Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

The Healing Strength of 'Inner Ecology'

In times of crisis such as ours we seek sources of inspiration where ever they may be found. One is inner ecology. To evaluate its importance we must understand that our relationship with the Earth, at least in recent centuries, has been based on false ethical and spiritual premises: anthropocentrism, negation of the intrinsic value of every being, domination of the Earth, and degradation of her resources. Such premises have produced the present unhealthy state of the Earth, which is reflected in the human psyche.   

In the same way that there exists an external ecology, there also exists an inner ecology, comprised of solidarity, feelings of re-bonding with the whole, caring and loving. These ecologies are umbilically linked. That is what is known as environmental psychology, or, in E. Wilson's expression, biofilia. Its base is not only anthropologic but also cosmologic, because the universe itself, according to well known astrophysicists, Brian Swimme, among others, has a spiritual depth. The universe is not comprised just of a gathering of objects, but of the network of inter-relations among them, becoming subjects that exchange information and become richer.

Starting with inner ecology, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the trees, the mountains and the animals are not only just there, outside. Rather, they live in us, as figures and symbols charged with emotion. The experiences -good or traumatic- that we may have had with these realities have left profound imprints in our psyches. This explains our aversion towards some, or the affinity we feel towards others.

Such symbols form a true inner ecology, the deciphering of which was one of the spiritual conquests of the XX century, with Freud, Jung, Adler, Lacan, Hillmann and others. In our deepest selves, according to C.G. Jung, shines the archetype of the Imago Dei, of the Absolute. No-one worked better than Viktor Frankl with this dimension, which he called the spiritual unconscious, and the moderns call the mystical mind, or the God spot, in the brain. In the final analysis, that spiritual unconscious is the expression of the very spirituality of the Earth and of the universe that erupted through us, who are the conscious part of the universe and of the Earth.

That profound spirituality helps us understand, for instance, the exemplary ecological attitude of the Sioux nation of North America. In some of their ritual celebrations, they celebrate a certain type of beans that grows deep in the soil and is very difficult to harvest. What do the Sioux do? They use the stores gathered to eat in the winter by a species of mouse native to the prairies of that area. Without that reserve they risk starvation. When taking the beans, the Sioux are clearly conscious that they are breaking their solidarity with brother mouse, and are stealing from him. This is why they offer this moving prayer: «You little mouse, who are sacred, have mercy on me. You are feeble, yes, but strong enough to do your job, because sacred powers communicate with you. You are also wise, because the wisdom of the sacred powers is always with you. May I also be wise in my heart, so that this dark and confusing life be transformed into permanent light.» And in a sign of solidarity, when they take the beans leave in their place small pieces of pork and corn. The Sioux thus feel spiritually united with the mice and with all of nature.

It is urgent that we revive this spirit of mutual belonging, because we have lost it through the excesses of individualism and competition that underlie the current crisis.

The dominant system indulges the desire to have, at the expense of another, more fundamental desire, which is to be and to develop our own singularity. This demands the capacity to oppose the dominant values and to live ideals linked to life, to caring, to friendship and to love.

Inner ecology, also called, deep ecology, seeks to awaken the shaman that hides in each and everyone of us. As all shaman, we can enter into a dialogue with the energies that have been at work in the construction of the universe for 13,700 million years. Without a spiritual revolution it will be difficult for us to get out of the present crisis, which demands a new contract with life and with the Earth. Otherwise, we will continue our lonely wandering. 


Leonardo Boff 01-16-2009

Free translation from the Spanish by,

sent by Melina Alfaro, done at