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Deep Ecology and Gaia

A World View for Our Own Survival

June 13th, 2007, 5:12 am

If humans are to survive on earth, we must adopt a new consciousness about our planet's self-regenerating, life-sustaining ecosphere.

The Western World View has for long been dominated by two orthodoxies: Patricentric Religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and Mechanistic Science. Enlightenment philosophers brought these two orthodoxies together in the trendy "religion" deism: The world was like a clock created by Father God, a kindly but reserved and distant fellow, who lubricated its dials, polished its casing, wound it up, then left it to tick-tock on its own for the rest of time.

A distant--actually, absent--father and a world that ran on its own like a machine: that was deism, and to a significant degree that's how many people conceive of the world today. And whether God is far away or very near, He has still given Man dominion of the earth (Genesis 9). It is ours to do with it what we want; and we take and take and take without giving much back; and we "progress" toward "new horizons."

This World View is proving to be environmentally catastrophic. Our survival as a species demands the adoption of a new world view, one that conceives of God not as a distant or absent father but either as a genderless being that suffuses this planet we call Earth with myriad life processes. Just as Jesus transformed the strict punisher/rewarder God Yahweh into the loving-father God he called "Abba," or "Papa," (thanks to a Christian Church he never intended to establish, being a full-fledged Jew), so too must we transform the heaven-based king/creator into an earth-based sustainer/cultivator.

Science can help, once it undergoes a paradigm shift that abandons at last all vestiges of Newton's (and, hence, the enlightenment's) universe-as-machine world view. This mechanistic monolith still reigns supreme, despite the compelling theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos that have been chipping away at it for some time now.

A New Consciousness

Science and myth have always walked hand in hand, though there are many scientists and mythicists ("true believers" they're sometimes called) who would adamantly disagree. And the science and myth I see in contemporary times that offers a world view that could, if conscientiously adopted, significantly multiply our chances of long-term survival is that of deep ecology and Gaia.

Deep Ecology actually stems from the "Gaia Hypothesis." James Lovelock, who was an atmospheric chemist for NASA during the 1960s, offered this hypothesis as an alternative to the mechanistic world view. It conceives of the planet as a living organism, one that is self-regulating, of which "life" is an interconnected web of ecological processes. Although I do not believe that "the Truth" resides utterly and completely in the connection between this random science (a branch of biology) and this random myth (an ancient Greek earth goddess), the world view it offers diametrically opposes the dark, apocalyptic one the current world view promotes.

As with any world view, from Nazism to Pacifism, there will be people who will seek to ritualize, mythologize, ideologize it. I tend to resist such efforts. There are some feminists, for instance, who have created a matricentric religion of Gaia, and actually worship Her. I see this as merely a reversal of the current patricentric religions--the cycle isn't broken, just pedalled backwards. Veganism, too, has understandable ties to deep ecology; but its moralistic platform seems infused, in my opinion, with what Marx called "false consciousness." Meat-eating, after all, is one of earth's life-sustaining processes. "New Age"--now trendily termed "New Consciousness"--is the current category under which Gaia and Deep Ecology have been classified, hence marginalized. It bothers me that what I see as a vital and compelling world view shares the same shelf with books on Tarot, Astral Projection, and Wiccan Spells, but that's the nature of our classification system (thanks Aristotle!) and there's little I can do about it save write this web page..

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