The Gaia Theory
Acceptance of the Gaia Theory has become so widespread that, in 2001, a thousand scientists at the European Geophysical Union meeting signed the Declaration of Amsterdam, starting with the statement “The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components.”
Originally, many Earth scientists strongly criticized the Gaia Hypothesis, suggesting, among other things, that it involved a teleological explanation (rather than the type of mechanico/deterministic explanation favored by traditional science). Lovelock responded that “Nowhere in our writings do we express the idea that planetary self-regulation is purposeful, or involves foresight or planning by the biota.”
The Earth Is Alive
However, maybe Lovelock hasn’t gone far enough. It seems possible to simplify and strengthen the Gaia Theory if we take the strong form of the Anthropic Principle seriously, which asserts that the universe must be compatible with conscious life, which means that it is most likely that the universe is a living place that contains a spectrum of consciousness.
From this perspective, we can reformulate the Gaia Theory [further elaboration at link] as “The Earth is alive and behaves in a purposive fashion with a type of consciousness in order to pursue an environment optimal for life.”
Inner Experience Can Lead to Inner Knowledge
External observation is a relatively crude method of acquiring knowledge about our consciousness. Rather, doesn’t it make sense to turn our consciousness on our consciousness to observe its structures and processes, and then evolve inner technologies, based on that knowledge, to guide our experiences and actions? We have already seen that any explanation of the universe has to begin with the foundation of my consciousness and the consciousness of other human beings. In fact, our explanations of the universe should be grounded in what we know best about the universe – our conscious participation in it.
Since each of us is an aspect of the universe and each of us is conscious, it follows that becoming conscious of our own consciousness would seem to teach us about the consciousness that is at the heart of the universe – at least the universe as we experience it. What happens, then, if we hypothesize that inner experience can provide knowledge that is valid?
Is it possible to attain heightened states of consciousness that participate more deeply in the conscious, evolving organism that is the universe? Doesn’t it make sense to train our consciousness, as the key vehicle we have for experiencing and exploring the universe, to experience a wider range of the spectrum of consciousness in this conscious universe?
And, doesn’t it make sense to compare our inner experience with the inner experience of other people in a way that produces potentially verifiable inner knowledge?
Eastern philosophy has recognized that we live in a conscious universe and suggested that various traditions and teachers (Gurus) have already mapped the conscious universe and provided us with paths to follow in expanding and deepening our participation in it.
The shamanistic tradition in native cultures, the Yogic and Buddhist traditions in India, the Taoist tradition in China, the Sufi tradition in the Middle East, and the Kabbalistic tradition in the West have cultivated inner experience, leading to inner knowledge. According to these traditions, people who follow the practices prescribed by one or another of the different traditions come to be able to expand the spectrum of consciousness that they can access and participate in.
Inner Knowledge Can Lead to Inner Power
Looking at the history of these traditions, it seems clear that concentration on inner-experience not only provides inner knowledge, it also provides increased inner power which has a kind of resonance effect, whereby the stronger consciousness attracts less strong consciousnesses as followers.
The Indian Guru with thousands (sometimes millions) of followers is an example of this phenomenon of inner knowledge leading to inner power with a powerful magnetic resonant effect. In its worst manifestations, the cult leader with cult followers is also an example of the phenomenon.
Hitler was such a leader who combined occult knowledge and power with military science and technology to bring millions of people into a Nazi movement that used terrible means to accomplish horrific ends.
However, the history of Mahatma Gandhi and the movement for Indian liberation shows the potential positive side. Gandhi combined his philosophy of non-violence, (whereby the means were the ends in process), with a personal power, schooled by significant inner work, to create a way for people to act in concert with great moral force and great political effect.
A Philosophy for Our Time
So, let’s posit that a philosophy for our time should utilize the Ontology of a conscious evolving universe, the Epistemology of balancing inner knowing and outer knowing, and the Axiology of using good means to accomplish good ends.
Planetary Philosophy is attempting to provide an approximation of this philosophy that we need right now by embracing the conscious universe as a basis for formulating the three unifying principles – One Planet, One People, and One Purpose.
If we accept the strong form of the Anthropic Principle, in concert with the strong form of the Gaia Theory, it may be the case that we have only to reach down into ourselves that are aspects of the Earth and find the Earth calling to us showing us the way to live at peace with her.
The strong form of the Anthropic Principle may also be taken to suggest that groups have a kind of group consciousness, a group mind if you will. The psychology of crowds and the behavior of herds, hives, ant hills, and many other types of group behavior argue for this perspective. If this is true, then it may be the case that the large group that is the human species has a type of consciousness. Right now that consciousness is fragmented and divided against itself. But if we quiet our minds, pay attention to our breathing, relax, and listen, perhaps we can participate in a Planetary Consciousness, hearing a deeper singing coming from our species trying to survive in harmony with our planet.
What then is this Planetary Consciousness and how do we reach it? We, at least most of us, only participate in our own individual consciousnesses. (One of the most significant things about the art experience is that it allows us to participate, to a certain extent, in the consciousness of the artist and, thereby, expand a little our own consciousness.) So let’s explore how we get from our individual human experience to Planetary Consciousness.