Imagining the Dragon in the Anthropocene: A Vision of Embryogenesis
The conflicting relationship between humans and the environment impacts on all biological life. Our actions since the Industrial Revolution have had serious consequences on the planet’s health. This dissertation highlights the dangers of anthropocentrism, as originating within the inherited frameworks of institutionalised religion and perpetuated by the globalised culture of consumer-capitalism. Perspectives in deep ecology can enhance human connections to the environment through recognising the importance of developing biocentrism as opposed to anthropocentrism. This dissertation presents a comparative analysis of three texts spanning from the fifth to the first centuries BC. These texts in translation depict revelatory visions of the divine, echoing the imagery and symbolism of earlier cross-cultural creation myth: of the cosmic egg, the ouroboros, chariots, wheels and the mythical figure of the dragon. An analysis of literary depictions of the divine highlights the critical role of the imagination in providing a space free from anthropocentric thinking, which is essential for the survival of our species. Darwin’s eighteenth century poem, ‘The Economy of Vegetation’, is also evocative of these ideas. Darwin depicts the birth of the cosmos in accordance with creation myths of the ancient Near East and classical antiquity. A comparative analysis of imagery and symbolism in this literature reveals the continued relevance of its common theme, imagery and symbolism surrounding ecological interconnectivity and the mythical figure of the dragon. This dissertation refers to the dragon-earth metaphor, which is based on the analogy of the earth to an embryonic dragon. It does so in an attempt to heal the wound between nature and culture in highlighting the important connections between the human psyche and the living environment. It explores the role of the imagination in developing environmental philosophies in order to reconceive of the human relationship with the planet, with consideration of the anima mundi.
Ezekiel’s ‘Vision of the Divine Chariot’
Comparative Symbolism of the Dragon: The Cherubim and the Long 龙………………… 17
Plato’s ‘The Other World’ and ‘The Winged Soul’
Underworlds and Immortality: Tartarus, Chi and Cosmic Morphology…………………… 26
Qu Yuan’s Poetry
Dragon Chariots and the House of Life: Serpents, Eggs and Rhizomes…………………… 38
Darwin’s ‘The Economy of Vegetation’
From Dragon Teeth to Godzilla: A Vision of Cosmic Birth……………………………….. 49
Online articles and websites………………………………………………………………... 75
Appendix (Source Text)……………………………………………………………………..78
Imagining the Dragon in the Anthropocene: A Vision of Embryogenesis
Intersections between Myth and Ecology
The Earth is a self-organising process of astounding complexity and achievement. It’s a matter of intimacy: the closer we get to an understanding of the dynamism of the integral Earth, the more obvious it becomes that the four and a half billion years of terrestrial evolution resembles one vast embryogenesis. Something is developing, hatching, unfolding, and we are the self-reflexive mind and heart of the whole numinous process.
The figure of the dragon functions as a visual metaphor that breathes life into the interconnected ecological systems and layers of geological strata which constitute the planetary body. This dissertation aims to locate and resituate modern human identity in relation to the needs of the environment. It investigates connections between the re-envisaging of the world in holistic terms and the literary imagination as it emerges across cultures. This dissertation uses a comparative approach to highlight cross-cultural commonalities in ancient symbols and images associated with creation myth and literary depictions of divine visions. Literature of the ancient world suggests that our ancestors possessed an intuitive awareness about the importance of the planet’s ecological wellbeing. The ancient wisdom of anima mundi surpasses modern science in offering ways to transfer theory into practice and to convert ecological knowledge into new paradigms, ideologies and environmentally-friendly lifestyles. This investigation attempts to raise awareness about ecological issues by highlighting key environmentalist philosophies which call for the need to embrace biocentrism and shed the skin of anthropocentrism.
Myths emerge from our interactive engagements with the landscape. Myth making reveals the importance of the imagination in creating stories which inform our sense of identity and self. The visualisation of earth as an embryonic dragon is more than a visual metaphor. It represents the rediscovery of the complex dynamism between the collective human psyche and the landscape. Haugen refers to this process of rediscovery as an awakening of the ‘planetary imagination’. Haugen argues that the planet is ‘suffused in psyche [and] expresses itself through the visionary human imagination. It is this conjoining of the human imagination with the Earth psyche that I call “planetary imagination”’. Haugen’s definition of ‘planetary imagination’ is central to this dissertation. The dragon reveals the unfurling of the human spirit into the anima mundi. In imagining the dragon in the Anthropocene, we can reenvision ourselves in a new holistic light that reflects the evolution of our planet in line with animist philosophy. The development of environmental perspectives are necessary to ensure the survival of our species.
Throughout the twentieth century many scientists expressed concern about the trajectory of the human species in the context of an ineluctable climate crisis. Lovelock identifies a handful of scientists who had their warnings about climate change ignored by politicians of the last century. Scientists in the twentieth century witnessed the accumulation of data demonstrating the extent of the approaching environmental shift. This evidence suggests that as we journey further into the twenty-first century we approach numerous ‘tipping points’ in which ‘the Earth will move irreversibly to a new hot state’. There are now no excuses for governments to ignore the warnings made by scientists.
Our ancestors understood the planetary landscape in relation to the rhythmical cycles of the natural world. Myths are products of an oral literary tradition. Waterfield and Waterfield suggest that the pervasiveness of archetypal narratives indicates the sustained relevance of their themes within the cultures that reproduce them. They argue that ‘there is no such thing… as the definitive version of any myth; in fact, the more famous a story became, the more versions there were of it’. Myths gain momentum in the cultural imagination as they are retold. Scully asserts that ‘origin stories matter because they inform how we think of ourselves and our place in the universe’. Creation stories have shaped human identity as the basis of our ancestors’ spiritual connection to the natural world and the wider cosmos. Sagan defines myth ‘as a metaphor of some subtlety on a subject difficult to describe in any other way’. A comparative approach towards imagery and symbolism in both written literature and myths that originated in oral cultures enhances one’s understanding of the fundamental forces that shaped human identity. The imagination functions as a space free from the normal cognitive channels and networks associated with external phenomena perceived through the senses. The mind processes metaphors and analogies which brings ideas to life in abstract, dream-like ways.
Midgley and Haugen write about the importance of the imagination in assisting with the development of one’s own Gaian thinking. Midgley argues that ‘Gaian thinking can help us develop more holistic understanding of ourselves, our organisations, and the needs of our habitat’. Haugen writes about Gaian thinking in relation to Berry’s notion that individual humans are ‘participants in a communion of subjects rather than the ultimate achievement of the cosmos’. These perspectives cast anthropocentrism aside in their willingness to embrace biocentrism. Midgley and Haugen acknowledge that human life is not central to the continuance of all life in the cosmos. The human species has become a self-destructive force in destroying its own habitat. Gaian thinking enables a swift realisation of the structures and processes by which life-forms develop and interact: the rhizomatic not the arborescent; the circular not the linear. Haugen speaks of the need to ‘attune human consciousness to the Gaian psyche’. She argues that this engagement with the anima mundi or the ‘planetary imagination’ is ‘revealed in the… creative works of planetary imagineers’. The imagination is a vital tool that facilitates new technologies and new perspectives which may lead to new socio-cultural paradigms that prioritise the needs of the environment above the commercial. The imagination provides a visionary space where we can engage in analogous-systems thinking in order to develop new ideas on social infrastructure and technology with the intention of facilitating a symbiotic relationship between society and the environment. There is hope that in the future our lifestyles will meet both the planet’s needs as well as our own. But in order to achieve this we must embrace the biocentric worldview and envisage the planet in the light of the anima mundi.
Haugen draws attention to Berry’s notion of an ensouled earth; that the planet expresses a corporal consciousness in its subterranean connections and networks. This hidden animism resonates with Berry’s suggestion that “the earth carries the psychic structure as well as the physical form of every being upon the planet”. Like the dragon, the earth is a composite body formed of various interlinking systems and ecological networks. An awareness of the need to maintain the health of the planet’s interconnected systems and rich biodiversity teaches us of the fundamental importance of connections between different life-forms and between life-forms and their habitats. Recognising the reciprocity between biological life and the environment is central to the development of Gaian thinking. Harding refers to Capra’s definition of “systems-thinking” as initiating a shift in ‘our focus from objects to processes and relationships [and] from hierarchies to networks’. In appreciating the planetary body from a Gaian perspective it is possible to reenvision the living planet holistically with its systems, cycles and diverse life-forms analogously with our own bodies. This dissertation draws from a variety of literary and theoretical texts spanning a wide range of time periods in order to highlight the prevalence of cross-cultural themes relating to intersections between myth and ecology, which inform the dragon-earth metaphor. It highlights intertextual connections through its comparative approach towards creation myth and literature concerning the depiction of divine visions and revelation and the cultures in which they were produced.
In his metaphysical poetry, Donne speaks about the planetary body in analogous terms with his own. He refers to ‘all the veins in our bodies [as] rivers… the sinews [as] veins of mines… the muscles that lie upon one another [as] hills, and all the bones [as] quarries of stones’. Anderson highlights the way in which Donne uses analogy to ‘meditate on the traditional relation of the human microcosm to the universal macrocosm’. The limited knowledge of human physiology in the seventeenth century is almost comparable to twentieth century knowledge in ecology. Almost four centuries later, Lovelock declares that he speaks ‘as a planetary physician whose patient, the living Earth, complains of fever... [It is] only when we think of our [planet as] alive can we see... why farming abrades the living tissue of its skin and why pollution is poisonous’. Human civilisation suffers from a schizophrenia, comparable for Lovelock with ‘that schizoid pair, Mr Hyde and Dr Jekyll; we have the capacity for disastrous destruction but also the potential to found a magnificent civilisation’. The socio-cultural schizophrenia of human civilization is the result of dualistic thinking. It is necessary to adopt holistic perception and analogous-systems thinking in all fields of knowledge in order to appreciate quite literally, the big picture; of biological life as embedded in and inseparable from the planetary body.
This dissertation adopts a comparative approach which highlights intertextuality as a valid method for the comparison of images and symbols within literary texts and their parent cultures. It will present the primary texts in chronological order, highlighting the development of human thought on a variety of esoteric topics. The chronological structure forms the framework of this dissertation. It uses interdisciplinary methods to paint a cohesive picture of the dragon-earth embryo from environmental philosophy to consciousness studies and theology. Huxley writes extensively on the dragon as a figure that has ‘haunted the childhood of the human race [with]… its power to suggest that there is an immortal self in all things’. In folkloric legend, biblical myth and the poetical imagination, the dragon embodies the primal energy in nature, which also reveals the hidden umbilical cord between the human psyche and the planetary landscape from which we emerged like infinitesimal bacteria, parasites, or reproduction cells on an embryonic creature.
The anti-paganist policy of Theodosius in the fourth century AD, established Christianity as an institution that crushed animistic spiritualties under the weight of its dogmatic hierarchical structure. The oppression of pagan religions allowed for capitalism and the contemporary consumerist culture to gain momentum in the Occident. Anthropocentrism replaced the anima mundi. White claims that the cause of the environmental crisis is traceable to the hegemonic structures within institutionalised religion. White argues that ‘the victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture’. Similarly, Lovelock identifies Gray as recognising anthropocentric ideologies as emerging from within the ‘Christian and humanist infrastructure’ established two millennia ago.
There have been recent resurgences in environmentally-conscious movements and ideas. This stirring of the anima mundi owes its renaissance to individuals such as Jung, White, Carson, Lovelock, Midgley, Naess, Berry and Swimme, who, among many others, have pioneered new perspectives on the human place within the environment across a wide range of academic disciplines. These individuals have inspired others to develop perspectives in environmental philosophy and deep ecology. Harding and Haugen develop these perspectives. They demonstrate how holistic thinking performs as a cultural adhesive in uniting the epistemological fields from psychology, cosmology and consciousness studies to the arts and sciences.
The seeds of anthropocentrism were sewn in Genesis with God’s instruction to Adam and Eve to ‘have dominion’ over all other biological life. This creed, along with Aristotle’s idea of the Great Chain of Being, empowered Western anthropocentrism in that it provided a moral justification for mankind’s supremacy over non-human life. White argues that ‘Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen’. The institutionalisation of Christianity later legitimised the imperialist venture which oversaw the shameful exploitation and enslavement of non-white humans. Midgley also regards the ‘Orthodox Christian doctrine’ as the primary cause of the human separation from animistic perception. Despite this acknowledgement, capitalist attitudes continue to alienate us from the natural world.
It is the aim of this dissertation to build on current environmentalist perspectives in rediscovering a mislaid animism in the ancient myths that shaped original human cultures. Its purpose is to initiate a shift away from consumer-capitalist ideology towards the realisation that we are a part of the natural world and that our actions have environmental consequences. We humans must overcome our anthropocentrism in order to ensure the reawakening of anima mundi. This shift in perception is essential for human survival. It begins with an engagement in the myths and symbols of the ancient world. Through ancient myths we can access the collective cultural imagination of our ancestors. Tucker and Grim declare that we must break from our ‘egocentric perspectives and short-sighted needs’. Midgley writes about the ‘profound implications’ of Lovelock’s Gaia Theory. She posits that his idea ‘challenges us to re-examine the foundations of our relationship with each other and with the planetary system of which we are part’. It is necessary to develop objective perception in order to re-perceive the planetary system holistically as opposed to valuing only its component parts. Mechanistic thinking blinds us to the broader ecological reality in which we live. Government initiatives to become carbon neutral by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is one method through which we can create more sustainable lifestyles. In exploring these environmental issues through a range of eco-philosophical perspectives it appears that the singular evolution of the planetary body mirrors the biological process of morphogenesis or embryogenesis on a greater level of scale and complexity than that of the earthly animalian embryo.
This dissertation will explore the central role of the imagination in creating a visual dragon-earth metaphor that empowers us through the reanimation of the ‘non-living’ planet. This act may help us avoid the worst of the approaching environmental crisis. The demands on human civilisation to adapt and change its behaviour have not yet been fully comprehended by international leaders, else surely more action would have been taken. It will investigate cross-cultural symbolism and imagery relating to the dragon, visions of God and creation mythology. It will present a close textual analysis of three texts from across the ancient world and it will compare these texts with Darwin’s Enlightenment era poem, ‘The Economy of Vegetation’, taken from The Botanic Garden. This dissertation provides a vision of the planet as alive through an imaginative engagement with the landscape and its living occupants. The intersections between myth and ecology reveal how stories emerged from the landscape itself, providing a method for the documentation of plants and animals encountered in specific geographical regions. Doty argues that myths exist in the ‘imaginative rather than the historical… Mythos came into Latin as fabula… [meaning] “fable” and “fabulous”… Now the emphasis is purely upon the poetic, inventive aspects of mythological creations’. The dragon-earth metaphor is particularly poetic because its emergence coincides with the dawning threat of environmental catastrophe. The dragon-earth metaphor can renew our appreciation for the uroboric powers in nature. Nature created us but can equally destroy us with a whip of its jewel-studded tail.
This dissertation explores the relationship between mankind’s dual creative and self-destructive nature, the human separation from the spiritual landscape, the division of mind from matter; of spirit from body and of culture from nature. These texts have been analysed in translation and this could account for some similarities in their depictions of divine beings and shared symbols such as chariots, wheels, eggs and shells. Darwin depicts a vision of divine creation and the unfolding of the cosmos according to the myths and philosophies of ancient antiquity and contemporaneous knowledge in science and ecology. It is important to acknowledge that these classical civilisations were born out of an existing culture inherited from ancient Egypt and other ancient Near Eastern cultures. It is necessary to look back, as the Romantics did, to ancient visions of God.
Ezekiel’s ‘Vision of the Divine Chariot’
Comparative Symbolism of the Dragon: The Cherubim and the Long 龙
The Book of Ezekiel was written in the sixth century BC. The opening chapter depicts the prophet in exile, whilst living in Babylon on the banks of the river Chebar. The opening verses reveal Ezekiel’s ‘Vision of the Divine Chariot’ and God’s accompanying guards, the cherubim. The cherubim are described as having ‘four faces, and each one [having] four wings’. The cherubim represent a variety of earthly creatures: a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. This amalgamative form expresses something akin to Haugen’s notion of ‘planetary imagination’, which results from the fusion ‘of the human imagination with the Earth psyche’. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, seraphim are the highest ranking angels; cherubim the second and ophanim the third. Cherubim and seraphim share certain characteristics with the prototypical long in Chinese mythology. Their composite bodies reveal an amalgamation of earthly creatures. Similar amalgamative creatures appear in the composite creatures of seventeenth century Mughal art.
It is important to acknowledge the similarities between the cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision and the prototypical Chinese long, as outlined by Zhijian in his comparison of Eastern and Western conceptions of the dragon. The creature’s four faces are compound parts of its whole body. This amalgamation is comparable with Zhijian’s comments on the definition of the prototypical dragon in Chinese mythology. Zhijian defines the long ‘as a symbol of the Chinese nation… formed by an amalgamation of the images of the snake and various other animals, which gave the long its body, its four legs, it’s horse’s mane, hyena’s tail, deer’s horns, dog’s claws, and fish’s scales and feelers’. Zhijian refers to the The Classic of Mountains and Seas, which ‘tells of divine beings who had human heads and snake’s bodies. These beings were the prototypes of the Long’. The long’s status as a divine being resonates with descriptions of God’s heavenly guards in The Old Testament. Both the cherubim and the long can fly and have a physiological association with fire and water and are formed of an amalgamation of earthly creatures.
Each face of the cherubim represents a different species. Through repetition characteristic of Scriptural text, Ezekiel emphasises his opinion that the amalgamative appearance of the cherubim resembles ‘a living creature’. Ezekiel describes its corporeality as though seeing into another dimension whose reality is incomprehensible to the human senses. On this inaccessibility, Ward argues that ‘if God is indescribable by us, it is because God is a reality of greater, not lesser, intelligibility, beauty, and bliss than any we can imagine’. In Burmese Folk Tales, Htin Aung highlights that the dragon was ‘often depicted, not with a serpent body, but with a crocodile body’. Htin Aung highlights the transformative capabilities of the crocodile in the Burmese imagination. The Burmese naga, a water deity similar to the Chinese long, was worshipped and could transform into any other living form. Htin Aung argues ‘that the Naga and the Crocodile in the folk-mind are related’. He points out that the Burmese ‘Rain Cloud tales were originally connected with the Naga legends’. Mythical creatures are conceived within the human imagination but perhaps they owe their cross-cultural similarities to the predatory animals on which they are based. The serpent and the crocodile both represent mortal danger and reveal a primitive reptilian form. According to Jung, the dragon ‘represents the inhuman, cold-blooded part of our psychology’. Ancient cultures around the world have revered the dragon in relation to natural phenomena from personifications of volcanic activity in Iceland to ancient snake-worshipping cults in China. Zhijian highlights how in China ‘the long’s snake predecessor with its human head was a god and a totem to be worshipped’.
The cherubim’s faces front the four cardinal directions. This echoes God’s decision to appoint cherubim to guard the gates to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. The presence of the cherubim at the gates of Eden is somewhat reminiscent of the treasure guarding dragon motif in oral and literary traditions. Zhijian speaks of the west’s reinvention of the dragon as often ‘fabled to have somehow amassed huge amounts of treasures which it guards against us humans’. Darwin also alludes to the treasure guarding dragon:
So, borne on brazen talons, watch’d of old, | The sleepless dragon o’er his fruits of gold; | Bright beamed his scales, his eye-balls blazed with ire, | And his wide nostrils breath’d inchanted fire.
Darwin’s ‘sleepless dragon’ could be a metaphor for perpetual cycles in the natural world, captured symbolically in the ouroboros. God appoints mankind as steward in Eden ‘to dress it and to keep it’. The dragon therefore usurped humanity as caretaker of the planet. We humans see greater value in resources as commodities as opposed to resources in their natural place. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia in madness declares, ‘O how the wheel becomes it. It is the false steward that stole his master’s daughter’. Ophelia’s reference to the ‘wheel’ is evocative of the cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth. The wheel too represents the inevitability of mankind’s self-destruction. Shakespeare’s ‘false steward’ represents mankind who has stolen God’s ‘daughter’, symbolising the sacred planet. Stewardship is a problematic concept in relation to anthropocentrism. Stewardship presumes that humans are the only species capable of managing the planet’s ecosystems when in reality many species perform roles which benefit and even comprise ecological systems such as the hippopotami in the Okavango delta in Botswana, Africa. Our failure as environmental stewards results in the further separation of culture from nature. As we continue to destroy the environment we disconnect further from the ancient wisdom of the past.
The dragon’s omnipresence across the ancient world indicates the dragon to be more than a symbol. It is more than a product of our individual imagination for it seems to have emerged from the collective cross-cultural imagination that crucially also connects us to the natural world. The dragon represents the power of the imagination within the human psyche and embodies our lost connection to the anima mundi.
Ezekiel’s vision begins with a declaration by the assumed author of the text: ‘I was among the captives by the river of Chebar … [when] the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God’. Ezekiel describes the ‘whirlwind… a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself’. This sense of simultaneous expansion and inward folding is similar to the way in which Darwin describes the unfolding of the cosmos and the emergence of life on earth as ‘expanding foliage in its scaly rind... And all my world of foliage wave, alive’. It is through the imagination that we may reconnect with the anima mundi in rediscovering a sense of the wonder within the universe and a reverence for its animism and creativity. The cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision are presented as being ‘the colour of amber’ and emerge ‘out of the midst of the fire’. Their affiliation with fire is suggestive of the dragon. Ezekiel tells us that ‘their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps… out of the fire went forth lightning’. This imagery resonates with Darwin’s description of ‘the flying-chariot through the fields of air’. Darwin’s imagery conjures a sense of biblical apocalypse that resonates with the cosmic unfolding alluded to by Swimme, Berry and Haugen:
Flash follows flash, and flame-wing’d circles turn; | Blue serpents sweep along the dusky air... Red rockets rise, loud cracks are heard on high, | And showers of stars rush headlong from the sky, | Burst, as in silver lines they hiss along, | And the quick flash unfolds the gazing throng.
Similarly, Ezekiel captures the apocalyptic in describing the ‘rings’, or rims, of the wheels as being ‘so high and dreadful’ and ‘full of eyes’. These wheels are ophanim, whose eyes signify wisdom and watchfulness over all earthly life to ensure the enactment of God’s will. The wheels, like the eternal ouroboros in their continuous cyclical motion, symbolise the regenerative phoenix-like abilities in nature. Ezekiel describes the ‘firmament upon the heads of the living creatures… as the colour of…terrible crystal’ and through it, the appearance of God’s ‘sapphire stone’ throne. God is described as immersed in ‘the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire’ enclosed by ‘brightness round about’. Ezekiel describes the movement of the cherubim and its accompanying wheels as part of the same machinery – or celestial body. Ezekiel tells us that ‘whithersoever the spirit was to go, they [the wheels] went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels’. This description is similar to Plato’s image of the human soul as a chariot led by a team of horses: ‘The earthly body of which it takes control seems to move itself, but that is the effect of the soul, and the whole unit of soul and body conjoined is called a “living creature”… The supreme leader in the heavens is Zeus. He goes at the head, in a winged chariot’. Plato’s emphasis on the soul as a ‘living creature’ bears similarity to Ezekiel’s own repetition of ‘living creature’. Ezekiel declares: ‘this is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar; and I knew they were cherubim’. The repetition of ‘living creature’ emphasises the sense of revelation within his vision; that his vision exceeds the imaginal realm. The cherubim are portrayed as being real living creatures from another realm, another celestial dimension; that they are divine in the same sense that the planet is sacred in the light of the principles of anima mundi.
Water plays a central role in the elemental forces that compose the cherubim’s body. Ezekiel recalls how the movement of the wings of the creature made ‘the noise of great waters’. Ezekiel portrays a creature on a greater level of scale, evocative of the dragon-earth metaphor where the planet’s oceans represent the creature’s heart that beats in unison with its wings in flight. Strang writes about the common origin myth in which ‘all living creatures emerge from creative primal waters’. Strang speaks of the ‘hydrotheological cycle’ and how the hydrological cycle provided ancient peoples with ‘cosmological explanations… about water’s creation potential [and] procreation’. Despite this wealth of ancient wisdom and knowledge that once connected us humans to the landscape and facilitated our entanglement in local ecological systems, our recent actions have disturbed the planet’s interconnected ecosystems and further distanced us from nature. The building of hydroelectric dams has deprived wetlands and deltas of nutrients carried in silt by rivers. This puts human habitations along coastline regions at high risk of flooding due to the severe lack of landforms that for millennia were created by the accumulation of silt deposits. Biodiversity is integral to the ecological health of the planet. Lovelock rightly claims that we are now ‘sufficiently aware of the physiology of the Earth to realise the severity of its illness’. Ecological awareness teaches us that we are part of a living system. Human civilisation comprises the intellectual self-reflexivity at the heart of the rhizome; that interconnected web often referred to as the biosphere. As we can see from the rhizome, all living forms are interrelated by a vast seemingly chaotic web or subterranean network pulsating beneath the visible biosphere. Haugen outlines new approaches in environmentalist philosophy which result from the fusion of current disciplines with a core environmentalism that reflects a biocentric model: ‘ecopsychology, deep ecology, ecotheology [and] ecopoetics’. These neologisms aim to resituate traditional knowledge in the context of the environmental crisis. This is an unavoidable context and therefore it must be acknowledged in all disciplines. Haugen builds on Swimme’s ideas in writing about ‘nature poets… geologians, cosmologists [and] deep ecologists… whose work collectively suggests that a planetary psyche expresses itself through visionaries’. We possess intellect, analytical thinking and emotional intelligence to overcome our own anthropocentrism by envisioning alternative ways of being.
The text from Ezekiel reappears in The New Testament. The New Testament borrows many elements from the opening of Ezekiel. The editors outline these appropriations which are mostly symbolic: ‘the precious stones and rainbow… the lightning and thunderous voices emanating from the throne… the sea of crystal... the four multieyed winged beasts and the divine scroll’. The elements of revelation vision are evoked so powerfully in the opening section of Ezekiel that they maintain revelatory significance in the apocalyptic ending of The New Testament. There are subtle nuances between these texts, for instance the ‘bow’ in The Old Testament is a ‘rainbow’ in The New Testament and similarly, the ‘terrible crystal’ firmament is a ‘sea of glass like unto crystal’. Revelation 4.1-5.14 is undoubtedly sourced from Ezekiel in The Old Testament, adopted most likely for its effective style in depicting revelation through a divine vision that engages the reader in an enveloping experience of epiphany in its portrayal of a vision of God. The editors point out that the firmament of ‘terrible crystal’ and the ‘sea of glass’ allude ‘to God’s creative division of the primeval waters in Genesis’. There are also points of comparison between the descriptions of the cherubim in The Old Testament and The New Testament. In Ezekiel 1.4-27, the creatures have four faces. In Revelation 4.1-5.14, the editors highlight that ‘each creature’ represents ‘one of the four faces possessed by Ezekiel’s creatures’. The cherubim are described as ‘beasts’, said to ‘symbolise God’s awesome creation’. The beasts are ‘full of eyes before and behind… the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had the face of a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle’.
In Isaiah, the description of the seraphim is uncannily reminiscent of Ezekiel’s cherubim. The seraphim each have ‘six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly’. Huxley refers to God’s punishment of the Israelites in Numbers for speaking out against him. God sends ‘fiery serpents to bite’ the Israelites then instructs Moses to ‘make thee a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten… shall live’. Huxley relates this passage to the constellation of Draco, which is ‘often figured as a combination of reptile and bird… and is also set on… the Pole of the ecliptic’. Though Huxley acknowledges the little evidence of the ‘pole’ connection between the seraphim and the constellation Draco, he demonstrates how through engaging with mythical accounts of external natural phenomena, one rediscovers long-forgotten aspect of the collective human psyche. The animism and creativity inherent in the natural world is captured poetically in the mythical figure dragon and its cross-cultural precedents, the cherubim and the long.
The cherubim, seraphim and ophanim guard the throne of God in the Judeo-Christian tradition. As an amalgamation of earthly creatures, the corporeal cherubim is undeniably evocative of the planetary system and enhances the dragon-earth metaphor. Prototypical dragons emerged cross-culturally in myths about origins and cosmic procreativity. The dragon rises from the landscape itself as a manifestation of our primitive fears surrounding environmental disaster. The dragon triggers an emotional response of fear in its representational power to cause catastrophic natural phenomena such as in the ancient mythical tales of volcanic eruptions and vast floods. It is therefore appropriate symbolism for the primal self-perpetuating energy found in the natural world.
Plato’s ‘The Other World’ and ‘The Winged Soul’
Underworlds and Immortality: Tartarus, Chi and Cosmic Morphology
Plato communicates concepts which relate to the dragon-earth metaphor in Partenie’s translations of Plato’s myths. Partenie tells us that ‘the souls of gods and men are composite; they are compared to a charioteer with a team of horses’. Plato offers an insight into the mechanisms that govern the movement of the human soul:
Souls patrol the whole universe, taking on different forms at different times. A complete soul – which is to say, one that is winged – journeys on high and controls the whole world, but one that has lost its wings is carried along until it seizes upon something solid.
Plato’s representation of the human soul as malleable and capable of transformation is interesting in relation to the dragon-earth metaphor. This metaphor is based on a visual concept within eco-philosophical thinking on the metamorphosis of the planet which resembles the terrestrial hatching of the planetary, or cosmic egg. This cosmic birth represents the ecomorphological and geomorphological fruition of the anima mundi.
As with the dragon-earth metaphor, Plato’s ideas are informed by myths inherited from the ancient Near East. Partenie summarises Plato’s central idea in her introduction:
Before incarnation as a human, a soul travels in the heavens, like a winged team with its charioteer, in company with the gods, gazing on true reality… Next, weighed down to earth and clad in human flesh, souls enter a variety of life types; they forget what they beheld in the heavens.
Munch offers a revealing insight into speculative metaphysics surrounding the soul’s enfoldment into the planetary body. Munch refers to the ‘neural crest [that] arises at the lateral edge of the neural plate and migrates throughout the embryo to give rise to a wide variety of cell types’. The planet resembles a macrocosmic embryo for its biodiversity mirrors the ‘wide variety of cell types’ on a developing earthly embryo. Munch paraphrases Steiner:
Human beings incarnate by infolding the higher bodies into the physical universe/body, so that, instead of permeating the spiritual worlds, they become enclosed in a little fold into the physical universe. It seems to be a standard procedure within the biological world.
Steiner and Munch argue that this infolding of the human spirit is ‘connected to the morphogenesis’ of the planet; that the neural crest exists in the embryological process throughout ‘the biological world’ and that living organisms at varying levels of scale are subject to the same processes. The analogy of the planet to an unborn creature resonates with our ancient ancestors’ perceptions of the natural world, which was rooted in animism and beliefs founded in pantheism. Ancient creation myths often depict the first deity or god-human hybrid hatching from an egg, an archetypal narrative to which we will return.
In ‘The Other World’, Plato refers to Tartarus, a watery underworld of ‘seas and lakes and rivers and springs’. He explores the issue of perception and its limitations in relation to the vast differences in scale between living things and their environments. This restrictive sensory vision is a symptom of our physical size. Partenie draws attention to this idea in reminding us of Plato’s acknowledgement that we humans see but a ‘tiny fraction of the true world; it is a mere hollow in which we are trapped’. Plato often refers to the ‘true earth’ in all its majestic splendour, revealing a personal connection to the anima mundi, which he accesses by engaging imaginatively with the environment. Plato describes the precious stones, jewels and minerals, which create ‘a patchwork of colours... one continuous multi-coloured surface’. His ‘quasi-scientific’ vision of the watery underworld reflects an animistic perspective in revering the unknown regions of the planet as sacred. In expressing admiration for the variety of earthly life, the beauty in its unity, interconnectedness, vibrancy and cohesive dynamism, Plato highlights the critical role of the imagination in reanimating the landscape. He acknowledges the mysterious primal energy in nature which sustains its uroboric cycles.
Swimme refers to the processes that shape reality as ‘unseen shaping’. He states that ‘atoms and flames, tornados and trees, each presents a centred, unseen, shaping dynamism’. Darwin also alludes to this ‘unseen shaping’ in writing about chemical processes in nature: ‘the royal acid with cobaltic mines | Marks with quick pen, in lines unseen’. In engaging with nature through personification we can reconnect to animistic world-views which permeate the myths of the ancient world in expressing a profound admiration and fear towards the natural elements and forces which continually reshape the landscape, upon which we depend.
The landscape has undergone rigorous despiritualisation throughout the last two millennia, accelerated relatively recently by Descartes’ vision of the mechanistic universe. Harding traces the origin of the ‘mechanistic world-view’ to Descartes, who, ‘on the banks of the Danube… received a vision of the material world as a great machine’. Harding later assures us that ‘Descartes… was projecting, and that his fundamental division of mind from matter was itself a great fantasy’. Harding identifies the Scientific Revolution as a period in which the gulf between humans and their environment widened dramatically due to new approaches in science which were developed by the great thinkers of the age. He mentions Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, all of whom seemed to support the concept of a mechanistic non-living universe.
Burnet undermines the Cartesian notion of a mechanistic universe in his approach which demonstrates an engagement with the imagination in his close textual references to Scripture which he claims to account for periods of geological change. Brooke writes on Burnet’s The Sacred Theory of the Earth and argues that ‘the boundaries [between science and religion] have shifted with time… [That] instead of keeping the spheres of science and the Bible apart, [Burnet] brings them together’. Midgley speaks of the critical task of uniting the spheres of religion and science. She argues that the dichotomy owes its existence to ‘artificial barriers, derived centrally from Descartes’ fence between mind and body’. It is now our task to undo Descartes’ myth of the mechanistic universe. As Midgley points out, this will ‘bring our official scientific beliefs together with our imaginative life’. We must acknowledge that the planet is a complex living organism that operates its own natural processes. Harding details the scientific development of Lovelock’s Gaia Theory and accounts for the evidence that demonstrates how biological life interacts reciprocally with the environment, which results in self-emergent regulation, a feature of all living organisms. Harding also highlights the usefulness in engaging with the imagination in order to envision the planet as alive, with the ultimate aim of shifting anthropocentric thinking towards a more animist perception:
Prospects are bleak unless we can once again relate to the Earth not as a thing or as a machine, but as a strange creature that improvises its own unfolding in the cosmos through the ongoing creativity of evolution and self-transformation.
Swimme also holds this concept in high regard with his notion of an ‘unseen shaping’ dynamism at work in the universe. Swimme argues that ‘we now take our first steps into the planetary and cosmic dimensions of being, moving out of the anthropocentric modern period and into the cosmocentric, unfolding universe’.
Plato too reveals an active engagement with the imagination in portraying the concept of an underworld, which highlights the interconnectivity of water inside the planet. He describes how the planet is full of hollows which are ‘interconnected underground in every direction’. Carson describes the process by which these hollows form in Silent Spring:
Rain, falling on the land, settles down through the pores and cracks in soil and rock… until eventually it reaches a zone where all the pores of the rock are filled with water, a dark, subsurface sea, rising under hills, sinking beneath valleys.
Carson, Burnet, Kircher and Plato describe the planetary body as containing deep hollows and channels. Strang refers to an array of mythical creation deities whose respective roles and appearances denote characteristics reminiscent of the dragon as force of primeval creativity: the Rainbow Serpent of the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime; the Maori ‘water god, Tangaroa’; ‘the Hopi Water Serpent, Paluukong’; ‘the Peublo horned serpent, Awanyu’; ‘the Aztec plumbed serpent, Quetzalcóatl’; the Sumerian Zu and ‘the Creator-Primeval Serpent’ of the Egyptian Pyramid Texts. The many symbolic and imaginal similarities between cross-cultural creation myths and their respective deities implies the extent to which ancient human societies were connected to each other and to the shared landscape. As myths evolved it is likely that these stories formed part of a collective human identity which served to unite ancient civilizations in a common understanding about the nature of God and the divine.
Many creation stories tell of a primordial egg floating in an ocean-like chaos and a winged or feathered serpentine being, embodying both water and fire; symbolising creative and destructive forces. This creature hatches and separates order from primordial ocean-like chaos. The deity then divides the earthly realm and the celestial beyond. Strang states that ‘visions of major rain-bringing deities also made use of the characteristics of water and its movements through the world… Like the eternal Ouroboros, such deities were often serpentine beings, flowing in circular patterns of movement’. She speaks of the ancient deluge myths as representing ‘a return to disorder and chaos’. Similarly, Plato describes the movement of the subterranean rivers in Tartarus as coiling ‘around the earth like serpents’. The comparable symbolism at the heart of these myths suggests they could be manifestations of fears surrounding natural disasters and instincts about the basic need to survive. The need to survive is encapsulated in the hydrological cycle. Water symbolises the dependency of biological life on the environment. Analogously, water is the lifeblood of the planet.
Plato marvels at the visual beauty of the earth and its interconnected systems. He expresses how ‘the earth is composed of… colours more numerous and beautiful than any we have seen’. Such a vision of the planet is undoubtedly informed by an appreciation of the anima mundi or through what Haugen calls the union of ‘the human imagination with the Earth psyche’. The resulting ‘planetary imagination’ brings to mind one of Haugen’s central questions: ‘Is this articulation of planetary imagination mine, or might it be Earth pressing itself into my awareness?’ This question is reminiscent of Thomas’ idea that the creative and destructive aspects of human culture are perhaps necessary in order to achieve certain ‘phase[s] in the morphogenesis of the earth’. Boudaoud defines morphogenesis ‘as a small ball of cells… which in turn grow and fold into the complex form that defines a human being… [The embryo changes] from a formless ball to a functional organism’. The spherical shape of the planet encourages an analogous comparison between the growing animal embryo and the planet itself. Meade refers to ‘Orphic cosmology’ and to the work of Zaidman and Pantel. He offers a fascinating insight into the analogy of the animalian embryo and the planet. He refers to the ‘auric egg’ of mankind and to the ‘Egg of the Universe [which bears an] analogy in the germ-cell whence the human and every other kind of embryo develops’. Harding also appreciates perspectives in analogous-systems thinking. He cites Leopold in recognising the planet as having ‘organs or parts of organs of a coordinated whole’. Harding highlights Leopold’s critical recognition that the process ‘of consumption as replacement’ in ecology is analogous with the metabolic processes within the human body. He argues that it is ‘in our intuitive perceptions we realise the indivisibility of the earth’. According to Leopold, the planet possesses ‘all the visible attributes of a living thing’, but these processes are ‘too big [and] too slow’ for our comprehension. This problem renders analogous-systems-thinking a useful methodological tool that encourages a holistic understanding of the planetary system and our place within it. Midgley argues that ‘every thought-system has at its core a guiding myth, an imaginative vision, which expresses its appeal to the deepest needs of our nature’. Analogous-systems thinking enables a realisation of the comparative physiological similarities between biological life and the ‘non-living’ environment. In this vision, landscape resembles an ensouled corporeal entity. This type of imaginative perception awakens a new aspect of the human psyche and is achieved through an imaginative engagement with the landscape.
The imagination is essential in breaking with Enlightenment principles, which were necessary at the time but are now outdated. Beckett and Gifford highlight the essential role of the imagination in overcoming anthropocentrism: ‘The ethical and aesthetic categories and discourses that have contributed to our alienation from our environment [are] dependent upon an enlargement of our imaginative capacities’. The human imagination is central in the development of science and new technologies and its transformative power should not be underestimated. Midgley argues ‘that the notion of our biosphere as a self-maintaining system… is… scientifically necessary’. She draws attention to Plato’s agreement with the notion that the earth is “a single great living creature”. She highlights the prominent role of the imagination in Gaian thinking and provides insight into the ways in which Gaia Theory can ‘bring back into focus the traditional imaginative vision of a living earth’. Harding cites Plato: “This world is indeed a living being supplied with soul and intelligence… a single visible entity, containing all other living entities”. Along with his contemporaries, Plato undoubtedly subscribed to the notion of the anima mundi. Harding writes about the nature of Plato’s intentions in Timaeus: ‘Plato writes of a divine Creator who had enfolded the laws of mathematics and the beautiful symmetries of geometry into every aspect of the world’.
However, in ‘The Other World’, Plato admits the ineffability of such concepts in arguing that ‘the region beyond heaven has never yet been adequately described in any of our earthly poets’ compositions, nor will it ever be’. He applies mathematical principles of the divine proportion to understand the physical world. Sacred geometry is a form of myth-making, for it reveals stories about origins and endings, cycles and patterns, reminiscent of the Fibonacci sequence and Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry. The mathematics supporting sacred geometry demonstrates how we measure the physical world in order to understand it just as we retell stories to infuse meaning and a sense of identity into our lives.
Plato posits that the planet is a dodecahedron in shape. He expresses the idea that from above the planet resembles one of ‘those twelve-piece leather balls, variegated, a patchwork of colours’. Baez demonstrates the mathematics behind Plato’s sacred geometry. Mandelbrot’s work on fractals in the late twentieth century, as well as Dan Winter’s contemporary contributions to studies of the golden ratio provide an adequate base for further research into a future mathematical formula, which could breathe life into the dragon-earth metaphor. Donovan, Jones and Winter highlight ‘that [the] precise line of the golden ratio points extends out each axis of symmetry of the [pentagonal dodecahedron] which is the proven shape of hydrogen, DNA, Earth Grid, and the Universe’. Plato’s idea that the shape of universe is a dodecahedron is based on the five platonic solids representing the elements. As Kotrč explains in his reference to Cornford’s translation of Plato’s Timaeus: ‘‘there remained one construction, the fifth; and the god used it for the whole, making a pattern of animal figures thereon’’. The idea that the cosmos is composed of fabric is reminiscent of our tendency to use the word ‘fabric’ when attempting to describe the cosmic forces which created plasma, time, space and dark matter. The Economist reports data obtained from an ‘American satellite [which] has been examining the microwave radiation generated shortly after the universe began’. The results of this data reveal the shape of the universe to be a dodecahedron. The notion of comparative analogy between firstly, the human and the planet and secondly, between the planet and the universe, is fascinating.
Field highlights the analogous relationship between the human body and the planet in relation to the holistic principals which underlie the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui:
In a holistic view of the cosmos, the human anatomy is a microcosm of the earth, and the blood veins of one correspond to the rivers and streams of the other. When the ground is broken and the well is dug for a new house … the qi meridians of the earth – called “dragon veins” – [act] just like an acupuncture needle.
The analogous connections between the human or animal body with the planetary body suggest a hidden animism within the earth when combined with the concept of ‘Pythagorean Cosmic Morphology’, which is, according to one source ‘an organic cosmic morphology based on physics, chemistry, and astrology’. One must tread carefully in an area of such mystic esoteric philosophy. It is an area that relies on the imagination as its playground in which to create and recreate its own visionary mythopoeia and thus applies to the dragon as a metaphor for the interconnected planetary systems. Could ancient ideas about dragons and nature be on the verge of resurfacing in popular culture?
Swimme clarifies the use of his title in stating that ‘I call the universe a green dragon to remind us that we will never be able to capture the universe with language’. Swimme captures the incomprehensibility of God as divine creator. His title is a metaphor that captures the ineffability of the cosmos. Harding recalls Lovelock’s notion that the earth resembles a living organism: ‘[James Lovelock]… had dared to think the unthinkable – that the planet is in essence a huge living organism with its own remarkable emergent capacity for self-regulation’. Thomas declares that the earth ‘is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections’. Thomas concludes the planet to be ‘most like a single cell’, perhaps alike to a reproduction egg in its dream-like state of morphogenesis, which reflects its spherical appearance. Our inability to describe otherworldly phenomena is what makes visions of divine revelation so intriguing. They attempt to capture the indescribable. Huxley refers to the dragon as ‘the animating principal of every place - the genius loci’. The dragon is the most appropriate mythical beast when personifying the natural elements. The dragon rises from the human imagination as an emblem of all earthly things. Its composite form consisting of the elements and earthly animals produce a hybridised creature that defies our reason. The dragon-earth metaphor is particularly useful in re-animating the Cartesian landscape.
Harding clarifies that it would be wrong to assume that the planet has a soul or indeed a consciousness destined for some greater purpose. This would venture into the teleological: ‘that nature is more than a great mechanism, that there is a mysterious purposefulness at work in the world’. Whilst it is tempting to indulge in one’s own holistic vision of planetary embryogenesis in the creative cosmos, it is important to remember that these perspectives were central to our animistic ancestors and remain so for many contemporary indigenous people.
Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, as outlined by Harding, suggests the need to reinstate the fundamental symbiotic relationship between biological life and the environment. Harding reminds us that ‘the self-regulation arising from this tight coupling is an emergent property that could not have been predicted from knowledge of biology, geology, physics or chemistry as separate disciplines’. This conveys even greater need to unite the epistemological spheres in order to appreciate the value of our knowledge in relation to the interconnected planetary ecosystems.
Qu Yuan’s Poetry
Dragon Chariots and the House of Life: Serpents, Eggs and Rhizomes
Hawkes refers to Qu Yuan as ‘China’s first poet’, writing between the second and first centuries BC. Hawkes recognises the diverse nature of Qu Yuan’s ‘Nine Songs’ in stating that they ‘are as eclectic as a Baroque suite including dance tunes from half a dozen different countries’. Hawkes draws attention to the context surrounding Qu Yuan’s poetry. Much like Ezekiel, who was supposedly living in exile, Qu Yuan was also allegedly living in exile at the time he produced his ‘Nine Songs’. In the penultimate stanza of his poetical work, ‘On Encountering Trouble’, Qu Yuan paints an image of a dragon chariot:
All thousand chariots, | Jade hub to jade hub we galloped on abreast. | My eight dragon steeds flew on with writhing undulations; | My cloud-embroidered banners flapped on the wind.
Qu Yuan’s reference to ‘jade hub[s]’, ‘eight dragon steeds’ and ‘cloud-embroidered banners’ resonate with Ezekiel’s ‘Vision of the Divine Chariot’ as well as reminding one of Plato’s image of the universe as fabric upon which God embroiders life-forms.
In ‘The Lord within the Clouds’, Qu Yuan reiterates the imagery of embroidery in his opening lines: ‘We have bathed in orchid water and washed our hair with perfumes, | And dressed ourselves like flowers in embroidered clothing’. This imagery inspires a cleansing of the soul and mirrors the ceremonial preparation associated with human sacrifice in early Greek culture and its associated myths. One recalls a memorable scene from Clash of the Titans, in which Andromeda is to be sacrificed to the sea monster, Kraken. She dresses in white that symbolises her innocence and is chained to the cliff where she awaits her fate.
In ‘On Encountering Trouble’, Hawkes explains Qu Yuan’s reference to the mythical figure, Fu Xi, who with ‘his sister Nu Wa, like Deucalion and Pyrrha in the Greek legend were thought to have peopled the earth after a great flood. They were both serpents from the waist down’. Huxley refers to similar themes in the creation myths of India, Greece and Babylonia. It is a common trope that a dragon or serpent performs the role of progenitor in these myths. He refers to Amrtamanthanam as ‘the Hindu equivalent of the Perseus [Greek] myth’, in which natural cycles and processes are personified in the Indian symbol of ‘the Golden Embryo’. Huxley argues that ‘we are certainly dealing with a vision of embryonic life here’. In myths surrounding the cyclical procreativity in the natural world, the planet undeniably comes to resemble an egg or an unborn organism in an embryonic state. As a visual concept, this metaphor aids our physical and psychological reconnection to the environment in imagining the earth as an unborn ensouled creature.
Much like in Ezekiel’s vision of God, Qu Yuan’s God is presented above the sky, or firmament that divides the earthly and celestial realms: ‘The god has halted, swaying, above us, | Shining with a persistent radiance’. Qu Yuan exclaims that the God will ‘rest in the House of Life’. Hawkes defines the ‘House of Life’ as the ‘Palace of Longevity – a chapel specially constructed for the reception of spirits conjured up in shamanistic séances’. Qu Yuan’s ‘House of Life’ also comes to represent the cosmos in its creative entirety. Field highlights that ‘the Chinese do not divide the world into a Cartesian duality, as the heart-mind is intrinsically connected to nature through qi’. Plumwood refers to a similar idea in Chinese philosophy in reminding us that ‘stones have spirit and narrative, or energetic power and identity (chi)… Yet, in Western culture, stones have not been given an honoured place, and mind is seen as the pinnacle of existence’. This paradox lies at the heart of Western anthropocentrism.
Plumwood shows how practical and imaginative engagements with the landscape can facilitate reconnections between human cultures with the natural world. She recalls her journey into the Australian outback and reflects on our modern disengagement from the living world in favour of materialism and rationalism. Plumwood argues that ‘the eviction of spirit and honour from stones and from the earth is one of the greatest crimes of modernity’. She reveals how the human perception of scale is eliminated in animistic perceptions of the living landscape. She reminds us that ‘humanity is an insignificant piece of the biota, a microscopic flea in the jungle of flora and fauna that lives on its body’. This statement relates to Pan Gu, the creation deity from Chinese mythology. Birrell describes Pan Gu as a ‘giant Coiled Antiquity… the first-born, semi-divine human being’. Pan Gu hatches from the cosmic egg while it floats in chaos. His horns break the shell. As he grows his feet and hands hold up the four corners of the world, corresponding to the cardinal directions. When he dies his body becomes the fertile soil from which parasites emerge and eventually evolve into humans. Birrell draws attention to the abundant ‘motifs of wings, eggs, and birdsong’ in Chinese myths. She refers to the earliest recorded Chinese creation myth in which ‘an archaic goddess named Woman Gua (Nu Gua)… made seventy transformations from which the cosmos and all living things took shape’. This resonates with Hesiod’s Theogony, in which he describes the genealogy of the Greek Gods. Harding cites Hesiod in describing how “Gaia was born from the primordial chaos, vast and dark”. It is likely that the deities that followed serpentine dragon-like gods as personifications of the hydrological cycle were feminine figures that symbolised cosmic procreativity. The emergence of masculine creation deities signifies a shift away from animism and matriarchal values towards anthropocentrism and the consumer-capitalist patriarchal paradigm.
Harding refers to corporeality at the planetary level. That each life form is an extension of the ‘flesh’ of the planet, inseparable from other life-forms and landscape features. Absolute subjectivity renders all life a united organic whole. Harding refers to Abrams’ appreciation of Merleau-Ponty’s ‘notion of the collective “flesh of the world”… this vast, planetary tissue of sensations and interdependent perceptions in which our lives… are embedded’. It is clear that all life on earth is a singular interconnected system. As Harding highlights, ‘the seed-syllable Ge’ represents ‘the ancient and original form of the name Gaia’ and this linguistic ‘seed’ can be found in ‘ge-ology, ge-ometry and ge-ography’. Harding is influenced by the creation stories of ancient Greek mythology. He posits that ‘Gaia is Earth personified’. Press investigates the meaning of the Ekron Inscription ‘ptgyh’, meaning ‘Pythogaia’. This insight captures both the procreative function of the female womb as sacred as well demonstrating a connection between the divine feminine and other creation deities that are serpentine and dragonesque in their appearance and roles as progenitors of all earthly life.
It seems that the original Goddess was more like a subterranean female dragon as opposed to a celestial female human. Press highlights that ‘Gaia, or Ge… the Greek word for “earth” … played a significant role in Greek religion, at least in its early stages’. The dragon is today as captivating and appropriate a personification of the natural elements as Gaia was for the ancient Greeks. The physiology of the dragon is symbolic of the united, living, planetary body. The imagination is the tool through which we can develop sustainable energies, technologies, infrastructure and lifestyles that enable the reconciliation of culture with nature. This process begins with reimagining the dragon according to contemporary environmentalist principles, current knowledge in science and ecology and wisdom of the anima mundi.
Qu Yuan captures the vastness of God’s form and refers specifically to his dragon chariot:
His brightness is like that of the sun and moon, | In his dragon chariot, dressed in imperial splendour, | Now he flies off to wander round the sky.
The speaker compares God’s brightness to the sun and moon, which reflects the idea that divine visions have the power to eradicate the limitations of scale in common human perception and the laws of another dimension, perhaps that of the celestial realm, apply. The speaker reveals that ‘there is no place in the world that he does not pass over’. This is reminiscent of the ophanim in Ezekiel’s vision: wheels ‘full of eyes’, suggesting the divine omnipresence of God. Qu Yuan’s militarization of the symbol of the dragon is more commonly found in European reinventions of the mythical creature. Carradice describes how the seventh century ‘red dragon of Cadwallader’ re-emerged in Tudor Britain with Henry VII, who appropriated the same imagery for his military flag when conquering Wales. The same iconic dragon remains the emblem of the Welsh national identity.
However, the Welsh dragon differs from the Chinese long, defined previously as an amalgamation of earthly creatures akin to Ezekiel’s description of the cherubim. Huxley attributes the ancient Chinese dragon’s composite animalian form to its ‘compound nature of fire and water’, with fire representing hot-blooded animals and water representing cold-blooded animals. Huxley defines the ouroboros as symbolising ‘the act of self-fertilization’ and nature’s perpetual self-renewal. One discerns an uroboric circularity in the form of the dragon, whose complex physiology reveals the slow ‘unseen shaping’ of physical matter in landscape formation. Only through the imagination can we begin to understand. The dragon sits on the throne at the pinnacle of our cross-cultural collective imagination. It represents the conclusion of our terrestrial evolution in which ecological systems and geological processes have become part of a new, greater, living creature. The visible physical environment is the result of the continuous interaction between living organisms with the environment. This uroboric circle is most profoundly captured in the symbol of the cosmic egg.
Plant writes about the scale and complexity of female human eggs in comparison with the male human sperm. She highlights that the female egg is ‘85,000 times larger in volume than sperm’. These reproduction cells in humans differ in size and complexity. Plant refers to the sperm as ‘basic and crude when compared with the complexities of eggs’. If one extends Plant’s observations of the sperm and the egg to an analogy on a scale equivalent to the planetary body, the earth’s complex biodiversity and atmospheric composition echoes the ‘complexities of eggs’. Humans come to represent the ‘basic and crude’ properties of the sperm. Plant states that ‘the male element is simply an offshoot from a female loop’. This insight is fascinating due to the ‘female loop’ representing the uroboric structure of the rhizome with neither a beginning nor an end. The complexity of the rhizome contrasts with the simplistic models used in modern science as representations that rely on arborescent structures such as in Darwin’s tree of life, linguistic theory and ancestral genealogy diagrams. Although anastomosis takes place in the ‘unseen shaping’ of physical matter, the arborescent as a model remains a simplification of the rhizomatic life-processes which underlie reality yet remain hidden from view. Deleuze and Guattari stipulate that ‘in nature roots are taproots with a more multiple, lateral, and circular system of ramification, rather than a dichotomous one. Thought lags behind nature’. The theorists’ emphasis on circular movement is reminiscent of the ouroboros and thus indicates the extent of our ancestors’ wisdom concerning the natural world. Plant also speaks about rhizomes in relation to the physiology of plants. She reminds us that plants ‘have no roots, but… horizontal networks of swollen or slender filaments’. Harding also recognises and adopts this thinking:
There are no fundamental building blocks… at the base of a hierarchical ordering of nature… nature self-organises into multi-levelled sets of networks within networks, such as cells within tissues within organs within organisms within ecosystems within Gaia, and that no one level is fundamental.
It is appropriate to recall Muffet’s description of the life cycle of a butterfly. He captures the cyclical beauty in life and expresses a pantheistic view of the natural world that is aligned with animistic perception. Muffet’s seventeenth century observations in ecology reveal how animistic thinking exists primarily in the human imagination. In this sense, animism is still a prominent feature of the human psyche but the consumer-capitalist agenda within the globalised culture represses one’s animistic instincts from childhood. Symbolic eggs, circles, and serpents emerged as people woke to the importance of the planetary cycles. Muffet emphasises the uroboric beauty in the natural world:
Caterpillars... [change] into chrysalides, that shine as if leaves gold were laid upon them... [and become] butterflies, whose eggs again produce an offspring like worms, nature acting successively in a circle, and constantly by a perpetual motion running back into herself.
Plant comments on the problematic task faced by scientists to disentangle the rhizomatic web in order to make sense of the world. She states that ‘experts always find themselves entangled with emergent circuitries always running away with themselves’. Eggs symbolise the continuation and repetition of an established cosmic procreativity and exist at every scale in the biosphere. Eggs do not represent a disparate beginning but the point at which the end meets with a new beginning; the point of continuation. Muffet was writing at a time in which people were somewhat free from the inhibiting Enlightenment rationalism that infects the imagination with its reductive tendencies. It is our task to shed the skin of our ‘enlightened’ forebears and reconnect to the animistic perceptions of the ancients and contemporary indigenous cultures.
There are cycles that orbit beyond the boundaries of human comprehension. We begin to realise that the planet and the wider cosmos is to some extent ineffable. It resists classification and is seizable only in an imaginative capacity, which is itself confined to the limits of the human mind. Plant writes about the limits of human perception. She acknowledges the variety and scale of the planet’s ecosystems. She traces reductionist and dualistic thinking to the Scientific Revolution and subsequent era of Industrialisation. She describes how ‘we found ourselves working as slave components of systems whose scales and complexities we could not comprehend. Were we their parasites? Were they ours? Either way we became components of our own imprisonment’. This idea reflects the way in which humans are transformed into consumer statistics within capitalism. Capitalism alters human identity and the face of the planet with industrial mining, deforestation and intensive farming. Lovelock argues that ‘we [humans] are not so special... in some ways the human species is like a planetary disease’. In the short-term, the relationship between humans and capitalism is one of mutual benefit but the capitalist paradigm is not a sustainable model for future human life. The dragon-earth metaphor transforms the planet into an egg which represents (either symbolically or literally) the womb-like sanctuary of an embryonic dragon as both something to be revered and feared. This analogy is indicative of the treasure-guarding dragon literary motif with the treasure being the planet itself.
Huxley refers to a Celtic coin from the second and first centuries BC Bohemia. Mac Gonagle points out that this same coin displays ‘a mysterious hybrid creature… a coiled fanged serpent with what appears to be a [scorpion’s] stinger’. Mac Gonagle highlights that this coin exhibits ‘two very different themes – power and imminent death… the message being conveyed is that the apparently mutually exclusive themes of power and self-destruction portrayed in the compositions are literally ‘‘two sides of the same coin’’. Bronze Age humans’ respect for the uroboric powers in nature was so prevalent in Celtic societies that it was reflected in their coinage. This Celtic coin depicts an image that resembles a dragon in the style of an ouroboros. Not only does it appear to be self-consuming but it also captures the Gaian imagination in resembling an embryonic form of the dragon in its circular germ-like appearance. The notion of a subterranean dragon resonates with both cross-cultural origin myths and ancient beliefs surrounding cycles in birth, death and rebirth. These beliefs often involve a passage through a watery underworld.
The notion of an underworld is likely to have originated in ancient Egypt and thus trickled down as a major theme in Greek mythology and subsequent civilisations. Burnet refers to Revelation 20.3 in which an angel descends from Heaven with a key to the Abyss. Burnet paraphrases the Scriptural text: ‘That it shall be shut up again, and the great Dragon in it, for a Thousand years’. Burnet refers to as the ante-diluvian era through to the creation of the Abyss with the breaking of the shell and consequent deluge. Burnet accounts for six stages of what can be described as the planet’s geomorphology. Brooke summarises the initial stages of Burnet’s Sacred Theory as beginning with ‘chaos… as described in Genesis… [to the] smooth-surfaced globe [where] the earth’s axis of rotation was still vertical, with the consequence that the Garden of Eden… enjoyed a perpetual spring’. Brooke explains how the third phase illustrates the deluge or ‘Noah’s flood, when the earth’s crust collapsed and its axis tilted’. Brooke clarifies that the fifth phase constitutes a ‘global conflagration’, followed by ‘the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, with paradise restored before the final consummation’. These latter phases are yet to unfold. Climate change suggests a movement towards this ‘global conflagration’, though according to Burnet, this phase does not imply the end of the planet’s cycle for it ends where it began like the ouroboros. Burnet refers to the subterranean world as the ‘Mother-Abyss whose womb was burst at the Deluge, when the Sea… broke forth as if it had issued out of a womb’. Burnet engages with Haugen’s notion of the ‘planetary imagination’ through his methodology which fuses his knowledge in science and geology with stories inherited within the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Burnet’s ideas on the slow-shifting motion of the planetary body reveal an awareness of the hidden animism that is embedded in and causes changes to the familiar features of the landscape. Qu Yuan’s poetry inspires a sense of biophilia for his images of celestial dragons, divine chariots and embroidered fabric are metaphors for the importance of the human connection to the interconnected environment and its ecological systems. Themes, images, ideas and symbols recur in literature that depicts revelations and divine visions. These themes and ideas are captured most poetically in their shared symbolism surrounding cosmic creativity: eggs, wheels, embroidered fabric, the ‘unseen shaping’ of natural elements, chariots and most importantly of all, dragons.
Darwin’s ‘The Economy of Vegetation’
From Dragon Teeth to Godzilla: A Vision of Cosmic Birth
In ‘The Economy of Vegetation’, Darwin combines the scientific with the imaginal in an attempt to teach his readership about new scientific discoveries. He filters science through the lens of the imagination. Darwin writes that the purpose of his poem ‘is to enlist imagination under the banner of science’. Darwin refers to symbols associated with creation myth: the cosmic egg, omniscient wheels, primordial chaos and dragon chariots. These symbols are as enigmatic as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Darwin scatters these ancient symbols throughout his poem and this aids his personification of natural forces and phenomena as the physical world unfurls into what becomes a revelatory experience for the reader, underpinned by ancient hieroglyphical symbolism.
Darwin delivers a poetical vision of the living earth that resonates with ancient perceptions rooted in the anima mundi. Darwin highlights the cross-cultural symbolism in imagery concerning divine creation. He refers to the cosmic egg as ‘the Egg of Night, on Chaos hurl’d, | Burst, and disclosed the cradle of the world’. This image resonates with creation mythology from a wide range of ancient cultures. The ‘cradle’ paints an image of the fertile earth as a kind of embryonic crib in which something is evolving on a vast scale and changing at a rate too slow for human comprehension. Darwin’s allusion to the procreativity at work in the cosmos echoes Swimme’s idea of a ‘terrestrial embryogenesis’ and that ‘something is hatching’. This is apparent in Darwin’s depiction of the birth of Venus:
She comes! – The GODDESS! – through the whispering air, | Bright as the morn, descends her blushing car; | Each circling wheel a wreath of flowers intwines | ... And knots of flowers the crimson reins connect.– | And now on earth the silver axle rings, | And the shell sinks upon its slender springs.
The tangled flowers and ‘crimson reins’ represent blood in the human circulatory system, which is analogous with the hydrological planetary cycle. The profound importance of the planet’s hydrological cycle was appreciated scientifically as early as the seventeenth century with Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneous and later with Burnet’s Sacred Theory, to which this dissertation has already referred. Both writers engage creatively and imaginatively with the planet’s geomorphological processes. Their work implies an awareness about the extent to which life is interconnected. We now know that biological life interacts reciprocally with the environment and it is this interaction that produces self-emergent regulation. Burnet highlights the analogy of the Earth to an aeolipile. Kircher investigates the interconnectedness and circularity of the planet’s water and fire systems. Kircher’s subterranean dragon personifies the water cycle in its vital role in creating life yet it also embodies fire and the power to destroy human life. Ancient cultures were profoundly aware of the destructive forces within volcanoes and the importance of the water cycle.
It is likely that the mythical manifestations of the dragon across cultures symbolise both fear and respect surrounding volcanic activity and the hydrological cycle. Glassie refers to Kircher’s frequent comparison of ‘the movement of the earth’s water to the circulation of the blood in the body’. This relates to analogous-systems thinking as a methodological tool which can assist in one’s imaginative exploration of the human place within the natural world. The dragon is primarily a creation of the human imagination but its universality reveals the extent to which it arose from the human psyche as an emblem of the importance of our fundamental connections to the environment. The dragon is a metaphor for cosmic and earthly primal energy and human connections to ecological systems within the natural world.
Water represents a life-giving and sustaining force whilst also embodying those destructive, chaotic and primordial elements which are central to many cross-cultural origin myths. Strang argues that ‘water is… infused with powerful meanings… from the microbial flows of individual being to the vast seas of shared cosmologies’. Essential to all life and constantly moving, water embodies the anima mundi. Darwin’s reference to Venus’ shell is again reminiscent of Swimme’s image of embryogenic ‘hatching’ at the planetary level. Darwin refers to the motion of the planets as they find their places in the solar system: ‘Orbs wheel in orbs, round centres centres roll, | And form, self-balanced, one revolving whole’. This description reveals a connection between the planets as celestial bodies and the all-seeing ophanim in Ezekiel’s vision. Darwin also offers the reader a glimpse of the anima mundi in his personification of natural phenomena in the glimmering ‘moon-beams’, the gurgling ‘rills… all around’ and the ‘weeping’ rocks as Venus emerges from her ‘soft symphonious shell’. Darwin uses personification and anthropomorphism to illustrate the creative dynamism in the interactions between organic life-forms with the environment.
Harding also uses personification to explain the complex interactions between entities at varying levels of scale. He implies how understanding these fundamental interactions is key to enhancing our knowledge of the physical world. He highlights the effectiveness of ‘personifying as a device to help breathe life back into’ concepts that have been dispirited by reductionist science and its methods. Personification achieves a metaphorical reawakening of the anima mundi. These powerful poetic metaphors are visual feasts for the imagination and it is this visual aspect of poetry that speaks in a language understood primarily by the imagination. Darwin admires the beauty of the ‘painted snail’, ‘the gilded fly’ and the ‘plumy pairs in gay embroidery dres’d. His observations in science and natural philosophy demonstrate an awareness about the importance of biodiversity and planetary health regarding ecological systems and geomorphological processes. He also acknowledges the interconnectedness of ecological systems and the extent to which biological life depends on those systems. Darwin evokes imagery of celestial dragons in flight:
ETHEREAL POWERS! You chase the shooting stars, | Or yoke the vollied lightenings to your cars, | Cling round the aerial bow with prisms bright.
Darwin explains the meaning of his reference to ‘shooting stars’ as ‘meteors call’d fire-balls, or flying dragons’ in the ‘higher regions of the atmosphere’. He refers to the ‘wide-waving wings expanded bear | The flying-chariot through fields of air’. This is suggestive of the symbolism surrounding celestial dragons and divine chariots as depicted in Ezekiel’s vision, Qu Yuan’s poetry and Plato’s philosophy on the immortality and destiny of the human soul.
Darwin captures the image of celestial light in the prismatic spectrum that is displayed in the natural form of the rainbow. He refers to ‘the aerial bow with prisms bright’. Strang refers to the Australian Rainbow Serpent and the connections between the Chinese long and other cognate words which denote imagery associated with rainbows. The connection between celestial dragon-like deities and rainbows is evocative of Ezekiel’s closing words in his vision with ‘the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain’. Huxley reiterates the connection between the Chinese long and rainbows in his reference to the Chinese belief that ‘a dragon in the water… covers himself with five colours (the rainbow), therefore he is a god’. Furthermore, Huxley claims that the dragon exists beyond the bounds of perceptible reality. He recalls the Chinese idea about how the dragon can alter its physiological composition from the size of ‘a silkworm’ to a being so ‘large [that] he lies hidden in the world… He whose transformations are not limited by days or whose ascending and descending are not limited by time, is called a god’. Huxley defines the concept of a divine being as a living creature whose form transcends the limits of the physical world. According to the text of Ezekiel’s ‘Vision of the Divine Chariot’, divine creatures such as cherubim, seraphim and ophanim fit within this category for they exist outside the physical laws that restrict us humans.
Strang traces the origin of serpentine deities to early agricultural societies in highlighting that their bodies were ‘composed of water and power, cycling between the earth and sky to create life’. These early agricultural societies depended on ‘the movements of water’ to nourish their crops and thus cultural reverence towards these natural cycles gave birth to serpentine deities such as ‘the Babylonian Ea; the Indian Naga; the Pueblo ‘horned serpent’’. There is a wealth of serpentine imagery in the ancient world. Ornithological imagery is also reminiscent of the dragon. Darwin conjures ornithological imagery in his use of phrases such as ‘Plum’d with flame… To brighter regions borne on broader wing’. His imagery conjures a living creature redolent of the physiology and majesty of the dragon:
Star of the earth… | fill with golden flame his winged urn | Onward his course with waving tail he helms, | And mimic lightenings scare the watery realms, | So when with bristling plumed the Bird of JOVE | Borne on broad wings the guilty world he awes, | And grasps the lightening in his shining claws.
This description captures an image of the dragon as a personification of natural elements. This is strongly reminiscent of the cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision whose ‘appearance was like burning coals of fire… and out of the fire went forth lightning’. There are indisputable characteristics of the dragon in Darwin’s references to the creature’s wings, feathers and claws. The raptorial appearance of Darwin’s ‘Bird of JOVE’ is reminiscent of those predatory dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. Perhaps the dragon resembles the imagined evolution of those prehistorical bird-like reptiles that we call the dinosaurs.
Darwin evokes Burnet’s image of the ‘shell’ cracking to cause the deluge in the prehistoric world:
In gathering clouds, and wing’d the wave with fire… Quick moves the balanced beam, of giant-birth, | Wields his large limbs, and nodding shakes the earth.
This is an image of cosmic birth reminiscent of the Big Bang theory in contemporary science. Scully highlights the ways in which our scientific understanding of the beginning of the universe reflects those ancient myths surrounding the cosmic egg. He states that ‘some scientists think of that plasma as a particularly dense primordial egg, not unlike the cosmic egg that some Orphic stories posit at the beginning of creation’. It is necessary to suspend one’s subjective judgement when reading Darwin’s poem. Darwin refers to the celestial realm, the molecular world and the human world. Huxley refers to these same three worlds as ‘the firmament above, the firmament below, and the Earth between’. The earthly plane is a liminal space between the above and below. In this imaginative vision of the cosmos, the planet resembles an organism in a pre-life state, suspended in a protective atmospheric bubble similar to the lining of a womb, where diverse life-forms mirror the biological processes of morphogenesis and embryogenesis.
Darwin also conjures imagery of the dragon in relation to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution:
The Giant-Power from earth’s remotest caves | Lifts with strong arm her dark reluctant waves… | The imprison’d storms through brazen nostrils roar, | Fan the white flame, and fuse the sparkling ore.
Here the dragon embodies humanity as a destructive force which conflicts with ancient visions of the dragon as a divine creature. The former dragon exhibits destructive behaviour which characterises the Anthropocene while the latter dragon reveals mankind’s lost harmonious relationship with the environment. It seems that the transformative capabilities of the dragon as depicted in Chinese mythology extends to its malleability in the human imagination in embodying both creative and destructive natural (and possibly ‘unnatural’) forces. Darwin refers to:
The vast mill-stone… | On trembling floors his forceful fingers twirl. | Whose flinty teeth the golden harvests grind, | Feast without blood! And nourish human-kind.
Darwin’s reference to ‘flinty teeth’ alludes to the Greek myth in which Cadmus sows dragon teeth which grow into an army. In the Cadmus myth, the soldiers reveal mankind’s self-destructive nature.
Waterfield and Waterfield retell this myth with particular emphasis on the mechanical appearance of the soldiers as they rise from the ground: ‘The warriors, more like automata than thinking men… fell to fighting among themselves’. The resemblance of the soldiers to self-destructive automata reflects the uroboric rise and fall of civilizations throughout time. The soldiers also reveal the way in which our human simulacra of natural processes underline the perilous pursuits of mankind throughout the modern era such as the aeroplane mimicking the bird in flight and the hydroelectric dam imitating the beaver impoundment. These activities alter the composition of the atmosphere and interfere with critical ecological systems. They produce effects such as climate change and the further depletion of the diverse species lineage of the planet.
Darwin personifies nature as a dragon-like beast; ineffable and incomprehensible to the rational human mind, resonating with Swimme’s idea of the cosmic green dragon capturing this ineffability. To imagine the planet through personification is to engage in an ancient animism that resonates with indigenous cultures around the world, such as in the Aboriginal dreamtime myths where spirits rise from primal waters to create the land before returning to a hibernation state. Haugen refers to Swimme’s notion of an ‘unseen shaping’ and to Berry’s concept of “an imaginative Earth, or a dreaming Earth”, as effective concepts in exploring the relationship between the human psyche and the ‘planetary imagination’. Haugen refers to the imaginal realm as ‘a field of psyche shared by mystics and poets across time—perhaps the “collective unconscious” articulated by Jung’.
Darwin’s description of the birth of Eros resonates with other creation myths concerning the symbolical usage of eggs, uroboric hatching and ocean-like chaos: ‘When LOVE DIVINE, with brooding wings unfurl’d, | Call’d from the rude abyss the living world’. In Darwin’s explanatory notes, Eros is described as having the ‘horns of the celestial bull’, which crack the shell of the cosmic egg. He also has ‘large wings... [as strong as] eagle’s wings, and the splendour of the peacocks, with his hair floating in the form of flame, and with a halo of light vapour round his head’. These descriptions resonate with the Chinese creation deity, Pan Gu, and with the long in Chinese mythology for its association with rainbows and fire.
Darwin’s description of the planet is reminiscent of the cross-cultural mythical figure of the dragon, whose physiology reflects the natural elements and circulatory systems of earth. One discovers a hidden network of connections that link the ‘allegory of Eros’ to contemporary manifestations of the dragon. Godzilla possesses electromagnetic capabilities and is empowered by nuclear activity. Ishirō Honda’s mid-twentieth century film initiated the birth of a cult icon and the awakening of the ancient subterranean dragon from the depths of the collective cultural imagination. Both the ancient dragon and its modern relative, Godzilla, serve as warnings to humanity about our dangerous interference in natural ecosystems. We now realise that this kind of ecological interference will end in environmental catastrophe.
As a transferrable and adaptable belief system, Animist beliefs could certainly account for the cross-cultural similarities in creation symbolism across the ancient world. These symbols seem to have instantaneously emerged in multiple regions. Animism was the primary religion of many early human societies. Animism formed a cohesive and collective sense of the spiritual identity in direct relation to other life-forms within the landscape. Sadly, this was a paradigm destined to rise and fall like the great spirits of Aboriginal dreamtime myth. Animism formed the core of the original human identity and like the idea of a subterranean dragon, it awaits resurrection. Darwin’s poem concludes with the birth-like unfolding of the planet into a magnificent creature:
Brood the live seed, unfold the bursting spawn; | Nurse with soft lap, and warm with fragrant breath | The embryon panting in the arms of Death. 
Darwin captures the beautiful complexity in the life cycle itself in referring to ‘the embryon panting in the arms of Death’. Life is a cycle that begins with birth and appears to ends in death. But it seems more appropriate to redefine death as rebirth. This process resembles the wheel-like ouroboros whose head continuously consumes its tail; a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating loop reflecting the core of Lovelock’s Gaia Theory in his ideas concerning reciprocity between biological life and the environment, which produces the defining feature of all organisms, self-emergent regulation.
This dissertation has been a search for origins in the symbols of ancient origin myth and visions of divine beings with the aim of rediscovering the true human identity or ‘self’ in a post-human era. The ancient visions of God reveal an inherent human connection to the living landscape. This is demonstrated through the many parallels in imagery and symbolism surrounding the natural elements, dragons, serpents, divine chariots, eggs, and wheels. Through the imagination, we can reestablish the anima mundi at the forefront of human culture.
We must acknowledge the planet as being in possessing of some kind of soul or at the least recognise its power to destroy us. It is critical that we reimagine the planet as capable of interacting, dreaming, thinking and of producing its own imaginative creations, which as Haugen suggests, are expressed through us. Midgley, Harding, Plumwood, Haugen and Swimme recognise the power within the human imagination to restructure our lifestyles and reconceive of our own identities in relation to biocentrism.
In envisaging ourselves as a part of the collective culture rooted in the anima mundi, reminiscent of Berry’s “communion of subjects”, rather than focussing on national identities, we can rediscover our lost connections to each other and to the landscape. As new technologies emerge and lifestyles change, systems will also need to be remodelled according to the needs of the environment. Satellite technology enables us humans for the first time to track changes to the surface of the planet and observe the rhythmical patterns of nature from above. We are beginning to acknowledge the extent to which ecosystems are interconnected and interdependent. Midgley writes about the practical things we can do to initiate positive change that benefits both humankind and the planet. Gardening is a great example of an activity that generates positive social change and shifts our perceptions of and behaviours towards nature. We can renew unused public spaces by planting native vegetation. This benefits native species as well as providing a means to connect to the natural world for those involved in rejuvenating a community space. Such projects are inclusive and enable those living in cities to connect with nature in a literal sense. Naess coined the phrase ‘deep ecology’ in nineteen seventy-two and his writing has influenced and motivated others in rethinking the extent to which our actions impact on the wider world. Harding argues that the intention to create social change ‘is what makes deep ecology a movement as much as a philosophy’. Well-established disciplinary fields are now merging with ecological studies to ensure a core environmentalist agenda is set as the standard model going forward. This is paramount to our survival.
The concept of an intuitive connection to the natural world is intrinsically human. As far as we know, no other animal sees themselves as separate from the landscape and therefore in need of reconnection. Only in a species on the edge of extinction could such ideas emerge. Humans once worshipped the natural world in the form of spirits often depicted as serpents and dragons. We have become detached and forget the truth about our earthly origins and the myths that shaped us. The imagination is a powerful tool whereby we can engage with the landscape in order to initiate a shift away from anthropocentrism towards biocentrism. The ultimate aim of this endeavour is to renew our stale perceptions of the environment from a Cartesian ‘non-living’ machine into the living (or embryonic) creature that is so ubiquitous in myths surrounding origins and in revelatory visions of divine beings.
There is a poignancy in our human incapacity to comprehend the vast scale and complexity of the visible (and invisible) life structures and cycles that constitute our environment. We glimpse but a fraction into the geobiological world and no further than fragments of interstellar space through the lenses of our telescopes. It is not our right but our privilege to observe, question, imagine and to exist. Scientific understanding in ecology is as central to our survival now as the symbolic ouroboros would have been to the beliefs of our animistic ancestors. The ouroboros is ecology. The dragon-earth metaphor imagines an ecological conclusion and captures the ultimate morphogenesis of the living earth. It is more than a metaphor for visual interconnectivity and biospheric diversity. It is the ultimate product of the human imagination. The dragon-earth metaphor captures the indescribable creativity at work in the cosmos. The dragon can awaken our minds to the power of natural forces and reignite the sense of wonder that every child is born with but that which society extinguishes: the anima mundi. No other mythical creature has pushed the bounds of the human psyche as far as the dragon. No other creature can awaken such reverent respect for the natural world as that of the earth-clad, jewel-studded, fire-breathing dragon.
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‘The illustration … shows how Steiner describes it, with each enclosure representing a human being, Animals would not have the group soul in the enclosure: it would be outside… When we sleep, our astral body and soul leaves the enclosure and when we die the ether body unfolds too’ Kim Graae Munch <https://kimgraaemunch.wordpress.com/tag/auric-egg/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
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Also referred to and pictured in Harding, Stephan, ‘From Gaia Hypothesis to Gaia Theory’, in Animate Earth: Science, Intuition, and Gaia (Totnes: Green Books, 2006), p. 70.
William Becker, Pythagorean Cosmic Morphology, ‘The Planetary Grid’, 1984
<https://twiggietruth.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/sacred-geometry-ley-lines-and-the-planetary-grid/> [accessed 6 August.2019].
‘The gold ‘rolltier’ staters emerge among the Celtic tribes in the area of southern Germany and Bohemia in the late [second to first centuries] BC’, Brendan Mac Gonagle, Beautiful Monsters: Power and Poison in Celtic ‘Rolltier’ Compositions, 2017 <https://www.academia.edu/35384906> [accessed 8 August 2019].
The Breaking of the Shell
Burnet, Thomas, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: Centaur Press, 1965), pp-64-65.
Anna Bennett, Mount Holyoke College <https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist257s02/students/Anna/Flood.htm> [accessed 8 August 2019].
Also referred to and pictured in Thomas Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: Centaur Press, 1965), pp. 84-85.
Telluris Theoria Sacra frontispiece, 1689, Royal Astronomical Society / Science Photo Library <https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/136156/view/telluris-theoria-sacra-frontispiece-1689> [accessed 8 August 2019].
Also referred to and pictured in ‘Title page’, in The Sacred Theory of the Earth, (London: Centaur Press, 1965), p. 2.
‘Illustration from Hero's Pneumatica’ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolipile#/media/File:Aeolipile_(from_Pneumatica).jpg> [accessed 8 August 2019].
John Glassie, ‘Athanasius, Underground’ The Public Domain Review, ‘Kircher’s system of springs, rivers and seas from Mundus Subterraneous, 1665, p. 233’ <https://web.stanford.edu/group/kircher/cgi-bin/site/?attachment_id=595> [accessed 8 August 2019].
John Glassie, ‘Athanasius, Underground’ The Public Domain Review, image 5, ‘Kircher’s diagram showing the interconnectedness of water inside the earth, featured in Mundus Subterraneous’ <https://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/01/athanasius-underground/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
John Glassie, ‘Athanasius, Underground’ The Public Domain Review, image 4, ‘Kircher’s diagram showing the interconnectedness of fire inside the earth, featured in Mundus Subterraneous’ <https://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/01/athanasius-underground/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
John Glassie, ‘Athanasius, Underground’ The Public Domain Review, image 7, ‘Illustration of Mount Etna, featured in Mundus Subterraneous’ <https://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/01/athanasius-underground/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
Kircher’s Subterranean Dragon, image 3, ‘Depiction of a Dragon featured in Mundus Subterraneous’ <https://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/01/athanasius-underground/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
Sapphire Throne Ministries – Robin Main, artwork by Ted Larson <https://sapphirethroneministries.wordpress.com/tag/ophanim/> [accessed 6 September 2019].
Credit: Science Source: ‘The Orphic Egg’
[accessed 8 August 2019].
Theatrical release poster for Godzilla (ゴジラ), Ishirō Honda, Toho Studios, October 27 1954 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla_(1954_film)> [accessed 8 August 2019].
Godzilla, King of Monsters, Michael Dougherty, 31 May 2019 <https://comicvine.gamespot.com/forums/battles-7/godzilla-composite-runs-toriko-monster-gauntlet-1924207/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Ezekiel (circa 593-571 BC); Plato (circa 360 BC); Qu Yuan (circa 145-86 BC).
 Brian Swimme, ‘Epiphanies of the Earth: Fire’, in The Universe is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story (Santa Fe: Bear & Company Publishing, 1984), pp. 85-155 (p. 133).
 Anima Mundi: ‘‘The soul of the world’: the animating principle, a power or spirit supposed by early philosophers to be present throughout the material universe, organizing and giving form to the whole and to all its parts, and regulating change and movement’ [accessed 21 July 2019].
 Biocentrism: ‘In early use: the treatment of life in general (rather than just human life) as a central fact of the universe (cf. anthropocentrism n.). Now chiefly: the view or belief that the rights and needs of humans are not more important than those of other living things’ [accessed 2 August 2019]; Anthropocentrism: ‘Primary or exclusive focus on humanity; the view or belief that humanity is the central or most important element of existence, esp. as opposed to God or the natural world’ [accessed 2 August 2019].
 Geneen Haugen, ‘Abstract’, in Awakening Planetary Imagination: A Theory and Practice (California Institute of Integral Studies: ProQuest LLC, 2015), p. iv.
 Haugen, p. iv.
 Ibid., p. iv.
 Anthropocene: ‘The era of geological time during which human activity is considered to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology of the earth… The Anthropocene is most commonly taken to extend from the time of the Industrial Revolution to the present, but is sometimes considered to include much or all of the Holocene’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/398463> [accessed 2 August 2019].
 Lovelock refers to: Schneider, H., Stephen and Londer, Randi, The Coevolution of Climate and Life (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1984); Schneider, H., Stephen, Global Warming (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989); Lamb, Hubert, Climate: Present, Past and Future (London: Methuen, 1972), as cited in Lovelock, James, ‘The State of the Earth’, in The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity (New York: Basic Books, 2006), pp. 1-19 (pp. 5-9).
 Lovelock, p. 7.
 Robin Waterfield and Kathryn Waterfield, ‘Introduction’, in The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold (London: Quercus, 2013), pp. xv-xvii (p. xv).
 Stephen Scully, ‘Introduction’, in Hesiod's Theogony: From Near Eastern Creation Myths to Paradise Lost Oxford Scholarship Online (2015) <10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190253967.001.0001> [accessed 2 August 2019] (para. 2 of 20).
 Carl Sagan, ‘Introduction’, in The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (New York: Random House, 1977), pp. 1-11 (p. 8).
 Thomas Berry, Dream of the Earth (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988), as referred to in Haugen, ‘Maps from Visionaries, Pioneers, and Explorers: Gaian Psyche’, pp 14-41 (p. 20).
 Rhizomatic: 2. ‘Resembling an interconnected, subterranean network of roots. Hence: non-hierarchical, interconnected’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/274907> [accessed 2 August 2019]; Arborescent: ‘Tree-like in general appearance, or in the arrangement of parts; branching like a tree’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/10210> [accessed 2 August 2019].
 Haugen, p. 1.
 Ibid., p. 1.
 See F. Karaca, P. Camci, & P., G, Raven, ‘City Blood: A visionary infrastructure solution for household energy provision through water distribution networks’, Energy, 61 (2013) <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.energy.2013.04.033> 98-107 [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Berry, Dream of the Earth, p. 195, as cited in Haugen, p. 20.
 See Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life (New York: Anchor Books, 1996), as referred to in Stephen Harding, ‘Anima Mundi’, in Animate Earth: Science, Intuition and Gaia (Totnes: Green Books, 2006), pp. 21-46 (p. 38).
 John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, , ed. by Anthony Raspa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), as cited in Judith H., Anderson, ‘Rhetorics of Similitude’, in A Handbook of English Renaissance Literary Studies, ed. by John Lee (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2017), pp. 281-295 (p. 290) <https://www-dawsonera-com.bris.idm.oclc.org/readonline/9781118458761/startPage/159/1> [accessed 30 August 2019].
 Anderson, p. 290.
 Lovelock, p.2.
 Ibid., p. 8.
 See Val Plumwood, ‘Dualism: the Logic of Colonisation’; ‘Descartes and the Dream of Power’; ‘Mechanism and mind/nature Dualism’, in Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1993), pp. 41-69; 104-120; 120-141.
 Esoteric: ‘Of philosophical doctrines, treatises, modes of speech, etc.: Designed for, or appropriate to, an inner circle of advanced or privileged disciples; communicated to, or intelligible by, the initiated exclusively. Hence of disciples: Belonging to the inner circle, admitted to the esoteric teaching’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/64367> [accessed 20 August 2019].
 Francis Huxley, ‘The Genius of the World’, in The Dragon: Nature of Spirit, Spirit of Nature (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979), pp. 5-33 (p. 5).
 Occident: ‘The part of the world situated to the west of some recognized region; spec. the countries, civilization, or culture of the West. Originally with reference to Western Christendom or the Western Roman Empire, or to Europe as opposed to Asia and the Orient’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/130137> [accessed 9 August 2019].
 Lynn White, ‘The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis’, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 155.3767 (1967) <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1720120> [accessed 8 August 2019] pp. 1203-07 (p. 1205).
 John Gray, Straw Dogs (London: Granta, 2002), as referred to in Lovelock, pp. 8-9.
 Genesis 1.26-28.
 White, p. 1205.
 Midgley, p. 14.
 Tucker and Grim, p. xv.
 Midgley, p. 7.
 Ibid., p. 7.
 See Lovelock, p. 14. Lovelock suggests that Nuclear power provides a short-term alternative to fossil fuels and will by us time to develop more efficient forms of renewable energy: ‘They [scientists] must drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy… we have no time now to experiment with visionary energy sources: civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear energy now, or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet’.
 See Swimme, p. 133; Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (London: Futura Publications Limited, 1974), p. 124. Swimme refers to planetary evolution as ‘one vast embryogenesis’; Thomas refers to this process as morphogenesis. The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definitions: Embryogenesis: ‘The formation and development of an embryo; the embryonic development of a particular organ or structure. In later use also: (Botany) the development of an embryo or embryoid from a somatic or gametic cell of a parent plant; the production of plants by this means’ [accessed 10 July 2019]; Morphogenesis: ‘Biology. The origination and development of morphological characters; morphogeny. Geomorphography: The formation of landscapes, landforms, rock types, etc’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/122356> [accessed 10 July 2019].
 Erasmus Darwin, ‘Part 1: The Economy of Vegetation’, in The Botanic Garden. A Poem in Two Parts, 1791 <https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/9612/pg9612-images.html> [accessed 8 August 2019]. This dissertation refers to the line number of each quotation from Darwin’s poem due to difficulty in obtaining the original source. It therefore uses the online publication by Project Gutenberg. It is relevant at times to highlight certain parallels between the primary texts throughout the dissertation. The comparative element is paramount to its aims in highlighting the cross-cultural symbolism surrounding the dragon in relation to intersections between myth and ecology. There are instances of comparison between the primary texts throughout as well as each forming its own chapter.
 See Anne Birrell, ‘Introduction: From Cosmology to Mythogeography’, in The Classic of Mountains and Seas (London: Penguin, 1999), pp. xvi-xvii (p. xvi): ‘As its organizational format suggests, the major authorial strategy in the Classic is to provide a comprehensive survey of the whole world, a descriptio mundi’.
 William G., Doty, ‘The Many Dimensions of Myths and Rituals: Myth the Mother’, in Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals (Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1986), pp. 1-41 (p. 3).
 ‘It’ refers to the planet because I am reluctant to identify the planet as either male or female. It seems more appropriate to refer to the planet as androgynous due to its inherent procreativity.
 See appendix 1.
 Ezekiel 1.5-8. This dissertation refers to the Norton Critical Edition of the King James Version of The Old Testament and The New Testament. See the reference list for full bibliographical information.
 Haugen, p. iv.
 Seraphim: ‘The living creatures with six wings, hands and feet, and a (presumably) human voice, seen in Isaiah's vision as hovering above the throne of God… The presumed derivation of the word from a Hebrew root meaning ‘to burn’ (see above) led to the view that the seraphim are specially distinguished by fervour of love (while the cherubim excel in knowledge), and to the symbolic use of red as the colour appropriate to the seraphim in artistic representations’ [accessed 19 July 2019].
 See appendix 2.
 Tao Zhijian, ‘Introduction: The Long and the Dragon’, in Drawing the Dragon: Testimonies to the Reinvention of China (Montreal: McGill University, 1996), p. 16. Zhijian refers to the works of Wen I-duo’s fuxi kao [Exploring Fuxi], Diwang Shiji [The Monarchs’ Chronicles] and Li Zehou, Meide Licheng [A History of Beauty] (Beijing: Wenwu, 1981), 7-8 <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_7VOFF-z5NAC&pg=PA15> [accessed 27 August 2019].
 Anne Birrell, The Classic of Mountains and Seas, as referred to in Zhijian, p. 16.
 Ezekiel 1.5; 1.13; 1.14; 1.15; 1.19; 1.20; 1.21; 1.22.
 Keith Ward, ‘On Speaking of God as Creator: Metaphor and Analogy’, in Religion and Creation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 129-59 (p. 131).
 Maung Htin Aung, ‘Introduction’, in Burmese Folk Tales (Calcutta: Geoffrey Cumberledge Oxford University Press, 1954), pp. ix-xxxii (p. xxv).
 Htin Aung, p. xxv.
 Ibid., xxv.
 Carl Gustav Jung, Zarathustra Seminar <https://carljungdepthpsychologysite.blog/2019/08/13/carl-jung-on-the-meaning-of-the-dragon/#.XV5Am-NKjIU> [accessed 27 August 2019].
 In the documentary film, Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog refers to The Royal Codex (Cōdex Rēgius) and to Norse mythology. He states: ‘These primordial [volcanic] occurrences influenced the sense of mythical poetry of the Icelanders. There is a text that defines the spirit of the people. It exists only in a single manuscript. For Iceland, it is as important as the Dead Sea Scrolls are for Israel. The codex was given as a present to the king of Denmark by an Icelandic bishop in the seventeenth century. Hence its name: The Royal Codex, or Codex Regius… In the opening passage, called “The Prophecy of the Seeress”, there is an apocalyptic vision of the end of the pagan gods. This seems to describe a huge volcanic event: “Neath the sea the land sinketh, the sun dimmeth, from the heavens fall the fair, bright stars; gusheth forth steam and gutting fire, to very heaven soar the hurtling flames. The fates I fathom, yet farther I see: of the mighty gods the engulfing doom. Comes the darksome dragon flying, Nithhogg, upward from the Nitha Fells. He bears in his pinions as the plains he o’erflies, naked corpses: now he will sink”’ <https://www.netflix.com/title/80066073> [accessed 27 August 2019].
 Zhijian, p. 18.
 Genesis 3.24: ‘So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life’. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Adam and Eve’s exile from the Garden of Eden represents civilization’s divergence from its harmonious and synchronous relationships with the environment; from animism to anthropocentrism.
 Zhijian, p. 18.
 Darwin, 341-344.
 See appendix 3; The Oxford English Dictionary details some fascinating definitions and uses of the word, ‘Ouroboros’. It defines the Ouroboros as: ‘The symbol, usually in the form of a circle, of a snake (or dragon) eating its tail’; Baynes argues that alchemical processes ‘the [ouroboros] symbol represents our psychic continuity with the immemorial past’; Jung posits that the ‘alchemical parallel’ is mercury, which ‘shows itself most clearly in the [Ouroboros], the dragon that devours, fertilizes, begets, and slays itself and brings itself to life again’; Hughes and Brecht state: ‘The ouroboros, the snake with his tail in his mouth, is the prototype of the vicious circle... The ‘Endless Snake’ depicts an ouroboros who has become one with himself. It has fallen into the mathematical sign for infinity’. See Baynes, Helton Godwin, Mythology of the Soul (Bailliere: Tindall & Cox, 1940); Carl Gustav Jung, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. 1953–1979, ed. by Richard Francis Carrington Hull (London: Routledge & K. Paul); Hughes, Patrick, and Brecht, George, Vicious Circles and Infinity (London: Penguin, 1975) <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/220549> [accessed 18 July 2019].
 Genesis 2.15.
 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006). 4.5, 166-167, p. 387.
 Genesis 1.26-28: ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’.
 Chiwetel Ejiofor, ‘The hippo tracks act like release valves, allowing water and nutrients to flow deep into the delta. It’s this movement that creates the channels that sustain so much life. These hippo tracks have helped to create a tangled network of waterways stretching for over 10,000 square kilometres, transforming a desert into an oasis in the heart of Southern Africa’, in ‘A New Perspective’, in Earth from Space, BBC iPlayer, 30:00-35:25 <https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p072n7qd/> [accessed 4 September 2019].
 Ezekiel 1.1.
 Ibid., 1.4.
 Darwin, 468 and 458.
 Ezekiel 1.4.
 Ibid., 1.13.
 Darwin, 292.
 Darwin, 592-593; 595-598.
 Ibid., 1.18.
 Ibid., 1.22.
 Ibid., 1.27.
 Ibid., 1.20.
 Plato, ‘The Winged Soul’ in Plato: Selected Myths, ed. by Catalin Partenie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 69-85 (p. 71).
 Ezekiel 1.5; 1.13; 1.14; 1.15; 1.19; 1.20; 1.21; 1.22.
 Ezekiel, 1.20.
 Ibid., 1.24.
 Veronica Strang, ‘Living Water’, in Water: Nature and Culture (London: Reaktion Books, 2015), pp. 31-51 (p. 38).
 Strang, p. 39.
 Lovelock, p. 7.
 See appendix 4; Rhizome: ‘An elongated, usually horizontal, subterranean stem which sends out roots and leafy shoots at intervals along its length’ [accessed 18 July 2019].
 See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, ‘Introduction: The Rhizome’, in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. by Brian Massumi (London: Continuum, 2004), pp. 3-28.
 Haugen, ‘Thesis Statement’, pp. 8-9 (p. 8).
 Ibid., p. iv; p. 5.
 Revelation 4.1-5.14.
 See the editorial note comparing ‘the opening vision of Ezekiel (1.4-3.15)’ to Revelation 4.1-5.14, p. 579.
 Ezekiel 1.28; 1.22; Revelation 4.3; 4.6.
 Genesis 1.6-8: ‘And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from waters… And God called the firmament heaven’.
 See the editorial note on Revelation 4.6, p. 579.
 Ibid., p. 579.
 Ibid., p. 579.
 Isaiah 6.2.
 See appendix 5; Numbers 21.8, as referred to by Huxley, ‘Plates’, pp. 33-65 (p. 44).
 Ibid., p. 44; Numbers 21.8, p. 294.
 See appendix 6; Ibid., p. 44.
 Partenie, p. 69.
 Plato, p. 71.
 Ecomorphological: ‘Of or relating to the relationship between the morphology of an organism and its ecology’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/269899> [accessed 9 August 2019]; Geomorphological: ‘Of or relating to geomorphology; of or relating to landforms and the natural processes which shape them’ [accessed 9 August 2019].
 Partenie, pp. 69-70.
See appendix 7; X Huang, J., P., Saint-Jeannet, ‘Induction of the neural crest and the opportunities of life on the edge’, Developmental Biology 275.1 (2004), 1-11 <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15464568> [accessed 6 August 2019].
 See appendix 8; ‘Macrocosm: The universe (opposed to microcosm); the world of all nature’ [accessed 19 July 2019].
 See appendix 9; Kim Graae Munch, ‘The soul’s infoldment into the physical world’, Esoterics <https://kimgraaemunch.wordpress.com/tag/auric-egg/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Kim Graae Munch, <https://kimgraaemunch.wordpress.com/tag/auric-egg/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Pantheism: ‘A belief or philosophical theory that God is immanent in or identical with the universe; the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God. Frequently with implications of nature worship or (in a weakened sense) love of nature’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/136995> [accessed 18 July 2019].
 Plato, ‘The Other World’ in Plato: Selected Myths, ed. by Catalin Partenie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 40-51 (p. 47).
 Partenie, p. 41.
 Plato, pp. 44-45.
 Partenie, p. 41.
 Swimme, p. 130.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 Darwin, 488-489.
 See Delphine Kolesnik-Antoine, ‘The Story of L’Homme’, in Descartes’ Treatise on Man and its Reception, ed. by D. Kolesnik-Antoine and S. Gaukroger (Switzerland: Springer, 2016), pp. 1-33.
 Harding, p. 32.
 Ibid., p. 44.
 Ibid., pp. 32-33.
 Thomas Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: Centaur Press, 1965).
 John Hedley Brooke, ‘Introduction’, in Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 1-16 (p. 8).
 Midgley, p. 18.
 Midgley, p. 18.
 See appendix 10; Harding, ‘From Gaia Hypothesis to Gaia Theory’, pp. 68-92 (p. 70).
 Ibid., p. 45.
 Swimme, p. 130
 Swimme, p. 118.
 Plato, p. 46.
 Rachel Carson, ‘Surface Waters and Underground Seas’, in Silent Spring (London: Penguin Classics, 2012), pp. 37-50 (p. 40).
 Strang, pp. 38-40.
 Strang, ‘Water Journeys’, pp. 67-86 (p. 75).
 Strang, pp. 40-41.
 Plato, p. 47.
 Plato, p. 45.
 Haugen, p. iv.
 Haugen, ‘Map of the Terrain’, pp. 2-8 (p. 3).
 Lewis Thomas, ‘Natural Man’, pp. 121-126 (p. 124).
 Louise Bruit Zaidman and Pauline Schmidtt Pantel, Religion in the Ancient Greek City (Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 158, as referred to in G.R.S., Meade, ‘The Cosmic Egg’, in The Orphic Theogony: Orphic Pantheon, <https://www.piney.com/Orphic.html> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), as cited in Harding, ‘Encountering Gaia’, pp. 46-68 (p. 50).
 Leopold, as cited in Harding, p. 50.
 Ibid., p. 50.
 Ibid., p. 50.
 Midgley, ‘Summary’, pp. 11-13 (p. 11).
 Fiona Becket and Terry Gifford, ‘Introduction’, in Culture, Creativity and Environment: New Environmentalist Criticism (Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2007), pp. 1-17 (p. 9).
 Midgley, ‘Introduction’, pp. 13-20 (p. 14).
 Midgley, p. 17.
 Plato, Timaeus, as cited in Harding, p. 30.
 Harding, p. 30.
 Plato, p. 72.
 See H., E., Huntley, ‘Introduction’, in The Divine Proportion: A Study in Mathematical Beauty (New York: Dover publications, 1970), pp. 1-9.
 Fibonacci: ‘Fibonacci ('s) numbers, the numbers 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,.., where every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding numbers (0 is sometimes included as the first term); Fibonacci('s) sequence, Fibonacci('s) series, the series of Fibonacci numbers, or any similar series in which each term is an integer equal to the sum of the two preceding terms’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/69742> [accessed 7 September 2019]; See B., B., Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1982).
 Plato, p. 45.
 William Donovan, Martin Jones and Dan Winter, ‘Abstract’, in ‘Compressions, The Hydrogen Atom, and Phase Conjugation New Golden Mathematics of Fusion/Implosion: Restoring Centripetal Forces’ <https://www.fractalfield.com/mathematicsoffusion/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Francis M., Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957), p. 218, as cited in Ronald F., Kotrč, ‘The Dodecahedron in Plato’s “Timaeus”’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 124 (1981), 212-222 <https://www.jstor.org/stable/41245051> [accessed 8 August 2019]. The Economist cites a similar translated quotation from Plato in connection to the fifth platonic solid, the dodecahedron: ‘God used this solid for the whole universe, embroidering figures on it’ <https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2003/10/09/platonic-truths> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 ‘The… Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP)… has been examining the microwave radiation generated shortly after the universe began. The wavelength of this radiation… reflect[s] the shape of the object in which the waves were generated… In the case of the microwave background, that object is the universe itself… [The dodecahedron] <https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2003/10/09/platonic-truths> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Stephen L., Field, ‘In Search of Dragons: The Folk Ecology of Fengshui’, in Daoism and Ecology in a Cultural Context: Daoism and Ecology: Ways Within a Cosmic Landscape, ed. by N. J. Girardot, James Miller, and Liu Xiaogan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), pp. 185-201 (p. 186).
 See appendix 11; Moe Bedard, ‘Pythagorean Cosmic Morphology’, in Alchemy, Meaning of Symbols <https://gnosticwarrior.com/pythagorean-cosmic-morphology.html> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 The dragon is somewhat of a contemporary zeitgeist proving to appeal to a universal audience and readership, with adaptations and revisions emerging from the creative industries such as in the 2019 film, Godzilla: King of Monsters; the series Game of Thrones; the How to Train your Dragon franchise and in the popular children’s’ NETFLIX animation The Dragon Prince, to name a few.
 Swimme, ‘Cosmos as Primary Revelation’, pp. 23-85 (p. 25).
 Harding, ‘Encountering Gaia’, pp. 46-68 (p. 60).
 Thomas, ‘The Lives of a Cell’, pp. 1-5 (p. 4).
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Huxley, p. 5.
 Teleological: ‘Relating to a goal, end, or final cause; dealing with or invoking the concepts of purpose or design, esp. in relation to the natural or physical world; of, relating to, characterized by, or involving teleology’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/198708> [accessed 27 August 2019]; Harding, ‘From Gaia Hypothesis to Gaia Theory’, pp. 68-92 (p. 71).
 Harding, p. 70.
 David Hawkes, ‘The Songs of the South: Shamanism and Poetry’, in Classical Chinese Literature: An Anthology of Translations, ed. by John Minford and Joseph S. M. Lau (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2000), pp. 237-264 (p. 239).
 Hawkes, p. 255
 Hawkes clarifies: ‘Wang Yi [second century AD] thought that the ‘Nine Songs’ were written by Qu Yuan during his exile… Sima Qian [c. 145-.c.185 BC], who may quite likely have seen the ‘Nine Songs’ performed, appears to have been unaware that they were in anyway connected with Qu Yuan’ (p. 254). Herein lies one of the problems in analysing such ancient texts in addition to the translation issues. However, it is not the task of this dissertation to determine the authorship or biographical issues impacting on texts. It is the aim of this dissertation to investigate intersections between myth and ecology in the symbolism and imagery surrounding divine visions of revelation.
 Qu Yuan, ‘On Encountering Trouble’, in ‘The Songs of the South: Shamanism and Poetry’, in Classical Chinese Literature: An Anthology of Translations, ed. by John Minford and Joseph S. M. Lau (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2000), pp. 240-253 (p. 253).
 Qu Yuan, ‘The Lord within the Clouds’, p. 255.
 Clash of the Titans, Warner Bros, 1981.
 Qu Yuan, ‘On Encountering Trouble’, p. 248.
 Huxley, p. 27-8.
 Ibid., p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 255.
 Ibid., p. 256.
 Ibid., p. 256.
 Field, p. 196.
 Val Plumwood, ‘Journey to the Heart of Stone: Stone Sagas’, in Culture, Creativity and Environment: New Environmentalist Criticism, ed. by Fiona Becket and Terry Gifford (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007), pp. 17-36 (p. 20).
 Plumwood, p. 17.
 Ibid., p. 17.
 Anne Birrell, ‘Origins: The Creation of the World’, in Chinese Myths (London: British Museum Press, 2000), pp. 16-27 (p. 19).
 Anne Birrell, ‘Introduction: From Cosmology to Mythogeography’, in The Classic of Mountains and Seas (London: Penguin, 1999), pp. xvi-xvii (p. xxv).
 Anne Birrell, p. 16.
 Hesiod, ‘Theogony’, in Theogony and Works and Days, tr. by M. L. West (Oxford: Oxford World's Classics, 2008), pp 1-35, as cited in Harding, p. 46.
 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, tr. by Colin Smith (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), as referred to by Harding, p. 53.
 Harding, p. 47.
 Ibid., p. 45.
 Michael D., Press, “(Pytho) Gaia in Myth and Legend: The Goddess of the Ekron Inscription Revisited”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 365 (2012) 1-25 <https://www-journals-uchicago-edu.bris.idm.oclc.org/doi/pdfplus/10.5615/bullamerschoorie.365.0001> [accessed 30 August 2019].
 Michael D., Press, p. 3.
 Qu Yuan, p. 256.
 Ibid., p. 256.
 Ezekiel 1.18.
 ‘The Dragon and War’, Welsh Flag, BBC <https://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/history/sites/themes/society/flag_war.shtml> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Huxley, p. 10.
 Ibid., 6.
 Swimme, p. 130.
 Sadie Plant, ‘Loops’, in Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (London: Fourth Estate, 1998), pp. 229-33 (p. 230).
 Plant, pp. 230-231.
 Ibid., p. 230.
 Ibid., p. 230.
 Ibid., p. 231.
 Ibid., p. 231.
 See C., Darwin and R., E., Leakey, The Illustrated Origin of Species (London: Faber and Faber, 1979); Arborescent: ‘Tree-like in growth; approaching the size of a tree, or having a woody stem’ [accessed 24 July 2019].
 Swimme, p. 130; Anastomosis: ‘Intercommunication between two vessels, channels, or distinct branches of any kind, by a connecting cross branch. Applied originally to the cross communications between the arteries and veins, or other canals in the animal body; whence to similar cross connections in the sap-vessels of plants, and between rivers or their branches; and now to cross connexions between the separate lines of any branching system, as the branches of trees, the veins of leaves, or the wings of insects’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/7139> [accessed 24 July 2019]
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, p. 5.
 Plant, ‘Grass’, pp. 124-25 (p. 124).
 Harding, p. 38.
 Thomas Muffet, ‘The Theatre of Insects’, in The history of four-footed beasts, ed. by Edward Topsell,  p. 1,111.
 Plant, p. 231.
 Plant, ‘Preamble’, pp. 3-5 (p. 4).
 Lovelock, p.13.
 See appendix 12; Huxley, p. 6.
 Ancient Egyptian knowledge in astrology and cosmology informed their beliefs about the afterlife and the concept of an Underworld. See Robert Bauval, ‘Sacred Cosmology’, in The Pyramid Code: ‘The stars performed an annual cycle. Those who see an Orion give us a curious cycle in that they disappear or they appeared to disappear. But if you watch a star over the course of the year you’ll find that there comes a time when it is very low in the west at [the] time of sunsets. So the sun sets and as it gets dark the star appears just for a few seconds over the west. If you come the next day you will not see that star and for seventy days or so, the star has gone. It seems to have gone under the earth. But after those seventy days, it appears by this time at dawn, rising just before the sun, or as the Egyptian call it the rebirth of the star… In their mind, the star went in the underworld. Stayed in the underworld for seventy days. And then by magic, popped up again, was reborn again in the east. That’s the Pyramid Text. The Pyramid Text mimic the star’ <https://www.netflix.com/title/70212989> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Thomas Burnet, ‘A Review of the Theory of the Earth’, in The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: Centaur Press, 1965), pp. 381-412 (p. 401); Revelation 20.1-3: ‘And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season’.
 See appendix 13.
 See appendix 14; Geomorphology 1: ‘the branch of science concerned with the forms of the physical objects of the earth, animate and inanimate. 2: The branch of geology and physical geography concerned with the nature, origin, and development of the physical features of the earth's surface. Also: the physical features (landforms) of a particular region and the processes which affect them’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77796> [accessed 11 July 2019].
 Brooke, p. 9.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 Ibid., p. 9.
 Burnet, p. 401.
 Haugen, p. iv.
 Swimme, p. 130.
 Erasmus Darwin, ‘Advertisement’, in ‘Part 1: The Economy of Vegetation’, in The Botanic Garden. A Poem in Two Parts,  <https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/9612/pg9612-images.html> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Darwin, 413-414. See Darwin’s note concerning line 413: ‘There were two Cupids belonging to the ancient mythology, one much elder than the other. The elder cupid, or Eros, or divine Love, was the first that came out of the great egg of night, which floated in Chaos, and was broken by the horns of the celestial bull, that is, was hatched by the warmth of Spring. He was winged and armed, and by his arrows and torch pierced and vivified all things, producing life and joy’.
 Swimme, p. 133.
 Darwin, 59-61; 64-66.
 Darwin, 64.
 See Burnet, The Sacred Theory of the Earth (London: Centaur Press, 1965); Kircher, Athanasius, Mundus Subterraneous (Amsterdam: Janssonius-Waesberge, 1665).
 See appendix 15; Aeolipile: ‘An experimental or educational device comprising a container which can be filled with steam or other heated vapour which escapes through one or more narrow apertures with sufficient force to cause the container to rotate. Often considered the first steam engine, the aeolipile is said to have been invented by Hero of Alexandria. In his version of the instrument, the water is heated in a cauldron which forms the stand for the ball-shaped vessel’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/3110> [accessed 15 July 2019].
 See appendix 16.
 See appendix 17.
 John Glassie, ‘Athanasius, Underground’ <https://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/01/athanasius-underground/> [accessed 8 August 2019].
 Strang, ‘Imaginary Water’, pp. 51-67 (p. 65).
 Swimme, p. 133.
 Darwin, 111-12.
 See appendix 18; Ophanim: ‘One of the orders of angels; spec. the ‘wheels’ or wheel-like beings described in the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1.15-20)’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/131791> [accessed 1 June 2019].
 Darwin, 30; 31; 32; 24.
 Harding, ‘Carbon Journeys’, pp. 113-138 (p. 113).
 Harding, p. 114.
 Darwin, 17; 21.
 Darwin, 115-117.
 Darwin, 115. See Darwin’s note concerning line 115: ‘The meteors called shooting stars, the lightening, the rainbow, and the clouds, are phenomena of the lower regions of the atmosphere. The twilight, the meteors call’s fire-balls, or flying dragons, and the northern lights, inhabit those regions of the atmosphere’.
 Darwin, 291-92.
 Ibid., 117.
 Strang, ‘Water Journeys’, p. 77: ‘The Chinese word for rain serpent or dragon, lyong, is cognate ghung (rainbow), kyung (bow), lyung (arched), k’ung (hollow), lyong (hillock or mound) and k’yung (vault, dome). These linguistic links were echoed in visual form, with the Chinese dragon typically bent and curved like a bow’.
 Ezekiel 1.28.
 Huxley, p. 11.
 Huxley, p. 11.
 Strang, p. 76.
 Ibid., p. 76.
 Darwin, 121-122.
 Darwin, 196; 198; 203-205; 207-208.
 Ezekiel 1.13.
 Darwin, 205.
 Darwin, 256; 261-262.
 See appendix 19; Stephen Scully, ‘Introduction’, in Hesiod's Theogony: From Near Eastern Creation Myths to Paradise Lost Oxford Scholarship Online (2015) <10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190253967.001.0001> [accessed 2 August 2019] (para. 4 of 20).
 Huxley, p. 28.
 Darwin, 263-264; 269-270.
 Darwin, 275-278.
 Ibid., 277.
 Robin Waterfield and Kathryn Waterfield, ‘Thebes in the Age of Heroes’, in The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold (London: Quercus, 2013), pp. 92-105 (p. 93).
 See Swimme, p. 130; Berry, Dream of the Earth, as referred to in Haugen, pp. 9-10.
 See Carl Gustav Jung, The Portable Jung, ed. by Joseph Campbell (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), as cited in Haugen, p. 36.
 Darwin, 101-02. Darwin’s note concerning these lines relate specifically to the cross-cultural significance of the symbology behind the cosmic egg: ‘From having observed the gradual evolution of the young animal or plant from its egg or feed; and afterwards its successive advances to its more perfect state, or maturity; philosophers of all ages seem to have imagined, that the great world itself had likewise its infancy and its gradual progress to maturity; this seems to have given origin to the very ancient and sublime allegory of Eros, or Divine Love, producing the world from the egg of Night, as it floated in chaos’.
 See Darwin’s note concerning line 413.
 See Darwin’s note concerning line 413.
 See Darwin’s note concerning line 101.
 See appendix 20; Godzilla (ゴジラ), Ishirō Honda, Toho Studios, 27 October 1954.
 See appendix 21; See Godzilla: King of Monsters, Michael Dougherty, 31 May 2019.
 Darwin, 408-10.
 Ibid., 410.
 Harding, p. 70.
 Posthumanism: ‘The idea that humanity can be transformed, transcended, or eliminated either by technological advances or the evolutionary process; artistic, scientific, or philosophical practice which reflects this belief’ <https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/266686> [accessed 15 July 2019].
 Haugen, p. 5.
 Berry, as referred to by Haugen, p. 20.
 See Arne Naess, Ecology, Community and Lifestyle, tr. by David Rotenberg (Cambridge University Press, 1990), as referred to in Harding, p. 80.
 Harding, p. 56.
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