How do you fit the two million-year-old man or woman into your modern world? In other words, what aids this transition? I wrote an article last month called, The Ancient Path. It was about the idea that there is a two million-year-old man or woman in all of us. The phrase “two million-year-old man,” was borrowed from Jungian psychiatrist Anthony Stevens (1993) and from his book, The Two Million-Year-Old Self. In my article, I hypothesized that the ancient path is perhaps best discovered by accessing our night-time dreams and learning from them.
In this article, I’d like to take this idea further. I felt a need to discuss other practical and everyday methods in which you can integrate the two million-year-old man or woman into your life.
Last month I spent a week on the island of Maui. Each morning I walked a path beginning close to our room and then winding along the rocky coast to the beach. Today, the path has modern man’s imprint, but I don’t doubt that ancient Hawaiians walked this same path. One of the reasons that I suspect this to be so is because there was a group of circular, indented impressions on the flat rock along the path where it was said that early Hawaiians used these man-made formations to make salt from the seawater.
While I walked this path several times each day, I felt as if I too was walking along a trail of our ancestors. It helped me to both feel more connected to my Self and grounded in my body—all of which for me aided the transition of connecting with my inner two million-year-old man.
Of course I realize that I was away on a vacation, and it is not at all uncommon for many of us to find a sense of connection to other parts of ourselves when we are away from the stressors of our everyday lives. But these feelings of being connected to the vanishing, ancient ways can be found in places other than our all too infrequent vacation spots.
There are other, everyday ways of making this connection with the ancient path and the two million-year-old man/woman within.
Almost any activity in Nature can suffice, depending on individual preferences, of course. Consider the activities in nature that you used to enjoy and then consider what stops you from doing these things again? Perhaps there is not enough time because you are too busy with your children, your career or with the demands and balance of graduate school along with the rest of your busy life?
Whatever the case may be, you owe it to yourself to see if re-establishing (or initiating) a connection to Nature can aid you, like dreams, with re-establishing a relationship with your inner two million-year-old man or woman.
Stevens (1993) discussed an important hypothesis that he called the “frustration of archetypal intent.” He said, “Mental health depends upon the provision of physical and social environments capable of meeting the archetypal needs of the developing individual” (p. 63). These archetypal needs could be many things (fulfilling relationships and career, child-rearing, space for grief and loss, etc.) but I propose that there are archetypal needs of forming deep connections to nature for promoting overall feelings of well-being and mental health, and when these needs are not met, we have the potential and associated pitfalls of Steven’s “frustration of archetypal intent.”
The vital connection to the two million-year-old man/woman can truly make a difference in dealing with the stressors in your modern life. Just as importantly, the establishment and maintainence of this ancient connection has the potential to improve your mental health.
Intuitively, many of us feel that being outside in nature is good for us. But it’s also nice to see research that backs this up. The other day I read an article in Outside magazine that someone had linked to on Twitter. The title of the article, Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning, was written by Florence Williams for the December, 2012 edition of the magazine. (See >http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/wellness/Take-Two-Hours-of-Pine-Forest-and-Call-Me-in-the-Morning.html ).
This article discussed research in Japan that is supporting the idea that spending time in nature can help us deal with general “stressors” in our lives, “fight off depression,” help to improve physical problems such as blood pressure and even prevent certain types of illness. It is reassuring to see when research backs up ideas that we know and feel intuitively or that our dreams teach us about.
While I was on the island of Maui, not only did I walk the ancient trail of Hawaiians, but I swam with tropical fishes again—something I had not done for several years. While swimming along the coral reefs, time no longer seemed to matter as my legs and swim fins propelled me forward moving through the water like the fishes that I was watching and learning from. It’s really quite amazing how quickly our bodies and movements can resume in accordance with the natural movement of water and Nature.
Immersed in sun, fishes, and tropical seas, helped me to connect more intimately with my inner ancient man. To ward off Steven’s “frustration of archetypal intent,” and less than stellar mental health, a necessary step for all of us is in carving out time for Nature, dreams, and aiding the connection to the two million-year-old man or woman within.
Stevens, A. (1993). The Two Million-Year-Old Self. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
Thanks for the excellent article, Dr Howlin, as well as Ancient Path before.
I can easily relate to the walks on ancient paths, and swimming with tropical fish which was very special for me as a young boy in Durban, connecting me to something deeper inside.
I read the 2million year old self and Private Myths from Anthony Stevens and agree that they are excellent books for us moderns that lost touch with our souls.
Thanks for stopping by my website/blog. I think that Anthony Stevens is one of the best Jungian writers helping us to realize how important the “ancient path” really is for our well-being and souls.
Hello Dr. Howlin,
I live in Santa Cruz and ordered this book after reading Robert Moore’s book “Facing The Dragon”, because Moore appears to place more of the supernatural into his views. I didn’t find Jung’s word “synchronicity” in Stevens’ book which points to a universal acausal unfolding, having purpose and impetus. Modern evolutionary theory does not have a purpose or a goal. I think that spiritual secular humanism is natural and causal, and that Steven’s theory supports this approach which strikes me as less grandiose than Jung’s gnosticism/God. I’m a dog walking 67, so this is what I wonder about now. Enjoying your serendipitous blog.
As someone who was trained and worked as a biologist before becoming a psychologist, I am very drawn to Stevens’ writing and work. I think that he brings a nice balance to Jung’s work. Thanks for stopping by my blog and enjoy those contemplative dog walks! My dog walks also provide time for my own reflections on these things.