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Bill Ellis, of Rangely, ME retired early from his working life as a science policy consultant in agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Unesco and The World Bank. For the last 30 years he has work voluntarily to promote the broad range of social innovations that empower people at the grass roots and promote community self-reliance. One of these is as General Coordinator, of 'A Coalition for Self-Learning. With which he facilitated the drafting an online book, "Creating Learning Communities," and, the White Paper, "Life-Long Self-Learning," that promotes the recognition of the vast array of learning modalities in addition to public schooling -- e.g. learning co-ops, public schools, private schools, unschooling, charter schools. His mantra is "everyone should have the right, the freedom, the resources and the opportunity to learn what they want, when they want and how they want.

Table of Contents

1.0     Morality, Mortality and Immortality Morality, Mortality and Immortality


Morality, Mortality and Immortality

Chapter #05 -- A GAIAN CREED
To Be or Not To Be:
Morality, Mortality and Immortality

The Gaian paradigm has implications to our belief systems that go beyond a view of the cosmos. They include implications to our ideas of morality, mortality, immortality, as well as our system of human values. Some people have taken these implications into the sphere of religion. Some see the formation of a new Gaia religion. To others, an understanding of Gaia supports the values that have governed humanity for eons past. Without taking positions on such speculations we should at least open the dialogue on the degree to which these scientific notions might influence our pragmatic view of our lives.

For most of the 13.7 billion years that the Cosmos has been in existence, there was no one to ponder the question of to be or not to be. While quarks evolved into atoms, the atoms, into molecules, and the molecules into cells, consciousness of being did not exist. Each new step of evolution brought new entities and new properties. Only in the evolutionary phase when brain cells had evolved and created the human mind, did “being” -- the property of thought, memory, and consciousness -- emerge. Only in this brief miniscule submoment of cosmic evolution has the sense of being existed. Only in this small window of time have humans been the source of conscious being and recognized, as Descartes put it, "Cogito, ergo sum" (I think therefore I am).

It is safe to say, that for most of the past billions of cosmic years I (as an individual) did not exist. It is also reasonable to believe that in billions of future cosmic years after my physical death I (as an individual) will not exist. Only in a brief, transient flash do individual people exist. Certainly, I did not exist before a zygote was formed by the union of cells from my two parents. And, certainly, the development, by chemical and biological means of an embryo from that zygote did not have the property of independent action and conscious thought. It is also clear that, when I drew my first breath on being born, I was not the evolved being that I was to become. The question "to-be or not-to-be? was not in my mind. My process of becoming a human being was still ahead of me.

It is clearly impossible to identify all of the experiences in one's life that contribute to one's development into a unique being. Everyone is learning every moment from birth to death, from waking to sleeping. Each moment is a step in becoming. Our bodies, brains, and minds slowly evolve from the nothingness of our pre-births through to tour final passage back into dust. If there is no heaven or nirvana into which to pass, it is reasonable to think we come to an end.

So far, I have written about only two aspect of being -- the body and the mind. There is a third aspect. It is more the essence of who we are than the other two. It is more ethereal and more everlasting. I'm not sure what I should call it. But, for lack of a better word, I'll call it "soul." By soul, I don't mean anything mysterious, mystical, magical, divine, or other worldly. The soul is the essence, the unique core of our being of who we are. It's who we are more than either our minds or our bodies.

This soul, the true center of one's being, is not easy to circumscribe. It, like the mind and body, evolves. Its evolution ocurs over all time. Not that the past will be embodied in one's physical and mental being, but from the beginning of time to the end of time what we become involves the whole cosmos. We have a birth date and a death date. But who we become is already, in part, predetermined by the world around us. The essence of our being -- our soul -- is absorbed over time from the preexisting world of ideas and actions, of nature and technologies, of awe and wonder, and of the beauty and mystery that exist in, and is, the cosmos. It is the universal cosmic soul. It is similar to the noosphere of Pierre Teilard de Chardin, the collective unconscious of Carl Jung, the ideosphere of others. It is the totality of the physical, biological, technological, and cultural worlds and more. It is the the knowledge, the beliefs, the feelings, as well as the written word and the passed on memories of everyone who has ever lived. It is inherited from our ancestors and from the evolving physical, biological, mental. technological and social spheres.

This cosmic soul has been evolving since the Big Bang. Each step in cosmic evolution has created a new part of the cosmic soul. It includes Mount Fuji, the Johnston flood, the ice ages, the Crusades, the invention of the computer, and all other happenings. Each individual at birth is enmeshed in the cosmic soul of the time.

A simple example of this idea of soul is that of a flock of birds. The soul of the flock evolves as a unit. It includes migration patterns, eating resources, nesting places, and other characteristics. The flock follows certain patterns for centuries. Each individual bird live for but a short time. But the memory essence or soul of the flock is passed to new birds as they hatch, join the flock, participate, and learn by doing. The soul of the flock evolves as it continually finds new opportunities and faces new challenges. Each bird gains its individual soul and passes its know-how on to other new birds that join. The soul of the flock is passed from individual souls to individual souls, as the flock evolves to meet contingencies of the time.

Humans likewise are born into the cosmic soul. They are embedded in the essence of all that exists. Who they are to become depends on what they absorb into themselves from all that is. Each soul is immortal. It is part of the cosmic soul. Everything anyone, makes, writes, says,or does becomes part of the cosmic soul and is everlasting. Shakespeare, Edison, Einstein, Jesus, Marx, Smith and others are still with us. So is Joe Blow, Anna Finklestein, and other common people. All have left their marks for eternity.

Each act or expressed idea is like dropping a stone in a mill pond. The stone may sink to the bottom never to be seen again. But its ripples spread out and may join other ripples to produce an overwhelming wave of social transformation. The origins of any act of social change may be lost in the myriad of its sources. Once we recognized this, we are driven to live a positive, creative life of values -- to be one of the sources of what will become. Whether anyone remembers the name of any one of us, everything we have, said, or written is part of the evolving cosmic soul.

Each person's soul is formed by every experience and every thought they ever have. It is passed on in the same way. Each "unexpected act of kindness or senseless act of beauty" makes a ripple like a grain of sand dropped in the cosmic mill pond. Every kind word one utters forms a pebble's ripple that will be passed on. More telling in the cosmic soul will be some of the memos, papers and posts that are written. They are rocks that make a bit bigger splash, or at least have a guaranteed longer life. Most important are the interactions among people close one another -- families, friends, and communities. In a person's children, friends an colleagues there is a continual riling of the waters (particularly of the good stuff). It is passed into the cosmic soul in that it remains real in the future and assures the immortality of everyone who ever lives.

Recognizing the immortality of our souls suggests a new emphasis on morality. Every act, thought or word we utter should be in the context of its impact on the cosmic soul. They change the cosmic soul as they happen and they will be remembered and they will affect cosmic evolution for ages into the future. They provides us with reason for living. As one colleague stated it, the new moral imperative is: “Make all decision based on whatever promotes the health, competence and adaptive flexibility of oneself and of all the larger system of which one is a part” (Gaia) Whether we accept this view of the human or the cosmic soul the Gaian paradigm suggests a view of It does suggest the below value system.



We belong to the Webs-of-being - - to the Cosmos - - to Earth - to Gaia.
Belonging is the proto-value from which all other values derive.
We belong to the physiophere, to the biosphere, to the ideosphere.
We belong to Gaia. As the aborigines said it ““we are the ownees of the land, not the owners of the land.” As Chief Seattle said it, “
We can not own the land, we are part of the land.
” We belong to and are inseparable from our culture-- from one another --from Earth -- from Gaia.
We are interdependent with all that is.
Belonging is scientific fact; and, belonging is more than scientific fact.
Belonging is not merely “being a member of”, but it is being subject to- being in partnership with - - being responsible for.
We belong to -- are responsible for --- the webs -of-being -- the universe -- the Earth -- Gaia.
Belonging to-Gaia means recognizing that we are enmeshed in the webs-of-being and that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of Gaia.
If we destroy Gaia, we destroy ourselves.
Belonging implies “cooperation” -- working with what is ---
with Gaia -- the webs of being.
Belonging implies “community.” In our face-to-face relationships with people we form community -- we belong to community.
Belonging implies “responsibility.” We are responsible for Gaia.
We are responsible for one another.
Belonging implies “Love.”
We can not separate love (agape) from the fact that we belong to Gaia.
We love because we must love to preserve Gaia -- to preserve ourselves --
to preserve the webs-of-being
Cultures built on values other than belonging are doomed to self-destruct. A culture built on “domination of the earth, and all the animals therein” is doomed to disappear. A culture based on “self-interest” is doomed to disintegrate.
A Culture based on “survival-of-the-fittest” will not survive.
A culture based on competition will destroy itself.
To be stable and sustainable a culture must be based on cooperation, community, responsibility, love, honesty, caregiving, and the other values which are implied by and intertwined with one another and with belonging.
We can no more separate ourselves from belonging -- from Gaia-- and remain a viable culture; than an oxygen atom can separate itself from hydrogen atoms and retain the qualities of water.

************** END CHAPTER 5 *************
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For some 2,000 years or more, civilization has been ruled by a social paradigm on which all aspects of the EuroAmerican cultures are based -- the dominator paradigm. In the past two decades a new social paradigm has been emerging that could have the most profound and fundamental impact on human civilization since hominids first came down from the trees.

The old paradigm placed humans in a purposeful universe created by some supernormal power for the domination and use by man. The new paradigm we, call A Gaian Paradigm, suggests a spontaneously self-organizing universe in which humanity is but one of the created tightly linked, interdependent webs of being.


The dominator paradigm, has had a long evolution. It evolved from the Jewish creation myth that held that the earth was created for the use of and domination by man. It was strengthened by Greek philosophy with the postulate that man is the measure of all things. The early Church held that a chain-of-being put man at the top of a hierarchy with only a few celestial beings above.

The dominator paradigm was imbedded in the minds of Europe by the thousand-year Inquisitions that burned thousand of heretics, mostly women, at the stake for believing in Earth as our creator. It was spread to the East by the crusades that destroyed infidel humans, cities and nations. During the Age of Colonization and Discovery it was perpetuated and made worldwide by the sword (technology), the flag (nationalism), and the cross (Christianity).

Newtons clockwork concept of that cosmos, and Darwins theory of evolution were interpreted to prove the validity of the dominator paradigm. It was fixed in our secular moral system by the acceptance of Adam Smith's economy that human "self-interest," competition and materialism should, and do, dictate all human actions. This abomination as the essence of humanity now rules the world.


A Gaian paradigm not only has many roots but can be, and is becoming, the underpinning of a new global network of cultures replacing the now dominant and domineering man-centered industrial cultures. Like all cultures, the new cultures will be, holistic and unified coherences of interdependent components -- religion, economics, social and others.

The emergence of a Gaian paradigm is resulting in a deep fundamental transition of our world view, our social institutions, our cultural norms, and our lifestyles. The need for this transition is being made obvious by the growing numbers of dangers inherent in industrialism including endless wars and economic breakdowns. But the transition is happening, and being made real by the introduction of many positive and creative social innovations.

This millennium is being looked upon as a time of radical and fundamental change. Minds are opening to new ideas. People are looking for new actions. It is in this spirit of a hopeful, deep, fundamental social transformation that this book is addressed. These are the concepts well explore in the next few chapters.


Many basic scientific observations led to this new scientific/social paradigm. The advancement of the Gaia theory, the establishment of Chaos and Complexity theories, and new concepts of evolution were among them.

New observations that biological evolution did not progress, as Darwin predicted, in a series of minute changes which led over time to the emergence of new species. Rather, biological evolution happened in quantum leaps. Major biological changes and new species are created in relatively short periods of time after long periods of stability. This observation was designated by Stephen Jay Gold as punctured equilibrium.

James Lovelock, a scientist working for NASA, observed that the biosphere of the Earth was radically different from all other planets. It stayed amazingly constant within ranges which supported life.

At the same time Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist, was studying the evolution of microorganisms over the billions of years before animals appeared on the face of the Earth. She found that life forms were interdependent. Life was able to exist on Earth because of a symbiosis among all life forms and the geological Earth. Everything was interdependent with everything else. Life created its own biome.

Lovelock and Margulis proposed that the whole Earth was a self-organized, self-supporting ecological system At the suggestion of a neighbor of Lovelace, William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, they termed this living Earth system Gaia, after the Greek Earth goddess.

A theoretical understanding of how Gaia, or in fact any system, might spontaneously self-organize came from other fields of science including mathematics, physics and particularly computer science. Chaos and Complexity theories (made possible by computer modeling) have moved science beyond the limits imposed by linear mathematics, algebra and calculus. Study of the transition of order into chaos, or chaos into order, and the formation of complex systems from simpler ones has opened a whole new area for science. Two particular breakthroughs in the field are relevant to the Gaia concepts.

Self-organizing criticality is an idea proposed by Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist, Per Bak. His first computer model representing self-organizing criticality was of a pile of sand. As you pour grains of sand on a spot it slowly builds into a stable inverted cone. As you continue pouring, the cone becomes unstable until sand slides and avalanches restore a new larger stable cone. Bak showed that biological evolution occurred in such bursts. Simple entities formed more complex systems, which remained stable until internal pressures built up and caused a rapid reorganization. There seems to be a law of nature, self-organizing criticality, by which new forms come into being.

Autocatalysis, developed by Stuart Kauffman at the Santa Fe Institute, is another concept which provides a theoretical base for the evolution of Gaia. Autocatalysis holds that systems of biological entities may promote their own rapid transition into different forms. Kauffman uses the simple example of the slippery-footed fly and sticky-tongued frog. The mutation of slippery footedness gave no environmental advantage to the fly until the mutation of the sticky-tongued frog. Only then did Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest come into play. Networks of potential mutations may develop and remain dormant until triggered by an environmental change or another phenomenon that brings on the avalanche of transition. Autocatalysis, linked with-survival-of-the-fittest. explains how complex organs like the eye, or new species emerge.

Self-organizing criticality and autocatalysis are among the scientific concepts that show how biological entities spontaneously self-organize in quantum-like leaps from simple cells to linked complex networks of cells, organs, plants and animals.

More than that, physicists like Lee Smolin and Nobel Laureate Murray Gellmann, have extended self-organizing back to the beginning of time at the Big Bang, suggesting that the same principle may apply to the self-organizing of fundamental particles into atoms, atoms into molecules, and molecules into galaxies, solar systems, planets, and life.

At the same time economists like Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, Brian Arthur, and Jon Holland have extended the new paradigm in the other direction, to include economics, social organization, and human consciousness.

This new scientific-social paradigm suggests that people have no superior divine mandate within a universe created for them. They are not independent of, above or beyond the natural world in which they are imbedded. They do have the unique ability to understand, through science, the laws that govern them, to envision future worlds, and to co-create those future worlds within the laws of science.


Everything is connected to everything else is one way of stating the Gaian paradigm. It is a fact of science, and is a social mindset.

In addition it is more than those; it is a fact of technology. Networking was identified by John Naisbitt in Megatrends as one of the major rends of the age. It was a social and political as well as a scientific trend. It was made possible by the major new findings of the twentieth century. As he saw it, networking was like roads, the automobile, the telegraph, airplanes, the telephone, and computers. Each of these technologies made the Earth smaller and put people in more rapid and reliable touch with one another.

The real quantum jump in networking is only now before us. Computers and the Internet are providing a challenge that has hardly been explored. Cyberspace is a global phenomenon providing humanity the opportunity to work globally in real time. This takes networking well beyond the concept about which Naisbitt wrote only a few years ago, or the concept of transnational networking which was the root of the formation of TRANET, the organization with which Ive been working since 1976.

The Gaia hypothesis, the theories of chaos and complexity, the Gaian concepts, and the computer technologies which now face us grew independently of one another. But they form a unity. They, in themselves, are an example of the self-organizing principle which shapes all of cosmic evolution. Together they make up the Gaian Paradigm. They challenge us to prepare ourselves for an avalanche of social, political and economic change in the years ahead. This millennium is evolving radically differently from anthropocentric (man-centered) paradigm which has dominated the past 2000 years.

********** END CHAPTER 1 ************

What change in your life style do you see coming from Gaia ?

22 speculation are listed on

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