Come into animal presence – Myths and Dreams – interview
ANIMALS have done so much for us for thousands of years. They’ve brought us food, they’ve brought us dances, they’ve brought us wisdom, they’ve brought us all the technical skills. Who taught us to make a halibut hook? See, this is the way that people think — “Oh boy, some smart guy named Joe Jones — what a good idea. He invented that little thing, so that we could catch halibut more quickly. So we call it the Joe Jones hook.”
But originally, the people who lived with halibut, and whose life depended on them, watched them so much that the halibut taught them how to make the hook. So we owe the halibut for the instrument to catch it. And we owe the deer for the way to hunt it — how to walk stealthily, how to walk downwind. They taught us all those things. We wouldn’t know about “downwind” — how would we know anything about that? No, reason to — they taught us.
Animals come in our dreams, helpers and saviors; as teachers, again. We still are inflated to think we’re saving them, but they may be teaching us about saving. What happens to our hearts when we see them wounded or hurt? That’s a turning point, when the animal is hurt. They teach us something through their woundedness; that they’re threatened and endangered and wounded. They’re beginning to convert the world! The animal-rights movement, save-the-extinct-species, World Wildlife — all those movements that have sprung up over the last thirty years — have changed consciousness enourmously with the images of dead elephants and so on. This spotted owl is saving the forest. Take it as a myth — don’t take it as a law. Of course it’s a legality, in that it’s the only way we could get it through the court system. But if we were telling the tale, the spotted owl is saving our forest.
Animals correspond with part of us. The bear dream that one man had corresponds with his own earthy, shaggy nature, therefore he can feel an affinity. But that bear is not his own shaggy nature. That reduces the bear to just a piece of himself, and insults the bear — it interprets the bear away. The presence of the bear in the dream corresponds with qualities of the human soul, but is not reducible to it. The animal in the dream is a presence that corresponds with some interiority of your own self — your own wolf, for example, your relation to wolf, whether it’s insatiable appetite, or constantly tracing and pursuing, or loneliness, or something of that wolf quality. And at the same time it’s a presentation of the divine wolf, the wolf god, the wolf totem, the wolf ancestor, who may be bringing you to more intensity in regard to those qualities.
The question is, what does the wolf want? Why did it bother to come to me? Is it trying to remind me of my own wolfishness? If the animal is an ancestor, then it’s going to bless those qualities. It’s going to give them an archetypal background. My loneliness, my constant trekking and feeling an outsider, is blessed by the wolf’s appearance. Or take the fox — my cleverness, my sneakiness, and my trying to raid everything that happens and getting into all the chicken houses. Instead of saying. “This is my psychopathic shadow, this is my sex complex,” the fox comes and says, “This is part of nature, this is where we connect.” Then you have more respect for that part of yourself, and you begin to try to live it right.
James Hillman is a Jungian analyst and the author of several books, including The Dream and the Underworld, A Blue Fire, and Revisioning Psychology. He was interviewed on board the Crusader, a 65-foot wooden schooner, for the seminar “Come into Animal Presence: Animal Images in Dreams and Psychic Ecology.” Present in Frederick Sound where the boat was sailing were humpback whales, salmon, seals and porpoise.
Jonathan White is the founder and director of the Resource Institute (6532 Phinney Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98103; 206/784-6762), a nonprofit, educational organization focusing on Northwest coastal (including the San Juan Islands and southeastern Alaska) culture and traditions. Poet Gary Snyder, marine biologist Roger Payne, and psychologist Rollo May are among those who have given seminars aboard the Institute’s Crusader. Jonathan and Donna collaborated on the interview with Robert Bly in WER #70.
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