A familiar metaphor refers to the fish not perceiving the ocean even while she swims in its all-pervasive waters. Similarly, we modern humans usually have no idea of the ubiquitous anti-Nature, anti-Earth beliefs and assumptions we “swim” in as part of the human-created world.
One of the most pernicious human supremacist ideas—reflected in science and technology, spirituality, and everyday life—is separation. We’ve been conditioned to consider ourselves separate from and external to the rest of creation. We believe we possess both the right and the ability to use and manipulate everything on Earth for human-defined ends. But even when our intentions are good, we would do well to heed what plant ecologist Frank Egler said almost 100 years ago: Nature is not only more complex than we think; it is more complex than we can ever think.
In science, the growing emphasis on ecology and systems theory seems hopeful, but we must guard against the underlying presumption that we humans can fix everything. The subject of carbon capture in combatting climate change seems promising, but we also end up with truly outlandish proposals like fertilizing the oceans to encourage the growth of plant matter and algae, which could then absorb more CO2. In a masterpiece of understatement that leaves me speechless, one report on this idea concludes: “However, some research warns that this could cause enormous disruption to the oceans’ ecosystems.” *
A similar problem afflicts much religious thought about “stewardship.” All 3 of the Book religions are coming to promote the seemingly beneficent idea that humans are obligated to take care of God’s creation, to be good stewards of the planet. While this is certainly better than continuing to wreck everything, the phrase “take care of” still implies a sense of being external and superior to the natural world. But the Creation wasn’t given to us by a remote, separate Creator. We dwell in Gaia’s web with the plants and creatures, the lands and waters. The real question we must ask is how can we best participate with Gaia as She generates and regenerates her own sacred forces of Creation? The key to good stewardship is not to set out to “improve” Creation, or even to “beautify” it, but to humbly listen and co-create with and on behalf of our Creatrix.
The New Age movement also evinces much human-centered thinking. I remember, back in the 1970s when New Age ideas were starting to emerge, that people would often refer to the Earth as humanity’s “schoolroom.” I recall wondering if this was really an appropriate analogy. Surely our wonderful planet, with her infinite beauties and mysteries, has a more important role than simply being the passive, obliging setting in which humans learn our necessary “lessons”—the most important one obviously being humility!
I also noticed that much of the New Age agenda was organized around rising up, becoming more elevated. Even today, the idea of “ascension” drives much New Age thought: the conviction that the evolutionary goal of humanity is to rise above the things of Earth, of the material, and attune ever more to spiritual reality. Here again is that enduring idea that we humans are external to all other manifestations of Gaia, with our own separate, worthy, exalted spiritual destiny.
Perhaps we DO have a worthy spiritual destiny, but if so, it lies in coming to know ourselves as part of the lifeweb, not external to it. And if we have an exalted role to play on Gaia, it involves allying with Gaia’s spiritual forces and beings, not transcending them.
Whether we think of the Sacred Land as a web, a weaving, or a garden, our practical and spiritual task is to find our place within it, not to be masters of it. Gaia is the master, the Mistress. When we surrender to Gaia as the sea in which we swim, we can find our true place here on Earth—a rich place of partnership and alliance, of reciprocity and mutual thriving. This is our real, magical, marvelously creative destiny. What are we waiting for?!
*I found this on news.sky.com, “Climate change: Seven technology solutions that could help solve crisis.”