“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.

“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.