The Sickness of Gaia
Our living planet is very, very sick. Gaia is very, very ill. The oceans are sick. The forests are sick. The rivers are sick. The web of life is sick. The planet is sick in all its members, and that sickness extends also to the individual in mind and body, and to the cities, societies and nations of Man.
That our world is deeply, and profoundly sick is the first truth we must recognise and acknowledge before we can do anything about it. The obstacle here is denialism. As any MD will tell you, it is not uncommon for someone to deny the diagnosis of a very serious and life-threatening illness. Denial is often the first response to such a diagnosis. Before any progress can be made against the life-threatening condition, we must get beyond denial.
This is the first truth about our times we must affirm — Gaia is sick. The planet is very, very sick.
In any diagnosis, we look for the causes — the aetiology of the disease, malaise, or malady. The generally accepted diagnosis is that the disease is anthropogenic — that the human ethos and attitude towards the Earth and Nature is pathogenic. As Heraclitus put it, “ethos is fate”, and we are seeing today that our contemporary ethos is fatal, nihilistic, destructive, and thanatic.
This is the second truth of our situation. And if we were to step outside our narcissistic self-interested bubbles of delusion and self-deception we would see that it is so.
The human is not the pathogen. It is the ethos or general attitude that is the pathogenic factor. This is fortunate because it can be rectified. An ethos is mutable, convertible, changeable, transformable. Were it not so, there would be no possibility of an authentic “metanoia” or “new mind”, which is the primary theme of The Chrysalis — the urgent need for a new ethos, a new metanoia — one grounded in the principles of health and healing (ie, “integral”).
Metanoia begins as “an unwillingness to continue”. Recognising that Gaia is profoundly sick, and that Man’s ethos is the pathogenic factor here, raises the issue of our potential for a real “metanoia” — “to think anew”, as Rosenstock-Huessy describes it. This is what we have been exploring and promoting in The Chrysalis as William Blake’s “fourfold vision”.
As you may know from your own experience of illness, when you are ill your body naturally begins to mobilise those inherent resources necessary to overcome the illness. The body also is an ecology that mirrors the Earth’s own ecology. It is not always successful in surmounting the difficulty, as the damage to one or more elements of the bodily system may become to severe to overcome. This is the state called “homeostatic failure”, which is the official definition of death. Likewise, we are reaching that threshold where the Earth’s own powers of recuperation may not be sufficient to overcome the Earth’s own homeostatic breakdown — what Chaos Theorists describe as a “state far from equilibrium” — in which case we would witness the unimaginable: planet death.
Recognising that Gaia is very, very ill, and acknowledging that the contemporary human ethos is implicated as the pathogenic factor (anthropogenic), but also affirming that this ethos is mutable, many today have put forth a prescription for our convalescence from the pathogenic situation (“the Pathocracy”). This goes by various names, but it is all based upon the same insight into health — Regenerative Culture (Daniel Christian Wahl), Ecological Civilisation (Jeremy Lent), Metanomics (Rosenstock-Huessy), Circular Economy (Kate Raworth) and, of course, William Blake’s “fourfold vision”, Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness”, and David Bohm’s “rheomode” of thinking or Aurobindo’s “Integral Yoga”. All are, nonetheless, ecologically oriented forms of thinking and each of their modes of thought could (and sometimes is) explicitly represented in and as a mandala as the new symbol of a new equilibrium of the powers as “fourfold vision”.
The way back to health, the way to convalescence, lies through the mandala (also recognised in Richard Moss’s The Mandala of Being). The symbol of this new being of radiant health is the Tetramorph, ( who is also Blake’s “Albion” on his “Glad Day” when he rises finally from his slavery in “the dark Satanic Mill”). The Tetramorph is also the form of Carl Jung’s “Integral Self”.
Nonetheless, we will not survive or arrive at this goal without the painful witness to the aforementioned truths. At this juncture, it is only narcissism and cowardice that hinders us from acknowledging that Gaia is very sick and that our collective attitude (or ethos) is the pathogenic element implicated in that sickness, and until we do recognise this, we will continue to dig our own grave, and the term “Late, Great Planet Earth” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy of deadly, nihilistic finality.
We can avoid that, but only if we accept the diagnosis, and thereby begin to contribute to our Earth’s and our own healing and convalescence.