Thursday, September 21, 2023

Reflections on 36 Years of Participation in Lakota Sioux Sweat Lodge Ceremonies

Dennis Merritt’s article, “Reflections on 36 Years of Participation in Lakota Sioux Sweat Lodge Ceremonies,” is available for free until December 2, 2023, in the special edition of ecotherapy in the Ecopsychology Journal.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Amplification of Dream Images with Chinese Translation

Amplification is an important part of Jungian dreamwork where one elaborates or clarifies images by spontaneously generating ideas about the image or by looking for parallels in mythology, religions, symbolism, etc. This is the culminating lecture delivered by zoom to China where many examples are given plus suggestions for symbol dictionaries useful for the process.

An English version without the Chinese translation is available here:

Amplification of Dream Images--English Version

Amplification is an important part of Jungian dreamwork where one elaborates or clarifies images by spontaneously generation ideas about the image or by looking for parallels in mythology, religions, symbolism, etc. This is the culminating lecture given by zoom to a China where I give many examples plus suggestions for useful symbol dictionaries.

A version of this presentation with a Chinese translation is also available.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Tips on Dream Interpretation

Tips on Dream Interpretation

Dennis L. Merritt, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst/Ecopsychologist

I’ve been working with dreams for 40 years as a Jungian analyst, having finished my training at the Jung institute in Zurich in 1983. Dreamwork and using the I Ching in Jungian analysis has always been my forte (see “Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting” Jungian psychology is broad and deep enough to approach the immensity and beauty of the human psyche, and the via regia to the unconscious is dreamwork. Here are the concepts and techniques I find most useful.

 1.     Your dreams are like movies being made every night with the intention of expanding your consciousness. It’s like having a Hollywood-level script writer, casting director, director and producer making a film with access to your entire life experience stored in mind and body. All that you are unconscious of during the day due to the narrow focus of consciousness and things you would rather not know about yourself or admit about others can be turned into a story line for the film.

2.     The dream is a gestalt, like an organism, where everything is interconnected and qualifies everything else. Nothing appears randomly in a dream.

3.     To focus on the uniqueness of a dream, think of it as the only one you have ever had or will ever have. 

4.     It is helpful to keep a journal so you can fit the dream into the context of your daily life while being aware that some dreams are exploring the future and imagining storylines for the next phase of your life.

5.     Keeping a written record of your dreams enables you to more quickly establish major themes in your life, identify the significant actors you are living with in your psyche, and see how things are changing as you work intensely with dreams over a period of time.

6.     There is a feeling associated with every image and story line.

7.     Dreams give you an image of a feeling and emotional state. Feeling depressed or anxious is a very nebulous state, but dreams give you an image and story line about what it is that is making you depressed or anxious.

8.     Knowing about brain activity in the dreaming brain explains a lot about the nature of dreams. The frontal lobe, site of our executive functioning, gets less blood than when awake while the emotional parts get more blood. Amplifying the emotions with less ability to manage them creates the strong feeling tones in dreams and seems to exaggerate things. The dreaming brain hyper associates making things less linear and harder to track. The part of the brain connected with time differentiation gets less blood, so past and present get more easily blended.

9.     When first entering the unconscious via dreams, the motifs are often disturbing because the dreaming world is so different from our conscious state plus there is a lot of material we have been trying not to face. 

10.  One can think of dreamwork like relating to a person: it takes a while to get to know them and how they operate, but once that is established things go more smoothly.

11.  The relationship of consciousness to the unconscious is like daytime versus nighttime. During the day our ego as the center of consciousness shines so brightly we can see things clearly, but we know it blinds out the vast universe of stars we see at night. This is a metaphor for how vast the unconscious is and what a small universe we live in if we don’t access the unconscious.

12.  Big Dreams/numinous dreams/sacred dreams have a special sense about them and seem to come from another dimension. It may be only one element in the dream that is numinous, what a Native American might call a “spirit” or “medicine” animal. You want to bring this into your waking state so its mystique can continue to work on and mold your consciousness the why Catholics keep statures and images of the saints around. One can think of the Big Dream as a powerful magnet and you want it to affect your thoughts and feelings as if they were iron filings within the force field of the magnet. Here is a personal example of embodying a sacred dream image. It illustrates how dreams can help connect one to the land and establish a sense of place, with this particular example using concepts from the I Ching.

13.  It is important as an analyst to be able to spot numinous elements in a dream and know how to work with them. This comes from the analyst’s personal experience with their own dreams.

14.  Few outside the Jungian world focus on the importance and power of the symbol in the therapeutic setting. A symbol has elements that can be rationally described together with something irrational and ineffable, like tracks left by subatomic particles in a cloud chamber pointing to something powerful but not seen or the Tao pointing to the “dark enigma” as Lao Tzu described it.

15.  I, like most analysts who trained in Zurich, develop a symbolic and archetypal eye by practicing interpretating fairytales, fairytales being the purest form of the archetypes as Marie-Louise von Franz described them. The fairytale exam was one of the big three final exams where you were given a fairytale you had never seen and in 6 hours had to have a typed interpretation after using whatever symbol dictionary you wanted. The exam was graded by three fairytale experts.

16.  An ideal place to begin amplifying archetypical and symbolic material is the General Index to the Collected Works of C. G. Jung (volume 20 of the Collected Works). There are five symbol dictionaries I find to be most useful. A Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant includes symbols from Asia and Africa as well as Europe and America. The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images is beautifully done and put together by Jungians. Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals by Jamie Sams and David Carson is a “must” for American analysts with its excellent Native American entries about 44 American birds and animals. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker provides an important feminist dimension to symbolism not covered as well in many symbol dictionaries. The classic for working European material is the Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery by Ad de Vries. This is the main dictionary our Zurich fairytale study group used as we practiced fairytale interpretation mostly on the Grimm’s fairytales collected and arranged by the Grimm brothers in Germany in the 1800s.

17.  It is hardest to work your own dreams because you are often in the dream and you can’t see yourself objectively, plus dreams are mostly about our complexes or hang-ups which by definition we are unconscious about. The dream ego is closest to your conscious state. Dreams give us a more or less objective look at ourselves because of the wholistic level they come from. 

18.  The other people in the dream besides you are, and are more than, representative of parts of yourself that you are envious of or don’t like—the things you project onto others. Better to think of yourself as a multifaceted being living in an ecology of the psyche.

19.  You can change the relationship with people in your dreams but you may not be able to change your relationship to that person in waking life such as the person who sexually abused you. This can be a very freeing concept. Even if the abuser died, it would still be living in your head until you came to terms with it. 

20.  As an analyst, I “imagine along” as the person reads or tells me their dream. If I can’t quite imagine it, I asked for clarification. I like to have a written copy so I can check the details that can be easy to forget or overlook.

21.  How does the dream feel in the dreamer’s body? Have the dreamer notice their bodily reactions. Where do they feel something and what is it like? Under what circumstances have they had that feeling before? Exaggerate that feeling and/or make a sound. The objective is to have an embodied experience of the dream.

22.  How does the dream feel in the analyst’s body? The analyst must “feel along” with the dream story and be prudent in reporting how it feels so as not to overwhelm the dream presenter.

23.  Think of every dream element as being a polarity and look for possible positive and negative aspects of each image or developing story line. 

24.  Let the dream image work on you in your waking state; focus on it so it penetrates your psyche. 

25.  “A picture is worth a thousand words” but Interpretation can help make the dream more understandable by putting the images and metaphors into psychological language and possibly a psychodynamic framework.  The result is like a docent at an art museum helping us enter the artwork and deepening and enriching our experience of artwork without destroying the power of the image and the feelings associated with it.

26.  Jung said some dreams are like poems: we don’t interpret them, we let them act on us as we try to stay in it’s force field like wanting to stay around a person that inspires us.

27.  Even after working with dreams all these years, about 1/3 of the time I have no idea what a dream is about when I first hear it. One must play with the dream in a mutual process with the dreamer and develop hypotheses/potential story lines and meanings of the dream images. The dreamer puts the dream on the table and the two of us have a mutual engagement with it. This takes a certain degree of trust between the two and making it clear to the dreamer than anything I say about it is my projection into the dream that may not at all be what it means to the dreamer.

28.  Imagination is key. Freud noticed people who like clouds are often good dream workers because they have a good imagination.

29.  The setting of the dream is very important. It is like the stage setting for a play: it contains the action presented in the play and is congruent with its storyline. 

30.  One begins by getting personal associations to the elements in a dream, like the particular house a dreamer lived in at a particular period in their life. Then the national cultural associations are considered, a white house for an American might be the White House where the president lives. At the deeper cultural level, one might need to consider the effect of Christianity on a person’s relationship to sexual issues and nature. All cultures have indigenous ancestors, and those cultures had a sacred relationship with animals and nature that still can be seen in dreams with “spirit animals” and animals that can talk to us. These concepts are illustrated in this video:

31.  It's helpful to think of a disco ball where every mirror on the surface of the ball is an individual association to the symbol or image the ball represents. A symbol dictionary may have three pages of associations about a snake, but only a few apply to the dream one is working. One selects the association or associations for each symbol that fits the emerging storyline of the dream. The thin red story line is like the string that holds together all the relevant associations, like a necklace of disco balls, to form a gestalt where every element is related to every other element in the story. I call this an ecological approach to the dream.

32.  I often repeat a one sentence story line as an interpretation begins to emerge using the metaphors in the dream. This exercise allows reworking and refinement as one proceeds with the dream resulting in the reduction of the dream to the simplest, most direct statement.

33.  Give the dream a title. This helps capture the essence of the dream.

34.  One of many particulars that could be mentioned about dreams is their memory of significant dates, like when someone died some years ago that we might have forgotten about. Also, if there is a baby in a dream, check back to see what happened 9 months earlier. 

35.  Some dreams reveal events outside of time and space, what Jung called synchronicity. We’ve all heard stories, or perhaps experienced something ourselves, where a person wakes after a dream at 2:17 AM and there is grandma standing at the foot of the bed. The next morning you find out grandma 1000 miles away died at 2:17 AM. These experiences have a powerful effect on the psyche, illustrating deeper levels of connection than our western science can explain.

36.  If one has seriously worked with one’s dreams and are tied in knots about what to do about a difficult issue, one can address a question to a Chinese book of wisdom, the I Ching, what Jung called a book of archetypal situations. Via synchronicity one gets a meaningful answer and guidance like that from a Chinese sage. I describe how to use the book intelligently in my article “Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting” referenced earlier. When one has consistently experienced getting meaningful and relevant answers, one feels seen at the deepest levels by a transcendent “something”; senses the eternal/archetypal dimensions in one’s life at this moment, what the Greeks called naming the god or goddess active in the moment. 

37.  It is often possible when working deeply in analysis with a difficult issue to place the dreamer within a particular archetypal dynamic and storyline. Is the woman at the stage where Cinderella has planted the hazel twig on her mother’s grave and begun the process of deeply mourning the loss of her mother or has she gone to her first ball and met prince charming but can’t sustain that energy yet and has to flee?

38.  There are many useful adjuncts to dream work like sandplay therapy; the empty chair technique where one imagines a person or thing to be in an empty chair and interacting with it, changing seats on occasion; movement therapy where one lets the body move one in the presence of an observer; intensive journaling; drawing, painting and molding clay associated with dream images or themes; psychodrama where one gathers a cast from participants in the group and acts out a dream or fairytale; using meditations techniques and breathwork to remain contained enough to be able to engage difficult material and not be overwhelmed;  etc. Bodywork in conjunction with dreamwork is highly recommended. 

Basic Psychological Constructs to Support Dreamwork

1.     One can imagine being born as coming into the world like a golden ball with a unique character and potentials. As we go through life the ball gets distorted in various ways depending on the family of origin, trauma, culture and religion, politics and socio-economic status of one’s family, historical period, etc. An illustration for young people of the cultural influences on an American and Westerner from a Jungian ecopsychological perspective can be seen at this website referenced earlier: 

One’s psychological type may not blend well with one or both parents or for reasons known and unknown one may have problems with a parent. Relationships with a parent can change adversely when hitting puberty if a parent has sexually issues because of personal and/or religious issues around sex. Dreams address these issues as the individual psyche sort of “knows” what is supporting its development and what is not.

2.     It is helpful to imagine what psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott called a “good enough” parent and family and a good enough “maturational environment”. The good enough parent wants their child “to be all they can be”, like a gardener knowing what soil type and pH, amount shade or sun, soil moisture, etc. is necessary for the plant to thrive.

3.     Problems with mothering can have a huge effect on how safe and stable the world feels. An ill or absent mother after birth due to something like post-partum depression might create a mother who may not be able to give the love and caressing and containing energy every baby needs. Or a parent may be very narcissistic and expect the children to mirror them rather than the necessary mirroring of the child as vividly presented in the fairytale “Snow White”.

4.     Every human has intimacy and autonomy needs. Humans are highly social creatures with primary intimacy needs and we need a strong sense of our own autonomy, personal agency, and boundaries. The paradox is, the more autonomous we are the more intimate we can be because we are not forcing people close to us, like a spouse, into a mold based on co-dependency or our projections onto them.

5.     For the first 290,000 of our 300,000 years of existence as a species we were clan or tribal people. It took a whole village to raise a child, nature was sacred, and ritual was a central part of existence. With the rise of agriculture after the last Ice Age ended over 10,000 years ago, large populations required more abstract levels of organization and specialization. We now have nuclear families with nuclear explosions, increasing isolation of the youth with screen time, materialistic cultures where advertising tells us we can buy happiness, and an emphasis on science and rationality. It is very difficult to find an occupation with a path with heart and meaning that provides an income by which one can live with some safety and comfort (Maslow level 1). Youth will be increasingly challenged as they age to meet basic needs while nature is collapsing around them due to climate change and the rapid rate of environmental degradation. Deep level anxieties about the environment are already making their way into the dream life of young people.


“So at the source of the dream there is a creative mystery which we cannot rationally explain. It’s the creativity of nature. It’s the same creativity which has created what man could never invent: the millions of species of animals and flowers and plants on the earth. The dreams are also like flowers or plants. They are something unique which we can only marvel at”. (Marie-Louise von Franz from Frazer Boa’s “The Way of the Dream, p. 71)

Dreams are a natural connection with nature within and Jung described them as “an unvarnished product of nature”, a “natural truth…fitted, as nothing else is, to give us back an attitude that accords with our basic human nature when our consciousness has strayed too far from its foundations and run into an impasse.” (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol. 10, par. 317)

One of my favorite books on dreamwork is Jungian Dream Interpretation—A Handbook of Theory and Practice by James A. Hall, 1983, Inner City Books, Toronto. It lays out the basic Jungian concepts like the shadow and the anima and animus and discusses common dream motifs. 

Dennis L. Merritt, Copyright September 9, 2023



Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Using the I Ching in Psychotherapy


Copy and paste this link to my article "Use of the I Ching in the Analytic Setting", a talk published with the papers from the First International Conference on Jungian Psychology and Chinese Culture.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Jungian Ecopsychology presentation at the Aspen Global Change Institute


I just discovered that a major presentation I gave on Jungian ecopsychology at the Aspen Global Change Institute is on YouTube. The conference theme was “Exploring the Boundaries of Nature-- A Reflective Dialogue on the Environment” and the 27 participants included psychologists, educators, environmentalists, journalists, writers, filmmakers, scientists, theologians, a politician and a businessman.


My talk is 32 minutes long followed by a half hour of discussion. By 2006 I had finished the first draft of my 4 volumes of The Dairy Farmer’s Guide to the Universe—Jung, Hermes, and Ecopsychology. This is my most condensed version of Jungian ecopsychology including Jung’s Answer to Job and Hermes as god of ecopsychology, Jung, Winnicott and complexity theory. I was rushing through the first several minutes but slowed down a bit later on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

An Artificial Intelligence (AI) Version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Revisited"

 My son Frazer Merritt, co-author with myself and Dr. Kevin Lu, used an off-the-shelf AI program to generate a presentation of our Jekyll and Hyde article posted prior to this, adding a frightening new potential for Mr. Hyde to wreck havoc. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Revisited

My son and I worked together with Dr. Kevin Lu, head of the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at Essex University, to publish this article on Jekyll and Hyde, associating current versions of Mr. Hyde with the Sackler family of Oxycontin fame and Vladimir Putin.

Free download until July 31, 2023:

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sacred Landscapes, Sacred Seasons: A Jungian Ecopsychological Perspective


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Chapter 12

Sacred Landscapes, Sacred Seasons: A Jungian Ecopsychological Perspective

D. L. Merritt


Ecopsychology is a relatively new field that studies our dysfunctional relationship with the environment and explores ways of deepening our connection to the land. Carl Sagan believed that, unless we can re-establish a sense of the sacred about the environment, our species would destroy it. Carl Jung, the prototypical ecopsychologist, maintained the spiritual dimension of the human psyche was its most important aspect and believed that a person who did not know the ways of nature was neurotic. Jung’s archetypal and symbolic perspective offers a holistic framework for examining and understanding our relationship to landscapes and the seasons. This framework can be used to help psychotherapy patients and non-patients connect to nature and learn to appreciate the human artefacts left on the land. The process is facilitated by use of the Native American medicine wheel and the I Ching. Dreams, sacred sites and most American holidays and popularly recognized special days can be related to in a manner that connects us to the land and seasons and establishes a sense of place. A developed understanding and appreciation of ancient sacred sites helps us realise the depth of the sacred connection that indigenous peoples have felt with the earth and the heavens. Orientation with respect to the earth and sky also displays significant elements of dynamic systems theory and situated robotics that illuminate our understanding of many natural and psychological phenomena.

Sacred Landscapes, Sacred Seasons

I was within a year of finishing my psychoanalytic training at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich and beginning to think of where we would settle upon our return to the United States. Then I had a single-image dream that helped place me back in the Midwest where I grew up. I dreamed of a typical upper Midwest meadow on a bright, sunny summer day. Insects were flying above a field of grass or alfalfa on a topography of low hills. Trees punctuated the horizon. Puffy white clouds floated across a beautiful blue sky. What was remarkable about this seemingly prosaic landscape was that every molecule in the dream radiated with an inner light of incomparable beauty.

This is an example of what Carl Jung called a numinous dream. Despite having seen some of the most beautiful scenery in the Unites States and Europe, I could not imagine a more beautiful scene than I experienced in the dream. The dream challenged me upon my return to

Wisconsin to attempt to realize in a conscious state the sense of sacredness in nature I experienced in the dream.

I used many typical Jungian approaches to do this, approaches that modern men and women can employ to help connect themselves to the land and the seasons and develop a sense of place. I have been developing this since 1991, when my wife and I conducted our first week-long programme called Spirit in the Land, Spirit in Animals, Spirit in People. We brought together Jungian analysts and psychologists, scientists, Native Americans, politicians, artists and others with a deep love and knowledge of the Wisconsin environment. The programme offered a didactic and experiential approach to environmental education with a holistic perspective (Merritt 1994). These approaches also facilitate an understanding and appreciation of sacred prehistoric sites and the use of those sites to further our connection to place and seasons.

I put these ideas within a framework that I call Jungian ecopsychology. Ecopsychology is a relatively new field that arose in the early 1990s after psychology and psychotherapy had shown an embarrassing lack of concern for the plight of the environment. The title of a book by the Jungian analyst, James Hillman, sums up the dilemma: We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy- -and the World’s Getting Worse. Ecopsychology examines our dysfunctional relationship with the environment and seeks ways of rectifying the situation. By examining how our beliefs, attitudes and unconscious motivations affect our behaviours, ecopsychology can help us understand and alter our relationship with nature and create a sustainable lifestyle.1

I call ecopsycyhology the psychology of ecology and the ecology of psychology. The egocentric focus of most psychologies is not an ecological perspective on the psyche. I came to this critique after entering the field of psychology with a doctorate in entomology with a strong emphasis in ecology. Psychiatry has fallen victim to the same un-ecological perspective that befell entomology after the advent of DDT during the Second World War. In many ways, economic entomology got simplified from a study of the lives and complex interactions of pests and hosts in relation to their environment. It became a spray- and-count-dead-insects approach. Today, the dominant model in psychiatry is psychopharmacology. The

1 For excellent overviews of ecopsychology, see Ecological Psychology—Healing the Split Between Planet and Self by Deborah Du Nann Winter and Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes and Allen D. Kanner.



conception of the human psyche is that of a complex chemical factory, where mental problems are a matter of a chemical imbalance, and, by the way, we have a high- priced pill to fix that imbalance (Acocella, 2000).2

Ecopsychology incorporates many of the basic elements of deep ecology beginning with the formulations of the Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, in 1973 (Winter 1996, 246-247). Deep ecologists challenge us to look more deeply and holistically at our environmental problems, searching for the underlying philosophy and value systems. They call for an ecocentric, or ecological, approach to our interactions with the world, considering the non-human world to be valuable in and of itself.3 They believe we are capable of identifying far more deeply with the world around us—an identity that can create the foundation for a positive environmental position from the intra-psychic through the economic and political realms (Fox 1991, 107). Carl Sagan, co-chair of the Joint Appeal by Science and Religion for the Environment, presented a petition in 1992 stating: “Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred” (Sagan 1992, 12). The petition, signed by scientists and theologians, said we should see our planet as being sacred because “what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect” (ibid.). Mythologist Joseph Campbell believed if a new myth were to emerge, it would probably have an environmental focus (Campbell & Moyers, 1988, 32).

A Jungian ecopsychological approach offers one way to meet these challenges. Jung was the prototypical ecopsychologist. He said a person was neurotic if they knew nothing about nature (Jung 1965, 166) and his holistic psychology evolved out of a deep connection with nature.4 His concepts of the archetypes and the collective unconscious allow for the most basic critique of western culture, including our dysfunctional relationship with nature and our prejudice against the indigenous worldview. Jung’s ideas about individuation and the Self present a fractal/basic pattern embracing the intra-psychic through a cultural integration with nature.

2 There are of course psychiatrists who are notable exceptions to the psychopharmacological model. James Gustafson in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychiatry Department is a master of the one-hour interview influenced by D. W. Winnicott’s approach. Very Brief Psychotherapy describes this approach using important elements of dynamic systems theory.

3 The ecocentric worldview of the deep ecologists is in direct contrast to mainline philosophy, about which William Barrett (1979) commented: The idea of nature has played a small part in contemporary philosophy. Bergson once remarked that most philosophers seem to philosophize as if they were sealed in the privacy of their study and did not live on a planet surrounded by the vast organic world of animals, plants, insects, and protozoa, with whom their own life is linked in a single history. (page 363 quoted in Fox 1991, 107)

The noted philosopher of science, Karl Popper, said the greatest scandal of philosophy was that philosophers continue to question whether the world exists while nature is perishing around them (Popper 1974, 32, quoted in Fox 1991,107).

4 For a collection of Jung’s writings on nature, see The Earth has a Soul: The Nature Writings of C. G. Jung, edited by Meredith Sabini.

Archetypes are typical ways of perceiving (taking in) the world and responding to it (behaviours); typical forms of feelings, ideas, attitudes and tendencies to produce certain types of images. Archetypal thoughts include the concept of atoms or God as One. Archetypal feelings and behaviours include the psychological and physiological interactions between mother and child. An accompanying archetypal image of this interaction is the Madonna and Child.

The phenomenology Jung called archetypes are psychic elements found in all races and cultures across time; archetypes such as the hero, the divine child, the wise old man, the Great Mother, life after death, a Transcendent Being, etc. They are the common motifs in religions, rituals, myths and fairytales throughout the world. Archetypal attitudes are easily seen in how women are perceived in a particular culture and in cultural attitudes towards sex.

Jung’s greatest discovery was the archetype of the Self: the archetype of wholeness and meaning. The Self is the archetype that relates everything to a centre and is the centre and a centering element in the psyche. It embraces all possible opposites and is the archetype of wholeness and totality that the religious need longs for. This archetype arises spontaneously from deep within the psyche as seen in dreams. Empirically, it cannot be distinguished from the God-image. The development of the Self at the cultural level has been called Yahweh, God, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Wakantanka, etc. Any manifestation of the Self within an individual or a culture is accompanied by the phenomenology of a sense of mystery, numinosity and a compelling experience of transcendent truth.5

Archetypes, also called historical dominants, can influence a culture for millennia. Jung saw Christianity, for example, as being a dualist religion. The dark side of God, the Devil, is irreconcilably split off and repressed, particularly as described in Revelations.6 This has negative consequences for Western attitudes and valuations of the feminine, the body, sexuality and sensuality, and nature (Hannah 1991, 150-153). Jung saw Christianity as a dead myth because church authorities have not allowed it to grow and evolve as the Holy Ghost was sent to do (Jung 1965, 331-342). He saw in the work of the alchemists an attempt to compensate Christianity and redeem nature and the soul of humankind. Jung recognized the alchemists as the first modern depth psychologists albeit unconscious of their intra-psychic nature. He found alchemical symbolism most closely mirrored his personal shamanic confrontation with the unconscious.7 Alchemy became

5 A very readable presentation of Jung’s ideas is Man and His Symbols (Jung et al. 1964) (hardback edition recommended). The section on the Self by Marie-Louise von Franz is particularly good (pp. 196-229).
6 For Jung’s analysis of the dark side of God, see Answer to Job in Jung 1969b, pages 355-4710 and Jung 1965, pages 216-217, 327-342.

7 See chapter 3, “Confrontation with the Unconscious”, in Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pages 170-199 (Jung 1965). For more on alchemy, see Jung 1965, pages 200-206, 209-213



the main symbolic system for the psychoanalytic approach Jung developed.

Deep self-examination or psychoanalytic work goes beyond personal experiences and into the cultural or archaic levels of the collective unconscious; the realm of the archetypes (Jung 1965, 132, 140-145). These deeper levels are communicated to consciousness via symbols and myths, symbols being forms comprised of unconscious, mysterious, unknown elements together with consciously recognizable elements. Symbols and myths fascinate consciousness, becoming determinants in how people perceive and respond to the world and how they establish their ethics and value systems. Attempts to understand, articulate, artistically present and rationally explain symbols gradually expands and enriches consciousness. Dogmatism or a dry rationalism destroys the living power of a symbol over time, for example, the symbol of the cross.

Jung’s sharpest critique of modern culture is that it has lost a sense of the mythic and symbolic realms of psychic experience. He attributed this to an undue emphasis on rationalism, the dominance of a 19th century scientific worldview and a focus on consciousness while ignoring the unconscious.

Jung felt it was essential for a modern person to integrate their cultured consciousness with the ‘primitive’ human, what he liked to call ‘the two million year-old-man within.’ The indigenous person lives a symbolic and mythic life with a perception of the sacredness of nature. Jung believed it was important for city apartment dwellers to have their own garden plots so the primate within them could develop (Jung 1963, 200). Rather than hope for an ecological new religion to emerge, Jung challenges every individual to go on a heroic inner journey led by symbols and Big Dreams that spontaneously arise from the all-uniting psychic depths.

Jung observed that many people in analysis had Native Americans as Self-images in their dreams when their analytic process reached the deeper levels of the psyche (Jung 1975, 242, 380, 396). He held in high regard Joseph Neihardt’s book Black Elk Speaks, about the life of a Teton Sioux Holy Man, because it illustrates how rituals and ceremonies can arise from the visions of a single individual. It is remarkable that the archetypal image in a dream of Jung’s that finally convinced him of the reality of the Self was basically similar to an image in Black Elk’s vision. In 1927, Jung dreamt he was in the centre of Liverpool, where a flowering magnolia tree bathed in its own light was on a small island within a circular pool. The pool was in the centre of a city square with the various quarters of the city radiating out from it. Each quarter had a centre replicating the main square (Jung 1965, 197-199). Black Elk’s vision in 1874 (one year before Jung was born) at the age of nine was of a flowering tree at the center of a great hoop of all the

and 221, and volumes 12, 13 and 14 of the Collected Works. Also see von Franz 1975, pages 199-235.

nations, each with their own center (DeMallie 1984, 89- 90, 129-130, Neihardt 1979, 43).

Jung’s basic concepts of the archetypes, the collective unconscious and the structure and functioning of the psyche are currently being reformulated within the framework of dynamic systems theory (DST). DST is related to mathematical dynamics and chaos theory, all dealing with non-linear phenomena. The weather, population dynamics, epidemics, fluid dynamics and economics are not linear systems – those that can be graphed with a straight line, are solvable, and can be dissected into pieces and put together again.

DST reveals that many unpredictable and unstable dynamics never settle down to a fixed value or repeatable pattern but neither do they move off into infinity. DST provides mathematical descriptions of the dynamics of transformation and the complexities of the self- organizing qualities of organic and inorganic systems containing many elements (complexities) that remain stable over time. With additional input into a dynamic system, new information can be generated that allows it to escape a stable state and create a new state. Dynamic systems can self-organise because they can influence their own controls by decision-making possibilities at transition points.

The basic elements of DST are illustrated by a pendulum. The range of the swing through which the pendulum moves is called the phase space. The phase space defines a basin of attraction for the pendulum’s movement. An attractor, in this case gravity, is a hidden global force that shapes the overall behaviour of a system. It is the pattern of behaviour to which the system ‘settles down’ or is attracted. Disturbing the pendulum causes it to go through a phase transition before it settles in a new phase space, defining a new attractor.

Most complex systems such as the weather show a sensitive dependence on initial conditions where a small change in initial conditions produces great differences later on. Plotting the results of the differential equations describing these complex phenomena reveals infinitely variable and unpredictable results that nonetheless exist within defined boundaries. These are the properties of a strange attractor. Plotting a strange attractor reveals a fractal, a geometric object that has the same structure at any level of magnification (scalar invariance), such as the branching pattern of a hardwood tree.

Fractals have a non-integer dimension (an integer is a whole number, so 1.3 is an example of a non-integer). The more complex a system, the larger the number of dimensions.

Dynamic systems can emerge even from simple systems that are given increased energy or size. At a certain point an infinite number of values becomes possible and the outcomes become unpredictable. At this point self- organization emerges leading to new patterns of organization.



By framing the non-linear dynamics of processes, DST disrupts the stranglehold that linear scientific thinking has held on the Western psyche. There is a strong element of perfectionism in the Cartesian-Newtonian worldview of a gigantic mechanical universe operating with clockwork regularity. DST models the reality that things seldom develop in a straightforward manner. Even simple systems have small irregularities that soon balloon to unpredictable proportions (sensitive dependence on initial conditions). DST honours the significance of chance and random events that occur more frequently than we like to admit yet they significantly affect our sense of fate and destiny.

DST counters the Western hang-up on a linear development that is ever improving, which fed such recalcitrant ideas as Manifest Destiny as part of God’s providence for America. Indigenous cultures are viewed with impunity because their cyclic worldviews are perceived to be going around in circles and never improving. Indigenous cultures feel at one with nature by linking their spiritual lives with the cycles of nature and the great cycle of life (as we will see with the medicine wheel).

Jung described this indigenous worldview at the intra- psychic level as the personal experience of the archetype of the Self:

...the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, only in the beginning; later, everything points toward the center...finding the mandala [sacred circle] as an expression of the self...was for me the ultimate (Jung 1965, 196-197).

Jung’s Liverpool mandala dream was the culmination of an intense inner journey that began after his tumultuous split from Freud in 1913. The dream gave him a sense of finality to realize that the center is the goal in life:

One could not go beyond the center. The center is the goal, and everything is directed toward that center. Through this dream I realized that the self is the principle and archetype of orientation and meaning. Therein lies its healing function (Jung 1965, 198- 199).

Most things operate within certain parameters with endlessanduniquevariationswithinthoseparameters.A parameter that Western philosophies and culture have largely ignored is that humans are an integral part of the natural environment. We are living on a bubble that is about to burst, as Lester Brown describes in his book, Plan B 2.0, concerning the impending water crisis.

Situated robotics has an intimate link with DST. Robots with simple initial programs to do simple acts of perception and response in given environments soon produce complex and unprogrammed patterns of behaviour. The robots are not programmed for complex

behaviour but it emerges from embodied experience in given environments (Hogenson 2004b, 69).

A child does not learn a language, for example, because it inherited complex neuroprogramming for language formation and grammar. The neural capacity of brain required by this model is not large enough (Hogenson 2001, 604). The situated conditions for a child learning a language are human anatomical features like vocal cords, a brain structure that favours formations of concepts such as form and action and distinct differences from adults in short-term memory that facilitates picking up a language. Very important is the child’s immersion in a culture of adult humans with developed language ability. Adults spend endless hours directly and indirectly coaching and modelling language for children who try to mimic and learn by feedback mechanisms (ibid.).

Jungian analyst George Hogenson has been a leader in applying DST to Jungian concepts. His premise is:

...archetypes [and the collective unconscious] do not exist in some particular place be it the genome or some transcendent realm of Platonic ideas. Rather, the archetypes are the emergent properties of the dynamic developmental system of brain, environment and narrative (Hogenson 2001, 607).

The concept of archetypes as emergent phenomena replaces the cognitive model used by many Jungians of the brain containing representations of typically encountered situations in the world. The mind is taken to consist of a large number of highly defined, innate modular components (the innate a priori archetypes) that guide perception and behaviour (Hogenson 2003, 108).

The most significant environment inhabited by the human psyche is the world of symbols. Very early in human evolution we became a symbol-using creature living in “a natural environment of meaning” that subsequently shaped the organic development of the species (Hendriks- Jansen, 1996, xi, quoted in Hogenson 2000, 20). We are very susceptible to the symbolic and cultural environment we live in (Hogenson 2000, 20).

Jungian psychology is based on the reality of the symbolic realm and the goal of finding meaning in life.8 It is therefore necessary to understand the symbol if one is to understand the psyche. Terrance Deacon, one of the foremost researchers in DST, uses mathematical analogues, as did Jung, to describe the absolute autonomy and formal restraints that seems to characterise symbols. Jung stated that numbers were the purest form of the archetypes and best illustrated their ‘just so’ nature (Jung 1969a, 456-458; Jung 1970, 409-410). Deacon compared symbols to prime numbers in mathematics that exist independently of the brain or anything else—they are

8 For Jung’s thoughts on the importance of symbolism, see “The Symbolic Life” in Jung 1976, especially paragraphs 617, 627-628, 633, 637-638, 665, 673-674 and 686.



discovered rather than constructed (Deacon 2003, 98 referenced in Hogenson 2005, 279-280). Hogenson suggests that humans don’t create the symbolic world that we inhabit but just realize or fall into it (Hogenson 2005, 280).

In the end one’s sense of self is the virtual reality of a symbolic self. Deacon’s position is that

Consciousness of self...implicitly includes consciousness of other selves, and other consciousnesses can only be represented through the virtual reference created by symbols (Deacon 1997, 452 quoted in Hogenson 2004b, 77).

It is a symbolic self that is the source of our judgments, fear of death, and sense of intentionality (ibid.). What, for example, is the reality of their body that an anorexic sees in a mirror? Our most real experience is a virtual reality born out of the virtual, not the actual, reference offered by symbols (ibid.). The ‘security blanket’ (transitional object) is the first experience of virtual reality for an infant and forms the basis for symbolic play, creativity and ultimately the religious experience (Winnicott 1951, 229-242).

Hogenson uses the properties of intensely self-organizing systems to reformulate Jung’s system as it relates to symbolism and language. This is illustrated by steadily pouring sand onto a pile. At some unpredictable point, an avalanche will occur that reorganises the pile. It is hypothesized that language emerges when we move away from a one-to-one correspondence between a signal and an object. This complex process of the origin of language requires a phase transition:

A linguistic avalanche will eventually occur, which radically reorganizes the entire system, including the brains of those who are engaged in the process (Hogenson 2005, 277).

The phase shift to language in human evolution would have been more intelligible as the transcendental reality of the symbolic was encountered for the first time (Hogenson 2004a, 15).

Every individual has their own set of associations or semantic networks with particular words, yet these networks are self-similar (scalar invariant) from children’s books to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. (Hogenson 2004a, 4). Single words or symbols can have an enormous range of associative connections and they vary with the individual. Jung called complexes (‘hangups’ in the popular jargon) a ‘feeling toned group of associations’ that includes images, memories and an individual’s structural pattern of word associations.

Hogenson proposes that Jung’s entire system of association, complex, archetype, self, and synchronistic event are a continuum of emergent self-similar (fractal) structures within the symbolic system as a whole

(Hogenson 2005, 278). In this perspective the symbolic is:

more than simply a system of representations but rather a relatively autonomous self-organizing domain in its own right (ibid. 281). The complex and the archetype are fundamentally structured [fractals] like the symbol, only the archetype exhibits itself at the point where symbolic density transcends the carrying capacity of the complex and moves into a more collective realm...[at] an iterative moment in the self- organization of the symbolic world (ibid. 2005, 279).

Jung located synchronicity within the context of the symbolic, usually associated with archetypal material. As the symbolic density increases within the archetypal realm, a synchronicity may emerge. A profound affective sense of meaning that can change a person’s life (change in phase state) is felt when inner and outer worlds are juxtaposed in a synchronistic event (ibid. 280-281).

Indigenous cultures honour synchronistic events and the symbolic dimension of the psyche. This facilitates the self-organising nature of the symbolic world in its production of myths and images of the Self. Many ceremonies, rituals and practices, such as singing, meditating, sweat lodges and vision quests, serve the purpose of increasing the symbolic density in an individual and a culture. Sacred sites facilitate the process by presenting a symbolic pattern most relevant to the supporting myth of a group and directly incorporating elements of the local environment into a context of meaning. Finding or creating a place in the environment that reflects the inner world of symbolism, or helps it emerge, adds meaning to life and helps root a person and tribe to the land. The land, its inhabitants and its seasons and changes come to be seen within a unified symbolic Gestalt where outer and inner are one, creating a sense of life as an ongoing synchronistic experience. A sundancing friend who has done several four-day vision quests on a hillside without food and water described the experience in exactly this manner—a continuous synchronistic experience.

Sacred sites, ceremonies and rituals contain and guide individuals and societies to help them transition from one phase to another. The goal is to journey well through life and not get stuck in particular forms and stages of development (cf. pubertal male initiation ceremonies). Huge phase transitions occurred when American Indian tribes moved into new areas, adopted agricultural practices, incorporated the horse into their cultures, etc. Black Elk’s second great vision, during the Ghost Dance when he was an adult, incorporated significant elements of Christianity that he had been exposed to (DeMallie 1984, 263-266).

Sacred sites in a natural environment promote a connection to nature by helping one be more fully embodied in nature, thus facilitating an experience of transcendence (the archetypal dimension). The wholeness



of nature and the natural processes to which ‘we are all related’ (Sioux saying) encourage the emergence of the Self-imagery that accompanies an experience of the Self. Elements of the natural environment are usually incorporated into that imagery.

The archetype of the Self can be described in DST terms:

The self is analogous to the differential equation that defines the state space and the phase transitions of an individual’s life pattern...[It is] a super-ordinate organizing principle that overarches the system of the psyche, and even the psyche world (Hogenson 2004b, 77)...the self [can be] conceptualized as the sum of the available attractor states [the stable patterns] within phase space through which a process of self- organizing emergence can take place at any given point in time (ibid. 76).

The symbolic qualities of the god-image, the Self, are at the far end of the symbolic continuum that Hogenson proposes is similar to how one would chart any self- similar (fractal) emergent structure.

And indeed, one would have to marvel at the degree to which the genuinely massive symbolic moments in human history, the emergence of the great religions, seem to possess a power of social organization that transcends anything that one would expect from a carpenter’s son, a displaced prince, or the son of a minor merchant family, to acknowledge only the most recent instances of the emergence of such powerful symbolic systems (Hogenson 2005, 282).

Jung emphasized that the transformative moments and experiences occur within an individual. If that individual can communicate their experience in a way that resonates with others and express in a meaningful way what is ‘in the air’, a movement or religion may emerge (Jung 1963b, 549). Jung referred to Black Elk’s ceremonial expressions of his great childhood vision as an example of how an individual’s symbolic experience can become a meaningful ritualistic experience for a group.

An unusual aspect of Black Elk’s vision was the frequent mandala (sacred circle) imagery (DeMallie 1984, 86). I postulate this was because Black Elk was given the entire pantheon of Lakota Sioux spirits whereas most Holy Men and healers receive only one or a few. A universally ideal way of showing relationships (meaning) between seemingly disparate elements is the mandala, a superb Self symbol.

Hogenson’s hypothesis puts the symbolic domain at the most fundamental ecopsycyhological level: “The symbolic can be understood as a part of nature, sharing the characteristics of other great processes in nature, from the ion transfers in the brain to the destructive force of a great volcano” (Hogenson 2005, 283). It is intriguing that these processes also characterise dream (REM) sleep (Anderson and Mandell 1996, mentioned in Hogenson 2005, 281) and sound intensity variations in melodic

music (Anderson 1998, 10 mentioned in Hogenson 2005, 281).

The I Ching, The Book of Changes, has a mathematical base (Gardner 1974) and is an archetypal, imaginable presentation of the basic elements of DST. At five thousand years old, this sagely book is pre-Taoist and pre-Confucian in origin. It emphasises the cyclic nature of events and describes periods of major changes (hexagram 49, Revolution, for example). Jung observed in his foreword to Wilhelm’s I Ching that, for the ancient Chinese, time had a quality as well as quantity (Wilhelm 1967, xxi-xxvi). Everything happening at a given moment shares in the quality of the time, explaining the basis for synchronicity. In DST terms, the quality of the time reflects the phase state or the unique self-organising element active at any moment in time.

Jung noted how watches chopped up time and destroyed the sense of time having a quality (Jung 1965, 240). We facilitate the process by cocooning ourselves from the elements, using artificial lights, and setting our schedules by the clock—‘the world on time’.

There is a dimension of synchronicity Hogenson does not explicitly state that most modern people have experienced and all indigenous cultures honour. Many people have been visited by the spirit of a loved one at the moment that person died unbeknown to them and often hundreds of miles away. Examples like this convinced Jung and Noble Prize winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli that there is an element of the psyche that exists outside time and space—space and time are relative to the psyche (Jung 1969a, 512-515). A Buddhist worldview is implied by synchronicity, where everything is immediately in relationship with everything else—the ultimate dimension of relationship in ecopsychology.

The most convincing evidence for synchronicity is presented in Rupert Sheldrake’s Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home. Dr. Richard Wiseman, a consulting editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, verified the statistical validity of a carefully designed experiment. It proved that a dog would go to his waiting place at home shortly after a call was randomly placed to his owner, who then went home by public transit (Sheldrake 1999, 54-63).

DST is also being applied to mythology. Patterns of human interaction have selectively evolved that best facilitate human development. This is a co-evolution model in which artefacts generated by humans, including cultural forms like myths, are at least as important as the evolution of human mental abilities (Hogenson 2001, p. 602). The premise is that the language of the great stories (the myths) evolved by “Darwinism in the realm of language” (Blumenburg 1985 quoted in Hogenson 2004b, 74-75) to work within an infant’s brain and developmental setting (Deacon 1997 referenced in Hogenson 2004b, 75). Hogenson summarizes Hendriks- Jansen’s argument as being:



that the human adaptation is oriented to life in an environment of narrative meaning, and that the structures of the mind derive from the developmental experience of adult narratives, including mythic narrative, rather than from innate structures in the brain (Hogenson et al. 2003, 378).

An essential element of Jungian psychology from a DST perspective is that:

the presence of simple patterns of perception and action, occurring in species typical environments and enlisting species typical forms of interpretation, will be seen to give rise to the immense beauty and complexity of the great myths of our species (Hogenson 2001, 608).

Alchemy and the myths offer portraits of the attractors (the mysterious forces that establish and maintain patterns). Alchemy in particular presents the archetypal imagery and symbolic processes accompanying the transition states from one phase to another. Hermes can be regarded as the god of Jungian ecopsychology and DST because he more than any god in our Western tradition symbolises the myth-producing capacity in the human psyche and the process of journeying and transiting between phases at any level.

The myths, archetypal imagery and rituals at the deepest levels of Western culture, concern the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks at the cusp between nature religions (our indigenous roots) and the beginning of modern culture. Each god or goddess represents a worldview, a complete Gestalt from their perspective (a stable attractor (DST) /an archetype) (Kerenyi 1944, 3, 46, 47, 55). The essence/spirit of that view is portrayed by myths, imagery and rituals. It is also created by the Gestalt of the location peculiar to the temple of that god or goddess, the temple design, their sacred plants and animals, and the smells accompanying them. One must also note the types of incense used in the temples, the particular food and drink, the direction the temple faced, the seasons or weather phenomena associated with each god (Hermes being associated with the transition between winter and spring and summer and winter, for example), or associations with a particular time of day (midday was Pan’s time, when no shadow was cast).

The gods represent the transpersonal essence of a situation or trait and help bring it to consciousness. Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture was meant to represent the spirit or essence of a place, helping one be more conscious and connected with place—be placed and rooted to the land.

The robot as human needs experience of the situated environment of nature to facilitate full human development and to realise our inseparable bond with nature. It is a tragedy that most modern people, especially those living in big cities, have not had the opportunity to spend extended periods in uncontaminated nature so that the beauty, complexity, interconnections of

all elements and the sheer awesomeness of nature can affect and structure their psyches. The human cultural element of our situated environment must develop and pass on stories and teachings about what has been learned about being full human beings who can live sustainability on the land. Sacred sites are an admixture of nature and cultural artefacts designed to educate the soul and reveal how indeed ‘we are all related’.

A crucial element for human development and the analytic process is what contemporary psychologists call the ‘holding environment’ and the ‘analytic vessel’. Jung described this with the symbolism of the alchemical vessel. Ego consciousness needs a certain degree of cohesiveness to function and sustain exposure to powers from the unconscious and impingements from the outer world. The powerful, formative first experience of the container begins with the mother-infant bonding whose quality is determined by how the infant is held and cared for. The mother must do a ‘good enough’ job at this and subsequently withstand the attacks by the infant and young child. Throughout the process, the mother must give the child a sense of being deeply loved (Winnicott 1951, 160, 262-277). Harry Harlow’s experiments with monkeys in the 1950s proved to a disbelieving academia that love is needed for normal development in monkeys and humans (Blum 2002).

The archetype of the Self provides the transpersonal base for the ego in its various stable states. The Self includes the archetype represented by Hermes, who illuminates the chaotic nature of the phase transitions. A protective and sustaining container is needed to negotiate the transitional states. This can be experienced, for example, with a real or imaginary friend or friends, an analyst and the analytic process and ceremonies and meditative practices. Special spots in nature, especially sacred sites, offer a sense of orientation that leads to a feeling of connection, meaning and transcendence. Indigenous peoples believe that a person becomes physically and mentally ill because they don’t see how they fit in with the grand scheme of things; if they lose their spiritual orientation in the world.

According to Cheyenne and Sioux accounts, a person becomes the cosmic centre of the universe when observing an equinox or solstice sunrise from a sacred circle (Bender 2002, 5). The alignment at that moment links heaven with earth when the vertical (eternal spiritual) connects with the horizontal (material space- time) manifested as the four directions of the universe (Coe 1977, 14 and Mails 1972, 97-101 referenced in Bender 2002, 5). The individual becomes witness to the moment of creation, a singularity in physics; the presence of the Creator (Bender 2002, 5). One also becomes the cosmic centre when performing a pipe ceremony, where, in loading the pipe, tobacco is offered to the four cardinal directions, plus above and below, before being placed into the pipe. The rising smoke carries the prayers upward from earth and human to the heavens, linking the two realms. A Lakota sweat lodge ceremony begins with the four-directions song and the lodge becomes the sacred centre, the sacred container or temenos. The sacred circle



of the Sundance has the Sundance tree in the centre that links heaven and earth.

The alchemical process of symbolically transforming the lead in one’s life or culture into gold occurs in the space of the sacred container, the alchemical vessel, which facilitates the emergence of an inner centre. In the vessel the roots of destructive old forms can be brought to consciousness and, by the grace of dreams and visions, the formerly bound energy is offered images by which it can flow into life-enhancing and life-sustaining new forms. Being in the centre, be it with an analyst, close friend, sacred site, pipe or sweat lodge, facilitates the ability to remain in the phase transitional space (in DST terms) of the ‘original’ unformed energy. This has been described as being in the Tao that I see as being related to Hermes’ realm. Out of this may come a moment of creation, a rebirth; a singularity in scientific terms. In the Bible, God commanded there be no graven images of It because It can assume any possible image. An image of the Self can age over time as it loses its emotional dynamism and sense of wholeness.

The Self extends across historical time frames, as Jung showed in his analysis of the Christian era. Images and beliefs evolve and even God can die. We see these fractals/archetypes of creation and destruction of forms at all levels of nature, from the molecular to the intergalactic, from the succession of biotic zones to the life cycles of stars. As humans, we can consciously experience these phases physiologically and in the virtual reality of symbolic space—fairytales and alchemy offering prime examples.

The Self can be revivified by many means. Jungian analyst James Hillman resurrected the neo-Platonic ideal of Aphrodite as the soul of the world in a manner that illustrates how the outer world can significantly structure the human psyche and create a sense of soul (Hillman 1992). He emphasizes approaching the world with a feeling, imagining heart instead of an analytical, rational mind; approaching the world as a lover to the beloved. Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and sensuality, can transform the soul through the erotic aspects of nature and life (Qualls-Corbett 1988, 58-59). This restores one to a virginal nature that we associate with the wilderness. In DST terms, engaging the world as if it were Aphrodite raises the energy in a psychic system. This increases the symbolic density that can lead to phase transitions out of which may emerge greater complexity, increased dimensions, creative new responses or even a new worldview.

Jung felt it was tragic that modern people lack a mythic dimension in their lives (Jung 1965, 144, 300-302) and he emphasized the importance of developing a symbolic perspective. A mythic dimension with a symbolic perspective is central to a DST understanding of basic human ‘nature’. Most people, including many academics in the liberal arts, do not have a symbolic eye. Having a symbolic eye is crucial for anthropologists and archaeologists in order to have an understanding and

feeling for indigenous cultures and archaic sacred sites. Jung required those training to be analysts to pass an exam on primitive cultures that included an archetypal perspective. He noted that dreams provided the ‘original guidance’ for humans and that shamans could receive their calling in dreams (Jung 1976, 286).

My best training for developing a symbolic perspective came through many hours of practising the analysis of fairytales in order to pass the six-hour final fairytale exam at the Zurich Jung Institute. The student is given a fairytale not seen by them before and the use of symbol dictionaries. Six hours later the student has to produce a typed analysis of the tale that is graded by three examiners. Training for this exam was augmented by the symbolic and archetypal focus in practically every course and discussion.

With this background we can work with the numinous meadow dream as an example of how to use dreams to deepen our consciousness and our connection to a particular region. The Jungian approach to dream work can be applied to any landscape, season, climate, and impression from the sky or sacred site.

Every landscape has a soul, a particular character. What impression does one get of the total landscape? Does it feel dry and barren, rugged and challenging or lush and nurturing? My meadow was in the Upper Midwest. What does Midwest mean in America as opposed to East Coast, the South, Southwest or West Coast? One then analyses the individual elements. Topography is important: how do flat prairies feel different from gently rolling hills? A big factor there is the degree of the earth’s intrusion into the sky. Flat land opens one up to the sky—the sky and its activities impress itself more deeply on the psyche. Even low hills considerably reduce the sky’s impact and bring the focus more down to earth.

A woman dreamed that she should live where the glacier had been. Glaciers left a significant impact on the Midwest and one cannot begin to appreciate the land here and its past dramas without a knowledge of glaciers. They impacted the soils in a way that facilitated the development of agriculture; they disrupted river systems and created potholes, lakes and wetlands; they formed unique topographical features, such as moraines, drumlins and eskers—each with its own feel.

Each type of water system has its own smells, flora and fauna, amount of organic matter contained, etc. It takes a combination of scientific knowledge and Hillman’s ‘imaginative heart’ to fully experience these elements. Artistic creations—poems, music, nature writing, photography and painting--facilitate the process.

An example of how I worked with the glacial impact on the Midwest is available in a published article and also on my website (Merritt 1993). This process can be extended into an archetypal analysis of the Midwest environment, looking at the impact on the psyche of the various plants, wild and cultivated, and the imaginal and symbolic



dimensions of its two dominant animals—the cow and the pig. The glacial influence on the Midwest provided the foundation and topographic matrix for the manifestation of the nourishing side of the archetype of Great Mother and her devotee, the farmer.

Weather was also a numinous element in the meadow dream and, indeed, one cannot separate the state and the changes in the sky from short-and long-term organic and inorganic formations on the earth. We have a multi- sensual response to weather and the seasons. They directly affect our moods, perceptions and physiology, right down to the glandular level (Redgrove 1987, 78- 114). Whether the biota is lush or sparse largely depends on temperature and rainfall. Glaciers reflect millennial changes in climate that impacts the composition of the soil and shape of the land.

Weather is one of the prime examples of DST in action. The unpredictability of weather prompted 19th century scientists to begin to ignore the powerful effects of weather on the human psyche because weather phenomena did not fit into a linear analysis (Redgrove 1987, 82-84).

Weather adds a rapidly fluctuating element to an environment such as the Midwest and the powerful seasonal transitions deeply impress the psyche. “In paying so much attention to the nuances of a landscape going through the changing seasons, the painter is in reality expressing the state of his own soul,” says Francois Cheng, professor of Chinese art (Cheng 1994, 80). Both weather and seasonal transitions are domains of the Greek god Hermes. I believe Hermes best expresses in mythic and symbolic form the nature of DST.

The Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne medicine wheels provide excellent examples of the association of the seasons with the directions, important in considering the symbolism in sacred landscapes. The Cheyenne associate the east with spring and the stable attractor/theme of light and illumination (Storm 1972, 6) (fig. 12.1). Its animal is usually the eagle because it soars closest to grandfather sun. The south is associated with summer. Its animal is often the mouse because it pays careful attention to details--it is fully embodied in life. The coyote may also be in the south. Coyote represents the playful innocence of childhood that can see things in creative new ways. Its trickster energy cuts through deceptions as did the child who proclaimed the emperor had no clothes. Wilhelm called the fourth hexagam in the I Ching ‘Youthful Folly’ and associated it with Parsifal as the pure fool (Wilhelm 1967, 20). The west is associated with autumn. Its animal is usually the bear because this huge animal prepares to hibernate in autumn and that makes a big impression on the psyche. The north is associated with winter. Its animal is the white buffalo—a symbol of the wisdom of old age (Storm 1972, 6).

The Lakota have a different system. Their sweat lodges open to the west, associated with the supreme Wakan (power) of the thunderstorm. Anyone who has


Autumn Black
Bear Evaluation Adult Harvest (Furthering) Feeling

NORTH Winter White

White Buffalo Wisdom
Old Age
Trial (Perseverance) Intuition


Red or Green Mouse or Coyote Innocence, Playfulness Youth
Growth (Success) Sensation


Spring Yellow Eagle

Light, Illumination Birth

Spring (Supreme) Thinking

Figure 12.1. The Medicine Wheel

experienced a thunderstorm on the American prairies cannot help but be awed. There is a powerful destructiveness in thunderstorms that the Lakota see as necessary to break up old, particularly destructive, forms. But rains also accompany the storms, necessary to nourish the growth of new forms. The west thus becomes associated with the archetype of death and rebirth.

Wisdom from the I Ching can be superimposed on the Cheyenne medicine wheel.9 The ancient Chinese described four phases in any cycle of change: Spring, Growth, Harvest and Trial (Ritsema 1995, 66-67). These concepts are described more abstractly in the classic Wilhelm translation of the I Ching as Supreme, Success, Furthering and Perseverance. Spring is a bursting forth, a coming into existence, the first manifestation and therefore associated with the east. Growth is the development into full form from what begin to manifest

9 The Taoists ‘universal view’ of the variations in natural energy place the east on the left and the south at the top of the circle. The Cheyenne arrangement I describe is what the Taoists call the ‘global view’ (Ni 1983, 65-66).

The Taoist master Ni, Hua Ching, offers a condensed version of the cyclic flow of natural energy (ibid. 3-204). This comprehensive system archetypically links directions, seasons, the calendar system, acupuncture points, Chinese astrology, health conditions, spiritual development and more. He also associates climatic conditions with each hexagram (ibid. 209 ff).

The ideogram for the Tao is described as “the head that walks.” My understanding of the goal of being in the Tao is to be conscious (“the head”) of the quality of the time—inner as it relates to outer—as one journeys through life one step at a time. One is to be fully in each moment of time. Consulting the I Ching facilitates this type of awareness (see Merritt 2001 and the I Ching section on my web site <>

Jung’s biggest challenge to humans was to become as conscious as possible. Not to do so contributes to environmental problems and the enormous human shadow that results in terrorism, wars, racism, etc. Jung said we desperately need more understanding of the human psyche, more psychology, because “We are the origin of all coming evil” (Jung 1959, 390).



in Spring and therefore would be associated with the south. Harvest, a cutting off (death) to reap in the profits of a stage of growth, is an association to the west. Trial is a stage of testing that can reveal a truth, a clear association with the north and what the Lakota call the purifying north wind (fig. 12.1). Many of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching have seasonal analogies. Hexagram 24, The Turning Point, for example, is associated with the winter solstice (Wilhelm 1967, 97) (fig. 12.4).

Birth is associated with the east, youth with the south, adulthood in the west and old age in the north. Colour symbolism helps complete the Gestalt, with yellow (the sun) in the east, red or green (animal or plant life) in the south, black (death) in the west and white (the purity of snow and the wisdom of old age [white hair]) in the north (Storm 1972, 6). In developmental terms, the death associated with the West would be the death of a purely physical, worldly orientation to life, what the Hindus call maya. Jung said at midlife one’s orientation naturally shifts to the spiritual domain.

Jung’s psychological typology system can also be overlaid on the medicine wheel. The abstract power of an original thought (the east) would be associated with the thinking function. The sensation function manifests the thoughts and grounds the concepts in reality and created forms in the south. The feeling function evaluates what is manifest—does one save or destroy it (the activity of the thunderstorm) in the west. An intuitive sense of the meaning of it all (the intuitive function) would be in the north. The east and south would be more associated with yang and extraversion and the west and north with yin and introversion.

One is born into a particular position on the medicine wheel. The goal is to be able to stand in any spot on the circle, to see life from every perspective. That would be a highly individuated person from a Jungian perspective. It is the challenge for every psychotherapist to understand how the patient sees the world. Metaphorically speaking from a process perspective, one tries to be fully into every season and its changes, which is to be in the Tao.

The seasons of the upper Midwest are distinct, powerful and dramatic. The season I find most impressive is winter. To fully experience the teachings of winter, one has to have a winter that is deadly to life that kills off life forms or forces these forms to adapt to it. Adaptations include the flight of migration, the deep sleep of hibernation, the cessation of life activities in the tree cambium, or modifications in behaviour and body cover, be it fur or clothing. Winter can be a powerful teacher, if one can be open to its lessons, but most people just complain about how cold it is.

A Wisconsin-type winter has many teachings for the receptive student. Elemental forces can get so cold or stormy that we have to submit even with all our technology: the elements become unquestionably a ‘Thou’. The experience of such power (wakan) creates a

sense of awe. Awe is the beginning of religion and it instils a sense of spirit—spirit as that which moves us, that which our will does not have control over. The ways of the spirit often seem as unpredictable, evanescent and as hauntingly beautiful as the dance of northern lights.

Spirit is associated with breath and air. Air cannot be seen, yet things can materialize ‘out of thin air’—rain, snow and hail. These precipitations, plus the purely physical quality of the air in terms of degrees of temperature, profoundly affects the land and the organisms immersed in it. The northern winter air forces the myriad of adaptations of life to survive in it. Landscapes are totally changed by leaf fall, the quiet absence of most birds and the simple topographies of white snow shaped by the wind into the sinuous patterns of snowdrifts.

The power of the sun and the consequences of its annual movement are particularly felt in northern environments. The sun appears as an almost totally abstract power operating in one sense independently, yet predictably, of the physical manifestation of its effects. By abstract I mean that the sun is the largest and most powerful pure form of a circle we experience in nature: it is perfectly round, perfectly plain because it lacks surface features, is two dimensional because it is too bright to give a sense of depth and volume and is primarily associated with something totally incorporeal that we call light. It carries all the archetypal depths of the symbolic meaning of a circle whose abstract sense is barely more than what can be shown in the two dimensional form of a circle drawn on paper. And yet all life depends on this seeming abstraction—a visible impression of a circular spirit that has no face and is pure light.

This spirit is experienced in the effects of light and warmth on growth and sustaining life. Of paradoxical importance and particular significance for the sacred sites in the upper Midwest are the sun’s movements that foretell a future direction for the life force. Before the physical manifestations on earth of the sun’s movement are reaching optimum expression at peak summer or winter seasons, the sun just after the solstices begins to move in the opposite direction of its effects. This impresses the psyche in two important ways. Development is not linear but oscillates between extremes of yin and yang. While forms are reaching optimum development a counter action occurs; the abstract spiritual follows its own course that takes a while before physical forms and activities follow suit.

The Chinese sages developed an extensive elaboration of this relationship between heaven and earth in The I Ching. Its roots go back to shamanism and the oldest writing in the world—proto-Chinese characters scratched on bones the shamans stuck into the fire and used for divination. The Chinese described 4096 combinations (4 to the 6th power) of yin and yang lines to articulate basic archetypal interactions between heaven and earth. The pure form of heaven is hexagram 1, The Creative; 6 yang (solid) lines (fig. 12.2). Earth is depicted in pure form as



hexagram 2, The Receptive; 6 yin (broken) lines (fig. 12.2). The yin/yang symbol, the t’ai chi tu, captures the quality of flowing interpenetration and integration of these two equally powerful and complementary forces (fig. 12.2).10

Figure 12.2 Heaven and earth hexagrams in the I Ching plus the yin-yang symbol.

The Chinese employed many seasonal and agricultural metaphors within a continental climatic context to convey the meaning of the line combinations and the relationship of heaven and earth. As such the profundities of Chinese wisdom are experientially available to us in the upper Midwest.

The lessons from the earth-sky interaction were not lost on indigenous cultures living with maximum exposure to these elemental changes. Extensive alignments of stones and Native American mound alignments in the Midwest keyed them into the solstices and equinoxes. Rituals, ceremonies, myths and stories accompanying the solar marker points expressed this physical significance in symbolic forms.

Among the many functions of ceremonies and sacred sites was a metaphoric reflection from nature of the psychic processes of inspiration, development, harvesting the fruits of a phase of development and then death, wisdom and rebirth into new forms or an afterlife in the spirit realm. Cyclical repetition of ceremonies at the marker sites helped generate and keep in consciousness these significant changes. They united intra-psychic experience with what was happening in the sacred cosmos.

Stone arrangements in the form of medicine wheels are better known as a sun wheels because they take their shape from the sun and the points on the horizon marking the solstices and equinoxes (Bender 2002, 5). The Creator’s presence in the sky, the sun, dictated the centre of the circle. It was the point where the lines of the cardinal directions crossed and/or the alignments to the solstice sunrise and sunset crossed, all lines determined by the seasonal movements of the sun (ibid.). Adding a vertical line to the intersection of the cross in the circle creates a “cosmic axis” linking the upper and lower worlds at the middle where humans live (Hoebel 1960, 14, 41; Taylor and Sturtevant 1996, 474, 476, 481 referenced in Bender 2002, 5)

10 For an excellent discussion of the t’ai chi tu symbol with regard to its meaning and relation to human cycles and cycles in nature, see Ni 1983, 28-38.

Order was seen as the presence of the Divine and the sun circle as a sacred circle symbolized order in the universe (Bender 2002, 3-5). One manifestation of order was the eternal heavenly cycle of changes in star positions, including our local star, that produced seasonal changes on earth that affected all living things. A circle symbolically depicts endless cycles of time because a circle has no beginning and no end and cycles are easily shown in circular form. The time dimension depicted by a circle is united with the spatial dimension because a 360-degree panorama encompasses all of the earthly or horizontal plane of existence while a 360-degree vertical- plane circle encompasses above and below. Above and below; all of creation in space-time together with the temporal and the eternal are linked and depicted by a circle.

Herman Bender points out in an important paper that the calendar function of sun wheels served a relatively minor role in ceremonial functions (ibid. 4-5). The primary function was to help set the time to perform particular ceremonies or a sequence of ceremonies. At moments like the solstices, heaven and earth seem to come together because of alignments at sacred sites. The compact with the Divine could be renewed at that time and place (Hall 1985, 183 referenced in Bender 2002, 4). Maintaining a precise timing of the ceremonies and an exact order in the rituals was a way of honoring and linking with the Divine as expressed in universal order. The ceremonies were to help keep the universal order running and receive blessings for maintaining order. Humans could actually help regulate the universe (Hoebel 1960, 82-83 referenced in Bender 2002, 4).

Determining the precise timing of a ceremony and maintaining a strict sequence in the order of rituals and within ritual ceremonies facilitated the emergence (DST term) of the experience of sacred order/spirit/meaning in inner and outer life. I have experienced in Lakota Sioux sweat lodge and Sundance ceremonies how ceremonial attention to exactness of order, sequence, procedure and direction of movement are important elements in creating and maintaining the sense of sacred space and sacred time.

Jung was impressed in his conversations with a Taos pueblo Holy Man when he realized the tribe felt that all humanity depended on their ceremonies to help the sun rise each morning. This gave their life a divine purpose and humans became co-creators of existence with God— an alchemical concept (Jung 1965, 246-253, Hannah 1991, 160-161). Co-creation is the consequence of an intense I-Thou relationship that involves an essential premise in DST: phenomena come into existence by virtue of the dynamics of the system in which an object is embedded and which it helped form. Once one accepts the objective reality of the psyche, it becomes clear that the Self needs humans to incarnate in space-time and become conscious of Itself. The Self communicates via dreams, myths and archetypal symbolism (Jung 1965, 323-326, 334-342). Jung felt that humanities great and sacred contribution to the universe was that nature



becomes conscious of itself through us (Jung 1965, 220, 255-256, 279, 324-326). We are the conscious part of God’s creation and the conscious part of God, incarnating the eternal Self by differentiation of the Self in the space- time of human reality.

The sun is one of the universal symbols of consciousness (Marlan 2000, 181-182) so helping the sun rise can be understood at one level as a recognition of the importance of developing and expanding consciousness. In relation to one’s shadow and the associations of darkness with the unconscious and the lunar realm, Jung said: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious (Jung 1967, 265- 266).” The conscious-unconscious relationship is to be understood in all its hermetic subtlety as depicted by the yin-yang symbol and articulated in the I Ching with agricultural and climatic metaphors and analogies.

Complementary to the great annual cycle of the sun associated with solar consciousness are the archetypal associations to the night and the night sky, with its determinant elements of the moon, stars, and planets. Lunar consciousness is associated with darkness. This implies less clarity, greater uncertainty and danger for humans, whose eyes are better adapted to the visible spectrum associated with the sun. There is more moistness at night and night-prowling animals and birds emerge. Human activity at night is most associated with sleep and dreaming.

To all indigenous peoples and those of us lucky enough to have grown up or to be living in rural areas, the experience of the night sky is simply awesome. A world of infinitude is revealed in the heavens once the sun sets. The stars and the Milky Way present an almost unimaginable stimulation of the human psyche. The innumerable dots in the sky offer an unlimited Rorschach for the collective unconscious to project into the heavens the internal patterns and processes of the soul. The infinite depth and breath and fixed nature of the heavens calls forth stories of these dimensions—the archetypal stories. The great annual procession of the constellations archetypically guides the psyche through its cultural story-line.

An exciting dimension of Herman Bender’s work is the discovery of constellations duplicated in stone arrangements on the ground (Bender 2004, 72-77). We know from such sources as the Lakota sky charts how some indigenous peoples in North America oriented their annual activities and ceremonies according to the procession of the constellations (Goodman 1992). Their linking of earth with heavenly features of the night is a statement of the connection of heaven and earth. In Jungian terms this is how the archetypal manifests in time and space, how the more spiritually abstract heavens lead and condition life on earth in three-dimensional time- space. This is expressed in the relationship between hexagrams 1 and 2, where hexagram 2, The Receptive, is to be inspired and led by hexagram 1, The Creative. Hexagram 2 is associated with the work effort it takes to

manifest a potential and an inspiration: Thomas Edison’s statement that invention is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Following the stars means to live one’s life in a sacred, archetypal context.

The polar star around which the night sky circles provides an anchor for this full range of archetypal imagery. As such, it represents the Self--archetype of the centre and centring element of all opposites and that which embraces the totality of the psyche, consciousness and the unconscious.

Within this archetypal storyboard and the psychic time markers of the rise of constellations and the rise of particular stars on the horizon is another major feature of lunar consciousness—the moon and its activities. The moon is of equal diameter to the sun from the human perspective and therefore of equal importance to the psyche. It rules the sky in equal proportion to the sun, with one reign increasing as the other’s decreases. The quality of moonlight is different from that of the sun—it is soft and pleasing. One can stare at the moon without being blinded. It presents a face of an intriguing complexity of lighter and darker areas. It shows some depth and volume. What particularly fascinates the psyche is the moon’s waxing and waning over a cycle of 28 days as it daily changes its position in the night sky. The dramatic cycle resulting in the periodic absence of moonlight and shorter cycle of the moon brings cycling and change into a more immediate and impressive time frame than that of the sun or the annual procession of the constellations.

The archetype of the cycle as manifested by the moon has powerful and dramatic physical and associative connections on earth. Those living in coastal areas see an entire ocean rise and fall with the movements of the moon. For humans it is almost uncanny that the female of our species has a 28-day menstruation cycle solidifying her association to the moon. Most animals ovulate only once a year but the human female keeps the powerful sexual dynamic continually alive. Her cycles of ovulations and menstrual flows are symbolically associated with the fertility of the mother archetype followed by the death, rebirth, and wisdom associations to the Black Goddess (Redgrove 1987, 138, 156, 167- 168).

The most significant planet for many indigenous peoples is Venus, often called the morning and evening star. Every eight years this brightest of planets is at its most brilliant and sets the furthest north. This established the eight-year Venus calendar the ancient Greeks used to set the dates for the Olympic games. The Venus cycle became an integral part of the Mayan calendar system in Central America. Appearing in its soft luminescence as the first ‘star’ at twilight or the last at dawn, it presents a mild light in the liminal and colourful period between darkness and light. In Jungian terms, this leads to feminine associations of the anima as a function of the Self, the anima as a link (liminal position) to the Self.



This is beautifully illustrated in Lakota mythology, where Skan, seen as the blue sky, is the source of movement and the dispenser of order and justice (Walker 1983, 32, 45). He created Wolpe as a mediator who ‘moves among oppositions to create harmony’ (ibid. 195-196). Skan sent her from the sky to the centre on the earth while the four sons of father Tate, the Wind, were establishing the four directions. The sons circled the earth (ibid. 46-47, 65-66) as the earth was being prepared for habitation by creating order out of chaos (establishing the directions).

Black Elk was told in his great vision that he would ‘get all wisdom to know everything’ from the Daybreak Star (DeMallie 1984, 140). He usually rose every morning at the time of the rise of the morning star (ibid. 226).

Wolpe’s archetypal counterpart is Sophia in the Judeo- Christian tradition, who, as Yahweh’s feminine partner, embodies wisdom. Sophia acts as a mediator to humankind and was incarnated by Mary (Jung 1969b, 386-390, 396-397, 407-408).

Not to be overlooked are the American holidays and special days as an avenue for appreciating the seasons and seeing them in a symbolic manner (Santino 1994). Most holidays have their roots in ancient solstice, equinox and harvest celebrations. Halloween, for example, acknowledges the death of the vegetative growing season associated with activation of the spirit world. Thanksgiving is a celebration of family roots, often at the grandparents, and our nation’s roots with the Puritans and the distinctly North American foods served at the Thanksgiving meal. Christmas is a solstice celebration and a celebration of new life with a focus on children. New Year’s celebrations are for adults and they behave in ways that disrupt the usual order (ibid.).

Studying sacred sites in a symbolic and psychological manner can help school children and adults realize that their meanings are potentially alive in each of us. Those of us living in Wisconsin with an interest in semiotics have the good fortune of being in Native American effigy mound country. The eastern half of the United States was peppered with earthen mounds varying in size from small burial mounds to the huge temple mound structures at Cahokia, Illinois, an International Heritage Site. Three types of mounds are found in abundance in Wisconsin; conical (round or oval), linear (long, low embankments) and the intriguing effigy mounds (mounds in the shape of images). Most of these mounds were constructed between AD 700 and 1200. The effigy mound culture was active in the southern half of Wisconsin with small overlaps into the border states. The mounds range in size between ten and twenty feet to an eagle effigy with a quarter-mile wingspan. Nearly 100 types of effigy mounds were created in the shapes of birds, animals, water spirits, reptiles, fish and the occasional human (Maier 2001, 116, Birmingham 2000, 113-135).

The mounds served several functions, such as boundaryindicators, burial sites and clan markers of

gardens, hunting areas and strategic positions (Maier 2001, 116). They are believed to be sites of earth renewal ceremonials (Birmingham 2000, 127, 133) and sites for social, economic and ceremonial activities to link families together and perhaps even village bands and lineages (ibid. 134).

The most intriguing effigy mounds occur in clusters that tell stories. A message is conveyed by the type and arrangement of mounds in conjunction with the topography, landscape and events in the heavens (Maier 2001, 98-101). The stories are undoubtedly connected to the beliefs and cosmologies of the cultures that constructed the mounds and models of the relationships of the social divisions and clans (Birmingham 2000, 113, 129, 136). In The Eagle’s Voice—Tales Told by Indian Effigy Mounds, Gary Maier carefully examines several sites around Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin, at the centre of the effigy mound culture. He develops a story about a large complex of mounds at the Mendota Mental Health facility beside Lake Mendota using information about the Ho-Chunk (formerly know as the Winnebago), the possible descendents of the effigy mound builders, and beliefs of the Sioux who had lived in this part of Wisconsin. Maier presents an interesting argument that the mounds tell a story of the four-day journey of the spirit after death (Maier 2001, 10-70). He compares the use of mounds to tell stories with the principles used by Michelangelo in constructing the Medici Chapel in Florence to tell a symbolic story with sculptures by the type, placement and the directions his sculptures faced (ibid. 58-63).

I will focus on a smaller group of mounds on the other side of the lake that Maier used to develop a simpler story. He begins with the fact that the Ho-Chunk culture had twelve clans consisting of an upper region of four bird clans and a lower region consisting of water spirit ‘chiefs’, bear ‘soldiers’ and other animal and fish clans (ibid. 115).

A cluster of twelve mounds on the south shore of Lake Mendota is located on the golf course of the Blackhawk Country Club in Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin, adjacent to Madison (fig. 12.3). It consists of a panther mound beside the lake, three conical mounds on the hilltop, three linear mounds on the hillside between the lake and the hilltop, a large goose with extended neck, a hawk flying at a right angle to the goose and three bear mounds on the more level plain near the lake. All mounds are extant, except the hawk mound and parts of the linear mounds.

Ho-Chunk elders told the early Europeans, “[the mounds] tell stories like chapters in your books” (ibid. 117). If the story of the Blackhawk mounds is known by the Ho- Chunk, they are not sharing it with Western culture. Maier crafted a story by working with bits of information offered by the Ho-Chunk, a similarity of certain features between the Shorewood mound groups and other mound clusters, and a reading of the symbolism and grammar of the mounds in relation to the landscape.


November and line four is one of the most negative lines

Figure 12.3 The Blackhawk Indian Mounds in Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin (Markquart 1979).

in the I Ching.

The goose alignment to the sunset also suggests the approach of night and the disappearance of visible things into the darkness (Maier 2001, 119), symbolic of the unconscious, death and sleep that has been called ‘the little death’. Pointing to the winter solstice sunset strongly suggests the disappearance of the geese via migration. This dramatic behaviour still leaves a deep impression on the psyches of modern men and women.

The hawk is flying at a right angle to the path of the goose. At this latitude, that would take it into the winter solstice sunrise (ibid.). Together the two birds bracket the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Knowing that the days will lengthen after the solstice gave hope that the cycles of life would continue (ibid. 120). At another level, it suggests the survival of the individual in the spirit realm after death.

The hawk adds a piece of grammar to the earth writing depicted by the goose’s flight. Being located in front of the goose, it would have to “’take off’ to meet the rising sun before the goose can ‘take off’ to meet the setting sun (ibid.).” The arrangement simply states one thing must happen before another in earth writing as in the physical world (ibid.).

The goose was formed atop a narrow hill that slopes up to the crest of the much larger hill of which it is a part. Standing next to it, one feels that the goose is emerging out of the hilltop, reminding us that our bodies come out of Mother Earth, to which we shall return. It is a gigantic bird, with the combination of bird and hill transporting one into the archetypal dimension. Directionality is emphasized by an extraordinarily long neck, even for a goose, that seems to be orienting the earth energy to a point on the horizon. Looking back from the head of the goose along the body of the goose towards the north, one sees the expanse of the large lake. One is reminded that the goose inhabits two realms, the realm of the sometimes dangerous water spirits and the realm of the sky. Geese transit easily between them.

Another unique use of topography is at the juncture of the neck and body of the goose. The hill slants down more steeply at that point with the body of the goose on the more northern steeper decline. The weight of the body of the goose feels more linked to the earth, now of equal prominence in the field of vision as the lake at this juncture point. The goose is lined up with the very earthy bears (mounds) below.

The hawk was located on a relatively flatter area to the left of the goose head, and the hill tapers down just beyond it, leaving an expanse to a more distant hilltop on the horizon. Standing there, one gets more a sense of sky than land or lake. It reminds one that hawks are masters of the day sky through which they effortlessly soar. The goose, by contrast, seems to be exerting effort to reach the crest of the hill just in front of it. Is this making a

Figure 12.4
hexagram 24, Return (The Turning Point).

Hexagram 23, Splitting Apart, and

The most prominent element in a dream and other symbolic material suggests the main story line. The goose is the dominant figure in the Shorewood mound cluster with a 200- foot body and 135-foot wingspan. It is not a Ho-Chunk clan animal, in which case there is some element about the animal and/or its behaviour and lifecycle that has some general or specific meaning to the story (ibid. 116). The goose is flying towards the point on the horizon of the winter solstice sunset. This solstice signifies the change of seasons from autumn to winter and symbolizes a transition point from darkness to light that is celebrated around the world (ibid. 119-120). Indeed, many solstice celebrations incorporate light in the form of blazes, candles or our Christmas tree lights.

Symbolically, it suggests a movement from death to life—a rebirth, be it in nature, within the psyche or a life- after-death motif. The I Ching links the winter solstice with hexagram 24, The Turning Point. One yang line associated with light and the heavens is depicted as entering from below into five dark yin lines (fig. 12.4). The I Ching says this begins the transformation from the old to the new that is not brought about by force but arises spontaneously in accordance with the time (Wilhelm 1967, 97-98). The hexagram follows hexagram 23, Splitting Apart, where five yin lines are seen as mounting to overthrow the last firm light line (top line) ‘by exerting a disintegrating influence on it’ (ibid. 93) (fig. 12.4). Hexagram 23 is associated with October-



statement about the struggle it takes to enter the darkness and transit to a new direction, orientation or spiritual dimension?

Disappearance into the more ethereal, mental or spiritual realm, as symbolized by an aerial migration into the darkness, is complemented by the story of a more concrete, bodily, earthy disappearance. Extending the axis line of the goose backwards and down towards the lake runs it through the body of the mother bear. Following the principle of standing the effigy animals up and seeing where they would move, one sees that the bears would move in the opposite direction of the goose’s flight (ibid. 120). Similar alignments indicate something in common, in this case, disappearance (ibid. 120-121). Bears disappear in winter in the opposite manner of geese—they go into caves in the earth. It makes a dramatic impression on the psyche when the most fearful and dominant animal removes itself underground, where it remains inactive for months at a time. The stilling of such a powerful force as the bear best symbolizes the power of winter on the life force. Earth energy is forced to withdraw.

It is a scientific wonder how such a large animal as a bear can go completely dormant for several months, and equally amazing that the female can give birth and suckle young during that period. Bears make a powerful statement about withdrawal and generation in the dark, symbolized in our Christmas traditions by Santa bringing presents at night. All artists and creative people have experienced this process, with depressive states often preceding creative acts.

The bear with its paws in the northwest could represent the difficult physical reality of winter still ahead during the hibernation period. The bear with its paws in the southeast, especially if it considered to be a mother bear, could represent the generative new direction the sun takes at the winter solstice whose physical presence on earth begins to manifest at the vernal (green) spring equinox (baby bear). The winter solstice and equinox connections for a bear with its paws towards the south is also presented at Bear Mound Park, to be mentioned later.

The placement of a smaller bear between two larger bears of opposite sex (facing opposite directions) suggests an offspring. The smallest mound has been interpreted as being a child as seen in other mound groups (ibid. 121). With the premise that every mound cluster is the story and construction of one particular clan (ibid. 116-117), the three bears make a statement that these are bear family and bear clan mounds (ibid. 121). The bear cub is walking due east into the equinox sunrise. The grammar, the Gestalt, of the bear arrangement suggests that the cub is heading into the spring and not the autumn equinox because the parents “marked the beginning of the season that precedes spring and thus leads to spring” (ibid.). This makes it an alignment “with the start of spring, the season of rebirth and renewal” (ibid.).

Maier uses information about the Mendota mound group to suggest that the three conical mounds on the highest part of the hill in the southwest are burial mounds for Bear Clan members (ibid. 123-124). The three linear mounds would supplement the conicals by containing people and/or artefacts that “assist the deceased Bear Clan people as they go into the spirit world” (ibid. 122).

The story generated by the total Gestalt of these mounds could be that buried Bear Clan members are born again and their spirits live on in the spirit world. The geese that disappear in the autumn return in the spring, just as the spirits of the dead return to communicate to living relatives “as ghosts, apparitions or in dreams” (ibid.).

The last mound to consider is the ‘panther’ mound beside the lake, with its paws facing the lake. ‘Panthers’ were water-spirits who were the powerful ‘chiefs’ of the lower region in the Ho-Chunk world. They controlled the power of the depths, the underworld, from which they arose mainly through water, including springs (ibid. 11). They were a sort of water monster considered to be both “good” and “bad” (ibid. 119). This ambiguity and their fierceness led to a role as guardians, including guardians of burial mounds, where the passage was made to the spirit world (ibid. 122). Coming across a panther mound alerted one to the presence of a scared area and possible burial site to be traversed with caution and respect (ibid. 124). The panther’s feet face the lake, its source, and also an old Indian path that follows the lake.

There are many other extant effigy mound groups in Wisconsin and neighboring states that invite the modern psyche to decode their meanings. An excellent report on a large group of 26 extant mounds appears in The Journal of the Ancient Earthworks Society (1990) that focuses on Lizard Mound Park near West Bend, Wisconsin. Among the many features encoded in this group is a pair of linear mounds that marks the northern and southernmost rising and setting of the moon in its 18.6-year cycle (fig. 12.5). These are next to a lizard (water spirit) mound pointing to the spot on the horizon of the winter solstice sunrise. This makes a beautiful symbolic statement of a relationship between sun and moon, solar and lunar consciousness, one system of cycling contained within another.

The ‘lizard’ is next to two panther mounds facing each other (fig. 12.5). A line drawn along the right angle of these two mounds points to the spot on the horizon of the summer solstice sunrise. A Native American ‘keeper of the mounds’ told the mound surveyors that tribal members formed the body of a bird at the summer solstice sunrise that incorporated the panther mounds as wings.

This living body activated the site and the people converted the two panther mounds or “Minor Thunders” (Earth Symbols) into a Thunderbird or “Major Thunderer” (a sky symbol) as the attention of all persons was directed toward the rising sun. (ibid. 16)



Figure 12.5. Indian mounds in Lizard Mound Park near West Bend, Wisconsin. A linear mound (not pictured) beneath the panther mound on the right is aligned to the maximum southern-most moon-set (18.6 year cycle).

Drummers drummed up the earth energy as the eagle ‘flew’ to greet the summer solstice sunrise—the union of sky and earth.

Every Sunday morning I walk my dog to the bear mound in a nearby park in Madison. The bear’s head nearly touches the crest of the ridge on the lower part of a hill. The bear is aligned to a point on the horizon just south of the winter solstice sunrise. A large rock just above its shoulders seems to be an orientation point for two stones on the horizon—one further up the ridge that aligns exactly with the winter solstice sunrise and a larger stone to the north that aligns with the vernal equinox sunrise. When I am at this spot at the winter solstice sunrise, I cannot help but think that later in the year I will be at a Lakota Sioux sundance observing the summer solstice sunrise as it comes up over sundancers I know. The experience of this, the most powerful of the Lakota ceremonies, demonstrates to me how ceremonies at sacred sites in nature help create a sacred bond to the earth and to each other—‘all my relatives’. Sacred sites are concrete reminders to us that the earth and its seasons can be related to in a sacred manner. They can still teach us how to align ourselves in life and to look at the life on the land and in the seasons in a symbolic manner. What wonderful educational tools they present to us and what a link they can offer to indigenous cultures and the two million year-old-man within. It is for these reasons that the Earth Charter, a superb international document on

political, economic and social justice and sustainability, lists among its principles the preservation and respect for extant indigenous cultures and the preservation of sacred sites throughout the world (Earth Charter, 8.b, 12.b). The effigy mound sites in Wisconsin have played a role in helping to bring into consciousness the nocturnal experience of my meadow dream.


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