A while back I changed the screen saver on my phone to a photo planet earth. I am not sure what prompted me to do this at the time (boredom? lack of originality?). But upon recent reflection, I wonder if unconsciously I was trying to remind myself of my place in this world and the responsibility which we all share to take care of the great Mother, this being Mother Earth.
But who is Mother Earth exactly?
The archetype of Mother Earth, called Gaia was born out of primordial chaos in Greek mythology. Gaia personifies the entire ecosystem of planet earth. She constantly works to achieve harmony, wholeness and balance within the environment. Gaia experienced terrible pain during her mythic life including the banishment of her children back into her womb by the order of their father, Sky, who took a violent dislike to his offspring. The pain, which mythical Gaia suffered, is representative to what we have inflicted upon planet earth.
Gaia is also is the name of a scientific principle; being Gaia theory. It seems dear old Mother Earth just cant resist harmony. She can even bring mythology and science together!
Gaia theory was originally conceived by James Lovelock in the 1970’s. This theory regards the earth as a holistic self-regulating organism. Gaia theory explains that earth provides all we need for survival and as long as our consumption equals production, nature remains stable. The cycle of life being that all comes from the earth and all returns from the earth. However, as you’ve probably guessed, reality is not matching theory. Our consumption of planet earth is one and a half times what Gaia is able to regenerate. With every generation, we continue to deplete the earth’s resources. This doesn’t take into account the relentless harm we are causing Mother Earth with pollution, war, urbanization etc. If we didn’t interfere with nature as much as we do, then Gaia’s work would keep us all in balance. Gaia is in serious trouble. And if she is in trouble, so are we.
The importance of balance is key in almost everything. We often come to therapy to achieve balance of some kind. To achieve the middle ground of two extremes. To look for the grey in between the black and white. And maybe that’s our starting point to save Gaia from her mythological destiny. If we can internalize Gaia and have our own self-regulating ecosystem (both emotionally and physically) then surely as balanced souls we would be far better tenants of the earth. To make Gaia theory a reality, we need to start within. If we begin to be balanced and therefore live balance lives, then surely Mother Earth will reap the benefits also.
Recently the renowned academic, Professor Stephen Hawking stated that he believed the human race would need to colonise a new planet within 100 years to ensure our survival. We’ve depleted Mother Earth to the extent that regeneration can never catch up. Like a swarm of locusts, once we have fully exhausted the earth, we’ll need to find a new planet. But even if this happens, will we have learnt our lesson? Will we begin to respect the very thing, which provides us our nourishment? Will we begin to work with Mother Earth (in balance to her), not against it? In this current climate of political/corporate greed and short termism, I am doubtful about our ability to become conscious of this and make the immediate necessary changes.
How on earth (excuse the pun) did we end up in this mess? Many theorists have attributed our over consumption of Gaia due to the fact that we, as human beings, have separated ourselves from nature and therefore have treated nature as ‘other’.
Transpersonal ecology emphasizes the importance of expanding our sense of self-outwards so that we achieve a wider and deeper identification with Gaia. Warwick Fox, one of the main advocates for Transpersonal Ecology, explains that to separate ourselves from nature, is to live out of balance. To live out of balance with Gaia (as we currently do) is to have disease and suffering, (and we have way too much of that in the World right now). Fox suggests that we have a deeply ingrained blind spot when it comes to seeing ourselves as part of nature. Instead our human- centered way of being treats earth as if it was created for our sole use and purpose. But in reality I see us as merely tenants of earth, with the greater universe as our landlord, and suffice to say we are never getting our deposit back!
I also wonder (and am sure I’m not alone here) about whether our over masculinized capitalist way of being has played a role in our pillage of the Great Mother. As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman writes, “The love that once existed between nature and man has almost been annihilated. It is at the point of death, yet the archetype of the feminine as it is constellating now, is not clear. Maybe the darkness is not yet deep enough”. Woodman suggests and I unfortunately agree, that maybe things need to get worse before we really wake up to this pending environmental disaster.
Goggle reminded me the other day that Earth Day is the 22 April. Much as one day (out of 365 days) is a nice sentiment and all, it is wholly inadequate, especially at this late hour. Every day needs to be earth day. Every day we need to find that all-important balance; within ourselves and within our environment.
The longer version of my article has been published in Frontiers- Summer 2017
Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash