The "Planetary Birth" story uses the patterns and archetypes associated with the human birth process to name and give meaning to the experience of Humanity as a whole as it undergoes difficult changes that look or feel like being squeezed through a birth canal. This story articulates a larger context for the despair and destruction that we see around us. It offers purpose, hope, and direction in the face of what many are experiencing as suffering, hopelessness, and confusion.
When we are being born, we are only aware of the constriction of the birth canal. To the naïve young mother, separated from her own mother or her woman tribe, the pain of contractions may feel like dying. To the aware mother or midwife or father, there is a deeper miracle hidden in the pain. A whole new possibility is being born. When we know that a new potential is on the other side, we are able to move through the process with much less fear, with greater cooperation with what is trying to happen, and with joy in the moment-to-moment unfolding.
Giving birth is the fundamental initiation of the girl into womanhood. The woman – and the feminine aspect of man – gains maturity through the process of giving birth, whether it be to an infant, a project, or a creative artwork. Patience, waiting, enduring, and being present to the pain are all part of the initiation. The complementary initiation for the boy – or the masculine aspect of the woman – is the Vision Quest or Hero’s Journey. In many ancient and indigenous cultures, this rite of passage gives him an experience equal in depth to that of his sisters, teaching perseverance, discipline, courage, and waiting for a larger vision. Together, these initiations into adulthood provide known pathways to guide us in growing up as Humanity.
What if this same pattern of initiation is happening to Humanity as a whole? What would it look like, feel like, and be like for the masculine aspect of Humanity to pass through the initiation of the Vision Quest or Hero’s Journey? And what if the feminine aspect of Humanity, Earth itself, came into its maturity through giving birth? How would we as individuals experience this process? What could we say is being born?
The Story in Action
Storytellers from around the world have long used the birthing metaphor to give context to suffering: The pain is worth what is being born on the other side. As we gain more awareness of Humanity as a whole, it’s possible to use this same metaphor to understand how to be with the collective pain of our current global struggle. We know from lived experience what giving birth is about. We know how to endure the process and how to help it along. And we know how to love what is born. Here are three perspectives on what Humanity as a whole could be birthing.
Betsy MacGregor, M.D.: A Physician's View of Human Birth
The following quote is taken from Dr. MacGregor's forthcoming book, In Awe of Being: Stories from the Edge of Life and Death:
[B]ringing a new human being into this world is not an easy matter. The ordeal that must be endured is huge, and it can take a significant toll. The life of either mother or child, and sometimes both, may be lost if all does not go well. This is because it is no small thing for two bodies that have lived as one for many months to separate. Tremendous forces must be set in motion in order to expel the infant from the comfort of the womb, and the going can get extremely rough. Powerful maternal muscles create rhythmic waves of contraction that force the baby along, while the youngster’s head leads the way, stretching apart tight maternal tissues and pushing past rock-hard bone, bearing the brunt of the work. The amount of pressure exerted on the infant’s head is so great that the soft bones of its skull are squeezed hard against each other and made to overlap, only slowly regaining their normal position days after birth. Collections of blood may form in the infant’s scalp from the battering as well. For hours upon hours the formidable process goes on, testing the limits of endurance for both mother and child. It’s enough to make an observer exclaim, “Good Lord! Why has nature made it so hard for us to enter this world?”
Barbara Marx Hubbard and Planetary Birth
In 1966, Barbara Marx Hubbard had a visionary experience in which she witnessed the Earth as a whole, living body giving birth to a higher-order planetary life form. She saw humanity come together and play an essential, coordinated role in the birthing process. The result of the "Planetary Birth" was a harmonious planetary body interacting more fully with the rest of the galaxy through an evolved Universal Human species that saw itself as one. Barbara asked herself the question, "What in our age is comparable to the birth of Christ?" The answer was "Our story is a birth. It is the birth of humankind as one body. We are one body, born into this universe." What is being born is not a helpless babe but an empowered and awake planetary community: "We are waking up to ourselves as a collective humanity." With the global Internet and communications revolution, the collective consciousness of the species (the 'noosphere') is coming alive. We can take a leap forward in love and become co-creative and co-evolving participants in birthing humanity as an integrated and healthy organism. Read more...
Charles Eisenstein and Planetary Birth
Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition (2011), uses the story of a Planetary Birth (or Gaian Birthing) as a way of describing the process we are in and how it can lead to a new way of living that we can barely imagine. In The Ascent of Humanity (2007), Eisenstein writes:
We can see a glimpse of it already, the light at the end of the tunnel—the new modes of technology, money, medicine, education. ... In [this stage] of birth, the baby is born into a new and unimagined world, where he becomes an anatomically distinct individual. In any kind of birth process, the entity being born cannot imagine what lies beyond the mother’s body. In the case of humanity as well, the new society we are being born into is probably beyond imagining. ... Birth is a journey that starts with blissful oneness, proceeds through an increasingly unbearable confinement, climaxes in a heroic struggle, and ends with a return to the one, but at a new level of being. ... In the Age of Reunion that will follow the present birthing, we will gaze upon Mother Nature's face with the adoring eyes of an infant. Read more...
Barbara Marx Hubbard on Planetary Birth
The following storytellers are referenced in this story overview:
Additional storytellers working with the Planetary Birth story:
- Chris Bache, Dark Night, Early Dawn: Steps to a Deep Ecology of Mind (2000)
- Jack Canfield, The Golden Motorcycle Gang: A Story of Transformation (2011)
- Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005)
- Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity (2007)
- Duane Elgin, Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity's Future (2000)
- Duane Elgin, Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness (1993)
- Barbara Marx Hubbard, Emergence: The Shift from Ego to Essence (2001)
- Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Revelation: A Message of Hope for the New Millennium (1995)
- Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Suprasexual Revolution: A Radical Path to 2012 and Beyond (2009)
- Donella H. Meadows, et al., Limits to Growth (1972, 2004)