Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation

by Sean Kelly

224 pages / 14 February 2021 / 9781947544284


We are living in end times. With climate chaos, an accelerating mass extinction, and signs of civilizational collapse, the Earth community is being drawn into a planetary near-death experience (NDE). These end times, however, also mark the threshold of new planetary identity in the making. Drawing on an impressive range of scholarship from such fields as Big history, comparative religion, transpersonal psychology, and integral philosophies, Sean Kelly reveals the features of this new identity and invites us to consciously participate in its making. Guided by the ideal of Gaia as “concrete universal,” Kelly offers compelling insights on the nature of an emerging world spirituality that some describe as a second Axial Age; on the elements of a complex-integral ethics for the Planetary Era; and on the role of the death/rebirth archetype for understanding the charged field of contemporary climate activism. The book culminates with an inspiring meditation on the possibility, in these end times, of a third way beyond both hope and despair. In contrast to the restrictive anthropocentrism and technocentrism of mainstream discourse around the Anthropocene, Kelly speaks instead of the Gaianthropocene as our new geological epoch. It is an epoch where, even and especially as we face the fires of planetary initiation, we can awaken to our deeper nature as living members of Gaia, the living Earth in and through whom we have our being.

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Praise for Becoming Gaia:

“As we convulse our way into irreversible anthropocenic harm, Becoming Gaia doesn’t let us give up and give in. Even mass extinctions and the possibility of our own do not add up to The End. We are called to face, indeed to embrace, the process as a collective death experience. Like ancient rituals of initiation, of rebirth through fire and water, the dying can–may not but can– lead to a new birth: a new Age of Enlivenment. Uninhibited by the limiting dogmas of some environmentalism, Sean Kelly invites fellow humans beyond optimism and pessimism, to become what we already are: living members of a vibrant Earth. Always both practical and profound, this book pulses and flows with the life of the planet.” -Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology, Drew University. Author of Facing Apocalypse: Climate, Democracy and Other Last Chances and Theology of the Earth: Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public.

Becoming Gaia is a path-breaking book. Drawing together a wide range of creative thought, Sean Kelly offers an engaging vision of an integral ecology for our times. There are few books as comprehensive in reach or compelling in insight. I trust it will inspire reflection and transformation for our urgent task — becoming part of the living Earth community.” -Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, co-author, Journey of the Universe

“This book is an act of love. A reverence for reality underpins the integration of insight from diverse schools of thought. Whether ancient wisdom traditions or the latest science, Sean Kelly weaves together what is salient for our sense-making in times of great anxiety and disruption. In service of our own reconciliation with the predicament we are in, Sean shares the results of that sense-making. Whether you fully agree, or are inspired to find your own philosophical grounding, this book may nourish your journey as an expression of one consciousness, within Gaia, our planetary home.” -Dr Jem Bendell is a Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria (UK) as well as Founder and former coordinator of the Deep Adaptation Forum.

“In Becoming Gaia, Sean Kelly has looked long and hard into the apocalyptic crisis of our time. He has brought all his courage, his rigorous intellect, and his compassionate care to the great task of forging a way to engage that crisis and to live into whatever future will now unfold. One might say that Kelly has taken the great bull of our age by the horns; but instead of doing so with the machismo of the bullfighter, he has looked deeply into its eyes, come into relationship with it, revealed its interior soul. With the aid of his major mentors and a pantheon of personal influences whom he lovingly invokes, he ends the book on an almost ecstatic note, setting forth the high spiritual vision that inspires him through the present darkness. Kelly has written a new De Consolatione Philosophiae for our time, a work both deeply learnéd and deeply confessional.” -Richard Tarnas

About the Author

Sean Kelly is professor of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). He is the author of Coming Home: The Birth and Transformation of the Planetary Era, co-editor of The Variety of Integral Ecologies: Nature, Culture, and Knowledge in the Planetary Era, and co-translator of Edgar Morin’s Homeland Earth: A Manifesto for the New Millennium. Along with his academic work, Sean teaches t’ai chi and is a facilitator of the group process Work that Reconnects developed by Joanna Macy.


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