Excerpts from Stephen Foster’s book Risky Business: A Jungian view of environmental disasters and the nature archetype. Inner City Press.

The Nature Archetype

I see the Nature archetype as ancient, vast and pervasive. Every other archetype in the human psyche comes out of it or is connected to it, including the Great Mother or feminine archetypes, and the Great Father or masculine archetypes. I believe it is a universal life force that has both physical form (earth, seas, mountains, etc.) and psychological power (it activates both instinctual and spiritual drives). The focus of this book is on the small fraction of the archetype that relates to the externalization (that is, dumping) of industrial and anthropogenic wastes onto the environment.

It is impossible to talk about the Nature archetype without discussing creation mythology because creation myths are about “the origins of man’s conscious awareness of the world” (von Franz, 1972, pg. 8). Humanity developed self-awareness of consciousness in relation to an “other.”  Early in our history the Other was nature. IT is the place where we become self-aware, for example, in the arms of the m(other). Consequently, there is a great deal of creation mythology related to nature. As Marie-Louise von Franz notes, myths indicate that humanity found a way to conceptualize a psychological beginning, where we first perceived ourselves as separate from nature. From being in participation mystique with our environment, we developed into a state of separateness, then began to realize our vulnerability to the power of nature and sought to gain dominion over it. Jung writes:

“In the course of its ontogenetic development, the individual ego consciousness has to pass through the same archetypal stages which determined the evolution of consciousness in the life of humanity. (Jung, CW 5, par. 26).

Jung is suggesting that psychologically we repeat patterns of human cultural development in our individual biological development. Therefore, our separation from what Jung calls an Ouroboric state (unconsciousness)( in nature is equivalent to the separation from our personal mother.