I Was Blind, And Now I See: Healing through the Numinous
Photo Credit: Judy Cole

I Was Blind, And Now I See: Healing through the Numinous

By Lola Wilcox

Definition: numinous is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word Numinous was popularized by Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige (1917; translated into English as The Idea of the Holy, 1923). According to Lionel Corbett, writing in The Religious Function of the Psyche Otto took his term “from the Latin numen, meaning a god, cognate with the verb nuere, to nod or beckon, indicating divine approval”.  (All definitions from Wikipedia with additions from Comfort Zone ONLINE)


Our planet as we know it is in immediate danger of death by extremely brutal abuse; 2030 is the current death date. Dave Roberts, reporting on a Nature article in GRIST. 7 Jun 2012) says “We’re about to push the Earth over the brink”. We know that in nature there can be critical thresholds; there are millions of passenger pigeons, and then, suddenly, there is a collapse and they are extinct. Ecological systems can shift abruptly and irreversibly. We are at that threshold.

In recent times we have returned to the concept of the Earth as a living being, Gaia, because of James Lovelock and others. Many cultures believe the earth’s physical matter incorporates a divine being, e.g. Mother Earth. The Earth is Other than us, and yet we are part of it. Seen from space, its numinous nature seems to shine against the black space of the universe.

When people return to the earth from a disastrous experience in space or at sea, they often kneel or lie down on the earth, or lift up the soil and kiss it. The expression appears to be gratitude for being home. Many people garden or go fishing or have myriad other ways of being in contact with the earth. And many others have little or no comprehension of the nature of the planet and her needs.

The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things: for fire before the hands, for water welling up from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.

— Henry Beston, The Outermost House

What can we do to heal this situation, both in us and for the numinous earth? The planet and all its creatures need healing, to move from disconnection to connection, from raping to reciprocity. Could healing occur if we collectively remember that the planet and all creatures are holy, and a numinous presence is everywhere, beckoning us to see the possibility of Eden?


Many people are engaged actively in some action to help, from recycling to using their vacations in Africa to plant trees where the forests have been decimated. Many want to do more, feeling doing a little bit here or there isn’t enough, but don’t know how or can’t bring themselves to making radical changes to their energy footprint. Others are traumatized, finding the world harsh and unfriendly. Many numb themselves, focusing on the moment, or zoning. Others are employed in the destruction. How is it that a person can climb into the cab of a bulldozer, and clear acres of rainforest? How can a person run a chain saw, and cut down a redwood tree that is hundreds of years old?

The woman was born, and lived exclusively for twenty-seven years in the center of a very large city. Her work required her to leave the city, get on an airplane and go west to complete a project. Her company arranged for her to stay at a bed and breakfast near the offices where she would be working. The B&B was called The Treehouse. The taxi brought her from the airport through a wooded lane where she felt immediately frightened and enclosed; she felt she could not get enough air. Her upstairs room was very beautifully appointed, but two walls had windows that looked out into the treetops. These trees were old, with thick branches that creaked, and leaves that made a constant rustling noise.  She tried to shut out the sounds, closing the curtains. But the breeze increased and the sounds of the trees surrounding the house were inescapable. By nightfall she was terrified, almost unable to call the owners and get help. The owners came immediately, saw her pale face and shallow breathing, and asked if she wanted medical attention. She screamed that she just wanted away from the trees. They helped her pack her bag before the taxi arrived to take her to a downtown high-rise hotel. When they called her to see how she was doing, she said it had taken her several hours to calm down. It was as if the trees were living beings, and trying to contact her, she said, but she could breathe now, and was no longer trembling. (Owner story, TreeHouse, 1988, Denver)

Having never been around them, the Tree-Woman has no comprehension of the nature of trees, in themselves or in relationship to her. A person who has never thought of a tree as its own being, a numinous being, does not mourn for its loss. We see photos of indigenous leaders world wide trying to explain their knowledge, their reality to people who lack any comprehension, or who realize that to begin to see as the indigenous see will shut down monetary pursuits.

In 1991 four crates of chickens way-stationed in Denver in a garage, on their way from Wyoming to Texas. During their four-week layover the chickens nested eggs, much to the delight of neighbor children, who took an egg or two home for breakfast. One exception was a small girl who said, “I would never eat this; it’s dirty.” When asked where she thought eggs came from she replied “the store”. (Author experience)

This child could starve to death in a barnyard. On this planet people are starving because they cannot grow or access the food that could feed them; food comes from some place other than where they are. Many of these people do not know how plants grow. Many farmers are convinced that pesticides are necessary, and ignore the dead zone in the Gulf. We can now grow plants that cannot seed, cut off from being able to reproduce. Small farmers, especially organic farmers, are under political and legal attack in the U.S. and Canada. We are on the brink of a worldwide food crisis, with millions of people going hungry.

In the two examples of the Tree-Woman and the No Egg-Girl we see the status nascendi of the problem.  People are separated from knowledge of what other forms of life are like. People are disconnected from the source of their breakfast. The conditions of separation and disconnection create a resistance to change. For some people a 180-degree of change in consciousness necessary to recognize the problem and become part of the solution. Carl Jung comments that one “can meet the demands of outer necessity in an ideal way only if one is adapted to one’s own inner world, that is, in harmony with one’s self. Conversely, one can only adapt to one’s inner world and achieve harmony with one’s self when one is adapted to the environmental conditions”. (Jung, Vol. 8, Dynamics of Personality, p. 39) How does an individual move from a state of separation and disconnection to create a reciprocal, harmonious balance of consciousness?


There are five different realities that may offer five different approaches to moving into a more conscious state, where one is able to see the problem, and able to work to bring healing, to the self, to the planet and to its people.

Factual, Physical Reality 

The woman afraid of trees is distressed because she has never in factual, physical reality been around them. Forests (with oceans) are the planet’s lungs. They breathe in carbon dioxide, and breathe out oxygen, creating a balance. They are a primary source of life. The woman may know this fact, but she does not know the nature of trees.  Perhaps it is essential we know about the nature of trees before we will be able to be about the business of defending, protecting, healing them.

The No Egg Child lacks fundamental pieces of knowledge. Chickens lay eggs. When we don’t recognize the chicken as a living being, with an individual spark of the divine within, we can put them in cages where they never walk, or genetically engineer them to be without feathers. We buy the eggs laid by these enslaved beings because free-range eggs cost too much. We are very removed from the natural processes of planting and breeding, growing and harvesting. It is important to understand where food comes from in physical reality, and to use those facts to support right choices.

Physical reality is about the body. If we fall down we come to a place immediately or a little after where we look at our scraped knee to see how badly we are bleeding. We may have fallen for any number of psychological or even spiritual reasons, and we may interpret the event as a metaphor or message. But the fact is that the knee is scraped and bleeding, and something specific needs to be done: cleaning up and applying aids with the intent that the wound will heal. It is the planet, the body of the planet, that is wounded and needs healing.

The reality of global climate change is part of our factual, physical reality. Those who stand to lose the most economically argue the facts. But for five years now Swiss chard winters over in northern gardens, and the forests are burning. If we can open our eyes to changes in our physical place on the planet, we can begin to live in a factual reality. The facts will be frightening. 

An injured raccoon was captured one night in a very large city by gang members, who wrapped it up in a blanket. They, tattooed and pierced, arrived at the Zoo, and demanded the raccoon be taken in and cared for. They recognized the Otherness of the raccoon, and took it the one place in their environment where there were others of its kind. (Detroit Zoo story)

Historic Reality

In this time in history it is possible to live in an urban center with so few trees the nature of trees is unknown. One can eat meals with no understanding of how food is processed. This separation leads to a prototype of a food factory in Brazil, where, according to Nicanor Perlas in the article “Technological Singularity and the Biodynamic Movement” (Stella Natura Biodyanmic Calendar 2012):

  • Synthetic biologists have made new kinds of amiono acis not existing before in nature.
  • With these new amino acids they hope to build new kinds of DNA sequences as well as bacteria and other microorganisms….
  • With these novel microorganisms, they hope to be able to reduce all kinds of biomass, whether shrubs, trees, tough grasses, etc., into a kind of biochemical pulp.
  • And out of these homogenized materials they hope to be able to engineer and manufacture food, beverages, and other products needed for human consumption and industrial uses.
  • They expect commercial scale well before 2045.

Scientists who think in terms of biomass production do not recognize the numinous nature of the trees. Tree-Woman and No Egg Girl will not notice what their food is made of or care. Already, Wal-Mart reported $244 billion in food sales in 2004, more than the next four chains combined. (Richard Longworth).

Worldwide awareness of food and farming fosters very important political big-versus-little battles. Many urban communities are exploring farming common or unused space. People are relearning how to garden, how to preserve food. In preparation for the coming food shortages, people are stocking one month to three years of food for their families. Costco provides ready to go packages of freeze-dried food. The Mormon site Provident Living explains just how to go about preparing for a food crisis successfully.

Audubon, Nature Conservancy, Rainforest protection networks – many agencies are involved in the protection of trees and reforestation. It is easy to get involved. Our point in history is in an age of biological destruction, and we are the primary agents, both of the destruction and of its healing. The planet is ill, and we are not isolated from the sickness. We are also the physicians, diagnosing, and proposing cures.

In Denver, two children in a downtown condo asked if they could plant some seeds in the condo garden. Told yes, one each, they chose pumpkins and sunflowers. By summer’s end the pumpkin vine grew along the entire front of the building, full of brilliant yellow flowers. The sunflowers nodded overhead. People told the children all summer how wonderful their plants were, how cheerful, and fun. There were pumpkins for Halloween. (Author’s condo)

We are now in a window of historic time during which it is still possible to act.  … If we do nothing it may soon be too late to do anything. The people who are alive today are critical to the future of the world. If nothing is done by us, our descendants will have few options. We can project with some accuracy the eventual end of the natural world as we know it. That is, no trees. No wildlife. … People will survive. But they will live in the future equivalent of caves, insulated from the environment.  (Jan Beyea, former Audubon Science Division)

Psychological Reality

In this time in history it is possible to live in an urban center with so few trees the nature In our Tree Woman’s psychological reality she is terrified of the presences, the looks, the sounds of trees. She is traumatized by the natural world. In 2005, Richard Louv wrote a book Last Child in the Woods that coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder. He says:

As children and adults spend less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically. Studies indicate that time spent in nature can stimulate intelligence and creativity, and can be powerful therapy for the toxic stress in our lives, and as prevention for such maladies as obesity, myopia, and depression. It has huge implications for the ability to self-regulate and for attention-deficit disorder.

As Jung states in Dynamics of Personality people have ways of protecting themselves from disturbing situations. They close their minds, becoming a closed system where little new information or experience is permitted. Entering into nature provides new experience for the body, new symbols for the psyche. Energy is released for “acts of will”, which include the act of healing. In Transcendent Function, Jung talks about the self-regulating nature of the psyche, and then says that modern people are far removed from that natural possibility,

…the psyche of civilized man is no longer a self-regulating system but could rather be compared to a machine whose self-regulation is so insensitive that it can continue to function to the point of self-injury… (Carl Jung, In Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche)

A major part of psychological healing is in how to restore that self-regulation, both inwardly in the psyche and outwardly in the physical body, and bring those elements of the Self into harmony. We need healed individuals capable of encompassing the external disasters of our historic reality, and able to will appropriate courses of action.

Mythic Reality

In mythic reality the Tree Woman has stumbled into the forest where there is no path, far from the prescribed boundaries of urban life. Many hero/ines enter the forest for healing. The story will open with clues to the psychological situation that the hero/ine will attempt to solve through their passage along the Road of Trials. The forest is understood to be a numinous place, a dangerous place. The needed change will begin to happen as the hero/ine enters another realm of consciousness and meets the Other.

In the Faery Realms the numinous Other can be friendly, neutral or unfriendly to contact. The stories have very specific instructions about how to act in the numinous realm:

  • be clear about your intent in being here  (I’m going to… I’m looking for…”
  • ask questions, beware of the trickster answer
  • be helpful to those you meet (share your bread, water, cloak: reciprocity)
  • ask for the help you want
  • beware against eating or drinking there; you can’t leave (pomegranate seeds)
  • remember time passes at a slower pace in the Other realms (Rip Van Winkle)

In Mythic reality the needed experience is with a difficult, non-human Other who may only help if the hero/ine comes with an acceptable attitude or stance.  It is the humble Simpleton who wins through where the skills and pride of preceding humans did not.

In Beauty and the Beast the merchant father is lost in the forest in a storm. He is guided to the Beast’s castle and provided food and bed. In the morning he steals a rose for Beauty’s gift, and meets the roaring Beast. If Beauty will come to the castle, the Beast will spare the father’s life. And when Beauty comes she learns to see that the Beast understands her wants and needs, and kindly provides for them. Beauty is fascinated by the Beast, attracted, and compelled. He asks her to marry him, but only at the moment of the Beast’s death is she able to see his worth, his true character.  In that moment, as her shift in viewpoint transforms her ability to love, he too is transformed.

Definition: According to Otto, the numinous experience has in addition to the tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling, a quality of fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other.  

The numinous surrounds Beauty in the Beast’s palace. While he yearns for her, longs for her to understand, it takes her time to recognize what is happening, time to integrate what she is perceiving, and time to understand a new course of action. The Beast provides her with that time (he has no other choice), but he asks the question nightly, calling her to consciousness.

In mythic reality our endangered unto death planet might be our Beast, and we are Beauty, trying to understand the nature of what is necessary to save the Beast’s life. Can we love enough to say “yes” to “this blue green planet, this fragile earth, our island home”? (Episcopal Prayer Book)

Spiritual Reality

Mysterium tremendum is described in The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley in the following terms:

The literature of religious experience abounds in references to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the incompatibility between man’s egotism and the divine purity, between man’s self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God.

Tree Woman came face to face with a numinous opportunity from which she fled because of her fear. At that moment, to connect with the trees was outside her potential; she could not accept the possibility. It seems harsh to say her egotism kept her from divine purity, and yet her self-aggravated separateness kept her from the numinous trees.  Up to this point she, consciously or unconsciously, chose to lack experience of trees, and was unprepared to be in a house among them. She was vulnerable to their wild presence arising with tremendous impact into her urban consciousness.

Father Dumphey, a Roman Catholic priest in Colorado, says, “We are surrounded by the sacred 24/7. To become conscious of the Sacred’s Presence at all times is the way to healing.” How does one become conscious of the numinous in the tree?  How does one sit with the tree, and heal both one’s self and the tree? 

A numinous experience involves being in contact with something Other than one’s own self. The Numinous External Physical world is available for contact. The trees, the chickens are there, their leaves turning colors, their feathers glistening in the sun. As with the religious idea of Grace, the numinous world is available to all people at all moments of time. A person either rejects life with numinous dimensions, accepts life with them, or remains unaware and therefore vulnerable to erupting numinous experiences.

The un-accepting individual may recognize the Other – there is a tree – but refuses the opportunity to be in relationship. It is as if they exist in a web of life they are unable to see or experience, only able to know separateness, independence, and, perhaps, domination. This person tends to ridicule those people who do enter into communication with the Other, labeling them as primitive, superstitious, delusional.  What if it is the experience of separateness that is a delusional state? What if to live with numinous possibilities is the natural, healthy way of being? What if to live unaware of the Other, or rejecting it, constricts the human experience and causes illness? Healing would require entering into a state of being where communication with the Other is possible.  What would be healed if we saw every interaction with a living Other as an opportunity to be part of the numinous heart of the earth?

Let’s imagine that Tree Woman feels badly about her fear once back in the city. Perhaps she notices a tree that has always been on her way to the commuter train. She decides to observe the tree, and in a year sees it encompass all four seasons. Perhaps in the fall she stoops on the way home and picks up a particularly beautiful leaf, and puts it on the dining room table, looking at it during meals.  Perhaps a friend asks her to go to the Botanic Gardens, and she walks among calmer trees unafraid.  Perhaps a summer storm finds her stopping, listening to the rain falling on the leaves of her tree.  Perhaps she comes to love the tree, not as an extension of herself, but as a being truly Other from her, one beautiful and worthy of her attention. 


Connecting to the life force of trees directly is possible.  Here is one training method.

  1. Find a tree that casts a shadow where you can sit a little distance from it on the sun side.
  2. Position yourself where your shadow can approach, touch, and move up the tree trunk.
  3. Sit down at least three to five steps from where your shadow will begin to touch the tree; if possible sit at the drip line of the branches – the edge of the roots.
  4. Observe the tree.  Learn the trunk, the way the branches divide, and how the leaves hang on the branches. Imagine the great circle of the roots.
  5. Breathe, and reflect that the tree is breathing, as part of the lungs of the earth.
  6. Meditate with the tree while your shadow lengthens towards it; observe the tree’s shadow lengthening on the far side of the tree. Feel the roots beneath you.
  7. When your shadow joins the tree, let it become part of the tree, and the tree’s shadow: one being of shadows, relatives in life.  Thank the tree for being a part of the your place in the world, for its gifts to you, for its relationship to air, etc.
  8. When ready to leave, rise and bow. Purposefully say goodbye and back away down the shadow path, or circle the tree and walk out along its shadow.

Observe how you relate to all trees now – see them, greet them as you walk by.

In the smallest concrete environment, like a prison cell, or a studio apartment near a major traffic intersection, it is still possible to stand, turn and meet the four primary directions, calling into the self the land below, the sky above, the address of this exact place.  In that simple act the individual can become conscious of planet energies.  Even in looking to see what the weather is, and taking our umbrella with us because of “possible showers”, we become conscious of the larger reality of the place where we live.


Contrast our time in history with one described poetically in the Carmina Gadelica, by Alexander Carmichael.

The farmer’s wife rises in the morning, and goes to the fireplace, saying:

I raise the hearth-fire; the encirclement of the Holy Ones
Be on the fire, and on the floor, and on the household all. (variation #83)

She milks the cow, singing:

Bless my little cow, bless my desire, bless thou my partnership
And the milking of my hands. Bless each teat, each finger.
Bless each drop that goes into my pitcher. (#373)

The fire, the Holy Ones, the cow are Other, numinous beings, recognized by the farm wife and spoken to as part of her daily life. She offers daily communication with the Other.  She leans her head against a warm, hairy belly, her fingers pull at brown-pink teats, her ears hear splashes of the milk against the bucket’s walls, her nose smells clean straw, earth, milk, cow. She is immersed in the experience.

It may not be a numinous moment every day; today she may be out of balance, or the cow might be distressed and not interested in being milked at this exact moment by this particular human.  Perhaps the numinous is found on the other side of a kind of threshold, a place of passage into another sphere of being.  Perhaps it occurs only now and then for the housewife, this passage into the realm of shared desire and partnership.  Perhaps the numinous accumulates in some invisible manner in her, until she is ripened, full; perhaps the same ripening is occurring in the Other, so that when they each cross the threshold towards the Other, a reciprocity of equal fullness balances and heals both.

In the field, the farmer’s roughened hands hold the plow’s curved wooden handles, and its straps are over his shoulder and around his waist. He watches the blade furrow the earth, cutting a curving of the soil in a wave-like rise and fall. Sunlight enters the dark earth. His heart lifts, and he begins to sing.

Every seed will take root in the earth, as the Elements desire. The braird will
come forth with the dew; it will inhale life from the soft wind.

I will come round with my step, and go rightways with the sun. Holy Ones, be
giving growth and kindly substance to everything that is in my ground.

On the feast day of Michael (Lugh, Odin) I will put my sickle round about the root of my
corn; I will lift the first cut quickly; I will put it three turns round my head,
saying my rune the while, my back to the airt of the north, my face to the
fair sun of power. (#88)

These prayers are not magical dreams. They may serve “as a sort of programming process to prepare a person psychologically for the task he (she) is about to perform”. (Jung, Dynamics of Personality, VII Canalization of Energy)  These prayers describe a way of living in reciprocity, offering through ritual and song conscious awareness of the numinous Other, a recognition of what is required to be in right relationship between the prayer maker and the seeded earth.  Once the threshold is crossed, the numinous experienced, a longing, a yearning to be with the Other draws the threshold closer, and the steps to it become more familiar.

The woman worked long hours in a position of great corporate responsibility, traveling often around the United States. Her mother was ill, and on a slope towards death.  Her husband was in the process of retiring, creating a variety of new pressures at home.  One night she woke to find a full moon shining in her bedroom window, filling the room with light. She could not lie in bed; she got up and went to the window, looking up at the perfect circle of light.  She thought she was standing in the presence of a great silver being. She found herself first lifting her arms, swaying, and then moving her feet, turning in a slow, circular, silent dance. The next day she found a Moon Calendar in the bookstore, and made a point to observe the cycle of  full, partial, and dark of the moon.  When the moon was full she danced with its light in her sleeping room, at home or on the road.  She developed an ability to be calm by rising above a situation and observing it. (Co-worker Ancedote)

How to create a threshold into a place of reciprocity?

It might be useful to think about three levels of reciprocity:

Level One is the ability to step outside of yourself and see, hear, feel, touch, recognize the Other as a separate being.

Level Two is to recognize you are in common with one another: in communion, in communication, in community.

Level Three is to love the Other without judgment.

In Beauty and the Beast, both characters pass through these three levels of reciprocity. At the beginning of their relationship the Beast’s interest in Beauty is as the person who can release him from his spell; her interest in him is to fulfill her Father’s obligation from taking the Beast’s rose for her. They do not know one another at all, and the first part of their relationship is about discovering exactly who the other being is. From this understanding they develop a friendship based in respect and recognition of each entity’s generosity.  And finally, Beauty returns to the Beast, deciding to marry him. When he turns from Beast to Prince, Beauty asks, “Where is my Beast?” (Beaumont version) The Prince, when his mother threatens to separate him from the merchant class Beauty, says, “Let me return to my Beastly state for there we may love one another.” They love the Other so much they would return to their wounded states rather than give up the ability to love each other.

Another possibility of Level III reciprocity exists when people are on opposite sides of a fight. For example, the rainforest shaman and the tree cutter are Other, outside the realm of each one’s understanding. The tension of being connected to the other is a foundation for transcendence. Healing can come when both cross the threshold, and see each other without judgment. Jung comments in Transcendent Function, “ For, to the degree that one does not admit the validity of the other person, one denies the “other” within the right to exist – and vice versa.”

The gap of consciousness between the Tree Woman and the Moon Woman is vast.  The Moon Woman might teach Tree Woman how to approach the numinous without fear. Tree Woman might teach Moon Woman that liminal space can be dangerous, and to be there all day, every day is not desirable even if possible.

The woman’s husband contracted a disease that would, over many years, remove his ability to move.  In the last decade, communication became reading consciousness in his eyes, with perhaps now and then a slight purposeful droop of an eyelid to indicate a choice. As a crisis would come and pass, and another, and another, she began to perceive that he was Other, a different being, no longer human in the way she was, connected to another reality than hers. She perceived that healing had its own indiscernible, inscrutable life that, she said, could only be received with gratitude and grace and a lot of fortitude, because riding in the wave of numinosity can be a tumultuous experience. It takes a lot of integration, and time for that integration to take place.  (Victoria comments, Vermont)


We are born whole, but we lose pieces of ourselves as we mature. Jung believed our task is to develop differentiation but without separation or dissociation. When we become conscious of separation the goal is to recover coherence.

We are born part of the planet, into a specific place, identifiable by latitude and longitude markers. Perhaps we live near water, as Jung did, or in a high plains desert with little moisture. We become aware of the world to a greater or lesser degree. It is possible to become unconscious of the earth, dissociated from the place we inhabit. Becoming conscious is the first step back to wholeness and harmony. Jung says “In the final analysis the decisive factor is always consciousness.” (Jung, MDR, p. 187)

Until we restore our consciousness of the Other, and our ability to live in numinous reciprocity, we continue in danger of illness unto death. We might begin our healing by creating a bowl of fertile earth that holds a smaller bowl of fresh water, that holds a burning candle. This simple construction places the four elements in the center of the table.  Then while we eat our food we could think of the elements that nourished the seeds or the animals. We might explore further and learn where the food comes from and who grew it.

We might go out, be in nature, for some time every day. The numinous arrives with the reciprocal recognition of one thing for another. It is not an extension of self, a projection, an archetype, but a coming to see, hear, feel and understand that it is Other than I.  Healing comes in attending to its presence, aware of the physical level of reality, not thinking of any other reality, extending one’s wholeness to the Other. The planet goes about its business each day in this extending way, touching us with every breeze, the sound of the leaves of the tree outside the window, the insect bite… When the numinous enters, leap up and send the news:

  • I see you, hear you, know you
  • I care about you.  Others care about you.
  • I love you.  You give to me, and I give to you, true love.

Our ability to heal both our planet and ourselves can occur only when we wake up, and see the place where we live, care about it, and love it.

To become dwellers in the land, to relearn the laws of Gaia, to come to know the earth fully and honestly, the crucial and perhaps only and all-encompassing task is to understand place, the immediate and specific place where we live. The kinds of soils and rocks under our feet; the source of the water we drink; the meaning of the different kinds of winds; the common insects, birds, mammals, plants and trees; the particular cycle of the seasons; the times to plant and harvest and forage – these are the things necessary to know. The limits of its resources; the carrying capacities of its lands and waters; the places where it must not be stressed; the places where it bounties can best be developed; the treasures it holds and the treasures it withholds – these are the things that must be understood. And the cultures of the people, of the populations native to the land and those who have grown up with it, the human social and economic arrangements shaped by and adapted to the geomorphic ones, in both urban and rural settings – these are the things that must be appreciated. (Kirkpatrick Sale)

The earth, the immediate and specific place where we live, is ill.  At the very least, we might sit with the Earth in the places where we can touch it, in a garden, in the park.

We would sit with a dear friend who was ill – why not sit with the Earth, extending our condolences for species lost, gulf waters covered in oil, mountains shattered by huge machines?  Perhaps some healing might come from shared grief.

When we recognize the Earth’s numen in all the Others we are not, we may decide to reciprocate the amazing generosity and grace offered to us.  We might, in loving the planet and all its beings, find our own healing and in our healing, the Earth might be healed.



All definitions of numinous are from Wikipedia with additions from Comfort Zone ONLINE

Beaumont, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont. Beauty and the Beast. 1757.

Beston, Henry, The Outermost House, 1928.

Campbell, Joseph, editor.  The Portable Jung, particularly The Transcendent Function.

Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica.

Hall, Calvin and Nordby, Vernon. A Primer of Junginan Psychology.  Section on Dynamics of Personality, in particular part VII Canalization of Energy.

Aldous Huxley. The Doors of Perception, 1954.

Jung, Carl.  Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

Longworth, Richard. Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism.

Perlas, Nicanor. “Technological Singularity and the Biodynamic Movement” in Stella Natura Biodyanmic Calendar, 2012.

Villeneuve, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve,  La Belle et la Bęte, 1740.


Jan E. Beyea is a consultant and former senior scientist with the National Audubon Society in New YorkDave Roberts, reporting on a Nature article in GRIST. 7 Jun 2012

Kirkpatrick Sale is an independent scholar and author who has written prolifically about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism and technology. As quoted in Revisioning Environmental Ethics by Daniel A. Kealey, Google Books.