Earth, Climate, Dreams is a new book being launched at Gleebooks in Sydney, by Analyst and author Judith Pickering on the 16th November 2019.
The book is a series of interviews with a range of experienced Depth Psychologists (primarily of Jungian heritage) and discusses psycho-symbolic and social responses to the Anthropocene.
Apart from the obvious topics of climate change and ecological destruction, subjects discussed range from discussions of Pilgrimage, to the aspirations of Dr. Frankenstein, to the collapse of Mayan civilisation, to colony collapse disorder in bees, to the cultural complexes of capitalism, to systems theory, unconscious forces, communication with the world, and the uses of dreams to gain insight into the world.
The book argues strongly that we need to engage with our psychological processes to deal constructively with the changes we are facing – otherwise psychological inertia, denial or other processes of repression and hostility are likely to win out. We are facing an existential crisis, with grave psychological consequences. This book explores possible ways to move beyond these psychological limitations and barriers.
Depth psychology proves useful in this quest, because it tends to focus on neglected aspects of life and assumes that individual psychology is at least partly collective, and works through creativity, imagination and symbol production. Our psyches are already alive and part of nature.
Depth psychology continually deals with problems that the conscious ego cannot understand, so this is especially useful for facing the paradoxes, complexities and dilemmas of the Anthropocene.
Readers who are already familiar with those being interviewed, will realise that this is quite a formidable and well published group of people. There is a lot of valuable experience here, made available in an approachable format. The main interviewer, Bonnie Bright, is a deep listener and contributor to comprehensibility of the conversations.
I’m only going to give very brief tastings of the interviews to give a feel of what people talk about, because you really need to read the book to get the full depth of thought here.
The book starts with a short introduction, trying to explain the basic terms and their dynamics: myth, consciousness, unconscious processes, image, symbol, dreams, the Self, complexes, separation and so on. It also suggests that the ways these forms are presented in our lives are conditioned by, and respond to, capitalism and developmentalism, but can lead to creative political, or other action.
The first interview is with Jeffrey Kiehl, a climate scientist who took up analytic training in response to the problems of communicating climate science. He argues against one-sided approaches to climate change (such as the purely rational), suggesting we need to use multiple ways of understanding and relating to the world. He emphasises the importance of acknowledging painful feelings about climate change, which can cause people to space out when faced with the data. He introduces the idea that dreams can contain awareness which speaks to problems in the world, and help us face them.
Susan Rowland is an academic literary critic who primarily looks at human relationships to nature and the gods. She discusses how the imagination can be part of addressing, and connecting to, ecological crises. She brings up the question of the imaginary relationship between gender and nature, and particularly the way that nature has been connected to the “feminine” and can be treated violently in our culture, and how it could be treated differently elsewhere. She explores this possible arc of creative difference through the myth of Dionysus and the experience of being broken into parts.
Stephen Aizenstat is the founding president of the Pacifica Graduate Institute and has worked with the UN. As well as talking with CEOs and government bodies, Aiszenstat is frequently asked into schools where he finds students have a strong sense of the fragility of the world, and become more fragile and grief struck, because of that connection. He discusses ways of dream tending as remedy, emphasising the importance of encountering the dream beings rather than interpreting them. This allows the dreams to become a source of strength and illumination. As he says: “At night, when our eyes are closed, something else comes awake.”
Susannah Benson, researcher and past President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, discusses the importance of dreams and long-term dream groups. Taken over time, dreams provide a way of orienting ourselves in the world, somewhat like a GPS. She quotes a Buddhist text: “A dream is as much an immediate reality as is the waking state and it is even possible to see the world more clearly in our dreams than in our waking state.” Dream groups help provide different perspectives on the dreams and can deepen our modes of listening to the hidden parts of the self, because the group can help break through our habitual perceptions and interpretations, thus providing more creative responses to problems.
Jerome Bernstein, analyst and author, started his path working with Native Americans, learning from them and gaining his first religious experience at a Hopi ceremony. This has given him a sense of what might be missing in a suicidally oriented technological society. He suggests that we have a co-evolutionary process with the world as a whole. This process could work with us, if we were prepared to listen and act in a reciprocal way with it, rather than try to dominate or fix it. Getting to this place, requires the cultivation of what he calls a “borderland psyche,” which appears to be appearing spontaneously, in some people, in response to the crisis.
Sally Gillespie a researcher engaged with climate action points to the emotional difficulties we have, as a culture, with conversations about climate change. Anxiety, dread, terror, hopelessness, guilt and so on, build up making it a loaded and complicated area – even without considering the complexities of the topic. However, it can be possible to have such conversations in groups, and acknowledge these feelings and the dreams around the conversations. Feelings can then develop and energy become available for connecting personal with collective knowledge and action.
Robert Romanyshyn, analyst and author, discusses the ideas which lead to his book on Victor Frankenstein, the Monster and the Shadows of Technology. He treats the story of Frankenstein as a cultural dream, which can be worked through in many ways. Looking at the story helps us to see what we have left behind and forgotten, and this provides a context for understanding where we are now. This context helps us see another truth of things, and may allow us to imagine the future in different ways, and make a new framework for understanding problems of technology and environment.
Erel Shalit, analyst and author, begins by talking about memory as the basis of civilisation and the problem of handing memory over to machines. He points out that we also want to forget, as when we are gripped by trauma and keep remembering the same unbearable thing. But with the forgetting we lose history, and in an information rich world, we can choose the information which pleases us, and lose that which might keep us safe. He discusses the difficulty of maintaining a balance between machines which intensify human mastery and machines which become masters, or devices which distance us from trauma causing destructive acts of the kind regularly carried out in the Anthropocene.
Michael Conforti begins by discussing the reality of psyche and its processes, especially the move from primary to secondary narcissism. Secondary narcissism marks the beginning of a moral psyche, in which you gain pleasure by pleasing and helping others. Primary narcissism leads to environmental destruction, as everything pleasurable becomes addictive and unending, with no relationship to other beings. He suggests addiction is an attractor, as in chaos theory, in which everything comes to circle, including destruction of nature. The remedy involves more care about psyche and its unconscious awareness.
Jonathan Marshall a researcher and author, talks about complex systems theory and how psychological processes are related to ecological and political processes in the world, and spill over into them. Repression of the world equals repression of psyche. This similarity and connection can make it difficult to know whether a transformation will be successful or not. Acts and policies, tied into fantasies, can be good up to a point and, after that, quite harmful. Every restorative action in the world is experimental and, to be effective, may require revision and modification.
Veronica Goodchild, is an educator, analyst and author. She talks about ways of relating to the earth through pilgrimage and spiritual practice through attending to our imaginal relationships to nature, through vision, image and dream. “Your own imagination is connecting, as I see it, to the imagination of nature.” Such practices have helped her deal with her grief about world destruction, and participate in the processes of regeneration, human and natural, and to help others through similar processes.
Nancy Swift Furlotti discusses the religious and mythic culture of the Maya, detailing the stories of the Popol Vuh and their psychological meanings. She shows how Mayan religious and cultural practices had the side effects of destroying their ecology and hence society, despite the presence of warnings in their myths. Their temples are the biggest in the entire world in terms of mass, and the intensification of processes of building them appears to have cut off water supplies. This clearly has relevance for our own times, as we build the biggest temples of commerce ever seen while ignoring the effects on ecologies.
Bonnie Bright, the founder of Depth Insights, and interviewer for the book, is then interviewed by co-editor, Jonathan Marshall. She talks about colony collapse disorder in bees and uses this as an analogy to discuss “cultural collapse disorder” in humans. Both phenomena are vitally important. Without bees, food cropping will fail, and there will be further pressure on natural regeneration. While, if humans fail to bring their deeper symbolic experiences and inspirations back to others, then their culture begins to die, as it cannot deal with new challenges and becomes unable to relate to the changing natural world.
The final chapter contains a wide-ranging discussion between a number of the interviewees about the cultural complex and crises of capitalism during the Anthropocene. This discussion suggests some ways of dealing with the overwhelming grief and disorientation produced by facing into the destruction of the world by our own ways of living.
Some Pre-release Comments
“Depth psychologist Bonnie Bright and her colleagues help us understand that climate change is not just an environmental, economic, social or security challenge – although it is all of these – but a deeply psychological crisis that demands “a new psychological position and understanding.” A must-read for anyone wanting to better understand why we’re in our current mess and how to get out of it!”
Linda Buzzell, Co-Editor, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind
“These interviews are, at one level, a fine tribute to Jung’s vision that the human psyche cannot be considered in isolation from the wider forces that govern life on Earth. But Bonnie Bright’s collection of dialogues also has a far more urgent relevance: the Anthropocene has now been unleashed and it remains an open question whether we can act in time to maintain a habitable planet. The answer will lie in a myriad of policy and behavioural decisions and underlying them all is the need for humankind to transform its notions of self-interest in the light of Earth consciousness. The interviews in this book are both signposts and beacons in that all-important journey.“
—Adrian Tait, Co-Founder, Climate Psychology Alliance
“Dreams open a portal to another way of seeing the world, offering access to the personal and collective unconscious. Dreams encourage the imagination to flourish. Sometimes, dreams can offer another way to approach seemingly insoluble problems. So this anthology arrives at the perfect moment, offering insights and inspiration in this time of climate chaos and global crisis, with contributions from leading thinkers in the field of depth psychology, science and education.“
—Mary-Jayne Rust, Co-Editor, Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis
“This work provides a unique perspective on the issue of climate disruption. Science has provided us with all the evidence necessary for immediate action, yet too little is being done too slowly to address this global threat. As Jung noted, in such times of deep disarray, perhaps we should ask the unconscious what to do. The dialogues in this work do just that. Here we are given an opportunity to listen to psyche’s concerns about our planet.”
—Jeffrey T. Kiehl. Participant in the book, Climate Scientist, Jungian Analyst, Author of Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future