An Ecopsychological Stroll Along Gonzales Beach

Updated: Apr 13

“Western consciousness is by no means the only kind of consciousness there is; it is historically conditioned and geographically limited, and representative of only one part of mankind. The widening of consciousness ought not to proceed at the expense of the other kinds of consciousness.” From C.G.Jung CW 13, par.84, Conclusion of “The Secret of the Golden Flower.”

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Do you remember that day? The wind rattled the windows and knocked at the door. Nature was calling. I walked down Foul Bay Road. “That dammed foul bay,” Captain James Cook had fumed. The anchor of his ship had become tangled in the weeds offshore. Today the clouds were moving with great speed across the horizon, sometimes rising like giant cathedrals into a limitless sky. There seemed to be a conversation of sorts with the wind and the water, and I listened as I put my head down and walked along Gonzales Beach.

Making my way along the Chinese Point side of the bay, I could imagine a day like today in the past. In my thoughts were the agonized screams for help coming from a capsized boat offshore. Cries from the past echoed about the rocks. The wind carried the memory of the sounds of all those lost at sea—be they native fishermen, settlers, or sailors. Their cries would have been such as to pierce anyone listening to their very marrow. On the cliff side overlooking the eastern shore, I became more mindful of the wind as it blew ever stronger wrapping itself around me. I was on the land of the Songhees, a native people who believed there was a spiritual relationship between man, nature, and the supernatural. The Songhees had moved over their territory collecting all that they needed to live on the land. They did this with reverence trying to keep positive relations with the living spirit in all things. Before long I was scrambling for footholds as I made my way up the rocky eminence. I was thinking of Steven Foster and Meredith Little and their work with wilderness rites of passage and "primitive ecopsychology.”

A week ago, I had made this climb in the company of my eldest son. Now in his mid-fifties, with his wristwatch monitoring all his sleeping and waking activities, he was able to give me information regarding the precise elevation of the cliffs we climbed, the rate of his heartbeat, the number of miles we had walked, and all the weather patterns around us. We had discussed Dataism, a new philosophy that was emerging as a result of the data collection agencies that monitored every aspect of our lives. The significance of this was mind-blowing. I had been thinking about it with some reservations remembering Orwell’s book, entitled1984. It was a dystopian social science fiction novel published after the horrors of World War II. In me, and possibly every other child of school age, it had instilled a permanent fear of the possibility of Big Brother.

The year 1984 was long past. It had come and gone, but the idea had lingered and come to fruition. Dataism had taken hold of our lives and, as a philosophy, it was about to supplant Humanism. But as Humanists, with all that we had done to bring about climate change, had we not plunged ourselves into a new dystopian future? Then again, need it necessarily be a dystopia? If through Dataism, we could perceive the essence of everything and be able to understand, classify, and describe the world in entirely new, more exciting, more sophisticated terms, could that not be a possible step out of the climatic disaster we had created?

As homo sapiens, and members of the animal species, we had been gifted with opposable thumbs. Through time, we had learned to build fires, create tools, invent the wheel, construct pyramids, watch the stars, and monitor the heavens. With our intelligence, we split the atom, traveled through space, landed on the moon and set down probes to monitor a flat lowland region we decided to call Chryse Planitia. It would have been in our nature to plant a new flag. We were striking out once again, embarking a New Age of Acquisition.

Apart from our intelligence, and perhaps most importantly, we are sentient beings. This faculty of being able to 'feel' is one that we share with all other plant and animal species. Of course, apart from the intimate studies of human behaviour, Dataism could also be applied to the study of fish, birds, animals, plants, and the earth itself. Perhaps all this accumulated information could lead to a new form of knowledge going beyond the human desire for wealth and power. Perhaps it could become part of the essence of the universe and conscious of all knowledge in ways impossible for the human mind to understand. And what, I wondered, in the final analysis, would we name that power? It would certainly be the end of the anthropocene.

Finding these thoughts disturbing, I decided to bring balance back to my psyche. I would just walk and feel the power of the winds as they pushed me downhill along the road. I would look up and marvel at the beauty of the sky. I would wonder at the enormity of the clouds as they scurried like ships with full sails across the horizon. I would listen to the sound of the trees as their leaves whispered in the wind, their limbs groaning with the strain as their root systems clung to the ground. I put my mind to rest and decided to enjoy the sound of the trees in conversation with the wind. And so, I eavesdropped, listening to the songs that were being sung. I stopped struggling for understanding and, like any other animal, just gave myself up to the pleasure of a beautiful windy day.---Michele Turner

Please join us as we explore Jungian ecopsychological terrain with Jeffrey Kiehl, Mary-Jayne Rust and Dennis Merritt for our April Presentation: Friday, April 29, 7-9 PM at 111 Superior Street, Victoria.

40 views1 comment