I suddenly realized that in the language, or at any rate in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbol led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with truly a meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang holiness is forever being created.
Joseph Knecht, Master of The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
In the mid-sixties, chemist James Lovelock hypothesized that living things, once they appeared on our planet, took charge of the global environment in a creative way. They became full-fledged partners in the shaping of the Earth, its rocks and water and soil.
The orthodox view was that life was a passive dependent riding the planet, just fortunate enough to find a niche and survive. Lovelock’s hypothesis, however, held that all s pecies in the planetary biomass act symbiotically to enhance the total life-giving potentiality of the planet. The goal of life is global homeostasis, and toward this end it transforms the planet into what might be viewed as a single self-regulating organism – Gaia.
The idea significantly modifies the Darwinian paradigm of modern biology. Natural selection at the species level becomes less important than the overall integration of living things within a symbiotic global network. The basic unit of evolutionary survival becomes the biomass as a whole, which may select species for their capacity to enhance the liveability of the planet.
This hypothesis introduced suspicion in the scientific community.
For one thing, it is a big hypothesis, an attempt to synthesize several disciplines – always a risky enterprise in the highly territorial academic world. But if there is one signal that will raise the collective hackles of professional science, it is any hint of intentionality. The great commandment of the guild is “Thou shalt not endow nature with goals, purposes, sentience, values,” except where human beings are concerned – though the more extreme Behaviorists might refuse even that minimal concession.
Modern science is committed to the image of a mindless and impersonal universe. The whole sport since the days of Galileo and Newton has been to find clever ways to dispel the illusion of purpose in nature.
~ Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth.