PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor February 12, 2020
“What if a greater race of beings were to make flutes and buttons out of our bones?” –Henry David Thoreau
Let me respond to a recent opinion piece on Changing America for the king of beasts. For there is a measure of the wild and the free inside each and every one of us. The lion is one of the first beings that children are introduced to when they come into the world, when they learn to read and marvel, in the form of Aslan, the lion king, and a myriad other incarnations. They personify the regal and the wondrous and the majestic and powerful and everyone knows that royalty for millennia likened itself to the lion, from the Assyrian kings to British royalty like no other animal on Earth.
Laurens van der Post, once called the conscience of the Western world, affirmed that no other creature possessed the strength, the speed, the cunning of a lion.
They possess, as Aldous Huxley once wrote, “a grace humans do not. They have the key to Eden.” They were not chased out of Paradise like humans were, and for this reason are our original mentors. They formed an integral part of the European psyche until very recently, and its cohesion as the great social cat had a major influence on human family coherence as we evolved on the plains of Africa. And when European man started to dismember Africa and enslave her peoples, what did they do to her wildlife?
Carl Jung tells of a very special moment when he was in western Kenya, near Mt. Elgon about a century ago. He was told of a particular lion that roamed the area. Once he awoke to find the tracks of the lion “that huge beast,” outside his tent. Jung said, “So I looked at the natives rather astonished, but they smiled and said, ‘it is not bad, it is our lion.’” When Jung became “psychically infected” by the primitive and given to delve in the non-ego and participation mystique he gathered from the vast wilderness of Africa, he was in part alluding to the animal kingdom. For Jung animals were the “priests of God.”
One can be accused of being emotional about life, about earth’s species, in this time of the sixth extinction. It is a catastrophic time for life on earth mostly because of our western model of having made slaves out of so many countless species, as Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote. He knew how it would not be until we had liberated ourselves from outmoded ways of treating the other beings of this planet, that we would find our souls on this earth.
Photo by ©Lysander Christo