The only truly natural and real human unity is the spirit of the Earth.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The noosphere can be seen as the “sphere of human thought” being derived from the Greek (“nous”) meaning “mind” in the style of “atmosphere” and “biosphere”. In the original theory of Vernadsky, the noosphere is the third in a succession of phases of development of the Earth, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). The word is also sometimes used to refer to a transhuman consciousness emerging from the interactions of human minds. This is the view proposed by the theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin became enthralled with the possibilities for humankind, which he saw as heading for an exciting convergence of systems, an “Omega point” where the coalescence of consciousness will lead us to a new state of peace and planetary unity. Long before ecology was fashionable, he saw this unity as being based intrinsically upon the spirit of the Earth.
To this end, he suggested that the Earth in its evolutionary unfolding, was growing a new organ of consciousness, called the noosphere. The noosphere is analogous on a planetary level to the evolution of the cerebral cortex in humans. The noosphere is a “planetary thinking network” — an interlinked system of consciousness and information, a global net of self-awareness, instantaneous feedback, and planetary communication. At the time of his writing, computers of any merit were the size of a city block, and the Internet was, if anything, an element of speculative science fiction. Yet this evolution is indeed coming to pass, and with a rapidity, that in Gaia time, is but a mere passage of seconds. In these precious moments, the planet is developing her cerebral cortex, and emerging into self-conscious awakening. We are indeed approaching the Omega point that Teilhard de Chardin was so excited about. This convergence however, though it was predicted to occur through a global information network, was not a convergence of merely minds or bodies — but of heart, a point that he made most fervently.
Teilhard de Chardin passed away a full ten years before James Lovelock ever proposed the “Gaia Hypothesis” which suggests that the Earth is actually a living being, a colossal biological super-system. Yet Chardin’s writings clearly reflect the sense of the Earth as having its own autonomous personality, and being the prime center and director of our future — a strange attractor, if you will — that will be the guiding force for the synthesis of humankind.
The noosphere represents a major evolutionary alteration of human consciousness. This is a shift from atomized individual consciousness to the consciousness of a vast single entity, what might be referred to as the collective telepathic field of planet Earth.
Now there are some interesting parallels between this integration of humanity and the integration which occurred at earlier stages of evolution. If we go back and consider the emergence of life from matter, we find that the simplest bacteria contain several billion atoms. The figure shown here of ten billion is only a very approximate figure – whether its 2 billion, 5 billion or 20 billion doesn’t really matter. But it seems necessary to bring together approximately this number of atoms in order to create the complexity necessary for them to become a living system.
Similarly, if we look at the next leap in evolution, the evolution of intelligent consciousness, we find it again takes several billion nerve cells linked together in the human brain to produce the reflective consciousness characteristic of humanity – though again the figure is not meant to be exact.
Now, if this turns out to be a general principal of evolution, it would suggest that the next stage – the linking of humanity into an integrated system – would involve the working together of a similar number of minds – and indeed the human population has already reached this level.
Considering Earth as a whole system, we must now take responsibility for the thoughts we create that charge the mental field or thinking layer of the Earth with the actual causes for everything that ails us and the planet today. Not only must we take responsibility for our own thoughts, we must also realize the relativity of our thinking and our assumptions in relation to everybody else’s thinking and assumptions – and perhaps rethink our whole program. If we could see our species-wide thinking layer as a sphere covering the whole planet we would see it as a faulty patchwork web, politically, religiously and ideologically divided, morally obtuse, saturated by the effects of profit making greed – and anything but unified. It is the wildly inconsistent and incoherent play of forces within this thinking layer, the noosphere, that perpetuates and propels the political, religious, nationalistic and corporate decision making that shapes the everyday world. Until we truly become conscious of it, it will remain out of control and continue to wreak havoc on the biosphere.
As more humans slowly come to terms with the fact that our thinking is the root of the destruction of the world, the noosphere comes that much closer to becoming conscious. But first it must go through an intermediate phase – the cybersphere. As the externalization of the noosphere into an electronic network, the cybersphere is the virtual nervous system of the planet.
The exteriorization of the noosphere – the planetary thinking layer – first began through the printed medium. Then through the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, computer, fax, PC, cell phone and internet, the homo sapiens exteriorized the thinking layer into the cybersphere, turning it into the virtual noosphere.
The human thinking layer which functions throughout this noospheric envelope as a haphazard mass of unexamined contradictions, now translated into the electronic “noise” of the cybersphere, is obedient only to the laws of historical determinism. But the noosphere is really not a function of historical determinism. It is the potentiality of a kind of mentation -higher vibrational thought processes – that become evident once the historical deterministic lower thinking processes have been exhausted – then there will be an end to noospheric pollution. Beyond that peak moment, the noosphere, latent with its own laws, will manifest in a way inconceivable now. Humanity, for one, will function as a single unitary organism coordinated by a telepathy, until now only virtual and inherent, covered over by mechanistic and technologically artificial mental structures and deeply embedded, historically conditioned emotional processes.
The very notion of the noosphere as a mental sphere indicates a direction of evolution from the physical to the nonphysical, from the material to the mental. To solve our problems we need to raise our intelligence, not develop more technology. And if we cannot raise our own intelligence we must consider whether or not there is some intelligence elsewhere in the universe that might not be capable of responding to our crisis and give us some assistance. Not necessarily material assistance, but assistance in the form of some mental spiritual shock or boost, altering our perceptions radically and causing us to find solutions where before none existed.
By connecting our minds in a unified global consciousness, while we remain individuals, each with an independent mind, we also have the ability to tune in to some psychic voice infused with Gaian consciousness, a voice that does not let us pass up an opportunity to take proper care of the biosphere. What a unified global consciousness implies is that everyone on the planet will be in harmony with this sense of Gaian consciousness.
If every member of our species takes an active role in preventing and correcting assaults on the environment, life on this planet will begin to improve overnight. All that is required is an expanded awareness of the fact that we are simply parts of a much larger whole. It is time for our species to realize that the Earth is not here solely for our use and enjoyment. We are here to serve as Gaia’s most sophisticated tools, which have evolved for purposes we have not yet fully discovered.
Most sophisticated tools, which have evolved for purposes we have not yet fully discovered. Expanding the consciousness of our entire species is a tall order, indeed. It may even require magic. Fortunately, we live in magical times.
The planet is some kind of organized intelligence. It’s very different from us. It’s had 5- or 6-billion years to create a slow moving mind that is made of oceans, and rivers, and rainforests, and glaciers. It’s becoming aware of us, as we are becoming aware of it, strangely enough. Two less likely members of a relationship can hardly be imagined-the technological apes and the dreaming planet. And yet, because the life of each depends on the other, [we have] a feeling towards this immense, strange, wise, old, neutral, weird thing, and it is trying to figure out why its dreams are so tormented and why everything is out of balance.— Terence McKenna