“What makes you think you can ravage me as though it didn’t matter?”
This blog will return to the subject of the Borderland that I wrote about on October 8. The inspiration for that blog was the work of Jungian analyst Jerome Bernstein, and he gave a talk Friday at a program by the C.G. Jung Institute of Santa Fe.
The title of Bernstein’s book, Living in the Borderland, refers to a psychic sensitivity that he believes is becoming increasingly common in the Western world. He describes it as a sense of oneness with nature that once characterized all of humanity. According to the foundation myth of Western civilization, it came to an end with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Bernstein refers to the loss of this sense of oneness as “the psyche left behind.”
This break may have been essential to the development of the Western ego and all our advances in science and technology. However, it also seems to have brought us to a very perilous place where the survival of our species is open to question. Through the proliferation of Borderland consciousness, we may, according to Bernstein, reach a critical mass capable of mitigating the incoming crisis of global warming.
The lecture hall was packed, and one of the most powerful moments came when Bernstein shared with us a video of animal communicator Anna Breytenbach working with baboons. It’s so much easier to see how Borderland consciousness manifests than just to read or hear about it. You may not be able to get through this, though, without tears welling up.
Bernstein used newspaper commentary by a scientist to illustrate the loss of the connection with nature that Anna enjoys. In his essay, “Our Lonely Home in Nature,” Alan Lightman, a physicist at MIT, wrote this spring about his insights during an anxious moment on a two-week sailing adventure in the Greek Isles. He and his wife were never in danger, but when he became aware of the potential to be swamped by a “fierce dry wind called the meltemi,” his fear took over and framed a presence of “insensible power.”
His interpretation beautifully illustrated the Western ego’s psychic alienation from nature. Ironically, Lightman began by citing a “strongly felt kinship and oneness” with nature. However, it was clear that his sense of kinship had been inspired by books and paintings, not by a personal, on-the-ground connection. He spoke of nature as mindless, purposeless, and “oblivious to whether homo sapiens lives or dies in the next hundred years.” The warning was to take care of ourselves, “because we have only ourselves to protect us.”
Bernstein proceeded to compare this perspective with the belief of Navajos that everything in the natural world is conscious. They also believe that we can commune with it through humility, trust, and a different use of language. Bernstein’s ongoing work is to bring together the Western psyche and the psyche left behind through the sharing of stories and the development of protocols to bridge the divide.
He left his audience with an unforgettable image that beautifully illustrated the idea of earth consciousness. It is of the Richat Structure in Mauritania, also known as the Giant Blue Eye of Africa. A mysterious geologic formation, it is said by some to bear an uncanny resemblance to the circular design of the island of Atlantis as described by Plato. The Eye was given the voice of Mother Earth by Bernstein that I quoted in the beginning: “What makes you think you can ravage me as though it didn’t matter?”
Jerome Bernstein believes that as the threat of annihilation through global warming rises, there will be a stronger and stronger push toward reconnecting with the pre-Eden psyche. He expects Borderland consciousness to dominate by the end of the century. One gets the idea from him that this will ensure the survival of at least some of the human species, but it may be close.