Neo-Pagan Resurgence: Awakening into Apotheasis

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: New Religions. Read other perspectives here.

Earth-centered spirituality is nothing new even in the era of Western monotheistic domination. It has re-awakened in sixty-year cycles back at least to the Italian Renaissance of the 1480s. These include the Age of Exploration in the 1540s, the English Renaissance of the 1600s, the Scientific Revolution in the 1660s, the European Enlightenment of the 1720s, the French and American Revolutions in the 1770s-1790s, the Transcendentalist Movement of the 1840s, the Fin de Siècle (1900s), and the Psychedelic '60s, which saw the dawn of the current Neo-Pagan resurgence.

In each of these Renaissances, certain common themes emerged — foremost among them being a Romantic resurrection of classical Pagan themes in the arts, poetry, music, literature, drama, ritual, and spirituality. The Return of the Goddess was a major focus of artists, musicians, and poets who claimed Her patronage as Muse. Now, in anticipation of the next Renaissance in the 2020s, the Wheel is turning again, and consciousness of the Goddess is re-emerging throughout the world.

In 1922, Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin introduced the term Noösphere to designate an emergent layer of planetary consciousness, after the geosphere (rocky crust), hydrosphere (water), atmosphere (air), and biosphere (life).

Perhaps the emergence and rapid evolution of the internet and world wide web are already providing the seeds of a technological Noösphere of global consciousness through which this Awakening will inevitably manifest. We might equate such an event with the awakening of consciousness in our own minds, as the billions of neurons in our brains link up synergistically. Just so shall we participate in the Awakening of Gaea Herself—and our full Apotheasis.

In theology, the term apotheosis (from the Greek apotheoun, "to deify") refers to the elevation or exaltation of an individual to godlike stature, or an Awakening into Divinity. Also called divinization and deification, the feminine variant, Apotheasis, acknowledges that Divinity as Goddess.

A New Myth for a New Millennium

From the moment that the people of Earth first saw the image of our planet spinning in all Her radiant blue-and-white splendor through the black velvet night, many of us have felt an almost physical urge toward unity. We inevitably begin to think of ourselves as integral parts of one infinitely diverse, responsive, and sustainable macro-organism. A survey conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990 found a surprising 55 percent of readers agreeing with the statement: "I believe the Earth is a living Being, with a consciousness and will of its own."

After half a billion years of evolution, and a long aeon of darkness, we have arrived at this magical moment. Gaea floats mighty yet vulnerable amidst the starry heavens. She calls to us, and touches our human hearts, and we feel we are part of a self-aware mind capable of contemplating its own existence. And now, having seen Herself through our satellite eyes, She is awakening to consciousness. What is struggling to be born is a truly planetary – Gaean — mythos that invites people of all traditions in our divided world to know themselves as children of the same Mother — Gaea Herself, Mother Earth.

Diaspora

Clearly, we are at a great crossroads in evolution, perhaps the most critical in the entire history of Gaea. The choices we make at this juncture will determine the destiny or demise of an entire sequence of evolution stretching back four billion years into the past, and potentially equally far into the future. Let us choose wisely, for the fate of Gaea is our fate as well.

Paganism is Nature-based religion, and Pagans revere the Earth as a living Mother Goddess. The essential goal of any living organism is to reproduce; indeed, that is the prime criterion for defining "life." For a living planet, such reproduction must necessarily manifest in the seeding of other worlds with life to produce other planetary biospheres as offspring.

Perhaps we are intended to be the gametes of Gaea. Our future terraforming of sterile worlds such as Mars, Luna, Venus, and the Jovian moons will be Gaea reproducing Herself. She can only do this through us, as only we, as a technological species, can construct the spacefaring arks to convey Her fragile protoplasm into the void beyond Her atmospheric shell — "flying Mother Nature's silver seeds to a new home…" as Neil Young sang in "After the Gold Rush" (1970). In times to come, seedlings of Gaea will be planting new roots in distant soil beyond the farthest star.