MIND, PSYCHE, SPIRIT
Ensouled on the Planet
by Marion Woodman
We are still accepting a cultural value that annihilates the Earth. If we don't change, we are going to our own extinction. This is precisely what addicts do.
An interview by Nancy Ryley
NR: You have said we have to overcome our addictions before we can connect to nature. Does our refusal to confront our addictions lead directly to our destruction of Mother Earth?
MW: I think so, yes. As children many of us feel a deep connection to Her. But our culture warps our natural instincts. That warping leads to addictions. But there’s a suicidal drive in the addicted individual and in the addicted society. Our planet is coming up against the wall.
Yet, despite all the horrors we have created, we are still doing precisely what we know will be ultimately destructive. Denial! Denial! We are still accepting a cultural value that annihilates the Earth. If we don’t change, we are going to our own extinction. This is precisely what addicts do. Addicts—in other words most of our society—pretend there’s nothing wrong. As they laugh and talk and plan, they deny their dying souls. That’s what we’re doing to the planet. We fight about things that won’t matter if we are extinct.
NR: You mean addicts have lost touch with the instinct for survival?
MW: That’s right. We have a consumer society where there’s no hope for a satiation point, because we’re cut off from our instinctive roots that would know when to stop eating, or drinking, or consuming, or whatever.
NR: And what’s the result of that for the planet?
MW: To destroy it. An addict is destroying himself. Or herself. And if we have no respect for our own matter we will certainly have no respect for the planet’s matter. We’ll just go on plundering it.
I would suggest that when we pollute the Earth because of our various additions—when we destroy the natural unity in nature—that physical human responses, and plant and animal responses, are disturbed and in some cases destroyed.
There was a tragic film made years ago which showed the devastation wreaked by the 1945 atomic bomb on the Pacific. Great sea turtles, instead of following their natural archetypal patterns to the sea, turned and went inland to find water. Here were these 400-year-old turtles, and the darling things had done what they had always done: they’d laid their eggs. Then they turned in the wrong direction. They turned away from the sea and they climbed the sand dune, and turned upside-down as soon as they got to the top. They tried to go over the dune but their bodies had upset and they died stranded like that. They had lost touch with the instinctive side of the correct thing to do. An addict is like that great turtle turning around to the sand dune instead of to the sea.
NR: And as addicts we too have lost our proper orientation to the planet?
MW: I think so. If the Earth isn’t functioning the way it was meant to, we have no guide, no compass to steer by. More than that, we’ve lost the North Pole. So it’s a double tragedy because the compass is no longer true and the North Pole is no longer there.
NR: How do you make people understand that as long as we’re “addicted” to patriarchal materialistic values we run the risk of destroying ourselves?
MW: I think people have to come to a place where they’re against the wall and on their knees before they turn around. If we haven’t been on our own knees in front of our own wall, to the point where we want to do something about the plain fact that we can’t get up, we won’t do anything for anybody else. Certainly we won’t do anything for a tree. Not to mention the Earth. So long as we’re trapped in our arrogance, we know nothing about compassion.
I know from my own experience, and from my experience with my analysands, that until we’re against the wall we don’t really do anything to change. It’s terrible that we have to learn this way, but it seems that extremity is necessary to open people’s hearts. I think that it’s that striking down that opens the heart. And the opening of the heart is where the forgiveness comes in.
NR: Is it only out of the world’s awareness of its collective pain that soul awakening will come?
MW: Yes. I think we have to open our hearts and feel our collective wound. That’s where we learn love. Through our own suffering, our hearts are broken open in love for one another. Love in our culture is such a sentimental chocolate-syrup word. So often it means compulsive need. But love is an energy. It moves through our bodies; it moves between people, a force that holds atoms together. That’s how I understand love.
I think that the people who are doing the soul-searching have no alternative. It is very painful, and it gets them into painful situations. But I think some people are, either by destiny or by their own nature, called to do it, and they have no alternative.
I don’t think anybody chooses to do this work. On the other hand, I don’t really think anyone escapes either. Some people die rather than do it. Things happen to all of us. Jung tells us that what is not brought to consciousness comes to us as fate.
The entire film about Woodman's life & work, Dancing in the Flames, can be viewed online here.
NR: Do you feel that most people try to avoid the pain of consciousness—the pain of the life-death-rebirth experience—in our culture?
MW: Yes, I do; that's where the addiction comes in. When it comes to pain, we don’t want it; so we avoid it in any possible way we can.
I see this culture in terms of addictions. An addict can be blind to the death wish that is killing him, or he can open his eyes and choose life. As people on this planet we can do the same thing—we can choose to live in the Garden or we can destroy it. We can either stupidly proclaim that we are all-powerful; there is no miracle out there; there is no life-force that we have to bow to. Or we can humbly acknowledge that there is an incredible mystery creating all those different life forms.
If we believe in a divine order, then everything, everything on the Earth, is part of that divine order. We’re all little sparks of One Soul. We are “ensouled” on this planet. And once that comes through to consciousness, we understand what love is. The atoms are held together by love; love is the glue that holds it all together.
My sense is that this chaos that we’re going through could go on for a long time yet—that maybe we’re only at the beginning of the real chaos. But when we finally come to our knees, something else will happen...We might realize that we are all part of One Soul. That we do belong. That we are all part of one cosmos. And that the life-force is in the willow, the daisy, the chickadee, in every animated thing. And that we are part of that totality, part of that love.
◊ Adapted from Nancy Ryley's The Forsaken Garden--conversations with Marion Woodman, Laurens Van Der Post, Thomas Berry & Ross Woodman on the deep meaning of environmental illness. This article publ. 10.12.2013.