Activism: Ego Challenges

I remember sitting on the splintery, wooden pews of our country church, listening to scripture.  The minister’s monotone voice competed with the drone of the microphone, “Look at the birds of the air… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 25: 26-30).

Our farming fathers were duped by the interpretation of this scripture. They were Irish men who loved the earth, trusted her rhythms, knew the poetry of wind and work. Within a decade or so of those quiet Sundays, corporate farming ate their farms, making it impossible to make a living on anything less than thousands of acres and GMO seed. My father trusted this regime, felt it necessary to feed the people of the earth. He was more interested in plowing and planting than politics, and we all, the small farms of America, have paid ever since.

I wish we had been taught another interpretation of this passage, an interpretation of what Jungian analyst Ed Edinger calls the ego-Self axis, or the ego’s proper relationship to the Self. What are the matters of the ego and what are the matters of the Self? The more I am steeped in these questions, the humbler I feel. Our culture is so ego oriented, thinking we have control and dominance over so much, and I am embedded in this culture.

But really, ideally, the ego is a servant of the Self, helping navigate, and I believe, very much involved with the creation of soul. More like a farmer, really, a farmer of soil, a farmer of soul. Soul work necessarily involves a marriage of ego and spirit.

If there is too much ego agenda, we are cut off from what Carl Jung called  “the Self”, impoverished. The Self is of the realm of Spirit. We need vitality of Spirit; our purpose here on earth is to incarnate the energies of Spirit, grounding the divinity of Self.

The marriage of ego and spirit, the birth of soul, is not an equal 50/50 kind of thing, but a relationship involving that magical proportion of pi. Again I refer to Edinger. Edinger described the proportion of the golden mean or golden section as the ego’s proper relationship to the Self: the ratio of the lesser part to the greater part is the same as that of the greater part to the whole.

The challenge is mind-boggling, and the more I am confronted with land use issues, the more I am confronted with the arrogance of land ownership, including my own. Ego attitudes (lesser part) take precedence; the larger part (the Commons, which includes Nature) is usurped. We lose contact with the whole and enter a soulless existence.

A spiritual ritual leader reminded me this week that we do not own land. That the spirits of the land are independent and open to us, but we only serve them. Try to dominate?— we do so at our own peril, as we are finding out with climate change.

This week Donald and I are doing ceremony to feed the spirits of our ranch, of the meadow, of the creek, and the mountainside. For seven days we burn a special incense to feed the Nature Spirits, and on Thursday morning, a Tibetan lama will preform ritual in our home and on the land.

I wonder: if I spent as much time taking care of my relationships with the Nature Spirits and the land as I do with my human relationships, how would my life be different? How would it impact my activism? Collectively, if we all tended these relationships with Nature, how would it inform the laws we make and fight to preserve? Could it move land activism beyond power struggles?