To break free of the delusional beliefs encoded in the stories that
define and direct human lives is a great challenge, and a wonderful opportunity.
The strands of a different story about humanity weave through imagination like threads on a loom — but how does the weave reveal 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 requires first and foremost placing ultimate trust in ourselves as human animals,
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 to develop the story of humanity's adventure with Gaia,
the living planet. Metahistory.org exposes and examines the beliefs encoded in many narratives,
but it is concerned above all
with stories that describe human potential and how it can be fulfilled.
The aim of metacritique found within this site is to evaluate these stories by decoding the
beliefs they carry, thus to determine if those beliefs are productive
and beneficial to human potential, or if they are otherwise. 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
Sharing the Gaia Mythos
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 Gods rules as stated in scriptures
revealed to His emissaries. This version of our story is linear, moralistic,
and human-centered. It says nothing about Gods 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 Gaias 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
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 Gaias 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.
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 Platos time would have
used it routinely in mundane conversation. "While I was at the barbers
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. Humanitys 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
the community and Sacred Nature, they came to be held as sacred.
Archaic sacred narratives and surviving parallels among indigenous
as Dine Kahane, the creation-myth of the Navajos, to cite
just one example) were the expression of a preexisting participation
We lack that participation, for our bond with Sacred Nature was
ruptured with the rise of Judaeo-Christian religion and, whats worse, our
alienation from the natural world is currently going terminal due to
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
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 Gaias
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
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 Gaias 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
purposes, of which neither science nor religion can tell us anything
essential, we may find our way to acts of redemption that were otherwise
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
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
Invoking the Muse
To approach the adventure of mythmaking, lets consider for a moment
the classical precedent, the evidence of how myth was produced in the
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, lets 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?
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 Womens 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:
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
All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by God Apollos 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 volcanos 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 lepers,
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.
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 Ovids 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 Muses 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 Gaias 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 Chardins 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
The implicit tendency of these scenarios is to assign a lofty evolutionary
function to the human species. Teilhards 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 Teilhards 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 humanitys 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 Teilhards 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 youve 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.
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 Gaias
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.
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,
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.
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
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
Russells argument reflects the Wasson
Thesis on the central role of psychoactive plants in religion,
and supports it with a massive array of literary, enthnographic,
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.
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
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
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:
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.
One, Fallen Goddess
Two, Gaia Awakening
Three, The Gender Rift
Four, In Tomorrow's Light
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