This book is a collection of writings and speeches by Carl Gustav Jung, the well known and controversial Swiss psychiatrist, dealing with his views on modern civilization, technology and nature. Although the book to a large extent consists of excerpts rather than whole texts, they are nevertheless quite lucid and even interesting. And no, I don't say I agree with them. In fact, I have more or less the opposite opinions on most issues!
Previous to this book I've only read one of Jung's works, "Psychology and religion", which is more difficult to digest. "The Earth has a soul" could probably be read even by somebody completely new to Jung's ideas, although a working knowledge of his thinking obviously helps. In my opinion, Jung was a philosopher, critic of civilization and perhaps even a kind of spiritual teacher, rather than a psychoanalyst in the strict sense of that term. Many have pointed out the affinity between his ideas and those of the New Age. Some have even accused him of being a closet neo-pagan and Gnostic. To others, that's a commendation!
"The Earth has a soul" speaks for itself, but I will nevertheless mention the contents briefly.
Jung spends considerable time talking about his experiences at Mount Elgon in East Africa, where he socialized with a tribal people he calls the Elgonyi. He also mentions meetings with Pueblo Indians in the United States. Jung defends the "primitive" and "superstitious" worldview of these peoples, arguing that it's rational in its own context. Closer to home, Jung retells various episodes from his childhood showing his close (and sometimes zany) relation to nature. Our author also talks about the stone tower at Bollingen in Switzerland which he built himself and used as a kind of spiritual retreat.
It's not always clear whether Jung really believed in the existence of spirits "out there". He sometimes writes as if he did. Apparently, the spirits were present in the kitchen section at Bollingen! At other times, he says that spirits and gods are "in here", a kind of psychological phenomena who are projected onto the outside world. To Jung, this projection isn't negative. Quite the contrary: modern man, by pretending that gods and spirits don't exist, have actually made them a hidden part of his psyche, leading to all kinds of irrationalism and madness, including the madness of Nazism and the Holocaust.
Jung criticizes our disconnectedness from nature, our dependence on modern technology, the stress and consumerism of our civilization. Occasionally, he waxes apocalyptic, saying that the greatest danger to man is man himself, that an overpopulation crisis might destroy the world, etc. Jung has no collective solutions to offer, however. The solutions are strictly individual. Each individual must face his own self and experience an inner transformation. Jung feared what he considered to be authoritarian and collectivist tendencies of the modern age. The exact character of the spiritual transformation is less clear to me, but Jung does mention the ancient mystery religions as offering a kind of synthesis between the human spirit and Nature.
Since "The Earth has a soul" consists to a large extent of excerpts from longer articles, Jung sounds contradictory at times. But then, who knows, maybe he was contradictory? There seems to be a tension in his writings between individualism/anti-collectivism and communitarianism. There is also a tension between statements which sound "pro-animal" and other statements, where humans are considered to be the conscious expression of the universe. At bottom, Jung seems to regard man as a contradictory or paradoxical being, both god and devil simultaneously.
"The Earth has a soul" doesn't untie all the knots of the Jung complex, but it could be a place to start for those interested in this lone philosopher of Switzerland...