I have been interested in spiritual seeking most of my life and by 1971, in my mid-twenties, I was already running my own meditation group for six to eight individuals, meeting for a couple of hours an evening every fortnight to explore our inner world. We sometimes chose specific themes, like compassion, for our focus and always ended the session by sending out healing thoughts to a person or situation on the planet. In one of those sessions, for reasons I cannot now recall, I suggested that the theme of our session should be the Earth. I usually introduced the meditation by listening to some music before we engaged in our individual inner journey, which would last around thirty minutes.
On this particular evening, I had hardly closed my eyes before I became intuitively aware of a presence entering the room on my left-hand side. I would add here that I have been psychic from childhood and, by my early twenties, had developed an ability to detect and communicate with different spiritual essences. So, I was not phased by the being that now stood a few metres to my left. As I telepathically connected to her, for she presented in a female form, I became aware of an elder well-endowed woman dressed in a long green robe. I felt a deep sense of power from this being and perceived a radiant luminescence surrounding her. She stood there silently for several moments before I heard her communicate as words in my mind, “I am the Earth Mother, and my name is Gaia”. I felt a profound sense of awe and reverence for this being, and a deep sense of connection to the Earth, and became lost in a reverie of connection to its many hidden aspects. At a certain point, the presence began to fade, and my meditation drew to a close.
I do not remember what I shared with the group from my experience or their responses. I do not think anyone else sensed this presence. Gaia is a name that many people are familiar with today and her association with our planet, especially since the publication of James Lovelock’s seminal book The Gaia Hypothesis (1972). But this meditation took place before that book was published, and I had no idea who Gaia was – the name was meaningless to me, and I was not even sure that I heard it correctly. Fortunately, I possessed a few reference books, and delving into them discovered that Gaia was the name the Ancient Greeks gave to primordial Earth Mother, who uniting with Uranus the great sky god, gave birth to all the beings on our planet. And, curiously enough, Ancient Greek descriptions of Gaia accorded with what I had perceived, for example, Hesiod describing her as “wide-bosomed”.
Since that time, I have often reflected on this experience, and my sense of it has continued to expand and develop. Naturally, a sceptic could dismiss this apparition as delusional, despite its apposite symbolism or, perhaps worse, suggest that I made it all up. However, this was a deeply meaningful mystical experience, which I initially perceived as being communicated to by one of the Greek goddesses. Why not, as human communication with one or other of the Greek gods or goddesses was accepted in ancient times? But very soon, this led me to thinking more deeply about the consciousness of the Earth, and what that might mean. I came to sense a singular enveloping consciousness that permeated every aspect of this world and that the Earth was the physical embodiment of that consciousness.
A deeper meaning has further emerged since I embarked on the Alef Trust’s MSc programme, where questions about consciousness have been freely discussed and explored. For the most part, this has reflected human consciousness, although one of the theories that emerged from Chalmer’s philosophical ‘hard problem’ of consciousness, is that what we perceive as physical structures are aspects of consciousness, in a theory known as panpsychism. Going one stage further, Kastrup has developed a theory of a unified cosmic consciousness, which he claims is the fundamental structure of the universe. Within this infinite field, “living organisms such as you and me are the revealed appearance of cosmic-level dissociative processes (Kastrup, 2015, p.150)”, which Kastrup calls ‘alters’, after the term that Braude (1995) used in his book First Person Plural: Multiple Personality and the Philosophy of Mind. So, what might my experience, all those years ago, impart in relation to these current theories?
Firstly, I very soon recognised that something as vast as the consciousness of the Earth could not be held within the confines of a human-sized psychic apparition. At best, this had to be the projection of a tiny fragment of that consciousness in the form of a mentally imaged ‘alter’ that was able to connect to me. But why me? Was Gaia able to detect that through my meditation group, we were about to focus on the Earth and then chose to project a tiny fragment of that consciousness into that room in a form that I could detect? This would be akin to me suddenly thinking that one of the bacteria in my digestive system had started to become aware of me and wanted a conscious connection. Improbable as that seems, it may be possible for some levels of consciousness to possess that ability. Think for a moment of all those supplications for help made to Jesus or the Archangel Michael or some other saint or deity, through which the recipients believe they receive immediate help. Perhaps higher states of consciousness can fragment themselves into myriads of forms that, although connected, can manifest in individual ways. But that is not the only explanation for my experience.
Alternatively, this experience might have been pre-planned, in that Gaia wanted to communicate with me, and had intuitively inspired me to create this focus on the Earth in this particular meditation, in a way that I was not conscious of. Again, this is possible, but likely more improbable than my first explanation. It is also possible, that I had unconsciously picked up the name Gaia from something I had read and somehow my imagination generated this experience. If I wanted to downplay and normalise this experience this is the most likely explanation. However, I am more inclined to believe in the first explanation, that I somehow communicated with the consciousness that is Gaia and she responded in a way that I could understand. If so, this suggests levels of consciousness far beyond what our limited human minds can easily comprehend. What would be your explanation?
Braude, S. (1995). First Personal Plural: Multiple Personality and the Philosophy of Mind. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Kastrup, B. (2018). The Universe in Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25, No. 5–6, pp. 125–55