A Jungian Perspective on Crop Circles
It has often seemed to me that the only way humankind will change in time to avert its headlong course toward environmental destruction will be through the emergence of a new myth. Gary S. Bobroff, a Jungian-oriented psychologist and author of Jung, Crop Circles, and the Re-Emergence of the Archetypal Feminine, (link is external) has devoted his life to studying the emergence of just such a history-changing myth: the emergence of the Divine Feminine (1), as it appears to be revealed in the phenomenon of crop circles. Inscribed in fields of grain by what some say are human design and what others say are unknown forces, crop circles are mandala-like spheres of varied patterns and symbols whose appearances have been recorded throughout the world for over four centuries (2).
Although many have focused on crop circles as riddles that require solutions, or have written them off as pranks, Bobroff eschews that approach in favor of a more reflective, Jungian perspective. Like our nightly dreams, crop circles, he believes, also “invite” us to look more deeply, contemplating the source of their creation. Whether we respond to these ciphers written in grain with a skeptical brow or “wide-eyed enthusiasm,” says Bobroff, “[i]t is in how we engage with our own first responses to this phenomenon that the burden of our work in response to it lies. . .” By following the path laid down by our responses this way, he believes, we are led to a more profound engagement with the phenomenon of crop circles—and to nature. The following is an abridged version of our interview as it appears in the chapter on the environment in America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture. (link is external)
Pythia Peay: When you talk about the appearances of crop circles as an expression of something more mysterious drawing closer to us on Earth, are you saying that God is speaking to us through them?
Gary S. Bobroff: I’m very careful not to deify the makers of crop circles. But one of the things I ask people to do during my presentations is to ask themselves those traditional “big” questions, which is what crop circles can lead us to do. A lot of people respond by saying it’s the aliens who are causing crop circles, while others say it’s just a hoax. Those kinds of answers put an abrupt end to the process, so they don’t leave much room for psychological development.
So my invitation to people around the issue of crop circles is to ask them to wrestle with their preconceptions. Most of us use words like God or alien or whatever as bottle caps: categorizations that limit our participation with those big ideas. And that keeps us from feeling the anxiety and other things we would have to feel to participate in this mysterious occurrence.
PP: So you’re saying that the very form our answers take in response to crop circles reflects the dominant "masculine" paradigm of rationality and intellect that the crop circles themselves are trying to break us out of?
GSB: If we are facing the mystery of crop circles, and the extent of our response is to just apply a category to it, and to say, “Oh yeah, we’ve got it all figured it out,” that’s a masculine response. It’s also completely cutting off a person’s process of psychological engagement. Here you have a beautiful phenomenon that is created out of sacred geometry, and that is trying to speak to us.
PP: So, the Earth is speaking through the crop circles, trying to get our attention. I don’t know if you would use this analogy, but it’s as if aliens landed on the planet and yet we can’t speak their language, or understand what’s being said to us.
GSB: I think that’s a good jumping off point. But crop circles also communicate through art, so on a feeling level there’s a way that we do understand what’s being transmitted.
PP: Can you say more about what you mean by that?
GSB: Crop circles are a visual, aesthetic form of expression. Certainly, there is a way that they communicate symbolically, but the danger again is that interpreting them symbolically can exacerbate the way our culture tends to intellectualize everything. So with the crop circles, we have a chance to develop a genuine relationship to the mysterious in this world.
PP: Tell me about your personal experiences seeing, and being with, crop circles.
GSB: As a man I come to it first from my rational, skeptical place, so I’m always looking for physical evidence and other kinds of proof. But once I get past that, I start to have a feeling of the energy that’s present there. I’ve had experiences in which I’ve felt very powerful electromagnetic energies. But for many people it can be a challenge; we’ve lost that ancient way of feeling the energy of the place we’re moving through. And with the crop circles, that’s really what’s being asked of us: to be present, and to just be.
PP: Do you feel that crop circles are connected to what’s going on with the environmental crisis?
GSB: Absolutely. They’re not in metal, they’re not in wood, they’re not in sand—they’re a phenomena that are ingrained in the earth, and the plants are still alive. But at the same time I would want readers to make up their own mind. What I’m trying to do is to build a framework for individuals to take their own process around their reactions to crop circles more deeply.
PP: What has the response been to your presentations on crop circles?
GSB: Surprisingly, very good. What I’m trying to get through to most people is a feeling and a story that makes sense for our time. Because nowhere are we being given that.
PP: I’ve heard it said that religions arise in response to the needs of our time. Is that what you think is happening here?
GSB: Well, there’s a beautiful tradition where participants take the final sheaves of wheat from a harvest and weave it into a corn dolly or human figure to celebrate the end of the harvest. (3) Then it’s placed on a mantel or a hearth and venerated; or in European traditions it gets paraded around. We don’t do that anymore. But now, with the crop circles, something else is doing that for us.
PP: How are crop circles functioning like these figures that were used in agricultural rites?
GSB: Just as we creatively honored grain (and its source as the miracle of life) at the end of each harvest in generations past through woven corn dollies and similar figures, the same sacred ritual is taking place now through the medium of the woven grain in the crop circles.
PP: Do you see the crop circles as a sign of something hopeful?
PP: Even in the face of predictions that the human race may not make it, or that at least life will be significantly altered from how we know it today?
GSB: The Jungian analyst Ann Ulanov has spoken about the prevalence of visions of the Virgin Mary just prior to the horror of death camps and the Holocaust during World War II. So there is a way in which we might see these crop circles as a beautiful vision before a very dark time. Having said that, I have no idea about the future, except to say that we’re certainly entering a transitional time.
1. "Divine Feminine" is a term that arose with the rediscovery of ancient images of the Goddess, and is used to describe a set of values typically devalued by our more rational “masculine-oriented” Western culture, such as inter-connectedness, intuition, empathy, process, feeling, and the idea that all created life is imbued with sacred energy.
5. A corn dolly is a form of straw-work fashioned from the last sheaf of wheat or other cereal crops and used as part of harvest customs of pagan Europe.
Photo credit: Fake Crop Circle in the Meadow
Bobroff's interview is an abridged version of our complete interview, which I am over-the-moon-happy to announce can be found in my just-published volume of interviews, America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture (Lantern Books) in the chapter on the environment. Lantern Books has also just published my new memoir, American Icarus: A Memoir of Father and Country: as many of you know, I've been laboring over both these books for nearly two decades! So it is with the greatest joy that I can finally announce that both books are now available on Amazon.
Pythia Peay is an author and journalist on psychology, spirituality and the American Psyche. Peay’s work over the years has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Utne Magazine, Washingtonian, Religion News Service, The Washington Post, La Repubblica, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and past publications such as George, New Woman and Common Boundary.
A regular contributor to The Huffington Post, she has received awards for her work from The American Association of University Women and Women in the Media. Peay is currently completing a memoir of her father, American Icarus: A Daughter’s Memoir of Father and Country. In it she tells the iconic American story of Joe Carroll: The larger-than-life but troubled, alcoholic TWA airman and Missouri farmer she’d adored as a girl but had fled as an adult, his dramatic last days and redemptive death through the intervention of a quirky Hospice team, and her discovery of the larger American myths and narratives that shaped his life, and hers.
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