“This, in essence, is the hypothesis that Lovelock and his close collaborator Lynn Margulis were to call “Gaia.” The idea significantly modifies the central Darwinian paradigm of modern biology. Competition – natural selection at the species level – becomes much less important than the overall integration of living things within a symbiotic global network. The basic unit of evolutionary survival becomes the biomass as a whole, which may select species for their capacity to enhance the liveability of the planet.” Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

There can be said to be three interpretations of Gaia; scientific, theistic and philosophical. The science, which I have described briefly, is basically about looking at the Earth physiologically, as a body, and the practical implications of that. But I’m not a scientist, so although I take an interest I can only explain it up to a point. Theistic Gaia is the view that the Earth is sentient, and is literally seen as a single living being. Not something I believe in, but the image is interesting and certainly useful in a poetic sense.

What really interests me is a Gaian-based philosophy. This stands somewhere between science and theism, using scientific ideas and mythological images as a model that we use to view the world and as an ethical guide.

For a while we have had a view of evolution as something competitive and the Earth as an arena in which this biological struggle is played out. Although science is not meant as a tool to give us meaning or ethics, anything that gives us a view of the world, whether myth or science, also gives us a sense of meaning and ethics. Sometimes it is obvious though mostly it is subtle.

The view of competitive evolution has become a tool to legitimise a “dog eat dog” or “every man for himself” attitude. In this view the Earth is a resource and the world is seen as a hierarchy of power where the strongest preys on the weakest. And to some extent this is true, if you see the relationship between some species, and individual organisms of the same species, you will see there is a competitive, even violent, relationship. However, in the same way the classical view of physics breaks down in quantum mechanics, the localised competition of species breaks down in the broader ecological view. Each species fulfills a role in the bigger ecological system; any competition is just one aspect of a cooperative network.

Can the body’s major organs compete with each other? Can the heart win or lose against the lungs? Of course not, they are major organs and are completely and utterly interdependent with one another. However, minor organs or biological features can compete. A species of fish whose ancestors got trapped in a cave system lost their eyes because there was no need for them. The digits and claws of whale ancestors have eventually receded to be replaced by more useful flippers. The long grasping digits on the feet of our tree climbing ancestors have been reduced to small stumps on the end of our feet. But these minor “competitive” adaptations are relative compared to what is going on in the whole body.

We can use this analogy to look at the Earth. It too has major organs, species or certain groups of species that cannot be replaced. For instance, I remember in a biology class being taken out by my teacher with the class and being asked “Can plants live without animals or can animals live without plants?” No one answered plants, and yet that was the answer. Most plants, because they get energy directly from the sun, are self-sufficient, so if the animal kingdom inexplicably disappeared many photosynthesisers would be able to survive. Not so with animals.

There is, what I consider, to be a myth about humanity as the “dominant species”. We might have become very powerful and intelligent but that’s a very superficial dominance. Let’s put it this way, prey do not depend on predators but predators depend on prey, the foundation of a building does not depend on the upper floors but the upper floors depend on the foundation. This echoes a fairly Taoist principle and gives a different spin on Jesus’ “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

We owe our existence to the almost omnipresent microbial lifeforms, like bacteria, that were the first life-forms to exist and surely will be the last ones to exist. When Gaia was young this was, and still is, the basic components, “major organs” or major organisms, that sustain her existence. Without them nothing larger, like humans, could exist.  So it really does turn the concept of dominance on its head. We owe our existence to life-forms that are smaller, simpler and far less intelligent than us, which is humbling really.

We are left with an image that humanity is an interesting but unimportant contribution to the Earth’s evolution. We are left with the principles of respect, humility and cooperation. A good starting point for how we might conceive a Gaia-based philosophy. But this philosophy isn’t just for individuals to choose, as one philosophy amongst so many to pick and choose from; it is the context of all other philosophies. In a sense all organisms are gaian by default. All organisms derive their evolution from a long history where biological traits are developed within an ecological context. To defy this context is to upset the balance and threaten your own existence. Only humans need to make a mental effort to align with gaian-based principles.

This philosophy is something that has to be built into the structure of society itself, a structure that operates with respect, humility and cooperation to the home it depends on for its existence. We cannot go on thinking and acting the way we do, seeing Earth as a resource to be used and abused in service of commercial consumerist philosophy, and other humans and other nations to be viewed as opponents to be beaten in some never-ending economical and fashion-driven race. This cannot work anymore, there needs to be a reform in human civilisation and I think we are waking up to realise it now.

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“You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.” Robert Shaw

“Before Lovelock used the name Gaia, people could not really grasp his ideas at all. His friend, the novelist William Golding, suggested the name of the ancient Greek mother-goddess, Gaia. And when Lovelock tried that name, people began to understand him.” Mary Midgley

One of the problems with Gaia is that she’s very difficult to see. Of course I can see the Earth, it’s unavoidable, but when I say Gaia I mean the self-sustaining living system; a planetary ecosystem or even superorganism. I can’t directly see the all of the processes that go into the whole planetary system and certainly not in just my short human lifetime. It is too large and complex and even today’s science suffers from that limit, itself being quite a young human experience.

If you try to know Gaia by isolating one part, like the atmosphere, a forest or an ocean surface, you lose sense of the “big picture.” To get a sense of what Gaia is its best not to get too carried away with the details because you might lose the context. And here is where we replace the reductionist and atomistic way of seeing things for something holistic or “top-down,” that uses physiology as a model and metaphor for understanding the Earth’s living systems. This requires some intuitive or peripheral viewing to begin to work with, that can be adjusted and refined as our understanding of its workings become clearer.

I say peripheral because it’s one of those things that catches your attention out of the corner of your eye but seems to disappear when directly looked at. Put another way, it’s like when you like too closely at the details of a painting and you lose sense of what the pictures is because all you can see are colours and brushstrokes. Looking at the details of a painting, or of the Earth’s living systems, is a useful and necessary way of learning how the whole has come together, but to get a good view of it all we really have to “fly with the eagles,” get a view of the whole landscape as a working body.

Maybe it is an imaginative metaphor or poetic license. Maybe it is simply a lens through which we can view the Earth and our place on it. The fact is humans have been living with these lenses for a long time, and even science has to use metaphors as it struggles to create language for concepts that are beyond our immediate experience and accessible only through the imagination. By such lenses we are inspired and guided by a vision that has a bearing on our sense of meaning and morality.

Now I want to suggest an exercise, to “connect” with Gaia without intellectual analysis. If you have access to natural surroundings, go there and sense Gaia around you. You can visualize it in your mind, and you can feel it in your heart but also you can connect the experience with your body, letting it resonate through your being. Take any or all examples and see how it feels.

Feel that the Earth is a body, something that can be healthy or unhealthy, that evolves and changes depending on the forces acting upon it and within it.

Feel that Gaia is something to have a relationship with, or as a web of relationships between sky, land, sea, Sun and all organisms that has been evolving since life first appeared on Earth and to which humans are just newcomers.

Feel that life was just a passenger on a volatile rock but that grew and became a very influential force on the planet, where all organisms evolved together to keep the Earth alive.

Feel that water is the lifeblood of Gaia, that it also pumps through you.

Feel that photosynthetic life absorbs the energy of the Sun and then finds ways of sharing that with other organisms, along with nutrients.

Feel that the air you breathe and the food you eat are a source of communion with all other living things.

Feel humanity as an intelligent parasite living off of Gaia like an energy-hungry and resource-greedy disease.

Feel the outcome if humanity carries on like this.

Feel that humanity, like any disease, is killed off by its host in order to be healthy.

Feel that humanity chooses a different fate and works towards a healthy symbiosis with Gaia, directing our intelligence to work in harmony and collaboration with her.

In feeling Gaia this way we embrace a worldview that guides our attitudes and actions to a very different relationship with the Earth than we have now. Personifying the Earth has little to with defying science and more to do with engaging those aspects of the human psyche that cannot be convinced by intellectual analysis alone and creating an empathy with the very system that supports our existence. Harmonious planetary relationships require that we can feel with Gaia, not only think with Gaia.

“Do we really want to be the bureaucrats of the Earth? Do we want the full responsibility for its care and health? There can be no worse fate for people than to be conscripted for such a hopeless task – to be made forever accountable for the smooth running of the climate, the composition of the oceans, the air, and the soil. Something that until we began to dismantle creation, was the free gift of Gaia.” James Lovelock

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.” R. Buckminster Fuller

Just remember this, Gaia has been evolving without conscious and intelligent intervention long long looooooooooooooooong before humans arrived on the scene. If we weren’t so troublesome we’d be considered as an interesting afterthought, adding a conscious quality to an unconscious evolution. Just because we are the “conscious aspect” of Gaia that does not mean we need to start running the show. As I said before, Gaia’s been getting on fine without us AND we still haven’t learnt to run our own show, let alone Gaia’s. We’re treating our planet badly, we’re treating each other badly, and if we carry on down this route then we’ll end up being our own worst enemy.

First things first, we need to recognise our emerging global civilisation as an integral part of Gaia, that we depend on her and our only means to survive is to cooperate with her by aligning every aspect of human culture, society and civilisation with the living Earth. We need to do this by aligning with each other. You and me we have to admit we live on the same planet, with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide anymore, and have no choice but to cooperate and coordinate with each other. Right?

Easier said than done, I know, but its worth our survival isn’t it? We’re in for a stormy nightmare, but if we really value this planet, the life on it, and humanity’s participation with it we can do it. Altogether now; Yes we…. you know the rest Obama 😉

But even if we achieve this we should never think we can run the show, all we can do is to add a conscious element to an unconscious evolution, as an enhancer not a controller. But wouldn’t it be beautiful if we used our arts, sciences, religions and cultures, not only as something to enhance human life but the living Earth as well. Hold that vision strong and clear in your mind; it’s our compass, our orientation, that will guide us along that long and hard road we have ahead of us for harmony to be restored .

“If life on Earth were suddenly to cease, all the hundred-plus elements that make up the surface, oceans, and atmosphere would react until no more reactions were possible, and a state close to chemical equilibrium was reached. The planet would become a hot, waterless, and inhospitable place.” James Lovelock

One thing that I often use for tag in my blog is the word Gaia. This is a loaded word so it’s best to really be clear in the way I use it. I don’t mean a conscious entity that is embodied in the Earth itself that so many people associate with Gaia. Rather I think of the scientific idea that was first set out by James Lovelock in his Gaia Hypothesis and later explored in the Earth System Sciences.

Let’s start with an experiment. Find a small object, say a penny, and hold it between your fingers above the ground. It is now in an energy rich state. Now drop that penny and watch it fall to the ground where it bounces, rolls, flips and/or slides to the ground and finally stops any movement. It is now in an energy poor state, no more energy is able to be extracted from it, unless the floor develops a hole where the penny can continue falling.

Here’s another image of energy rich and energy poor. Think of a car; the fuel that goes into it and the exhaust fumes that come out of it. The fuel is energy rich, ready to be transformed into kinetic energy. The exhaust fumes are energy poor, no more energy is able to be extracted for the car’s movement.

James Lovelock once worked with NASA to investigate if there was life on Mars. At some point he came up with the idea that perhaps the atmosphere of Mars could show signs of life by virtue of interacting with it. Mars’ atmosphere is energy poor, with chemicals comparable to a car’s exhaust fumes, whilst the Earth’s atmosphere has an energy rich chemistry. If the Earth had not developed lifeforms it would have fallen (like the penny) to the same fate as Mars, a dead, lifeless rock incapable of supporting or even developing life.

Somehow the collective action of life on Earth stops entropy from make the Earth irreversibly lifeless and keeps it inhabitable. Free energy from the Sun’s own entropic decay is “collected” by life through photosynthesis. This energy is exchanged with the environment, like the atmosphere, and with other organisms, where it takes on energy rich qualities in a balancing way that means that life can live on the Earth.

In a way it’s like having a system of organisms attached to your exhaust fumes that aborb those chemicals and, using the Sun’s energy, turn them into energy rich fuel that goes back into the car to power it, or another system of organisms that use the Sun’s energy to keep that penny in the air to stop it from falling to the ground, with the added bonus that by doing so it makes the existence of life possible.

That is a very simplistic explanation leaving out many details, which doesn’t do the theory any justice at all. I could talk about homeostasis, chemical equlibrium, disequilibrium, Daisyworld, the albedo effect, glacials, interglacials, the Milankovich effect, global warming, climate change, greenhouse gases,  defining life, neo-darwin evolution, Gaian evolution and other facts and theories that James Lovelock has woven together to create a compelling picture of the Earth’s life. All I want to do is introduce one aspect of it from which other aspects can be explored. My reference for this is James Lovelock’s Healing Gaia, though there’s plenty of other books about it, and lots of information on the internet. Just do a search of any of the terms I used above.

Gaia theory as a whole is just scientific theory, yet it is gaining credibility all the time, especially within Earth Systems Sciences. Parts of it have been proved and parts of it have yet to be proved.  So far it is the best image we have of the Earth as a self-sustaining system, an image that is being confirmed, modified and updated all the time by scientific research. But from this theory we can grasp a feeling of the world around us and how we fit in with it. Personally I have no doubts that Gaia Theory has something to it, that somehow the Earth is alive in some sense, that somehow it is an interdependent system and that there definately are consequences to our actions within it.

“When… Arthur loses the power to give, his court disintegrates and his kingdom hangs in the balance. Only the restoration of his ability to give makes him leader of the community again.”

“The kingdom of the Grail, for example, becomes the Gaste Pays, a barren wasteland, when the Fisher-King was wounded for transgressing a geis and could no longer govern properly.” Jean Markale King of the Celts: Arthurian Legends and Celtic Tradition

I have something brewing in my head, a stew of ideas; of Celtic Sovereignty, kingship and kings’ sacred marriages to the Goddess of the Land; of healthy kings, wounded kings, fisher kings and Grail Quests; of suffering people, suffering landscapes and abused Sovereignty; of Arthurian legends, Dragons, Knights in Shining Armour, Maidens in distress, yet also of Empowered Maiden-Warriors fed up of waiting for glorified tin-cans. Awen, the Spirit of Inspiration, shines forth from the cauldron and a vision is formed. Please enjoy.

Long ago, in the land of my ancestors, there once was a King who’d achieved the Quest of the Source of All Rivers, passed the test of the Servants of the Goddess, and partaken of the Spring Waters, endowing him with the powers of Kingship and Sovereignty. He was a very powerful, ambitious and clever King, bringing great fortunes to his People and the Land but he had little wisdom to bring balance with it. Though he and his People revelled in the glory of his reign, neither he nor his People saw where all of this success was heading or the great troubles that would arise from it.

One day, a bright sunny day, the King and his band of faithful Warriors were out on an excursion, expanding the boundaries of the kingdom and its wealth. They encountered at the foot of some mountains a wild forest, and so, eager to investigate, they cut a path through it, chopping many trees down until they reached the foot of the mountain. There they found a cave, which one by one they all entered, led by the King.

Inside it was so vast they could not see the walls or ceiling, but even if it was smaller they would not have noticed the walls or ceiling for it was filled with many treasures, enchanting the eyes of the King and of the men. They went outside, drunk with excitement and greed for what they had found. They went back to their People and told them about the treasures and organised a way to take them and make the People rich!

So it was done, they went and cut down more trees to make way for the many carts and carriages that would take away the riches and inside the cave it was alive with people inspecting the glittering pieces, and people filling sacks up and lugging them away. But no one had noticed the dark presence inside, though it certainly noticed them. It was a Dragon, black as coal, that had been sleeping there for so long that the People only remembered Her in their ancient legends, and even then in vague foggy references that no one quite believed, or even understood.

The Dragon had finally awakened, and She was not happy. Her mouth began to smoke and filled the cave, suffocating all those who were inside. The smoke poured out of the cave and formed a great pillar where once there had been a mountain. The King fell out from the cave, coughing and spluttering, into the arms of his Warriors. The King died, but before he died the King warned his People to stop what they were doing for it meant great catastrophe to them and to the Land. Few heard him, for they were enchanted by the treasures or panicking over the Dragon.  And even those that did deluded themselves into thinking that maybe, just maybe, the King could be brought back to life and restore the Kingdom. But they did not know the source of his power or had forgotten it.

The Warriors rode away to the castle to see if they could bring the King back to life. Behind them, as they rode away, the smoke formed a wall that spread across the land, poisoning it. There were too few trees to hold the black wall back for they had all been cut down. The Land became poisoned, the crops failed and the Dragon’s hot breath melted away the ice-caps upon the mountain tops melted into water flooding the Land and destroying many people’s homes. The riches from the Dragon’s cave began turning to dust, leaving many People poor and at war with one another (though they had really been at war for quite some time). The Source of All Rivers dried up and the Servants of the Goddess withered in strength, and wailed and weeped for this great misfortune. The People suffered, the Land suffered. They needed healing.

Back at the castle the Warriors brought the King’s body and took it to the Queen’s sanctuary, where she stood guard over the Healing Chalice that the King recieved on his coronation. But upon entering the room a great horror met the eyes of the Warriors, for the Queen lay on the floor, dead, and the Healing Chalice had disapeared from its place. Court was held to decide what to do, but a further blow was struck for it was there that the People realised that the Princess, one and only daughter to the King and Queen, had disappeared, and with her the Royal Lineage. Some remembered the last words of the dead King and, taking it to heart, they set out to stop the catastrophe, though some people dispaired and could not bring themselves to do anything and others scoffed, still enchanted by the Dragon’s treasures, deluded by an ephemeral wealth.

Here is where I should tell you about a Great Quest, undertaken by only the best of the Warriors, to seek and slay the Dragon, to free the Princess, restore the Healing Chalice to its rightful place and for a new King to take the old one’s place, marry the Princess who becomes the new Queen and brings a new era of wealth and health, though this time a bit more wiser and a little less greedy. And so Happily Ever After and all that jazz.

I would that I could, but I can’t so I won’t.

This story has not really finished yet. In fact right now, the land is only just feeling the effects of the People’s greed and the King has only just left the cave, warning his People. But he will die, he has to. The old Patriarchal order has to go and make way for a new order if the land is to be restored to something like its previous state and the People freed from their suffering. But the scar will linger for some while, carried by many future generations.

Will the Dragon ever be slayed? I think not, the Dragon can never be killed for She is the raw power of the Land itself provoked into a destructive mode against the People that disturbed it and abused its generosity. There is no hope to slay this Dragon, because if we did we’d just be provoking more of the same. We can but hope that we don’t provoke Her any more than we have, so that She might once again go down to the Land and rest deep within it again. Perhaps by not cutting down any more of the Wild Forest and planting and growing more trees we could entice the Dragon back to the Land because She likes that luscious greenery and when she knows there are enough trees (and Ents?) standing guard over the Land She can rest at ease, supporting life’s energies in the continuous breaths of her peaceful dreaming sleep; the unconscious evolution of the living Earth that has been going on long before humanity appeared.

And we cannot expect a single champion to put all things right by his own efforts alone. Even the Princess, though she is trapped in the Dragon’s lair, cannot rely on a Knight in Shining Armour to save her. She is not a passive or weak victim and must prepare herself to be free, with or without the help of a hero. And her Queenship is innate, not determined by her social status or something to be supplanted by a King’s reign whilst she stands by, supporting him as a passive symbol of Sovereignty. She is empowered, she is power and has a little of the Dragon in her too. A lesson for all women.

The King is dead, long live the King; so the saying goes. But there is no new King to replace the old one. The old King was Patriarchy that supplanted the power of the Queen and led the People into imbalance within themselves and with the Land. This is what killed the Queen, the passive female supporter of the Patriarchy. The old King can no longer lead us when he has gone past his use-by-date. Replacing him with another King would  be repeating more of the same, just with new packaging.

It is the Healing Chalice we need. Where is the Healing Chalice? Where can we find it to heal all that is ill and poisoned? Can we restore the King back to life? Or the Queen? The Healing Chalice, like the Holy Grail, is spiritual. As Jesus said “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, and people will not say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Each of us has the Healing Chalice within us. It has not disappeared; it has simply become entrusted to each of us so that we can all help heal the People and the Land. It is up to each of us to engage with our own spiritual journey within, to access our own inner resources of healing and wisdom and to use that in the service of Land and People.

It is in the power of every man to be a King. It is in the power of every woman to be a Queen. The Sovereign is one who keeps the balance within their People and between People and Land, making sure that justice is maintained and that true and noble Sovereignty is kept constant. Though one person cannot lead the People without the help of the People. The People themselves must commit themselves to the restoration of Sovereignty within and without and the healing of Land and People, with or without a leader.

If the kingdom lies within then we should strive to learn to be good Kings and Queens individually and maintain the balance within ourselves, within our own psyches. And that this inner balance be balanced with the surrounding environment. With the inner balance of each individual established and that in balance with the environment, then the balance of Land and People, of Earth and Humanity, naturally follows on from there.

Each of us is a King, each of us is a Queen, each of us is a Princess, each of us is a Warrior, each of us is the People, each of us is the Land, each of us is a Dragon and each of us is a Healing Chalice. Blessings on your Quest and upon mine also.  Let us seek out and restore the balance in the ways that we can, remembering this vow wherever the journey takes us.

Psychosynthesis Egg of Being or egg diagram

Psychosynthesis Egg of Being or "egg diagram"

“I suggest, to begin, that Ecopsychology is best thought of as a project, in the sense of a large multifaceted undertaking. This makes room for a great number of perspectives and interests and rules out the idea that Ecopsychology will ever resemble a traditional discipline.” Andy Fisher, Radical Ecopsychology

 

 

“Nature is always trying to reestablish harmony, and within the psyche the principle of synthesis is dominant. Irreconcilable opposites do not exist. The task of therapy is to aid the individual in transforming the personality, and integrating apparent contradictions.” Roberto Assagioli, The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli

 

“In one of his letters Freud said, “I am interested only in the basement of the human being.” Psychosynthesis is interested in the whole building. We try to build an elevator which will allow a person access to every level of his personality. After all, a building with only a basement is very limited. We want to open up the terrace where you can sun-bathe or look at the stars. Our concern is the synthesis of all areas of the personality. That means Psychosynthesis is holistic, global and inclusive. It is not against psychoanalysis or even behavior modification but it insists that the needs for meaning, for higher values, for a spiritual life, are as real as biological or social needs.” Roberto Assagioli, The Golden Mean of Roberto Assagioli

 

“Growth is hard, regression is easy.” Ken Wilber

 

Ecopsychology is not defined by any one person, by any one discipline, by any one method. Put simply, it is a bridge between ecology and psychology and whatever comes after this is up to a psychologist’s or ecologist’s own “perspectives and interests”. The Earth Sanctuary, where I live and work, is made up of people who have experience with Psychosynthesis (among other things). It is through this, and other experiences, that we hope to approach Ecopsychology.

 

What can Psychosynthesis do for Ecopsychology? The principle of synthesis for a start. Although Psychosynthesis is perhaps not very different from some other schools of psychological thought (its inclusive nature in fact incorporates many ideas and practices into it) it tends to talk about synthesis, mainly the synthesis of the personality, where we find ourselves having to adapt our personality to suit our situations. Psychosynthesis takes the resulting “subpersonalities,” as it calls them (a similar concept in Gestalt Therapy talks of “creative adjustments”), and through recognising and integrating them they might be reconciled with the whole of the personality. One such subpersonality or creative adjustment may be the suppression of an ecological identity or ego. Many urban people are so submerged in a human environment that they have lost an ecological perspective which has usually been a natural and healthy part of human existence. If we are to live harmoniously with the planet then one psychological work is to reintegrate this wider, more-than-human, perspective as a part of us by seeing ourselves as a part of the more-than-human world.

 

One exercise in Psychosynthesis is to draw your personal life history from present to past, to get a sense of your development through your life, seeing it as a coherent process rather than just a string of random events. This same exercise may be done with how humans have appeared in the universe. In one book I have, called Thinking Like a Mountain, there are a few meditations that try to facilitate just this, guiding us through various images that link us back into the natural processes of cosmic and ecological evolution. After all, humans belong in this universe because its laws and evolution make us possible. James Lovelock also did his own synthesis on the Earth’s evolution, but more as a scientific exercise than a meditation, in The Ages of Gaia. These can help us to gain a perspective on the history of things and help us re-identify ourselves as a part of this history, synthesising our presence within the greater whole. With the current atmosphere of globalisation, human history is undergoing its own process of global synthesis, where we can look back and see the various stages we have gone through as a coherent process; from our evolution in and dispersal from Africa, and subsequent diversification, to our current reconnection across the globe. Psychosynthesis has tools to help us see that cosmic, ecological, human and personal evolutions are part of a coherent, synthesised, process.

 

In Ecopsychology there is a concept called the ecological unconscious, described as “the living record of cosmic evolution, tracing back to distant initial conditions in the history of time.” (Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth). The structure of it has been determined by the nature of our universe as well as the psychological evolution of our species and beyond to the start of life. The previous ideas about identifying with ecological and cosmic evolution can help us reconnect with the ecological unconscious within us. But we have to be careful that this reconnection to the “bigger picture” doesn’t mean regressing or becoming a mere product in its unfolding. We can, instead, be a positive contributing factor in our personal lives and as a species.

The ecological unconscious is something new to Psychosynthesis, its model of the human psyche, called the Egg of Being, describes several “types” or “aspects” of the unconscious but nothing explicitly ecological. So where does the ecological unconscious fit into the Egg of Being? At first, because of its description as something related to the deep evolutionary past of life and the universe, I thought that it could be in the lowest part of the lower unconscious (1) which can represent the individual psyche’s unconscious past or the physical body. Unfortunately this is still not a very whole picture, it still leaves the middle (present/emotional-intellectual) unconscious and especially the upper (future/spiritual/transpersonal) unconscious as somehow not related to what the ecological unconscious represents. Our choice then remains to either regress when connecting with the ecological unconscious or to detach from it when pursuing “higher” evolution. In either case it fragments the psyche, “dissecting” the Egg of Being.

Since the ecological unconscious is a developing model, there is room to look at in various ways as people define it as it best works for them. The Egg of Being model is quite versatile in that it doesn’t just have to represent an individual but also can be used to look at the psychological dynamics of various things, such as human groups. We can also use the Egg to look at the ecological unconscious and give it not only a deep aspect but also a higher aspect of spiritual or transpersonal evolution. This is made possible because the nature of the universe includes this potential within it, not as something imposed on it from “out there” in some spiritual dimension separate from our universe. Therefore humans represent a part of the unfolding potential of the universe, emerging within the living Earth just as a flower might, and also within the human psyche the ecological unconscious can be seen to somehow be “omnipresent” providing it with its structure and evolutionary potential.  The whole process of the psyche is embedded in the ecological unconscious. To put it into other terms, personal and human evolution of the past, present and future, are all a part of the universe’s own evolution. Our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual evolution are contained within the greater picture of the universe’s evolutionary processes especially that of the living Earth’s, though it is by no means diminished for being so.

Psychology shouldn’t just be about therapy and healing, it should also be about how we open up to and develop our “higher” potential. Many people have worked with this in mind when working with Ecopsychology, sometimes calling it Transpersonal Ecopsychology or Econoetics, which you can find on the internet. Psychosynthesis can be one contribution to this, facilitating every level of our evolution and integrating that into the wider ecological evolution of our planet of which we are a part.

Further refence to Econoetics can be found as a three part series, which is part of some work done between myself and the author:

EcoNoetics- Part I http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/673/

EcoNoetics- Part II http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/econoetics-part-ii/

EcoNoetics- Part III http://earthsanctuary.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/econoetics-part-iii/

“Although many a Druid, both man and woman, wielded the sword of justice when needed, the role of the Druid transcends petty tribal rivalries and jealousies. The Druid-as-mediator walks between the worlds and the tribes, between the battle lines, between the living and the dying, between our world and the ‘others’.” Tom Cowan, Of Ancient Shapes and Memories (preface to the book The Rebirth of Druidry)

So, once again, I find myself inspired by a message board. This is an edited version of what I originally wrote for one message board. This grew out of another thread I was involved with which I’ll will publish a part of in the near future.

For me the Druids were an intertribal and transcultural network working spiritually and politically for their tribes. Their “wisdom tradition” wasn’t situated within any single cultural context, except a Celtic one. But even this wasn’t exactly one thing, as Druids have apparently been in Gaul, Britain and Ireland, and possibly further afield. And in these lands there were Goidelics and Brythonics and maybe others that I don’t know. And across this geographical range, around the time when Druids were supposed to exist, there were several different pantheons.

When I imagine what may have happened, I think that perhaps the priests and shamans of different conflicting tribes got together to forge a common understanding, a common wisdom, that transcended tribal loyalties and cultural context so that the tribes could better coordinate and collaborate and yet still keep some form of autonomy, focusing their energies in different ways than by all out war. Perhaps they had limited resources or environmental troubles, like today, and saw that collaboration was a better way of getting out of the situation than violent competition. Together these “proto-Druids” maybe have pooled together their wisdom, using their position within their tribes to influence their chieftains and kings for the benefit of all tribes. In time, Druid schools may have developed and more complex political systems arose. And over time this spiritual-political institution may have spread to other tribes and other Celtic cultures.

 In time though, the Roman Empire and later Christian conversion saw the disappearance of Druids, at least as an intertribal institution. What if they had not disappeared? What if Romans and Christian had never took over and left the Druids to their own devices? They may have spread further, perhaps seeding themselves and integrating the Germanic, and even Norse, tribes. Perhaps they may have gone south through Gaul and over the Pyrenees becoming part of the Iberian-Celts culture. Perhaps parts of Europe may have become a confederation of Druid guided tribes and nations. With this in mind, I do not envisage the Druid Way being of a specific culture. The Druids belonged to different Celtic peoples but their Wisdom transcended these peoples to somehow unite them. Today, this is what we need. For me a Druid’s mission is to work with others, across the borders of their native culture and provide a network of wisdom and transnational vision for the fragmented nations of the world, following a global vision through local action.

I am a Pagan Druid. My ethnic history goes deeper than the Christian-centric history of Europe. I am British and within that I have Germanic, Norse and Celtic roots, each has influenced what my culture is today. Each has its own wisdom that can be revived to show us what has been missing under the deep layers of Christian history and what other ways there are of viewing the world, through magic, through myth and through the sacredness of nature itself.

I am a Christian Druid. The culture I was born into and the childhood I enjoyed was very much Christian. It provided me with a deep optimism of the universe and of humanity. The humanist element within its ethics being part of my own conscience, and the conscience of my culture through its Law. But also we are all united “in Christ” or “in Humanity.” No matter what “type” I might be; male, British, white or European, and no matter what “type” you might be; [insert types here], we are still human and our history is a common one, which is now reconnecting across the globe.

I am a Gaian Druid. The Earth is a living system and I exist in and evolve as part of this system. Humanity has existed and evolved within this system and the future depends on our relationship with this living Earth. As we evolve, Gaia evolves and as Gaia evolves, we evolve; our qualities become qualities of Gaia. We are the mind of Gaia reflecting upon itself. This global and Gaian vision guides what we are and what we are to become in our local lives.

My Druidry is a synthesis. Christian-Humanist ethics, embedded within a Gaian Worldview and complemented by my ethnic background, this is my Druidry.

All of that, plus my membership and training in the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids lol.