An extended conversation between Tim Leary, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg & Gary Snyder on the problem of whether to “drop out or take over” conducted on Alan Watts’ houseboat, the S.S. Vallejo, 50 years ago, in 1967…
Alan Watts: This is Alan Watts speaking, and I’m this evening, on my ferry boat, the host to a fascinating party sponsored by the San Francisco Oracle, which is our new underground paper, far-outer than any far-out that has yet been seen. And we have here, Alan Cohen, representing the Oracle.
We have Allen Ginsberg, poet, and rabbinic saddhu. We have Timothy Leary (laughs) about whom nothing needs to be said. And Gary Snyder, also poet, Zen monk, and old friend of many years.
Ginsberg: Everybody in Berkeley is all bugged because they think, one: drop-out thing really doesn’t mean anything, that what you’re gonna cultivate is a lot of freak-out hippies goofing around and throwing bottles through windows when they flip out on LSD. That’s their stereotype vision. Obviously stereotype.
Leary: Sounds like bullshitting…
Ginsberg: No, like it’s no different from the newspaper vision, anyway. I mean, they’ve got the newspaper vision.
Then, secondly, they’re afraid that there’ll be some sort of fascist putsch. Like, it’s rumored lately that everyone’ gonna be arrested. So that the lack of communicating community among hippies will lead to some concentration camp situation, or lead… as it has been in Los Angeles recently… to a dispersal of what the beginning of the community began.
Leary: These are the old, menopausal minds. There was a psychiatrist named Adler in San Francisco whose interpretation of the group Be-In was that this is the basis for a new fascism…when a leader comes along. And I sense in the activist movement the cry for a leader… the cry for organization…
Ginsberg: But they’re just as intelligent as you are on this fact. They know about what happened in Russia. That’s the reason they haven’t got a big, active organization.
It’s because they, too, are stumped by: How do you have a community, and a community movement, and cooperation within the community to make life more pleasing for everybody–including the end of the Vietnam War? How do you have such a situation organized, or disorganized, just so long as it’s effective–without a fascist leadership? Because they don’t want to be that either.
See, they are conscious of the fact that they don;t want to be messiahs– political messiahs. At least, Savio in particular. Yesterday, he was weeping. Saying he wanted to go out and live in nature.
Ginsberg: So, I mean he’s like basically where we are: stoned.
Watts: Well, I think that thus far, the genius of this kind of underground that we’re talking about is that it has no leadership. The Western world has labored for many, many centuries under a monarchical conception of the universe where God is the boss, and political systems and all kinds of law have been based on this model of the universe… that nature is run by a boss.
Whereas, if you take the Chinese view of the world, which is organic..They would say, for example, that the human body is an organization in which there is no boss. It is a situation of order resulting from mutual interrelationship of all the parts.
And what we need to realize is that there can be, shall we say, a movement… a stirring among people… which can be ORGANICALLY designed instead of POLITICALLY designed. It has no boss. Yet all parts recognize each other in the same way as the cells of the body all cooperate together.
Snyder: Yes, it’s a new social structure. It’s a new social structure which follows certain kinds of historically known tribal models.
Leary: Exactly, yeah! My historical reading of the situation is that these great, monolithic empires that developed in history: Rome, Turkey and so forth… always break down when enough people, and it’s always the young, the creative, and the minority groups drop out and go back to a tribal form.
I agree with what I’ve heard you say in the past, Gary, that the basic unit is tribal. What I envision is thousands of small groups throughout the United States and Western Europe, and eventually the world, as dropping out. What happened when Rome fell, Jerusalem fell? Little groups went off together…
Ginsberg: Precisely what do you mean by drop out, then? You haven’t dropped out, Tim. You dropped out of your job as a psychology teacher in Harvard. Now, what you’ve dropped into is, one: a highly complicated series of arrangements for lecturing and for putting on the festival…
Leary: Well, I’m dropped out of that.
Ginsberg: But you’re not dropped out of the very highly complicated legal constitutional appeal, which you feel a sentimental regard for, as I do. You haven’t dropped out of being the financial provider for Milbrook, and you haven’t dropped out of planning and conducting community organization and participating in it.
And that community organization is related to the national community, too. Either through the Supreme Court, or through the very existence of the dollar that is exchanged for you to pay your lawyers, or to take money to pay your lawyers in the theatre. So you can’t drop out, like DROP OUT, ’cause you haven’t.
Leary: Well, let me explain…
Ginsberg: So they think you mean like, drop out, like go live on Haight-Ashbury Street and do nothing at all. Even if you can do something like build furniture and sell it, or give it away in barter with somebody else.
Leary: You have to drop out in a group. You drop out in a small tribal group.
Snyder: Well, you drop out one by one, but… You know, you can join the sub-culture.
Ginsberg: Maybe it’s: “Drop out of what?”
Watts: Gary, I think you have something to say here. Because you, to me, are one of the most fantastically capable drop-out people I have ever met. I think, at this point, you should say a word or two about your own experience of how live on nothing. How to get by in life economically.
This is the nitty-gritty. This is where it really comes down to in many people’s minds. Where’s the bread going to come from if everybody drops out? Now, you know expertly where it’s gonna come from– living a life of integrity and not being involved in a commute-necktie-strangle-noose scene.
Snyder: Well, this isn’t news to anybody, but ten or fifteen years ago when we dropped out, there wasn’t a community. There wasn’t anybody who was going to take care of you at all. You were completely on your own.
What it meant was, cutting down on your desires and cutting down on your needs to an absolute minimum; and it also meant, don’t be a bit fussy about how you work or what you do for a living.
That meant doing any kind of work. Strawberry picking, carpenter, laborer, longshore… Well, longshore is hard to get into. It paid very well. Shipping out… that also pays very well…
Conversation transcript continues here.
“Peace is inevitable to those who offer peace. Peace is an attribute in you. The mind that wants peace must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. The only way to have peace is to teach peace.”
The following are excerpts from A Course in Miracles.
“Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. Every thought you have brings either peace or war; love or fear.
From insane wishes comes an insane world. From judgment comes a world condemned. And from forgiving thoughts a gentle world comes forth.
Truth does not struggle against ignorance, and love does not attack fear. Love can have no enemy. Perfect love casts out fear. If fear exists, then there is not perfect love.
Would you not go through fear to love? For such the journey seems to be. It is a journey without distance, to a goal that has never changed.
You dwell not here, but in eternity. You travel in dreams, while safe at home. There is no journey, but only an awakening.
Faith in the eternal is always justified, for the eternal is forever kind, infinite in its patience and wholly loving. It will accept you wholly and give you peace. Yet it can only unite with what is already at peace in you.
The choice to judge rather than to know is the cause of the loss of peace. You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment.
Love does not seek for power but for relationships. When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him (or her) you will see yourself. When you see your brothers as yourself you will be released.
Fail not in your function of loving in a loveless place made out of darkness and deceit, for thus are darkness and deceit undone. Love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and thankful mind.
When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. Remember that where your heart is, there is your treasure also.
You believe in what you value. If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly.
Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point.
All healing is essentially the release from fear.
It is essential to remember that only the mind can create, and that correction begins at the thought level. Spirit is already perfect and therefore does not require correction.
Questioning illusions is the first step in undoing them. The body does not exist except as a learning device for the mind.
You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think.
The truth is that you are responsible for what you think because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.
Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear there are some things you must realize, and realize fully.
The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force. It never sleeps. Every instant it is creating.
Confidence cannot develop fully until mastery has been accomplished. Readiness is only the beginning of confidence.
Nothing and everything cannot coexist. To believe in one is to deny the other. Fear is really nothing and love is everything.
Whenever light enters darkness, the darkness is abolished.
Innocence is not a partial attribute. It is not real until it is total. The partly innocent are apt to be quite foolish at times. It is not until their innocence become a viewpoint with universal application that it becomes wisdom.
Healing only strengthens. Magic always tries to weaken. Healing perceives nothing in the healer that everyone else does not share with him.
Magic always sees something “special” in the healer which he believes he can offer as a gift to someone who does not have it.
If you attack error in another, you will hurt yourself. You cannot know your brother (or sister) when you attack him (or her). Attack is always made upon a stranger.
You are making them a stranger by misperceiving them, and so you cannot know them. It is because you have made them stranger that you are afraid of him. There are no strangers in God’s creation.”
“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
For over 200 years “the pursuit of happiness” has been thought of as a self-evident truth and human right. But what if happiness cannot be pursued? What if happiness is actually much easier to find once we stop chasing after it?
Buddhist psychology teaches that peace, love and happiness are mind states, that appear spontaneously when fears and desires dissolve, when we open our hearts (and minds) to the present moment- right here and now.
As the Dalai Lama put it, “happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.” All the healthiest mind states and emotions arise naturally when we live in harmony with life, when we let go of wanting things to be different and instead appreciate the Universe just as it is.
What Buddha realized, over 2,500 years ago, is that our psychological states are a result of our interpretations of reality. Believing we need to acquire possessions, achieve something or change things (the world, ourselves, others) in order to “attain” happiness is a false belief that actually creates anxiety, fear, worry, distress and suffering.
Unhappiness means our hearts and minds are not at ease. We are off balance, don’t feel safe, complete, worthy or whole. People with PTSD experience this to an extreme, but for millions (perhaps billions) of human beings modern life generates anxiety and fear as a norm. It’s what feeds the consumer culture of our present age, as well as wars, drug addiction, crime and most of the conditions of human suffering.
The truth which Buddha discovered (and modern psychology now provides support for) is that happiness, love and inner peace will arise naturally when we are generous, mindful, compassionate and appreciate the present moment.
Being grateful for (and mindful of) what we are doing and already have (rather than anticipating getting what we want in the future) is the doorway to peace, joy and satisfaction.
When we believe there is nowhere else to be (but here), nothing in the Universe that we need to change (right now), our minds stop racing and calmness begins to rise naturally, by itself.
As we stop spinning thoughts and cravings its like removing heavy curtains that had blocked our senses, our soul’s windows to the world. By letting go of desires, fears and expectations our hearts and senses are able to shift attention to the beauty of the present moment, the magic of this Universe we belong to.
Many people meditate to cultivate serenity and calmness, but healthy mind states can also arise naturally during creative and physical activities such as dancing, playing music, cooking, reading, drawing, gardening, yoga, sports and playing with children. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes these moments as flow, where mindful concentration and creative engagement help us feel connected to the world and happy to be alive.
When anchored in the present moment, we can more easily hear the sounds of birds, stop to smell the flowers, see leaves of trees waving with the wind, feel the life in the cells of our bodies, notice the smiles on children’s faces. As our senses open colors seem deeper, music sounds more clear and beautiful.
No longer pursuing some ideal future our hearts relax and we become aware of the sacred beauty of this moment, this place, this precious life we are living right NOW.
Experiencing the beauty and preciousness of life doesn’t mean we have to give up trying to change the world. War, poverty, racism, sexism, materialism all need to be dismantled, challenged and undone by the human family.
But if we don’t simultaneously understand how to be happy, peaceful and loving right now, we end up creating more suffering, fighting ignorance instead of transforming and healing the world with our wisdom, creativity, mindfulness and love.
The darkness won’t dissipate until we bring light to it. Realizing that happiness cannot be pursued provides the key to finding peace in our lives and sharing it. Understanding that life is about giving (not getting) we are better able to help others, setting a butterfly effect in motion, that can ripple out into the world.
This understanding, of the beauty of the Universe we live in, is what the Buddha tried to communicate, what Zen and Taoism are all about. It’s what Einstein realized, what Walt Whitman shared in his poetry, what Mozart celebrated with his music, what Van Gogh attempted to capture with his paintings.
The great thing about positive mind states is they’re contagious, growing in size and power when we offer them freely. Unfortunately, the same is true with negative mind states! Which is why it’s so important for us to choose our thoughts wisely. The more peace, love and happiness you are able to cultivate in your life the more you will have to share with others.
By being the change we wish to see in the world, as Gandhi put it, the world is changed, beginning with each of us, as we awaken to the simple everyday beauty of our lives.
“See simplicity in the complicated, Seek greatness in small things. In the Universe, the difficult things are done as if they were easy.” ~Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that.” ~Alan Watts
“People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.” ~Eckhart Tolle
“Free from desire, you realize the mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.” –Lao Tsu
* Glimpses of a Creative Universe * Paradigms are Made for Shifting * Yūgen (幽玄) – Deep Awareness of the Universe * Poetry Surrounds Us – Vincent Van Gogh * Children of the Cosmic Dance * Awakening from a Case of Mistaken Identity * Zen & the Art of Living Deeply * How Einstein Saw the World * Shifting Paradigms: Aligning with the Wisdom of Nature * How We Participate in the Creative Life of the Universe * How Wisdom Grows – Educating Hearts & Minds * Surrendering to the Paradigm of Love * The Creative Matrix: Awakening to Find Ourselves Home *
“The fanciful idea of a self is a contraction, a limitation of wholeness, real being. When this notion dies we find our natural expansion, stillness, globality without periphery or centre, outside or inside. Without the notion of an individual there is no sensation of separateness and we feel a oneness with all things.” ~Jean Klein.
The following is a short excerpt from Who Am I? The Sacred Quest by the spiritual teacher Jean Klein (1912-1998). The wisdom here is deep, so best to read slowly. Also, to go from conceptual understanding to experiential knowing (as Klein describes) it helps to have a spiritual practice (such as yoga, meditation or tai chi), that enables your awareness to expand beyond the illusory sense of “I” that society feeds and the mind projects.
“To be human is to be related. As a human being we live in relation with the elements, the sun, moon, the stones in the earth and all living beings.
Generally, when we use the word “related” we mean a link of some kind between individual entities, object to object, or subject to object. The word relationship here presupposes separateness, the joining together of fractions. This fractional view of relatedness is purely conceptual. It is a figment of the mind and has nothing to do with pure perception, reality, with what actually is.
When we live free from all ideas and projections, we come into real contact with our surroundings. Practically speaking, therefore, before we can be related to our environment we must first know how to be related to that most near to us, body, senses and mind.
The only hindrance to the clear perception of our natural state is the forceful idea of being a separate individual, living in a world with other separate beings.
We have an image of ourselves. This image can be maintained only in relation to things and thus it makes objects of our surroundings, friends, children, spouse, intelligence, bank account, etc., and enters into what it calls a personal relationship with these projections.
The fanciful idea of a self is a contraction, a limitation of wholeness, real being. When this notion dies we find our natural expansion, stillness, globality without periphery or centre, outside or inside.
Without the notion of an individual there is no sensation of separateness and we feel a oneness with all things. We feel the surroundings as occurrences in unrestricted wholeness.
When our lover or children leave home or our bank account drops, it is an event in us. Awareness remains constant. All phenomena, all existence is an expression within globality and the varieties of expression only have meaning and relationship in light of the whole.
To be related is to be related within the whole. Since there is no meeting of fractions, in the whole there is no other. Strictly speaking, therefore, in perfect relation there is no relationship, no duality; there is only globality.
All perception points directly to our primal being, to stillness, the natural non-state which is common to all existence. Thus, in the human expression, to be related is to be in communion with the whole. In this communion the so-called other’s presence is felt as a spontaneous giving and our own presence is a spontaneous receiving.
There is no longer a feeling of lack and consequently a need to demand, because simply receiving brings us to our openness. When we live in openness the first impulse is offering. Being in openness and the spontaneous movement of offering is love. Love is meditation. It is a new dimension in living.
You live in contraction, thinking of yourself as an individual. Where do the terms ‘me’ and ‘mine’ find meaning? All humanity is in you. You are what you absorb. You eat vegetables, fish, meat, and these are dependent on light, the sun, warmth.
The light is related to the moon and the stars are all related. There is nothing personal in us. The body is in organic relationship with the universe. It is made of the same elements as everything else.
You must understand and co-operate with the body. It is ignorance of the mechanism that creates conflict. Inquiry can only be carried out in daily life. Your mind and body are reflected in your behaviour from morning until night. Your attention must be bipolar, observing the inner and outer fields.
Relationships are the mirror in which your inner being gets reflected. Be aware that you are a link in the chain of being. When you really feel this, the emphasis is no longer on being individual, and spontaneously you come out of your restriction. You do not live in isolation, in autonomy. In relatedness is the fore-feeling of presence.
The person is really only persona, mask, but it has come to be synonymous with the idea of an individual, separate and continuous entity. The personality is not the constant we imagine it to be. In reality it is only a temporary re-orchestration of all our senses, imagination and intelligence, according to each situation.
There is no repetition in life and each re-orchestration is unique and original like the design in a kaleidoscope. The mistake is to identify with the personality, to conceptualise it in memory and then take ourselves for this collection of crystallised images rather than letting all emotions, perceptions and thoughts arise and die in us.
We are in the theatre watching our own play on stage. The actor is always ‘behind’ his persona. He seems to be completely lost in suffering, in being a hero, a lover, a rascal, but all these appearings take place in global presence.
This presence is not a detached attitude, a witnessing position. It is not a feeling of separateness, of being ‘outside’. It is the presence of wholeness, love, out of which all comes. When no situation calls for activity we remain in emptiness of activity, in this presence.
Generally, we are fixed in patterns of communication but when we live in openness a great sensitivity arises, a sensitivity we never dreamed of. When we approach our surroundings from wholeness our whole structure comes alive. We do not hear music with the ears only.
When the ears cease to grasp sound for themselves we feel music with our whole body, the colour, the form, the vibration. It no longer belongs to a specific organ. It belongs to our whole being.
This creates a deep humility, an innocence. Only in humility is true communication possible. Then one lives in a completely new dimension. To live as a personality is to live in restriction. Don’t live in restriction!
Let the personality live in you. In living in the environment without separation there is great, great beauty…
Don’t try to influence [others]. The moment you breathe, the whole world is affected by your inhalation and exhalation. So when you live in peace you radiate it. If someone asks for help, help of course. But don’t become a professional do-gooder.
If you have any idea of being somebody, a friend, helper, political person, teacher, mother, father, and so on, you will only see the situation coloured by this image.
It is a fractional view and because it is partial it breeds conflict and reaction. Since the action did not appear and disappear in wholeness there will be residue.
Before acting, one must understand the situation. To fully comprehend it, you must face the facts free from ideas. It must belong to your wholeness; otherwise you are stuck to the wheel of reaction where there is only relationship from concept to concept.
When you become a professional doer you are no longer spontaneous. You can never create harmony. It is beautiful to be really nothing, without qualification. All that appears, appears in you.. Then all action is balanced.
First you have to know how to face the facts properly, that is, free from the limited individual point of view. Our surroundings appear to us according to the stance we take.
From the point of view of the body and senses, the world appears as sense perception. From the mental view the world appears as mind. From consciousness the world is only consciousness.
Don’t try to change anything. Only be aware that your ideas and actions stem from the mind. The moment you look at your surroundings from consciousness you will see things differently and seeing things differently your understanding and actions will be different.
The question often arises: how can I change society, I disagree with so many things? You can never change the world from the personal standpoint. You can only change society from the impersonal, from consciousness.
Realise that there can be no transformation unless action comes from a completely different view than before. In the personal realm you remain an accomplice with society. Creative action can only come when you see your surroundings from the point of view of consciousness. Then you are really related to society, the situation, the world.
Otherwise, you remain related only to yourself, your reactions and resistances. See that society begins with you. You are your own nearest environment, so begin with yourself.
When you learn how to look at your closest environment you will automatically know how to look at the broader environment. In this way of looking there’s understanding, and understanding brings right acting.
The moment you come to the living understanding, you won’t need to ask anyone else what to do. Where there’s an ego there is purpose. And when there is no sense of ‘I’, there is no purpose. Life is purposeless. There’s only beauty in living in the eternal.
If you believe you are the individual ‘I’ you are isolated from your surroundings, and this isolation brings feelings of insecurity, fear and anxiety. Then you look for goals. You worry and anticipate.
Life doesn’t need a reason to be. That is its beauty.”
“From a Gaian point of view, we humans are an experiment — a young trial species still at odds with ourselves and other species, still not having learned to balance our own dance within that of our whole planet…” ~Elisabet Sahtouris
The following is an excerpt from the book Earth Dance: Living Systems in Evolution, written by evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris in 1999. Inspired and encouraged by scientists Jim Lovelock (Gaia Theory) & Lynn Margulis, Dr. Sahtouris shares here the vision of wholeness that Gaia science and theory provides us with..
“Everyone knows that humanity is in crisis, politically, economically, spiritually, ecologically, any way you look at it. Many see humanity as close to suicide by way of our own technology; many others see humans as deserving God’s or nature’s wrath in retribution for our sins…
Our intellectual heritage for thousands of years, most strongly developed in the past few hundred years of science, has been to see ourselves as separate from the rest of nature, to convince ourselves we see it objectively — at a distance from ourselves — and to perceive, or at least model it, as a vast mechanism.
This objective mechanical worldview was founded in ancient Greece when philosophers divided into two schools of thought about the world.
One school held that all nature, including humans, was alive and self-creative, ever making order from disorder. The other held that the ‘real’ world could be known only through pure reason, not through direct experience, and was God’s geometric creation, permanently mechanical and perfect behind our illusion of its disorder.
This mechanical/religious worldview superseded the older one of living nature to become the foundation of the whole Western worldview up to the present.
Philosophers such as Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Plato were thus the founding fathers of our mechanical worldview, though Galileo, Descartes, and other men of the Renaissance translated it into the scientific and technological enterprise that has dominated human experience ever since.
What if things had gone the other way? What if Thales, Anaximander, and Heraclitus, the organic philosophers who saw all the cosmos as alive, had won the day back in that ancient Greek debate?
In other words, what if modern science and our view of human society had evolved from organic biology rather than from mechanical physics?
We will never know how the course of human events would have differed had they taken this path, had physics developed in the shadow of biology rather than the other way around.
Yet it seems we were destined to find the biological path eventually, as the mechanical worldview we have lived with so long is now giving way to an organic view — in all fairness, an organic view made possible by the very technology born of our mechanical view.
The same technology that permits us to reach out into space has permitted us to begin seeing the real nature of our own planet to discover that it is alive and that it is the only live planet circling our Sun.
The implications of this discovery are enormous, and we have hardly even begun to pursue them. We were awed by astronauts’ reports that the Earth looked from space like a living being, and were ourselves struck by its apparently live beauty when the visual images were before our eyes.
But it has taken time to accumulate scientific evidence that the Earth is a live planet rather than a planet with life upon it, and many scientists continue to resist the new conception because of its profound implications for change in all branches of science, not to mention all society.
The difference between a planet with life on it and a living planet is hard at first to understand. Take for example the word, the concept, the practice of ecology, which has become familiar to us all within just the few short decades that we have been aware of our pollution and destruction of the environment on which our own lives depend.
Our ecological understanding and practice has been a big, important step in understanding our relationship to our environment and to other species. Yet, even in our serious environmental concern, we still fall short of recognizing ourselves as part of a much larger living entity.
It is one thing to be careful with our environment so it will last and remain benign; it is quite another to know deeply that our environment, like ourselves, is part of a living planet.
The earliest microbes into which the materials of the Earth’s crust transformed themselves created their own environments, and these environments in turn shaped the fate of later species, much as cells create their surroundings and are created by it in our own embryological development.
As for physiology, we already know that the Earth regulates its temperature as well as any of its warm-blooded creatures, such that it stays within bounds that are healthy for life despite the Sun’s steadily increasing heat.
And just as our bodies continually renew and adjust the balance of chemicals in our skin and blood, our bones and other tissues, so does the Earth continually renew and adjust the balance of chemicals in its atmosphere, seas, and soils..
Certainly it is ever more obvious that we are not studying the mechanical nature of Spaceship Earth but the self-creative, self-maintaining physiology of a live planet.
Many still take the live Earth concept, named Gaia after the Earth goddess of early Greek myth, more as a poetic or spiritual metaphor than as a scientific reality.
However, the name Gaia was never intended to suggest that the Earth is a female being, the reincarnation of the Great Goddess or Mother Nature herself, nor to start a new religion (though it would hardly hurt us to worship our planet as the greater Being whose existence we have intuited from time immemorial).
It was intended simply to designate the concept of a live Earth, in contrast to an Earth with life upon it…
We now recognize the Earth as a single self-creating being that came alive in its whirling dance through space, its crust transforming itself into mountains and valleys, the hot moisture pouring from its body to form seas. As its crust became ever more lively with bacteria, it created its own atmosphere, and the advent of sexual partnership finally did produce the larger life forms ~ the trees and animals and people.
The tale of Gaia’s dance is thus being retold as we piece together the scientific details of our planet’s dance of life. And in its context, the evolution of our own species takes on new meaning in relation to the whole. Once we truly grasp the scientific reality of our living planet and its physiology, our entire worldview and practice are bound to change profoundly, revealing the way to solving what now appear to be our greatest and most insoluble problems.
From a Gaian point of view, we humans are an experiment — a young trial species still at odds with ourselves and other species, still not having learned to balance our own dance within that of our whole planet. Unlike most other species, we are not biologically programmed to know what to do; rather, we are an experiment in free choice.
This leaves us with enormous potential, powerful egotism, and tremendous anxiety ~ a syndrome that is recognizably adolescent.
Human history may seem very long to us as we study all that has happened in it, but we know only a few thousand years of it and have existed as humans for only a few million years, while Earth has been self-creating and evolving for billions of years. We have scarcely had time to come out of species childhood, yet our social evolution has changed us so fast that we have leaped into our adolescence.
Humans are not the first creatures to make problems for themselves and for the whole Gaian system.. We are, however ~ unless whales and dolphins beat us to it in past ages — the first Gaian creatures who can understand such problems, think about them, and solve them by free choice.
In fact, the argument of this book is that our maturity as a species depends on our accepting the responsibility for our natural heritage of behavioral freedom by working consciously and cooperatively toward our own health along with that of our planet..
And so an attitude of greater humility and willingness to accept some guidance from our parent planet will be an important factor in reaching our species maturity.
The tremendous problems confronting us now — the inequality of hunger on one side and overconsumption on the other, the possibly irreversible damage to the natural world we depend on, just as our cells depend on the wholeness of our bodies for their life – are all of our own making.
These problems have become so enormous that many of us believe we will not be able to solve them in time. Yet just at this time in our troubled world we stand on the brink of maturity, in a position to recognize that we are neither perfect nor omnipotent, but that we can learn a great deal from a parent planet that is also not perfect or omnipotent but has the experience of billions of years of overcoming an endless array of difficulties, small and great.
When we look anew at evolution, we see not only that other species have been as troublesome as ours, but that many a fiercely competitive situation resolved itself in a cooperative scheme. The kind of cells our bodies are made of, for example, began with the same kind of exploitation among bacteria that characterizes our historic human imperialism, as we will see.
In fact, those ancient bacteria invented technologies of energy production, transportation and communications [during] their competitive phase and then used those very technologies to bind themselves into the cooperative ventures that made our own existence possible.
In the same way, we are now using essentially the same technologies, in our own invented versions, to unite ourselves into a single body of humanity that may make yet another new step in Earth’s evolution possible.
If we look to the lessons of evolution, we will gain hope that the newly forming worldwide body of humanity may also learn to adopt cooperation in favor of competition. The necessary systems have already been invented and developed; we lack only the understanding, motive, and will to use them consciously in achieving a cooperative species maturity…
The new view of our Gaian Earth in evolution shows an intricate web of cooperative mutual dependency, the evolution of one scheme after another that harmonizes conflicting interests.
The patterns of evolution show us the creative maintenance of life in all its complexity. Indeed nature is more suggestive of a mother juggling resources to ensure each family member’s welfare as she works out differences of interest to make the whole family a cooperative venture, than of a rational engineer designing perfect machinery that obeys unchangeable laws.
For scientists who shudder at such anthropomorphism — defined as reading human attributes into nature — let us not forget that mechanomorphism — reading mechanical attributes into nature – is really no better than second-hand anthropomorphism, since mechanisms are human products.
Is it not more likely that nature in essence resembles one of its own creatures than that it resembles in essence the nonliving product of one of its creatures?
The leading philosophers of our day recognize that the very foundations of our knowledge are quaking — that our understanding of nature as machinery can no longer be upheld.
But those who cling to the old understanding seriously fear that all human life will break down [without] knowledge of nature in mathematical reference points and laws of physics. They fail to see what every child can see — that hummingbirds and flowers work, that nature does very well in ignorance of human conceptions of how it must work.
Machinery is in fact the very antithesis of life. One must always hope a machine, between its times of use, will not change, for only if it does not change will it continue to be of use. Left to its own devices, so to speak, it will eventually be destroyed by its environment. Living organisms, on the other hand, cannot stay the same without changing constantly, and they use their environment to their advantage.
To be sure, our machinery is getting better and better at imitating life; if this were not so, a mechanical science could not have advanced in understanding. But mechanical models of life continue to miss its essential self-creativity.
Fortunately, our survival struggle is leading to intuitive grasps of nature’s principles that are shifting our technologies into serving cooperative life purposes, especially clearly in the phenomenon of the global Internet.
We are learning that there is more than one way to organize functional systems, to produce order and balance; that the imperfect and flexible principles of nature lead to greater stability and resilience in natural systems than we have produced in ours — both technological and social — by following the mechanical laws we assumed were natural..
Every being is part of some larger being, and as such its self-interest must be tempered by the interests of the larger being to which it belongs. Thus mutual consistency works itself out everywhere in nature, as we will see again and again in this book.
For clues on organizing a workable economics and politics, we need not even look beyond our own bodies, with their cooperative diversity of cells and organs as a splendid example to us in working out our social future.
Diversity is crucial to nature, yet we humans seem desperately eager to eliminate it, in nature and in one another. This is one of the greatest mistakes we are making.
We reduce complex ecosystems to one-crop monocultures, and we do everything in our power to persuade or force others to adopt our languages, our customs, our social structures, instead of respecting their diversity and recognizing its validity. Both practices impoverish and weaken us within the Gaian system…
Our technology has ravaged nature and continues to do so, but the ravages of technology are rooted in our youthful species’ greed, our single bottom-line quest for profits motive. There is no intrinsic reason that we humans cannot develop a benign technology once we agree that our desire to maximize profits is completely at odds with nature’s dynamic balance — that greed prevents health and welfare for all.
As Janine Benyus has pointed out, we assigned one group of people called biologists to study how other species make their living, and a completely separate group of people called economists to determine how our species makes its living.
No other creatures take more than they need, and this must be our first lesson. Our second lesson is to learn and emulate nature’s fine-tuned recycling economics, largely powered by free solar energy. This does not mean going back to log cabins or tipis, but to eliminate waste and junk as we creatively develop diverse human lifestyles of elegant and sustainable simplicity.
The purpose of this book is to help pave the way to a happier and healthier future through an understanding of our relationship to the Gaian Earth system that spawned us and of which we are part — a great being that, however it may annoy us, is not ours to dominate and control. We can damage it, but we cannot run it; we had better try to find out what it is all about and what we are doing, and may do, to survive happily within it.
The aggressive and destructive motives of domination, conquest, control, and profit have been presented to us as unchangeable human nature by historians as well as by sociologists.
But mounting evidence from archaeology strongly suggests that human societies were, for the greater part of civilized history, based more on cooperation and reverence for life and nature than on competition and obsession with death and technology.
It seems our human childhood, which lasted far longer than has our recent adolescence, was guided by religious images of a near and nurturing Mother Goddess before a cruel and distant Father God replaced her in influence. As we come out of adolescence we often recognize the value of what we were taught in childhood, and this new historical view of ourselves supports the general thesis of this book.
Like Gaian creation itself, human understanding or knowledge ever evolves.”
“We need to listen to the land’s dreaming intelligence, hear its stories and hear its vast and more than human voice. All our dreams are connected with our bodies, all our dreams are connected with each other…” ~Jason Hine
We need something much deeper than just eco-psychology; it is not enough to do psychology, psychotherapy or healing in the context of nature or to do ecstatic dance in a concrete building, rather there may be a need to get on the land and listen to the land’s sentient intelligence.
When we sense some kind of intelligence in the land it may not just be us ‘projecting’ something onto the earth but rather the earth dreaming us, a larger force of nature communicating with us. We may need to consider what the land has to say. What does the land want from the human beings on it? What is the land’s greater dreaming? What new story for life on earth is the land trying to bring forth at this time?
We need to listen to the land’s dreaming intelligence, hear its stories and hear its vast and more than human voice. We need to hear the animals and plants, the otters, foxes, nightjars, sea trout, sunfish, curlews, herons, plantain, dog rose, pear blossoms, walnut trees, old growth copses, muddy estuaries, ancient dreaming forests and the mountain and the rivers speak.
A psychological perspective leads us to believe that myths, complexes and so on are inside us, but they are also to be found in our relationship with the land, in our interpenetration with the non-human intelligence of the earth.
It is not exactly that the earth and its spirits and non-human intelligences are ‘outside’ us either, rather there are innumerable ‘outsides’ and ‘insides’ which are interpenetrating or entangled with each other, or another way to look at it, there is one vast ‘inside’ which includes not just our psyche and body but also our community, world events, the hills and rivers, rooks and egrets nesting in willow trees and basking sharks ploughing through dark waters.
All our dreams are connected with our bodies, all our dreams are connected with each other, all our bodies are connected and our somatosensory awareness in relationship to others has the effect of dreaming each other and our culture into existence.
Political ideologies, illnesses, world problems, and ancestors, ghosts, demons, faeries, Gods and Goddesses, yidams and benevolent spirits are all embodied non-locally in us, in the land, and in our relationship, our disconnection or connection, with each other and with the earth’s dreaming intelligence.
If we want to bring more consciousness to our communities and repair our relationship to each other and to the earth then we need to bring more consciousness to these powers, especially to their more difficult, repressed, disavowed, oppressed, taboo, terrifying, problematic, aggression or grief-filled embodiments, as well as those that are full of joy, magnificence and pleasure.
We may need to go deeper into them, to enter their somatic embodiments, phenomenological states, movements, stories, myths and visions and allow them to be seen in council, in play, in ceremony, in conflict resolution and in ceremony.
By Jason Hine
Jason is an earth based facilitator, deep ecologist, ceremonialist and coach who helps people to connect with their mythic self and the sentient dreaming intelligence of the earth to find vision, overcome obstacles, build community and resolve inner and outer conflicts.
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” ~The Rolling Stones
Right now, millions of people suffer on our planet because what we want distracts us from what we actually need. The Rolling Stones made this observation decades ago, yet still we struggle.
For example, you may want to be admired by others, to gain a high status job, make a lot of money, have a successful career and buy a big house.
Unfortunately, such dreams could make you miserable. What we need for happiness is work that feeds our souls, that helps us to improve skills and grow, that provides us with a living but also makes us happier and wiser human beings.
Here’s another example. Because of the competitive “rat race” mentality of modern life, many people look forward to their “free time” as a chance to escape. They get caught up in political dramas, watch too much television or pornography, surf the internet, get drunk, play video games, get high with drugs or gamble.
Sadly, these “escape” experiences are addictive traps. These methods never work because to be truly happy humans need to connect with the world in meaningful (rather than meaningless) ways. We need to do enjoyable and playful things with others, to express our talents, practice arts or sports, collaborate on creative projects, develop our skills and human potential.
To be happy and free we need to be aware of bad influences. Your dog or cat knows more about happiness then the talking heads of large corporations, Madison avenue and Wall Street. The mainstream media is a propaganda machine spinning fake stories and false dreams created by skillful marketing wizards who try to convince us to live in fear of certain “others,” crave what we don’t need and consume worthless things.
They feed our desires, fears and anxiety, trying to convince us to ingest unhealthy thoughts and materials that do us more harm then good. They try to tempt us to eat chocolate, donuts, french fries, steak and ice cream. To put food in our bodies that provide a brief moment of pleasure, yet lead to obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, sickness and early death.
What human beings need is to care for our minds and bodies, to eat healthy, to treat our psychological and physical well-being with love, wisdom and care. To teach our children to avoid foods (and ideas) that were manufactured to taste or feel “good” for a moment but in truth do harm to our bodies and spirits.
Much of what the modern world tries to sell us is fake. Not just fake news, but also fake goals, fake dreams, fake foods, fake enemies and fake views.
Because of televised and internet media, millions (perhaps billions) of humans are drowning in dissatisfaction, wanting the perfect body, perfect home, perfect partner, perfect job, perfect sex life. This is what corporations and mass marketers (as well as some friends and family) tell us will bring happiness. But it won’t, because materialism is a big lie.
We don’t need more things to be happy. As the Roman philosopher Seneca put it, “the greatest wealth is a poverty of desires.”
What your soul needs is deeper connectedness and peace, freedom from fear and anxiety, loving relationships, creative activities, meaningful projects, time alone with Nature, a sense of spiritual or emotional connection to life, humanity and the Universe.
This wisdom is shared by many spiritual traditions. It’s taught by Taoism & Zen, and lived moment to moment by many animals. To be truly happy on this planet humans need to understand the difference between the fake narratives our consumer society feeds us, (about who we are and what to desire), and what we need as creative, social and spiritual beings.
Happiness arises naturally when we feed our souls rather than our egos. To become wiser and happier we need to understand the difference between what Buddhists refer to as samsara (false views) and nirvana (reality). Only then can we gain freedom from society’s endless marketing of fake goals, meaningless things and harmful products that keep billions of humans trapped in suffering, wanting and confusion.
To be happy as a species, I think we need to master for ourselves (and model for our children) how to not let fake wants get in the way of real needs.
By Christopher Chase, April 2017