In this brilliant and perceptive interdisciplinary study, Gaia, Psyche and Deep Ecology: Navigating Climate Change in The Anthropocene, Andrew Fellows homes in on our spiritual crisis and environmental emergency, demonstrating the close connections between inner and outer and a critical correspondence between the dominance of the ego and our exploitation of nature. One of the first scholars to note this connection was Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his book Man and Nature dating back to 1967 where he states: “For a humanity turned towards outwardness by the very processes of modernisation, it is not so easy to see that the blight wrought upon the environment is in reality an externalisation of the destitution of the inner state of the soul of that humanity whose actions are responsible for the ecological crisis”. However, Andrew brings further expertise to bear in his capacity as a Jungian analyst and specialist in renewable energy with a PhD in applied physics.
The book begins by setting out our environmental challenge, proposing that nothing less than a metanoia - “a revolution in the way we understand our being in the world” - is a sufficient response, and that this, at the very least, demands an application of the precautionary principle that governments have applied in matters of defence but have not seen fit to extend to the environment as it would involve radically calling into question the whole philosophy of economic growth on which their political programmes are based. As Andrew points out, it is a textbook case of cognitive dissonance to demand both economic growth and ecological stability. This is where his approach comes in as we need to address the inner before our relationship to the outer can be transformed. From an interdisciplinary angle, this requires an understanding of Earth systems science and especially the properties of dynamical systems, analytical psychology with its emphasis on the interaction between conscious and unconscious processes, dual aspect monism building on Spinoza, Pauli and Jung, and David Bohm, evolutionary panentheism based on nonlocal mind, and deep ecology proposing a biocentric rather than an anthropocentric view. These elements are all fundamental to the argument, and none can be omitted. Readers will note that many other works have addressed these issues from a partial perspective, but none that I know are as integrated as set out here.
The argument moves through a series of chapters, beginning with an explanation of the Anthropocene summarising anthropogenic impacts, including the fact that the Atlantic current that warms Europe is at its weakest for at least 1600 years. Andrew looks at climate change, population, human dominance and the prospect of a sixth mass extinction as well as analysing boundaries and risks across a number of systems. Crucially, the equation combining use of carbon, energy, economic output, and population shows all four factors continuing to increase, when they need to go down. He then gives a clear account of Gaia Theory and the interaction between water and carbon cycles as it impacts on climate variability, quoting widely from the relevant literature and emphasising the systemic connection between organisms and their environment that requires a holistic understanding that goes beyond mechanistic reductionism. In this respect, Andrew quotes Michael Ruse in pointing out that allegiance to holism/emergentism in contrast to mechanism/reductionism is one that goes beyond reason and evidence, when in fact both approaches are required.
He then moves on to the background to our sense of disenchantment as “a major driver of our rampant consumption, individualism and alienation from inner and outer nature” (p. 68) before introducing analytical psychology as an antidote to our fragmented materialistic worldview. He explains all its key elements in the context of individuation within the life-cycle that requires a change of orientation in midlife to move beyond the ego and its expansive desires. In this context he introduces dual aspect monism to counter the hegemony of physicalism, building in particular on the Pauli-Jung Conjecture and Bohm’s implicate order. It is a subtle formulation that has been advanced in the work of Harald Atmanspacher which I heard presented at the consciousness conference in Interlaken, where I also met Andrew. He provides a very useful table comparing Bohm and Pauli-Jung (p. 108).
In the next chapter, Andrew introduces his original notion of a Psyche-Gaia Conjecture, building on the above parallels and bringing in the work of Brian Goodwin. He correlates the structure and dynamics of psyche and Gaia, quoting Jung to the effect that the severing of the mind from its primordial oneness with the universe has had both inner and outer ramifications. We have lost our roots, centre and sense of belonging, as I also highlighted in my review of Peter Kingsley’s book in the last issue. Andrew proposes a correspondence between “ego dominance of the psyche and human dominance of the planet” based on what he calls “over-rationality, one-sided will and a monotheism of consciousness leading to a loss of soul” (p. 136). From an evolutionary point of view, masculine heroic development has brought us to our current point, but has now become a planetary hazard since continued expansion of our impact is likely to lead to our own extinction, an odds-on consequence of business as usual without even considering the equally dangerous situation with respect to nuclear weapons. Andrew sees three forms of resistance at play in terms of hubris, nostalgia and inertia, this last involving manipulation and “perception management” that also tells us what we want to hear, including the claim that markets can sort this out and that no fundamental course correction is required. He points out that technologies such as geoengineering and the ideology of transhumanism extend the hubris of human control and represent a further degree of disenchantment that we can no longer afford. We urgently need to move from an attitude of control and manipulation to one of partnership and harmony. All the greatest previous civilisations have declined and vanished - ours may well be no exception without a radical reorientation and metanoia.
The principles of deep ecology that he explains in some detail suggest the need for what he calls frugal individuation and a number of related practices. It turns out that the most significant way of reducing emissions is to have one less child, an observation that feeds into the equations mentioned above. He quotes Jeremy Narby’s work on communicating with nature but also paying attention to dreams and synchronicities and therefore embracing the research findings indicating our embeddedness in a collective nonlocal mind. His revision of economics draws on the work of Schumacher, Tim Jackson and Kate Raworth, although he makes the wistful remark that “most of the creative imagination is on one side of the divide, and all the established power on the other”. (p. 198)
The final chapter encourages us to question and act with courage in ways that recognise the interconnections and interdependence between Gaia and psyche, both individually and collectively. Andrew summarises the central components of a new world view, with which many readers will already be familiar. One can sense the rising feeling of inner tension and outer pressure as we peer with some trepidation into the future, but we need to realise that the world as it currently is reflects our prevalent inner states, and that we can work towards co-creating a different future. For this, both inner and outer action and transformation are necessary. This remarkable book provides one of the best resources to help us in this crucial endeavour if we are to avert the magnitude of disasters that will simply force us to evolve new and more sustainable systems.