Eco-sadism: Why are we Torturing the Planet? by Douglas Thomas, Ph.D.

In 1990, the renowned depth psychologist and author Thomas Moore published a book entitled Dark Eros: The imagination of sadism. In this book, Moore offers a series of extraordinary insights into the deeper aspects of sadism that regard our darker nature as a reflection of the soul. It is this relationship between sadism and nature that I’d like to ponder here.

Moore proposes that there is a difficult necessity we encounter in our own impulses to be agents of cruelty, corruption, domination, and torture. Moore focuses on the writings of the Marquis de Sade as a mythography of the soul rather than as obscene social commentary. In this way, the images of sadism evoke some of the more disturbing repugnant aspects of the psyche’s underworld, linking the writings of the Marquis to ancient mythic images of torture and dismemberment and to the shock and horror of our personal nightmares.

For those familiar with Jung’s writings about the human shadow and the urgency of developing an ethical attitude toward the darker aspects of our own nature, Moore’s book persuasively elaborates this established concept. Adopting the term sadeian to refer to the Marquis’ habits as a mode or style of ensouled expression, he calls upon us to take account and responsibility for those places within our imagination where our own sadeian fantasies reside. He moves the sadistic aspects of our own nature beyond conventional ideas of pathology and towards pathos (suffering) as a form of soul-making.

As I contemplate the relationship we humans have negotiated with the planet, this shadowy aspect of our collective sadism seems quite apparent. Certainly the images of strip mining, slashing the rain forests, dumping barges filled with garbage into the oceans all seem readily available for sadeian commentary.

Perhaps we are at our most sadistic when we are at our most unconscious, denying the perverse and repugnant cruelty of our collective actions against the planet. First denial, and then rationalization, two common defense mechanisms that regularly appear in the therapy room, also serve as the preferred mechanisms to permit and justify the torture and corruption of the planet. If we re-imagine the Earth as one of de Sade’s literary protagonists, the victimized damsel Justine for example, the libertine zeal of our collective insistence to strip, cut, penetrate, immobilize, neutralize, slash, burn, seize, corrupt and devastate quickly comes into focus.

What is important at this moment in history is not so much to place blame or to vent our indignation and collective guilt over these grim facts. Certainly any actions that slow or even reverse the destructive processes currently in motion are... (Read the full post on the Global Dream Initiative web site)

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