Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Indigenous One Within

by Dennis Merritt

One of Jung’s biggest challenges to modern men and women from an ecopsychological perspective is to unite our cultured side with what he called “the two million-year-old man within.” The “indigenous one within” is a person living in a sacred and symbolic relationship with nature, in a world where “we are all related”—the two-leggeds, four-leggeds, six-leggeds, etc. To understand Jung’s challenge, we begin by looking at our Western indigenous roots and the evolution of the Western worldview. Indigenous cultures, including our Celtic, Slavic and Teutonic ancestors, considered all elements of the cosmos to be spiritually alive and interrelated. Humans were seen as but one element humbly present in the grand scheme of things. (n 4) Our ancestors spoke of gods and goddesses and other beings in nature equal or superior to humans “such as giants and dwarves, elves and trolls, fairies, leprechauns, gnomes, satyrs, nymphs and mermaids,” Ralph Metzner notes. “These deities and beings could be communed with by anyone who was willing to practice the methods taught by the shamans and their successors the witches, the wise women of the woods—using magical plants and stones, chants and incantations, dances and rituals.” (Metzner 1993, p. 7)

Traditional cultures also tend to revere close relationships between people, making kinship and clan identities far more important than the individual person. Small groups allow easier connections and face-to-face interactions, facilitating democratic decision-making processes. In traditional cultures,
Reciprocity and belonging rule human interaction…Shared communal spaces and cooperatively tended land are…typical. The purpose of life is…to live in harmony with one’s group, honoring tradition and continuity with the ancestors, as well as the spiritual world, which provides for human needs. (Winter 1996, p. 53)