“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us “Universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
On a sunny summer day Hampstead Heath is an idyllic place to be. Life is seen through rose tinted glasses: children are playing, teenagers are making out, adults are laughing, dogs are running around and there is a general air of happiness and contentment.
But go to the park at six or seven o’clock the following morning and the view is totally different: life seen through the eyes of a hangover. In the quietness of nature the devastation we cause is evident, from the litter strewn all around to the mountains of empty packaging overflowing the bins. The majesty of nature versus the carelessness of man. On mornings like this my heart sinks and a slow, pervasive fear that all this beauty can be lost begins to creep in.
a strong environmental conscience should be common sense
We read about the impact we have on nature in the papers, we see it on TV. We understand it consciously. But (and this is where I feel the change needs to happen) we might not feel the need to do things differently – even when we do we might guiltily admit that we don’t really do the things that we should. There is an understanding that education is important, from government policies to councils nudging us towards recycling. We live in an era when a strong environmental conscience should be common sense. And yet we don’t do as much as we could. This is not a criticism, but a reality that I am trying to understand and at least for my part, to change.
To do more for the environment, I might (or might not) need more theoretical information but what I certainly do need is to connect with what is around me at a deeper, more personal level. I believe that in order to protect nature, we first need to close the gap between ourselves and what is around us. In this way, nature becomes part of us and we can no longer ignore it or pretend not to care.
What I have found useful in this exploration of how to be better connected to my surroundings is partly a theoretical but mostly a sensed understanding of the feminine and masculine energies within myself.
When these forces are distorted, repressed and unbalanced we find ourselves at odds with our own selves and what is around us
The feminine and masculine energies are present in all human beings. These are not opposing energies but aspects of the same life force in all of us, striving to find a harmonious balance. If a person does not allow both of these energies to manifest and develop in a disciplined way within themselves, he is only half a person, not a complete personality. When these forces are distorted, repressed and unbalanced we find ourselves at odds with our own selves and what is around us. By releasing and balancing these energies we will heal the alienation we feel towards our own feelings, towards others and towards the earth.
Our early ancestors had an implicit relationship with the earth and their mythology centred around the Great Mother who gave life and took life away. This was the era of feminine energy, of living life according to the immutable laws of nature, of earth as the source of power, of embodied wisdom and tribal connectedness.
With the emergence of ego consciousness, human beings began to separate from Mother Earth and the Goddess and slowly matriarchy was replaced by patriarchy. This process culminated I believe, in the age of reason when in western society power, rational understanding and achievement were the values to live by and the feminine principles of mystery and forces beyond human understanding were repressed.
While most of my understanding of the importance of the feminine principle in protecting the earth has been intuited, I took great comfort in reading my ‘felt sense’ clearly expressed by Marion Woodman* who noted that although the patriarchal ego prides itself on being reasonable, the 20th century has been anything but that. She reckons that in our collective neuroses we have all raped the earth, disrupted the delicate balance of nature and created phallic missiles of mass destruction.
The age of man has led to a frenzy of consumption, of having more and better and faster but at a price that we cannot afford. That price is the loss of a part of ourselves. By unbalancing the energies within ourselves in favour of a distorted masculine, we find power is exhilarating and vulnerability scary. We want to beat death, to win the unwinnable. We perpetuate a myth that by reaching further and further, conditioning our bodies and having people depend on us, we have conquered nature.
I agree that as long as we deny the Great Mother and refuse to integrate the Goddess in our psychic development, we will continue to act out these neurotic fantasies and endanger our very survival as a species.
However, rather than read about the feminine, this principle needs to be experienced directly. The feminine is in nature and in our bodies. If we try to reach it with our minds, it is yet another intellectual exploration, an illusion of the masculine principle of believing we can master whatever we put our minds to, including the feminine.
Everything is at our fingertips and this means we take information on intellectually but fail to feel it emotionally
We live in a culture where there are no more secrets, no more hidden mysteries that we need to work hard to discover. The knowledge of the wise has been imparted and is readily available online whether we seek it or not. The internet opens before us a world of marvels and some of us gulp it down. Everything is at our fingertips and this means we take information on intellectually but fail to feel it emotionally. By reading about the feminine principle without attempting to experience it, we reinforce the dualism between the masculine mind split from the feminine instinctual embodied energy.
The masculine intellect can give us knowledge but the feminine wisdom is based on experience which, if reflected deeply enough, leads us to the recognition of the unity that exists within us and outside of us. In this unity of a conscious femininity, it is impossible to continue wasting what the earth is offering us. In this unity we find the humility to live sustainably and respectfully with others and with nature.
we may have to submit to our instincts, recognizing them not just as an intellectual concept but as a determining factor in our lives
So put away the books for a while, turn off your internet for a bit, mute the TV. In seeking to establish a relationship with the feminine principle within ourselves, we may have to submit to our instincts, recognizing them not just as an intellectual concept but as a determining factor in our lives. This is not an easy task for the masculine ego consciousness because it signals change. But all change and growth is preceded by the death of the old, of quite a lot of what we have known and relied on so far. For the ego this is a terrifying prospect and it will fight cunningly and hard to keep things just as they are. The feminine principle is viewed by the ego as dangerous because it will take us to the edge of our being, it will challenge us to take the plunge and allow our souls to be embodied in matter.
But by awakening the feminine principle and balancing the masculine energy, we can heal the duality within ourselves and come to a true sense of interdependence with the rest of creation. We know that if we deplete and destroy the earth, we deplete and destroy ourselves. Life lived from this perspective is not a static, frozen experience any longer but a dynamic, creative process.
I do not think that it is easy to reach this wholeness but I do know that the process is straightforward:
❖ Courageously and consistently turn inward to discover the unpredictability and spontaneity of our true natures.
❖ Make friends with our bodies and listen to our instincts.
❖ Honour our dreams.
❖ Allow for the death of a rigidly controlled life so that new life can sprout and grow.
❖ Discipline the mind and experience the passions of the body.
❖ Above all, be curious about and compassionate with ourselves.