“Walk through the valley of humility and know peace. Lose your titanic, hard-to-satisfy ego. A greedy self-esteem is just a steep mountain you’ll find dangerous to climb. It’s also tricky (if not impossible) to come down from such heights, and anyhow the summit is too small for community. Focus on Love’s splendid garden instead. Gather the flowers of humility and simplicity of soul.” ~ Saint Hildegard of Bingen
We of the human species are unique in many ways, different from other species in our form and ways of constructing the world around us. All the Beings who exist in the more-than-human world are unique as well, each in their own ways. We can observe a lot of our differences, from external appearance to actions. What we cannot do, however, is know what any other species is thinking, feeling, or believing. We make guesses but we cannot know. This is one area that troubles me deeply about human ego.
I read widely across many genres of fiction and non-fiction, yet find myself curious as to why humans have such a tendency to proclaim that we know what other Beings perceive and conceptualize from within their inter-related experiences of living. I have lived intimately with dogs and cats for most of my life; I can try to guess what one of the blessed beings is thinking, but I cannot know their thoughts. Even people who have psychic gifts still process what they believe they are receiving from an animal or other natural Being, but it may not be entirely valid because they receive through their own context and human nature. This anthropocentric arrogance puzzles and, yes, annoys me.
It’s really very simple. You cannot know what I think, feel, or believe unless I tell you in some way, usually through human language. You can hazard a guess, especially if you know me well, but even in conversation or through writing, we can conceal or reveal only what we wish someone else to know. Why, then, would we presume to know what another species may be able to think, feel, or believe?
And yet, this presumption spills over into dialogue among people who ought to know better. For instance, this morning, I was listening to a podcast where the interviewer said, as if there could be no doubt:
It’s only human beings that have this curiosity to understand, ‘What’s that up in the sky? How do we fit into that? Who are we? Where do we come from?’
Really? Is that true? Maybe, maybe not. We have no way of knowing. Unless and until humans are able to converse with other Beings, we will never know. Let’s try not to keep putting ourselves in that special construct of creation that revolves around “it’s only human beings that [fill in the blank].” Let’s acknowledge our unknowing. Instead of saying “only human beings have [X]” let’s remove the “only” and allow our human qualities to express themselves on their own merit.
The Divine created all Life, all Beings, and only She knows the unseen landscape of each Being’s mind, soul, and spirit.
My spiritual journey this past year or so has been one of seeking understanding through love. Even though I was raised Christian, I rarely felt an affinity with that religion; I did admire Jesus and found fascinating many of the myths and legends of the Bible, putting them in my mind in the same category as the Greek myths I so enjoyed. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties, after a disastrous first marriage, that I realized the harm imposed upon my female identity by the patriarchal stories of the Bible that denigrated women. For almost ten years, I abandoned all religion; my spirituality subconsciously became simply the animals in my life and Nature herself during the long hikes and walks that nourished my soul. Thankfully, nearly twenty years ago, I was introduced to a Nature path of spirituality that has been my touchstone ever since, and, though its essence shifts and changes, as do I, though we grow and die and transform into new awareness, I am content with my current path of faith, an eclectic or “barefoot” spirituality (that I’ve often written of here).
Perhaps because of the contentment and loving approach to all life that my own path provides (most of the time – I certainly fall into despair about our local and global situations as well, as do we all), I found myself desirous of understanding more about the Christian religious faith in which I was raised, as well as its sibling faith of Islam, both born from the Old Testament, both, along with Judaism, known as Abrahamic faiths. Our world is currently caught up in a maelstrom of blame and fear and confusion about Christianity and Islam, so I’ve been studying, reading, and reflecting upon these (and other) religions and/or spiritual paths. One thing that is readily apparent is how they are based upon men writing about their interpretations of what other men said and did; the men themselves, Jesus and Mohammed, apparently never wrote anything down. And, to further confound the teachings, the writings were done after these men had died, so they could neither confirm nor deny the messages. Then, there is placing the writings within the historic context of when they were written. Adherents are then expected to ignore their own inner light of perception to follow those after-writings. This remains a curious puzzle to me, though I understand how much simpler it is to follow dogma and laws than to turn continuously inward for divine guidance.
The fierce fundamentalism that is often part of Christianity and Islam, grounded as they are in patriarchal past and present, present a dire situation for the life of us all – not only humans, but all inter-related life with our Mother Earth and Universal Cosmos. The anger that is rioting within Christianity and Islam, and among the people who feel forgotten in an unfamiliar world culture of rampant capitalism and identity crises, is understandable – I can finally empathize with many of these people; empathy for those who are similar to us is relatively easy, it is the empathy for those who are different that is challenging – but this processing of the anger needs to be transformed by all of us.
We need to somehow learn to see into others, to make the time to go within ourselves, into our own subconscious belief systems, and recognize the implicit biases that we have. We need to understand the pain and fear of others. That’s the first step, and the one that many people I know resist, sometimes vehemently. It can seem quite frightening.
A wise woman* has said, in going beyond tolerance that,
“My favorite word is “understanding.” I know it’s somewhat colder than the word “compassion” or “empathy,” but my regular lab seminar, which is an ongoing course, is called the Understand Seminar. And it has many different meanings, of course. We’re there to understand, to understand the research, and to make our own. But we study a set of topics that I believe that when you understand, you are left with no option but to change in some way. And I like giving more complexity to the word “understand” whenever I have a chance.”
Imagine the possibilities that are inherent within truly understanding one another!
Continuing my journey through the Gayatri / GaiaTree Mantra …
Dhiyo — definitions or understandings of the actual word/sound are:
mind, intellect, link between world and spirit,
to ask how use our minds to manifest a Divine Path in the world
Feeling Her in my heart and soul, I invite the Divine to create with me a world wherein Her essence of joy and light of love are clearly visible. We join hands and dream through heart and act through a mind-image to be in the world a certain way.
Seeing Her around me, what are the gifts She shows through other forms? How do the animals bring presence and right action? How does the mountain stand firm, while the snow melts and runs down in canyons, and the trees reach high into the sky?
I open to Gaia’s guidance, and ask Her to show me how to use my mind for the benefit of all of us; not to let my mind use me in wasted efforts of excess or poor choices. I invite Her to turn Her bright light upon the clearing in the woods of my mind, bringing all to life, and then the light spreads into the forest through leaves and roots, and is sung into the darkest recesses by birds and crickets and bats, and reflected upon dew-laden webs and icy springs flowing over rocks that change colors depending upon the angle in which they are viewed.
The mind can be a powerful force of nature — ours and the world’s. We can succumb to its egoic determination or we can recover our power and align our minds in uniquely expressed ways in the direction of Divine Light.
How many times in a day do I let my mind take over? When I have a feeling that leads to an emotional response, do I simply follow my mind along the breadcrumbs down a path of memory laid decades ago to a dead-end where those thoughts in the past control my present? Or do I pause at the beginning — or even mid-way — and say “hold on now, that’s over, what is valid right now?”
Do I allow my mind to take over, running film after film in my head without pause? If my mind likes to play re-runs, how about setting up the projector myself and playing only cheerful, or educational, or humorous, or soul-enriching films that lift me up? Why not provide images and impressions current and loving?
This is why many spiritual paths encourage some form of meditation, prayer or chanting. They encourage us to use a repetitive focus so that when our mind tries to take over, the first thing it comes to is a Divine pattern. Kind of like food awareness practice (also known as dieting) … it isn’t so much about restriction as it is choosing healthy foods and making lifestyle changes. And once our systems and taste buds have adjusted to those clear flavors and pure foods, we want more of them, and we feel wonderful nourishing ourselves with them. But, in the beginning, isn’t it easier to make sure that there aren’t any junk foods in the house? That when we reach out for something to eat, only healthy options are nearby?
That’s similar to giving our attention to directing our thoughts consciously, being present, and asking the Divine to help us keep our minds and intellect focused upon a path of joy and love, to act in service to Gaia and all life, all form. To ask … how is this thought, this action, these words, helping somehow? To ask for Divine guidance of our minds and She will show us the way to the Light.
So what is Her Light? I know we, in our elemental forms and visceral, sense-oriented body-minds, see the duality of light and dark. We use these as pointers, but sometimes forget that form is illusion and opposites are for understanding the world and our concepts of creation. And, while She can illuminate our minds when we open to Her (and often even when we don’t), ‘light’ is a limiting thought/concept, for Her Divine clearing of debris is not light-in-contrast-to-dark but rather perhaps a vibratory pattern that resonates pure Love, Bliss, Sattva.
And so, I invite and welcome Her Love and Bliss and Joy to permeate my mind to heal our world, and I ask Her where She resides within me to expand my consciousness, re-mind me into awareness and empowerment and devotion to Divine Life.