Yggdrasil: Tree of Life, Portal to Nine Worlds

Yggdrasil, Tree of Life in Norse mythology, is an appealing topic. Several years ago, I was part of a panel discussing this tree of life.

During this panel, any people had emotional stories to tell. Stories about how they have beautiful, inspiring dreams about trees, that connect them with nature. Stories about how mad they are that we screw up nature like we do.

Today I will share a book review about Yggdrasil, based on an analysis made by Maria Kvilhaug. Maria has a master degree in Old Norse mythology and initiation rituals.

The Seed of Yggdrasil. Deciphering the hidden messages in Old Norse Myths
by Maria Kvilhaug
Whyte Tracks 2013
Hardcover $77.99, Kindle Edition $43.03
ISBN 13: 978-8792632289
ISBN 10: 8792632289
Reviewed by Susanne van Doorn

 

 

Yggdrasil
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Yggdrasil and Comparative Mythology

It is so natural for me to compare mythologies worldwide. People have the same challenges everywhere. The same problems to solve. So one naturally assumes people have myths about similar problems.

But since the star from Joseph Campbell has faded, so has the trust in comparative mythology. You know that I am a big fan of Campbell, but I agree that not every story is a hero story.

Campbell was known to have “cherry picked” myths, so he could build the mono myth theory.

Maria Kvilhaug uses the same comparative mythology in her book. And I must say, just like Campbell’s books are nice to read, so is hers.

She is a “Pantheist”: “there is an ultimate unity behind the many gods, and that they are united in a single source” (page 635).

Yggdrasil and Edda

In 1643, the Edda, composed of several stories, was given to Bishop Svensson. He immediately recognised the value of those papers. Verses written by Snorri Sturluson in 1243.

At this time, Snorri was afraid that the young people would forget their rituals.

Yggdrasil

“Snorri had a clear and outspoken agenda with his work. He realised people were beginning to forget the myths of their ancestors” (page 21).

But the pagan gods, initiations and rituals are being described as devilish, satanic. Maria explains how the verses are written with respect (or fear?) for the church.

Yggdrasil as parable

A parable is a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.

Maria invites us to interpret the Edda as if it is an illustration of possible behaviours within the world.

Yggdrasil
Artwork: Welcome Images

 

In this way, Yggdrasil becomes a symbol of the human body. A representation of the tree-shaped nervous system, or the vascular system in our body.

Yggdrasil and The Eagle

At the top of the Yggdrasil, there is an eagle “and he knows much” (p 163). At the bottom of the Yggdrasil, there is a serpent coiled by the roots, eating them away.

 

Yggdrasil

 

Maria suggests that the eagle is a symbol for the all-knowing observer. Being a spiritual atheist, I am not so inclined towards a god/goddess who observes all.

But being a diabetic, I know from periods were I have suffered a low blood sugar level, that there is something in me that tells me that there is something wrong. My inner eagle. It tells me to go look for food/sugar when I notice that I start to see things unclear.

YGGDRASIL AND the snake

My old friend snake (read more about it in Amazing Animal) is a symbol of our connection to the earth. Remember how in Genesis Eve is being tempted by a snake?

Yggdrasil
Snakes in Prague, photo by Susanne van Doorn

 

If our human psyche is wired to seek its own way, not ruled by laws and prescriptions from God(s), there might be a psychic need to embrace the snake as part of our personality.

Remember how in the Matrix agent Smith compares humans to a virus?

“You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure” (The Matrix 1999).

Maybe that is the snake eating at the roots of our Yggdrasil. I always thought it was an excellent summary of the Catholic concept of the original sin. We humans are bad. It eats us. We try to cure it but destruction of the world seems unstoppable.

Yggdrasil and Odin

Norse god Odin is important to me. I met an Odin-like one-eyed wander in a dream once. I bought him some good food, because I assumed he was alcoholic. When I got outside I looked under his big hat and became scared to death. He only had one eye! His missing eye was uncovered…

Maria interprets Odin as “The Universal Spirit”. A shared unconscious, like Jung‘s collective unconscious. It reminds me so much of the religious concept I embraced when I was a child. I used to think that god was the sum of all the good in all the people on the earth.

Yggdrasil
Georg von Rosen
Odin, the Wanderer

 

Odin his name means Poetry, Spirit or Frenzy. “Obviously, we have all qualities within us. The Spirit is that what gives us breath and inspiration, which is exactly  what Odin is said to have given to men and women alike. The Poetry is equivalent of the mind, that within us which creates the stories that are our lives, and the Frenzy is our passion, our desire, that with drives us forward and makes us seek, rebelling against everything that limits the fullness of being” (page 643).

Yggdrasil and the Goddess

In the seventies there was a rumour that we once had lived in a matriarchal society. A society ruled by women. This was never the case. But femininity, and the importance of females for the survival of any community is clearly embraced in this book.

“To the initiate of the Mysteries of Isis, the myth is a parable of the quest for salvation” (page 39).

Yggdrasil

Did you know there is a maiden that sleeps at the roots under Yggdrasil? She dreams up the world. This made me think about Anne Baring her assumption that the Cosmos itself is dreaming.

Conclusion

PRO

  • So much information about Norse Mythology. Information about Odin and his origin, about the number nine and the number three. Information about Freya, wife of Odin and all the other famous gods.
  • So much information about history. Because mythologies of different countries are compared you get a view good history lessons too.
  • The difficult poetry of Edda is made so much more understandable by Maria. Even if you do not agree with her interpretation, you are going to learn so much about mythology and its place in the current world.
  • If you like witches this book will have some intriguing chapters about “The Witch Before Time” and “The Way of the Wand Witch”. Women were important in the Viking age, even though they were not supposed to be warriors.
  • The female/Goddess is honoured in this book. You will find out much about

CON

  • The contents page is not right, at least not in my print of 2013. From paragraph 2.2 pages have started to shift. This means that paragraphs or chapters you are looking for are one or even two pages further in the book. This is a sloppy mistake which is uncalled for in such a marvellous book.
  • The font used is extremely small, which makes it less attractive to read.
  • It is a huge book that contains 677 pages. You will have to take your time to read it.
  • The price is for some people a bit high: $77.99. But if you are infatuated with Norse Mythology it is definitely worth your while.
  • There is a biography but not a subject index at the end of the book. Being a book-addict I know which book contains what information but I refuse to bother my brain with the memory of page numbers. So I am a big fan of subject indexes to easily look up things in the multitude of books that have gathered in my house.

Mindfunda verdict:
8/10

Here is an link to buy on Amazon if you enjoyed this review,
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THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!

What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Mythofunda:
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths” Joseph Campbell used to say. This part of Mindfunda shows you how your personal mythology can create peace in your life.

Read more about Mindfunda here, or visit our Courses Page.


(Ready for more free Mindfunda content on ‘#MYTHOLOGY‘?

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Descent

Every year around Christmas, I enter a stage of depression. I used to think it was caused by all the lights, cards and presents. I thought it was caused by the abundance of food in a deprived world. I thought it was my bad nature that caused me to get so tired around December. My biggest longing in December is to be left undisturbed in my thinking/feeling process to evaluate the year that has passed. My dreams are more intense, and I found out it is a special time for dreaming.

descent
Artwork: Mary Stubberfield

In the last couple of years I began to study mythology. I studied mythology like it was my life saving medicine. I began to understand that it had been my soul that was calling to me. I needed to tune in and listen.

 

descent
Buy this book using this link and you will support the good work of MINDFUNDA

James Hillman and the Descent to the Underworld

James Hillman, born in 1926, the same year as my father, studied in Zürich with Jung and he was director of this Zürich institute for ten years.
He typified modern psychology as soul-less. Psyche means soul but that is the one thing that therapists never touch upon.  In “The Dream and the Underworld” he says: “Soon we shall be making our own descent to the underworld in detail. I am assuming that its general geography is already somewhat familiar from myths, religions, painting and literature, where the horrors of hell and the sufferings of the deep, the waters one crosses to get there, have been to us through centuries of our common lore.”

Freud and Jung and the descent

In the psychological model Hillman paints the underworld as the touchstone of both of their lives. “Freud writes: Traumdeuting was, I found, a portion of my own self analysis, my reaction to mu father’s death- that is to say, to the most important loss, of a man’s life”.

Jung wrote down his revelations with the underworld in his Red Book.
The dread and resistance which every natural human being experiences when it comes to delving too deeply into himself is at bottom, the fear of the journey to Hades. Carl Jung

Could it be that I resented Christmas so much because I fear my journey to Hades? My descent into the underworld? I always tell myself that I do not fear death, only of the pain that will be involved in the process of dying. I remember the pain I felt when my children were born and it is very tempting to see death as  a birth into another realm. Both processes are accompanied by pain.

“The psychic perspective is focused not only on death or about dying. Rather, it is a consciousness that stands on its own two legs only when we have to put our day world notions to sleep. Death is the most profoundly radical way of expressing this shift in consciousness” says Hillman. So it is not the process of dying per se, but a shift of consciousness…

I know that you all like Stephan Aizenstat. He calls himself “A DreamTender.” He sits with a dream. With its images. And in some mystical way, it works for him and a lot of other people. If I sit with a dream, my mind just gets wandering. About all kinds of things but not about the dream. I need structure, to guide my active mind.

Hillman does not give a dream method. He tells us that dreams belong to the underworld. We should not try to interpret them. But meanwhile, reading his chapter “Praxis” about dreams gives you a lot of information about possible mythological interpretations of dreams. To understand dreams we must enter Hades’ realm. And the only way Persephone got entry there was because of the rape of Hades… So the aggression of the underworld, that plucks away the maiden admiring a flower, initiates the descent into the soul.

My own descent

Just like the sun, who enables our lives, we shine bright. The birth of Jesus, as celebrated at Christmas, symbolizes the return of the light. In Jungian terms: in our dark unconscious matter we will find treasures that can serve as cornerstones for our individualization. We need to bring those treasures up, into the light of consciousness.

 

descent
Diagram: Jungdarwinbook.com

 

The story of Eve, stealing and eating the apple of knowledge against the will of God, symbolizes the quest for knowledge. If Eve had not eaten the apple of knowledge together with Adam, there would have been no original sin. But there would also have been no need for the son of God to be born among man as Jesus Christ. It is a sin, but a Felix Culpa.

In the Grail legend, it is the other way around. Parsifal does not ask the question! Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise for their hunger for consciousness, Parsifal is denied the Grail for not asking the question. So historically, there has been a turn around.

Consciousness has become the Grail of our times. It has become the Grail of Jungians and others who look to depth psychology (and/or mythology to better understand themselves and their personal relationships and to their  (outer) world. I confess, I am one of those people. I do think gaining self-knowledge will make me a more balanced person. And that inner balance will increase my happiness. How has that worked out in my life so far?

Looking back I can say that the most depressing period in my life was when my husband was diagnosed with burn out. While he was sleeping and dreaming his way back into health, I was running round, taking care of everything and everybody, except for myself.

 

descent
Artwork: sacred connections.wordpress.com

One night I had a dream: A big spider comes walking toward me. It bites me in my hand, I feel a deep sharp pain and wake up.

The Spider Goddess bit me in the hand, as if to say: “Take care of yourself first”. Hillman says about the spider: “Although most natural spiders live in the earth, dream spiders usually appear in the air, a nightworld air like the chthonic, pneumatic underworld. There is an underworld intellect, a chthonic mind of nature that must spin out its patterns, constructing networks that can catch and hold any winged fantasy flying by.” The spider, in many ancient cultures the symbol of the Great Mother Goddess weaves the threads of the web of life, connecting realms and energies.

Like everyone who takes good care of him/herself, I started to plan lonely activities. Walking, every day. Me with my train of thoughts. My way of clearing my head. Embracing my solitude has helped me to survive. Loving the time I spent alone with myself has brought back balance. Like the spider weaves its connective web, my loneliness has taught me to see connections. How things of my past re-play in my current life. How I can be a better mother. Not only to my children, but also to myself. Is it the descent in the darkness that brings out the light?

Descent and Berserkers

Christmas time is family time. A time for old arguments and irritations that pop out just when you are ready to have a Christmas snack. Things can boil up into a heated argument. In a rage, your unconscious just throws out words that, even though they are true in your eyes, can hurt the one they are screamed at, to the core. The bear inside all of us can turn into a berserker: someone in a state of destructive rage. But things that are said can not be easily taken back. Going berserk is one of the expressions that still reminds us of the heritage of the Bear Goddess. The Bear used to be honored as a special deity. A representation of Loosing all grip of reality, in a rage of “telling someone like it is” you can turn the brightness of a Christmas Eve into the darkness of a nightmare.

descent

Almost all of us have been there, at such a family event, biting our tongues, or smiling politely when feeling offended by a family member.
Hillman has got this practical advice when you encounter such a situation:
“Our human person is shadowed by an archetypical image in the likeness of a God, and the God appears as the shade of a person”.
So just be gentle at the Christmas table. Don’t rage out, if a family member insults you, just acknowledge the fact that he/she represents the shadow. And without light, we would not be able to recognize a shadow as part of our own persona.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Remember: Christmas is a very special time for dreaming, so join Mindfunda for the Holy Night Dream Incubations.

Mindfunda invites you for a Christmas celebration you will remember. For just 10 dollars you get exclusive access to a restricted private area on Mindfunda during the Holy Nights. Each night between December 24 and January 6 I will share a dream incubation. We will talk about and reflect on our dreams. Ancient belief says that during these nights the veil between the worlds is thin. Register now as Mindfunda More Member, to experience the depth of your dreams.

Literature

Marie Louise von Fransz, The Feminine in Fairy Tales, Spring Publications 1974
James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld, Harper & Row Publishers 1979

 

Mythological Musings: 2 Mindfunda’s to discover mythology in your own life

Remember when you were young? How your history teacher would tell you with radiant eyes- about the Greek mythology? Mythology seems far away. How are mythological stories relevant in your life today? Mindfunda explores mythological themes in 2 blogs :

Your mythic life
Myth Stories

Mythological themes in your mythic life

Personal myths structure our awareness and point us in the direction that becomes our path” as June Singer describes it in the foreword of the book Personal Mythology.

mythological
Personal Mythology

This book written by David Seinfeld and Stanley Krippner, might change the vision you have of your life and your role in it.
The writers invite you to look at your life as a fairy tale and to describe your role according to the hero’s journey. This blog will identify the steps you can take to start writing and re-writing your own story.

Mythological themes in stories

Films and television series: the hero’s journey has become a concept for any scriptwriter. Almost all of us know how the hero’s journey has guided George Lucas in creating Star Wars.

mythological
The Hero’s journey

If there is a film or a television series that resonates with you, there is bound to be a mythological theme hidden that will guide you on your path. If you look at the success of films like the Matrix or Sense8 you will know how alive mythological themes still are. We will also talk about some old gems and their mythological perspective like my fair lady and apocalypse now.

Gaming also uses mythological themes. In gaming you use an avatar while being present: a dream like state of awareness. In that way, gaming represents a form of awareness you also experience during dreaming: a third person’s perspective. You identify with the avatar/dream image, but you are aware that you are not your avatar. Stepping from this third person perspective of awareness into a first person’s perspective will broaden your horizon.

Mythological themes in culture

The culture you grew up in. every culture has its own sense of mythology. Most of us are familiar with the Greek and Roman mythology. we know the Greek and Roman names for several gods: Zeus for Jupiter and Hades for Pluto.
Ralph Metzner has told us how most Europeans and Americans are descendents from the warrior tribes that invaded Europe.

mythological
the well of remembrance


Having a horse and carriage gave them the chance to defeat the original tribes. The third Mindfunda blog will explore the different cultural mythologies.

Mythological themes to resolve crises

Crises: that is when you need the lessons of mythological stories the most. When you fall in love, leave your parents, lose a job, when you feel that the whole world is against you. We have all been there. Mythological stories tell about how sometimes you need some help from a magical creature. They tell you to look for the strength within. This blog will look at leaving home and becoming a (wo)man, about finding true love and about loosing your loved one.

Read on in Part 2

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THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!

What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Mythofunda:
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths” Joseph Campbell used to say. This part of Mindfunda shows you how your personal mythology can create peace in your life.

Read more about Mindfunda here, or visit our Courses Page.


(Ready for more free Mindfunda content on ‘#MYTHOLOGY‘?

The Body of Poetry: Sculpting Curves into Words

This is the last Mindfunda blog in my series about the body and it features the body of poetry. Female poetry to be more precise. This blog is a part ...
Read More

Start of Spring: An Invitation to Dream an Ode to Freya

Let's celebrate the start of spring together! I want to invite you to join me on Mindfunda for a spring dream time celebration. This celebration is a part of my ...
Read More

Joseph Campbell: 5 Secrets to Yield Your own Yoda

This is a Mindfunda book review about "The Mythic Dimension", a compilation of essays written by Joseph Campbell, dusted off and reprinted in a paperback. It will help you unleash ...
Read More

Comments or suggestions? Share your thoughts:

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We don’t need another hero?

Tina_Turner_We_dont_need_another_hero

A long time ago a rather famous man wrote a book called: the Hero with a thousand faces:

Hero
A hero with a thousand faces
"The modern hero-deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the coordinated soul".

An eye opener for many. A standard book for therapists and individuals wanting to get to know themselves better. I love the book. If you have not read it already, please use the link above to get yourself a copy (and you will support Mindfunda).

The hero myth has become the standard for stories, scripts, films and presentations. Nancy Duarte wrote an excellent book about it, using the ingredients of the hero myth:

hero
Resonate Nancy Duarte

In a common story the hero is somebody you can relate to. An ordinary person living a rather ordinary live, being confronted with everyday trouble. Usually the hero is a man. After the introduction of the hero (remember that in most of your dreams YOU are the hero) he gets a calling to resolve a problem that affects whole of his tribe. In shawshank redemption an innocent man is thrown in jail. We feel for him. We resonate.
After getting setbacks, a helper appears. He has wisdom beyond compare and at first he eases the hero. Remember the Matrix? Neo didn’t think he was the one.
But his helper the wise Oracle knows.

In the modern series, often the hero is a rather autistic guy. He is really good at one thing. Excellent at one thing. But bad at relationships. His helper is usually a male or female he has no interest in for a mate. Take for example the series House.

hero
House

His helper is Dr. Wilson. House does not want to solve problems for society. He wants to solve problems because he is good at it. He is very attractive for woman but does not have a princess to conquer.

Another series featuring a man with autistic traits is Elementary:

hero
Elementary

Here a descendant from Sherlock Holmes solves crimes with his helper Watson: only now is Watson being reborn in the beautiful actress Lucy Liu. Again, just like House he excels in one thing: deduction. And his aim is not to help society but just to do what he likes most. He is very attractive to woman but does not have a princess to conquer.

Both hero’s are very good with their minds, but lack social skills. What do you think? Is the Hero myth changing? Do we want to live our lives for us and not for the community we belong to? And if so, is that a good thing?

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I will be interviewing Ralph Metzner soon and putting it on my Youtubechannel so be sure to sign up!

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The Matrix and the Goddess

I recently watched the Matrix trilogy again, here’s my Mythofunda approach on it:

Oracle: “Do you know what that means? (points at banner with Temet Nosce on it). It means know thyself. I want to tell you a little secret, being the One is just like being in love…”

In 1999 the Wachowskis, two siblings, directed The Matrix. It is a story about a hacker named Thomas Anderson. Thomas is the name of the disciple that did not believe Christ was resurrected. Doubting Thomas is an expression that is still being used when someone refuses to believes the miracle that happens. In the Gnostic Gospels Thomas knows Jesus and says he will believe it when he sees it. And it hits the most important nerve in the spine of the story: it explores the tension between ratio and magic. The Goddess holds the key to the solution. Thomas has a second identity: Neo (new, a computer hacker). Neo is an anagram for the One, the person we become when we have accepted our shadow.

goddess

The Goddess, as she appears in the trilogy of The Matrix (1999), Matrix reloaded (2003) and Matrix Revolutions (2003), has three faces. The fertile young sexy feisty Trinity, the black Penelope queen of the underworld and the all knowing Oracle.

The first scene of the film opens with the Goddess. Trinity’s voice talking to Cypher. Numbers run across the screen so we, the viewers are in on the secret: we live in a computer simulated reality.

Trinity is facing the wall, behind her laptop. A very accurate description of the society we live in. Computers being machines based to calculate, the Goddess can operate them but she is at the same time inviting Neo “to follow the white rabbit”. The rabbit, in many cultures is associated with the moon. The rabbit pours the elixir of life for Chang’e, the Chinese moon Goddess. In the poetry of Chu Chi, the rabbit on the moon pounds herbs for the immortals. And the legend was told in a conversation between Houston and Apollo 11 before the first moon landing. Houston said: “Among the headlines concerning Apollo this morning is one asking you to watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful girl called Chang-O was banished to the moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree”. (source Wikipedia).
And indeed Trinity invites Neo to look at the moon: they fall madly in love. When Neo and Trinity first meet she nails down that uneasy feeling we all recognize: what is reality?

The name Trinity refers to the triple Goddess: the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. We see Trinity as first lady in the film, and she plays the part of the Maiden. Persephone in the film, who is jealous of the love between Trinity and Neo, demands a kiss from Neo to help him free the key maker. The key maker in the movie can open doors to new computer realities.

So the mother – daughter roles are reversed. In Greek mythology Persephone always was the daughter, now she acts like the Mother Goddess, demanding love as the way out of a reality that is not fulfilling your needs.

The Crone in the movie is the Oracle: the old housewife, making cookies with a clairvoyant ability: “do not worry about the vase” she tells Neo before he accidentally throws down a vase that breaks. The vase holds water: a symbol for spirituality. The fact that it breaks is a referral to the death of Trinity in the third part of the trilogy. Once Trinity is dead it starts to rain. The water, symbolised by the rain refers to the water that makes life possible. One of the most ancient Goddesses are water goddesses. Nature goddesses that need to be balanced in order to bring propsperity to all living beings. Death brings new life, the circle is round…

 

The Matrix collection in Blue-ray

 

As the dark twin brother of Neo, agent Smith says: “Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure”. Now that is a very eloquent description on the shadow we human beings bare today. Every human being that is aware of its environment knows that we created our own paradise, but in ways that undermine our earth, our health and our mental well being. There is one thing that speaks for us as a species: our ability to dream.

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