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Following the Raven: The Paradoxical Path Toward a Depth Ecopsychology

by Betsy Perluss

Ecopsychology. September 2012, 4(3): 181-186. doi:10.1089/eco.2012.0045. Published in Volume: 4 Issue 3: ravensSeptember 24, 2012

This article compares Richard Nelson’s nature writing about his experiences with the Koyukon tribe in northern Alaska and Carl Jung’s work on the primitive psyche; it highlights the need for Westerners to awaken to the mystery of the universe beyond ego-consciousness.

Jung declares that one of the biggest tragedies of Western civilization is the loss of the numinous that has resulted in the dehumanizing of the natural world. Examining Jung's controversial use of the terms “primitive” and participation mystique, we discover that what modern man has considered to be a more “civilized” higher state of consciousness has been wrongly equated with ego-consciousness, thus resulting in a limited understanding of the unconscious psyche. This article points out that the way beyond the “cult of consciousnesses” is to attend to that which the rational mind does not understand: dreams, symptoms, and the presence of archetypes. By doing so, the Western heroic ego, along with its need to dominate and control nature, is dismantled, opening the door for a participatory relationship with both psyche and nature. Whereas Jung's work is highly theoretical, Richard Nelson's writing provides insight into the lived experience of these ideas. The aim here is not for Western people to appropriate that which belongs to native people but rather to learn that there is more mystery to the world than ego-consciousness is able to contain. This, says Jung, is the goal of individuation.

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