Urban Terrapsychology and Creative Placemaking (7)

For the last two weeks my blog has described how my emerging terrapsychological perspective in 1991 was enriched by mentoring from Robert Sardello of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture.  He provided me with important insights about how cities should be centers of culture, nor civilization, but also how it is necessary for cities to have both strong souls (typically rooted in neighborhoods) and strong spirits (typically centered in downtowns).

I had another important mentor in 1991, who helped lay the foundation for my future work in 1992 and beyond - a Native American Episcopal priest and theology professor named Steve Charleston.  I met him while leading a study group I devised called "Nature and the City," a year-long activity that explored how both indigenous traditions (American and European) and the Christian tradition could shed light on how to live responsibly in both the natural and urban worlds.  I structured the activities of the study group to correlate with ideas expressed by Rudolf Steiner in his little book, The Calendar of the Soul.  As such, we concentrated on moving our collective psyches progressively outward into nature during the first half of the year, and inward toward urban community during the second half of the year.

Steve Charleston was a member of my neighborhood Episcopal church, and taught theology at the nearby Lutheran seminary, so I sought him as an adviser and study group speaker.  His ability to live creatively within both his own indigenous tradition (Choctaw) and mainstream Christianity influenced me profoundly.  In essence, he proposed that every indigenous tradition deserves a level of respect equal to that accorded by the Christian tradition to the Hebrew Bible (aka the "Old Testament").  As such, we need to reinterpret our monotheistic Abrahamic faith in light of the best insights provided by both our pre-Christian ancestors (indigenous European traditions for many of us), and also the indigenous peoples in the land where we dwell (Native American, for all of us who live in the Americas).

He articulated this perspective in a system he referred to as a "theology of the four directions."  As the term suggests, this perspective drew heavily on Native American sensitivity to the rhythms of the natural world as they manifest themselves in the forms and energies of our surrounding landscapes.  Along with this came an emphasis on the Native American notion of the "seventh generation" - i.e., honoring the wisdom of ancestors at least seven generations back (approximately 150 years), and caring for future descendants at least seven generations into the future.

In an earlier post I recalled my first meeting with Robert Sardello at a Dallas Institute conference in Santa Fe.  I had been drawn to this conference by study group activities and my mentorship experience with Steve Charleston in early 1991.  I went to Santa Fe hoping to learn from both the Jungian/Hillmanian perspective of the Dallas Institute, and the Native American perspective of New Mexico's pueblo culture.  As 1991 came to a close, I had a rich set of gifts from both perspectives, gifts that would shape my work profoundly in years to come.

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Comment by Mark VanderSchaaf on November 16, 2014 at 4:51pm

I have no illusions that terrapsychology and creative placemaking can be a recipe for world peace.  But I do hope - and have experienced - that they can sometimes bring about reconciliation in surprising ways.  I think theycan do so by moving us beyond our limited ego-horizon where conflict often arises, into the realm of the Self where more authentic relationships - and politics - are possible. 

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