Book Review by Susan Meeker-Lowry, Earth-lover, herbalist, organic gardener, published author: published in GAIAN VOICES Journal, Vol. 3 No. 3 & 4, 2005.
PaGaian Cosmology, subtitled Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, is a wonderful new book. PaGaian, Livingstone explains, “expresses a reclaiming of the term ‘Pagan’ as meaning a person who dwells in the ‘country’, yet with ‘Gaian’ spliced in, it expresses a renewed and contemporary understanding of that ‘country’”. What I love about this book is exactly that — the integration of Gaia and cosmology into Earth-based spirituality, which I feel is lacking in many more traditional Pagan/Goddess approaches. The elements are there, of course, and the connection to the Earth, but that sense of expansion, of deep belonging, and the magnificence of the New Story (to quote Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, both of whom have greatly influenced Livingstone) which brings in the Universe and the Cosmos is often missing. As Livingstone expresses in the Introduction, “Plants grow better with a depth of soil. So it is with humans: a perception of the organic depth of being, inclusive of Origins of the Universe, enables a being to flourish.”
The research and experiences that inform this book took place over a period of years and involved the author as well as a core group of women who helped create and participate in rituals which, Livingstone suggests, “may be the human conscious response to the announcements of the Universe — an act of conscious participation . . . a human-size replication of the Drama, the Dynamic we find ourselves in.”
The first three chapters lay some groundwork, helping the reader to understand and connect with Gaia, Gaia Theory, Cosmogenesis (the unfolding of the Universe which is ongoing and in which everything/everyone participates), Goddess religion and “Re-Storying Goddess”. Chapter Four, “Cosmogenesis and the Female Metaphor” is a pivotal chapter in which Livingstone translates the more scientific language of cosmogenesis into a poetic and metaphorical Goddess-inspired story. I remember years ago being so enthralled with the way Thomas Berry expressed himself in The Dream of the Earth that I read it out loud just to hear the words. Then it struck me that not everyone would necessarily get what he was saying. What to me read like poetry would perhaps need to be translated into a more metaphorical language to reach more people. A great job, indeed!
The rest of the book is devoted to ritual, starting with the “PaGaian Wheel of the Year” (Livingstone uses southern hemisphere dates so Samhain, for instance, is April 30) and moving into “celebrating the creative dynamic”. Livingstone has evolved the rituals and “scripts” over the years “as a means to embody this Wholly Creative Dynamic — to get with Gaia’s ‘plot’ as I see it.” They can be used as is, adapted a bit, or seen as merely suggestive — a guideline for your own creativity. I usually resist ritual scripts, but I like that Livingstone has integrated Gaian sensibilities, so they resonate.
The book concludes with nine appendices which include “Thomas Berry’s Twelve Principles of a Functional Cosmology”, “Teachings for Sabbat Rituals”, and a great Winter Solstice song, “PaGaian Joy to the World” sung to the tune of “Joy to the World” (“Joy to the World, the Light returns, Let All receive Her Love.” PaGaian Cosmology is a deep, awesome book. There’s nothing quite like it, at least not that I’ve seen. It’s well-researched and footnoted as well as accessible, fun, and inspiring. I highly recommend it! Available through booksellers or from iUniverse.