Agaya is a new term originated for Novasutras, intended as an expression of the deep, sacred beauty of the universe and its capacity to create life. Agaya inspires awe and reverence and delight in the natural world. Agaya is our term for the ineffable universal forces and properties that allow life to emerge in all its wonder and complexity.

We pronounce agaya as ah-guy-ah. The origin of the term was a merging of the concepts agape and Gaia

Agaya is a new term for the transcendent, creative, loving and sacred beauty of the universe.

An Etymological Exploration

Agaya sings of the ineffable universal forces and properties through which life continuously emerges in all its wonder and complexity.
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Gaia (pronounced guy-ah or gay-uh) was taken from the name given to the Gaia Theory, developed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. The Gaia Theory is the scientific concept that all of Earth’s organisms and various Earth systems including the atmosphere, the water cycle and many aspects of geochemistry interact in a complex, self-organizing and self-regulating system that promotes the resilience of life in the biosphere. The name for the theory (originally the Gaia hypothesis, until further supported with data from multiple fields of inquiry) was selected by one of its originators (Lovelock) from the ancient Greek name for the fierce, primordial Earth Goddess.

The Gaia hypothesis is a biological idea, but it’s not human-centered. Those who want Gaia to be an Earth goddess for a cuddly, furry human environment find no solace in it. …Some critics are worried that the Gaia hypothesis says the environment will respond to any insults done to it and the natural systems will take care of the problems. This, they maintain, gives industries a license to pollute. Yes, Gaia will take care of itself; yes, environmental excesses will be ameliorated, but it’s likely that such restoration of the environment will occur in a world devoid of people.

…Gaia is a tough bitch — a system that has worked for over three billion years without people. This planet’s surface and its atmosphere and environment will continue to evolve long after people and prejudice are gone.

~Lynn Margulis, “Gaia Is A Tough Bitch,” from The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (1995)

Agaya is how we articulate the profound love permeating all of us in our co-evolving universe.

Agape (pronounced ah-gah-pay) is the Greco-Christian word for divine love.

“The theological elaboration of agape should not shy away from identifying it with altruism… Can we entertain the hypothesis that altruistic love is rooted in the fundamental nature of reality, including the reality we call nature?” ~Philip Hefner (1993, as cited in Oord 2005)

Agape is typically distinguished from other types of love, such as eros and philia. Eros usually refers to romantic love, most often with a component of sexual desire. Philia may refer to love of kin, the love in non-romantic affiliations like friendship, or the love of things or concepts — for example, E.O. Wilson coined biophilia as a term for our inherent love of the living world (a concept closely allied with agaya in Novasutras). Compared to eros and philiaagape is distinguished by its transcendent nature, selflessness, and spiritual depth. Agape also implies a kind of universal love in community that is deeply connected with the Novasutras conception of ubuntu.

Agaya and Hózho

The Novasutras term agaya has precedent in at least one indigenous “old growth culture” language. We find the word hózho (pronounced like hoe-zhon) in the deep wisdom of Diné language and culture, from the southwest of Turtle Island (Diné are incorrectly referred to as Navajo, and Turtle Island is also known as North America). Peace, balance, beauty and harmony, and recognition of profound connection with the Earth are held in the gorgeously potent word hózho.

What lives and dies is beautiful. It is absolutely lovely. This is hózho.

Frankie Davis, “Navajo Grandma

Like agaya, the word hózho captures both the truth of that larger beauty, and the incredible joy that humans experience when they attend to such wondrousness.

Hózho is the joy of being a part of the beauty of all creation. When we understand that humanity is an expression of the Earth’s beauty, we understand that we too belong. Hózho understands that we have an ecological role. Hózho understands that our Mother Earth needs us. When we become her friend, her confidante, her ally, her partner in life, instead of her dominator, her “superior” or her profiteer, we can transform dead systems to living ones.

Lyla June, Diné scholar

Do you know other languages that have a word for this complex intersection of Gaia and agape? Please leave a reply below.

Agaya inspires awe, reverence and delight in the natural world.

Learn more from videos on our YouTube ubuntu and agaya playlist, and from our blog posts on AGAYA.

The Overview Effect and Ecospirituality
The Overview Effect is the transformative experience of seeing the Earth from space. It offers a path to rediscovering awe, wonder, and reverence for the living world.
Human Agency, Indigenous Wisdom, Agaya and Hózho
The Novasutras term agaya represents concepts found in numerous indigenous cultures. It includes our recognition of and response to the transcendent, creative, loving and sacred beauty of the living Earth. Agaya is strongly resonant with the Diné word "hózho."
Safer greetings in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic
We've made a short video illustrating some alternatives to hugs and handshakes, that can allow us to keep our distance physically (important for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19) while acknowledging our emotional and spiritual connections. Two options …

What do you think and feel when you consider agaya? How does consideration of agaya shape your daily interactions with the living world?

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