Gaia and Gnosis I
Biomysticism and the Future of Humanity
Throughout this site, I have argued that belief in an off-planet deity is dangerous to human survival, and even to human sanity, because it works against our instinctual bond with the living planet, Gaia. By correlating Gaia with the goddess Sophia of the Mysteries, I want to show the ancient provenance of that bond. Recognition of the Wisdom Goddess as the indwelling intelligence of the earth is central to the message of metahistory.org.
Fine, but anyone might wonder: Is this call to recognize Sophia
a plea to found a new, Gaia-based religion, or to return to the
Goddess worship of archaic times? Neither, but it is a challenge
to find in relation to the earth what has previously been found
through belief in what lies beyond it.
The return to animism is explicit in the message of metahistory.org, but not blind, superstitious animism. I have proposed the term biomysticism for empathic and visionary participation in the life-force. In Slanted Truths, Lynn Margulis refers to biomysticism as "debilitating"—which I take to mean that she sees the projection of human feelings upon nature as bad for science—but anyone who has experienced deep rapport with nature, be it through entheogenic rites or simply by watching the sunset, knows that the experience is quite the contrary: it is healing, rejuvenating, and inspiring. Biomysticism involves a religious attitude toward nature, yes. It may also be considered as a basic survival technique.
Since the initial formulation of Gaia theory in the 1970s, advances in astronomy and biology have increasingly echoed the ancient Gnostic vision of the cosmos. The multi-galaxy Universe (attested in spectacular fashion by the photographs from the Hubble telescope), autopoesis, emergence theory, panspermia and exobiology, plasma cosmology, the earth-sun-moon symbiosis—all these factors of leading-edge science can be correlated to Gnostic cosmology. This is not to say that the mythology needs to be, or can be, validated by science. No, myth is an imaginative tool that works in a different way than science, and serves different ends. But science, especially as it relates to Gaia, can acquire richness and resonance by correlation to the participatory aspects of genuine "creative mythology," as Joseph Campbell called it.
Gnosis (by one definition) is a method of direct
access to the physics of the cosmos through the instrument of
the body and senses — "the biophysics of perception," to
borrow a felicitous term from Wilhelm Reich. Modern science denies
categorically that such access is possible, but Reich warned
that "the scientist will increase his errors in proportion
to the neglect of his own system of sensory perception and awareness" (Ether,
God, and Devil / Cosmic Superimposition). I maintain that
scientific theory divorced from the body and senses will only
lead to confusion and contradiction. In The Science of Yoga,
a commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I. K.
Taimni says, "This [type of confusion] is inevitable as
long as we continue to investigate, exclusively by physical instruments
and mathematical analysis, a Universe whose foundations lie in
the realms of mind and consciousness."
Mysticism means, in the literal sense, a change of sensory impressions and organic sensations into something unreal and beyond this world... Both "devil" and "angel" correspond to human structural sensations that deviate basically from those of animals and primitive people. (Ibid)
In The Mass Psychology of Fascism and The Murder of Christ, Reich argued that mystical obsessions capable of infecting entire populations or races arise due to "projections of unnatural, distorted organ sensation." In other words, people can attribute to forces in a world beyond what they are actually feeling in their own bodies, but they deny the feeling because its ego-dissolving intensity frightens them. Or even because the sheer pleasure of iorganic embodiment frightens them.
I maintain that in Europe before the Christian enforcement
of body-denial, due to which pleasure came to be viewed as
a sin, many people enjoyed and invited, rather than condemned
and rejected, the experience of ego-dissolution—hence,
the hedonistic bent of Pagan civilization, and the orgiastic
element in ancient mystical rites, Dionysian ecstasy, etc.
(This argument is developed in Not in
In The Sleepwalkers, a classic work on the birth of modern science, Arthur Koestler explains how Kepler substituted gravity for the theological conception of the Holy Ghost. Koestler does not note, however, that the Holy Spirit was understood in the Mysteries to be identical with Sophia, the Wisdom Goddess whose body is the Earth. Describing the beliefs of the Barbelo-Gnostics, Irenaeus said, "from the first angel with Monogenes was emitted Holy Spirit, also called by them Sophia and Prunikos (Outrageous)" (Irenaeus of Lyons, translated by Robert M. Grant, p. 98).
Significantly, Reich associates life-affirmative mysticism with
planetary physics. (Reich's last book, Contact with Space,
records his investigations of UFOs and anomalous phenomena in
the atmosphere.) This is certainly due to his own first-hand
experience of cosmic orgone streaming in the atmosphere of the
Earth. I would call life-negative mysticism dissociative or sado-mysticism,
for it is almost always connected with sadistic impulses, either
covert or overt.
The Christian Church had exchanged the nature-oriented animism of prehistoric science for a mysticism removed from nature and life. Functional natural science must defend primitive animism against perverse mysticism and take from it all the elements of experience corresponding to sensory perception. (Reich, ibid, p. 89-90)
Today we may choose to see the evil enchantment of the Grail Legend as the pollution of the biosphere, but psychologically speaking, the spell operates in our own minds, in our perception of nature, as much as in nature itself. The key term here is descralization. We ourselves put the entire Earth under a spell when we cease to acknowledge the sacred power of nature, or surrender to its beauty as if melting in orgasmic delight. This being so, it is essential to recover the mystical and religious element of human experience by infusing Gaia theory imaginatively with a sacred element. I am convinced that imaginative or imaginal participation will lead to sensuous contact with the living planet, and this in turn will lead to sensory illumination. Everything we can do to unspell the Earth depends on what A.E. called "vital contact" with the atmosphere, the terrestrial envelope in which we live and breathe—or which is breathing us, if you will. In 1984, alchemist and mystic Adam McLean wrote
It would be incorrect to speak of resacralization, because nature has never not been sacred in its own right, but we do need to resacralize our perception of the natural world. This is the non-scientific opportunity offered by the Gaia mystqiue, no matter what its pitfalls and drawbacks may be. Psychosomatic illumination through Gnosis is also a path of science (literally, "knowing"), a path that does not in any way preclude the methods of science and may in fact complement them.
The return to a Gnostically informed animism is not contrary to the modern scientific exploration of Gaia theory, and may be essential to it. The Sophianic vision of the Earth can enhance science by adding human participation and empathy to instrument-supported research, data accumulation, mathematical modelling, and the logical-analytical proof process. Those who would argue that empathy with nature is contrary to objective science do so at the risk of endorsing a disembodied, inhumane type of science. This approach recalls the insistance by Frances Bacon that we torture nature, "put her on the rack," in order to extract her secrets. This cold, inquisitorial attitude is consistent with the off-planet metaphysics demonstrated by salvationist religion since the Middle Ages, and adopted by science since the Enlightenment. As Theodore Roszak observed:
The alliance of mysticism and science was anticipated by Fritjof Capra in The Tao of Physics, published in 1975, but Gaia theory, chaos, emergence, plasma cosmology, exobiology, and other factors had to come together before we could see the possibility, and accept the necessity, of such an alliance. Capra's book was a flare that momentarily lit up the horizon, but it did not show us the complete lay of the land. It emphasized the homology of scientific and mystical propositions and conceptual structures, without considering how the human senses might reveal the intrastructure and operative laws of the cosmos in ways that cannot be expected from scientific instruments. Now that the territory is more well-defined, we can accept what others before Capra (most notably, Goethe, followed by Wilhelm Reich and D. H. Lawrence) had foreseen: science in the future will adopt the senses as tools rather than disregard them as sources of deceptive data.
Biomysticism leads to the resacralization of our participation in the natural world. I have coined the term ecognostic for the application of Gnosis to the future ecological awareness, or sacred ecology. In my new book, Not in His Image, I define ecognosis as "intimate perception of the life-force of the earth, such that it brings humanity into alignment with Sophia’s correction." This definition links the human capacity for deep rapport with nature with the central theme of Gnostic cosmology, the "correction" of Sophia. In making this link, I do not posit or propose what the "correction" is; nor did Gnostics make this matter explicit (not in any surviving writings, at least), except to suggest that it somehow involves the relation of the earth to the galactic center, the Pleroma
Sophia's correction is what the Gaian vision quest of our species
will lead us to discover.
My case for adopting Gnosis and the Mysteries to frame sacred
ecology, as well as to enhance Gaia theory along mythopoetic
lines, relies on a multi-disciplinary evaluation of the Gnostic
materials, relating them to comparative mythology, the history
of religions, shamanism, mysticism, Asian metaphysics, entheogenic
practice, ethology, evolutionary biology, and parapsychology.
Unfortunately, Gnostic scholars do not look outside their special
field to interpret Gnostic writings. No legitimate scholar would
make the correlations I am proposing, but then, no legitimate
scholar is capable of making such correlations, either,
due to the blinders they wear. For instance, my basic assertion
that Gnostics were the senior instructors and guardians of the
the Levantine Mysteries goes beyond the limits of Gnostic scholarship.
But I resolutely contend that the origin, nature, methodology,
and aim of Gnosis is incomprehensible without correlations of
the kind I have developed.
In the following two parts of this essay, I develop 20 points in the full-spectrum overview of my argument for correlating Gnostic teachings with Gaia theory. For each point considered, I summarize the consensus view held by Gnostic scholars, the ecognostic view proposed in this site, and the leading correlations to Gnostic theory and practice to be found in shamanism and Asian yoga and Tantra (exclusive of Bon Po, Dzogchen, and Vajrayana which, though they present startling parallels to Gnosis, tend to be too heady and complicated). All points in the ecognostic category are derived directly from textual evidence of Gnosticism. In other words, they present my extrapolations of Gnostic teachings selected with a bias for non-Christocentric, Sethian Gnosticism.
This is quite an exercise, I realize. It presents a considerable chunk to read and assimilate, an attempt to maps the heartland of the immense territory opened and explored in the five years of metahistory.org, so far.
jll: April 2006 Flanders. Revised December 2010 Andalucia.
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2013 by John Lash.