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Books and Free Excerpts

Healthy GaiansHealthy Gaians. How Healing Our Body, Mind, Spirit, and Culture Helps Heal the Planet (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006)

We are all Gaians.

We’ve all heard the name Gaia by now, maybe through Greek mythology, James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, or possibly some new-age flavored goddess-based references. Gaia, we are told, is the Spirit of the Earth, the planet’s goddess. She’s known by other names too, such as Changing Woman, White Shell Woman, Bhudevi, Tellus Mater, Terra Mater, Geb, First Mother, Nerthus, and Blodeuwedd. While many have heard the name, probably very few genuinely believe this is a true thing. We assume it’s a respectful metaphor from the past, but a metaphor only.

But clairvoyants who have viewed the Earth attest to Gaia’s existence, that she is an actual spiritual being who superintends the entire Earth and not a metaphor. We get some lateral confirmation of this perception from the Vedic astronomers of India. This system assigns spiritual beings to each of the planets in our solar system. Brihaspati is the spirit of Jupiter; Shukra of Venus, Mangala of Mars, and Sanischara of Saturn. The Greeks of course named the planets after the gods assigned to them, as in Venus, Mars, and Saturn, but we are so familiar with this we no longer believe it describes something real.

But in the Vedic view the qualities and activities assigned to the planet Jupiter by astrologers are not due to the physical planet, but to its attendant spirit, Brihaspati. They seemed to have conceived of this as a kind of planetary archangel. The Vedic astrologers, who, incidentally, were clairvoyant too and originally spoke from observation rather than received dogma, said that Brihaspati is a great teacher of spiritual truths, a benefactor providing protection, prosperity and benediction; they said that his energy is fundamentally about expansion and growth based on wisdom. That’s about the same case Western astrologers make for Jupiter but they eliminate the middle-man and say it’s the only the planet. Perhaps that is simplistic. The Vedic implication is that these planetary superintendents, or egregors, are a kind of cosmic spirit-being each the size of their respective planetary bodies whose job is to not only look after the planet and its residents but to be its resident soul, to ensoul it.

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And Earth? The Vedic seers called the Spirit of Earth Bhudevi, which translates as “the Goddess Who Is the Earth.” They even offer a story from long ago about a time when she complained to Vishnu, the Hindu equivalent of the Christ, that she was being overrun by demons; Vishnu benevolently intervened and purified Bhudevi of the bad breed who were devastating her planetary body. The Navajo of the American Southwest say Changing Woman (their name for Gaia) was born on Giant-Spruce Mountain, Ch’ool’i’i, now known as Gobernador Knob in New Mexico. She first appeared over the peak as an unusual white cloud then settled and congealed into a woman. She called herself Asdzáá Nádleehé, Changing Woman.

My purpose here is not to prove the existence of an Earth Spirit called Gaia. Whether we take Gaia as a serviceable metaphor for a planetary mechanism or as a clairvoyantly revealed spiritual being who superintends our planet, the fact remains that we are all Gaians. If we lived on Jupiter, we might look out at the bluewhite planet we know as Earth and say, “The people there are Gaians; they live on Gaia.” And they might recount the spiritual qualities and functions assigned to Gaia and her planet, just as astrologers attribute qualities to the spirits of the solar system planets. As Jupiterians, it would be obvious to us, implicit in our cultural weave, that the planet Gaia has a master ensouling spiritual being, and stories would be told about her.

On Jupiter, we would not see the Earth in terms of its many polities, a lot of them in conflict today, but as a single being in the solar system. We’re not quite there yet. The Jupiterian view of Gaia is still foreign or unreal to many on Earth. It’s like the way C.S. Lewis saw it in his novel, Out of the Silent Planet. The silent planet was Earth, and people on Venus wondered why they hadn’t heard anything from us. Yet we are starting to get this idea ourselves now, amidst our separate nationalities and landscapes, although we are tending to get the Gaian perspective from a negative slant, from seeing the damage we have done and continue to do to our host planet.

This book is not autobiographical in any way, but it has an autobiographical root. I have been happily interacting with the Spirit of the Earth and the planet’s array of sacred sites since 1984 when I was first introduced to the pattern. I have seen Gaia, said Hello! to her, and know she exists. I might have gotten there by logic and inference too, following the insinuations of Vedic astrology, but I was fortunate to see her directly and that dissolved my doubts instantly. Since the early 1970s, I have also been looking after my health in terms of food, diet, exercise, and choice of medical therapies when they were required. It wasn’t that I was on a mission as a health evangelist; I just didn’t like being sick and preferred feeling well. The few times I consulted conventional doctors, I usually ended up sicker or at least uncured.
Probably it was a Baby Boomer thing to take up health with passion and zeal. I studied it, practiced it, wrote about it, and lived it because it was more fun being healthy than sick. For a while, everyone I knew was doing the same thing. I couldn’t believe how many diets there were, how many practices and teachers, but no matter: the intent was wholesome—let’s stay healthy, and why not let’s even get healthier.

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To be healthy rather than sick has planetary implications. Please indulge me a cliché: we are very much behind the curve in our planetary duties. Duties? One of the consequences of our planet having a residential spiritual being as superintendent is that there are multiple ways and avenues for our interaction with her. Native peoples have always known this and marked off sanctuaries within their respective landscape as locales dedicated for ritualized and regular interaction with Her. We tend to call such places sacred sites, holy places, vortexes, or pilgrimage destinations. In the West now, and especially in the United States, we are starting to like sacred sites, be intrigued by the idea of holy places, and often visit them even if we don’t always know what to do when we get there or what the old rituals really meant and how to use them again.

I call the planetary array of sacred sites Earth’s visionary geography. It’s a kind of intermediate zone between Earth and Heaven, to use the classical terms. It’s the place designated for our interactions with the Spirit of the Earth. Why? Because Gaia, or whatever name we prefer to use, needs human input; it’s a kind of spiritual food for her. And we need the regular contact with her for that is also a spiritual nutrient. This interactive feedback loop—pun intended—keeps humans and planet aligned with something bigger, namely, the solar system, galaxy, and spiritual worlds, again something native and traditional peoples have always known and honored.

Why should we care about some spiritual nutrient that comes from the planet? Because its intent is to keep us healthy by being aligned with our spiritual sources. What sources? The sources that when we reconnect with them we get answers to questions like: why are we here, why is there an Earth, why do we have bodies, what’s the point of it all, and how long’s it going to last? How many of us have solid, reliable, unwobbling answers to these questions? We may have hunches, notions, suspicions. But when we are healthy Gaians we know, in body, mind, emotions, spirit, and culture.

Healthy means well-being in our body, mind, emotions, spirit, and culture. Arguably, we have little of that in the world today, even in medicine-dominated America. We may have longevity but not well-being; many treatments but not health.

I mentioned we are behind the curve. Since for the most part as a culture we are not interacting with the planet and its host “goddess,” we are out of the health loop it affords. A certain amount of entropy has entered the picture, and we have grown accustomed to a type of chronic ill-health of body, mind, emotion, and spirit.  This disinclines us even to regard the Earth as our host context, other than from a state of worry, anxiety, and fear that we might be grievously damaging our ecosystem.

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 Yes, that’s a start, even if from a deficit and fueled by fear, but we have a ways to go to get back into the positive health feedback loop and mouth-fed human-Earth dialogue. I say mouth-fed for a reason: ever give a dog or cat something delicious from your hand? Ever get licks, purrs, and tail-wags back? It could be like that with the Earth and us. We give the old girl light and attention, she gives us light and attention.

The set-up is that we will stay healthy through interacting with the Earth. The present reality is that we are chronically ill at different levels of our constitution from not doing this and our ill health actually disinclines us from even considering the idea.

Let’s work the syllogism forward now. As we start to reclaim our health from all the places we lost it, in the realms of the body, mind, emotions, spirit, and culture, we start to free ourselves from all the energies, ideas, and restrictions that keep us from identifying ourselves as Gaians, from becoming aware of our planetary context. Many people now suggest it’s time we start thinking of ourselves as planetary citizens. Forget the American, French, and Russian identities; those are parochial: we’re Gaians now, and always have been, though it takes a while to get up to speed on this.

Granted, some people interact with the Earth from whatever health status they enjoy, and this stiff upper lip approach is excellent. But we get even better results when we begin interacting with Gaia from a foundation of well-being. Gaia is a large spiritual being, and so is our planet, so effective interaction takes a lot of energy. That’s why it’s important we have a strong foundation of good health before we start.

I realized recently that since I left the field of health journalism to write about geomantic topics, the typical American lifestyle hadn’t quite caught up with the tracks laid down by the Baby Boomers as we stormed through the 1980s and 1990s researching and implementing new ways to improve our health. Probably what startled me most was observing how many advertisements you see on commercial TV for drugs. It seems people are medicating themselves for everything, that dependency on prescription drugs is the preferred lifestyle for 21st century Americans.

Ask your doctor about drug-X, a friendly TV voice intones. It’s a great income for doctors and drug companies, but medicating for everything will not necessarily improve your health nor will it redirect your focus towards the planet. James Lovelock, the British atmospheric scientist who developed the Gaia Hypothesis in the late 1970s, which says the planet is a single, self-regulating superorganism, says we need planetary physicians. So ask your planetary doctor about the medicine Gaia needs. Don’t worry about prescription drug co-pays on this one: we’re the medicine!

Healthy Gaians is an anthology of health articles I’ve written in the past 25 years. Most were published in magazines in the U.S., Europe, and Australia; a few were commissioned but never published; some were published in much shorter versions. There are many ways to better health, and none of the approaches I write about are offered to you as definitive programs, merely as suggestions. The important thing is to start getting healthy so you can help the planet in its time of need. Then the Earth can start sending back the good health vibrations to you in the health loop.

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The sequence of articles follows a thematic line, from the body to mind to spirit and out into the culture, presenting different ways of regaining our health. The book covers many topics, such as bodywork, cancer, the immune system, vaccinations, Jungian psychology, intuition, conflict resolution, healing with art, music, sound, and color, singing to the dying, dreams, water rejuvenation, the poetics of the elements,  near-death experiences, the purpose of evil, myth-living, and shamanic adventures.

I survey lots of natural health modalities such as herbalism, acupuncture, flower essences, and bionutrient fortification. I profile a stimulating group of health pioneers, such as R.D. Laing, William Irwin Thompson, Barbara Walker, Fred Alan Wolf, Robert Sardello, Caroline Myss, M.F.K. Fisher, Kyriacos Markides, and Rowena Kryder, among others. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these luminaries, and maybe not, but they have all showed us practical, innovative ways to free ourselves from the ill-health constraints of body, mind, and culture as part of the larger process of becoming healthy Gaians. They reveal some of the broader aspects of good health. As part of my work as a journalist, I met them, talked to them, and wrote up their stories.

This book is the fifth in the series called “Primers on Earth’s Geomantic Reality.” It’s a primer because mostly it’s a concentrated introduction to a complex subject. I bring in the Earth because the features are distributed across the globe so the entire planet is implicated in their reality and application. Geomantic is an old British term with different nuances; mine is that it is the discipline of figuring out Earth’s energy patterns and how to use them. Reality means higher or deeper reality, something a bit beyond the comfort zone of our consensus reality yet very much a planetary truth.

The purpose of the series is to show different ways we can interact beneficially with the planet through its many geomantic nodes designed just for that. I include Healthy Gaians in this series, even though it does not explain planetary structure, to emphasize the importance of optimal human health for the maintenance of the Earth.

I also think it salutary to start linking human health with planetary well-being, seeing that the first is the stepping-stone to the second. When we are healthy enough in body and mind and have somewhat extricated ourselves from the sticky atheistic and materialistic webs that structure Western society, then we can bring the Earth into focus and realize, perhaps with a shock, that this is our master context for living and that human and planetary health are so intertwined, both need to be healthy at the same time for the continued well being of humans and good old Mother Earth.

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