Earth is our larger self
As inhabitants of Earth, we are not outsiders and on-lookers, but insiders and creators of life, on Earth. It is a perennial wisdom that is present in Taoism, Buddhism, and Indian philosophy where the whole of existence is one cosmic dance. It is endemic to native Americans who consider the entire Earth as mother, grandmother, and all organisms as one family.
In his seminal book, Varieties of Religious Experience, American psychologist William James concludes that “There is an unseen order in the universe and our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves hereto.” In Taoism this unseen order or force is called the Tao. One needs curiosity and soul seeing to see the unseen order beneath and behind the so-called mundane and ordinary world around us. Our minds have to be retrained to see the world differently through a “new cosmology” which will instantly change our concept of God, ourselves and others. After a lifetime of observing and studying nature, eco-theologian Thomas Berry concludes:
“The universe and the planet Earth are consistently more effective than humans can ever be. The beginning of wisdom is to accept us as component members of the larger earth community and of the universe itself, then to accept our instructions from the natural world about us and to fulfill our role within this context.”
Mary Evelyn Tucker, who teaches religion and ecology at Bucknell University, echoes Thomas Berry when she says that “Being human in our times involves the vital sense of renewal with the natural world in its complexity, beauty, and mystery. To be human means to take off the headphones and unplug virtual reality. We need to listen again and to relearn the multiple voices of the universe.”
Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, points out the Gaia hypothesis to impress upon us the need to learn from the Earth and to embrace a planetary vision for a peaceful future. The Gaia hypothesis posits an integrated and interacting mega-organism, a living planet, the Earth Mother from whose umbilical cord we separate ourselves, at our own peril.
As American novelist Wendell Berry says, “no matter how sophisticated and powerful our institutions, we are still exactly as dependent on the Earth as the earthworms.”
It is, however, possible to feel separate from the Earth due to our false thinking and faulty assumptions.
The fact is that we can never be separated from the Earth, just as a fish cannot be separated from the water and stay alive. We are part of the planet, because the structures, systems, and processes of the planet are also happening in us. Our body exchanges matter, energy, and information with the Universe. We are a microcosm of the universe around us.
The Earth is our larger self.
Albert Einstein puts it this way:
“A human being is a part of the whole called the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
(from Cosmic Kindergarten: Earthly Lessons for a Heavenly Life)