Spirit of the Wild

Jan. 13, 2017

The attributes of wildness are empowering in a personal, spiritual way. Not in the illusionary way of spirit being some “immortal substance exempt from the law of change or impermanence” (Fisher, 2002).  But spirit in a sense of a ground of being or life force underlying or permeating through all of existence that transcends one's individual sense of self (Schroeder, 1992). As modern people freed themselves from superstitions, nature was stripped of its mystery and sacredness (Jung and Sabini, 2002). Sacred generally means having a religious purpose, but Snyder (1990) defines sacred as that which takes human beings out of their little selves and into the temple of wilderness. A rational response to the idea of spirit, soul or mystical states would be to say that such subjective experiences cannot be proven, cannot be quantified. Language, which frames mechanisms of evidentiary value, does not seem to be able to provide explicit descriptions of transcendental processes. These logical arguments are mute to one who has experienced the reverie, resonance and grace of connection to the spirit of the world. The personal, genuine experience brings spirit/soul into the realm of the ordinary. Although modern rationalism interprets mystical states as supernatural, the wild within experiences the mystery of the mystical as perfectly natural.

Having evolved in the complexity of nature, the artificial constructions of modern life leave many people bored and apathetic. People accept substitutes, imitations and artificial dramas because relevant experience is unclaimed (Turner, 1996). Wild is the way of nature and natural beings. Wild is the eternal pattern of being/becoming, waxing/waning that nature teaches and which mirrors the patterns of life. Snyder (1990) calls these values grandmother wisdom, which he claims are contradictory to the codes that serve centralization, hierarchy and hegemony. Materialistically driven values encourage wastefulness, carelessness, envy and a stingy spirit and modern people live with the tension between acquiring stuff or treating others with integrity, generosity and compassion (Synder, 1990). For example, even though we are aware of the terrible conditions of factory workers in other nations, people line-up to buy the latest electronic device produced by these workers. Modern lifestyles are maintained by electricity, mostly created by burning coal. The comforts of electricity come at the expense of unhealthy work conditions for miners, unhealthy air for living things and the destruction of land and water resources. Without a spiritual ground, social justice issues will not be resolved.

When people are disassociated from the source of spirit/soul, the psyche is fragmented and disoriented, which leads to unhealthy manifestations such as neurosis, psychosis, personality disorders, mania, anxiety, depression, obsessions and additions (Fisher, 2002; Jung and Sabini, 2002; Plotkin, 2013). Psychologists treat symptoms as if the symptom is the problem rather than an indication of the deeper root of problem, which is spiritual impoverishment and lack of meaningful lives (Turner, 1996). Psychotropic drugs and years of therapy may temporarily mask the symptoms of a soulless world, but wilderness and wild expression is the tonic, the spiritual cure for trauma or an anguish of the soul (Turner, 1996). What if the primary need of human beings is to “fathom and flesh out our natural human wholeness and to embody this integral bounty as a gift to others and the world?” (Plotkin, 2013). Reclaiming ancient wisdom traditions and adapting the traditions to be more accessible to modern ways of living will allow the wild within to flourish. In addition, Turner (1996) claims, without the integration of spiritual practices in one’s life that promote health and wholeness, the environmental crises of our time will not be resolved. Re-wilding practices that facilitate human growth include meditation, daily routines in natural environments, artistic expression, seasonal activities on special days (equinox and solstice), and also rites of passage.

As society becomes more industrialized and urbanized, nature is no longer considered sacred; it is simply real estate or a commodity. If spiritual dimension involves developing the capacity to love, can we learn to love what we cannot possess? Nature is not an object; it is an event, a process, a mirror (Liberman, 2007). If the goal of life is dynamic growth, then humans should mirror this life pattern to participate fully in the evolution of human consciousness. As empirical scientists collect data on isolated components of nature, they miss the value of the whole (Shepard 1998). Predominate scientific, mechanistic worldview of nature as an inanimate object is hegemonic (Morgain, 2013). This hegemony must be challenged to reclaim the world as animated with life and to remember that the physical and spiritual lives of people are linked to nature and the intuitive wild within. This broader experience of living reconnects one with the great mystery of vital life energy where time and space slip out of material dimensions and into the realm of possibilities and potentialities (Fisher, 2002). Fisher (2002) states, “As the soul is without world, so the world is without soul.”  The wild within opens the door to meaningful spiritual experiences, mystical participation in the rhythms of life and compassionate earth-centered values.

I have added some books to the book page regarding the concept of wild. Check them out.