Imaginal Ecology – The Indestructible Life Force and the Labyrinth of Being.

Introduction: The Greater Beauty and the Poetic Basis of mind

“We see the individual hedgehog, or whale but we miss the Greater Beauty” Chris Packham, tv presenter and ecologist.

Human beings are part of a “greater beauty”- a deep ecological interconnectedness. This beauty is a dreaming beauty, a poetic beauty that includes all of what we know of ourselves, from our bones to our science to our intuitions and visionary abilities. Our ecological reality is directly under threat from our excessive collective appetites – the normalisation of mass consumerism. The ICPCC warnings make it clear about the reality of climate breakdown and the loss of wildlife around us. We have a clear message from our climate scientists, that their careful measurements and modelling show a world of depleted wildlife and broken climatic systems. A world where rising carbon makes the Earth increasingly parched, unpredictable, stormy, deserted.

Consider the damage, the loss of wildlife, topsoil, and the dangers headed our way. Have our species’ actions always all along been “a part of nature?” Or is our culture alienated from it’s origins in nature? Who are we as a species, and as individuals, how to make sense of it? 

My own path led me not only to the path of becoming a therapist, but also to the path of nature. I worked at a community farm, and took on an allotment, learned about permaculture and ecology.

This grounding in the practical reality of the seasons, of the way plants grow and the mysteries of the ecological, make the tale of Dionysos all the more poignant to me.

  Conventional therapy, like certain aspects of the western mindset, does not always make space for the wild redeemer, Dionysos, the bringer of visions from nature.  It excludes him in the same way,  as it does not alway make space for our intimate connection to ecological nature. We need help with our personal problems, we more than this we need help to find the greater beauty they sit within.

Ecotherapist Jane Glenzinza echoes this when she says that “all mentions of nature having a restorative effect on humans MUST be accompanied by an encouragement for humans to have a restorative effect on nature.  That ‘nature connection’ needs to be symbiotic rather than extractive.” 

A mythic ecology holds that this symbiosis is an intimate one, that happens within the depths of what we consider our interiority, our inner selves.

The myths of Dionysos and Aridne offers a number of archetypal patterns around the themes of the intense experience of the archetypal in human life and the need to ground it in the ecological, and in the following and loss of threads through labyrinths, betrayal and redemption.

Dionysos and the mythos around him reveals the need to ground the intoxication of the senses in service to nature.  He is present at the primorial birth of fire as an aspect of Phanes.  He is ripped apart by Titans and gradually becomes less divine and more human, born again from the ashes of his heart and genitals.  Unlike any other god he undergoes the trial of madness, and overcomes this only through an initiation into nature.

His lady, Ariadne, keeper of the golden threads through the labyrinth has to undergo betrayal in love in order to find constancy.  She know the ways through the labyrinth, but cannot at first read her own heart, trusting the faithless Theseus with it.    She knows the deep secrets of the underworld but not the mundane secret of how to read another person.

These two seem to have been matched at least as far back as Cretan theosophy, and together seem to suggest something about how an imaginal ecology can become known – the indescriminate life force that charges through our nervous system and our blood, needs to meet with a beloved who can see through the brutality of a Minotaur. Dionysos is long associated with the bull,  and the underworld.  In Ariadne, he finds a companion that knows the need to follow the golden threads – intuitive pathways through the darkness; yet also to tie them to the doorway that leads within.

The mythos of the bullman and the lady of the labyrinth runs deep – and the threads of cosmology,madness and ecosophy are picked up more here: