The Soul – part 5

It’s really a kind of a mystery I think, man’s relation to nature, and it was so beautifully touched on by an ecologist named the Reverend Thomas Berry. He said every being has its own interior, its self, its mystery, its numinous aspect. To deprive any being of the sacred quality is to disrupt the total order of the universe. Reverence, he said, will be total, or it will be not at all.

Robert: Welcome to Inner Sight. Our topic for today is the soul—part five or the soul and the natural world. I like this thought from the writings of Alice Bailey and the quote is as follows: “The anima mundi is the soul of all things. It is that which results from the union of spirit and matter. It permeates all substance; it underlies all form whether it be the form that we call an atom, or the form of a human being, a planet, or a solar system.” What does the term anima mundi really mean? 

Sarah: Well, if you go to the dictionary and look it up as I did, you find that it means soul or breath, and it’s a word that can be traced back in its origin to the Latin word for spirit and the Greek word for wind. That’s interesting to speculate on—the idea that the anima mundi is the wind. It brings to mind the saying “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” which is chanted at the time of death; ashes and dust implying that the original living body is, at the time of death, dispersed by wind. This expresses a great spiritual law that governs all living forms, whether it’s an atom, an animal, a plant or a human being. Every form follows the law of gravitation, we’re told in the Ageless Wisdom, which I guess is another term for what is called entropy, where the physical form, the material world, inevitably decomposes and fragments itself, and is scattered by the wind. So, the anima mundi is the soul of the world, or the world’s soul, which animates all forms for a time and then relinquishes them. 

Dale: Yes, I think this idea of the anima mundi is another way of looking at the soul in a much more expansive way. It takes us out of the concept of the soul as being something strictly human, the human soul, the spiritual soul. If we look down through all of nature there is this same soul factor, the same soul quality. It’s in the animal kingdom, it’s in the vegetable or plant kingdom and it’s even down at the level of the mineral kingdom. In all these lower kingdoms that lie below human the human stage, we still have this factor of the soul and it’s this soul quality that animates and provides impetus, direction, and striving for some type of perfection even at these lower levels. This is the anima mundi at work, the soul of all things, all throughout nature. 

Sarah: Maybe we should review with our listeners some of the definitions of the soul, which we’ve talked about on earlier programs. These ideas come from the Ageless Wisdom that’s contained in the books of Alice Bailey, as well as many other writers. One definition of the soul is that it’s the linking aspect between spirit, or pure life, and matter, or substance. It’s the relation between spirit and matter. Another definition is that it’s the link between God and His form. Whatever he has created, which, like you say, includes living forms within all of the realms: mineral, vegetable, animal, as well as human. Still another definition that we talked about, is that the soul is the attractive force. It’s what holds forms together so that the life of God can manifest in the visible, outer world. And finally, as you implied a minute ago, the soul is known as the force of evolution itself; it’s that which impels or compels forward movement and growth. And we’re given some analogies; for example, a flower that turns to follow the sun is an expression of the soul in nature. 

Dale: Yes, it’s that very deep spiritual essence within every form, from a mineral on up to a human being and beyond, that manifests certain qualities. It’s that which gives form certain qualities, as you mentioned in the vegetable kingdom, the example of the flower. It is the soul quality, the essence within that plant that determines what kind of a plant it will be, whether a rose, an elm, broccoli, cauliflower or whatever. It’s that soul essence that is the building aspect, or the building energy within this plant that determines what it’s going to be and not only what it’s going to be, but the quality of this plant. Now quality comes out, for example, you see it in the perfection of the rose or the orchid. You notice it in the colours and also in the perfume that radiates from these flowers which indicates its relative stage of perfection. In the mineral kingdom you have a similar striving for perfection in gemstones, like is seen in the radiance of diamonds or in precious metals like gold and silver. Those are all indications of more advanced stages within that kingdom and it’s the same in the animal kingdom too. We find these advanced stages that are pushed forward by the soul in terms of domestic animals like the dog, the cat or the horse, in particular. These display more intelligence, a greater stage of perfection, and in each case it is the soul that is driving that forward. 

Robert: I just want to underscore the point that in the quotation that I made before from the works of Alice Bailey, speaking about the soul she says, “the soul permeates all substance that underlies all forms, whether it be the form that we call an atom or the form of a human being, a planet or a solar system.” Before reading Alice Bailey, I constantly thought of the soul as an individuality and through reading her books I’ve become aware now that it’s something that has a lot of commonalities to it. We’re all part of the soul, that the soul is within us, but it’s not an individual slice of the soul that we own. Could you expand upon that a little bit further and clarify that? 

Sarah: Well, it’s one soul. The world is one unified expression of the soul. I think some of the indigenous or Aboriginal peoples who live more closely to the natural world understand this better than the people in the developed world, because they live within nature, you could say, and they have this sense that all of the natural world is living. And I think that’s an expression of what Alice Bailey was trying to say, that the rocks, the trees, the plants, the animals are all living expressions of divine purpose.  

Robert: It might also explain what some of the enlightened spiritual leaders set forth years ago when they began to talk about seeing themselves in other people; that might shed light on that type of consciousness. Where does the idea come from that man should have dominion over nature? 

Sarah: Doesn’t it come from the Bible—I think Genesis? I was reading something fairly recently that seemed to question whether dominion is really the word from the Bible. I don’t know in what original language Genesis was written, and if there’s been a study of the original terminology, but this passage that I came across seemed to imply that perhaps the more correct word that was used originally was something that implied stewardship. There is a difference between dominion and stewardship, don’t you think? 

Dale: Oh, certainly. Dominion has the connotation of dominance taking over and taking command and exploiting nature, and certainly that’s what we’ve done over the years. But I think we’re coming around to the idea that no, we can’t exploit it anymore. We have to be stewards of the earth and stewards of the lower kingdoms. 

Sarah: That implies responsibility to me; stewardship, that we have responsibility. 

Dale: So maybe the truth of that statement is now just coming into our consciousness; of what we should be doing. It’s instinctive in us to really become stewards of nature. 

Sarah: You can say that the Aboriginal peoples had a purer understanding of their proper relationship to the natural world. And we often find ourselves thinking and saying that technology and the development of the intellect have caused the human being to separate himself from the natural world and to plunder it. But there’s another angle to that, that I came across not too long ago: that the mind is needed, the developed mind of the human being is needed for humanity to fulfill its responsibilities to the natural world. In fact, the Jewish Kabbalah, the mystical tradition within Judaism, touches on this. I read that the Kabbalah teaches that as Adam named all of God’s creatures, he helped to define their essence, and that Adam swore to live in harmony with those that he had named. Thus, the Kabbalah says at the very beginning of time, man accepted responsibility before God for all creation. That’s an encouraging thought, that the mind of the human being is necessary to fulfill the stewardship. 

Dale: Absolutely. Now we have the presence of mind and the ability to look at nature and to really analyze it and to see how we can improve upon it. Humans are doing that, working in the field of botany. They’re trying to improve the plants, the flowers and vegetables, making more perfect expressions of these plants. It takes a mind to do that. 

Robert: Well, it’s certainly an interesting debate as to whether or not the word in the Bible should have been translated as dominion or stewardship. Stewardship implies being a custodian, being given a great responsibility towards the animals and the other kingdoms on Earth. That really gives us the idea that we should have great respect for our responsibility. I also like this thought from Alice Bailey: “The soul of all things, the anima mundi, is the life and soul of the One in whom all embodied existences live and move and have their being.” Can we see examples of people who have had an understanding of the soul in nature? 

Sarah: Yes, I think so. There are some outstanding examples that have responded to this anima mundi within the natural world. One of the earliest was the great Emperor Ashoka of India 2000 years ago, who I think was the first person to teach a respect and a compassion for animals. And then of course, there’s Saint Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer, who I think everybody would be familiar with. And Luther Burbank, who did so much work with the vegetable kingdom, and George Washington Carver. 

Dale: I’d like to mention another one that was more prominent during the turn of the last century, John Muir. He did tremendous work in persuading President Theodore Roosevelt to establish the National Park system. John Muir had a great love and a sensitivity to nature and he understood the beauty and he responded to it. He was one of the real forerunners of the environmental movement and it’s the environmentalists today that are helping to preserve the quality of nature. There’s an understanding of this divine essence and the beauty that must be preserved. 

Sarah: Beyond that kind of recognition, don’t you think that there is something that some of these great scientists unlock? A kind of a code that they break through which seems to unlock the secrets of the vegetable Kingdom; for example, the work that Luther Burbank did, or that Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, might have done. It’s as if they break through the barrier between the vegetable and the human kingdoms and begin to work with the laws that govern that lower kingdom. Or another example, the human beings that work with animals and know how to communicate with them; the work that’s being done with primates to teach them to communicate. 

Dale:  Yes, that’s very true. Jane Goodall is a perfect example of that, and also Francine Patterson, who lives with a gorilla named Koko and is teaching her how to communicate. There’s work being done with chimpanzees on this electronic punch board that they use to construct sentences. So, all of this is stimulating the animal mind and that’s essentially one of the responsibilities of the human kingdom. It is our responsibility to help the animal move forward, and so with these particular primates and the dog, the cat and the horse, for example, and these animals are receiving a tremendous boost in stimulation to their little minds and bringing them much closer to the human kingdom. So, it’s very important work and we’re doing exactly what we should be and that’s part of being the stewards of the Earth. 

Robert: I thought that quote that I mentioned earlier by Alice Bailey was profound and I’d like you to comment on it. Once again, it’s “the soul of all things, the anima mundi, is the life and soul of the One in whom all embodied existences live and move and have their being.” Could you just further elaborate on that? 

Sarah: It is a very profound quote and kind of mysterious, but to me it seems to say that all levels of the manifested world, whether we’re looking at human, animal, vegetable or mineral, are expressing the one life that created them, which is what we call God. That everything that is given form and is manifested on our planet is an expression of its creator. 

Robert: Everything is an expression of God, is what you are saying then. 

Sarah: Yes, the vegetable world, the animal world, the mineral world are all expressions of divinity. And when you begin to look at the world in that way, you realize that everything has its purpose and its function, and everything is interwoven in its functioning. Ecology is teaching this very well now—that you can’t disturb this balance without causing great harm. In fact, the Hopi Indians have the term Koyaanisqatsi for the imbalance that has developed in the world, due to our lack of understanding that God is present in all of the natural world, as well as in the human world. 

Dale: Yes, that’s part of the web of life and it’s important for human beings to begin to look at nature in a whole different way. We’re so identified with form life. We look at our forms, our physical bodies, we look at animal forms and we can look at vegetable forms, yet we don’t tend to see that beneath these forms or within the forms, there is this soul factor that is driving these forms to move forward towards some kind of perfection. I keep getting back to that, but that’s essentially what’s going on and that’s what we need to begin to train ourselves to look deeply at. 

Sarah: And every kingdom has a dependency and a sacrifice to render the other kingdoms. For example, the mineral kingdom, by what it deposits into the soil, then enriches the vegetable kingdom, and the vegetable kingdom enriches the animals who eat it, and then human beings supposedly take that a step further by eating the animals, although there’s a growing interest in vegetarianism. But the point being, that all of these different realms of the web of life sustain each other and need each other. 

Dale: I was struck by one comment that I read in one of the Alice Bailey books recently about the vegetable kingdom and the purpose of that kingdom. It says that it is in this kingdom that one first sees clearly the glory which lies ahead of humanity. The glory that the vegetable kingdom produces is a lesson for humanity and an example of what is in store for us, if we can only learn from it. 

Robert: I guess what you’re saying is we can certainly learn a lot about life from the vegetable kingdom as well. Aren’t there also examples of men’s relationship to nature that show a lack of soul awareness? 

Sarah: Well, I’m afraid so. The whole question of environmental degradation and the mad cow disease that’s so much in the news; now, to me, that’s a perfect example of a lack of wisdom in man’s relation to the lower kingdoms, because the mad cow disease, as I understand it, is based on the fact that the people who were raising these animals for meat were feeding them products from their own kind. And as I just said a minute ago, these kingdoms all sustain each other. The vegetable kingdom sustains the animal. Animals are herbivores, and this mad cow disease has resulted from feeding diseased parts of their own kind, of cows and other animals ground up into small matter. They’re eating their own kind and making them into a kind of cannibal, and this terrible disease is ravaging not only the animals, but the human beings now who eat those diseased animals. There’s also genetic engineering, cloning and biological warfare; all of these are examples of wrong use of nature. 

Robert: I absolutely agree. Going back to the beginning of our show, it seems like instead of being stewards, a lot of times mankind has become very mercenary and greedy and has disrespected the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Do you have any final thoughts on the soul in nature that you want to mention? 

Sarah: Well, yes, but I wanted to mention too, that on a more positive note, there are signs of man’s growing understanding of responsibility to nature. Having mentioned genetic engineering and mad cow disease, we also have to mention the realization of animal rights that’s increasingly getting attention, and the societies for the preservation of cruelty to animals; the science of ecology that’s developed; the United Nations environmental program, which charts the development of the environment globally, and gives a complete overview. It’s really a kind of a mystery I think, man’s relation to nature, and it was so beautifully touched on by an ecologist named the Reverend Thomas Berry. He said every being has its own interior, its self, its mystery, its numinous aspect. To deprive any being of the sacred quality is to disrupt the total order of the universe. Reverence, he said, will be total, or it will be not at all. 

Robert: He believes in the dignity of all beings. 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 is the energy that draws us together in right relationship. There’s a world prayer called the Great Invocation. It’s a call for light and 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 by reciting 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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