The term ‘PaGaian’ was conceived in at least two places on the Planet and in the opposite hemispheres within a year of each other, without either inventor being aware of the other’s new expression. It was some time before they found each other … one party in Australia, myself having published a book with PaGaian in the title, and the other party, Rob Blake – in the UK having registered the domain pagaian.org. The term PaGaian was actually conceived by my partner Taffy Seaborne in late 2003, enabling the book to manifest: heretofore the body of work developed there took six lines to express.
This reaching for a new word, was the reaching for a language, which is a power, to bring together an Earth-based – ‘Pagan’ – spiritual practice indigenous to Western Europe, with recent Western scientific understandings of the planet as a whole living organism – ‘Gaian’ as it has been named (James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, the “Gaia Theory”), and which by its name acknowledged resonance with ancient Mother Goddess understandings of our Habitat, as an alive sentient being. So, the term ‘PaGaian’ splices together Pagan and Gaian, and it may express a new autochthonic/native context in which humans find themselves: that is, the term may express an indigeneity, a nativity, in these times, of belonging to this Earth, this Cosmos. For myself, the new expression consciously included and centralised female metaphor for sacred practice: that is, practice of relationship with the sacred whole in which we are, and whom I desired to call Mother, and imagine as the Great She.
Below is some story from Rob Blake, written in 2006, and then the first email exchanges between Rob Blake and myself, Glenys Livingstone, the author of this website, and the book PaGaian Cosmology:
A few months ago, I was laying in bed, thinking about religion. I had just re-read James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia’ and was mulling over Carl Sagan’s famous quote:
“A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.” Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
Which got me thinking – why can’t we come up with a religion, or spiritual framework, that combines a ritual observance of the sacred wheel of the year with a scientifically grounded view of the cosmos? As I thought about my experiences with neopaganism, the words ‘Pagan’ and ‘Gaia’ seemed to fuse together to form ‘Pagaian’. With that thought in mind, I nipped across the road to my office and did a tentative whois search on ‘pagaian.org’. I was very surprised to find that the domain was still available, so I bought it and went back to bed.
And then work took over and nothing further happened for a few months. Back in the office one day, I decided to do a google search for the term ‘Pagaian’. The first page in the list of results was from an American publisher offering a book called Pagaian Cosmology – Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. I felt my pulse quicken as I read those words. It was immediately clear to me that far from coming up with a genuinely new concept, I had simply tapped into to the collective unconscious .
My next move was to contact the author of the book, Glenys Livingstone, to tell her I had registered the domain, and make sure she didn’t mind me using it.
A few months ago I registered the domain ‘pagaian.org’, with a view to creating a discussion about combining some of the ideas of neopaganism (the fire festivals mostly) with the scientific theories proposed by people like James Lovelock, to try to form a new framework for ‘Scientifically Informed Paganism’. Shortly after I registered the domain, I googled for ‘pagaian’, and came across your book. I have now ordered the book, but have yet to read it.I agree with a lot of the ideas on your site, especially about the need for a system that has seasonal relevance for those outside of the northern hemisphere.
Obviously, you were first to the term ‘Pagaian’, and I thought that I should contact you and let you know my intentions. I intend to read your book and give credit on the site when it goes live.If you would like to be involved, please let me know. The site will feature a forum where you will be more than welcome to set out your views, thought and opinions if you should wish to do so. I should have guessed somebody else thought of the term first. Witness collective uconsciousness in action!
Looking forward to reading more about your ideas.
A few days later, the reply:
Dear Rob, thank you for contacting me, with these unfoldings. I am amazed. Even beforePaGaian Cosmology was published, my partner (Taffy Seaborne) had set up aYahoo group for PaGaian discussion, but had not developed it though there was request from some that he do so. It was he who coined the term PaGaianin the midst of a synergistic discussion we had in December 2003, and I had been looking for a term to encapsulate what I had been synthesizing foryears, with which I might entitle the published work. We used to google for PaGaian then (when we were the only ones – there was only a single hit,except for some region in Italy with a similiar name) to watch it grow. I had identified my spirituality as Gaian for over a decade and Charlene Spretnak lent energy to that in her writings (Woman of Power Issue 20 Spring1991), but I wanted to reclaim the term Pagan … Starhawk had visited here in Australia, and she had been one of my main teachers, and an ongoing inspiration for my religious practice. I do describe something of what Imean by the term in the first paragraph of the Preface of the book, and the Index has several references to it that are throughout the book.
There have been 2 published reviews so far, which you may be interested to know of. The first was by Susan Meeker-Lowry (Economics as if Earth Really Mattered) in Gaian Voices Vol 3 No. 3 & 4 (U.S. journal). It was very positive. Then there was an article – PaGaian Cosmology – by Lizi Phillips in a new Pagan journal The Crossroads Issue 3 Litha 2005. that comes out of Canberra. Lizi also did aninterview with me on radio that was distributed to other radio stations throughout Australia. I have also had personal very positive response from Thomas Berry who is one of the main background inspirations, and acknowledged in the book.
Where in the world are you?
Yes I am interested in being involved in what you have set up with pagaian.org … and so is my partner – we are immersed in a lifestyle that we understand as congruent with our perceived PaGaian Cosmology. And some of that is described in the book.
Thank you for the manner of your approach, and hopefully we will have a happy creative synergy … what Gaia seems to be about! One of the main references for my work has been the work of Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry in The Universe Story and also Elisabet Sahtouris in Earthdance … these have been my main sources of awareness and knowledge of Gaia’s story.
Looking forward to further Creativity
Rob continues: I was amazed at the friendly and open tone of the reply. Since then, Glenys and I have been in regular contact, and she has decided to make her work available on-line. In the meantime, I have taken delivery of Glenys’s book which I have just finished reading. Many of the ideas in the book have been inspired by the writings of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, who in turn have been influenced by scholars such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin .
Having read Glenys’s book, I am now convinced that there is more than enough material available that will enable us to form a cohesive, ‘open source’ spiritual framework called ‘Pagaianism’. It is going to be a huge task to complete, and we shall need a lot of help. I have great hopes that through a process of global collaboration we can come together and discuss what should be done. Pagaian.org should be online before the end of may, and I hope to include a discussion forum that will enable all interested parties to get involved in the process.
Watch this space.