A “great generating elemental” was how Arthur Chichester, the Warden of the Society of the Inner Light from 1946 to 1979, liked to describe the Planetary Being, and it was he who was responsible for drawing special attention to it, although it made its original appearance in a remarkable work by Dion Fortune back in 1922/4 called The Cosmic Doctrine, in which however, it was called the ‘Planetary Spirit’.
There had been long debate within the Fraternity, in the secretive atmosphere of 1930’s occultism, as to whether The Cosmic Doctrine should be reserved for the private study of advanced initiates or released to the world. Not that the world, or any commercial publisher at the time, was particularly ready to receive it, for it is not a particularly easy read. However, Arthur Chichester made it his business to see that it was published, in 1949, in a semi-private edition, funded by the Society.
Then as a result of his close study of the text in editing it for publication, he came realise that the term Planetary Spirit was something of a misnomer, for it is not so much a Spirit as an Etheric vehicle. In fact it says as much at certain places. Along with the point that it is reliant for its cosmic evolution on the practice and example of those forms of life in its sphere that have consciousness above the etheric level – which means US!
At one of the Wednesday evening discussion groups held by the Society during the 1950’s the Warden raised these points, also seeking suggestions for a more appropriate name. After an awkward few minutes of desperate brain scratching, Miss G.P.Lathbury, (otherwise known as ‘Dragon’, a stalwart from very early days of the group), came up with the suggestion “Planetary Being” – which was greeted with general relief and accord.
Henceforth, this was what it was called in the subsequent editions of The Cosmic Doctrine issued by Aquarian Press in 1957 and Helios Books in 1966. But then, in 1995, after a period of being out of print, the Society issued its own edition, making a virtue of reverting to the original text, which meant retaining the old term “Planetary Spirit”. This same text and terminology were also used for the American edition published by Weisers in 2000.
Both these later editions had the attraction of providing explanatory diagrams drawn by C.T.Loveday, Dion Fortune’s close associate who had probably been the scribe who took down the original dictation from the entranced Dion Fortune. They also restored material that had been edited out of former editions on potentially hot topics such as the Law of Impactation and Law of Polarity, although they were of a formidable technicality and so unlikely to be abused by the casual unrighteous.
The American edition also reinstated a Part II, called Afterthoughts. This had been added to the 1957 and 1966 editions but was dropped in the 1995 one. This section was largely the work of Margaret Lumley Brown in the 1950’s, and had been regarded as having the same authority as the main body of the work. It contains valuable further material on the Planetary Being, referring to it by that name, despite the old ‘Planetary Spirit’ usage still appearing in the main body of the text. An anomaly perhaps missed by the copy editors of the time – but a happy accident.
This section brought the book to a close with some practical advice on working with the Planetary Being, describing it as “a vast Elemental composed of the consciousness (using the word in a wide sense) of each one of its children – the children being all the lives upon the Earth, humans, beasts, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, etc....There is no thing on earth, no thought brought through to earth which does not concern the Planetary Being – however great or lofty, however (unfortunately) mean or base...
“Be aware of the Planetary Being as a being of immense age in which each one of you is as it were embedded and through which you draw your earth-life; it could be compared to an enormous bee-hive with millions of sections each of which holds a small bee making honey. Be aware, too, of the Archangelic Intelligence (traditionally Sandalphon, its guide) as having tremendous protection, love and devotion for each and every creature on the earth because each creature is part of earth, and as being able to guide each one of you, either indirectly through the Planetary Being, or directly if you have the right approach to him and have earned and maintained the right of direct contact with him.”
This was certainly put into practice by the Society which in its ceremonial work from thereon always included an officer charged with the duty of mediating the spiritual forces of the Lodge to the Planetary Being.
Although this esoteric practice might seem of small moment to any outsider, there is reason to suppose that this sustained spiritual work began to have an effect upon the group soul, or at least to have demonstrated some intuition of what was to come, if it is true that initiates form the antennae of the human race.
In part, this came about by what has come to be called the Gaia hypothesis. Formulated by the chemist James Lovelock around 1965 and co-developed during the 70’s with the microbiologist Lynn Margulis, it has since been a subject of continuous debate in scientific circles, with international conferences in 1985, 1988, 2000 and 2006 and battle lines drawn up in accustomed academic fashion. The minutiae of this need not concern us, as consciousness of the importance of the Earth has come up in other ways, including popular culture, and is a stirring of deep and ancient roots.
The name Gaia, suggested by the novelist William Golding as being appropriate to the idea of the Earth being an integrated whole, or a living being, has its origins in the primal Greek goddess personifying the Earth. (The name is variously spelt, and she figures as “Ge” in Dion Fortune’s Rite of Isis and her novels The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic.)
In Hesiod’s Theogony she appears as “wide bosomed Gaia, the ever sure foundation of all...and Gaia first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, to be the ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-nymphs who dwell among the glens of the hills. She bore also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love (i.e parthogenetically) but afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theira and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethis...” and so it goes on in a great list of gods and titans and giants and great beings. She was also believed by some to be the original deity behind the Delphic Oracle.
It is therefore small wonder that she has been taken up by the neo-pagan movement, in various perspectives ranging from the Earth itself to its spiritual embodiment as Earth Goddess. In this role some antique depictions of her show her as a matron half risen from the earth, sometimes in the act of holding forth a baby, an early Athenian king, to the goddess Pallas Athene, or else reclining on the earth surrounded by a host of infant gods of the fruits of the earth.
In 1968 an awareness of the Earth received a powerful stimulus with the stunning image of the planet in space, photographed by the astronaut William Anders on the Apollo 8 mission – as great a shock as when Drake and other 16th century navigators demonstrated the world to be round!
There has also been growing concern (and dispute) on the subject of planetary warming and the effects our technological age may have upon the balance of nature. These are matters for leaders of the human race to sort out, hopefully with more success than traditionally occurred in Atlantis! With possibly equally dire consequences if the forces of misrule and “contending heads” win the day.
Hence the importance of esoteric work of due responsibility and vision.
The Cosmic Doctrine, with its abstract concepts and analogies (along with some inconsistencies and lacunae it has to be said) is not everybody’s cup of tea. Abstruse as it may seem, it can have the effect of training the mind as well as informing it, developing an intuitive faculty that can reach up to planes beyond the usual level of personality consciousness, and possibly to contact with those who were originally involved in the project.
In a dual Introduction to the 1995 and 2000 editions Dion Fortune and one of the original communicators give a very clear account of how they approached the task. What is not mentioned is that it was the work of a team of about half a dozen communicators on the inner side, working at various levels, between 30th July 1923 and 25th February 1925, in about thirty different sessions. And as Dion Fortune admits, having received it unconsciously, she later had to work as hard as anyone else in trying to understand it.
But even if we should find it difficult going to the text for ourselves, we can still gain from what others have realised from working with it, particularly as regards our responsibilities toward the Planetary Being. This is a matter that concerns all of us. All we have to do is get on with it!