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Gaia Alchemy

The Reuniting of Science, Psyche, and Soul

Published by Bear & Company
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
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• Examines how integrating important alchemical images with Gaian science can offer insights into our interconnectedness with Gaia

• Looks at how the four components of the living earth--biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere--mesh with the four elements of alchemical theory and the four functions of consciousness as understood by depth psychology

• Offers guided meditations and contemplative exercises to open your receptivity to messages from the biosphere and help you connect more deeply with Gaia

During the scientific revolution, science and soul were drastically separated, propelling humanity into four centuries of scientific exploration based solely on empiricism and rationality. But, as scientist and ecologist Stephan Harding, Ph.D., demonstrates in detail, by reintegrating science with profound personal experiences of psyche and soul, we can reclaim our lost sacred wholeness and help heal ourselves and our planet.

The book begins with compelling introductions to depth psychology, alchemy, and Gaia theory--the science of seeing the Earth as an intelligent, self-regulating system, a theory pioneered by the author’s mentor James Lovelock. Harding then explores how alchemy, as understood through the depth psychology of C. G. Jung, offers us powerful methods of reuniting rationality and intuition, science and soul. He examines the integration of important alchemical engravings, including those from L’Azoth des Philosophes and the Rosarium Philosophorum, with Gaian science. He shows how the seven key alchemical operations in the Azoth image can help us develop deeply transformative experiences and insights into our interconnectedness with Gaia. He then looks at how the four components of the living Earth--biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere--mesh not only with the four elements of alchemical theory but also with the four functions of consciousness from depth psychology.

Woven throughout with the author’s own experiences of Gaia alchemy, the book also offers guided meditations and contemplative exercises to open your receptivity to messages from the biosphere and help you develop your own Gaian alchemical way of life, full of wonder and healing.

From Chapter 5: The Unus Mundus: Gaia Archetype and Gaia Science

“The idea of the unus mundus is founded on the assumption that the multiplicity of the empirical world rests on an underlying unity, and that not two or more fundamentally different worlds exist side by side or are mingled with one another. Rather, everything divided and different belongs to one and the same world. […] … even the psychic world, which is so extraordinarily different from the physical world, does not have its roots outside the one cosmos [which] is evident from the undeniable fact that causal connections exist between the psyche and the body, which point to their underlying unitary nature.” --C.G. Jung, Collected Works, volume 14, para 767

Gaia alchemy heals the Cartesian split by making matter and psyche intensely aware of each other as an unbroken wholeness in the unus mundus. As fact and image meld within us, an integrated style of consciousness is born--an epiphany happens which combines our deeply buried indigenous soulful outlook with a modern mentality informed and shaped by the stunning discoveries of the contemporary sciences of the Earth.

In this book we explore how the opposites, science and alchemy, can be brought together to complete the sacred marriage between matter and psyche interrupted so long ago by the scientific revolution and the Church. The child of this inner marriage is the Gaian consciousness we must all quickly find before the split wipes out civilisation through climate change and the decimation of biodiversity.

But we are running out of time to celebrate the wedding, for a mutual recognition between opposites often happens slowly, sometimes only in a momentary flash when a marvellously freeing sense of the intensely purposeful aliveness of reality itself descends upon us like a valedictory blessing. In these blessed moments we experience the inner light of nature shining within us and in all things.

To do this we’ll follow the path of integrating two versions of Gaia: archetypal or mythological Gaia and scientific Gaia, which are Gaian opposites (Figure 5.1). When this happens we can experience a third, transcendent, Gaia which I call ‘alchemical Gaia’. Archetypal Gaia relates of course to the objective psyche (the collective unconscious), whilst scientific Gaia is based on James Lovelock’s Gaia theory. Alchemical Gaia requires the union of the two into a transcendent function in which the resulting state of affairs in consciousness is a blend of alchemy and science, transforming both into a deeply ecological style of consciousness lost to our culture so long ago but which is so deeply needed in this time of crisis.

Archetypal Gaia

Archetypal or mythological Gaia, unlike its apparent opposite--scientific Gaia--is not a product of the rational mind, for in essence archetypal Gaia is not a system of rationally elucidated feedbacks. To experience archetypal Gaia we need to connect with a feeling-full, intuitive perception that comes from deeper, more ancient regions of the psyche where primordial thoughts, events and emotions common to all humanity accumulate as persistent images and memory traces. In other words, to experience archetypal Gaia we need to connect with Corbin’s ‘cognitive imagination’ with our mythological intelligence, with Imagination - with the collective unconscious, with the objective psyche.

Our thinking function only serves to hinder us in this domain. And yet this focus on an ancient style of perception brings us fairly and squarely into a world alive with birdsong, with swaying branches laden with the green shoots of spring and the clear blue sky of an English April morning, for me right here, right now as I write--a living world which science can help us to appreciate ever more fully.

The best person to introduce us to archetypal Gaia is my friend the mythologist, scholar, and Jungian analyst Jules Cashford, who in a only seventy-hree pages of her masterpiece ‘Gaia’ gives us a superb immersion into the depths of Imagination and this primordial manifestation of Gaia. Jules taught with James Lovelock on the very first course at Schumacher College which was on Gaia, where a motley group of exceptional people from all over the world explored Gaia as both science and myth, a happening which has blossomed for me some thirty years later into Gaia alchemy--into a new kind of science awake to the phenomenal power and presence of psyche in the world of nature.

Jules reminds us of William Blake’s famous saying: “To the Man of Imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.” But what is Imagination with a capital ‘I’? Poets evoke Imagination best of all. I am no poet, but here is an example of Imagination from my own experience. I close my eyes and remember the blue Mediterranean I saw in Greece long ago. An immense love comes over me, light in texture, full of an open, expansive longing which is somehow fulfilled by my memory of the sea itself with its turquoise waters and the clear blue sky above. The feeling expands into a lived realisation of the palpable existence of the entire planet as one miraculous, living, breathing being. Such ‘Imagination events’ have a particular quality--they reveal something absolutely real about the world as a substance which is both inward and outward simultaneously.

A Conversation with Jeffrey Kiehl

Jeffrey Kiehl: According to Jung, archetypes are the images of instincts, which are biological. They're probably the closest to Gaia. This is one of Jung’s great contributions: he felt that there's something in us that pulls us to the numinous, which is the religious function. In the Judeo Christian mythology you would say there is a natural instinct for us to want to connect to God. If you want to stay out of a particular religion you could say that there is a natural pull, a natural process that wants us to experience the transpersonal. The archetypes provide the images that facilitate that experience. The instincts are very organic - they are the product of evolution - they're the biological roots of psyche. The Self, as the archetype of wholeness, is the image of the instinctual religious function. Its purpose is to give us an experience of the transpersonal - a numinous experience.

Stephan Harding: So all this is rooted in matter?

JK: Yes. That’s why Jung said that the archetypes are rooted in the earth itself.

SH: So the religious instinct must be there in matter itself?

JK: That’s deep panpsychism, which is the insight that psyche is everywhere. Archetypes and instincts dwell in the psychoid realm which is even more primordial than psyche. Psyche and matter arise out of the psychoid. The psychoid marries psyche and matter. My proposal is that the whole thing rests in the Unus Mundus.

Stephan Harding, Ph.D., obtained his doctorate in behaviorial ecology from Oxford University and is one of the founders of Schumacher College, where he is Deep Ecology Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in holistic science. A student of James Lovelock, he has taught Gaia theory, deep ecology, and holistic science all over the world. The author of several books, including Animate Earth, he lives in Dartington, Devon, England.

  • Publisher: Bear & Company (December 21, 2021)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781591434269

“Few things are more important today than bringing humane values to the science, technology, and information sectors. It requires a person of vision and imagination. I have known Stephan Harding for many years and have seen firsthand how his genius and big heart help science evolve to the next level. This latest book, Gaia Alchemy, is a beautiful blueprint for transforming contemporary knowledge and returning soul to our planet.”

– Thomas Moore, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Care of the Soul and Soul Therapy

“In this time of global crises and evolutionary opportunities, it’s vital that we reclaim our innate human ability to learn from our animate Earth using our feeling senses, our imaginations, and our dreams. Western science, in contrast, has specialized in learning about our world, using logic, quantification, and the illusion of separation. Harding shows us how to alchemically unite and integrate these two modes of knowing and why it’s both necessary and rapturous, and he does so with brilliance, imagination, humor, grace, and, above all, heart. Gaia Alchemy is a worldshifting masterwork, an essential read for all twenty-first-century lovers and defenders of life.”

– Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., founder of Animas Valley Institute and author of Soulcraft, Wild Mind, and The

“Harding shows how Western empirical science, which is at the root of so much material progress but also the cause of blatant destruction, can find its way back into the heart of subjective living experience. Gaia Alchemy points to a new union of calculating and intuiting mind, of measuring and of contemplating beauty, and does so from a firm foundation in Western culture, not by borrowing from Asian or Indigenous cosmologies. Profound, erudite, timely, and immensely necessary, Gaia Alchemy builds a bridge between the head and the heart. A landmark work for the Anthropocene.”

– Andreas Weber, Ph.D., philosopher, biologist, and author of The Biology of Wonder, Enlivenment, and

“Desperate for a way beyond the reductive mindset of contemporary science, a keenly creative biologist excavates the medieval ‘Great Work’ of alchemy, the immediate precursor of modern science. This book is a record of Harding’s deeply personal quest to bring alchemy’s esoteric insights to bear on the catastrophic situation in which our planet now finds itself.

– David Abram, Ph.D., author of The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal

“A brave book that offers a profound celebration of the marriage between science and soul, showing convincingly that there is no conflict between reason and intuition; in fact, they are good companions. A close collaborator of James Lovelock, who proposed Gaia theory, Stephan has been able to develop an original and authentic understanding of relationships between science and psyche. In this compelling book, rooted in rigorous science and poetic imagination, Stephan outlines a new paradigm for a holistic worldview. Read this book and it will inspire you to look at the world and see it whole.”

– Satish Kumar, cofounder of Schumacher College and editor emeritus of Resurgence and Ecologist

“A remarkable and lively synthesis of leading-edge science and the deep wisdom of the archetypal psyche. Harding’s bold and engaging vision works its own alchemical transformation on the reader, guiding us from the lead of the dominant mechanistic and disenchanted worldview to the gold of an experiential understanding of Gaia as the ensouled body in which we live and have our being. This book will prove invaluable to those seeking a more integral approach to Earth System Science, to the psychologically minded who long for deeper connections with the living Earth, and to all who are called to participate in the Great Work of our times.”

– Sean Kelly, Ph.D., author of Becoming Gaia and Coming Home

“In this bold and extraordinary book Stephan Harding, an eminent ecologist, makes a surprising defense of alchemy as a tool with which to reconnect with the more-than-human world. Pursue the path of alchemy, he says, and we can restore ourselves to ourselves, and, even more importantly, to Gaia, the living soul of the planet. By offering exercises that anyone can try for themselves, Stephan opens doorways so that everyone can experience Gaian consciousness firsthand. At a time when so many are looking to Indigenous cultures for the answers to our ever-mounting ecological ills, it is refreshing to find someone offering homegrown tools, techniques, and methods that stem from the intellectual roots of Western culture. All the tools we need are to be found in the alembic of the unconscious, in the union of opposites between the scientific rational domain of logos and the deep waters of mythos. I can think of no better guide to steer us through this muchneeded process.”

– Andy Letcher, Ph.D., senior lecturer at Schumacher College, program lead for the M.A. in Engaged Eco

Gaia Alchemy arises like a phoenix out of the ashes of our terribly precise but ultimately life-denying sciences of reduction, abstraction, and objectification. Harding’s storied and deeply personal account of his imaginal journey into Gaia alchemy is a timely invitation to each of us to cultivate ways of knowing and being adequate to the great Planet-Being with whom we live.”

– Jonathan M. Code, M.Ed., lecturer in sustainable land management at Royal Agricultural University

“Stephan Harding’s teaching is always illuminating. In Gaia Alchemy, he shows how, through the relationship between science, alchemy, and depth psychology, we can reach toward an experience of nondual Gaian soul in our lives.”

– Peter Reason, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Bath

“Stephan Harding tells an enthralling new story of Gaia, one where we begin with Gaia rather than ourselves. His unique union of science, myth, and alchemy--invoking both our rational and intuitive ways of thinking and exploring how they may and must come together--brings us into a new vision of a Gaia consciousness. A brilliant book.”

– Jules Cashford, Jungian analyst and coauthor of The Myth of the Goddess

“With the emergence of a Gaian science that restores mind to Earth, we have a new lens through which to divine alchemical meaning in geo-ecological processes. This is the dazzling new vista for the healing of both Earth and ourselves that Gaia Alchemy opens up.”

– Freya Mathews, adjunct professor of environmental philosophy at La Trobe University and author of Re