Nature, Visible & Invisible


Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had a symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor is lightning his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain still harbors a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants, and animals. He no longer has a bush-soul identifying him with a wild animal. His immediate communication with nature is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk into the unconscious.

                                                                                  C.G. Jung (CW 18, par. 585)

I am very interested in our relationship to Nature. Presently, our planet is experiencing major changes. The planet has been warming for the past few decades. This warming is largest in the Arctic region, where sea-ice has been dramatically decreasing. These changes are having serious effects on life on Earth. Science tells us that the majority of this warming is due to increases in the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The measured increased in this gas is due to humans burning fossil fuels, i.e. coal and oil. As the population of the world increases, and more people demand more energy, the planet will continue to warm. Projections are that over fifty percent of species may be lost by the end of this century, and  Earth will be as warm as it was around 40 to 50 million years ago.

These are very dire predictions that can cause a sense of despair and hopelessness in us. I have a deep respect for life on Earth, and a desire to protect the environment. I feel we have a moral obligation to preserve Earth. Psychologically, this is a question about our relationship to Earth. How did we get to this place, where we are so disconnected from our world? How can we become more connected to our world? What does Jungian psychology have to tell us about these questions?

I have spent last thirty years, as a scientist, studying the climate of our planet. I believe it was my realization of how much we are affecting our world that led me to ask many of these questions. As a Jungian analyst, I have looked at how our world can become invisible to us. I believe that to the extent we can reconnect to Nature, we reconnect to our inner world, especially the center of wholeness that Jung called the Self. I also believe that to the extent we can reconnect to our inner world, we also reconnect to Nature. So our task is to make the “invisible visible.”

We can begin to make the invisible visible by placing ourselves in direct touch with Nature. We can use our senses and feelings to begin to reconnect to the world of Nature. Current estimates indicate that the average American spends less than fifteen minutes a day in direct contact with Nature. I believe we can also begin to imagine ourselves in a different relationship with Nature. Can you imagine living in a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels? Can you imagine living in touch with Nature. I invite you to use your imagination to reconnect to Nature.

We can begin to make the invisible visible by entering into a living relationship with our inner world. Living life more soulfully. Jungian psychotherapy is all about developing such a relationship. I have found that Nature is coming into people’s dreamworld more and more. It is wounded Nature that is appearing in people’s dreams. The polar bear is coming to people, a species that is on the brink of extinction due to our need for energy. Looking at the animals and other forms of Nature that are coming into your dreams is another way to reconnect to Nature.

On a deeper level, Jung was fascinated by the old alchemical idea of what is called the unus mundus. The one world, which unites the visible and invisible. Our ultimate task is to experience the oneness of the world. We are a part of Nature, not apart from Nature. If we can truly experience this sense of connection, then we will be less likely to destroy Nature. We will realize that in destroying Nature, we destroy ourselves. I believe that by exploring the world of psyche, we are also reconnecting to Nature.

Undoubtedly, the idea of the unus mundus is founded on the assumption that the multiplicity of the empirical world rests on an underlying unity, and that not two or more fundamentally different worlds exist side by side or are mingled with one another. Rather, everything divided and different belongs to one and the same world … That even the psychic world, which is so extraordinarily different from the physical world, does not have its roots outside the one cosmos is evident from the undeniable fact that causal connections exist between the psyche and the body which point to their underlying unity.

Jung (CW 14, par. 767)

© Jeffrey Kiehl 2016