Pagan Paths

The morning sun rising in the east calls to the Bright Youth in me, and the Bright Youth responds. The full moon calls to the Muse, and the waning and dark moon to the Dark Maiden who is a part of me. The earth I touch with my fingers calls to the Mother, in both her guises, Nurturing and Devouring. The bright green shoots rising from the earth and the green leaves on the trees on my street in the spring, these call to the Stag King, while the red leaves fallen to the earth in the autumn call to the Dying God. The spring storm that rises up suddenly in the west calls to the Storm King. The night sky, the dark space between the stars, calls to Mother Night, my death come to make peace. The gods-without call and the gods-within respond.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form


This essay was originally published at 

"Solastalgia" by Kate McDowell

"If we surrendered to eath's intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like tree."

-- Rainer Maria Rilke


"... and what the soul is, also I believe I will never quite know. Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing, but looking, and touching, and loving, which is the way I walked on ..."

-- Mary Oliver, "Bone"

In 1963, Robert Greenway coined the term "psycho-ecology" to describe the intersection of psychology and ecology. He also coined the term "Wilderness Effect" to refer to the psychological impact of extended stays in wild nature. Following Greenway, a growing body of writers came to see that our relationship with non-human reality, even if largely unconscious, is one of the most significant facts of human life, and one which we humans ignore at our peril. For example, in his 1982 book, Nature and Madness, Paul Shepard argued that healthy psychological development requires that children be bonded to nature and adolescents initiated into its mysteries. He also argued that there is a kind of literal madness in our destruction of our environment. Then, in 1992, Theodore Roszak coined the term "ecopsychology" to describe study of the interaction of psyche and nature.

Much of modern psychology assumes a divide between inner reality (mind) and outer reality (nature). The central problem of ecopsychology is to overcome this divide. The human mind does not stand wholly apart from the natural world, but is deeply rooted in and intertwined with it. Ecopsychology sees the human psyche as a phenomenon of nature, an aspect of the larger "psyche" of nature or "soul of the world" (anima mundi). By expanding the scope of psychology to include study of the relationship between humans and nature, ecopsychologists hope to give truer picture of human psychology.

By ignoring this relationship between the mind and nature, modern psychology helps to perpetuate the Western industrial world's destructive state of estrangement from its Earth home, which has disastrous consequences for both our psyches and for the environment. Ecopsychologists maintain that the pursuit of mental and emotional well-being, on the one hand, and environmental health, on the other, are closely intertwined tasks -- indeed, they are inseparable. John Davis explains the ecopsychological perspective in this way: "The deep and enduring psychological questions--who we are, how we grow, why we suffer, how we heal--are inseparable from our relationships with the physical world. Similarly, the over-riding environmental questions--the sources of, consequences of, and solutions to environmental problems--are deeply rooted in the psyche, our images of self and nature, and our behaviors."

Ecopsychologists believe that our psychological well-being requires establishing mature, reciprocal relationships with the natural world. Direct encounters with the natural world foster mental health and facilitate healing of emotional trauma and recovery from addictions, reduction of stress and strengthening of self-confidence, as well as cultivating peak experiences and fostering spiritual growth. Ecopsychological practices also include working with the grief, anger, and guilt caused by environmental destruction. Ecopsychology overlaps with various ecologically-oriented psychotherapies (Gestalt, body-centered, Jungian, transpersonal), as well as wilderness rites of passage, nature-based soul work, neo-shamanism, deep ecological councils, and other experiential programs for reconnecting with nature.

Ecopsychologists also explore the psychological dimension of the current ecological crisis, and trace the destruction of the natural environment to a consumeristic, ego-driven, Earth-alienated psychology. What is needed, according to ecopsychologists, is a realization of our "ecological self". We need to cultivate an experience of nature, not as a resource pool for human use, but as the larger community of life of which we humans are a part. In this way, ecopsychologists hope to promote more effective strategies for environmental action and lifestyles which are environmentally and psychologically sustainable.

Recommended links:

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, ed. by Theodore Roszak

The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology by Theodore Roszak

Jung and Ecopsychology: The Dairy Farmer's Guide to the Universe by Dennis Merrit


Last modified on
John Halstead also writes at (Patheos),,,,, and The Huffington Post. He was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” (, and the editor of the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. John is also a Shaper of the fledgling Earthseed community ( To speak with John, contact him on Facebook.


Additional information