— J.X. Mason’s Blog pf 10/25/21
— J.X. Mason is the author of ContinuingCreation.org

My website, Continuing Creation: A Spiritual Path based on Nature, Reason, and Science, mentions Mother Nature in several places. But how seriously can we take Mother Nature as a representation of evolution, or as a representation of a spiritual path that is based on nature, reason and science?

Well, we don’t regard Mother Nature as a goddess, spirit, or saint.  We would never pray to Mother Nature (or to any other being, for that matter!)  For us, Mother Nature is a personification, an anthropomorphic symbol, of Nature itself. 

It’s a bit sad to note that many Americans are most familiar with Mother Nature as a character in a 1977 margarine commercial, who exclaims, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!,” letting loose thunder and lightning.

Historically, however, Mother Nature did evolve from the humankind’s earliest conception of goddesses as a feminine incarnation of fertility, nurturing, and successful harvests. Often their creative powers extended to represent all life-on-Earth. Thus, we have the concept of “Mother Earth.” For example, the ancient Greeks had the “wide-bosomed” Goddess Gaia, who was the ancestral mother of all life on Earth.

To name just a few Mother Nature Goddesses: in Africa, the Igbo people had Ala; the Ashanti had Asase Ya; and the Zulu had Mbaba Mwana Waresa, the Goddess of fertility, rainbows, agriculture, rain, and bees). The Aztec pantheon included Alma, goddess of fertility, life, death, and rebirth; Tonacacihuatl, goddess of sustenance; and Xochiquetzal, goddess of fertility, beauty, female sexual power, births, and women’s crafts. The ancient Egyptians had many goddesses of human and/or agricultural fertility, including Heqet, Mesenet, and Isis. The Ancient Greeks had the Goddesses Aphrodite, Demeter, and Hera.

The popular mind unfortunately sees Evolution as raw competition (“red in tooth and claw”). But our Continuing Creation website shows that cooperation is just as important in the scientific processes of evolution, going clear back to when the earliest single-celled creatures joined together to form communities and also fungi (which comprise an entire biological kingdom of their own).  Until recently, Western Civilizations have viewed their masculine Gods as dominant, adventurous, and war-like. They symbolize the competition side of evolution. Their feminine Goddesses symbolize the cooperation side of evolution.

The Catholic Church has always been firmly divided by gender – women are (still) not allowed to be priests. But early Christians so missed having a female deity who could comfort them, that the Catholic Church decided to promote what many historians call “The Cult of the Virgin Mary.” In 1913, the historian Henry Adams wrote Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres – a beautiful description of how this trend flowered in the 13th century. Adams says that in that century, Catholicism’s division by gender was even captured in stonework, as seen in the contrast between the masculine, spartan Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey; and the feminine, welcoming Chartres Cathedral.

However, some ancient civilizations did worship certain Goddesses who had more militant powers. For example, the Greeks worshipped Athena, the Goddess of both War and Wisdom. (She was also protector of the city Athens.) Today, we can easily imagine Athena as the “Goddess of Women’s Suffrage Movement,” and as the “Goddess of Women’s Liberation.”

A segment of the modern environmental movement has adopted Gaia as their symbol. This adoption started with the 1979 book by Dr. James Lovelock called Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, which was quickly supported by research from the biologist Lynn Margulis. The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that living organisms and inorganic material are all part of a single dynamical system that shapes the Earth’s biosphere and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. Some Gaia Theorists view the Earth itself as a giant living organism having self-regulatory functions.

The Gaia theory clearly recognizes the evolutionary power of both competition and cooperation. Therefore, we can say that Gaia is a better personification of Continuing Creation than Mother Nature. However, most of the artistic images depicting Mother Nature and Mother Earth can also stand as representations of Gaia.