In The Fall, Steve Taylor writes: “The main event in human history is a sudden, massive regression—a dramatic shift from harmony to chaos, from peace to war, from life-affirmation to gloom, or from sanity to madness” that occurred around 6,000 years ago.

As I’ve written in Ancestral trauma, Part II – separation from nature/nurture, this was caused by long-term drought that led to desertification, famine and competition for resources.

The impact of this shift—what we call environmental stress (or eco-anxiety)—was immense. People who once lived in close connection with nature felt shocked and betrayed as once-fertile land dried up, and food and water sources vanished.

Environmental stress impacts humans in very specific ways. In Saharasia,geographer James DeMeo describes the impact of the East African droughts of the 1970s and 80s: “[Famine produces] a general intolerance and anxious aggressivity [sic] towards the basic biological expressions of… touching and body contact…”

Nonbeing

This intolerance for basic biological processes extended to breastfeeding. Archaeology lecturer Timothy Taylor writes:

“Warrior societies… often withheld colostrum from a newborn infant and give him or her water instead. The infant is understandably angry about the fact, except that it lacks the cognitive abilities to understand anger, so the event becomes an unconscious focus for aggression in later life.”

The impact of the deprivation of the breast cannot be overstated. Psychologist R.D. Laing identifies this as potentially the beginning of all emotional dysfunction, what he terms ‘nonbeing’:

“The first intimations of nonbeing may have been the breast or mother as absent.”

— R.D. Laing

Macro/micro

In Ancestral trauma, Part II I wrote:

“From being something that was revered, nature became distrusted. The same separation that occurred at the macro level between nature and man repeated at the micro level between mothers and infants—to an infant, its mother is nature.”

These macro and micro separations—nature-human and mother-child—fractured at both the physical and metaphysical levels, giving rise to four dimensions—or, more accurately, four fragments:

Level Nature Nurture
Physical Loss of respect for nature Loss of the breast
Metaphysical Loss of sense of nature as divine Loss of mother love

This four-way fragmentation of being is the mother wound. It is the origin of all personal and planetary dis-ease.

This four-way fragmentation of being is the mother wound. It is the origin of all personal and planetary dis-ease.

Nature

On the physical level, the need to fight for food sources broke humanity’s respect for nature—plant, animal and human alike—and the need to steward the planet. Anything and anyone could be killed, destroyed or consumed in the pursuit of survival—later, the pursuit of wealth—regardless of long-term consequences.

This is the basis of the environmental destruction we’re dealing with today.

On the metaphysical level, this manifested in the overthrow of peaceful fertility cults by male war gods who legitimised slaughter and conquest for survival and accumulation. Nature itself was no longer revered as sacred; divinity became an entirely abstract concept. This later gave rise to monotheistic religion.

In the last few centuries, this lack of reverence for nature migrated into materialist science. Astrophysicist Hubert Reeves writes:

“Man is the most insane species. He worships an invisible God and destroys a visible Nature, unaware that this Nature he’s destroying is this God he’s worshipping.”

— Hubert Reeves

This is the basis of today’s scientific materialist worldview that places no inherent value on nature or on wellbeing.

Nurture

On the physical level, the mother wound manifested in early weaning practices that created angry male children who grew into men with an insatiable appetite for violence and sexual violence. It manifested in masculine control, suppression and persecution of everything feminine, emotional or sexual.

This is the basis of society’s rules to suppress basic biological functions (no breastfeeding, nudity or sex in public).

On the metaphysical level, this manifested in the weakening or breaking of the mother-child bond, which causes:

  • Rage against the mother for her emotional unavailability—which the child in turn replicates by becoming emotionally detached and unavailable
  • A lack of nurturing that diminishes the ability to nurture others
  • A lack of community that diminishes the ability to connect to others in healthy, respectful, heart-centric ways
  • A lack of responsibility for self, others and the planet
  • A sense of shame around everything emotional or sexual
  • A sense of being alone, anxious and unable to cope
  • Inappropriate, co-dependent, clingy or toxic relationships
  • Toxic masculinity

This is the basis of society’s awkwardness, difficulty and shame with basic biological functions (breastfeeding, elimination, sex, death) as well as all emotional dysfunctions.

We each carry these wounds to the extent we’ve been impacted by ancestral, generational, and current-life traumas.

‘Civilization’

The four dimensions of the mother wound created the psychological basis for patriarchy and for the heedless exploitation of nature for profit. What we call ‘civilization’ is based on these four, deeply traumatised aspects of our collective psyche:

  • A civilization of rampant, heedless environmental destruction for the senseless accumulation of profit
  • A civilization that does not revere the environment it depends on for its survival
  • A civilization disconnected from the feminine values of community, co-operation, wellbeing and wisdom
  • An emotionally immature civilization reluctant to take responsibility for healing itself and its planet

In 1899, social theorist Edward Carpenter wrote a book called Civilization: its cause and cure, in which he argued that civilization was a disease that no society had ever survived.

Our society is the last in line. We will either prove Carpenter wrong, or there will be no further societies to make the attempt.

To prove Carpenter wrong, we must reunite the four fragments of the mother wound. That can only be done by each one of us coming to terms with the fact that this wound is inside us—and we are each responsible for healing it.

Photo by Paco S on Unsplash