By Sharon St Joan
No serious person in the modern world really believes that rocks are conscious. There are a few exceptions which we’ll come to in a moment.
Watching the TV series, The Universe, being shown on the H2 channel, one can absorb fascinating facts. Underneath the vast atmosphere of Jupiter, for example, lies an ocean – not an ordinary ocean, but an ocean of hydrogen that is brighter than the sun and intensely blue, also hotter than the surface of the sun.
In between the planets of the solar system lie immensely vast spaces, so large as to be incomprehensible – and far vaster distances separate the galaxies from each other. The universe is expanding. Not only is it expanding, but the rate of expansion, counter-intuitively, is speeding up, not slowing down. Our galaxy is zooming at an ever increasing rate of speed away from all other galaxies. Eventually they will be so distant that we will no longer see them. All light will go out, and the universe will come to a cold, dark end. Or so science tells us – unless we accept another theory, that the universe will collapse in on itself to end in a great crunch, and then expand outwards again.
In short, “modern science” presents us with what may seem to be a picture of the universe that is cold, dark, lonely, pointless, and doomed (albeit with flashes of the spectacular and dramatic, but doomed nonetheless).
Is it possible though that this is not so much a depiction of actual reality, as it is a reflection of the dysfunctional human psyche of the modern world — a condition towards which we have devolved over the past few thousand years? After all, is it impossible that the state of our collective psyche might color our collective perception of external reality? Just a thought.
So we are told that, in the midst of this desert of lifelessness called the universe, are tiny islands of awareness, we humans – and today, many scientists accept the concept that there may be alien life forms on other planets, who have evolved other civilizations. We may or may not ever be able to contact them, and if or when we do, we may find them to be either friendly or hostile. Or they may be all around us all the time in other dimensions, who knows?
As for the animals that share the earth with us, most humans, whether fond of animals or not, assume that they are a lower life form, and somewhat less important than ourselves. When wildlife biologists talk about the populations of birds increasing or decreasing, an individual bird with her own life and awareness, does not rank very high in the scheme of things as we see it from our human perspective. We do tend to care about species that teeter on the verge of extinction, especially the large charismatic ones, the tigers or the elephants, but the odd orange beetle or the obscure blue butterfly doesn’t really catch our attention.
As for plants, people who feel an affection for trees are generally considered quite odd. Though, on the other hand, when tall, old beautiful trees that line city streets are cut down one day by an insensitive city planner, the level of public outcry can be deafening.
In December, 2015, Nguyen The Thao, the head of the Hanoi People’s Committee, in Vietnam, was forced to step down following public outrage over his plan to cut down 6,000 famous, ancient trees lining the streets of the capitol. There have been similar incidents of public rage over felling trees in the U.S. and worldwide.
In the year 1730, the Bishnois, in India, often called the world’s first environmentalists, sacrificed their lives to protect the beloved trees of their village. The king had sent his soldiers to fell the trees to make way for a temple he was building. One by one, the people of the village stood between the soldiers and the trees, and one by one, they were killed defending their trees. Eventually, at the end of the day, the king arrived. Witnessing the numbers of people lying dead, he relented and ordered his soldiers to stop. By this time 363 brave men and women had heroically given their lives to protect their forest. To this day, the Bishnois, in northern India, are known for protecting trees and animals.
Where does this leave us? Well, basically, apart from a few “tree-huggers” and a much larger and growing number of animal activists, the predominant worldview – particularly in academic or scientific circles – is still that humans are important – and anything else may be moderately important in relation only to humans.
The planet Mars may be important because after we have destroyed the earth we live on, we may be able to colonize Mars by terra-forming it and making it suitable for us to live on. This seems to be an official view of NASA and a goal of space exploration.
On October 9, 2009, NASA bombed the moon by sending two rockets crashing into the moon’s south pole. The intent was for the impact to throw up clouds of debris in which water might be found. In terms of planning a future base on the moon, water would be very useful.
To all ancient peoples on the earth the moon is a divine, sacred being and bombing her is a sacrilegious act. NASA scientists and engineers did not seem troubled by this.
The ancient Mesopotamians worshipped Sin as the moon god. The Japanese called him Tsukyyomi. The ancient Egyptian god, Thoth, was a lunar deity. The Mayans revered Awilix as the goddess of the moon, although she was sometimes referred to as male. The Micmacs, a Canadian, Algonquian tribe, say that the dark spots on the moon are spots of clay left there when rabbit had caught the moon in a trap, then was forced to release him when the moon threatened him. Many Asian peoples see a rabbit in the moon, rather than a “man in the moon.” It seems that all neolithic and paleolithic peoples worshipped the moon, the sun, and the planets, seeing them as divine beings. One can find traces of this ancient worship today in living religions.
Of course, these days we all know better and do not believe such nonsense – or do we? How exactly has science been able to prove that the moon, the sun, the planets, and the galaxies are inert, unconscious, entirely physical, and totally non-spiritual beings that have absolutely not a grain of consciousness among them? Have you seen any proof of this? You haven’t, and neither have I. This assumption of a lack of consciousness on the part of heavenly beings is just exactly that – an assumption, nothing more.
There is simply nothing “scientific” about the assertion that only humans and maybe higher animals have consciousness.
All the world’s ancient systems of knowledge maintained the opposite – that indeed the great beings of the night skies are conscious and aware, that they have a real power and an identity, that they are beings, not things.
In Tamil Nadu, in southern India, at Thiruvannamalai, there is a mountain named Arunachala. The mountain has been worshipped as sacred for thousands of years and is said to be Lord Shiva. It is not that Lord Shiva lives within the mountain, but instead Lord Shiva is the mountain.
In Australia, a massive, one thousand foot high rock, rising straight up out of the plains in the central part of the country is called Uluru, and is known to the native peoples as a sacred mountain – which has been there since the dreamtime. To them, reality is a dream, and the ancient perceptions of their ancestors represented a higher, truer form of reality. Who is to say that they are wrong?
Inyan Kara is the highest peak of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. To the Lakota Sioux and other nearby native peoples, all the Black Hills were sacred and were the home of the thunder gods and the Great Spirit. The destruction of these hills to create the Mount Rushmore carvings is seen by them as the desecration of a holy place.
It is difficult, even for modern humans, not to feel awestruck in the majestic presence of towering stone cliffs – or sometimes even in the presence of small little rocks that seem to invoke some special presence, that may seem to “speak.”
From where do we gather the impression that these are not great beings, when our instincts tell us that indeed they are sacred beings? Being sacred, are they not also conscious, are they not gods or goddesses? Is not the earth itself a living, sacred being – mother to all of us? There is a voice within us that calls to us to acknowledge and feel a sense of reverence towards these ancient ones – these great rock entities worshipped the world over by our ancestors, these rocks and mountains who perhaps know far more, with a knowledge and perception deeper and more profound, than we small humans could ever imagine or have any grasp of.
Top photo: Sakthiprasanna / Wikimedia Commons/ This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. / Arunachala at Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Second photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team / NASA, public domain / Cluster and star-forming region Westerlund 2.
Third photo: E. A. Rodrigues / Wikipedia Commons / The Hindu god Chandra riding in his chariot.
Fourth photo: Mark Andrews / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Uluru, the Northern Territory, Australia.
To read about the public outcry over the felling of 6,000 trees in Vietnam, click here.
To read about the world’s first environmentalists, the Bishnois, click here.
To read about NASA’s bombing of the moon, click here.