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Lewis Thomas

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Lewis Thomas (1913-93) was an American biologist, physician and author of several books.

In The Lives of a Cell (1974) Thomas says that the Earth behaves like a huge single-celled organism.

Often misquoted by New Age enthusiasts, Thomas makes it clear that he doesn’t say the Earth is a living cell. He simply says that, when viewed from space, the Earth seems to behave like one.

I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell.¹

Earth, courtesy Apollo 17

Earth Taken 7 December, 1972 Apollo 17 mission Courtesy: NASA

Despite his using the word “like” instead of “is,” Thomas’ idea has been misappropriated by some trying to support New Age pantheistic beliefs and various end-time prophecies. Many of these end-time prophecies focused on the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012.

Needless to say, these prophecies were false. At least, they were in this universe…

¹ Cited at

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World Soul (anima mundi)

Anima Mundi

Anima Mundi (Photo credit: Cornelia Kopp)

Generally speaking, World Soul (anima mundi) is the idea of the “One” through which all living things on this Earth are said to be interconnected.

The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung mentions Plotinus‘ term “word soul” when speaking of the archetype of the self. And some Jungians use the term as if it represents an absolute truth, rather than an idea to be tested through ongoing experience and analysis.

Many believe the idea of the World Soul can be traced back to Plato, or possibly to even older, Asian systems of belief.¹

Today, New Age believers, Neo-Gnostics and artists have adapted this idea in countless ways.

Related Posts » Plotinus


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Aristarchus of Samos

English: The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of S...

The Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (310 BC – 230 BC), in the 17th century atlas of Andreas Cellarius. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus is commonly regarded as the genius who first devised a sun-centered model of the solar system, but this is a modern fable. Way before Copernicus, another science prodigy, Aristarchus of Samos, (310 – 230 BCE) proposed a heliocentric model—that is, that the earth revolves around the sun.¹

Today it seems amazing that this ancient Greek thinker also accurately predicted that the reason we don’t see parallax (the stars moving relative to each other as the Earth travels around the sun) is because the stars are very far away from the Earth. In essence, Aristarchus was imagining great distances that most ancient people could not really conceive of.

Aristarchus's 3rd century BC calculations on t...

Aristarchus’s 3rd century BC calculations on the relative sizes of the Earth, Sun and Moon, from a 10th century AD Greek copy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But as usual, forward thinkers are rarely rewarded in their day. They almost always meet with resistance from ignorant, possibly stupid, and certainly regimented thinkers. His theory was roundly rejected in favor of the geocentric models (where everything rotates around the earth) of Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and, later, of Ptolemy (90-168 CE).²

¹ Aristarchus was influenced by the ideas of Philolaus (circa 470–385 BCE), who spoke of a “central fire.” Not as precise as Aristarchus’ model, Philolaus’ ideas have given him the honor of being the first in recorded history to propose a non-geocentric (Earth-centered) view of the universe.

² His only other ancient follower was Seleucus of Seleucia (born circa 190 BC), who demonstrated Aristarchus’ heliocentric model through reasoning.

Nicolaus Copernicus - Heliocentric Solar System

Nicolaus Copernicus – Heliocentric Solar System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Eratosthenes' measurement of the Earth's circu...

Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference Ελληνικά: Η μέτρηση της περιφέρειας της γης από τον Ερατοσθένη (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) was an Ancient Greek who apparently was the first to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy using math that involved measuring the angles of shadows.

He also invented the idea of longitude and latitude, the leap day, and may have calculated the distance from the earth to the sun.

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View of the crescent moon through the top of t...

View of the crescent moon through the top of the earth's atmosphere. Photographed above 21.5°N, 113.3°E. by International Space Station crew Expedition 13 over the South China Sea, just south of Macau (NASA image ID: ISS013-E-54329) - Wikipedia

Earth is the third planet from our sun with orbit between Venus and Mars. The Earth’s diameter is 12,756 km with a distance from the sun of about 150 million km and a circumference of 40,075 km. It’s inner core, the geosphere, is composed of solid, pressurized iron-nickel. This is surrounded by a hot liquid outer core composed of various substances.

The next layer, the mantle, is composed of solid rock which rises, falls and shifts over time due to pressure changes caused by temperature fluctuations. From this, the positioning of the continents is in a constant state of flux. Their slow but inexorable movement is called continental drift.

The next layer, the lithosphere, is composed of different rock forms and lies about 8 to 40 km underneath the visible continents.

The Earth’s atmosphere is mostly composed of oxygen and nitrogen. Theories about the formation and age of the Earth vary, but it’s generally believed that due to gravity a cloud of gas condensed about 4,550 million years ago, forming a ball which eventually took shape as the Earth.

Today the Earth is not a perfect circle. It is flattened at the poles and bulges a little at the equator. The Earth rotates on an axis about 23° off the vertical, this being determined by its orbital path around the sun.

Related Posts » Gaia, Moon


Gaia Hypothesis

English: A rendition of life on planet earth

A rendition of life on planet earth via Wikipedia

The Gaia hypothesis was proposed by the British scientist, author and environmentalist James Lovelock (1919-). It suggests that the Earth, itself, is a self-regulating entity geared toward sustaining life.

In his own words, Gaia is

a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.¹

This view is alternately accepted and rejected by various scientists. And it’s often mistaken for Lewis Thomas‘ speculation that the Earth, if viewed from space, looks like a single cell.

The Gaia hypothesis is also used out of context by some New Age enthusiasts who uphold it as support for the pantheistic idea that God and the natural, observable world are identical.


Related Posts » Great Mother

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Deutsch: Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). Decken...

Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). Ceiling painting, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna via Wikipedia

Gaia (also Ge) is the Greek Goddess of the Earth who arose from Chaos. She was worshipped at Delphi, where her temple was guarded by a Python. The temple was rededicated to Apollo after he destroyed Gaia’s serpent.

Gaia gave birth to the Furies, assisted by heavenly intervention. She was also the mother of Uranus, with whom she gave birth to the Titans and the Cyclopses. She also gave birth to the Giants and other monsters. Her Roman equivalent is Tellus.

Some anthropologists believe that Gaia was worshipped in Neolithic times as a Great Mother, although this academic position has been disputed by most contemporary scholars. Gaia’s Roman counterpart is Tellus.

In the 1970s, the British scientist, author and environmentalist James Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis, where the planet Earth, itself, is seen as a self-regulating entity geared toward sustaining life.

In his own words, Gaia is

a complex entity involving the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.¹

Today, Neopagans revere Gaia as The Goddess.