Posted in Musings

Soul Hydrography- The Elwha Dam and Seattle Seawall


Sediment released by removal of the Elwha River dam flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
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Drawing by Craig Spencer

Soul Hydrography is the study of how waterways, rivers and currents reflect the spiritual state of humanity.   Our psychic energy flows with the drainage’s along which we establish our precarious settlements, into mythologies of the parched landlubber, and hies with the stream of time back to the infinite.  I have no actual experience in this field, unless an adolescent kookdom in Surf City counts for training.

We are pulled into the undertow of mythic floods or swept into a sea of trouble . The  primal chaos that threatens to engulf us is the same prima materia from which our civilization arose.

The removal of the Elwha River Dam and the rebuilding of the Seattle Seawall are two projects that reveal something of the secret history of the Northwest and the contradictory impulses we share-namely, the primal drive to hold or release, to build and destroy, or open and close.  Like the breath, these complementary movements alternate through  cycles of history.

The Elwha dam nearly decimated one of the world’s largest salmon runs, destroying the livelihood of the Clallum tribe as well as the settlers who lived along the river.   While it generated electric power for Port Angeles, it deprived the area of another form of energy not measured by kilowatt-hours.  It created a major blockage of the communities’ vital force-its chi.

The deteriorating Seattle seawall is symptomatic not only of infrastructure divestment, but is also an example of soul hydrography.  In a heartbeat, the waters can engulf the high temples of power so serenely reflected on the surface of Elliot Bay.

William Blake called the 5 senses “the chief inlets of the soul in this age” (A happy turn of phrase for our theme.)  Today, few consider that there might be other inlets, and forget  lessons from former ages.  Though decay of the materialist bulwark against the soul’s depths causes unease, we seem ever more walled off from the possibility of accord with   unconscious dictates.  These energies lie a thousand fathoms deep right off Seattle’s doorstep.

Emanuel Swedenborg’s  reading of Genesis accounts the Ark as a vessel bearing remnants of the Ancient church. The waters Noah navigated drowned the remaining populace-the Nephilim- in materialism and greed.  In Swedenborg’s esoteric reading of scripture, Nephilim denotes those whose inherent goodness and charity became immersed in selfish desires.  Noah safeguarded secrets that held the key to gnosis, a mode of perception that maintained the spiritual life of man and, therefore, humanity itself.   Though Swedenborg’s biblical interpretation addressed an inner history,  involving preservation of an Arcana entirely different from chronological narrative, there are correspondences with the ecological disaster we face today.  See Henry Corbin’s fascinating book,  Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam.

Happily, the Elwha dam is gone and the construction of a new seawall is in the works.