Learning from the Earth’s Intelligence: Personal Evolution and the Gaian Mind
It’s hard not to see the mark of magical craftsmanship in germinating seeds and unfurling flowers, in the living synchrony of a climaxed forest, and in the quilted diversity of the Earth’s biomes.
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Have you ever thought of Nature as a masterful artist?
If you’ve devoted any length of time to admiring Her labyrinthine wonders, you’re probably shaking your head yes. After all, it’s hard not to see the mark of magical craftsmanship in germinating seeds and unfurling flowers, in the living synchrony of a climaxed forest, and in the quilted diversity of the Earth’s biomes.
Nature’s miraculously ordered complexity is so fundamentally mysterious that our reeling minds usually just accept it whole-hog as the way things are.
The world in which we live nearly forces us to take the natural world for granted because, well…deep contemplation and mystical awe are not exactly states of being that are given breathing room in modern society.
Time spent in the rabbit hole is considered time lost, from the perspective of consensus reality.
And yet, as civilization’s discontents continue to heat up, many more of us are remembering just how marvelous Mother Earth really is. We are relearning how to see her as a unified, intelligent organism.
As Terence McKenna puts it, “either we are becoming more sensitive to the presence of the Gaian Mind, or the Gaian Mind, under pressure of the approaching apocalyptic crisis, is beginning to raise its voice, louder and louder and louder, so that now, when you go into nature, every rock, every tree, every stream is saying: Awaken, awaken! Come to focus!”
We would do well to listen to this voice, as the solutions to nearly every one of our planetary problems can be found through healing our relationship with the Earth.
Learning to perceive the Gaian Mind is the key to connecting with our past, recovering our present, and evolving our future.
Nature is more than just a nice place to be
Imagine if your liver developed the notion that your body is just a nice hangout spot, from which it could close itself off if it pleased.
This absurd idea parallels the way in which we separate ourselves from the natural world. We dichotomize humanity and nature, seeing the latter as a set of objects offered up for our use and amusement. We forget that the Earth is a container and context within which we are wholly embedded.
And more importantly, we forget that the Earth is a living, unified super-intelligence—a hyper-dimensional Mind, the thoughts of which form the basis of our biological existence.
If we are, as Terence McKenna calls us, “the hands of this diffuse supermind,” then it is ignorance of the most depraved sort that leads us to wreak such havoc upon the rest of our planetary body. It’s time to awaken from our somnambulant abuses, and immersion in the Earth’s beauty seems to be just the bucket of cold water that we need.
This is why earth awareness is one of the four keys to personal and planetary activation. Regaining our lost connection to the biosphere—our lost devotion to the awesome mystery of the Gaian Mind—is imperative. As Richard Louv says in his book, Last Child in the Woods, “time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our health…We need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chaparral, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience.”
But are patches of nature enough?
Despite our culture’s proliferation of urban green spaces and outdoor enthusiasts, the world’s rainforests are being clear-cut at a quickening pace, species are driven to extinction every day, and the oceans are dying a not-so-slow death.
Gaia’s glory is on full display, but our species still isn’t getting the point.
It seems that what we require is a newly recalibrated mindset—one which is capable of replacing (if only for a moment) the egoic programming of mechanistic society with ecstatic, transpersonal perception.
We need to release into the embrace of wonder, so that we may recognize the tinkerings of a higher-order identity when we encounter them in the guise of an ecosystem’s poise and fecundity.
This surrender is such an ordeal because many years have been spent building barriers against the wildness of the natural world; culture itself has been lined with a deep fear of its seeming inscrutability.
But what we really fear is our own wildness.
We (at least unconsciously) fear that, if left unchecked, this abundant unruliness might take root in our lives and psyches. It might then burst forth with all the living, playful fury of a thriving forest floor, overgrowing and supplanting the inviolate cleanliness of the ego—which for centuries has been incubated in the closed container of industrial culture.
It’s time for the walls to come down
Every iota of our cultural programming tells us that it’s not okay to let go, that it’s not okay to have our personalities dissolved by the immensity of the Earth’s intelligent grandeur.
And yet this is exactly the kind of experience that we need.
When we fully allow the Earth’s embrace, she is the greatest teacher we could ever know. The more care we demonstrate for our connection to the Earth, the more we begin to see that she is a series of nested minds—a system of concentric intelligences, functioning both individually and collectively in perfect, unfathomable harmony.
We can learn to access the oceanic intelligence of this gestalt mind, but we must set aside the ego first. Because, in the words of Herman Melville, “How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?”
Through peak experience, rites of passage, and naturalist immersion, we can open ourselves to the epiphanies that effortlessly accompany the inrushing of the Gaian Mind. Your methods should always be an emergent outgrowth of your own needs and experiences, but here’s a partial list of helpful practices…
Surround yourself with living things.
Maintain a garden and grow your own food.
Spend extended periods of time in the wilderness.
Do your spiritual practice outside whenever possible.
Go on vision quests.
Explore shamanism and plant medicine.
Do intentional work with psychedelics and entheogens.
Practice deep meditation and breathwork in natural spaces.
Pay attention to issues surrounding environmentalism.
Ask yourself how each one of your actions affects the biosphere.
Whatever you do, always maintain a constant awareness of the Earth’s living and luminous wonder. Cultivate deep love, gratitude, and respect for her. Strive to be a steward of her abundance and wisdom—the future of our blossoming planetary culture depends upon it.
 Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2008).
 Herman Melville, Moby Dick (New York: Bantam Dell, 1981).