"All the world's a stage we pass through." - R. Ayana

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Gaia Mythos

The Gaia Mythos


To free ourselves of the separatist beliefs encoded in the stories that define and direct our lives is a great challenge, and a wonderful opportunity. The strands of a different story about humanity are spun through our minds like threads on a loom — but how do we weave them into a coherent design? The decisive shift for humanity today is not only a change of events, but a change in how events are told, a new adventure in mythmaking.

To develop a different story about life on earth, we must first and foremost place ultimate trust in ourselves, not in unexamined beliefs, or blind tradition, or authorities. Living into the story ahead, a Gaian tale to guide the species, depends on the inspiration to imagine the tale, and the language to tell it in its fullness and depth.

This introduction is about the language required for our story with Gaia, the living planet.

Sharing the Gaia Mythos

Metahistory.org exposes and examines the beliefs encoded in many narratives, variations of the six kinds of scripts, but it is concerned above all with stories that describe human potential and how it can be fulfilled. The aim of metacritique is to evaluate these stories by decoding the beliefs they carry, thus to determine if those beliefs are productive and beneficial to humanity, or if they are otherwise. But this site does not confine itself to the critique of such narratives, however. It also goes beyond them and proposes "a planetary myth". All who share this adventure participate in a myth in the making. This introduction sets out the basics of mythopoesis, the act of conscious mythmaking.

The Story Ahead

Currently we derive the story of the universe from two sources: science and religion. The first proposes a long evolutionary scenario going back to an explosive start point, the Big Bang. In this narrative everything is driven by atomic reactions that inexplicably evolve into biochemical processes unfolding by chance, as "random mutations". After billions of years life emerges at the molecular level, then it takes billions more to assume its present form. In some undetermined way, inorganic chemistry gives rise to a planet teeming with millions of uniquely expressive species.

Darwinian theory asserts that human and animal life are ruled by laws of natural selection and survival of the fittest. This scenario admits no overseeing God or gods, no directing purpose in the cosmos at large and no final aim for humanity. Its timescale is four and a half billion years since the creation of the earth, and another fifteen billion back to the Big Bang.

Religion, on the other hand, presents the story of a world created around 4000 BCE by the fiat of a master architect, the Father God of the Abrahamic religions. In some mysterious way, over which there is much confusion, God continues to monitor the world-process and determine specific events (for instance, the recent earthquake in Iran is regarded as an act of God, but surviving it is likewise regarded as an act of God). However the creator may be involved in the world "He" creates, the Abrahamic religions allow no doubt that the deity considers humans to be a special class of beings "made in His image".

This scenario has a purpose, an ultimate aim said to be determined by God himself and communicated to humanity through male emissaries such as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. The aim is salvation of the human species through atonement with the God who created us. Atonement may be achieved by inward conversion of the soul or by following God’s rules as stated in scriptures revealed to His emissaries. This version of our story is linear, moralistic, and human-centered. It says nothing about God’s activity in creating billions of other worlds whose existence is undeniable if one accepts the evidence provided by proponents of the Big Bang scenario.

Some efforts have been made to reconcile these two stories but the results are not convincing. These efforts seem mainly intended to appease religionists who need to believe they are scientifically enlightened, or to please scientists who imagine the mind of deity elaborating itself through the theories they propound. Reactionary trends in global sociopolitics have recently reinforced the fundamentalist creation myth common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This story is not due to change anytime soon, nor is it amenable to correction.

Although there is little room for revision in the creation scenario of the mainstream religions, modern scientific cosmology is somewhat more supple. The tension between theory and observation generates a constant tango in which the two partners swing around each other in sudden, dramatic shifts, yet the body of core ideas is relatively stable. Occasionally a breakthrough causes the prevailing paradigm to morph rapidly and radically into a new visionary schema. In physics such a breakthrough came early in the 20th century with the proposal of Special and General Relativity by Einstein, and the last quarter of the 20th century saw an equivalent shift in the life sciences.

In the 1970s the Gaia Hypothesis, jointly proposed by Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, opened exciting new prospects in biology and atmospheric physics. Margulis’ serial endosymbiosis theory (SET), closely related to the Gaian perspective of this site, proposes a radical breakaway from classical Darwinian theory. (Darwinian theory was largely abandoned in the 1930s by experts in the field, yet it remains central to academic teaching and continues to command mythic proportions for the popular mind. Pretending to believe in Darwinism is a vast face-saving exercise, brilliantly exposed by Norman Macbeth in Darwin Retried.)

SET posits the principle of biological co-operation and "structural coupling" of species with the environment, especially its microscopic level. Inspired by this alternative vision of life, many biologists are beginning to see human evolution in a Gaian perspective that verges on teleology — i.e., goal-orientation — although there is huge debate over how nature could pursue definite aims, and even more debate, if not dumbfounded silence, over how the human species might be involved in Gaia’s large-scale purposes, whatever they might be.

Crucial elements of the new vision are lacking, however. Even the most sophisticated new theories, such as "autopoesis" proposed by Varela and Maturana, cannot adduce a clear dynamic that bonds human nature to Gaian nurture. (A good summary of avant-garde thinking in the life-sciences can be found in Gaia 2: Emergence, edited by William Irwin Thompson.)

Most crucially, there appears to be no way to assign a unique role to humanity in Gaian processes, and yet avoid the anthropocentric bias of the Abrahamic religions which regard the human species, made in the image of the Creator, as superior to all others, and so provide a divine sanction for the despoliation of nature for human ends. In short, the breakthrough glimpsed in the Gaia Hypothesis is handicapped by the lack of a crucial understanding that would decenter the human species from a privileged role in the cosmos and at the same time reintregrate it into a cosmic web of life exemplified in the symbiosis of all species. Were this understanding to emerge, it would then be possible to go the next step and consider how the web of life is invested with shared purpose by a directing intelligence.

Mythopoesis presents a way to develop this understanding. The story ahead does not say what this shared purpose is, however, but the making of the story is a way to discover it. In other words, the unique property of the Gaia Mythos as a story to guide the species resides in its power to reveal us to ourselves through the act of description in which we imagine Gaia’s story and make it our own.

There are necessarily two aspects to any story of the universe: cosmogony, a description of how the macrocosmos of many worlds came to be, and entogony, a made-up word for the description of the experience of particular living entities such as humans, animals and other beings, including supernatural ones. Cosmogony and entogony meld in the majestic figure of Gaia, the living planet, because Gaia emerges from the community of the larger cosmos and then sets boundaries on the cosmos so that she can provide a habitat custom-made for particular creatures, a vast range of plant and animal species and an ever vaster range of microbial entities (microbial life being, according to SET theory, the cradling mold of animal life.) Gaia is the linking factor between macrocosmos and the myriad species.


Mother Earth

The story we tell about Mother Earth is the narrative that will allow us to realize our role in Her purposes, even though Her purposes extend beyond the scope of human concerns. This story, and this story alone, will reveal how human intelligence interacts with planetary intelligence. This scenario looks outward toward the far reaches of the macrocosmos and simultaneously inward toward the most intimate details of life in the terrestrial habitat, including events in the psychic, mental and emotional life of humanity.

To unfold a new cosmic story we must decenter ourselves and see the world-process in Gaian perspective, through Her eyes. Only then may we recover our right relation to all life, a revisioned sense of purpose and a new centering in what Buddhists call Prajna-Paramita-Hrdaya, paramount insight born from the wisdom of the heart. In Gnostic terms this is the Sophianic endowment, the sapience of the human species.

Lynn Margulis has remarked that "a Gaian view is potentially more powerful than the ideologies of selfishness" (cited in Lawrence E. Joseph, Gaia: The Growth of an Idea). All three Western mainstream religions are deeply and irredeemably rooted in ideologies of selfishness, to the point where their adherents would destroy themselves and everyone else rather than surrender their egocentric importance based on beliefs "revealed" to them by a sovereign creator god, in whose image they are made. Science appears to be more detached from the human condition, but for other reasons inherent to its paradigmatic limits, it is equally unable to develop cosmology in a Gaia-oriented perspective.

The Gaia Mythos departs on a third vector, a path neither science nor religion can offer. It proposes mythopoesis, the intentional act of mythmaking, as a way to consecrate ourselves to the living Earth. This process is a feat of human imagination, but its objectives are not imaginary. The Gaia Mythos is a story to be developed collaboratively by poets, writers, artists and cultural visionaries, rather than one inculcated by religious and scientific authorities. In developing this scenario we are challenged to reclaim powers of description that have atrophied in our species due to our loss of awe and ecstasy in the presence of Sacred Nature, Divinity, the numinous mystery of the Other.

The Dynamics of Myth

To the modern mind the word "myth" suggests something made up and, by definition, not true: the myth of romantic love, for instance. We normally expect that anything told in the form of a myth is manifestly false and ought to be rejected as such. At the same time we vaguely sense that myth is a catalyst for experience, something that does not need to be literally true to inspire us or even compel us in directions we would not otherwise care to go, or dare to go. This ambivalence about myth is endemic to an age in which human imagination has been thwarted by technological magic and the sensational special effects of media in which we find ourselves immersed.

As Theodore Roszak explains in Where the Wasteland Ends (included in the Seven Classics of Metahistory), since the Industrial Revolution society in the Western world has tended to cocoon itself in an artificial environment, a carapace of culture that separates us from nature. Urban-electronic living is sustained by total adaptation — some would argue, by enslavement — to artificial (human-made) toys and tools.

The main effect of cocooning is a numbing of psychic sensibility, even a total preclusion of inner life. Why imagine anything when electronic medias can imagine it for us? If we do not find a way to participate in mythmaking, our ambivalence about myth (is it make-believe or truth-bearing vision?) will put us at risk of surrendering our powers of imagination, as Roszak warned way back in 1972. Already techno-cultural programming linked to commercial agendas such as the Hollywood fix, the theme park mentality, mind games and pornographic fantasies played out in cyberspace, dominate the lives of millions.

But how can myth show us in modern society a path that leads through and beyond the technological trance? Well, it must be said that not just any myth can. And not just any process of mythmaking, either. A lot depends on how we understand the dynamics of myth from the outset.

Originally, the Greek word mythos simply meant a story about something that actually happened. Greeks of Plato’s time would have used it routinely in mundane conversation. "While I was at the barber’s today I heard an interesting mythos about the olive harvest." Plato largely contributed to the notion that a mythos is a false or invented narrative rather than a true account of something that really happened, or of actions that were really performed by human beings. Plato wished to ban poets from the ideal society he describes in The Republic, but the rational condemnation of myth (due to what scholars call the Apollonian emphasis in culture) leads to the imaginative sterility that characterizes modern life. Humanity’s denial of its ecstatic and erotic bond to Sacred Nature (reflecting what scholars call the Dionysian emphasis in culture) effectively undermines the dynamic of mythmaking.

Our spiritual disorientation today is largely due to our lack of a generic guiding story comparable to the "sacred narratives" preserved by the indigenous cultures of the world. Such narratives were called sacred, from the Indo-European root sak-, "power, divine force", because they are empowering to those who participate in them. Sacred narration is a tribal rite that tells the people how to live, and for what ends, or goals.

Our sense of purpose, both as individuals and as a species, depends on having a universal story. All ancient and indigenous cultures had sacred narratives, but these were specific to the tribal, racial, cultural, and geographic conditions of the people who produced them locally, whereas we today need a mythos for a planetary culture. The myth we desire and require is a story to which all human beings can relate at the species level, regardless of race, religion, nation, culture, education. A sane and compassionate society living in the global perspective is impossible without a sense of planetary conscience, but we cannot acquire this sense of conscience without a story to ground it. We commonly say that a story has a moral but the inverse is also true: a morality, a moral way of life, must have a story to support it.

A Consecrating Tale

It would be risky, however, to call the now-emergent story sacred, consistent with traditional views. That adjective was appropriate in former times when we as a species felt a deep, all-pervading empathy for nature, the sacred Other. Because tribal narratives commemorated the rapport between the community and Sacred Nature, they came to be held as sacred. Archaic sacred narratives and surviving parallels among indigenous peoples (such as Dine Kahane, the creation-myth of the Navajos, to cite just one example) were the expression of a preexisting participation in nature. We lack that participation, for our bond with Sacred Nature was ruptured with the rise of Judaeo-Christian religion and, what’s worse, our alienation from the natural world is currently going terminal due to technological cocooning.

The Mythos to be developed now must generate (or regenerate) the rapport we lost, that empowering empathy with the Other. The story ahead is about consecration, living in conscious rapport with the higher power that sustains us, the Gaian mother force. The generic narrative we need to develop today is a consecrating tale that shows us how to become grounded in Gaia, rather than a sacred tale that arises from a pre-given grounding.

In his monumental poem, the Cantos, Ezra Pound proposed that the supreme task of modern poets is to recount "the tale of the tribe", (i.e., the entire human species). Yet Pound, being a Modernist dedicated to the highest development of human genius in imaginative terms, was biased to culture over nature. Unlike his friend and fellow poet, D. H. Lawrence, he did not feel a compelling bond to Gaia. As Dolores LaChapelle shows in Future Primitive, Lawrence was an "authentic ecological prophet", fifty years ahead of his time. The signal from Lawrence was relayed ahead to other poets and artists including Zen mystic Gary Snyder who proposed that "poetry is an ecological survival technique." (Poems for the Millenium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, p. 30.) The same could be said for the mythmaking for the Gaian narrative, especially since the main subject of the myth is the Earth itself.


Society Versus Species

Who today dares to believe that myth can be a true telling, an authentic account of events that happened, are happening, and will come to happen? Such a belief is neither superstitious nor delusional. It merely affirms that humans are uniquely directed by the powers of description that assume a unique and enduring expression in myths. The specific mythos we are called to share is a story about Gaia, the indwelling spirit of the Earth. It is the tale of a particular Goddess, the divinity in whom we live. The one we quaintly call "Mother Earth" has Her own story, but what do we know of it?

We, the human species, and all sentient beings on Earth are Gaia’s offspring, but of all her children we humans tend to deviate most from Her ongoing miracle of symbiosis and balance. Our peculiarity is also our handicap: unlike other species who are directed in a nearly infallible way by their instincts, we are oriented by goals of our own making. Part of the mystery of being alive is how we humans are left free to devise our own goals, our own purposes for living. But often the goals we choose to live by do not align us to the encompassing mysteries of Life — of Gaia, the mother planet.

The problem unique to humanity is to have produced a global society that works against the best interests of our own species, not to mention the myriad of other species in the planetary habitat. The result is a conflict between nature, which produces us, and culture, which we produce. In the terminal phase of the conflict we find ourselves supporting a culture that is inimical to the survival of species, including our own! The Gaia Mythos will emerge as we respond to a calling for our species to assert its life-force against the illusions and addictions of society. The Mythos holds the power to restore us to awe and reconnect us to the cosmos. The story ahead can then guide us, as a globally dispersed species, but it will not be a fairy tale meant to adapt us to the society we have created. It will lead us toward a wholly other way of being in the social world.

In the act of mythmaking that discloses Gaia’s story, we will be faced time and time again with the hard choice between commitment to ecocidal society and consecration to the life of all species in the biosphere. Whether or not modern society, or some facets of it, can be redirected along a Gaia-oriented path remains to be seen, but even if this is possible, the life of all species must take priority over human social life, or else the emergent Mythos will be co-opted for social gratification before it is halfway conceived. In Metahistory Quest we recognize that some aspects of Western-style, consumer-driven, patriarchal society cannot be redeemed. Yet in being inspired by a story that reveals Gaia’s purposes, of which neither science nor religion can tell us anything essential, we may find our way to acts of redemption that were otherwise inconceivable.

A transformed society may be possible, over there on the other side of civilization, but without first recovering the primal bond to the Other, nothing sustainable is possible in the human cultural frame.

So, the manifest goal of sharing a new cosmic story is not to save society but to align our hearts and minds to Gaia-Sophia so that Her endowment in each of us can be identified and fulfilled. The ultimate service in which we realize a sacred calling is to Her, not to tradition, culture, race and religion, or the dominant and desirable social order. This commitment is also the ultimate act of survival, for if we do not bond with Her in service to the Sacred and re-enter the rites of participation enacted through the dual ecstasy of discipline and play, we will not be carried with Her into the womb of futurity.

Her vision of us, whatever it is, is the only true future we have.

Invoking the Muse

To approach the adventure of mythmaking, let’s consider for a moment the classical precedent, the evidence of how myth was produced in the past.

In our presumed superiority over all that came before us, we modern folk are loath to admit that prehistorical oral narratives may have presented a true, authentic account of events that unfolded over eons on Earth. We arrogantly suppose that our version of history, the written account of things that have happened over the last 5000 years, and even our version of prehistory, which is at best a wild extrapolation proposing what might have happened in the remote past, are more or less reliable, and mythology simply is not. This bias reflects our ignorance of what produced myth in the first place. It prevents us from considering that people who lived in earlier times may have been superior to us in one extremely crucial way, namely, in mythmaking.

But what if our ancestors preserved in myths a true and testable account of the human adventure? What if, instead of a literal account of events in the remote past, myth presented a vision story of those events? In some manner that remains to be rediscovered and reclaimed, ancestral stories were imaginative structures that preserved the truest and most essential elements of human experience long after those who underwent such experience were gone. To understand how this could be so, we must ask: Who produced the myths told by our ancestors in the past? What were the original sources of mythopoesis?

To explore this question, let’s consider for a moment the difference between history and myth. To have history there must be historians, people who compile a record of events and write it down, usually in chronological order. The accepted historical canon is the work of historians, human authors. But the transmitters of myth were not its authors. Not exactly. Even in its late written forms myth did not originate in this way. At the origin of all myths there is a mysterious anonymity, for no myth ever recorded comes down to us signed by an author! This could mean that the authors were merely forgotten over time, or that they never wished to be known in the first place, or it may mean something else, something rather more enigmatic... We must wonder, If humans like ourselves did not originate myths, who did? Do ancient traditions provide any clue that might indicate the "authorial sources" of mythmaking?

They certainly do, although the clue is all too easy to discount. It occurs in "an antique convention", by which I do not mean a place where experts lecture on funny old lamps and Louis XVII armchairs. Antique here is an adjective, not a noun. It refers to things done in antiquity, the period before the Christian Era or Common Era (CE) that began 2000 years ago. A convention is a well-established practice, like singing the national anthem before a football game in the U.S.A.. The antique convention in question was a common practice among poets in pre-Christian times. It was called "invoking the Muse".

The Aeneid of the Latin poet Virgil [b 70 BCE] begins with such an evocation of the Muse: "Oh Muse, retell to me now the causes of what happened then." (My translation.) Here Virgil asks for two things at once: for the Muse to retell what she knows, and for her to inform him of causes, explaining how it was that certain things came about in a certain way in the past. If Virgil is to be believed, his capacity to tell the story of Aeneas, the mythical hero who founded Rome, came neither exclusively from his own poetic talents nor from his personal memory. He relied on the Muse not only to supply the myth but to enlighten him concerning its plot-structure. What manner of fabulous ally is this? Who is the Muse?


Divine Memory

In the classical art and myth of the West, the Muse is a version of a primal deity called "the goddess of memory." By invoking her, Virgil and other poets in antiquity acknowledged their reliance on a primal memory source for their feats of mythic recitation. They did not author myths, although they did craft the language for them. They were mythmakers in the sense that they provided language for the mythos, but they did not make up the mythos all by themselves. They repeated what the Muse told them, and they relied on her version of events to indicate causality, moral order, purposefulness. Benefiting from her transpersonal input, ancient poets were able to fathom the causes of things past, decisive events in prehistory that led to known historical events. Thus Virgil relates how the mythical adventures of Aeneas led to the historical founding of Rome in 747 BCE.

Another famous invocation of the Muse occurs in the Works and Days, a cosmological poem attributed to Hesiod c. 800 BCE: "Muses who from Pieria give glory through song, come to me and tell of Zeus, your own father." (Translation by Richmond Lattimore) Here the poet refers to a tradition that describes nine Muses, the daughters of Mnemosyne. This rather daunting name, pronounced Nuh-MOZ-uh-KNEE, is one of the most precious clues in our Western mythological heritage. This strange name persists as a mere trace in the modern word mnemonic (nuh-MON-ik), referring to devices or techniques used to assist memory. The plural, mnemonics, refers to any system for improving the memory.

The name given to the goddess of memory relates to the Greek word mnemonikos, "mindfulness, remembering", based on the Indo-European root, *mna-, "to remember". The root of the word "remember" is the name of a mythical woman!

If this association looks fantastic to us today, the ancient experience behind it is even more fantastic. If the antique poets are to be believed, the source of the act of remembering is a "goddess", some kind of superhuman power, conceived as feminine, capable of loading direct input into the human psyche. The Muse is a divine, supernatural entity who dictates to the receptive human instrument. According to the ancient poets of Europa, we can remember in a special way when the Muse remembers for us, and retells what she knows through us. Such is also the testimony of poets, bards and shamanic storytellers from many cultures around the world. (On the terms Europa, Europan and pan-Europan, see the Lexicon.)

The origin of "muse" is uncertain but it may derive from same root as mont, meaning mountain. Partridge suggests the Indo-European base, *mendh-, found in meditation and menthol, hence "breathed, inspired" (Origins). It is equally likely that muse relates to the Greek verb muein, "to murmur or speak in undertones", as when imparting a secret. Muein is the source of such words as mystery, mystic, mystify. With the insertion of the "s" this root permutes to form amuse, bemuse, music, musician, museum. Hence evidence of the Muse occurs in many common words connected with acts of leisure and pleasure, but also with instruction.

"The archaic Muses themselves were at first only three aspects of the goddess Mnemosyne, later multiplied again by three" and the triple goddess confers memory which is "the most essential gift" because no poet could repeat his verses without it (Barbara Walker, The Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects). In one version of Greek myth the sisterhood of Muses lived on Mount Helicon where they guarded a fountain of inspiration called the Pierian spring (hence the allusion in Hesiod). Their mother Mnemosyne produced her ninefold offspring by consorting with Zeus, the paramount sky deity of Europa who was probably a rowdy migrant from the Ural Mountains. This coupling occurred on a misty mountain crest.

In the psychic life of our ancestors a special contact was made by ascending mountains where high peaks and precipitous ridges merged into the clouds. They intuited a hieros gamos or sacred marriage between earth and sky, and from that union various offspring were born.

The tradition of invoking the Muse is not entirely confined to antiquity. Some modern poets have also been graced by her gifts. Poet and mythologist Robert Graves was an historical novelist who experienced trancelike states in which he recalled past events recounted in novels such as I, Claudius. Graves celebrated the Muse in a famous book entitled The White Goddess. This staggeringly rich and complex masterpiece on "the historical grammar of poetic myth" opens with a poem dedicated to the Mnemosyne, whom he calls the Mountain Mother:

All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by God Apollo’s golden mean —
In scorn of which I sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom I desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.

It was a virtue not to stay,
To go my headstrong and heroic way
Seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, and where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as any leper’s,
Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,
With hair curled honey-colored to white hips.

Green sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother,
And every song-bird shout a while for her;
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so great a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal,
Careless of where the next bright bolt may fall.

The mix of mystical and erotic elements is typical of poetry that celebrates the Muse, and the allusions to whiteness indicate a mysterious effect known to mystics and psychonauts of all ages.

No Human Author

So, according to the ancient poets who produced mythological works the source of their genius was a feminine power, a goddess called Memory. It is reasonable to assume that other myths were produced in the same manner, from the same source. In Celtic tradition tribal bards like Gwion and Taliesin acquired poetic inspiration from the sow-goddess Caridwen, guardian of a magical cauldron in the Underworld. When three drops of the potion brewing in the cauldron fell on his tongue, Gwion acquired the power of ecstatic recitation. As an ollave, a master poet in the Welsh tradition, Gwion was required to discipline himself and learn how to articulate the divine flow of inspiration. Something more than mere channeling was involved.

A parallel figure to the Celtic Caridwen occurs in Tibetan Buddhist practices derived from Bon Po, the indigenous shamanism of the Himalayan plateau. Vajravarahi, the Adamantine Sow, is a supernatural ally who teaches secret rites and recitations to lamas and tertons, spiritual treasure-finders. (Vajravahari is Dorje Phagmo in Tibet, but this yidam or tutelary deity seems to have originated in India.) She belongs to a class of feminine entities called dakinis, "sky dancers", who appear in popular guise as the red, green and white variants of Tara, goddess of infinite compassion. Scholars call these ravishing apparitions tutelary deities, "teaching gods." The special insight (gnosis) they bestow is "the knowledge of great bliss, mahasukha (Alex Wayman, The Buddhist Tantras, p. 68)." It takes extraordinary powers of attention to receive and retain the complex instruction bestowed by such resplendent phantoms.

In Asian tradition the inspirations of the Tantric Muse are translated into magical and metaphysical treatises of great lucidity and precision, rather than long poetic narratives comparable to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but in both cases the act of composition demands the same advanced faculties of retention. Classical authors like Virgil were masters of language or, like Homer, participants in a long tradition of oral recitation that demanded immense discipline, and so their names are rightfully attached to the masterpieces they produced, but ultimately no myth can be traced to a specific author.

The pan-Europan tradition of invoking the Muse supports the theory of transpersonal memory, technically known as phylogenetic memory, or species memory. Although the modern exponents of this theory, known as evolutionary psychologists, never refer to the antique convention of invoking the Muse, their speculations on the operation of species-memory run directly into the Muse’s territory. The species memory, and no single human author, is the source of genuine, truth-bearing myth. I propose the term shamanic recall for the action of accessing species-memory in order to tell the story of human evolution in Gaian perspective.

Developing the Gaia Mythos is the highest calling of poet-shamans in our time but it cannot proceed precisely as it did in the past. Mythopoesis may be eternal in our species, and it is certainly as eternal as anything in human-made culture can be, but its function changes over the long term. In the distant past the poets channeled the Muse, but to invoke the Muse today we must consciously call upon Gaia, the central character in the Mythos, to be the divine witness of our shared process of mythmaking. Until we communicate directly with Gaia (however that may come about) we must rely on trained powers of imagination to produce a story grounded in the evidence of the life-sciences in a way that approximates a true remembering.

What then is the relation of Gaia, the Earth Goddess, to Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory? This question may hold the initial clue to the role of humanity in Gaia’s purposes.


In Remembrance of Gaia

Since the Occult Revival toward the close of the 19th Century, almost a century before the Gaia Hypothesis was proposed, various theories have attempted to explain the role of the human species from a Gaian perspective. In the latter half of the 20th century those theories took on a sophisticated glaze by their association with trendy notions in physics, biology and neuropsychology. The most widely accepted view of this kind (by no means a mainstream view, but a proposition current with the avant-garde of Euro-American intellectuals) assumes that humanity is the nervous system of the biosphere and that the biosphere itself is evolving toward a focal point of awakening. This proposition is a rough paraphrase of Teilhard de Chardin’s notion of the "noosphere", i.e., the biosphere self-awakened to its cognitive potential, focused in the Omega Point. Similar ideas have been developed by social visionaries such as Oliver Reiser and Barbara Marx Hubbard, to mention just two from a tentative dozen that flit to mind on this stormy February night in Flanders.

The implicit tendency of these scenarios is to assign a lofty evolutionary function to the human species. Teilhard’s views were overtly Christocentric, consistent with his Catholic conditioning although professionally he was trained as a paleontologist. In Judeo-Christian doctrine Christ, the Messiah, is the representative of humanity, the single perfect human being who is actually a hybrid, human in appearance but divine in essence. According to Teilhard’s theory, Christ holds the Omega Point until humanity achieves it, thence becoming "Christened" at the planetary level. In this scenario we, the human species, attain the divinized condition of the Logos Incarnate, superior to all other life-forms by the fact that we are conscious of being conscious and, so being, are also cognizant of the ideal Humanity prefigured in Jesus Christ. "New Age" versions of our evolutionary role also associate humanity’s mission on earth with the attainment of "Christ Consciousness" in some form or fashion. This is a glorious prospect, no doubt, but it excludes any explicit description of our relation to Gaia, the Goddess, and to the natural world that may be imagined as Her embodiment.

(The romance of Christos and Gaia may yet be celebrated by the modern imagination. Gnostic texts such as the apocryphal Acts of John and the Gospel of Philip in the Nag Hammadi codices are little known to the mainstream, but Mary Magdalene has become something of a modern heroine through through books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code (reviewed in Reading). Some episodes of the Gaia Mythos present the coupling of two divine principles, Christos and Sophia, although Christos in this context must not be identified with Jesus Christ. The identity of Christos in the Gaia Mythos is unique to Gnostic sources.)

In a grand scheme that recalls Teilhard’s vision, Barbara Marx Hubbard places humanity at the tip of a vast evolutionary spiral dating back 15 billion years. In this view we are not merely a self-directing species (again, due to the power of imagination that enables us to be goal-oriented), we are the singular glowing node of the self-directing intelligence of nature. Maverick occultist G. I. Gurdjieff, a key figure in the Euro-American Occult Revival, stated something very close to this when he said that humanity is the self-evolving project of organic life on earth. Apart from Teilhard the earliest systematic expression of this view in the 20th century is probably found in the works of Oliver Reiser, whose name is hardly known today.

Veterans of the 1960s may recall the ironic allusion to the Omega Point in the lyrics of Jefferson Airplane, with Grace Slick belting out the taunting line: "You are the crown of creation, and you’ve got nowhere to go".

The Gaia Mythos is an opportunity to move ahead to a newfound rapport with Sacred Nature without placing the human species at the Omega Point of evolution.

Decentering humanity and deflating homocentric religiosity is essential to the poetics of the Mythos.
The story to be developed in this site does not assume that humanity is the glowing node of "higher evolution" on the blue planet, but it leaves open the possibility that we might, due to our unique capacity for goal-orientation, play a particular and delicate role in Gaia’s larger purposes. Our understanding of this role must emerge as the Mythos unfolds, but the initial clue to it can be found in the name of the mother Muse: Mnemosyne. This is truly a name to conjure with.

The derivation of Mnemosyne has been treated above, but there is one more soft nugget of insight to be mined in this regard. Looking back to the time when poets ceased to invoke the Muse, we can detect a huge shift in the course of human experience. The first centuries of the Common Era saw the suppression and co-optation of the ecstatic rites of Pagan religions by early proponents of Christianity. As the new faith gained in numbers, doctrinarian fanatics (called the Church Fathers) conspired with the legal and military authorities of the Roman Empire. The Roman Catholic alliance effectuated by Constantine in 321 established the fascist agenda that persists today in "Euro-American industrial theocracy", as Dan Russell calls it. The global dominator program relies heavily on disempowering those whom it would enslave, and does so by systematically alienating humans from their bond with Sacred Nature.

Russell suggests that "sensitivity to the ineffable ecosphere must be our teacher if we are to survive the effects of our own technology, [and] so must sensibility to our own ineffable logosphere, our collective unconscious, be our teacher if we are to survive the politics that technology has generated". (Shamanism, Patriarchy and the Drug War, p. 120-1).

This comment goes a way toward correcting the human-centered vision of the Omega Point. This correction, and the consequent rebalancing of the human species in symbiosis with its habitat, can be accomplished by reconnecting with the Muse through "archaic techniques of ecstasy", including temporary egoloss and enhanced communion with nature. Russell describes how rites of participation affected by ingestion of psychoactive plant potions, such as the kykeon of the Eleusinian Mytseries, enabled Pagans to preserve the true ecology of culture, as reflected to them from the order and beauty of nature. This rapturous visionary experience, the Gaian birthright of humanity, reaches out to the distant code-banks of the circling stars and down into the molecular structure of matter.

Russell’s argument reflects the Wasson Thesis on the central role of psychoactive plants in religion, and supports it with a massive array of literary, enthnographic, archeological and anthropological evidence. Quoting renowned Greek scholar Jane Ellen Harrison, Russell evokes "the Mnemosyne of initiation rites, the remembering again of things seen in ecstasy." (Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion; Russell, p. 163). Before the Christian mass was celebrated with the words, "Do this in remembrance of me", Gaia was invoked in sacramental feasting, dance, trance and storytelling in which our bond to Sacred Nature was recalled and reaffirmed. Russell says that in these nature-based tribal rituals "the mythology, the words of the Mother, called up memories (mnemosyne-realization) of the evolutionary ecology, the roots of the mind-body" (p. 120).

In other words, Mnemosyne represents the resurgence in human memory of our empathic bond to Gaia. For the prepared participant this resurgence can build into shamanic recall. By accessing Gaian memory-circuits the shaman-bards of old were able to recall and recount a story to guide their community, the racial-regional culture to which they belonged. The challenge of our time is to recount a story to guide the entire human species.

Now, if the Muse is the faculty of species memory that allows us to remember our bond to Gaia, may this same faculty not also allow Gaia to remember what ends we serve in Her purposes? I propose that the consciousness of the human species may occupy a special feedback loop in the Gaian memory system. This idea is tentative and subject to testing, of course. If this formula is anywhere near correct, the human species ought not to be regarded as the supreme expression of planetary consciousness, or the best potential candidate for directing evolution. We are instead a fragile circuit in the memory of the unique Divinity who sustains the living planet and informs the biosphere.

Gaia, like all living organisms, must rely on memory to be self-guiding. Any creature that cannot remember what it does cannot guide its actions in an intelligent or purposeful way. Likewise for Gaia: She also must be able to remember Her experience, including the experience of the species She carries in Her womb, the biosphere. The adventure of the Gaia Mythos is our way to discover our share in the mystery of Her larger purposes, even as we come to remember, in Her behalf, what those purposes might be.

Story Synopsis This story is about who Gaia was before She united with the Earth, and how She came to be the indwelling intelligence of the planet and the mother of terrestrial species. The story is told in four Parts, each consisting of brief Episodes:

One, Fallen Goddess
Two, Gaia Awakening
Three, The Gender Rift
Four, In Tomorrow's Light

Part One, Fallen Goddess (Episodes 1 through 16), opens with a company of gods called Aeons, divinities who dwell in the core of our home galaxy. It tells how one of these immortal powers, the Aeon Sophia as she was known to Gnostics, departed in a reckless way from the core, producing havoc in the outer region of the galaxy, then falling into a swoon. It recounts how Sophia, in Her shock and disorientation, gradually realizes that She has precipitated an anomaly in the cosmos, giving rise to the planetary system in which the Earth She embodies is captured. Complications involving an inorganic species called the Archons put Her in a rather tricky situation with the human species.

Part Two, Gaia Awakening, recounts the long sequence of moments in which the Fallen Goddess awakens to her new identity as "Mother Earth." It describes the geological epochs of the Earth and the emergence of the kingdoms of nature in terms of Gaian "morphic feels."

Part Three, The Gender Rift, describes a curious affliction of humanity, manifested in malice between the sexes, that arises due to Sophia's plunge, and explains how humans are involved with Gaia in healing this condition.

Part Four, In Tomorrow's Light describes the future of the Earth and the possible role of humanity in view of Gaia's own purposes.

The myth of Sophia's Fall was taught for centuries in the Pagan Mysteries and recounted in Gnostic writings that survive in fragmentary form. It is distinct from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic story of the Fall (the Genesis narrative), and, in fact, reverses the values and beliefs encoded in that well-known scenario. The Gaia Mythos is a close reconstruction of sacred teachings lost to humanity for almost two thousand years.

Commentaries (in development) on the Episodes are accessed via links in the right-hand column, level with each Episode.

No ay que juzcar los escritores por sus fracasos si por la brillentez de sus errores en la realization de lo imposible.

“Do not judge writers for their failures but for the brilliance of their errors in the realization of the impossible”

- Graffiti on the sea wall, Marbella, Spain, March 17, 2004

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8451/8069578234_764ba05e32_k.jpgFrom Metahistory @ http://www.metahistory.org/GAIA%20SOPHIA/mythos/Gaia_Sharing.php

For more about Gaia see http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com/search/label/gaia   
- Scroll down through ‘Older Posts’ at the end of each section

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