[Concerning Gaia Theory]

[Below is the transcript of a letter]
which I sent to James Lovelock early in 1995. Lovelock is the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis which views the entire biosphere as an immense single living organism which exhibits homeostasis in order to maintain conditions in which life can flourish. Although his theory has received a good reception from the general public, his views are hotly debated by the science community (for more information on Gaia theory, please use the links at the end of this document).

My prescient reason for writing to him was to ask him about the metaphysical implications of his theory. I was interested in the possible intentionality of Gaia and the role of our species within such a huge and dynamic system. I was also wondering what he thought about naturally-occurring hallucinogenic flora and their role in shaping human culture. Anyway, I figured these were reasonable issues to contemplate since we are all well and truly woven into the fabric of Gaia, a fabric which seems to becoming more and more complexified. And since we are conscious and are able to comprehend the evolutionary process and discuss concepts like the existence of Gaia, then we most definitely have a right to explore the issue of our existence within Gaia as far as we can.

Lovelock did not write back. Hence, I was disappointed. Maybe, I thought, my letter was unreasonable or intractable. However, reading over it again now it seems answerable enough. So I thought I would let you Prescience readers have a look at this unusual letter of mine. What do you think? Do you think Lovelock should and could have responded to my plucky queries or what? Or, owning a farm as he does, should he be left alone in his chosen field? You decide. We can be emailed at the address given in our Omega and Out section.

[Dear James,]

I write to you with a question (or two) which I will pose in a minute. I don't know if you will recall this, but a few years ago (circa November '92) you gave a talk at Imperial College on Gaia theory. At the end, during the audience question time, a young man stood up at the back of the hall and asked (somewhat bravely for it was an unusual question) whether you knew of Terence McKenna's views on entheogenic (psychedelic) plants. You laughed a little and asked, quite rightly, what relevance such a topic had to Gaia theory. Ignoring the murmurs of bewilderment stirring around the hall, the young man replied, somewhat defiantly, that such plants contained chemicals almost identical to neurotransmitters in the human brain and that their psychological effects had cultural importance as witnessed by the 60's (what he should have said is that entheogenic plant-using shamans have played an important functional role in some native cultures, particularly in Mexico and Amazonia). You acknowledged this and suggested that the man come and speak to you afterwards.

Well I never did - for 'twas me. I think I chickened out. Anyway, much has happened since that lecture of yours. I have just completed a book entitled `Who Killed Einstein: A Neo-Shamanic Approach to the Greatest of all Mysteries', which is principally about the phenomenology induced by entheogenic mushrooms and the implications of such phenomenology upon our theories about human consciousness and our theories about Nature. Whilst I won't bother you with all the details, I am still wondering whether you have ever reflected upon Nature's entheogenic/psychedelic cornucopia?

Consider psilocybin. Psilocybin is an alkaloid present in several species of mushroom indigenous to our shores (they probably grow on your land during the Autumn), although there is absolutely no evidence that these potent mushrooms were ever culturally used prior to their `official' mycopharmacological discovery in 1969 (on the other hand, such mushrooms were literally deified in ancient Mexico). Anyway, in short, the experimental effects of free wild psilocybin upon myself have convinced me that Gaia is indeed a real phenomenon, although endowed with an intelligence of some kind - a view somewhat reminiscent of the views held by Amerindians and, of course, shamans. Now, I know the sort of reaction this generates in the scientifically configured mind (I am a psychology graduate of UCL so I am familiar with the scientific mode of consciousness) and so when presenting these Gaianesque ideas in my book I take 7 or 8 protective chapters to develop them. As I can't go into all the details here, please entertain such speculation in order to answer, if you would, the following question which I will now try and pose.

Do you think that.....hmmmm how can I put this? Well, for Gaia to function, indeed, for evolution to work and eventually yield conscious beings like ourselves who can so reflect upon Nature, a whole host of fortuitous factors must prevail. These would appear to be the various laws and constants of Nature, the software as it were which governs the on-going progression of the reality process and allows for things like DNA-writ living organic structures to evolve. Now, a little reflection shows that Nature is indeed remarkably `tuned' to do all the interesting things revealed by science. If this is not all some glorious and outrageous accident, then Nature must be inherently smart, or at least be reflective of an intelligence of some kind (I here equate intelligence with information-gaining processes such as evolution).

So, I entertain the idea in my book that Nature and the 3 billion year-old Gaian process sustained by Nature, is no less than the unfolding intent of an intelligence. Moreover, since we are intimately privy to such a wonder, then we must surely have some important function within such a system. You suggest that we are destined to the stewards of Gaia. I go further, but thats another story connected to the entheogenic experience.

My question then can be put, at last, as follows. Will you read my book? (No! Just a pinch of levity there!) Do you think that it is tenable that the evolution of Gaia is the unfolding of a pre-coded capacity of Nature? Obviously the evolution of Gaia is indeed a capacity of Nature, but what I mean here is that this capacity is an intentional one scripted as it were into the underlying laws of the Universe. In other words, do you think it conceivable that we conscious beings are part of a non-accidental process which has been coded into the very fabric of Nature - as if Gaia were a kind of on-going computation determined by the laws of Nature, a computation whose point or purpose lies ahead of us in time?

It's a big metaphysical question. Clearly I am not into simple God-scenarios, rather if one chooses a non-accidental view of the Universe (one could of course opt for the clumsy multiple-Universe theory in which literally everything goes, but even that won't explain why the Multiverse exists), then Gaia and evolution must be involved in the equation. Evolution is a smart process. After all, even if you deny this, you must concede that evolution has led to organic brains endowed with consciousness which can do the denying - which sounds odd when you think about it.

So, to reiterate, I believe Nature to be inherently smart and intentful with we conscious beings having an important function within the Gaian system fostered by Nature - a function possibly connected to the development of interconnected computer telecommunications which, in terms of information processing, would appear to be the latest and most profound aspect of Nature's unfolding potential here in this corner of the Universe. What do you reckon? How do you explain the fantastic emergence and creative capacity of Gaia in terms of the way Nature is configured? Why is Nature this way? Absolute nothingness always seems to be a simpler scenario doesn't it? And its not just that something exists. Its astounding that the something should be such that objects like stable stars form due to the various physical properties of hydrogen in conjunction with the force of gravity. And that a natural system as magnificent as Gaia should somewhere emerge with its diverse ability to nourish evolution - a scenario which was literally poised to emerge. And that beings endowed with self-reflective consciousness should eventually arrive on the scene - consciousness also representing a phenomenon poised to emerge in some species or another. And so on. Why oh why should this capacity be in the nature of Nature? But this is labouring the point. My question stands. How do you account for the inherent potential of Nature to forge and sustain Gaia? Are you happy to accept these things as brute reasonless facts or do you ever seek deeper explanations? If you could write back to me on this I would appreciate it.


Links to relevant Net sites as follows: