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Various Interpretations of Gaia

Dr Lovelock propounded the Gaia hypothesis in a scientific manner and never intended to indicate that the Earth as a whole was self-conscious.  However his ideas and his term were enthusiastically taken up by environmentalists and ecologists, neo-pagans, and "New Age" people in general, and the "Gaia-hypothesis" very swiftly entered the collective imagination. as a powerful new meme  The New Age movement thus adopted the concept and added a mystical and ecological element to it; the living Earth literally is the Mother Goddess.

I'm happy to accommodate both perspectives, and I don't see any contradiction between them.  Science describes purely physical materialistic facts concerning the objective universe, while "mysticism" or esotericism refers to realities beyond the physical.

My understanding of Gaia is that it, or she, is alive in the way that an ant hive as a  whole is alive;
as a collective organism with a group consciousness, not in the way that a single biological entity is alive or conscious.

The following are some interpretations of what Gaia means and is.  All are valid - although not all are acceptable to the polemical advocates of any one.  Click in the image to go to that page


hypothesis
The Reductionist theory of Earth
The Standard Gaia Hypothesis
The Strong Gaia Hypothesis
Goddess Earth
icon
Gaia as Earth Goddess
variants
1.Influential Gaia
biota influence certain aspects of  the abiotic world, e.g. temperature and atmosphere. 

 2.Co-evolutionary Gaia
biota influence their abiotic environment, and that environment in turn influences the biota by Darwinian process. 

3.Homeostatic Gaia the biota influence the abiotic world in a way that involves homeostatic  feedback. 
the  "daisyworld" simulation
 4.Teleological Gaia atmosphere is kept in homeostasis by and for the biosphere. 

 5.Optimizing Gaia biota manipulate their physical environment to creat optimal conditions 

Omega Gaia - an interpretation of Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary metaphysics - the Earth  evolves through stages of increasing consciousness
Goddess Gaia
nature as the web of life, quantum interconnectedness, the sacred femine principle as representing the Earth - the Goddess principle as the divine consciousness immanent in the Earth and nature and life
The Eco-Pagan and Eco-Pantheist position
worldview
reductionist/ materialistic
holistic/ materialistic
holistic
holistic/ pantheistic
methodology
scientific/experimental
metaphysical/intuitive



The following conceptions of the Earth (whether Gaia, Cosmic Logos, or as Sri Aurobindo would put it, "Terrestrial Evolution") are more metaphysically radical, pertaining to the sphere of mysticism, occultism and esotericism rather than science and conventional spirituality.  Nevertheless I feel for a complete understanding of Gaia it is necessary to consider them as well :



hypothesis
Occult Earth
Esoteric Gaia
Cosmic Earth
Divine Earth
icon
Occult Earth
Esoteric Earth
Cosmic Gaia
variants
Occult Gaia
The Earth consists of  a crystal-like matrix or network of lay-lines, power points, and interacting occult forces
Esoteric Gaia
 Gaia as consisting of layers of existence and consciousness - moving into and out of existence through cosmic cycles
Cosmic Gaia
The Earth can be understood as the theatre of manifestation of archetypal and cosmic forces, the movement of evolution to perfection, the embodiment of the Shekhinah or soul of the Earth . 
Divinised Gaia

The Earth as a radiant center of Light and Love, an evolution from Light to greater Light, Joy to greater Joy

worldview
holistic/ pantheistic
emanationist
holistic/emanationist/monistic


Web links Links Web links

web pageIntroduction to the theory of AuteveolutionJohn Jay Kineman - lucidly explains the distinction between the  "weak Gaia" vs. "strong Gaia" hypothesis, although preferring the terminology "ecological Gaia" and "evolutionary Gaia" respectively.

Kirchner, 1991. "The Gaia Hypotheses: Are They Testable? Are They Useful?" Chapter 6 In: Schneider, S.H., and Boston, P.J., eds.external linkScientists on Gaia. Papers delivered at the American Geophysical Union's annual Chapman Conference in March, 1988. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 433p.


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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 3 July 1999, last modified 19 August 2004