Murder Beyond Man

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    Overlooking a long section of the creek (which has become a small raging river after an unprecedented mid-May storm in California), I heard a terrible squawking and squealing to my left. The hideous life and death shrieks came from two birds above the fast-flowing current.


    A jay was in full battle cry, and a starling was screaming bloody murder. I watched with dismay as the jay drove the starling into the current, and heard with sorrow the pitiful creature’s scream of terror as it was swept to its death.


    Fully present in a meditative state, one had the unmistakable feeling that the jay knew exactly what it was doing. As the bobbing bird struggled futilely to get back in the air, four or five other jays suddenly appeared, raucously squawking their approval of the murder.


    So, man is not the only animal that commits murder. What a disturbing realization while in a meditative state, inspired by attentiveness in nature! Can intentionality exist without self-consciousness in other animals? Obviously it can.


    It’s one thing to see pictures of Orca’s toying with a baby seal before they kill it, tossing it into the air as a plaything; or to read about chimps, clearly with malice aforethought, systematically attacking and slaughtering an opposing troop. It’s another thing to witness firsthand and emotionally experience a murder in nature.


    This experience compels me to reexamine some basic premises.  If other animals can commit murder, then what does that say about nature, and life itself? Does it validate the conscious or subconscious view so many people hold that life is a battle, ‘tooth and claw,’ without inherent goodness, much less potential sacredness?


    Quieting thought and experiencing the awakening of insight in nature does not bear that out, but demonstrates that the opposite is the true. Indeed, the passive observation of the movement of thought and emotion in the mirror of nature gives rise not only to a state of insight, but insights into the minds of other animals, and evolution itself.


    Contrast this with Gnostic philosophy, which ranges from perceiving material existence negatively (and thus the world emanating from it as inherently ‘error’), to seeing matter itself as evil, a deliberate prison opposed to spirit. Such ideas persist in some circles, though in our age they seem strange to the point of nonsensical.


    Gnosticism had many adherents after the crucifixion of Jesus, offering a jaded explanation of his life and death. The orthodox founders of Christianity deemed Gnosticism heretical, and suppressed it. Then they set the cornerstones of Christianity as we know them today, which are no less bizarre, despite our familiarity with them.


    You can still find the Gnostic philosophy (which is really an ultimate form of duality–matter vs. spirit) espoused in isolated places like the White Cloud Sanctuary in Costa Rica, rated as one of the top ten retreat places in the world.


    In a befuddling essay on the imperative of a revolution in consciousness, featured on the homepage of White Cloud Sanctuary, the late ‘neo-Gnostic’ occultist and author, Samael Aun Weor, emphatically states, “Nature does not need the realization of the Inner Self of the human being, it does not want it, it detests it. Thus nature fights against it with its best weapons.”


    Such a view gives new meaning to the word wrongheaded. It reminds me of a pithy philosophy of life that someone stenciled into the pavement on the park road in town, until the weather eroded it away. “Nature Is Wrong” it read.


    Funny as that is, if the evolution of complex brains tends toward cruelty and murder, the Gnostic outlook is more understandable, if no more coherent or compelling.


    I’ve always felt that nature isn’t wrong; man went wrong. Still, if smarter animals, lacking self-consciousness but possessing enough cognition for intentionality, can kill intentionally, why should we see goodness in nature, much less sacredness through her?


    I propose a general principle, with exceptions: the smarter the animal, the more the tendency toward cruelty, murder, and war. (Jays are almost as smart as crows, which are as smart as chimps.) Thus man, the smartest animal on earth, is the highest expression of the lowest traits in the natural world. That doesn’t absolve us from the imperative of conscious transmutation; it just means that to some extent the problem of man is evolution’s problem as well.


    The deeper question, apart from White Cloud twaddle about “the realization of the Inner Self,” is the question of whether there is an intrinsic intent in evolution. I still feel there is, despite or because of the imperfections in nature, and the extreme imperfection of man.


    Living in Costa Rica, one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is ironic indeed that White Cloud teachers would see nature as the enemy to be “conquered,” and that we must fight against “the fate of being voraciously swallowed by the mineral kingdom.”


    But there it is, a good example of the contradiction of man. We can do better than this, much better. A relationship with nature is essential to have relationship with human beings, awareness of the sacred, and realization of our spiritual potential.


    Martin LeFevre

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