On the collective level, years of unhealthy forest fire suppression and forest management techniques in Montana left Nature’s body—the wilderness—unbalanced and vulnerable to the raging devastations of the 2003 fire season. Both fire and fever seemed to beg the same question, “Why are we aflame?”
Jung suggested that the “symptomatology of an illness is at the same time a natural attempt at healing” (CW 8, par. 312). To consider fire and fever as symptom is to reunite with anima mundi and to consider, “For what is she asking?” The symptom of fever in my body commanded me to look at my life, internal and external, and to strive more wholly for balance there. Perhaps the symptom of forest fires in Montana asked us to explore humanity and Nature with eyes to see possibilities for future relationships more wholly-attuned to balance and deep, meaningful connection.
A possible answer to the anima mundi question is sacrifice. Returning later to those burned forests and reflecting on my body’s blight, the importance of destruction, of fires and fever, to the many levels of change became clear. Sacrifices had to be made, in my body and in Nature. Through Jung’s writings, I came to understand that my journey, and that of the Montana forests, had been an alchemical one. We both had to burn until we could burn no more. From that ashy sacrifice, both forest and I were able to slowly and gently emerge back into the world in more incarnated and authentic form, growing new roots—physical and psychological—that draw from ancient interconnections in Nature.
Greene, A. (1984). Giving the body its due. Quadrant, 17(2), 9-24.
Jung, C. G. (1969). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle (Trans. R. F. C. Hull). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (vol. 8, pp. 417-532). Princeton, NJ: Princeton U
Fire and Fever: Reflections on
Landscapes Burned and Blighted
The summer of 2003 has been deemed the worst fire season in the history of Northwest Montana, and it also became the season during which my inner landscape—body and psyche—also began to burn. I spent that summer in Glacier National Park, where on its backcountry trails a fever began in my cells which would prove as unstoppable a force as the fires that burned around me. Written in first person narrative, this paper tells that tale, finding foundation in Jung’s writings on the unus mundus, psyche and matter functioning together as cells of a single organism, and in synchronicities highlighting the connections between body, place, and anima mundi, the soul of the world. Greene (1984) warned, “Disregard the demand of the unconscious for balance and for centered being, and the body pays the price” (p. 10). That summer, anima mundi seemed to collect on the debt with which years of imbalance had seemingly burdened her. On the individual level, the state of my own life had created conditions ripe for infection, and my body and psyche certainly paid their dues.