Michael J. Cohen: Maverick
Genius at Work
Mardi Jones, Ph.D.
In 1955 neither an art nor
science was available that explained how or why you could make
conscious sensory contact with nature and increase mental health,
stress relief, learning ability, conflict resolution and personal
and environmental wellness. Then, as today, most great thinkers
and leaders expounded on what should be done about our important
social and environmental problems. However, they seldom offered
a tool or process that enabled us to accomplish what their brilliance
suggested so these problems persisted.
Dr. Michael J. Cohen's genius
is exceptional in this regard. He has not only acknowledged the
problems but has, in addition, identified their ordinarily invisible
source and created a nature-connecting solution for them. It
is doable and available
for anybody interested in reaping its benefits.
Throughout his adult life, Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D. has devoted his
energies to bring into consciousness, identify and think with
webstrings, unifying energy substances in nature that
are far more common than air. While all species and minerals
enjoy webstrings and their benefits, contemporary thinking in its
conquest of nature has been taught to ignore, conquer or transform
them from their natural status. This has led to the deterioration
of natural systems in the environment and people
Cohen has successfully demonstrated
the power we have to use unadulterated webstrings to regenerate
the purity of nature's balance, beauty and peace around and within
us (2). His work is an act of genius for it enables anyone to
use webstrings to help resolve "unsolvable" personal,
social and environmental problems (1).
Cohen has largely been ignored
because contemporary thinking neither believes in nor respects
webstrings and their potential for good. To our loss, our history
has been to destroy or inadequately substitute for webstring
relationships (3). For this reason, webstrings in their pure
beneficial form remain foreign to most of us, even though they
are right before our eyes. It is similiar to your consciousness
registering the words you are now reading but not registering
the air that sits between your eyes and this screen at this moment
(until you are now reminded of it.)
Environmental experts accurately portray webstrings, nature and
the web of life by gathering a group of people in a circle. Each
person is asked to represent some part of nature, a bird, soil,
water, etc. A large ball of string then demonstrates the interconnecting
relationships between things in nature. For example, the bird
eats insects so the string is passed from the "bird person"
to the "insect person." That string represents their
connection. The insect lives in a flower, so the string is further
unrolled across the circle to the "flower person."
Soon a web of string is formed interconnecting all members of
the group, from minerals to the solar system, including somebody
representing a person. In this model each of the connecting strands
is a webstring (4).
Every aspect of the global
life community, from the space between sub-atomic particles to
weather systems, is part of the web of life. The diversity of
natural system webstring interconnections produces nature's regenerative balance
that prevents runaway disorders. For this reason, undulterated
natural systems neither create garbage nor display our mental
health problems or our abusiveness, stress and isolation. Everything
that is part of nature, including people, belongs and is supported
In the web of life activity,
dramatically, people pull back, sense, and enjoy how the strings
of the web peacefully unite, support and interconnect them and
all of life. Then one strand of the web is cut signifying the
loss of a species, habitat or natural relationship. Sadly, the
weakening effect on all is noted. Another and another string
is cut. Soon the web's integrity, unifying ability and power
disintegrates along with its spirit. Because this deterioration
and loss of support from the wholeness of the web of life reflects
the reality of our nature-separated lives, it triggers feelings
of hurt, despair and sadness in many activity participants. In
reality, Earth and its people increasingly suffer from "cut
string" disintegration (5).
With respect to the webstring
model, Dr. Cohen asks people if they ever went into a natural
area and actually saw strings interconnecting things there. Usually
their answer is something like, "No, if I saw them I'd be
hallucinating or psychotic." Cohen has responded, "If
you see no strings there, what then are the actual strands that
hold the natural community together in its perfection and beauty?"
It becomes very, very quiet.
Are you quiet, too?
Pay close attention to this silence. It flags a vital but missing element
in our thinking, perceptions and relationships whose loss results
in many troubles
Natural beings sustain their
own and nature's wellness while in contact with the whole of
the web through webstrings. As part of nature, we are born with
this ability. Pulitzer-Prize winning sociobiologist Dr. Edward
O. Wilson, of Harvard, affirms that nature's web of life holds
the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual
satisfaction (7). Albert Einstein noted that, "Scientific
research is based on the idea that everything that takes place
is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for
the action of people....Our task must be to free ourselves from
(our) prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace
all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty"
Webstrings are part of survival,
just as authentic and important as the plants, animals and minerals
that they interconnect, including ourselves. The strings are
as real and true as 2 + 2 = 4; they are facts as genuine as water
or thirst. We ask for our troubles by ignoring them.
Cohen has demonstrated that
as part of nature we are born with the natural ability for our
mentality to sense, register and respond to at least 53 different
webstrings that we need for survival. However, contemporary thinking
learns to neither acknowledge nor exercise this ability. Instead, we
usually subdue it along with nature. Our troubles and discontents
result frojm thinking and relationships based on our use of less
than ten, rather than 53 natural webstring senses.
Without seeing, sensing or
respecting the webstrings in nature and our inner nature, we
break, injure or ignore them so they no longer register in our
consciousness and thinking. Their disappearance there produces
an unnatural void, a discomforting sensory emptiness in our psyche
and spirit that we constantly try to fill. This emotional vacuum
prevents us from registering and thinking with attractions that
otherwise help us, as part of nature, produce unpolluted balance,
wellness and peace. The void prevents the formation of many vital
relationships; this causes depression and stress in us; we unnecessarily
want, and when we want there is never enough. We become greedy,
abusive and reckless while trying to artificially replace our
missing 43 webstring fulfillments. This dysfunction places ourselves,
others and Earth at risk for with respect to the perfection of
the web of life there are few, if any, known substitutes for
nature's webstrings that do not produce destructive side effects
in people and places (9).
Cohen's quest to understand
and utilize webstrings has brought him, for the last 40 years,
to live and teach in natural areas year round. This led to his
Grand Canyon discovery in 1966 that Planet Earth acted like,
and could be related to, as a living organism, a fact substantiated
twelve years later by James Lovelock in the Gaia Hypotheses (10).
From this realization Cohen personally risked founding the Trailside
Country School and National Audubon Society Expedition Institute
along with other organic webstring education programs,
books, curricula, psychologies, therapies, courses, schools,
institutions and processes. These include the Whole Life Factor,
Organic Psychology, the Natural Systems Thinking Process and
the 9-leg thinking model that helps us offset our addictive,
nature-disconnected 5-leg thinking (2, 16). Each or these tools
is part of Cohen's nature-reconnecting process that helps us
build balanced relationships and wellness. The process provides
us with empirical evidence and genuine contact with webstrings
in natural areas that express themselves in us as 53 natural
attraction senses (17, 11). Each sense gives people a unique
means to make more sense and implement their deeper hopes and
Because, on average, over 95%
of our time and 99% of our thinking is separated from nature,
Cohen demonstrates that the crux of our troubles is that our
mind is uprooted from nature's purifying webstring balance around
and within us. He says,
"Like a deer severed by
the wheels of a train, our extreme separation from nature psychologically
severs us from our mentality's sensory connections and support
in nature. This hurtful disconnection ungrounds us; it disconnects
our thinking from many inherent natural ways of thinking, knowing
and relating. This numbs our mentality to most of the sensory
connections that produce nature's perfection and recuperative
powers in our mind and body. Disconnected from webstrings inside
and around us, our stricken psyche thinks that our nature-separated
lives are 'normal' so we deny our mental dysfunctions rather
than address them as such. Our disconnection is so severe that
even though most of us have had wonderful restorative experiences
in nature, our thinking negates rather than welcomes exercises
that enable us to increase and strengthen these experiences.
Webstring sensory reconnection
activities help us reduce our troubles by enabling us, at will,
to genuinely connect our thinking with authentic nature, backyard
or back country, and use its recuperative powers to restore our
sensibilities and wellness. This also helps us strengthen our
love of nature which is important because we don't fight to preserve
what we don't love."
In the 1985
Bureau of Applied Sciences
International Symposium on the Promotion of Unconventional Ideas
in Science, Medicine and Sociology, the so called "Maverick Genius
Conference" in England identified Dr. Cohen as a maverick
genius because genius has been described as "One
who shoots at something no one else can see, and hits it"
(13). Dr. Bruce Denness, the conference convener, partially in
jest suggested that Cohen, who still today sleeps outdoors year
round, might be the reincarnation of Henry David Thoreau as a
If our society
was dedicated to living in peace and balance with people and
the environment, "genius" would accurately describe
Dr. Cohen and his work's contribution, for
which he received the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award
(12, 14). However, in our nature-conquering society where profit,
power and exploiting nature are often rewarded, Cohen's webstring
learning and relationship building tools go against the grain.
His nature-connecting art makes him a maverick, a genius who
tries to teach the science of co-creating with nature to an "anti-nature"
society (2, 16). He argues, "With respect to the Web of
Life, we are part of the whole; when connected to the whole,
webstrings renew themselves and thereby us. In our nature-separated
society, a person who succeeds in helping us sustain personal
and environmental wellness by genuinely reconnecting injured
parts of us with nature must be, by definition, a maverick. It
is strange to realize that our thinking is our destiny yet one
is a maverick if they recognize that we can't isolate our thinking
from nature's perfection and healing powers and not suffer from
1. Descriptions of genius to
which Cohen's work applies:
"When nature has work
to be done, she creates a genius to do it."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The principal mark of
a genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new
"Genius not only diagnoses
the situation but supplies the answers."
"Genius is the ability
to reduce the complicated to the simple."
C. W. Ceran
"It takes immense genius
to represent, simply and sincerely, what we see in front of us."
"Genius . . . is the capacity
to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one."
"A genius is one who shoots
at something no one else can see, and hits it."
"Genius is the capacity
for productive reaction against one's training."
"True genius resides in
the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting
"Towering genius disdains
a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored."
Creative genius: "Individuals
credited with creative ideas or products that have left a large
impression on a particular domain of intellectual or aesthetic
"Persons of genius, and
those who are most capable of art, are always most fond of nature:
as such they are chiefly sensible, that all art consists in the
imitation and study of nature."
"What makes men of genius,
or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea
- possessing them - that what has been said has still not been
"Some superior minds are
unrecognized because there is no standard by which to weigh them."
"A good criteria to determine
a genius is to see whether he has caused a paradigm shift in
"My father taught me that
a symphony was an edifice of sound, and I learned pretty soon
that it was built by the same kind of mind in much the same way
that a building was built.... Even the very word 'organic' means
that nothing is of value except as it is naturally related to
the whole in the direction of some living purpose, a true part
-Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Jonathan Hale, The Old
Way of Seeing
Genius: "Those individuals that rise to the particular
challenges of emerging in a civilization when it is in some way
endangered and who make a response to ensure the continuity of
"The willingness and ability
to challenge conventional wisdom. Perhaps even more importantly,
scientific genius depends on an instinct for invention, an ability
to focus on the problem at hand, and a determination to pursue
that problem to a successful conclusion."
"What is called genius
is the abundance of life and health."
Henry David Thoreau
"A genius adds to every
equation our inborn love of nature and its global intelligence."
Michael J. Cohen
2. Cohen, M. J. (2003). The
Web of Life Imperative, Trafford, Victoria, B.C. Canada and
(1997) Reconnecting With Nature, Ecopress, Corvalis, Oregon,
and Einstein's World, Project NatureConnect, Friday Harbor,
WA. Also see Nature
Connected Psychology: creating moments that let Earth teach.
Journal of Science and Technology, July, 2000.
3. McKibben, W. (1999). The End of Nature Anchor Books/Doubleday.
4. Storer, J. Title: The Web of Life. Devin-Adair 1953.
5. Cohen, M. J. (2000). Einstein's World, Institute of
Global Education, Friday Harbor, WA
6. Cohen, M. J. (1997). The Natural Systms Thinking Process,
How Applied Ecopsychlogy Brings People to their Senses. PROCEEDINGS,
26th Annual Conference of North American Association For Environmental
Education, Vancouver, British Columbia.
7, Wilson (1984). The Biophilia Hypothesis, Harvard Univ
8. Einstein, A. (1997) in Neligh, R.D. The Grand Unification:
A Unified Field Theory of Social Order, New Constellation
9. Pearce, J. (1980). Magical Child. New York, NY: Bantam.
10. Cohen, M. J.(ed.) and Lovelock, J. (1986). PROCEEDINGS of
the 1985 international symposium Is The Earth A Living Organism?
Sharon, Connecticut: The National Audubon Society.
11. Cohen, M. J. (2003). The personal page of an innovative scientist-counselor-ecopsychologist
12. Jones, M. A. Genius at Work. http://www.ecopsych.com/think3genius.html
13. Cohen, M. J.(1986). Education as of Nature Mattered: Reaffirming
Kinship with the Living Earth. in Denness, B., Editor, PROCEEDINGS
of "The Maverick Genius Conference" The International
Symposium on the Promotion of Unconventional Ideas in Science,
Medicine and Sociology. Bureau of Applied Sciences, Isle of Wight,
14. Kofalk, H (1995) The
Distinguished World Citizen Award, Taproots, Journal of the
Coalition for Education in the Out of Doors, Cortland, N.Y.
15. Evaluation and Testimonials
16. Cohen, M.J. The Stairway
to Personal and Global Sanity Institute of Global Education
17. Cohen, M.J. (2002) Organic Psychology.com
The Organic Psychology Revolution: an environmentally
friendly, nature-based, therapeutic tool.
18. Cohen, M.J. (1997) Reconnecting With Nature: finding wellness through restoring your bond
with the Earth, Eugene OR. Ecopress
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