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The first part of my motto ‘as without, so within: where we are, is who we are’ is a variation on the well-known Hermetical saying ‘as above, so below’. The second part is inspired by the statement ‘who we are depends directly on where we are’ made by Duane Elgin (in his book The Living Universe). The fact that our lives are always completely embedded in the natural, cyclical environment, in the landscape, – a reality which has been collectively ignored for a long time in the Western world – has become my central source of inspiration.
There is of course also a bodily dimension to the landscape. As Valerie Andrews has expressed it: ‘The land is truly the larger body that contains us; it is our second skin.’ (A Passion for This Earth). Perhaps it is even better to say that the land is our first skin. In this respect the Irish philosopher and ‘modern mystic’ John Moriarty, who in the final years of his life lived on the Irish west coast (in a house with a direct view on the mountains), emphasized in an interview, that he did not think about the mountain, but with the mountain. In this way he expressed an ancient wisdom that many indigenous people have been familiar with and sometimes still are. This is what experiencing yourself as part of nature implies. Thomas Berry’s important insight that ‘the universe is not a collection of objects, but a communion of subjects’ points in the same direction. And the various scientific field theories (for instance, by Rupert Sheldrake and Ervin Laszlo), which are increasingly gaining ground in our time, also contribute a lot to turning the outer world into an inner world once again – a world we want to care for.
A phenomenon which has also increasingly fascinated me is the dual character of the natural world (night and day, winter and summer, female and male, breathing out and breathing in, etc.) and the way that this principle manifests itself in our own dual nature. Physically, this expresses itself obviously in our symmetrical body (two eyes, two ears, two hands, two lungs, two brain hemispheres, etc.). But the Dutch anthropologist Jan van Baal has pointed to another important manifestation of our dual nature: that on the one hand we are born from the universe and remain inextricably connected to it; and that on the other hand as subjects we are confronting the world, opposing it. (Van Baal’s term subject differs from Thomas Berry’s similar term, and refers to what psychologists call the ego.) He is certainly not the only one who has arrived at this insight, but it probably stayed with me because he stated it so powerfully, using only a few words. Anyway, it boils down to the fact that we are both connected and separate beings.
When both sides are equally valued, dual nature is balanced (as beautifully depicted by the Taoist yin-yang symbol), and this has been the case as long as we kept feeling fully embedded in the matrix of the surrounding natural world. Since we have collectively begun to experience our lives as separate from the environment and from each other – due to the rise of the ego (aptly called the ego-explosion by the English psychologist Steve Taylor) which changed the course of civilization from about 6000 years ago – we have imprisoned ourselves in unbalanced and restless forms of dualistic thinking and dealing. The various crises confronting us in our time, which in my view are different manifestations of an all-encompassing spiritual crisis, make it painfully clear how important it is to collectively rediscover the lost balance.
The nature of our dual nature, and the importance of balance between the two sides, is beautifully shown in a telling dream by a woman, reported by the Jungian psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz (which I found in the book Love and the Soul by Robert Sardello). It concerns a dream that this woman had had about Carl Gustav Jung just after he had died (in 1961). Although she had great respect for Jung, she had never known him personally. The dream went as follows. She was at a garden party where many people stood on the lawn, including Jung. He wore a strange outfit: up front his jacket and trousers were bright green, but at the back they were black. Then she saw a black wall in which a hole was cut out exactly in the shape of Jung’s outline. Suddenly Jung stepped into the hole and after that only the complete black surface was visible. Yet everyone knew that he hadn’t gone, that he was still present among them. Then the dreaming woman looked at herself and she discovered that she also wore clothes which were green up front and black at the back.
This dream beautifully illustrates that we all (both men and women!) have a dual nature and in that capacity we are also always embedded in the surrounding landscape. The temporal aspect of life is showing itself through the colour green, which is continually manifesting from the unmanifested dark and returning to it again. But this darkness also remains ever present: it keeps on animating the landscape and every living creature, including ourselves. I have got the impression that our early ancestors in the Stone Age were very familiar with this when they built their open-air temples – like the stone circles – on locations that they had selected for this purpose with minute precision. We have gradually lost that animated, ensouled experience of life since we collectively have chosen to limit our reality to the tangible and measurable green, since we have clung to the materialistic outlook on life. But it becomes ever clearer that – despite the fantastic technical achievements – this turns out to be a dead-end street. We can witness all around us that that the crisis which confront us in various forms awakens more and more people, making us realize that without this animation of life we cannot survive. We cannot ignore our dual nature for much longer and must find a way of balancing between the feminine and the masculine, between yin and yang. That is for me the essence of the message of that dream.
I already referred to the phenomenon of being embedded, the fact that we are always fully embedded in the life that surrounds us. This plays a central role in all my writing. The wave cannot exist without the ocean. And the ocean cannot exist without the matrix of Mother Earth. And so on. Or more mechanically expressed, this website is nothing without the Internet. But there is also a more organic side to this, because my website is really nothing without you, my visitors!
This experience of reality – which I believe once was expressed spiritually (and later also religiously) through feminine imagery – has inspired me from 2007 to 2013 to bring my research in various fields together in a Dutch book about ´The survival and Revival of the Goddess Heritage’. In 2017 I finished an English translation. More about it can be read elsewhere on this website.
Through the years I have also written some articles on more specific subjects. Most of them are in Dutch, but some I have translated into English and are available (in pdf format) on this website. I plan to translate some more in future! I contributed an article, entitled ‘In the Beginning was the Landscape’, to the anthology Awaken the Feminine! Dismantling Domination to Restore Balance on Mother Earth, edited by Karen Tate and published in 2018.
Besides this, from 2012 until the end of 2019 I have been writing (English) blogs on Leiden Law Blog, the blog site of Leiden Law School. On this website you can read them as well.
Behind the text in the header you see a painting by me that was inspired by a dolmen on Achill Island, a peninsula on the west coast of Ireland.