Chapter 2: The Internet and the Noosphere
Is "Noosphere" Another
Name for "Gaian Mind?"
In late 1969, British scientist
James Lovelock and American microbiologist Lynn Margulisis
put forward a theory postulating that:
The entire range of living matter on the earth collectively
defines and regulates the material conditions necessary
for the continuance of life. The earth is thus likened to
a vast self-regulating organism, modifying the biosphere
to suit its needs. (13)
Lovelock named this vast organism
Gaia, after the Greek goddess who drew the living world forth
from chaos. The theory of a living Earth is now called the
There does not seem to be a
universally agreed upon belief as to what constitutes the
mind of Gaia. In fact, there are probably more people who
have never even heard of Gaian mind than there are who see
it as some form of overreaching intelligence that is regulating
life on this planet. Some people believe the human species
itself is, or will become, the mind of Gaia; but if we do
not yet fully understand the intricate mechanisms our own
minds use to regulate our bodies, it seems egotistical to
think we will soon understand, let alone regulate, all of
the processes of life on this planet. As technologically advanced
as our species has become, we still are not able to accurately
predict the weather, let alone regulate it.
Others have speculated on the
possibility that at some point in the future the noosphere
will fuse with the denser spheres, the biosphere and the geosphere,
and the three will be transformed into a super-consciousness
that will then become the mind of Gaia. There appears to be
a higher degree of probability of this happening than the
previous speculation, but it presumes that the mind of Gaia
has not yet come into existence. My personal belief is that
Gaian mind already exists; therefore, I reject this hypothesis
A view close to my own is the
one suggested by Terence McKenna during a telephone interview:
[Interviewer]: Gaian mind?
[McKenna]: Yes, the planet is some kind of organized intelligence.
It's very different from us. It's had 5- or 6-billion years
to create a slow moving mind that is made of oceans, and
rivers, and rainforests, and glaciers. It's becoming aware
of us, as we are becoming aware of it, strangely enough.
Two less likely members of a relationship can hardly be
imagined-the technological apes and the dreaming planet.
And yet, because the life of each depends on the other,
[we have] a feeling towards this immense, strange, wise,
old, neutral, weird thing, and it is trying to figure out
why its dreams are so tormented and why everything is out
of balance. (14)
In this stream-of-consciousness
answer by McKenna, he incorporates a number of interesting
concepts about Gaia:
- The Earth is intelligent.
- This intelligence is extremely old.
- This intelligence is slow moving.
- The human species and the intelligence of Earth, which
we call Gaia, are becoming aware of each other.
While the existence of Gaian
mind may be open for debate, it is hard to deny the fact that
often we have very personal encounters with Gaia, or, if you
prefer, with Mother Nature. One thing I do know is how I feel
about the Earth when I walk on a beach. As I watch a wave
break into foaming surf, I think of how far that wave traveled
to reach the shore on which I am standing, and I think of
the energy that entered the water to create that wave; a wave
of energy flowing across miles and miles of ocean, eventually
being released on the western shores of North America. The
sound of the surf, as it breaks at the shoreline, calls to
mind the purr of some gigantic, symbiotic creature composed
of all the life in the ocean. While walking along the shoreline,
I sense the presence of some wise old being as it whispers
into my ear. That is when I feel the essence of Gaia. Try
this yourself sometime. The next time you are in a forest,
on a mountain, near a river, or at any other place far from
the noise and congestion of a city, listen, and feel, carefully.
I believe that if you approach nature with a spiritual intent,
you will experience the feeling that you are in the presence
of some great, mysterious, and very old, being.
McKenna's final point is the
one I find most intriguing. Are Gaia and the human species
becoming aware of each other? The fact that humans are becoming
aware of Gaia can hardly be contested. Ever since James Lovelock
first published his Gaian Hypothesis, there has been an ever-increasing
flurry of books, tapes, lectures, and discussions on the subject.
A quick search on the Internet for occurrences of the word
"Gaia" returns tens of thousands of hits.
It is obvious that the human species has begun to learn about
Gaia, but questions remain: Is Gaia aware of us? Does she
want to communicate with us? And if so, how will our communications
My personal metaphor for the
mind of Gaia is that it is a meta-collective consciousness
composed of the collective consciousnesses of everything on
this planet. Also, I envision our species-consciousness, in
other words the noosphere, as having two parts, the collective
unconsciousness and the collective consciousness.
Accordingly, in my view, the
noosphere is not the only component of Gaian mind. It is rather
the entirety of human collective consciousness, and it includes
every present and past member of our species. If this is too
big of a hypothetical step for you to take, remove the reference
to past members of our species from the metaphor. It works
either way. The point is, the consciousness of every member
of the human species is already a part of the noosphere. One
does not have to be connected to the Internet to participate.
We are, every one of us, already an indivisible part of the
planet Earth's noosphere.
Consider again for a moment,
the concept of Gaian mind as a "meta-" collective
consciousness. Viewed from a solar perspective, this collective
consciousness can be regarded as a single mind. But viewed
from afar like this, our little planet may also appear to
be out of its mind. What else would cause a planet to destroy
its own biosphere? Is it conceivable that Gaia has gone mad?
While I do not believe this to be the case, I have come to
think that Mother Nature, of which the human species is an
integral part, has seen a small part of her mind slip away.
If we view the Earth-mind (Gaia, Mother Nature, or whatever
other term most resonates with you), as encompassing all of
the collective consciousnesses that exist on the planet, the
way I picture it is like this:
It is my belief that our species-consciousness,
the noosphere, has not yet been fully integrated into Gaian
consciousness, the mind of Gaia. By this I do not mean to
imply that one day there will be some sort of mind meld where
the noosphere becomes indistinguishable from Gaian mind. Rather,
I am suggesting that such a unifying of consciousness would
be experienced more in the context of being of the same mind.
Many readers of this book,
no doubt, have already attained a degree of Gaian awareness,
as is illustrated by showing the noosphere partially incorporated
into Gaian mind. As you will soon see, I believe the Internet
has evolved as another tool for us to use to accelerate the
transformation of the entirety of human consciousness into
the larger sea of Gaian awareness.
Is it Possible for the Noosphere
and Gaian Consciousness to Harmonize?
Like all living organisms,
the Earth's first imperative is survival, and like other intelligent
beings, it uses whatever natural resources are at hand to
create the tools required to help it survive. Regrettably,
the most complex tool the Earth has yet created, a tool we
call the human species, has begun to run amok, and is destroying
the vital organs of the planet. Let us hope that Gaia still
believes we can grow into the role of symbiotic helper and
not remain deadly parasites. (Perhaps it would be a good thing
if the Gaian mind is slow moving, as Terence McKenna postulates,
for evidence of the parasitic behavior of the human species
abounds. A quicker mind may have already eliminated the problem.)
The question remains, of course, whether there is enough time
left for the human species to change its course of planetary
rape and environmental destruction and then let Gaia know
we have mended our ways.
The challenges we face in learning
how to more closely couple our species-mind, the noosphere,
with the Earth-mind are not only ones of how to establish
this relationship, but how to do so quickly. How can we come
into unity with Gaian mind today? How are we going to let
the Earth know that there are some people who are already
awake and are trying very hard to awaken the rest of our species
to the fact that our life support systems may soon fail? One
of the best places to begin such an inquiry is to look into
some of the technology cultures have used to achieve intimacy
with Gaia for tens of thousands of years. I am speaking here
of shamanic practices.
Most people credit Mircea Eliade
with first describing shamanism as a "technique of ecstasy."
I point this out for those readers who may mistakenly equate
shamans with priests of one form or another. Such a comparison
is far off the mark. Readers who have taken the time to investigate
the techniques and practices of shamans know that there is
far more depth to these men and women than first meets the
untrained eye. If you have not yet discovered the multiple
worlds of shamans, I recommend that you take the time to investigate
some of the very substantial practices they have established
for communicating with entities in non-earthly domains. These
technologies include drumming, trance dancing, fasting, and
the use of entheogens.
According to Dr. Richard Yensen: (15)
Among many native groups in the Americas, shamans employ
plants that are regarded as having spiritual power or as
being sacred. Most of these plants fall into the pharmacological
category of hallucinogenic, psychedelic or mind-manifesting
substances. The shamans, however, prefer to conceive of
these unusual plants as powerful in a spiritual sense. (16)
Elsewhere he says:
The attitudes or perceptual paradigms of cultures using
plants include the following elements: 1) The plants are
held to be sacred. 2) They are used in specific ceremonies
or rituals that support and renew the world view of the
culture. 3) There exists a world apart from this one to
which the plants give access. Useful experiences take place
in this hidden realm of existence and valuable knowledge
may be gained there. 4) The use of these substances is an
acknowledged part of membership in the group or some significant
sub-group, for instance shamans. 5) These plants can be
used by those adept in their application to heal and to
effect other changes in the ordinary world. (17)
Readers who have no personal
experience with entheogens may find it difficult to imagine
anything other than hallucinations taking place under the
influence of what shamans call their plant teachers, yet a
careful reading of the vast literature on the subject tells
quite a different story. (18)
From time immemorial, descriptions
of the state of consciousness entered into while under the
influence of sacred plants, such as ayahuasca or peyote, are
hauntingly similar, independent of the culture in which they
are used. Before jumping to the conclusion that people who
use sacred plants are just getting high, take the time to
read some of the voluminous detail on this subject that is
available on the Internet. (19)
If you do, you will come away with an entirely new understanding
of what takes place after ingesting an entheogen.
An unbiased review of prehistoric,
early historic, and what we have misnamed primitive cultures,
clearly shows that one of the ways in which they communicated
with non-human entities is through the use of entheogens.
In Vedic India, it was Soma. The Greeks observed the mystery
rites of Eleusis, which were informed by the use of the kykeon.
Some scholars believe kykeon to have been an aqueous extract
of ergot-infested barley, which produces a visionary experience
like its synthetic counterpart, LSD. Today, native people
in the rainforests of the Amazon use ayahuasca and other natural
substances in their spiritual practices, while the shamans
of Siberia, Mexico, and elsewhere continue to use sacred mushrooms
to communicate with Gaia and other non-physical entities.
Additionally, there is extensive literature concerning other
ways used to enter shamanic states of ecstasy, such as deep
meditation, chanting, yoga techniques, and so on.
While you might at first wonder
what a discussion about ancient communications technologies
has to do with the Internet, you will soon see the connection.
We are looking here for a medium through which two dissimilar
forms of consciousness, the noosphere and Gaia, can communicate,
all the while keeping the fact in mind that these awarenesses
are quite different in nature from what we consider to be
the regular state of human consciousness.
Since before the dawn of recorded
history, humans have been using certain practices, such as
drumming and trance dancing, as well as sacred plants to induce
shamanic states of ecstasy. The generic name for these sacred
plants, mentioned earlier, is "entheogen."
This word was coined in 1978 by an informal committee of researchers
convened by R. Gordon Wasson, which included Carl A.P. Ruck,
Danny Staples, Jeremy Bigwood, and Jonathan Ott. Here is Ott's
account of how they arrived at the word "entheogenic:"
We finally settled on the neologism entheogen[ic], from
the Greek entheos, a term used in the classical world to
describe prophetic or poetic inspiration. The term means
literally 'becoming divine within', and can be seen as the
user realizing that the divine infuses all of the creation,
or specifically that the entheogenic plant is itself infused
with the divine. It is not a theological term, makes no
reference to any deity, and is not meant to be a pharmacological
term for designating a specific chemical class of drugs
(psychedelic, for example, has come to be seen by some sensu
strictu as a term to designate mescaline-like -phenethylamines
or DMT-like tryptamines). Rather, it is a cultural term
to include all of the shamanic inebriants-sacraments, plant-teachers,
the stock-in-trade of shamans the world over. (20)
It is important to understand
that the space (if one can even use such a concept as space
in discussing this subject) in which entheogens operate is
not precisely the same as what some call psychedelic space.
While entheogenic space and psychedelic space may be partially
congruent, the word "psychedelic" has lost most
of its usefulness because of its corruption by the popular
Coined in 1957 by Dr. Humphry
Osmond to mean "mind manifesting," (21)
the word "psychedelic" is generally misused by the
popular media to denote altered states of consciousness that
always involve hallucinations. By definition, a hallucination
involves an illusion. Reports from psychonauts,
many of which may be found on the Internet, indicate that
their experiences are not illusions at all. Rather, they involve
an expansion of consciousness into a much larger realm than
our minds encounter in the world of consensual reality. Not
only are these brave explorers aware of what you and I call
reality when they ingest psychoactive substances, their minds
also seem to encompass a much larger, all-inclusive reality,
in which the human species, for the most part unknowingly,
plays a significant part.
While a detailed discussion
of the use of entheogens and other techniques used to enter
shamanic ecstasy states is beyond the scope of this book,
it is important to have a metaphorical understanding of these
concepts. A comparable "space" in the world of computing
would be the concept of an operating environment. This is
a concept programmers use to describe the variable conditions
in which a computer program executes, or runs. Much like the
environment in which human biological activity takes place,
a computer operating environment is a place where computer
programs live, and most programs require certain environmental
variables to be in place so they can run (live) properly.
I find it helpful to think of communications with non-human
entities as requiring such an operating environment, and this
is how I think of entheospace.
Although there is debate in the psychedelic community as to
whether or not using entheogens is the only way in which to
enter into such a state, I use the concept of entheospace
here to more broadly describe the deeply seated sense of being
infused with, and a part of, divine mind.
To better understand pure mind-to-mind
interactions, it helps to think of these communications as
taking place in various environments, or operating spaces.
In metaphysics, this concept is sometimes referred to as a
"plane," e.g., the astral plane. Unlike the physical
environment on planet Earth, which facilitates face-to-face
communications between humans, e-mail requires the environment
of cyberspace in which to operate. When we move beyond the
area of pure human-to-human communications, such as human-to-Gaia
communication, yet other environments, common to the different
consciousnesses that want to communicate with each other,
are required. One of these environments, or planes, is what
I call entheospace.
Metaphorically, one can think
of entheospace as an environment in which many disparate types
of consciousness share a common language with which they may
communicate. Shamans enter entheospace by ingesting entheogens,
fasting, dancing or other such methods. Many psychonauts believe
entheospace may also be entered by ingesting certain laboratory-produced
chemicals, such as LSD.
Keep in mind that this is a
discussion about communication with an alien intelligence.
People sometimes mistakenly think that the only type of alien
contact possible is with mindful organisms from other planets.
It is important to remember that there are many mentally and
spiritually alien organisms, such as plants, animals, fungi,
etc., all around us. Furthermore, contact with an alien intelligence
does not necessarily imply contact through verbal exchanges.
Just because the species of primate we call human uses sounds
made by complex tongue wagging to communicate with other members
of its species does not mean other intelligent beings have
evolved their system of communications along similar lines.
A few intellectuals who remain
rootbound in what has become the stagnant pot of 19th century
scientific thinking, will no doubt scoff at any suggestion
that supposedly primitive cultures are able to communicate
with the mind of our planet by expanding their consciousness
into a larger mind-space. If, however, one does accept that
human awareness flows into the sea of Gaian consciousness
in an altered mind-space, where does this lead us in our search
for a means to unite that membrane of thinking substance,
the noosphere, with Gaian consciousness? Must our entire species
simultaneously practice shamanic techniques and expand each
individual's consciousness before our species-consciousness,
as a cohesive entity in its own right, gains entry into the
space where Gaian consciousness operates? Or is there a new
technology for the noosphere to use? Has a new sacred plant,
or sacred medium, evolved?