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The Care of Nature

Muir

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir, 1890

I have just returned from a walk through a small part of Muir Woods. I was captivated by the immense beauty and wonder of the Woods. The silence there penetrated deeply into my soul. I left those Woods transformed. Driving up the winding road, I reflected on the precariousness of Nature’s beauty for this valley and forest were threatened by the building of a dam. The care of just a few, including Theodore Roosevelt, saved the forest from ultimate submersion. Psychologically, this act of submersion is repression of a thing feared. I was reminded of Freud’s view of our relationship to nature, summarized in these words, “The principle task of civilization, its actual raison d’etre, is to defend us against nature.” For Freud civilization was under constant assault from nature and it was our task to conquer or, at least, subdue nature, lest it overwhelm us. The feeling that nature must be subdued is actually quite old and represents an innate fear of the natural world.

Of course, Jung viewed our relationship with Nature in a completely different way for he saw a direct connection between psyche’s archetypes and Nature, he succinctly reflected that, “…the archetypes are as it were hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general, …[archetypes are that portion of the psyche] through which the psyche is attached to nature.” So, to the extent we explore archetypes we approach Nature and, of course, the opposite is equally true to the extent we explore Nature we approach the archetypes of psyche, which is the sentiment exactly expressed in the words of John Muir.

I find it difficult to fathom people who choose to submerse the beauty of a forest with a dam, or to cut down a forest for a housing development or a shopping mall. Are these destructive acts toward Nature a reflection of Freud’s fear of the natural world? Are we so unconscious of our innate archetypal rootedness to Nature? What do we truly value?

Leaving Muir Woods, I was thankful for those few special people, so long ago, whose care afforded me a glimpse of the Universe while walking through the forest.

 

 

 

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