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“In short, the earth itself is God.”

This statement by John Keel, in his book The Eighth Tower, is really just a succinct summation of the beliefs of many so-called Pagan and New Age religions and philosophies. Earth and Nature worshipers have existed throughout human history (and, archeological evidence suggests, prehistory). According to their doctrines (or perhaps “teachings” is a better term, since the ancients didn’t really have any set doctrines per say), the natural world actually consists of deific beings with whom we can interact. These beings have distinct personalities and engage in various activities. In some cases, they represent the natural surroundings; in others, they actually are the natural surroundings. In this way, consciousness is posited as an aspect of all living things.

There are modern concepts that reflect this belief. James Lovelock’s Gaia Principle, which states that living organisms interact with their natural surroundings to form a web of environmental wholeness and sustainment, is one such concept. This is not the same as deifying living beings, but it is recognition that all things are an intrinsic part of the natural environment, and have an important effect on it.

But since the advent of quantum mechanics in the 1920s, scientists have begun to consider an even more astounding idea, one that reaches back to the philosophical surmising of the ancient Greeks.

Sir James Jeans, the mid-20th Century physicist and astronomer, remarked in his 1930 book The Mysterious Universe, “The universe looks more and more like a great thought rather than a great machine.” This marked the first time scientists considered that there might be an element of consciousness inherent to the universe. This concept, called panpsychism, is the belief that the universe itself is a conscious entity. Once considered the realm of parapsychologists and other “quacks,” it has been taken up by such eminent thinkers as cognitive scientist David Chalmers, neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Sir Roger Penrose.

I tend to subscribe to the idea, although I haven’t embraced it in its entirety. There is certainly something strange about existence—as many quantum physicists are quick to agree. Universal consciousness might explain some of these puzzling aspects of the cosmos. But if nothing else, panpsychism is certainly an intriguing thing to think about.

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Published by T L Trevaskis

Author of The Forgotten Disturbed. Explorer of spirituality, consciousness and magic. Psychonaut.

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