The Noosphere - literally, “mind-sphere” or Earth’s mental sheathe - is a word and concept jointly coined by Édouard Le Roy, French philosopher and student of Henri Bergson, Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Russian geochemist, Vladimir Vernadsky, in Paris, 1926. At the root of the primary definition of noosphere is a dual perception: that life on Earth is a unity constituting a whole system known as the biosphere; and that the mind or consciousness of life - the Earth’s thinking layer - constitutes a unity that is discontinuous but coextensive with the entire system of life on Earth, inclusive of its inorganic support systems. A third critical premise arising from the first two is that the noosphere defines the inevitable next stage of terrestrial evolution, which will subsume and transform the biosphere.
How this evolutionary shift might occur is at the crux of the experiment, Noosphere II. Though little else is known concerning Édouard Le Roy, our ideas about the noosphere and the transition from the biosphere to the noosphere are largely derived from the perceptions of Teilhard de Chardin and Vernadsky, along with the work of American Physicist, Oliver Reiser. We will summarize these viewpoints below.
1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin foresaw the emergence of the noosphere at a peak mystical moment referred to as the Omega Point. This moment would be the result of the interactions of increasing activity of human networks creating a highly charged “thinking layer.” Teilhard speaks of there being planets with noosphere - planets in which the thinking layer advances to the stage where it produces a noosphere, the mental sheathe “above and discontinuous with the biosphere.” Thus Teilhard de Chardin wrote of a “... network of links ... more and more literally present, in the immensity of their organism, as the image of a nervous system...” This nervous system would be the function of a “... geotechnology extending a closely interdependent network of its enterprises over the whole earth ...”
Since Teilhard de Chardin’s death in 1955 when his books could finally be published, most notably the Phenomenon of Man (1959) and the Future of Man (1964), the advance of the biosphere into a transitional stage, the technosphere, has seen the virtual fulfillment of de Chardin’s prerequisite for the manifestation of the noosphere, a global information network - a geotechnology - the Internet. As the penultimate stage in the development of an actual freely functioning thinking layer, the Internet is the means of electronically linking up the noosphere prior to the mystical moment of the Omega Point - “At that node of ultimate synthesis, the internal spark of consciousness that evolution has slowly banked into a roaring fire will finally consume the universe itself. Our ancient itch to flee this woeful orb will finally be satisfied as the immense expanse of cosmic matter collapses like some mathematician’s hypercube into absolute spirit.” (www.noosphere.princeton.edu.com)
2. Vladimir Vernadsky and the
In the time since Vernadsky's death in 1945, his prerequisite of a peak of biogeochemical combustion to precipitate the noosphere is all but fulfilled in the complex fact of global warming. Little known in the West, Vernadsky enjoys an enormous stature in Russia where his thought has affected virtually all of Russian science since him, spawning such schools as cosmism, the perception of cosmic processes in terrestrial affairs, and many subgroups within the Russian Academy of Sciences devoted to exploring the implications and aspects of his ideas. These include the work of N. A. Kozyrev on time, Alexei Dmitriev on the transformation of solar fields, and the Kaznacheev school of Cosmic Anthropoecology.
3. Oliver Reiser. In his book Cosmic Humanism (1966), Oliver Reiser, an unusual and little known American visionary physicist and whole systems thinker, advances his idea of the noosphere. In a chapter entitled “The Radiation Belts of Thought,” he puts forth the notion of Earth’s psi fields. His rather elaborate theory - the Psi Fields and the World Sensorium - is based on two discoveries not known to Vernadsky, nor, it would seem, to Teilhard de Chardin - the DNA and the Earth’s radiation belts. Reiser presciently locates the world brain - noosphere - within the electromagnetic field of the radiation belts, including the program of the DNA, which creates the “planetary thought belts.” While Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin are quite vague in an actual description of the noosphere, Reiser supplies a great amount of scientific detail, integrating the evolving components of science into a system of cosmoecology, inclusive of Carl Jung’s notion of synchronicity.
In “Projects Prometheus and Krishna,” Appendix II to his fascinating synthesis, Reiser takes full cognizance of the contribution of Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin. Reiser cites Vernadsky’s calling attention to the process of social synthesis, “whereby mankind become a single totality in the life of the Earth, and the psychozoic era of the earth’s biosphere be transformed into the noosphere.” Taking account of the sequence of spherical shells constituting the whole system earth - the barysphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere - he writes, “Now, at long last, the processes of cultural evolution have generated another envelope, superimposed on the biosphere, i.e., a ‘sheet of humanized and socialized matter,’ which is the noosphere.” (p.557, Cosmic Humanism).
4. Jung, Fuller, Sheldrake, Russell, Biosphere 2, et al. Following Reiser’s synthesizing work some such notion of the noosphere or psi fields was taken up by various thinkers though none approaching the whole system completeness of Vernadsky, de Chardin or Reiser. The work of Carl Jung on synchronicity and archetypal theory is a natural adjunct to a theory of the noosphere which would assume a common “collective unconscious” - the noosphere being the common collective conscious field of the Earth. The idea of synchronicity further assumes a method of telepathy or a parapsychological medium of communication within the common field of the collective unconscious. The vindication of Jung’s theories (and of Reiser as well) came with the 1973 discovery by Martin Shoenberger (The I Ching and the Genetic Code, The Hidden Key to Life, 1973) of the exact identity of the binary code of the I Ching and DNA, a discovery which had to raise the issue of a synchronistic medium of communication within some great planetary field of thought - the World Sensorium.
In Rupert Sheldrake’s A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation (1982), the notion of morphogenetic fields advances an explanation of an essentially telepathic intraspecies medium of communication. Peter Russell’s notion of the Global Brain (1982) builds on the electronic communication and nervous system metaphor of the noosphere to establish the idea of the noosphere as a planetary global brain. Buckminster Fuller’s concepts for developing a whole system design perception of the Earth - Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking (1975) and Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969) - are also fundamental to a theory of the noosphere as intrinsic to a view of the planet as an evolving organism, an idea also articulated in James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis (1981).
The work of the Ecotechnics Institute/Biosphere 2 project which evolved over the 1980s and 90’s also needs to be cited. This includes the work of Tango Snyder, John Allen and Mark Nelson, as well as the pioneers of the actual Biosphere 2 experiment outside of Tucson, 1991-1993. While the Biosphere Catalog (1985), edited by Tango Snyder, is the first to fully elaborate a description of the technosphere, Space Biospheres (1989) by Allen and Nelson define two other spheres which could be called sub functions of the technosphere: the cybersphere - Teilhard de Chardin’s geotechnological information network - and the ethnosphere, what Cosmic History would define as the field of the hybrid planetary human hooked up by the cybersphere and living an unconsciously yet technologically unified life within the technosphere. While much of the work of the Biosphere 2 project (Life Under Glass, A Look Inside Biosphere 2, by Abigail Ailing and Mark Nelson, 1993) was aimed at seeing what possibility might exist for transporting the Earth’s biosphere to other planets - namely Mars - still, the experimental effort in and of itself advanced the possibility of humans breaking out of the mold, while on Earth, to experience in a defined environment the nature of the biosphere - and by doing it consciously, actually anticipating the noosphere.
In conclusion, mention should be made of the fact that on the virtual noosphere, the Internet, there is a web site <http://www.noosphere.princeton.edu.com> conducting tests in global consciousness entitled the “Global Consciousness Project: Registering Coherence and Resonance in the World.” The Noosphere is defined by this Internet group "as the sum total of all human knowledge and experience. This would include everything from our most private dreams to our knowledge of Universe itself. With accelerating technology as its catalyst, our noosphere is expanding at its greatest rate in history.”
In contemporary Russia, the noosphere has advanced to the stage of establishing different versions of a ‘Noospheric Congress.’ In Altai, one such effort was aimed at functioning within the existing parliamentary government system as a higher consciousness biospheric steering committee. The other effort is known as the Noosphere Spiritual Ecological World Assembly (www.newhumanity.org.ru), which has already begun a process of setting up the standards “whereby mankind become a single totality in the life of the Earth.” It might be added that, in general, in the 1980s and 90s the idea of the noosphere or global brain or gaia consciousness had become a common belief in the New Age Movement
5. José Argüelles/Valum Votan. The work of José Argüelles (Valum Votan) forms an essential conclusion to the theory of the noosphere which at the same time takes the first steps toward creating experimental techniques for actually precipitating the noosphere into conscious manifestation. The fundamental premise of Arguelles’ theory of the noosphere is that it can only come into manifestation through a conscious effort on the part of at least an informed and enlightened human minority. Arguelles’ activist inclination toward manifesting the noosphere began with his work in the creation of the First Whole Earth Festival (1970), the vision of which was to set up a global village linked by prayer and meditation with other event points on the planet. This landmark occasion brought him into contact with astrologer and whole system philosopher, Dane Rudhyar, whose Planetarization of Consciousness (1970) is a definitive statement in the direction of spiritually comprehending the noosphere as a planetary sense organ opening it to “galactic consciousness.” The holistic perception of the Earth was conveyed in Arguelles’ Mandala (1972), while in the Transformative Vision (1975), he developed a view of the planetary mind utilizing the model of the two cerebral hemispheres as an analog to the Eastern and Western global hemispheres, as well as comprehending a type of dialectical process evolving toward a unified field of global consciousness.
But it is in Earth Ascending, an illustrated Treatise on the Law Governing Whole Systems (1984, 1988, 1996), that Arguelles stepped fully into the mainstream of defining the noosphere. While synthesizing the work of Teilhard de Chardin and Oliver Reiser (in the first edition of this book he had not yet been aware of Vernadsky), the main contribution of Arguelles was to establish the principle of the psi bank as the regulator and information storage and retrieval mechanism of the noosphere. In the perception of Earth Ascending the psi bank/noosphere has always been operating as long as there has been life on Earth, but until a moment in the imminent future, Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point, it has remained in the unconscious.
The description and definition of the psi bank was the first step in describing the noosphere’s mechanism of consciousness. Accordingly, the psi bank is responsible for moderating the different stages not only in the evolution of life, but in the evolution of consciousness as well. This is because the psi bank program maintained between the Van Allen electromagnetic radiation belts (as posited by Reiser) consists of the DNA information structures as they are in turn regulated by a field of four bipolar “psi plates” - the actual timing apparatus of the noosphere.
In 1969, Arguelles had already written of the I Ching as a computer model, a point noted in the Foreword to Schønberger’s I Ching and the Genetic Code. With the psi bank model, Arguelles was able to take the I Ching/DNA code as a type of planetary computer program and mathematically integrate it into the mathematical code of the Mayan calendar system, the tzolkin. The common mathematical key, Arguelles discovered, was that any magic square of eight (the same mathematical matrix as the DNA/I Ching) has an array of 260, that is any row always adds up to 260, horizontally or vertically.
Arguelles knew this number was the key to the tzolkin, the 13 x 20 (= 260) “time matrix” upon which the Mayan calendar is based. Utilizing Reiser’s hypothesis of the psi field as a kind of DNA thought belt located in the radiation field, while finding the design key to place the DNA in the Tzolkin matrix, Arguelles was able to unlock a great system of codes underlying the programs governing the historical manifestation of civilization and its imminent transformation into a stage of galactic civilization and consciousness - the noosphere made manifest.
Having worked for many years with the tzolkin as a permutational matrix accounting for the Mayan calendar’s supreme perfection among all world calendars, and following its noospheric decoding in Earth Ascending, Arguelles went on to two more landmark noospheric event points. One was the globally synchronized meditation, the Harmonic Convergence, which actually worked with setting up a planetary field of consciousness by focusing meditations prophetically timed to occur at key sacred sites around the planet; and the accompanying text, the Mayan Factor, Path Beyond technology (1987).
In the Mayan Factor, with the understanding of the 13 x 20 Mayan calendar matrix as the timing regulator of Earth’s psi bank regulator, Arguelles was able to determine that the Great Cycle of history, 13 baktuns or 260 katuns in duration, the basis of the Mayan Long Count, from 3113 BC to 2012 AD, was also mathematically indistinguishable from the tzolkin matrix. This meant that all of history was a function of the psi bank program.
The Great Cycle so defined also gave a precise timing to the third and fourth terms of the holonomic equation - “man transforms nature” - now defined as the cycle of history from 3113 BC to 1987; while ”nature evaluates man’s transformation” is defined by the brief span between 1987 and 2012. The fifth and concluding term, “man and nature synthesize” would begin after the end of the cycle of history in 2012. Was 2012 Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point? If so, then the period between 1987 and 2012 would also define the time of Vernadsky’s biosphere-noosphere transition.