The Wisdom of Gaia

by John Van Mater, Jr.

There is critical need for a wisdom that can help us reestablish our once harmonious relationship with nature. Such wisdom has always been a part of humanity's spiritual life, encompassing a living earth within a living solar system and universe. This superior "knowing" contained in the world's mythologies provides portals to the inner earth and cosmos. There are solutions to the current global crises which depend first on our attitudes and awareness of what nature is. We know about the destruction and poisoning of the global ecosystem on land, in the air, and in the oceans, and this has evoked a dynamic view of earth as a living organism, Gaia, as proposed by James Lovelock in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth.

To truly know Gaia challenges conventional materialistic views. Due to growing worldwide interest, Gaia's reality is being rediscovered. This and the added controversy spurred Lovelock to write a second book, The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth, which explains in more detail Gaia's early evolution and the validity of the Gaia concept (an ancient tenet of most of the world's traditions. Gaia (Gaea) is Greek for Mother Earth). But more important than the scientific debate or speculation is his mystical philosophy founded on the causal principles of nature. This new science of earth requires a fusion of the arts, philosophies, and sciences with religion to gain a comprehensive picture. Lovelock writes: "Art and science seem to be interconnected with each other and with religion, and to be mutually enlarging." His personal philosophy confesses to a religious reverence. In his words, "that Gaia can be both spiritual and scientific is, for me, deeply satisfying." (The Ages of Gaia, p. 217) As a rebel and visionary, he suggests some crucial ideas relating to recognition of Gaian wisdom.

Science has progressed, acquiring new facts and more advanced theories about earth, such as plate tectonics. Although Lovelock in his second book provides much information on Gaia's early development, many mysteries still remain. Like other scientists, he assumes that the chemical elements have always acted in the same manner as they do at present, yet we know conditions have changed. Why not, then, the characteristics of the elements? Early Gaia was physically different from today, and has been transformed by global life. But what is this life? The difference between living (organic) and dead (inorganic) is seldom questioned; and life's mysterious origins are dismissed as inconsequential. Lovelock admits some of these limitations but, like many of his contemporaries, downplays these very unknowns that are pivotal to Gaia as a living being.

This vast area has only begun to be explored, which points to the need of a more spiritual approach in science. Lovelock and others intuitively sense that life originates at superior levels with consciousness the common denominator, the direct link to the mystery of Gaia. The observer does affect the subject; we have inner capacities to know life's spirit because in essence it and we are one. The wisdom of Gaia can be gained only through oneness — by living harmoniously and wisely with all beings.

Gaia's wisdom can be discerned from two levels: the first, where science concentrates, is her body, her physical, biological, and chemical operations involving organisms recycling the elements in the biosphere; the second is Gaia's mysterious spiritual life, consciousness diffused through all her aspects. Her wisdom presupposes as essential the actions of a living being with mind and inherent purpose.

The study of Gaia's body is aptly called geophysiology by Lovelock. It describes the processes of a dynamic organism, a gigantic symbiosis of complex interactions with all its life forms sustaining the right conditions. They are as tightly coupled with the mineral crust as the snail with its shell. Lovelock sees the diverse kingdoms as cells in a body, circulating and modifying the elements. The plants act as lungs and energy transformers, further metabolized by animals, whether cattle or microorganisms. They build new products while breaking down others. In all these activities there is a constant exchange of vast quantities of chemical compounds in various forms. The balance is constantly maintained by forming gases essential to life, such as oxygen. This stability or homeostasis maintains the most suitable conditions which that life somehow controls.

One should ask, What is really controlling Gaia's self-regulating and organizing life? Can chance or matter alone account for this enormous system of organisms, able to steer Gaia from its beginning, while stabilizing conditions that are regarded as equally fortuitous? Gaia has indeed sustained herself, despite drastic global changes against near-impossible odds, because of a foundation of higher intelligences or gods. (Many great scientists — Kepler, Newton, A. R. Wallace, Einstein, among others — recognized the existence of superior beings or deity. Although an important part of their philosophy, it did not interfere with their capabilities as scientists.) Who are these gods and what is their importance to our current crisis? H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine gives us many names drawn from ancient sources: Dhyan Chohans, Elohim, Kabiri, or the Guardians of the four directions, the Four Maharajas. Their importance to the evolution of nature and humanity is preeminent, for they maintain the balance of Gaian metabolism. Far from human anthropomorphic images, these gods are intelligent solar and cosmic forces having direct associations with the seven sacred planets as regents transmitting the energies of cosmic mind through the sun's being. Indeed, they are the spirit in Gaia and ourselves, and act as an inner guidance system.

These beings have a special role in earth's karma, as her life's creators, sustainers, and destroyers. Their harmony automatically becomes nature's operations. The esoteric wisdom recognizes all things — atoms, planets, universes — as living beings equal in divine essence, but differing in their degree of unfoldment. Theosophy incorporates a pantheism of living god-sparks at various stages of evolution, becoming self-conscious at the human stage, and expanding infinitely beyond in the superhuman. They form a divine ecology interconnected on all levels — diffusing into Gaia's geophysiology. There is no beginning or end to the chain of being, from atomic to stellar and galactic universes. Such a hierarchy includes buddhas, mahatmas, sages, with humanity as part of Gaia's inner consciousness.

The theory of higher intelligences organizing and operating worlds and universes as part of divine purpose is a key to Gaia, albeit not favorably looked upon by scientists generally. They protest that Gaia's biota (organisms) don't consciously work together, or purposely plan ahead in order to maintain balanced conditions. This is partly true, but they certainly have an awareness! That Gaia follows a superior plan, and simultaneously coordinates the billions of her organisms, seems essential. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake has proposed the existence of nonphysical morphic fields which form a bridge between the physical and spiritual. These intelligent fields are likely created from consciousness out of more subtle energies and substance, like the electromagnetic fields which surround and penetrate the earth. Both types of fields are analogous, invisible to our senses, yet with recording and organizing capacities. We know electromagnetism exists, even though it is not fully understood. Why not the actions of mental fields? Gaia as a true entity unites all lives down to the last atom, blending fields of consciousness connected intimately to her spirit-mind. These inner morphic fields of etheric substance are not subject to the same destructive changes as those of the physical plane. They direct and organize while maintaining a continuity of consciousness. Acting from this space-time level, these fields are instant recorders, retaining a memory of all previous patterns of activity, while generating future possibilities for life's evolution. Hence an individual being influences all others, and vice versa.

Can we not then view all operations of nature as a result of inner intelligences, divine beings, as Gaia's superconsciousness — permeating fields interacting constantly, as levels of beings having varying degrees of awareness and individuality? Plants have their own intelligence and desires, rudimentally present in the mineral; animals continue to develop further soul qualities — of mind and emotion eventually due to awaken into human self-consciousness. Divine qualities are reflected in every kingdom, while the human also has those of the lower kingdoms. Ancient and current cultures have good reason for worshipping the deities mystically represented by the sun, moon, and planets, as they have practical influences on nature's changing cycles of birth, growth, death, destruction, and renewal. Traditionally the sun god is the fount of all energies, both life-giving and death-dealing, in its planetary system.

Gaia's behavior — the spinning, tilting, and natural processes are due to her interaction with the powers of solar and cosmic beings. Her cyclic activity, known esoterically by sages, covers immense solar time periods. Certain of these crucial cycles, such as recurring global catastrophes, mark changes in Gaia's and humanity's evolution. Inwardly the fields of consciousness of all the kingdoms of nature interblend; outwardly every living thing is evolving within Earth's electromagnetic fields. The outlets at the poles release surplus energy as Gaia is an electromagnetic dynamo, with large encircling fields, spinning like a top as she orbits the sun. Electromagnetic vitality is instrumental in initiating the shifting of the poles with periods of slowing down and wobbling on the spin axis. While the spin slows, there ensue larger movements of the geographic and magnetic poles, producing wider dislocations between them. (Science has evidence of several locations of former north magnetic poles found even south of the equator.) Gaia tilts and wobbles further, possibly lying on her side, even inverting the poles — flipping upside down! The Stanzas of Dzyan in The Secret Doctrine suggest that these facts were known in previous eras:

"When the Wheel runs at the usual rate, its extremities (the poles) agree with its middle circle (equator), when it runs slower and tilts in every direction, there is a great disturbance on the Face of the Earth. The waters flow toward the two ends, and new lands arise in the middle belt (equatorial lands), while those at the ends are subject to pralayas [dissolution] by submersion. . . . " — 2:324-5

Flood stories exist worldwide. The Hopi Indians have teachings where the pole "twins" periodically leave their posts and the earth tilts in all directions (Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi, p.16). The Secret Doctrine and the Hopi Indians claim several previous global catastrophes; the former predicts the coming of a fifth; and the latter a fourth. Both agree that these world destructions are caused alternately by fire and water. Long before these major events occur, minor cataclysms will also affect portions of the globe.

If we could see Gaia's life over millions of years in a few hours, as in a time-lapse film, she would be wobbling and tilting like a living organism. The polar shifts are primarily involved in an accelerated renewal. Old lands are retired, sinking and splitting apart, while new ones emerge. Major races and civilizations, along with animals and plants that evolved on older continents, pass away in relatively short geologic time. Gaia is indeed a dynamic being with buckling, sliding, and colliding plates rising and sinking along with volcanic chains that reshape her surfaces and affect climates. There are not only changes in climate, wind patterns, ocean currents, or displacements, but in matter itself. Going beyond even Lovelock's view, theosophy sees earth's mineral body as alive, not dead, and the physical-geological and biological processes as those of a living being. This is geophysiology!

We need not be fearful of these large-scale activities but should take more seriously legends of the Atlanteans who lived out of balance with Gaia and thus hastened their own destruction. Certainly there will be future global changes where new adjustments are made. Other karmic agencies such as death, disease, famine, and wars will also exist into the far future. All of these are effects of nature balancing karmic causes to reestablish harmony. Gaia must periodically cleanse herself, dissipating life's poisonous psychic build-up while regenerating new growth and fresh beginnings.

Lovelock is right in claiming that mankind is responsible for whatever results are received from Gaia. Karmic reaction is inevitable, but we can take greater responsibility for our thoughts and actions. This is fundamental in our relationship with all life. Our innate spiritual faculties such as intuition are most valuable in seeing into nature's depths and perceiving our oneness. Such an awareness helps us to see that each thought and action has an impact on Gaia and the whole. Our wills, minds, and thoughts, as much or even more than physical pollution, cause reactions on the inner morphic fields of consciousness to be returned to us in exact measure. Whether the effects will be disastrous or beneficial depends entirely on the quality of our thoughts and motives.

Despite its destructive tendencies, humanity is a class of young gods, part of Gaia's spiritual heart, the Hierarchy of Compassion. There are no simple, rapid cures for blindness and selfishness, for we need time to mature spiritually. Our ethics can reflect universal brotherhood — seeing all beings as divinities and thus loved as sacred. Creative solutions to current global challenges may fuse future sciences with the arts and religion, supporting an ageless wisdom. Our capacity to live compassionately with other beings should naturally follow.

Perhaps Gaia will be looked upon one day as sacred mother to all life which Lovelock sees in the symbol of the Virgin Mary. She represents an ancient concept of the highest cosmic substance. In resonating with the divine in all things we can be healers of Gaia. We are offspring of the living universe but awakened individual choice is needed for us to be worthy partners with Gaia.

(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, April/May 1993. Copyright © 1993 by Theosophical University Press)


Sunrise Back Issues Menu