The Animal Kingdom

The domestic animals are like a bridge for all the species of the animal kingdom; from the lower animals to the human stage, they are a bridging agency, you might say. 

Robert: Welcome to Inner Sight. Our topic for today is the animal kingdom. I’d like to begin with this thought from Alice Bailey: “In the coming age, the relation between the human and animal kingdoms will become increasingly close. The service of the animal to man is well recognized and of ceaseless expression. The service of man to the animals is not yet understood, though some steps in the right direction are being taken.” That gives me pause for thought, to wonder how mankind can be of service to the animals, but I certainly feel good about that thought. Throughout history animals have been of great service to men and sometimes we really haven’t treated them with the dignity that we should have treated them with. Can we see an increasing closeness between humans and animals? 

Sarah: Yes, we can. Human beings are gaining a sense of service to the animal kingdom through the wonderful research that’s been conducted in the last few decades. People like Jane Goodall, who has spent decades in Africa studying chimpanzees; Diane Fossey, who studied the gorillas; and another woman scientist in Borneo who’s been studying the orangutans. Those are three women who have given years and years of their lives to focusing in on one particular species and really gaining an in-depth understanding of what motivates those animals. Another scientist, Francine Patterson at Stanford University in California, has done a lot of experimentation with teaching a gorilla named Koko to use sign language and the communication they’ve developed has led to amazing insights into the mind of a gorilla. They’ve found by communicating with this gorilla that her favorite colour is red, that she loves to ride in the car with the window down, she loves to go to McDonald’s for a hamburger, and she signed at one point that she wanted a kitty; so, they got her a kitten which she named herself, All Ball. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. There’s another experiment in Georgia that’s working with chimpanzees to learn computer language. 

Dale: Yes, they use a keyboard. They punch keys that have symbols on them, and each symbol means something that the chimps understand. They can ask for food, water, their toy or whatever, and they can communicate with their director.  

Robert: That’s really amazing. 

Dale: They can make their thoughts and their desires known, and they can express them through this keyboard. There is also, of course, the service that animals do or perform to humans. We see that in seeing eye dogs. That’s a tremendous service for the blind. And then lately there has been a lot about dogs that are used in hospices, hospitals and in nursing homes. They come in and they just be their happy selves and the patients really respond to these dogs, and cats too I guess. These animals are so outgoing and they seem to sense that they’re somehow helping these human beings and they’re bringing out a real loving quality. And even with autistic children, I’ve heard that animals can draw these children out in in ways that other techniques have not been successful in doing 

Sarah: Coming back to the idea of the service of man to the animals, there’s another aspect to consider, and that is the mind of the human being as a means of impression or of impact upon the consciousness of the animal. This is a form of service that human beings can render to the animal kingdom, particularly to companion and domestic animals. Apparently, according to the writings of Alice Bailey, the ability of human beings to teach animals through discipline, through the impact of the will, is a quickening or a stimulation upon the evolution of animals. It makes me think of that British woman who had a very popular TV program some years ago—I think her name was Barbara Woodhouse. Maybe some of our listeners will remember her. It was on PBS, and she was like a drill sergeant with these dogs. No nonsense was tolerated. She was all discipline and no soft edges about her, and they adored her. She would take them on what she called “walkies.” These animals would come to her as the most goofy, uncontrollable, undisciplined, run amok animals, and she would have them turned into disciplined little lap dogs in a matter of days or weeks. Somehow the impact of her mind and her consistent discipline on them was just what they needed and they were happy; you could see that the animals adored her. So, that’s an example of the impression that the human being can make upon an animal. 

Dale: Yes, I recall that show and some of the owners had more problems than they had with the animals. (laughter) As a matter of fact, they were pretty unruly people themselves and they couldn’t give in to the discipline. 

Sarah: They didn’t have the will to discipline their animals, but she did. 

Robert: Do animals suffer in the same way that people do? 

Sarah: I don’t think we would know how to answer that because we don’t really know what goes on in the consciousness of an animal. There is an element of mystery because they are a different Kingdom, but certainly we can say they suffer in their own way. They can experience fear, terror, and loss. There was an example from my childhood that I still remember. My uncle had two dogs, a Doberman Pinscher and a Boston Terrier, and another uncle of mine ran over the Boston Terrier with his tractor and the poor Doberman Pinscher lay on the grave of the Boston Terrier for a week and died—I suppose just out of sheer heartbreak to have lost his friend. So, we know that yes, animals do suffer, but apparently they don’t have the self-consciousness, the sense of self identity that a human being does. And so, they don’t have a sense of memory or of anticipation of the future that might manifest as dread, which causes so much of human suffering. Our imaginations can create the most awful future imaginings, which are never realized a great deal of the time. We are guessing that animals don’t have that. 

Dale: Animals don’t have the developed mind that is present in a human being. Animals do suffer physically and they do suffer, as you mentioned, emotionally or sentiently, you might say, but that mental aspect is not as developed. And as you say, they don’t experience anticipation, imagination, or remorse, and they don’t have that urge to reach out to divinity, which often brings a sense of loss and failure. So, they don’t experience that kind of suffering, but certainly the physical suffering they do, yes. 

Robert: I had a cat that passed away a couple of years ago and I still miss that cat and she still lives deep within me. I’d like to think that she has a soul. Do animals have souls? 

Sarah: Well, it’s another question that we human beings don’t really know the answer to. It’s one that a lot of people have wondered about. I suppose they have the soul of an animal. One of the mistakes I think we human beings make out of our love for animals is to anthropomorphize them. We turn them into little people—and they’re not. They have the dignity of being their animal selves. According to the writings of Alice Bailey, animals don’t have the individuated soul that a human being does because they don’t have that sense of identity that is uniquely a human being’s problem. We think we are separated and precious and unique individuals, which we are, but we don’t have such a sense of our group connection. Animals, on the other hand are said to belong to a group soul. And somehow I find that very comforting, the thought that when an animal dies that fragment of the group’s soul is reclaimed on some mysterious level. 

Dale: I’m not sure about this, but I think sometimes you see the group soul demonstrated in herds of animals that are stampeding together. When they’re all moving in one body, they act as one. You can see this very strongly in schools of fish, or birds. There is a sense of wholeness, of oneness among them where they all share an experience—it’s not just this individualized sense. 

Sarah: Another example that suggests the soul, is the research into elephants. We now know that they form clans or family groups, and that when one of their group dies, the elephants go through a period of mourning. There was a program by the National Geographic Society a few years ago, called Reflections on Elephants that was a marvelous program. It gave you a sense of the mystery of elephants, how we know so little about them. They do mourn when one of their group dies. They stay and pine for the dead member for a while. That suggests the soul and the sense of attachment and relationship. The quality—I suppose on the animal level—of love and concern for the other animal. Another example I remember from some years ago was the keeper of an aquarium who told about his many years of work with fish. He told of a sturgeon which was part of his aquarium being very, very sick, near death. And one day he witnessed two other sturgeons swimming with this sick sturgeon, one on each side of it, to keep it afloat and aerating its gills. He didn’t strike me as a sentimental man or a dreamer. He was reporting something he witnessed. And one can only speculate, but it certainly seemed that they were acting on behalf of the sick member of the group. 

Robert: This is interesting because these are qualities we generally attribute to human beings, qualities of compassion, perhaps, and intelligence. And when we think of the porpoise too, there’s been amazing research done. 

Sarah: Right, porpoises and whales. There’s been, for eons of time, a recognition within human beings that animals have some soul, but I think the first person that really taught it as a doctrine was the Emperor Ashoka of India. I believe he made it a crime to harm animals; he was a pathbreaker in that sense. He taught the compassion that human beings should express to animals, and now we have societies that are devoted to protecting animals and animal rights. I think there is this awareness that there is a soul. 

Robert: Abraham Lincoln said the following: “I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.” What do you think Lincoln meant by this? 

Sarah: Well, his syntax is a little mangled, but I think we get his drift. You can’t claim to be a religious person, you can’t claim to love God and to be devout, if you then turn around and mistreat those who are in your care—in the sense of being the weaker or the lesser. And that applies to children, the disabled, the sick and elderly, and particularly to the lower kingdoms like the animals who don’t have the same mentality that a human being has. This is, I think, the idea behind that very poignant book To Kill a Mockingbird. If you remember, that was a story about a man with a disability who was abused by his community and the character played by Gregory Peck pointed out to his children that it’s a sin to treat such a person in such a way, just as it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because all it does is sing and make life beautiful. And it’s also the theme of that wonderful poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Coleridge. A mariner killed an albatross for no reason at all, just for the heck of it, and he suffered the torture of guilt and shame by having this albatross draped around his neck. He had to examine his consciousness and realize that it’s a sin to kill a creature that has done no harm to you. Religion, I think, depends upon our ability to live our spiritual beliefs in an expression toward those around us and the world around us, and not claim just to love God while mistreating our own family, our pets, and so on. 

Robert: What I like about the writings of Alice Bailey is that the theme running through all twenty-four volumes seems to be a respect for the dignity of all life, not just human beings, which I really value a lot. I like that approach. 

Sarah: Albert Schweitzer touched on that, too. His idea of reverence for all life was central to his teaching. 

Robert: What roles do the domesticated animals play in evolution? 

Dale: The domestic animals are on the leading edge, you might say, of the animal kingdom in terms of intelligence. You could also say they are like the initiates of the animal kingdom because they have been working so close with human beings. This brings up the idea that one of the purposes of the human relationship with the domestic animals, particularly dogs, cats, horses, and also elephants, is that we have a responsibility to these animals to bring them more towards the human kingdom. In other words, the domestic animals are like a bridge for all the species of the animal kingdom; from the lower animals to the human stage, they are a bridging agency, you might say. 

Sarah: And it’s interesting that this bridging, according to the writings of Alice Bailey, will be accomplished not so much through love of the animal as through the impact of the mind. It’s a mental bridging that will occur, and it depends upon the discipline of the animal. All of those—some people might argue about the cat—but the horse, the dog and the elephant respond to discipline. We can also see that communication with these animals is bridging the gap. We’ve learned that elephants have a form of communication amongst themselves that uses sonic waves that are below the threshold of human hearing. That’s a new piece of knowledge. They discuss quite a few things in their elephant way that we don’t hear about. It’s fascinating to me what’s going on in animal research today. 

Dale: Yes, and I’d like to just repeat it again that this is a very human responsibility that we have to the animals to teach them to think because we’re trying to develop the mind principle in the animal kingdom, particularly in the domestic animals, so they can eventually, way down the road, thousands of years from now, make the evolutionary step into the human kingdom. That’s what we’re told will happen; not right away but us human beings have a part to play in that grand evolutionary step forward for the animal Kingdom. 

Robert: A profound purpose in the evolution of the animal. 

Dale: Absolutely. It’s a tremendous responsibility and that’s where every pet owner can step in and realize that he has a responsibility to his pet; we have to keep that in mind. 

Robert: Do you have any final thoughts on animals? 

Sarah: Well, I’d like to come back to the idea that there is a mystery in the different kingdoms that make up our planet. We can’t fully understand these other kingdoms that contribute to our planet’s evolution. God’s plan includes far more than just the human strain, and I found this idea beautifully expressed some years ago when I came across a quotation by Henry Beston. It says, referring to animals, “They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of earth.” To me that sums up beautifully that we cannot fully understand or find our way into the mind and soul of animals. There is a great deal that we are beginning to understand, but there are other aspects of their evolution that are beyond our comprehension. But what’s important to come away from that thought, is that we must do all that we can to foster and honour their part in the plan and not just use them for human purposes, which is too often what humanity has done, not only with animals but with the vegetable and mineral kingdoms too. They have their part in the plan and we must try to understand it and serve it. 

Robert: In closing, we invite you to ponder on this thought. Goodwill is the touchstone that will transform the world. Goodwill is love in action. It’s the energy that draws us together in right relationship. There is a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It’s a call for light, love, and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program with the adapted version of the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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