Streaming News

Unveiling Gaia

by Lee Klinger, Ph.D.


            There are many who live close to the earth; who eat the raw foods, drink the natural waters, and breath the pure air; who walk, run, sleep, dream, and pray in the unbridled flows of natural forces and who sense intuitively that the earth is alive.  Include me among these creatures, privileged to live and work in wild and remote places, connecting often and directly with the sustaining flow of the surrounding ecosystem.  Time and again I’ve felt the pulse and seen the misty breath of a beautiful and powerful being.  Gaia.  Yet, those who share this innate sense that the earth is a vibrant living system wonder, like me, why such a self-evident view of the world is so foreign and unappealing to many in mainstream science.  Perhaps it arises from the fact that, if the earth really is a living planet, we humans, as part of the physiology of the planet, can no longer make truly objective observations or measurements of nature.  The current scientific paradigm, which prizes objectivity over subjectivity, is beginning to falter as more of us see and understand how we parts of are a higher-order living system.  Approaching the earth subjectively, or experientially, honors one’s unique ability to invite an intuitive understanding of nature.  While continually monitoring and analyzing the plants, air, water, and soils, we scan the terrains beyond the ends of our transects and are finding a vast intuitive landscape of nature that is limited only by the places to journey, by the people to meet.  I myself have seen thousands of places which tell of an immense and powerful living planet that has been breathing, burping, dancing, and dreaming along day after day, year after year, ice age after ice age, for eons.

The roots of the idea that the earth is alive lie buried deep in our past.  Ancient stone effigies of fertility goddesses hint that the notion of a mother earth was central in our earliest beliefs of a higher order.  Gaia, the name given to the Greek goddess of mother earth, is also the name given to a recently conceived scientific theory which holds that the idea that the earth is alive.  Carefully conceived and boldly advanced by the British scholar James Lovelock, Gaia is the theory of the earth as a self-regulating living system.  A bit more mundane than the depictions in Greek mythology of Gaia the dancer, daughter of Chaos and mother of the Titans, Gaia theory and the science of geophysiology (earth physiology) which it has spawned are founded on the idea that the earth self-regulates due to the close coupling of the biota and the environment. 

            In our place, high in the food chain, humans reside upon connections with Gaia that run deep and intimate, from the ingestive flows of food and water, to the direct injection of highly activated chemicals via biting insects and stinging plants, and the return flux of blood, sweat, and tears.  Physical and sexual intimacy ensures a strong chemical flow among all humans, and between humans and ecosystems globally.  One only need consider the origins and impacts of flu and AIDS viruses to readily visualize an elaborate worldwide chemical web stretching out from our communities and ecosystems, touching and linking people on all continents in a brevity of “Gaian time”.

            In some of today’s societies, however, people lack a balanced set of interactions with their regional ecosystems, and therefore with the parts of the earth most critical for their survival.  Human-ecosystem connections have become indirect and weak.  Food and water come to people from distant and disjunct sources, and are often chemically altered.  Walls and fences break the natural flows of air, light, plants, and animals.  The earth, though still fully alive in yards, fields, and even cities, becomes difficult to feel and see, its beauty veiled by the synthetic fabric of a hi-tech society.

            The prospect for a world in the future where humans achieve a healthy and peaceful existence through balancing their needs with the needs of the rest of nature depends, I believe, on the recognition by humankind that the earth is a living being, and that we are evolved, as are all other species, to bring her vigor and strength in a way no other species can.  This would present a tremendous problem, however, if such a balance can only be achieved through lifestyles that border on indigenous.  Humans will not abandon their cities and towns en masse for some primitive lifestyle in hopes of allowing for a healthy earth.  Nor, perhaps, should they.  If the earth is alive and healthy through the combined actions of all species, including humans, then her presence and process should envelop us, apparent along our roads and sidewalks, in our backyards, and even on our buildings.

            That is the focus of my latest education efforts at the Institute of Noetic Sciences - teaching people how to sense Gaia in every bit of one’s surroundings and in one’s self.  In a world that is fully fractal as well as alive, nature’s lessons are played and repeated for us daily and yearly in the cycles of life.  See them, and suddenly earth becomes customary everywhere you go, her familiar beauty unveiled even in the most obscure of places.


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