Mod+ Humans and Nature/Animals

Discussion in 'Consciousness & Science' started by MysticG, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    At Michael's suggestion, I am reposting this from the "Stuck On Stupid" topic as a separate thread for discussion (See original post here):

    Western society and the bible generally present a human-centric view of things, and most of modern western society is based on a view of "Humans vs. the world", where we must conquer and subdue nature to pursue our own purposes. Alan Watts speaks about this topic quite a bit:
    However, eastern traditions are very different in this regard. The Taoist, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions all present some concept of respecting nature, including animal life. I am particularly a fan of the Taoist philosophy as described by Laozi and Zhaungzi, which is focused on 'flowing with the Tao', or essentially acting with nature rather than against it. The Taoists believed that we can learn a lot by watching animals, along with trees and rivers.

    Here are some examples of how some of these traditions view our place in nature:

    The Environment and the Dao
    Animals in Buddhist Doctrine
    A Hindu view of nature
    I am sure there are others that I left out, and I am sure there are some western equivalents that valued animals and nature just as much (I'm mainly thinking of Pagans and Druids).

    Anyway, I am the first to admit I don't understand consciousness, but I tend to believe that whatever it is, it is the same thing whether human or animal (or plant or even rock, who knows?). If consciousness collapses the wave function or is fundamental to the universe, then I would assume it will not matter what form that consciousness takes. I lean toward the view that consciousness is a single "thing", which we and all other living creatures temporarily hold our own piece of, but at their core the pieces are all connected.
     
  2. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    It's probably worth mentioning Native American and Australian Aboriginal beliefs which also have something positive to offer in this context. These cultures are perhaps undervalued, to the detriment of both us in the west, and the remaining peoples of those cultures too.
     
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  3. Kamarling

    Kamarling Member

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    I don't think it is possible to understand consciousness in the bigger sense though I think I am close to your take on it. I would guess that there are at least two definitions though: that which is aware and that from which awareness arises. In both, we are talking of the same "stuff". Mind stuff, if you like. I think it is awareness which has a spectrum and that, in our present physical reality, humans are at one end of that spectrum and rocks, perhaps, at the other. On the other hand, we humans may be significantly lacking in aspects of consciousness that are perfectly normal for animals. Maybe my cat doesn't get why I am constantly ignoring the telepathic messages she is pushing my way.

    Those videos in the other thread are fascinating because it demonstrates the academic hubris of the recent past which held that animals were no more than instinct machines, incapable of problem solving, using tools, empathy and even love and grief.
     
  4. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    Good point, here are a few more. Also, if any of these these links aren't the best explanations, feel free to post others.

    North American Indians: The Spirituality of Nature
    Australian Aborigines - A Nature Oriented Religion
    Druid Beliefs
    I also thought this part was interesting:
     
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  5. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    The more esoteric side of Christianity is also more in touch with nature.
    The Gospel of St Thomas has that one saying that goes something like , "Lift a stone and you will find me there, cleave a piece of wood and you will find me there ...". The idea being that the divine consciousness is in everything.
     
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  6. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    Hmmm... I think the GoT sayings are explaining that the internal world is the external world. Two become one etc. Hence it's you, who are under the rock, and in the wood. Everything internal is manifested externally, nothing can be hidden. Therefore what you put into the external world, you also put into yourself.
     
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  7. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    Isn't that one of the ramifications of everything being a manifestation of the divine? ;-)

    However, the sayings are explicitly in reference to Jesus, whereafter He then says (paraphrased) " ... from me, the all has come forth, and to me, the all attains" Again, a very "eastern view", which jives up with the external world being a manifestation of the divine, which is evolving back to the divine, or One source.

    You can find the same message in Meister Eckhart's writings, etc.

    It's really mostly in exoteric, or mainstream, Christianity where the schism between man, Nature and God is so pronounced. It's no wonder there exists here a psychology, which is so wrapped up in sin, eternal rewards and punishments, and constant guilt.
     
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  8. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    Possibly, if you want to try and argue it that way, but I believe that misses the point of the sayings in the GoT, the external world is apparently a carcass, it's dead... and the dead are not alive.
     
  9. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    Ah, I think I know where you're coming from now. You're probably thinking of this passage, which I will paraphrase from memory again.

    " ... he who has come to know the world has discovered a carcass, and of that person the world is not worthy"

    I think this rings true in Eastern religions too. A view that holds everything is the divine, does not necessarily have to negate the limiting and dividing view of the ego consciousness, which must see and suffer from the pain, death and horror in the world. Rather it usually strives shows us how to break past it and see that the All is One, which releases us from fear and desire and the suffering they cause (in the world). Seems to me, that the passages in the GoT, when taken together, are suggesting just that. Well, it's not me, it's how guys like Campbell and Watts, etc talk about it. I'm just regurgitating this common viewpoint, which I happen to agree with.

    The GoT and other gnostic texts are Western documents so they contain a western, material influence. I'm not denying that. They are a mixture of typical run-of-the-mill Christianity and an Eastern-like influence. I'm just saying they are a lot closer to Eastern philosophies than most folks realize and they recognize the Divine within nature more so than as it is typically presented within mainstream Christianity.
     
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  10. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    I think it still just misses the point. I think the sayings are simple, extremely radical, and far more profound than that. I also don't think that the sayings in the GoT are Gnostic, they are almost certainly one of many early christianities, and predate Gnosticism.
     
  11. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Or maybe the other way around? "Everything" is "in" Source Consciousness--the concept of idealism? Then there's pantheism and panentheism, and all three have been part of modern European thought: they aren't restricted to the East or to native societies. Spinoza is often characterised as a pantheist. Anyway, I find the distinctions between the terms difficult to pin down. There are ideas that the universe and God are interchangeable terms--a kind of material monism; or a dualism in which God is in a sense in all material entities; or of everything being mental in nature.

    I think of myself as an idealist who's attracted to Bernardo Kastrup's whirlpool metaphor, but MG's post gave me pause for thought, because I hadn't really considered much the place of animals, particularly intelligent ones, in that scheme. At some point, of course, metaphors like the whirlpool one break down.

    A lot of the difficulty grokking this kind of thing may come about because we experience ourselves as individual beings: in the material sense, as our bodies, and the spiritual, as our souls or consciousnesses. The dualism may ultimately be illusory, but there's no doubt that in ordinary, everyday states of consciousness, we experience the dualism between the physical and mental and it's difficult to have a truly monist appreciation of ourselves, be that material or mental. That said, whatever metaphysic we favour, the one thing that all -isms seem to accept is that each of us experiences self as an individual entity, even if that's artifactual.

    I'm fairly comfortable with the idea of reincarnation, but when MG mentioned the notion of humans being reincarnated as animals, and vice-versa--even though I've known about this for ages--for some reason it brought me up short. It seemed my metaphysical worldview wasn't complete, or maybe more confused than I'd thought. I think I've realised that evolution is central to my worldview, and that that is predicated on the notion of having an individuality that evolves. To me, it seems natural to think of of that individuality becoming gradually refined, or at least of it having the potential to do so even if in a particular instantiation it doesn't; and who know, maybe sometimes it can regress rather than evolve.

    Then there's the idea that the ultimate aim is annihilation of the self in the Ultimate, which is singular, and that can seem a little threatening: what does it mean to lose one's self, to become reabsorbed into the Ultimate, of which there can only be one? How is that desirable? If there is only the One, how does It manage to create for Itself the impression of many?

    I'm thinking on my feet here: I don't have any pat answers. I suspect that the problem is language, which is inadequate to express reality: which actually obscures reality by creating conflicting and inconsistent ideas. One can only seem to get to something more consistent by trying to avoid language, and to be more intuitive. Here I am, whatever I might be, and I'm having this experience of being and experiencing, and when I see a crow solving a puzzle, I recognise that there's also something having an experience of being and experiencing: in a somewhat different mode, but close enough so that I can sense a kinship. And then, I think of a unicellular organism like an amoeba, which is quite possibly also having such an experience: small as it might be, it's immensely complex.

    The idea of multiplicity causes problems: many distinct types of entities, and within any given type, many distinct instantiations. I see myself as an instantiation of a human being, and the crow, of a crow: a distinct thing. It's reinforced by the perception that I or a crow can apparently interact with other instantiations of our kind: that other humans/crows may know things and be able to do things that we don't and can't. And since that's the case, we have the impression that there's individuality, distinction and separateness.

    Given that that's the case, then maybe we project that onto our notions of Source Consciousness: it also may be conceptualised as distinct and separate, as having a personality, if you like. But maybe it just is, and expresses itself in ways that we call human beings, crows, amoebae, and so on.

    Like I say, I'm thinking on my feet and don't really know where this is going, but I intend to say more in a subsequent post or two. By all means skip over this if you haven't the foggiest what I'm groping towards: neither have I, really, at least at this point.
     
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  12. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    I have thought along these lines and one idea I have is about the balance between our powerful brains and our connections to 'source consciousness'. After studying various types of engineering, one starts to notice that every added or evolved feature, whether mechanical or biological, also has a cost. Successful engineering design essentially becomes a game of balancing these tradeoffs to achieve the desired characteristics.

    So with our large brains, we have superior intellect and are capable of self-reflection. As a result we develop a strong ego, or self-indentity. The drawback is that our brain structure tends to separate us more from source consciousness (or whatever term we want to use). We are intellectual giants within this physical realm, but nearly completely isolated. In ancient times, shamans existed who could describe other perspectives to the tribe, and their input was valued. In modern society, our 'shamans' are probably filling up mental asylums or at least ostracized.

    Animals such as your cat, with their smaller brains, may not be able to think as a human can - they can't design a computer or an airplane, etc - but may maintain a stronger connection to the source. From that point of view, maybe a rock is more connected than any of us. For us humans, the thought of being forced to sit as still as a rock for our entire life sounds like torture, but that rock may be sitting in bliss, feeling full connection with all of the universe. Just speculating, of course. :)

    From an idealist viewpoint, wouldn't the crow just be a smaller whirlpool in the river of consciousness? I haven't read Bernardo's books yet, though I am a fan of his postings on this forum and his own site. If the brain is the image of consciousness, then it seems to me that the crow's brain would represent a smaller piece of consciousness.

    That being said, I am also unsure about the idea of a person reincarnating in animal form, and I'm not entirely sure how that fits into the idealist model. Even though it seems like an evolutionary regression from our perspective, maybe in the bigger picture it is equal. Meaning, as I described above, that the crow's small brain may allow it to be closer to source consciousness. So that ultimately, the bigger our "knot of consciousness", the more isolated we may be. And instead of a regression, it could be a shifting between the balance of intellect and connection. (Just throwing some ideas out there, so this may not be fully thought out)
    This brings up a good question...what is the goal (if there is one)? Is it to evolve as an individual and become better? Or is it to dissolve as an individual into the source? Or some combination of the two? Dissolving into the source may sound undesirable from our (whirlpool) point of view, but what about from the River's point of view? I'd imagine that from that perspective, we were always a small part of Source consciousness, even though we didn't realize it...so has anything really changed if our whirlpool dissolves? Good questions that I'll have to think about.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
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  13. LoneShaman

    LoneShaman Member

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    Anamism is the original concept predating religion and it is a view held by many indigenous tribes and forms of shamanism and paganism. It also exists in Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto etc... It also extends to wind, rain, lightning rocks, mountains, rivers etc.. There is no dualism, no separation between matter and spirit.
    It is a part of my world view and I think it is exactly what MysticG is talking about. Nice post BTW Mystic.
     
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  14. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    Yes, Anamism is probably the most basic way of stating what I was getting at. I don't know whether any of the modern traditions are even close to a complete understanding of things (I suspect they are not), but I definitely think there is something that has been lost by disregarding our connection to nature. Regardless of what -ism we end up at, I think it will have to incorporate this concept.

    Speaking of the GoT, one of my favorite lines from it:
    This is my attitude. Whatever else may be or happen after this life, this world is a paradise - if we have the eyes to see it. I think the ancient animists saw it. And I think it's still there for us to see now, if we only make the effort. It may not be easy to get there, but it's worth it. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear. :)
     
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  15. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Unwittingly, biologists may think in abstract terms of the unfolding of a primal potential: phylogenetic relationship diagrams, for example:

    [​IMG]

    I mean, just looking at something like the above, one can get a sense of a primal potential that has unfolded, become instantiated as types, and within types, as individuals. The trunk of the tree and its branches can be seen as symbolising a monistic force that's exploring its inherent potential, and learning as it proceeds.

    How could such a force do that without creating the sensation of individuality in its instantiations? How could it explore that potential without in some sense identifying with being a human or a crow, or anything else? Thus losing a sense of its underlying unity?

    It doesn't matter whether biologists have got the timeline or relationships precisely correct, or what they think the mechanism is (neo-Darwinism or whatever), the evolution of complexity and increasing degrees of consciousness looks to be correct. A crow is certainly clever, but a human being is undoubtedly cleverer, and both are cleverer than an amoeba.
    Yes, and it's fine to speculate. I'd just note that I find this particular speculation unsatisfactory: not entirely sure why, but maybe it's because intelligence seems to be a function of complexity. A rock is more complex than the atoms that compose it, but nowhere near as complex as an amoeba, which has all sorts of dynamic interrelationships between its constituent parts, which scientists have only begun to get a glimpse of. If one holds that a rock in a sense may be as noble as an amoeba or a crow or a human, then whence comes its nobility? It can only be in something additional to its complexity and internal relationships: something rather ineffable that is pan(en?)theistic. I have this gut feeling that complexity reflects the degree of importance of an entity: that complexity is a sign of that importance.
    Well, I've read a fair amount of BK's stuff (BTW, his new book, Why Materialism is Baloney has just become available in the UK and I plan to read it soon) and I don't recall him explicitly referring to the consciousness of animals. I get the sense that he's referring mostly to human consciousness. Like I said, the analogy breaks down, especially when thinking of different organisms. Whirlpools don't have many different properties: size seems the most prominent and natural to think of, but that's just a limitation of the metaphor. In the end, the best metaphor may be the apparent form of the organism itself.

    The thing about evolution is it works well as a concept when one thinks of an individual. In corporeal state, we learn as we grow. It's natural to think of reincarnation in like terms: something in ourselves, call it essence or soul, gets to learn more. But it could be that Source gets to learn more, and it doesn't need the continuity of individual essences. What it learns could inform some other instantiation of itself: "individuality" then becomes applicable to something it's learnt, or a line of investigation that it's following. I may be drawing fine distinctions here, but hopefully you're getting my drift.

    Whatever, I can't help but suspect that there is a continuity of something and that it's evolving. Maybe it can sometimes de-evolve, but would it thereby become some other type, like a human becoming a crow? I suppose it's possible. The analogy might be like a scientist investigating a promising line of thought, only to find that it isn't so promising after all. He then abandons his later ideas and starts again, if not from scratch, then from some earlier premise that still seems sound.
     
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  16. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I think I'd agree that there's no separation between what we call matter and spirit respectively. Whether I'd equate that with animism is another question. I tend to think of animism as an early conception of reality where there wasn't much understanding of natural phenomena like, e.g. lightening or what stars were: so everything seemed to have a supernatural aspect. Personally, I don't think there's anything that's "supernatural": whatever actually exists is natural, however amazing it might seem.
     
  17. MysticG

    MysticG New

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    Actually, I agree with you – if the rock or crow were considered the equal of a human in some sense, then the sense of progress is essentially removed from evolution. But it is clear that biological forms are growing in complexity, and this gives the whole process a feeling of continual progress.

    Also, while reading your post, an image appeared in my mind – I’m picturing the collective entirety of life as a single amorphous organism of consciousness, moving forward through time, expressing itself in many different forms simultaneously – at the leading edge, new experimental complexity is constantly being created…at the tail end, failed experiments and outdated forms are falling into extinction. None of the forms are permanent; they are all expressed for a time, and then eventually replaced.

    So far, I don’t think modern science would disagree with me – but now consider idealism - if everything is made of this same consciousness.

    I would take this to imply all of existence is part of the amorphous organism. The forms evolving include not just what we consider living creatures, but planets, stars, galaxies, universes, the laws of nature – everything in constant change or evolution, just at different speeds. This begins to sound very similar to the Buddhist idea of Impermanence, although perhaps a less pessimistic sounding version of it. Though somewhere in this idea, I will have to consider entropy as well...just more to think about.

    Oh and I'm going to have to pick up Bernardo's books soon...I'm sure he has a very insightful perspective on the topic...
     
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  18. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    Definitely Michael, I agree, and tend towards Idealism myself. I kind of see what I am talking about as a progression from Dualism to Idealism. Dualism is akin to the mainstream view of Christianity, where matter and soul are separate and matter is usually viewed as dead and inert (sinful, even). On the opposite end is Idealism, which in many places the Eastern philosophies couldn't talk about much more explicitly without coming out and actually calling it Idealism. The GoT and other "esoteric" Christian literature are somewhere in between and "flirt" with Idealism a nice amount, but sort of stop short of it a bit. They never seem to quite say everything is Mind, but they sure hint along those lines far enough to make the parallels between them and the Eastern philosophies pretty obvious.

    Finished Bernardo's new book last week. IIRC, he explains animal consciousness in very similar terms to what MysticG said above (smaller whirpools, etc). Great book by the way. I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in Idealism
     
  19. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    I should menton he does acknowledge that perhaps some animal's whirpools do have more access (than we do) to the field of mind in certain ways, offering potential explanation for Sheldrake's experiments, reactions to earthquakes before they happen, etc.
     
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  20. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    That's my favorite too ;-) I take the "see" part to mean "become conscious of". That's what Yoga is all about, really. A systematic way to achieve this state of consciousness (going by the name of Samadhi there)
     
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