‘A psyche the size of Earth.’ I love that image. It’s the title of an essay by James Hillman, the greatest of influences on my own psychological practice, which introduced the collection of articles Theodore Roszak, Allen Kanner and Mary Gomez collated for their book Ecopsychology back in 1995. Hillman, I think, did more than anyone to try to remind people that this world, these lives we live, aren’t all about us. It’s a message I passionately believe in. We think we make them up, the stories, the dreams. Well, maybe they make us up. For sure, they have an existence that’s independent of us. We think psyche is in us, Hillman said – but actually, we’re in psyche. The great, beautiful soul of this glowing, animate world.
Once, I read a book in which an indigenous author I greatly admire wrote about the ways in which the foundational myth of the West – the Adam and Eve story, she said: the story of humanity’s Fall from grace, from the garden of Eden – was responsible for so much of the mess we’re in today. She contrasted it with the myths and stories of her own people, which spoke of how interconnected we are with life on this Earth, not how separate we are. And all of that made me sad, and it also made me a little frustrated. Because that’s not the foundational mythology of the West at all. But the Biblical story has been so successful over the past two thousand years at wiping out everything that came before, that everyone seems to think it is. We’ve forgotten so much. We’ve forgotten that this is actually mythology imported from the Middle East, and it travelled west on a trail of blood and book-burning and witch-burning.
The old myths, stories, and yes – even the ancient philosophies – of the West are rich and complex and beautiful. They offer up a world in which everything is not only alive, but has purpose, intentionality of its own. A world to which each incarnated soul chooses to come, for a reason, and to offer up a gift which can only be expressed through relationship with and participation in that animate world. Carrying the fire, carrying with us the image that we were born with, that we brought with us when we chose to come into this world. And there are Others, who will help and guide us if we know how to find them, know how to listen.