“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.

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“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 .

“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.

“The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole.” Krishnamurti

 

“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.” Roberto Assagioli

 

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.” Anne Sullivan

 

Druids were educators. They had schools that taught many things; history, genealogy, stories, laws, lore and other things. They were living breathing archives that could be called upon by tribal chiefs and kings, or the common people of the tribes. They must have had complex mnemonic systems to catalogue everything into their memory, since their tradition was an oral one and it was forbidden to write anything down. One such system is their alphabet, the Ogham, that was used to list things and their attributes. The most well known is the tree alphabet, but there was plenty of others for birds, animals, herbs etc. This system, or one like it, must have been used to remember extensive information.

 

Druids today don’t have to be living breathing archives, we have books and computers for that sort of thing, and it is not forbidden to write anything down. A shame in some ways, as writing things down (like I am now) has the tendency to abstract information, removing it from living experience. And we can see that in the book-based education of today, it emphasises a lot on intellectual knowledge; what to think than on how to think. I don’t say that we should ban books (I love them too much!) but that they are not the be all and end all of education, and that education should be directed towards living experience. For me, a Druid education is an integrated one, based on developing a holistic intelligence, not just an intellectual one. And also it is about self-development and discovery and not for a student to conform their knowledge to a school’s syllabus. Another thing to remember is that education doesn’t just take place in a classroom, all aspects of our life educate us in different ways; from the media we get our information from, the books we read, the films we watch, the toys we have as children, the relationships we’re involved with, the careers we choose. All of these things are symbols of the educational and psychological structure we build up inside us.

 

Holistic intelligence I think of as something that includes many aspects of the human being. As I said, intelligence is measured mainly by intellect, as the so-called “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ reflects. It’s tests are all about how well the intellectual, thinking side, of humans work. The “I” of IQ is more appropriately seen as Intellect because intelligence can also be seen as emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, social intelligence, ethical intelligence and spiritual intelligence. We could also talk about creative or imaginative intelligence as Druids were also the artists, poets and musicians of their peoples, and also health intelligence, since Druids could also specialise in healing, as doctors of their time. But knowing how to be healthy and stay healthy is a fairly basic skill for all people, not just something for professionals. Education should be about the development of the whole human being, not just the intellect. In the same way that we should have a “healthy and balanced diet” to stay physically healthy, we should also have a healthy and balanced education, in order to develop a healthy intelligence, a holistic intelligence.

“Gaia can regulate without the need for foresight or planning by the biota. The regulation is entirely automatic.” James Lovelock

“Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right.” Piglet in Winnie-the-Pooh

“Only the development of his inner powers can offset the dangers inherent in man’s losing control of the tremendous natural forces at his disposal and becoming the victim of his own achievements.” Roberto Assagioli

Once upon a time our animal ancestors had an automatic and unconscious balancing system between internal instinct and external environment, there was no need to think about it. This also meant that we had our place in the universe, a context and meaning, which was an innate part of us which didn’t need thinking about.

The meaning of life is automatic for most plants and animals, no thought required, they have an organic initiation into the mysteries of the universe. But humans are no longer so automatic, we have minds that need to find a meaningful place in the universe because it is not automatically given to us through our genes or environments. Instead we require a cultural initiation, one that involves the abstract creativity of the human mind, making definitions and values that weren’t there before.

This has been a creative leap forward for us, with so many great arts and sciences that have moved us into new ways of living that our instincts alone cannot create. Unfortunately this also means we can no longer have a care-free existence, we are no longer automatically regulated by nature’s processes, instead we have to regulate ourselves. This lack of self-regulation is shown in our abuse of our environment, polluting and destroying it, which in turn changes the environment’s balancing system to our disadvantage.

We have to create our own balance, we cannot use our societies or governments to do that because who guides them? Each individual should learn its own balance and creativity. And if we rely on Earth to balance us, well, at the moment she’s reacting very badly to our imbalance and trying to dislodge us. If we want to survive we have to take our own balance into each and every individuals hands.

Once upon a time I was into the Taoist philosophy which to me was about “going with the flow.” The idea I read about was a bit anti-intellectual. It saw the human condition as marred because instead of letting things be organic and “flowing” the intellect would set up false definitions and “deform” the Uncarved Block, a concept used to describe things in their original nature before they were tampered with.

In some ways we do need to learn to “go with the flow” at least as far as nature is concerned. It is something that needs no guidance. As James Lovelocks quote above says, Gaia is an entirely self-regulating sysem, it’s too big for us to take the responsibility of running it. In Nature, there is a natural flow and rhythm to things which industrial humanity has tried to struggle against and take short cuts through, much to the detriment of the earth’s life, which includes humans.

What I don’t want to “go with the flow” with is the aspect of humanity that disturbs humanities place on earth and sends it into ecological disaster. Flowing with any society with a mindless herd mentality means being flooded in the Inner Space in “service” of its external pressures. My self-meaning, self-motivation and inner context can be hijacked by the flow of society, which itself is unconscious and with a materialistic view that humans live to work, to earn money, to buy stuff and the earth is premanufactured consumer stuff. This time I’ve got to be focussed and use my intellect to discriminate what flow I should “flow with” before I’m in carried away unconsciously by forces that I want nothing to do with.

Earth does not need regulating, but its humans need regulating. By what? The earth’s changes would kill us off, and the “higher powers” of human society aren’t always the most ethical choice for guidance. So then, we have to regulate ourselves, which brings the quote from Robert Assagioli into focus, that we can only look inside ourselves, at our own powers and learn to develop them in harmony with Gaia before we destroy ourselves with them. The tragic thing is that the Earth may change so much that humans may no longer be able to participate in the Earth’s evolution, we may become extinct, though life here will still carry on in some form without us.

Now one challenge remains for us, which is, are we as a species so stupid that we ruin the chance for future generations to continue participating in the evolution of Gaia, expressing humanities unique place in it? For me I have hope that humanity can be intelligient enough to continue existing. I am optimistic enough that humanity can change its ways, because to be proved wrong doesn’t bear thinking about.

Here’s an article from http://www.global-mindshift.org that has provided me with much inspiration for this blog; http://www.global-mindshift.org/discover/viewFile.asp?resourceID=224&formatID=252

 

 

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones

“There are few experiences quite so cruel as, when after having made a well-argued, even elegant and moving case to someone, you lean back expecting the warm sparkle of shared insight and understanding, only to encounter the flat opaqueness of complete and utter incomprehension.” John Livingstone

“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

THAT (the quote by John Livingstone), I feel, is the result of centuries of religion where the only people being religious were the priests. They stand at their pulpits proclaiming the word of God, whilst the believers that they serve sit in their pews passively listening hoping some of the religiousness of the priest will wear off on them (Pew Potatos, like the Couch Potato but religious). But that’s not my way, I don’t want to be a passive listener, I want something more intelligent than that. Nor do I want to be the active proclaimer talking to a passive audience but I can’t help thinking that maybe I am. I mean, here I am writing things, hoping that my words will be more than just passive two-dimensional monologues but there’s no way of telling because, although I can see how many people have visited this blog, I don’t know who’s reading it and what they’re (you’re) thinking and feeling, what sort of dynamic responses is going on in the brains of the readers.

It’s only in active dialogues that words come alive, they take on the quality of vitality, not just something that’s known but something that’s experienced and developed into something that can be applied to life. Words can change things, that’s why talking, writing, conversing are arts, they can reach into minds and connect synapses that weren’t connected before, opening doors of realisation and comprehension. Or, if misused, words can create the opposite; ignorance and denial. Which is why we need to be wise enough to be careful with words; with who we speak to, what words we speak to them and how we speak to them.

Still, I don’t need comprehension here. I’m sure lots of people understand my words, and it’s easy to agree to words, but the real challenge is when someone disagrees or doubts (or doesn’t understand but wants to understand). For me that would be the real work with my words, to grapple with them (the grit in the oyster to create the pearl), give them dynamism by introducing them to other minds where they are expanded into dimensions beyond the original two they were written in. When that happens words then become an organic experience, growing, rooting, branching, like I said before, coming alive. Evolution happens! Synergy happens!

Synergy is a word I was introduced to a little while ago (last year I think), and it’s really opened my eyes to the sort of relationships we can have with people. A synergistic relationship doesn’t have an active part and a passive part, an energy giving and an energy taking part, no way! All “components” (or individuals) in a relationship of synergy are active parts (energy giving), and this positive contribution by all involved builds up momentum by itself, as long as there is energy being put into it and doesn’t become victim to energetic leaches.

Going back to the beginning, where I talked about active proclaimers and passive listeners; it doesn’t just happen in churches or other religious places, it also happens in schools and in present day entertainment. Students just passively “eat” what they learn, there’s no way of learning how to use their learning. And also there’s the TV, which has produced the well know Couch Potato (although if you’re lucky some synapse triggering stuff might appear lol). This is “filling a pail” when what we really need is “the lighting of a fire.”

Now, I’m not saying “come on have a dialogue with me,” although you can if you want to. What I really want to say is don’t be passive in reading this, use these words to light a fire inside you and make reading this blog, in fact any blog (or even any writing) a dynamic activity.

And finally, the only potatoes I want reading my blogs are the ones that you stick in the ground that grow more potatoes. Well, my dinner’s got to come from somewhere LOL 😉

And finally finally (no really, finally) a note on the image. That is from Smith and Jones, a British sketch comedy in the 80s and 90s. The image is of them in deep conversation (a well know “head to head” sketch), usually about some deeply inane subject. An image of the type of dialogue I DO NOT want. As it says in WikipediaSmith was the idiot who knew everything, Jones the idiot who knew nothing.”