How do we respect materialistic/mechanistic science – the myth of our time – when it continues to use non-human sentient beings for it’s own gain?
How do we respect religions for the harm or damage that these beliefs may cause for animals, plants and people who live on the Earth?
These are important questions, and for me the two are intimately related. Science and religion are two lenses humans use to perceive the world.
The other night I watched a brief video on mushrooms and how they could be grown to serve as a substitute for leather hides stripped from the backs of animals. How wonderful for animals, I thought instantly, privileging animals over plants and temporarily, and forgetting that Fungi are fantastic and ancient life forms that appeared on this planet with plants about 450.million years ago. Even then mycorrhizal fungi had a relationship with plants that scientists call mutualism, a kind of symbiosis in which both benefit from their association. They may be some of or perhaps even our most ancient teachers. Fungi have characteristics of both plants and animals and even have a kind of external skin made of chitlin that is insect-like. (They are also phenomenal underground communicators in the plant world, another fact I forgot in my enthusiasm during this video). I allowed myself to be seduced by western science until my friend Iren made a comment that startled me.
She queried, “I wonder how the mushrooms feel about it.” This question caught me unawares in my own snare, because once again I had strayed into the mind of science without my feeling body attached.
How do these beings feel about being stuffed into plastic bags and grown under artificial conditions? They are probably deeply distressed I concluded ruefully, sadden by my own insensitivity and grateful to my friend for “Earthing” me in such a respectful way.
Recently I had a dream that told me “there is no religious way through, there are just people’s opinions.” In the dream I was somewhat startled when the dream maker finished by stating “the way is not choosing a way.” Puzzling over this apparent paradox I came to the realization that staying open to possibilities was the position I now hold with respect to both science and religion. It is clear that I still get caught by my western conditioning, a position that privileges “the god of science” without appropriate questioning, as so many people do with organized religion.
And yet with this much said, I believe my relationship with Nature has opened a door to Universality in a way that science, religion, philosophy scholarship etc. could never do on its own. Nature just is, and at 73 I give the Earth and non-human sentient species full credit for teaching me how to become a loving and compassionate human being.
Is animism a religion? I don’t believe so. There are no rules, no practices, no injunctions… there is only what is… I may be in love with the wilderness, each stone and sunrise, each dove coo and loving look from my dearest canine companions, each bear, owl, deer, and elk, and yet I fall into the same traps that other humans do. Sadly, none of us are immune to “privilege” of one kind or another.
I accord Nature my deepest respect acknowledging that most of the world does not see/feel what I do. In Nature I find countless mirrors for what I see and feel and like the trees that are now heavy with spring buds but present to the threat of frost, I stay as much in the present as I can.
Both science and religion are limited by the belief systems that people develop within these disciplines and traditions. I find that I can respect people who are genuine seekers that attempt to question and work within their respective religions and scientific paradigms although I do not agree, support or accept those practices that harm others or continue to support a patriarchal system that is hell bent on destroying us or the planet when I see what is happening. Human visioning is so limited.
Today I do hold other people accountable for the harm they do/have done to themselves/others/the planet, myself, about just as I hold myself accountable; we are all participants.
What helps me the most is returning to my Naturalist self, the part of me that keeps me grounded in a present that allows me to find peace in the present moment. Perhaps this “no way” is some way after all.
Sara is a naturalist, writer, a Jungian pattern analyst, ethologist ( person who studies animals in the their natural habitat) who is currently splitting her time between living in her home in Maine and residing here in Northern New Mexico. She has Passamaquoddy/Maliseet Indigenous roots which many be why she has dedicated her life to writing stories about animals and the Earth. Her work is regularly published.