is full of gods.
- attributed to Thales
o r i g i n s
If the planet we live on were reactively involved with us, its nonhuman sentience actively reaching out to us, how might we learn to hear it?
Terrapsychology is a word coined by Craig Chalquist to describe deep, systematic, trans-empirical approaches to encountering the presence, soul, or "voice" of places and things: what the ancients knew as their resident genius loci or indwelling spirit. This perspective emerged from sustained inquiry into how local ecological and historical woundings resonate symbolically and usually unconsciously into the lives of a place's current inhabitants--and how our dealings with the world tend to resonate back into our "inner" life.
Terrapsychology eschews what philosopher Christian de Quincey calls "energy talk" and other mystical-sounding explanations for this resonance in order to trace its actual effects through disciplined work on the ground and in the field. The linkages between people and places are carried on bridges of symbol and metaphor similar to those studied by naturalism and depth psychology. Ultimately, terrapsychology strives for a "gnosis of place" capable of working deep transformations in the human experience of animate landscapes.
The contributors to this site have vastly enriched our growing sense of how intimately and powerfully self and world interact in ongoing circles of unspoken mutuality. By drawing on the depths of their subjectivity to tend nonhuman subjectivities normally ignored, they have invited the geographical locales they have studied directly into the heart, that organ of imaginative encounter, sometimes with joy, always in perpetual amazement, and often at the cost of risk, anguish, and loss. This brings their work into the purview of terrapsychology, an approach this site is designed to present.
Nature Turns Toward Us the Face that We Turn Toward It.
Grounded in soil and stone, the writers featured here have often mixed objectivity with poetry, but with a naturalistic intensity that bypasses the ancient splitting of mind from body and person from place. For them, spirit is as much below as above. Highlights from their work appear in the Writings section of this site, as does an excerpt from Terrapsychology: Re-engaging the Soul of Place (Spring Books and Publications, 2007). The Updates page carries updates on matters terrapsychological. Some who have done important work in the new field are mentioned in the Cosmographers page. A cosmographer was once a multidisciplinary explorer who studied in several fields before venturing out to encounter in person the unknown terrain--"beyond which there be dragons." A long legacy of colonialism and expansionism stripped the word of its naturalistic connotations and robbed it of its broadminded polycentricity, in effect taking over this fine old job description like a landscape plundered. We are taking it back.
The sense of things and places alive was a natural gift shared by all our ancestors and indigenous people everywhere. From petroglyphs to sandpaintings, from mythic lore to word of mouth, humans always knew themselves addressed by the World Soul's infinite voices until missionaries uprooted the sacred groves, industrialists fed them into the sawmills, and scientists explained their apparent animation as childlike superstition and "primitivity."
We who write for this virtual location in cyberspace hope to share with you some of the vitality we feel pulsing in the real locations we have visited. Combining contemporary concepts and intuitive language with the indigenous hosting of earthly beings, we are pushing past the objectification of nature that allows her human participants to believe themselves her masters to take up instead the responsibilities of storytellers, listeners, alchemists, ambassadors, philosophers, poets, and dreamers. Welcome to our fire.