Introduction to Geology
The science behind crystal healing is not only fascinating, it is integral to our understanding of how crystal healing works. I am hoping to inspire you with information, not cause your eyes to glaze over with the language.
One challenge is to express this language in a way that is easily understood, but as up-to-date as possible. Science is not static, and virtually every day leads to new discoveries that change our perception of the world around us. The way in which crystal systems, and mineralogical groups and species, not to mention chemical formulae of minerals are interpreted has changed radically in the past few years, making it difficult for older chemists and geologists to keep up with, much less the poor, lay, crystal healer. For example, tourmaline was, until recently, classified as the tourmaline group (as opposed to species), as it consisted of a number of related minerals with slightly varying chemical formulae. Now it has been reclassified as the elbaite group, elbaite previously being the name for multi-coloured tourmaline. In most cases, I have opted for older, more traditional methods of expression, although I will point out to you when I know something has been reinterpreted. If you are interested in the most up-to-date science, I strongly recommend that you visit www.mindat.org. The site is worth a look for the outstanding photographs alone. Photos are submitted by collectors from around the world, and show a variety of higher quality specimens, and the science is kept up-to-date.
What is Geology?
The study of geology seeks to understand the processes that, throughout the Earth’s history, have shaped the world around us. Our understanding of geological process and how the earth is formed is constantly changing. It’s only relatively recently that scientists have begun to understand how old the earth really is. Much of our accepted knowledge has occurred during my lifetime, and I have had to re-evaluate much of what I took for granted as a child. When I was a school student, I learned about a scientist with a radical theory that the continents had at one time been joined together, and were slowly drifting apart. The expression of this idea resulted in quite a heated class discussion. Since that time, this theory has been more or less proven through numerous studies, and is now accepted as fact.
I put together my course in geology for crystal healers in 2004, and had included geology in workshops for a few years prior to that. Since that time, I have noted that around half of the students in my classes have never had any geology at school. Geology was in the publicity the first time I included it in a workshop, and I received a lovely card from a prospective student, telling me how much she and her friend had enjoyed a previous workshop, but really didn’t want to learn about geology – just about crystals! In fact, they attended the workshop, and enjoyed that section of it, too. As I see many reflections of the geological process in the way crystals work in a healing context, not mention the necessity of knowledge of basic chemistry to keep you from poisoning yourself and others, I don’t see how learning crystal healing can exclude learning about geology. These days, it is widely accepted as part of the training, and most accreditation bodies insist on it.
In the US, geology is a core natural science subject, and there are many websites dedicated to making it more accessible to schoolchildren. If you find the subject interesting, in addition to the recommended reading, it might be worth having a search on the internet. School sites will often show you new and simpler ways of looking at things.
Our Living Planet
Let’s begin with the big picture. When looking for life on other planets, scientists look first for the existence of two things: water and oxygen, which together are strong indicators for life. Oxygen is an extremely chemically active molecule. It combines easily with other elements, and could quickly disappear from the atmosphere unless there is a process of replacement. That process is most likely to be the photosynthesis of living cells, especially those of plants. Water is considered to be vital for life. Both water and oxygen are abundantly available on Earth.
We have a living planet through an incredible series of “coincidences”, The Earth is large enough to retain heat, unlike Mars, and is further from the sun than Venus, so it is able to cool. We have a large satellite, the Moon, to hold it in place on its axis. Venus, which has no moon, has been influenced by other planets as well as the sun. Scientists now believe it has actually flipped upside down at some point in its history. Mar wobbles significantly on its axis.
The existence of life on a planet is dependent on that planet having an atmosphere. When we hear the term “greenhouse gases”, we immediately think of something damaging to our planet. However, these gases are essential to the existence of life on Earth. Early in Earth’s history, it is believed that the atmosphere had a much higher amount of carbon dioxide (one of the greenhouse gases) than it does at the present time. This would have kept the planet warm, and prevented the oceans from evaporating (oceans are only able to exist within a very narrow temperature range). These same gases keep the atmosphere cool even though the sun is burning brighter than when Earth first formed. Carbon dioxide is drawn down from the atmosphere by living organisms, which is in effect like opening the windows of a green house to prevent overheating.
The Earth has been likened to a giant engine, converting heat into motion. Many scientists now think of the Earth more as a living organism, which needs to maintain homeostasis, or the regulation of its internal environment, to sustain a constant condition. This idea originated with James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, and has been argued and expanded on by other scientists over many years. As an example, carbon is one of the building blocks of life, and contained in all living things. Marine organisms, from microscopic plankton to enormous creatures like whales, die and decompose. Their constituents, including carbon, are carried down to the ocean floor, and are eventually dragged into the molten mantle of the Earth through subduction (the process of one tectonic plate sliding beneath another). Gases, such as carbon dioxide, are held in the magma and solidified rocks nearer the earth’s surface, to be later released again through volcanic eruption. In effect, the Earth is breathing. There is a symbiosis between life and the geological process that maintains the homeostasis of this planet.
Our Earth’s geological formation is in constant motion, an ongoing cycle of creation and destruction. Only a planet with so much activity is able to sustain life. Life on Earth is inextricably linked with the geological process of our planet. Without life, the Earth would be a cold, dead rock; without geological process, life could not exist. It is important to remember this when we are horrified by the loss of life from an earthquake or volcanic eruption.