Elephant -

The animals of the planet are in desperate peril. Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.  — Alice Walker

How we treat animals is how we treat our souls. — Carolyn Casey



We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and wiser and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extentions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of earth.
— Henry Beston, The Outermost House

Animals communicate with all beings energetically.  They're always meditating.  They see energetic fields all the time.  — Dr. Allen M. Schoen, DVM


Interspecies Loving Kindness

Three eyes  ©

Having been an animal lover all my life, I have observed with interest the increasing human attention to, and activism regarding, animals and our relationship with them.  Different people devote their attention to different aspects of animal matters.  Some people focus on communicating with animals in general, or with particular species; some focus on rescuing a particular breed of dog or cat or parrot, domestic animals in general or farm animals in general; some focus on saving particular wild species from extinction, such as elephants, tigers, wolves, or primates; some focus on animal welfare in general or only that of captive and companion animals; some focus on stopping the illegal trade in endangered species and their parts; some focus on raising consciousness about the ethical dimensions of studying, wearing, and/or eating animals—the list of the varieties of animal concerns goes on and on, and for good reason.  As Alice Walker says, “The animals of the planet are in desperate peril,” and at a deep (perhaps barely conscious) level, a growing number of humans seem to realize that without “free animal life” roaming the planet, we will “lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.” 

My own interest is both general and specific.  I am acutely aware that I owe my life and faculties to the mammalian evolution that occurred during the 65-million-year Cenozoic Era, the age of mammals—and that during my lifetime, my species is bringing an end to that era through massive species extinctions.  I also have had enough experiences with wild and domestic animals to recognize all as kindred spirits, and have made a practice of relating to them as equals, talking to them, crying about them, and praying for them.  I am particularly interested in the current paradigm change going on in human attitudes towards animals, and how animals themselves are contributing to that change.

Orangutans -

I used to get my news about this paradigm change primarily through the listserve that was hosted by ethologist Marc Bekoff, who unfortunately, but understandably, discontinued it - probably because he is too busy. Along with Jane Goodall and other colleagues, Marc has worked tirelessly for decades to change the old paradigm that leads humans to relate with animals as lesser beings, or as things without feelings or souls.  Marc’s passion is to demonstrate to the public that animals have minds and rich emotional lives.  In The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc argues, “Not only can animal emotions teach us about love, empathy, and compassion, but they require us to radically rethink our current relationship of domination and abuse of animals.”  Marc also explores the evolutionary purposes of emotions, showing how science is discovering brain structures that produce emotions, how we can track an evolutionary continuum based on shared brain structures between species, and how new information is being revealed by noninvasive neurological research techniques.  

In 2000 Marc and Jane Goodall co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies, and have co-authored several books.  Both campaign fulltime for a reassessment of how we view animals and how we treat them. And they have helped many other scientists to find the courage to challenge the old scientific-materialistic view that ascribing personalities, mind, and emotions to animals is unscientific “anthropomorphism.”

Ethologists—scientists who study animal behavior, such as Jane and Marc—seem to have their scientific conditioning challenged by studying animals.  That is, the animals themselves challenge the paradigm.  Stories now abound of the amazing things animals do that challenge and change human assumptions.  I find this phenomenon exciting, which is why I pay attention to news about animals.  Like Bekoff and Goodall, I am grieved by the extinction news, but also hope that the people who have been touched by animals will reach a critical mass soon enough to put a stop to the slaughter and loss of biodiversity.

Animals touch our hearts because they have hearts.  If you pay attention to international news, you can pick up stories of interspecies friendship, nurturing, and loving kindness fairly regularly.  Here’s one from the Daily Mail in the UK:

The abandoned monkey who has found love with a pigeon
13th September 2007

They're an odd couple in every sense but a monkey and a pigeon have become inseparable at an animal sanctuary in China.

 The 12-week-old macaque - who was abandoned by his mother - was close to death when it was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Goangdong Province.

After being taken to an animal hospital his health began to improve but he seemed spiritless - until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

The blossoming relationship helped to revive the macaque who has developed a new lease of life, say staff at the sanctuary.

Now the unlikely duo are never far from each other's side, but they aren't the only ones to strike up an unusual friendship.

Earlier this year a pig adopted a tiger cub and raised him along with her piglets because his mother couldn't feed him.

And in 2005 a baby deer named Mi-Lu befriended lurcher [dog] Geoffrey at the Knowsley Animal Park in Merseyside after she was rejected by her mother.

Reader comments on this story were along these lines:

•  Humans could learn a little something from this unlikely twosome: Tolerance, unconditional love, and respect for someone or something that’s very different than us.

•  If only humans could be so kind and loving towards one another and take the examples of these beautiful animals, we would be in a much more pleasant state of living than we are now!

•  I wish the human race would put aside its differences and live happily alongside one another like animals do.  We're supposed to be the superior race. What rubbish!

•  Two species worlds apart and they find common ground and companionship. Pity us so called civilised humans can't do the same.

Software: Microsoft OfficeSince I’ve been linked to animal-lover networks, I’ve seen many such stories.  Maybe you've heard of the remarkable relationship between Owen, the orphaned baby hippo, and Mzee, the 130-year-old Aldabran tortoise.  Owen lost his family when the tsunami hit the coast of Kenya on Dec. 26, 2004.  When he was taken to a wildlife park, he adopted Mzee.  This story of interspecies bonding was made into an e-book with photos and text, and photos of the inseparable pair circulated around the world several times by email.  Now Owen and Mzee have their own site, and their story has evolved into three different books.  Owen currently lives with an adult female hippo in a pond, and Mzee the tortoise lives alone again.  Their recent ways of life are described on the Owen and Mzee caretaker’s blog

Then there are the stories of human kindness to large wild animals, who appear to show gratitude. 

The story of the Humpback whale rescued off the Farallon Islands in California is now famous.  She was entangled in fishing lines and weighted down by crab traps, struggling to stay afloat and breathe.  Several divers carefully cut the lines off of the enormous animal, and although this could have proved very dangerous if she had struggled, she didn’t struggle -- she watched.  The rescue was successful, and afterwards she circled joyfully around the divers, nudging and acknowledging each one.  It was an unforgettable, revelatory experience for the divers.

Finally, there are the stories of animals with extraordinary abilities to communicate with humans by various means, including telepathy.  Biologist Rupert Sheldrake has made a study of animals who telepathically pick up what their owners are thinking or doing, described in his book Dogs that Know when their Owners are Coming Home.  Inspired by this book, Aimee Morgana contacted him about her language-using African grey parrot, N’kisi, who would often describe what Aimee was thinking about, reading, or looking at in situations where there were no possible ordinary clues. 

Aimee and Dr. Sheldrake collaborated in designing an experiment to try to replicate and document this phenomenon under controlled conditions.  The N'kisi Project is a series of controlled experiments and ongoing research in interspecies communication and telepathy conducted by Aimee and N'kisi, utilizing video documentation.  Video cameras record what Aimee is doing in one room and what N’kisi is saying and doing in another room with several walls in between them.  N’kisi often correctly identifies what Aimee is looking at, though he cannot see her and she herself could not anticipate what image she would be presented with.

Speaking of parrots, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a wonderful story of how the wild red-headed conures transformed the life of a man in San Francisco, California.  Mark Bittner tells this “love story with wings” in a movie and book.  The movie is a delight.  You can learn about the parrots at Parrots Central.

These stories understandably warm human hearts, but I often wonder whether something deeper, more mysterious, more archetypal, is going on.  Almost as in a fairy tale, communication and caring is taking place between humans and animals, in both directions, that is waking humans up to our kinship with other animals and to our own animal souls.  We are re-discovering that animals have feelings and emotional needs and responses very much like ours.   (Some of us wonder how anybody could have thought otherwise.)  And, because we are now observing them with more curiosity and attentiveness, more empathy, they are mirroring our own feelings and emotional needs.  

AppleMark It is unlikely that animals are doing things now that they haven’t always done.  Perhaps animals in captivity are crossing species lines, out of desperation, that they haven’t crossed before.  But studies of social animals in the wild show that mammals and birds demonstrate compassion, empathy, and a whole range of emotions that used to be considered the sole provenance of humans.  In any case, the significant paradigm shift is occurring in humans, not in the animals.  We are just discovering that our emotional capacities came to us through the evolution of mammals.  We are realizing that humans are not separate, and we are not the only beings with souls. 

Now that we’re paying attention -- now that humans are ruling the planet and we know that animals are in trouble -- animals are showing us once again, as they did in the distant past, how to behave towards Others. Paul Shepard argued persuasively in his many books that the early development of humans was tutored by animals.  From them we learned how to hunt and how to live together.  We observed and imitated them.  They are our elders, evolutionarily speaking.   Shepard felt strongly that the human mind, and particularly the brain, is actually that part of us most dependent on the survival of animals.  In his view, living animals are a necessary part of the mental growth and maturity of humans. 

Now, at the 11th hour, before all the beautiful creatures disappear, perhaps they are showing us how to finally grow up as a species: how to have appreciation, gratitude and respect – even love – for those who are very different from ourselves, human and nonhuman.  Perhaps some primordial part of ourselves knows that animals are the allies of our souls.  They are not only the evolutionary source of human intelligence but the wellspring of our mythic imagination, which is the soul’s expression of our interdependence within the anima mundi, the soul of the world.  Animals have always inspired our mythic imagination in relation to our place within Gaia and its more-than-human inhabitants. Perhaps the animals themselves are reminding us that we lose them at our own peril, as indigenous wisdom has been telling us for quite some time.  I can’t help feeling that animals are dying for us to wake up and rejoin the Earth community, the family of Gaia.

Whatever is going on at the archetypal soul level, loving kindness to animals seems to open the path into both Dharma and Gaia.  For many people, animals are initiating the Great Turning to a more soulful paradigm.  For more on this, see Animal Links, Deep Ecology, Paradigm Change, Psycho-Spiritual Evolution, and Animistic Soul.


Wolf Pup by Denis Marier

The howl of the wolf stirs inside the body, taking us down from our world of logic, down to the deeper lost regions of ourselves into a memory so ancient we have lost the name for it.  — Linda Hogan


True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test (which lies deeply buried from view) consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: the animals. And in this respect, mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. — Milan Kundera

Software: Microsoft Office

One of the most creative possibilities for the future is hanging out with other forms of life, to crack open our rigid consciousness. -- Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos #3


Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. — Anatole France


If you talk with the animals, they will talk to you and you will know each other.  If you do not talk with them, you will not know them.  And what you do not know, you will fear.  What one fears, one destroys.   — Chief Dan George



Every species is a manifestation of glory that only that species can celebrate. — Brian Swimme,
 Canticle to the Cosmos #3



Spectators © Michelle Waters


© 2009 Suzanne Duarte