How Can We Help?

KIS-Sunday: Making Peace With the 2,000,000 Year-Old Self

You are here:
< All Topics

Together the patient and I address ourselves to the two million-year-old man that is in all of us. In the last analysis most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us. C.G. Jung Psychological Reflections

I have always been interested in both Carl Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and also the lifestyles of Native American peoples. Something deep inside me told me that they were both on the right track, and had something to teach me. So when I found the book, “Dancing Between Two Worlds; Jung and The Native American Soul” by Fred R Gustafson, I had to read it. I’m very glad I did because it changed my life! As soon as I was done with it I had to know more about Carl Jung’s ideas which lead me to two other books, this post is a review of those books and a summary of the impact they have had on me. I can’t recommend them enough to you; if you will let them, they will change your life.
Dancing Between Two Worlds: Jung and the Native American Soul
The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life
 The Two Million-Year-Old Self

To the Navajo people, the land was sacred. As I have adopted the same attitude, I have found true peace and joy.

To the Navajo people, the land was sacred. As I have adopted the same attitude, I have found true peace and joy.

I’ve never been a happy person, but when I became a vandweller who spends all his time on public land, everything in my life changed. I found such peace and joy by spending time in close contact with nature that I completely related to the idea of a 2,000,000 year-old man inside me who was suddenly happy. From my earliest childhood, I felt a deep, inner need to be in nature, and as a young man I had, but life got in the way, and I virtually stopped as an adult. The result was I always felt restless and discontent. After I became a vandweller and reconnected with nature, I made peace with my own inner indigenous ancestor (Gustafson’s phrase for the 2,000,000 year-old self). He explains it this way (emphasis added):

Throughout these chapters, I refer to the “Indigenous One” as a reference point to the antiquity of the human soul. We came from somewhere. We have emerged with the rest of creation along an evolutionary path that is integral with the earth itself. For some reason there is a fear of these roots and making a connection with the whole of creation. Our own Indigenous Ancestor has been pushed aside and all but forgotten. If the entire book can be put into one thought it is this: not only have we lost a connection to our own indigenous root, but alongside this there exists a profound sadness and longing for its return. ~Fred R. Gustafson Dancing Between Two Worlds: Jung and the Native American Soul

I believe we are lonesome for the earth–lonesome because we have become more separated from it than we know or our souls can stand. Ibid.Page 109

That exactly parallels the main idea to this blog and all my websites: the idea that modern life alienates us from nature, and that is very bad for our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. In this article I want to explore that idea, and give you some background showing why it is true.
Jung-DarwinToday, Darwin’s theory of evolution is accepted by nearly all of us, and yet somehow, we choose to ignore that humans are influenced by evolution just like every other animal. For the last 2,000,000 years, humans have been evolving from the other primates to the fully self-aware, conscious beings we are today. Just like every other species, we are products of our environment. We adapted to live within a certain ecosystem, which for 99.9% of human history was in wild nature. Then, suddenly, 10,000 years ago, we left nature and began to live on farms and cities. Everything we had evolved to become was suddenly worthless; but it wasn’t gone. You can’t just wipe out 2,000,000 years of evolution. The instincts and training of the entire human history are biologically encoded in our central nervous system and are just as strong inside us today as they were way back in primordial times,. The problem is that while we live in a totally different environment those urges, instincts and needs still drive us, but they go completely unused and unfulfilled leaving us feeling lost and confused. You can take the man out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the man!!!

We each and all of us, contain within us the entire history of the world, and just as our body records Man’s genealogy as far back as the fish and then some, so our soul encompasses everything that has ever existed in human souls. All gods and devils that have ever existed are within us as possibilities, as desires, as solutions. ~ Herman Hess, Reflections

Carl Jung developed a theory that the biologically encoded history of the human race was present in every person at the unconscious level. He called that ancient, primitive mind our collective unconscious. Our conscious mind is a relatively recent development and is just a small part of our whole psyche. The larger, unconscious part, he called either the archaic man, or the 2,000,000 year old self:

… every civilized human being, however high his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper level of his psyche. Just as the human body connects us with the mammals and displays numerous vestiges of earlier evolutionary stages going back even to the reptilian age, so the human psyche is a product of evolution which, when followed back to its origins, shows countless archaic traits. ~C.G. Jung Collected Works Vol. 10

Aren’t we the carriers of the entire history of mankind? …When a man is fifty years old, only one part of his being has existed for half a century. The other part which also lives in his psyche may be millions of years old … Contemporary man is but the latest ripe fruit on the tree of the human race. None of us knows what we know. ~C.G. Jung

Jung-evolutionIn Jung’s work as a psychiatrist, he concluded that nearly all mental and emotional disorders could be traced back to the numerous ways that modern life frustrates the archaic, two million-year-old Indigenous Ancestor inside all us. In the following quotes we see his belief that by losing connection to the earth, we give up our roots which results in a restlessness of the soul that leads to mental and emotional problems, the worst of which is meaninglessness. Jung believed that humans must have meaning in order to be healthy mentally, emotionally and spiritually (emphasis added):

For it is the body, the feelings, the instincts, which connect us to the soil. If you give up the past you naturally detach from the past: you lose your roots in the soil, your connection with the totem ancestors that dwell in your soul. You turn outward and drift away and try to conquer other lands because you are exiled from your own soil. ~C.G Jung at the Zarathustra Seminar

Body and soul have an intensely historical character and find no proper place in what is new, in things that have just come into being…. it is precisely the loss of connection with the past, our up-rootedness, which has given rise to the “discontents” of civilization and to such a flurry and haste that we live more in the future and its chimerical promises of a golden age than in the present, with which our whole evolutionary background has not yet caught up. We rush impetuously into novelty, driven by mounting sense of insufficiency, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. ~C.G. Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections

One of the most fatal of the …psychological errors in which our time is so fruitful is the supposition that something can become entirely different all in a moment; for instance that man can radically change his nature….Deviation from the truths of the blood begets neurotic restlessness, and we have had about enough of that these days. Rootlessness begets meaninglessness, and the lack of meaning in life is a soul-sickness whose full import our age has not yet begun to comprehend. ~C.G. Jung Collected Works (vol. 8)

If you will let it, nature will heal and change you.

If you will let it, nature will heal and change you.

Our modern world has become so scientifically oriented, that we have lost sight of everything that can’t be seen and proven. Our inner, deeper, unconscious life can’t be measured, touched, or even explained so we pretend it isn’t real or important. Instead, we place all our focus on the outward life of our thinking mind and physical body. So we’ve gained an amazing amount of knowledge and facts, and our technological advances have made us tremendously more comfortable. And yet we are unhappier than ever as seen in these symptoms that are rampant in society:

  • Alienation
  • Neuroses
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Teen Pregnancy
  • Road Rage
  • Violent Crime-Rape
  • Stress Related Disease
  • Addiction, both chemical (drugs and alcohol) and behavioral (obesity, sex, gambling)

Jung believed that it would be far better to step back and live a more natural, simple, even uncomfortable life, than a life with all the neuroses that have come with the soulless technology of modern civilization. Instead of putting 99% of our energy into the outward things of life, we need to put an equal amount of time and devotion into our inner well-being:

Misery is relative. When many people possess cars the man with only one car is a proletarian deprived of the goods of this world and therefore entitled to overthrow the social order. We all think in terms of social welfare, and that is a big mistake because the more you economize on the vulgar forms of misery (minor discomforts), the more you are ensnared by new, unexpected …variants of unhappiness such as you have never dreamt before. Think of the almost uncanny increase of divorces and neuroses! I must say I prefer a modest poverty or any tangible discomfort (i.e., no bathroom, no electricity, no car, etc.) to those pests…. ~C.G. Jung Letters I and II

The quote above makes it sound like Jung would have endorsed vandwelling as a way to better mental and emotional health!! By giving up minor comforts like a bathroom or electricity we enter a way of life that satisfies the archaic man in each of us. We live closer to nature and become free of the worst elements of modern life like the media and consumerism. The more you take full advantage of vandwelling and spend time in nature, the higher your quality of life will be, and as a happy coincidence, the earth is much better off!


  1. Calvin R

    Wow! That is a very clear statement of beliefs. I share those beliefs. In addition, I’ve been looking for a good source on Jung for some time now. I’ll find those books.
    I hope you can reach people. Any set of social statistics gives the need. Even a good look around a campground shows people who insist on the “comforts” of home and others who purposely enjoy the contact with nature.
    Lead on!

    • Bob

      I agree calvin, I was delighted to find someone of the caliber of Carl Jung saying exactly what I have experienced and believe to be true. He says it so clearly and with authority I have to tell others about it.
      Reading Jung is not easy, but worth the effort.

      • Steve

        “Reading Jung is not easy” Now theres an understatement.

        • Bob

          Very true Steve! One of the books I recommended there is just a compliation of Jungs writing on Nature and it is a little easier to read than most. It seems like he mellowed when it came to that topic. I think it comes more from his heart than from his head. it’s still hard to read but it is easier.

  2. Diane

    wow, loved this heartfelt post Bob. I couldn’t agree with your thought proccess more. A couple of years ago I started working out at a CrossFit gym, their concept of working out is based on the 2,000,000 self (give or take a few years 🙂 they create workouts that based on movement of fight/flight. short intense work outs, and they promote a diet based on the pre-industrial self as well (vegies, fruit, meat, nuts and seeds). the reason I no longer workout there is because it has become super trendy which translates now into super expensive…apox $125/month. But…the concept is solid, and relates to this post. I honestly don’t understand why so many folks feel a need to rush through life…like its a race. We need more…always MORE. Bigger house, faster car, designer this or that. We compete against each other for this imaginary prize.
    We trow away so much, we are so wasteful. When I see how wasteful we are with food, it breaks my heart. To see that an animal was killed and its meat is now thrown away because it wasn’t cooked perfectly (or whatever). I think if we had to kill, and prepare our own food, people would look at things a lot differently. Another example of how disconnected we are with nature. We are backing ourselves into a corner of government dependency, we are giving up our freedom for a cell phone and a Big Mac. Anyway, I will stop before I take this in a new direction lol. Keep up the good work Bob 🙂

    • Bob

      Thanks Diane, we think exactly alike! But, if I were you, that would make me very, very afraid!!

      • Diane

        LOL 🙂

  3. Marshall

    Good post. Have you ever considered past life, regression therapy? Good stuff and brings clarity to life purpose. So much can be said here.

    • Bob

      Marshall, I have never done that, but I would be open to it. While I am a total believer in reincarnation, that seems a little woo-woo for me, but one thing I am trying to be is open to new ideas that once seemed silly to me. Given the chance I would definitely give it a try.

      • Donna in CT

        You don’t even need to do a regression. Think about the things that make you excited, or feel true and right. Has a place you’ve never been to, felt like home? Music that speaks to your heart. Dreams of things that may be from another life. Through those things I KNOW I’ve been an African woman dancing around a fire in our camp, a gypsy woman traveling in a caravan, a Native American man living in tall forests and another in a tepee way out west. I remember when I first saw Dancing With Wolves, I cried and all I could say was, “They got it right.” How would I know that? I know, I know, sounds a little crazy but in my heart I know it’s true.

        • Bob

          Donna, that’s great you are so in touch with your past. Some people seem to have a natural sensitivity to the other world, sounds like you are one of them. Unfortunately, I have the sensitivity of a rock. Some people say you can increase it but I haven’t really tried.

  4. Elizabeth

    Thanks for resubmitting this writing from the archives. It came through in a format I could read and I loved every word. It resonated with how i have felt my entire life and put words to those feelings as “the unconscious mind”, for me, made conscious. Thank you again for sharing.

    • Bob

      You’re welcome Elizabeth! I originally wrote that about 2 years ago for It was a huge amount of work! I know how immodest this must sound but I was amazed at how good it was. I wanted to get it out again so I am glad it is on the blog and it fits in perfectly with my current theme.

  5. Sameer

    “To lovers of the wild, these mountains are not a hundred miles away. Their spiritual power and the goodness of the sky make them near, as a circle of friends. … You cannot feel yourself out of doors; plain, sky, and mountains ray beauty which you feel. You bathe in these spirit-beams, turning round and round, as if warming at a camp-fire. Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence: you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.” John Muir
    Wonderful thoughts this morning, Bob.
    Above is my favorite quote from John Muir. For me, when I wake up in the middle of nowhere and listen to the symphony of silence, the breath of Mother Nature. That is what nourishes my primordial soul. The spirit of my ancestors is in my DNA. Over time I forgot my real place in the Universe, my tribal and cultural roots. Happiness only came when I found my place again. When I realized I was part of the whole I became a nomad just like my ancestors in ancient times. You have inspired me again, Bob.

    • Diane Kirkendall

      Sameer – LOVED your comments 🙂

    • Bob

      Thanks Sameer, I think we must have lived together in the same tribe once many thousands of years ago! And yes, that means I am a total believer in reincarnation.
      Stop by my camp and we will talk about old times!

      • Sameer

        I am looking forward to doing just that! See you soon in the desert.

  6. Rick

    Forgive me, I love my soulless technology

    • Bob

      Rick, don’t tell anyone, this is a secret just between you and me, I love it too!!! I love it more than I can say!!!!
      But it is destroying the planet and the lives of billions of people. The only important question is, “Which do I love more?” Unfortunately, 90% of Americans love their iPads and Big Macs much, much more so we will go on destroying the planet and enslaving millions until the bitter end. And the end is going to be very, very bitter!

  7. LaVonne

    I only had a few days at the summer RTR outside of Flagstaff, but there were moments when I felt completely at one with nature, looking up at the sky, watching the birds play, listening to the wind in the trees. It was magical, and I can’t wait to get going into this new/old life.
    I have often worried about what will become of us now that we have forgotten almost everything our recent ancestors knew about self-sufficiency. For instance, many Americans (and I was one) think that cooking means opening a cardboard package and warming up the contents in the microwave. I’m glad there’s a movement toward “slow food” and city farms like this one: People are finally starting to wake up and realize that they need to re-learn the old ways.
    As for the nomad life, there are exciting possibilities for us too. I’m learning how to sprout greens for protein in my smoothies. Foraging is worth learning about. I won’t be learning to hunt, though I respect those who do it for food, not sport. I’d like to fish (but I worry about polluted waters). Some have talked about growing food at a rotating series of BLM camps, with boondockers taking turns tending the plants. I’d love to see that idea take ‘root’!

    • Bob

      laVonne, I agree totally. I think about what I should do about the upcoming apocalypse and part or me says to learn to hunt, fish, forage and grow food. But I am a fat lazy American like nearly all of us and I honestly don’t know if I wouldn’t rather just die than live that way. I believe in it and champion it but I am absolutely unprepared for it. And preparing it for it would be an incredible amount of hard work and take a long time.
      The main way civilization is so evil is it takes away all our self-sufficiency and makes us totally dependent on others. It’s a prison on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. If you escape or try to escape you face nearly certain death outside of the prison. There are no good choices.

      • LaVonne

        I’m fat and lazy too, Bob, but over time I have very slowly managed to change the way I live and eat… motivated by an illness that is uncompromising. If I don’t want a 3- or 5-day migraine, I have one choice: eat healthy. Now I feel lucky to have these awful migraines. Without them, I would never have the strength to give up my food addictions.

        • Bob

          Lavonne, it’s so strange how some things that we are certain are the worst possible thing turns out to be a pretty good after all. That’s happened to me often enough that it’s what convinced me that I had to give up all my old ideas. What I thought was good turned out bad and what I thought was bad turned out good.
          I’m really glad that you’ve made something great out of something so awful!

  8. Naomi

    This is great! I’ve been an admirer of Jung for a couple of years, and yes, it takes all the brain cells I have to read his work. Thanks for the book recommendations. Will be ordering soon. I also want to read some of Vine Deloria, Jr.’s works on Native American spiritual topics. One of my favorite quotations is his:
    ““Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”
    ― Vine Deloria Jr.”

  9. CAE

    My entire career and education were in computer science and technology. I’ve seen and been involved with many interesting and leading edge concepts. But, NOTHING has ever impressed me as much as nature.
    This was true when I was a little kid and it’s true today…the follies of man are dwarfed by the magnificence of the natural world.

    • Bob

      CAE, we think exactly alike!

  10. Frank

    I would like something better than nature. I would like to exist in the form of light and energy. Where one doesn’t grow old, sick, or die.
    Then be able to create my own virtual universe to live and play in. It would be very realistic like the holodeck on Star Trek.
    I would be self sustained, no need for fear, and no need for anything of the real physical material world. I would even be in my own dimension that could never be found, exploited, or invaded.
    I wonder if God did this, where is he anyways? Who created God? Was it some madman inside a cave?

    • Diane

      without sickness and death, health and life would have NO meaning.

      • Frank

        Without sickness and death, health and life would have more meaning.
        That’s why people want to go to heaven, for immortality. Why should God be the only one to have that power.
        What kind of God would create death, fear, and the Devil. Would you let your children be harmed by bad influences. God has a plan to create, destroy, and then recreate.
        A real God with true powers would only have to create once. A place that is already heaven and all simple needs are met, so sins become obsolete.
        A dimension of light and energy would be the only way to create such a place. Some people call this the sprit world, but whatever it would be called, it would be a place of nature, beauty, peace, tranquility, and endless existence.
        What real, true, caring, and loving God wouldn’t want that for his children the first time around.
        Something is wrong and it doesn’t make sense. A God with so much powerful might and knowledge surely must have a much better plan than creating unneeded pain, fear, and suffering.

        • Walt

          I felt much the same as you until I read Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God series of books (three in all). After reading them, I had a much better understanding and acceptance of why there is pain and hate in the world. I doubt I can do the books justice, but the thinking goes along the line of bad existing so that we can truly know and recognize good when we see and experience it. In order words, such things give us a context by which to understand, evaluate, or recognize their opposites when we encounter them.
          Again, I am not really doing justice to what Walsch writes, but I do highly recommend the three books in the Conversations with God series. the books begin at the most personal level and work their way outward to a broader view of the world. After I read them, I knew why I never felt truly comfortable or at home in any particular church or religious denomination.

          • Frank

            Thanks for info Walt

      • Bob

        Diane, very true and wise! Those words are to build a life on.

    • Bob

      Frank, I’m sorry but that is something I don’t have any answers to. A madman in a cave is as good as anything else I’ve heard for an explanation.

  11. jackal

    Why haven’t bacteria evolved to survive in honey? Or oxygen? Without barrier to prevent evolution, there would eventually be only a single, dominant species, after having hijacked all resources on earth for its own.

    • Bob

      jackal, if there is one thing that nature knows how to do it is establish boundaries and check and balances. Humans have overstepped their bounds and the check is coming due!

      • jackal

        Good answer.

  12. Frank

    Thanks for info. Walt.

  13. Ross Macintosh

    Reading Bob’s post and all the thoughtful comments reminded me of a learning experience I had a number of years ago. When my younger son was five or six I got involved in Scouting with him. Here in Canada the youngest youth in the Scouting movement are “Beavers”. (The kids then move on to “Cubs”,”Scouts” and “Venturers” as they grow older). The Beavers are really quite young and for most it is their first exposure to connecting with nature. With my son in Beavers I volunteered to be a leader. With the kids deemed too young for “real” camping our group travelled to a nearby natural history museum and had a sleep-over in the multi-purpose room. A number of activities were organized to help the kids connect with nature. The highlight, that I just remembered today, was a visit from an elder from the Mi’kmaq tribe. (The Mi’kmaq are a First Nations people indigenous to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Price Edward Island, Maine, and the Gaspe Bay region of Quebec). The elder gathered the Beavers in a circle and spoke to them about how his people know they are connected to Mother Earth. He told them that in his tribe children learn what to do if lost in the woods and that they should learn it too. He explained that anyone can be lost in the woods but that that there is no reason to be scared. His advice was, if feeling lost, lean up against a tree because the generous tree will protect you. Up against the tree you are safe. You can talk to it and it will patiently listen. You *will* feel its protectiveness. He noted that with the tree looking after you cougars and bears will not harm you. You will not be afraid and soon someone will find you. He explained that the trees have been the protectors of kids (of all ages) for all of time.
    The message that you can be safe in nature really hit home with the kids — and the leaders & parents present. The kids, typically, easily distracted at their young age focused closely on the wisdom the elder shared. His point was we are one with nature was a powerful message.

    • Bob

      Ross, thank you so much for sharing that!!! Reading it gave me goose-bumps and brought tears to my eyes! I know that sounds silly but to the my deepest core of my soul I know you and those boys encountered truth that day. Most of us never brush up against it.
      You must have been a great dad to have given your young son that much of your time and self. He was very lucky!

Table of Contents