost in space. But some of the energy isn’t lost because a little pocket of life and meaning collects it, feeding from and being energised by it. Living from it. A “little pocket” we call home; the planet Earth. Without free energy, life would not be possible in our entropy dominated universe.

I spoke at the beginning as though there was a void of nothingness around me, but that is not quite true. The living Earth, or Gaia, is context enough for us to find meaning. If we were rooted in this reality, where human existence was seen and felt as part of the planet’s ecology, there would be no such void or lack of meaning around us. Why do we feel a void around us? Why do we lack meaning from the world around us? Each breath, each step, each sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, is filled with meaning, filled with a context through which we live our lives. When we are disconnected from the wholeness of our environment then meaning can become disconnected from the process of living itself. When we replace living in a forest with living in a city, when we limit our human-nonhuman community to human-only community, when the sustenance of our lives comes from human manufactured technology and not from non-human sources, an individual can easily swim in a nihilistic void. They can become more abstracted and less responsive and sensitive to the world that they depend upon for their existence.

The life of the individual, when it matures from childhood into adulthood, does find itself in a “void” of sorts. We no longer rely on our parents or other role-models to show us the way in life, we have to find it and make it for ourselves. This reminds me of The Fool card in the tarot. The figure is often depicted stepping onto empty air, symbolizing that the next step in life isn’t always certain. Many people avoid the “empty air,” suckling on the teat of societal conventions and never growing up and some see the “empty air” in despairing terms and throw away their lives into meaningless activities (not much different to suckling on societal conventions) or even ending it completely.  But that empty air isn’t empty, it is filled with the presence of life, because without it we’d die. It is our lifeline to the Earth. So the fool, leaping from solid ground into “empty” air, isn’t leaping into nothingness, he (or she) is leaping from its parents support to find its own direct connection with the Earth and everything it contains.

If, when an individual is weaned from parental dependence, they have been guided into the world well and connected with it well, empty air becomes an opportunity for the individual; they can take the next step in life knowing that they will not fall. Their feeling of being part of the human-nonhuman world is strong and also they have enough individual presence to fill any “emptiness” instead of conforming to the roles, social conventions and stereotypes of their society, being who they are, not “what they should be.” This creation of a new self-image, instead of being isolated from society, can in turn contribute to society, transforming its dynamic into something relevant in the world, becoming a healthy guidance and supporting system for future generations, one that leaves space for their individuality and sense of connection with Gaia as a whole in her human and nonhuman aspects.

Although the Earth seems to be swimming in an empty void, we certainly are not, as we can see in James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis. We have emerged within an ecological context that has been evolving for many millennia, ever since life appeared on the Earth and humans are a continuation of that. We have been gifted by this evolution with life; it is our right to live it fully. Yet also we have a responsibility to work for the continuation of life on Earth. For most organisms, this worldview is biologically innate. But for humans this needs to be learnt and we need cultures and societies that will facilitate this worldview so that deep down we all know that we are a part of Gaia’s evolution and that, through our distinctive human creativity, we can contribute and become cocreators in this age-old process alongside all other organisms.