Kees Zoeteman is the Netherlands' Deputy Director-General for Environmental Protection at the Dutch Ministry of the Environment. He has written a fascinating book called Gaiasofie - published in 1989 and translated into English two years later as Gaia-Sophia (Floris Books, Edinburugh, 1991) or Gaiasophy (1991; Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY) .
Using the study of ancient myth and spiritual traditions (Plato, Kepler, Goethe, and especially anthroposophy) regarding the earth's origin, Kees argues that ecology needs to be supplemented by "gaiasophy," which he defines as "the knowledge and wisdom of the living earth." He argues that until we fully understand the spiritual, as well as the physical, anatomy of the earth, we shall not be in a position to address the various environmental and social questions posted by the ecological crisis. The earth is a mirror of humanity as human beings are a mirror of the earth, and a deeper understanding of Gaia can only arise from a deeper understanding of ourselves.
This is an interesting book, with much to agree with, and also much to disagree with. In many respects Kees comes from a fairly rigid anthroposophical perspective, but it is interesting the way he applies Steiner's insights to the Gaian paradigm initiated by Dr James Lovelock, the idea that the Earth is a single interconnected superorganism. I would of prefered more on hard science and less on Steiner's baroque and unworkable cosmology, but nevertheless this book presents a fascinating counterpart to Dr Lovelock's hypothesis. The two actually form a complement - Lovelock is strong in hard science, weak in metaphysics; Zoeteman (when he follows Steiner) is weak in hard science (although at least he is somewhat questioning about some of the more extreme anthroposophical hypotheses, in contrast to someone like, say Poppelbaum, who accepts it all uncritically), strong in metaphysics. The book is at its most fascinating and profound when dealing with human society and town planning, and the way that human dwellings and landscapes reflect on a macroscopic scale the human organism. This same microcosm-macrocosm equivalence is also earlier applied, to the Earth as a whole, with interesting, but rather more limited and dubious results. The main shortcoming of this work is firstly the stifling effect that a rigid application of Steiner's simplistic classifications always has when applied to something as infinitely rich and multifaceted as the natural world; and secondly the absurd implications of Steiner's ridiculously brief time-scale.
In spite of its weaknesses, I like this book, or rather, I like Zoeteman's approach, and I feel we need more people like him. But ultimately, one has to construct one's own cosmology and evolutionary theory, as both the too-rigid materialistic, and the too-rigid esoteric (tgheosophical-anthroposophical-new age) perspectives are each one-sided
|Books and Links|
Middle Earth in the Balance - from an interview with Kees Zoeteman - November 19, 1997,
C3: Building a Coalition for Cooperation and Change - Kees Zoetmann is on the Green Plan Leadership Program Advisors