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RE: THEOS-L digest 1461

Mar 15, 1998 06:09 AM
by Dieter Dambiec

The point about food and values and ecology are all intimately linked to our
spiritual existence.

On Friday, March 13, 1998 11:56 AM, []
 We should appreciate everything that we take of this earth.
> It's good to look at your food and realize where it all comes from, and the
> sacrifices for those things to reach your plate.


We have to look at ecology from spiritual wholistic view also.

Human beings, led by self interest, have been
neglecting ecology at every step. We should remember that the
sky and the air, the hills and the mountains, the rivers and
forests, the wild animals and reptiles, the birds and fish, and
all sorts of aquatic creatures and plants, are all inseparably
related to one another... Human beings must be cautious from
now on. They must restructure their thoughts, plans and
activities in accordance with the dictates of ecology. There is
no alternative.

Many environemntal experts and activists would
argue that to live a life according to the directives of
ecology, is the most urgent task for humanity right now. But
what does it mean? What will a genuine environmental ethics
look like?

For science, viruses represent the smallest accumulation and
diversity of molecules which is recognized as "life." Maybe in
the near future, when more subtle research-techniques are
employed, we will recognize the sentience of smaller
aggregations of molecules.  For now, viruses personify the
boundary between life and non-life. But in the wheel of
creation--whether in the descending and devolutionary phase, or
in the ascending and evolutionary stage--there is Consciosuness
at every level of the way. Even stones and crystals are "alive"
and have dormant minds and are expressions of Cosmic
Consciousness. It is therefore impossible to draw a
final line between animate and inanimate beings. In the so-called inanimate
world "there is mind, but the
mind is dormant, as if asleep, because there is no nervous

Native Americans certainly experienced this mind in the cosmos.
In the international best-seller , The Secret Life of Plants,
Peter Thompkins and Christopher Bird reports that, when killing
a tree, the tribal would have a heart-to-heart converzation
with the tree. In no uncertain terms would he let the tree know
what was going to happen, and finally he would ask for
forgiveness for having to committ this unfortunate act of
violence. In the same book, they also documented scientific
experiments on plants with a modified lie detector. The
instrument would register when a plant's leaves was cut or
burnt. Not only that, when a plant "understood" it was going to
be killed, it went into a state of schock or "numbness." Thus,
the scientists explained, possibly preventing it from undue
suffering, which again may explain the "warnings" given to
trees by the Native Americans. Such laboratory tests, may sound
outrageous to materialists, but not to the ancient, animist
peoples from all over the world, nor to Indian yogis or
Westerns mystics. They have for long informed us that we do not
live in a dead and meaningless universe. There is spirit and
creative will everywhere. There is longing for song in the
heart of stones, and there is love for the Great in the bosom
of trees.  But unfortunately, nature cannot
always "express its grief when it is damaged or destroyed. To
protect... [it], [we] should conserve and properly utilize all
natural resources."

Poets and sages throughout the ages have observed a deep grief
in nature. In "News of the Universe" (Sierra Club Books, 1980)
poet Robert Bly writes about nature having a kind of
melancholic mood, or a "slender sadness."  Buddhists associate
this intrinsic grief with the incessant wheel of reproduction.

If nature--earth, trees, and water--truly experience a form of
existential pain or grief, at least when destroyed and
polluted, our conservation efforts and our ecological outlook
must first and foremost acknowledge this innate suffering. And
by acknowledging it, nature becomes part of ourselves. To
paraphraze noted psychologist James Hillman--one of the
innovators in the new field of eco-psychology--our mind is
enlarged to include nature; the world becomes us. And if we
destroy that world, out of ignorance or greed, we destroy a
part of ourselves.

Since mind or consciousness is expressed even in so-called
inanimate objects as rocks, sand or mud, it perceives an
intrinsic oneness in all of creation. Thus in Sarkar's worldview we grant
existential rights or value to all beings--whether soil,
plants, animals and humans. He concedes that in principle all
physical expressions of Cosmic Consciousness has an equal right
to exist and to express itself. This sentiment is echoed by
Norwegian eco-philosopher Arne Naess, whose "biospherical
egalitarianism" is  advocated by the deep-ecology movement,
which he founded. But as evolution is irreversible--amoebas
eventually evolve into apes, but apes never transform into
amoebas--Tantra also acknowledges "higher" and "lower"
expressions of Consciousness. This differentiation is crucial,
and it is on the basis of this that Tantra and deep-ecology
differs. The Tantric ecological world-view is both egalitarian
and hierarchical.  Evolution proceeds by expressing more and
more complex beings who are able to express higher levels of
consciousness. On this evolutionary ladder, amoebas are at the
"bottom" and humans are at the "top." Within this hierarchical
system there are various levels of egalitarian cooperation, but
the system as a whole is hierarchical. This notion is also
supported by the new systems sciencies, which proclaim that one
cannnot have wholeness without hierarchy. As Ken Wilber
explains: "'Hierarchy' and 'wholeness,' in other words, are two
names for the same thing, and if you destroy one, you
completely destroy the other."   (Wilber, pp. 16) Each
hierarchy is composed of increasing orders of wholeness
--organisms include cells  which include molecules, which
include atoms.

In an evolutionary context, the new stage of development has
extra value relative to the previous stage. An oak sprout is
more complex and therefore endowed with a fuller expression of
consciousness than an acorn. A monkey has a more evolved
nervous system and mind than an insect, and a human has a more
evolved brain and intellect than an ape. This crucial
definition of subsequent higher stages of consciousness, of a
hierachy of being, is central to Tantra. But, and with
potential dire consequences, it is often overlooked by many
Greens or deep-ecologists. They often equate hierachy with the
higher exploiting the lower by transferring human pathological
experiences of hierearchy--such as fascism, for example--to the
study of nature. But the ecological universe of nature could
not exist without hierarchy, and humans, for good or for worse,
are, as the most advanced expression of consciousness in
evolution, stewards of the natural world.  Hence we need to
acknowledge both unity and oneness as well as high and low (or
deep and shallow) expressions of consciousness when developing
an ecological worldview. We need to emulate nature in advancing
what Riane Eisler calls "actualization hierarchies," (Riane
Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade, Harper, San Francisco, 1987,
pp 205) we must learn to maximize our species' potential, both
in relation to ourselves and to nature. In other words, a self
-actualized humanity can learn to integrate itself in relation
to nature. Learn to realize our oneness with the "other." Learn
to recognize that being on top of the evolutionary ladder does
not give us the right to rob and exploit those lower than

Because of the many pathological expressions of hierarchy in
human society--such as fascism, nazism, communism, or corporate
multinationalism--many so-called new paradigm thinkers are
suggesting a new and supposedly healthier model termed
heterarchy. In a heterarchy, rule is established by an
egalitarian interplay of all parties. For example, atoms may
have a heterarchical relationship amongst themselves, but their
relationship to a cell is hierarchical. In other words, the
various heterarchies are strands in the ever-evolving web of
hiererarchies, and when functioning optimally, the relatioship
between them is one of coordinated cooperation.By negating
hierarchy and favoring heterarchy only, we establish another
pathology, because the existence or validity of heterarchy does
not disprove the existence or importance of positive or
actualized hierarchy.  There is an
ongoing movement towards greater complexity and higher
consciousness in evolution, while at the same time there is, on
a deeper level, ecological cooperation and spiritual unity
amongst all beings.In other words, there is both heterarchy and
hierarchy. To disprove the hierarchical flow of evolution by
saying that all of us--whether leaf, tree, monkey or human--are
equal, heterarchical  partners in the great web of life, is to
impose on nature faulty and limited  concepts. It reduces the
wondrous complexity of creation to a lowest common denominator,
and that serves neither nature nor humans well.

There is unity of consciousness amongst all beings, because we
all come from, and are created by, the same Shakti. But nature
is also infinitely diverse, and we need to embrace variety in
all its forms. One such unique variety is expressed in terms of
consciousness. A seedling is more complex and therefore more
conscious than and acorn, and an oak is more complex and
conscious than a seedling.  Another way of expressing this is
that a dog has more capacity for mental reflection and self
-consciousness than a fir tree. Both are manifestations of
Cosmic Consciousness,  both have mind, and both have equal
existential value--but because of the difference in expression
of depth and quality of consciousness, the dog is higher on the
natural hierarchy of being than the fir tree. So when we
develop our ecological ethics,  both the "low" and the "high"
expressions of nature must be valued and accounted for.

Nonhuman creatures have the same
existential value to themselves as human beings have to
themselves. Perhaps human beings can understand the value of
their existence, while other living beings cannot... Even so,
no one has delegated any authority to human beings to kill
those unfortunate creatures.  (PR Sarkar, Neohumanism, pp.
64)But in order to survive, we cannot avoid killing other
beings. To solve this dilemma, articles
of food are to be selected from amongst those beings where
development of consciousness is comparatively low. If
vegetables, corn, bean and rice are availbale, cows or pigs
should not be slaughtered. Secondly, before killing any animals
with "develeoped or underdeveloped consciousness," we must
consider deeply if it is possible to live a healthy life
without taking such lives. Thus, in addition to existential
value,  various beings, based on their
depth of consciousness, have a variable degree of what is often
termed "intrinsic value." The more consciousness a being has,
the deeper the feelings, and the more potential for suffering.
Eating plants is therefore preferrable to eating animals. As
George Bernhard Shaw once said: "Animals are my friends...and I
don't eat my friends." It is also ecologically more sustainable
to extract nourishment from entities lower down on the food
chain. Vast land areas are used to raise livestock for food.
These areas could be utilized far more productively if planted
with grains, beans, and other legumes for human consumption. It
is estimated that only 10 percent of the protein and calories
we feed to our livestock is recovered in the meat we eat. The
other 90 percent goes literally "down the drain." (What's Wrong
With Eating Meat, Vistara Parham, Sisters Universal Publishing,
Northnampton, 1979, pp. 39)

In addition to existential value, and intrinsic value, all beings have utility
value. He says that human beings usually preserve those creatures which have an
immeditate utility value.  We are more
inclined to preserve the lives of cows than of rats, for
example.  But, because of all beings' existential value, we
cannot argue that "only human beings have the right to live,
and not non-humans. All are the children of Mother Earth; all
are the offspring of the [Cosmic] Consciousness." He also
points out that sometimes we do not know enough about the real
utility value of an animal or a plant; therefore we may
needlessly destroy the ecological balance by killing one
species without considering the consequences of its complex
relationship or utility value to other species. A forest's
utility value, for example, is more than just x number of board
feet of lumber. It serves as nesting and feeding ground for
birds and animals; its roots and branches protect the soil from
erosion; its leaves or needles produce oxygen; and its pathways
and camp grounds provide nourishment for the human soul. As a
whole, the forest ecosystem has an abundance of ecological,
aesthetic, and spiritual values which extends far beyond its
benefits as tooth picks and plywood.

All of nature is endowed with existential and intrinsic value,
as well as utility value. This hierarchical, and ultimately
holistic understanding of evolution and ecology, formulates the
basic foundation for a new, and potentially groundbraking
ecological ethics.

If we embrace the divinity in all of creation, the expression
of our ecological ethics will become an act of sublime
spirituality. Our conservation efforts and our sustainable
resource use will become sacred offerings to Mother Earth, and
ultimately to Cosmic Consciousness, to both Shiva and Shakti,
the God and Goddess within and beyond nature.

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