Read an Excerpt
Who Animals Really Are
In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals, THE ESSENTIAL CONNECTION
for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain
animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beasts, and that from
them, and from the stars and the sun and the moon, man should learn.
-- Pawnee chief Letakota-Lesa
The cornerstone of my work and the positive results I have experienced with animals over the years has been my connection with them as total beings. The acknowledgment of their essential spiritual nature has formed the core of our ability to understand each other. Nonhuman animals are not lower forms of life, living with only automatic reactions or stimulus-response programming.
Yes, animals are different from humans. Various species have unique bodies, genetic backgrounds, and senses, and therefore they experience the world in their own particular ways. They are also individuals who combine their physical species nature with their own unique mental and spiritual qualities, and with an awareness to express themselves and fulfill their purposes in this universe.
Approaching animals as objects or biological forms does not promote the deep understanding and equitable relationship that become possible when we overcome our culturally ordained perceptions and allow ourselves to become fully aware of their physical, mental, and spiritual natures. While it's good to study the biology and behavior books to learn about animals' general and species-specific needs and patterns, this will not tell you all about an individual's particular personality, ideas, hopes, purposes, and dreams. You can't separate the physical from the spiritual aspect of a living being. We need to recognize the whole being when we approach an animal of any species.
When you make the spiritual connection, it's almost as if bodies disappear. They can be seen as vehicles of life in the physical and individual expressions of divine creation. When the essential, spiritual contact is made -- being to being -- recognition of likeness, even oneness, occurs. It is magical to feel this deep affinity and respect. It engenders open communication, trust, and understanding.
This type of relationship is not based on sentimentality, nor can it come about if we treat animals as babies or dependent underlings. It is a blend of compassion and kinship. If you have experienced this kind of soulful communion with another creature of any kind (including human), you are, by your approach or attitude, acknowledging your union or commonality as spiritual beings. Even if you don't think about it or phrase it in these terms, the animals know.
This doesn't mean that every animal is going to fall at your feet, be calm in your presence, or even want to communicate with you. Animals make their own choices, and they have their conditioned fears plus their own personal experiences. Their first response may be to flee or attack according to their biological chemistry and their function in nature's pattern.
Some animals will be more aware of you as a spiritual being and have more ability to connect with you. Others don't particularly want or see the need to relate to humans or any other species. However, I have found that if you remain quiet and attentive, but unobtrusive, respectful, and willing to make a connection, most animals will be interested or at least be willing to accept you as a part of their environment.
Domesticated animals that have experienced humans positively all their lives don't view humans as predators, and so they can often communicate with humans more easily. You may find it easier to connect with companion animals than with wild creatures you have never met. Experiencing both can be a pleasure and a privilege. To have a wild animal accept your human presence and connect with you as a kindred spirit is a deep honor.
I don't regard other animals as humans in furred or feathered clothing. They are themselves: individuals with different senses, forms of thinking, means of expressing themselves, and ways of seeing life. The joy comes when you connect spiritually and share each other's worlds. Then there is no need for categories and hierarchies that separate and lead to condescension or alienation. We can celebrate the experience of differences and rejoice in the oneness of our essential nature. This opens the door for learning from one another, sharing wisdom, and growing together in harmony.
All over the globe, there is a vast body of experience and learning that is not yet widely known. In particular, the scientific knowledge that man currently possesses cannot begin to encompass the wisdom held by plants and animals. The utilization of this wisdom is greatly to man's benefit, and we can expect that sooner or later its fruits will merge with the mainstream of science.
-- The Christian Science Monitor (January 2, 1992, p. 6)
What do animals think about -- only food? Are they intelligent? Do they remember the past? Can they reason? These are some of the questions people ask me in curious or disbelieving tones with regard to my experience with animals. In human history, these kinds of questions have been posed about other cultures, races, or any other groups that are considered different, inferior, or simply incomprehensible.
How do the people who ask these questions judge animal intelligence? They usually expect animals to prove their intelligence by using the same language, symbols, or expressions as we do. Experimenters test animal IQ according to human standards and laboratory models. But animals don't necessarily act or see or think in the human mode. Animal intelligence or ability must be perceived and understood in its own context and on its own terms.
There is a vacuum in human understanding: the absence of direct and unrestricted observation, communication, and understanding of other species. Having communicated with thousands of animals as fellow intelligent beings, I am sometimes astounded that many people do not see animals as intelligent and aware individuals.
Yes, other animals think and perceive differently than humans. They fulfill different functions in the world. When humans transplant animals out of their natural environments, the animals can be inhibited in expressing their native intelligence. Human modes of thinking can seem very chaotic and confusing to a more direct and less analytical way of being. Humans often ask animals to do things that are alien to their nature, which can be difficult for them to understand. Animals may also panic at humanmade machines, activities, and manners that offend their finely tuned senses.
Living with humans can cause a kind of culture shock to an inexperienced domestic animal. For example, some people consider horses stupid or crazy if they bolt or get anxious when they see flapping plastic, hear rain on metal roofs, or jump at things that they haven't seen before. Horses were not designed for the confinement of human-made structures and spaces, and their vision is very different from human sight. Nature has adapted them to open spaces. Perception of strange movement is a signal to flee. If we see things from their viewpoint, their behavior seems logical. It is a credit to their willingness to help us that they usually adapt to and do well in the alien situations to which humans expose them.
One visitor remarked, while I was showing her my chicken friends and extolling their beauty, alertness, and sharp perception, "But chickens are stupid; they'll run in front of a car." So will children or people unfamiliar with cars. Automobile noise, speed, and headlights can be very confusing for the keen senses of nonhuman animals. We are accustomed and have even dulled our senses to live with the sights, sounds, and smells of our fast-paced, industrialized world. The chickens, deer, rabbits, mice, and others that are not accustomed to the sudden onslaught of cars or other machines may become confused and terrified enough at their approach to freeze or run in front of them. Try lying down on the road at night, with your senses tuned in to everything around you, and on that level experience the overwhelming rush of noise and lights and the danger of an approaching car.
We can demonstrate our intelligence by stretching out of what we are conditioned to see. Rather than looking at animals as dumb cows or birdbrains, we can stop and see what is actually there in front of our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our open hearts. It takes clear observation and receptivity to appreciate the intelligence and expressions of another culture, group, or species without trying to measure it by our own standards.
I have enjoyed creating an extensive garden of native and climate-compatible plants, as well as a vegetable and herb garden. Our most frequent uninvited samplers of garden delicacies in my former California Coast garden were banana slugs and snails. They inhabited this area far longer than humans, and they certainly had an important place in the ecosystem. I didn't mind their consuming a small percentage of my tender vegetables, but continued foggy weather was so conducive to their propagation that they sometimes gained an unfair (from my point of view) advantage. So, I packed them off in a bucket to a part of the forest down the road and asked them not to return.
One summer, in the process of transporting as many as one hundred slugs each week, I became very close to their ways of being. I found them to be gentle, sensitive creatures with flowing and aesthetically acute perceptions of the world. Stepping into their viewpoint, I have seen a world pulsating with waves of energy. They don't seem to see with the same kind of visual receptors as we do. They sense waves of energy, or auras, so that we humans and other creatures are "shaped" according to our body forms and the energy that is emanating from our bodies. We appear to slugs as more amorphous than solid -- bands of heat and colored patterns with sharp or smooth energy projections that our movements and intentions create.
Slugs "hear" or feel sound vibrations throughout their whole bodies. Every pore in their flexible forms is sensitized to give a feeling- picture of the world. They are supremely sensuous gourmands of the animal world, and the ultimate teachers of experiencing eating and sexual activity as fully as possible. They become one with their food and envelop it gracefully and lovingly into their being, whether it is tender leaves or dog excrement.
I was digging in the garden and uncovered two slugs mating in a pile of leaves. Slugs are hermaphroditic, so they easily find a mate! Contradicting the common human conception that sex is a strictly mechanical affair to animals, the slugs were intertwined in what I could feel as ecstatic communion. I respectfully covered them again. Several days later I ruffled the mulch to see if they were there, and they were still engaged in mating -- obviously a pleasurable affair not to be rushed. Again, I felt their intimacy, their joy in communion -- their orgasmic oneness.
Slugs and other creatures that are very unlike humans physically and mentally may be hard for people to think of as intelligent and aware. To see the beauty in their expression of life requires getting past stereotypes and prejudices, communicating and becoming one with them in feeling and understanding. We expand the quality of our lives when we embrace other creatures' ways of sensing and thinking.
Certain animals, usually considered as pests by humans, have managed to outwit human attempts to eradicate their kind and instead live and thrive along with humans. Their survival demands that they be alert to human thoughts and intentions. Examples are rats, raccoons, coyotes, and cockroaches. Being omnivorous also helps them to live on human throwaways. These survivors are amazingly intelligent, quick, and perceptive, and they often enjoy their relationship with humans. Unfortunately, other wild animals who are not attuned to human thinking and activities often do not survive human encroachment on their territory.
The same behavior that people evaluate in humans as rational and conscious can be regarded in animals as instinctive or unconscious. Dogs urinate and bark to mark their territory and announce their presence to other canines. People may view these behaviors as automatic stimulus-response mechanisms over which dogs have no control. When humans build fences, mark boundaries, or fight over territory, it is considered laudable or at least acceptable as a right to private property, or the expression of individual or group identity. Dogs and other animals are assumed by many people to have no conscious reasoning behind their actions, while humans are considered to understand, or at least be capable of understanding, their own behavior.
We limit our communication with animals to our own awareness and ability to understand. Animals watch us and learn to communicate on a level that's real or acceptable to us, whether by body language, such as barks, nudges, scratches, and tugs, by transmitting emotions or intentions, or through deep spiritual communion. Many behavior books show not what the animals are capable of but what is the bottom line for humans in communicating with animals. When your animal companions resort to peeing on the bed or barking incessantly to communicate, you have probably missed more subtle levels of thought and emotion that convey their concerns and needs. Animals have to communicate on the level that you can perceive.
Accepted thinking in our culture tells people to expect little from animals in the way of rational understanding and conscious decision-making. There is no concept that animals possess awareness of the deepest truths and laws of the universe. However, people who deeply tune in to other species, without the intermediary of words and cultural limitations, experience animals' understanding that is beyond concern for survival needs. Whole vistas of sharing and learning with animals become available when people are open to mind-to-mind and heart-to-heart contact with other species.
The Language Barrier
Verbal communication can be a wonderful human ability, enabling complex ideas to be represented, viewed, and manipulated. It is also a major contribution to misunderstanding and the removal from full communion with other humans. In interpreting human language, we can weave webs or layers of misunderstanding because words are symbols abstracted from direct experience. We become entwined in things we think happened, or in what we think people meant or thought about our actions and us. Words can cause us to judge others, not by experience of who they are and what they really intend, but by what they say or how we interpret what they say.
Language can be a barrier in resolution of problems in human interaction and in counseling. With nonhuman animals, counseling can be direct. Questions and concepts can be conveyed rapidly back and forth telepathically. We can usually clear problems by getting directly to the feelings or issues involved. Animals generally do not wrap their experiences or memories in veils of abstraction or considerations of underlying meanings of the experience or the beings involved. They, too, may misinterpret, but they usually don't go through mental gymnastics over what their experience means to them or anyone else, as humans often do.
Recent or deep-seated emotional or spiritual problems and traumas are usually simpler and faster to resolve in nonhumans than in humans. In counseling animals, obvious and permanent behavioral and emotional changes can be accomplished in minutes -- as opposed to many hours in the counseling of humans. Often, in my counseling experience, animals quickly realize why problems developed and what past decisions are affecting them now, and then can release old patterns and change dramatically.
Humans take longer to figure things out. To get to the power of simple, direct experience and understanding of profound truths, humans often spend many hours or years through counseling or other means of education. Most animals live the truths of life directly, understanding them without having to expound verbally or write volumes about them. That's why they can be our best teachers.
The human mind can entrap itself in complexities that cripple action, eliminate joy in living, and cause endless suffering to self and others. The accomplishments of using the mind as a tool to interpret and symbolize can be interesting and exciting, but language, at its best, is only capable of expressing thoughts in ways that lead us back to experience the fullness of life in feeling beyond the words.
Animal companions are capable of understanding our verbal abstractions by getting to what's behind them -- to what humans really mean. Their normal mode of communication is direct transmission of intention and feeling. Most animals do not make living and interacting as difficult or complex as humans do. They generally convey what they feel to each other and to humans directly, unless through close contact they have been influenced by the more indirect modes of human communication. Human thwarting of animal companions' needs and goals can also cause animals to develop psychological complexities and difficulties that mirror their humans.
Some people think it would be boring to live life so directly, with such innate understanding or intuitive expression. They think it would be too simple or limited. They want complex mental games; that's part of the experience of being human. But getting lost in mental complexity can make people miserably alienated from the world, from self, and from others. To find inner balance, they may then seek -- through counseling, meditation, prayer, or other spiritual practices -- to be free of mental patterns which inhibit the experience of pure joy in living.
When we meet animals on their own ground and drop our acculturated human ways of judging and analyzing to get beyond the limitations of human language, we see animal individuals of beauty, uniqueness, perceptiveness, intelligence, warmth, humor, and wisdom. These qualities appear as if by magic, where before animals were perceived only as labeled objects, separated into neat categories that removed any possibility of relating to them as fellow beings. When we are able to "become" another of a different kind, we expand and become more whole; another part of the universe is experienced; another part of us is recovered. We get closer to experiencing the divine nature present in us all.
This free-form soliloquy came through me in June 1992:
Thinking does not make a being wise
A process native to spirit in all form
From bees to rocks to elephants
Thinking can be fun
It can lead to realization
It can lead to confusion
And its own blind alleys
Spinning around on itself.
Feeling deep from the core of the soul
Brings truth and light
Consciousness equals knowing
It does not evolve from logic
Or sequential thinking or rationalism
Although a leap from thinking
Can be made into pure knowing
But the leap can be made by being
Totally being who you are
Spirit whole and eternal.
Thinking is not the be-all
And the end-all of consciousness
It often must be transcended
To reach pure beauty
Thinking is found in many species
None consider it an end point
Or something that places them
Above all things
Except modern humans
Who miss the point
That deep peace, tranquility
Are found in spirit
Not in mind or mental cogitation
Or logical argument
Mind above matter
Is spirit conscious in all things.
We reach our ultimate knowledge
When we reach ourselves
Without words it comes
And dwells in the heart.
Who is most conscious among all species?
Is it those lost in thought?
No, it is those who know
Who feel, who see
Whose extent reaches beyond boundaries
Of skin and brain and form.
I have found knowers in all forms
From trees to butterflies to humans
We can learn from them to let our intellect
Be our game board
Our means to juggle ideas
That is our right and inheritance
But not to let it rule us
And make us separate and alone
With the notion of higher and lower.
Recognize the knowers
And you may find your Self.
SEPARATION OF SPECIES
How do we separate ourselves from each other? By race, sex, size, species, belief systems...let us count the ways! Differentiation and separation are analytical functions that, when used in certain ways, can cause discord. When we emphasize differences instead of unifying qualities, such as our common essence and feelings, we can end up with varying degrees of domination, exclusion, harshness, and even cruelty to those perceived as different.
You've probably heard and been subtly conditioned by statements about the separation between humans and other animals. Until recent years, ideas about other species' inferiority were widely accepted. Now, however, many scientific researchers are recognizing and shedding fixed ideas that had prevented open observation, and they are coming up with different conclusions.
One of these ingrained ideas was that animals were not intelligent or were greatly limited in brainpower compared to humans. They could not really think or make conscious decisions, as their lesser brain mass and complexity prevented that. Recent studies have revealed complex decision-making and problem-solving abilities in many species, even in those with relatively small brains.
Then there was "tool using." Only humans were considered evolved enough to create and use tools to survive. Now this ability has been noticed in species as varied as chimpanzees, birds, and ants. Another idea was that only humans could be altruistic -- do things for others without any self-serving reward in sight. Countless tales of animals of various species helping and saving humans and each other, despite danger to themselves, have refuted that notion.
For centuries it was accepted that only humans used language and symbols. In recent years, to the amazement of scientists, complex languages and use of symbols have been noted in a variety of species, from elephants to birds to bees. There is still a widespread belief that animals really don't understand as much as we do about the world and are unable to express what we can through understandable language, but those ideas are gradually changing as people connect with animals in deeper ways.
Many people think animals lack self-awareness and a sense of right or wrong. However, modern researchers are seeing these qualities expressed in animal behavior.
Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus in ecology and evolutionary biology, and philosopher, Jessica Pierce devote their book, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, to this subject. They show how animals display moral behavior and a sense of justice, and that they can be compassionate, altruistic, and fair.
A teenage female elephant nursing an injured leg is knocked over by a rambunctious hormone-laden teenage male. An older female sees this happen, chases the male away, and goes back to the younger female and touches her sore leg with her trunk.
A rat in a cage refuses to push a lever for food when it sees that another rat receives an electric shock as a result. A male Diana monkey who learned to insert a token into a slot to obtain food helps a female who can't get the hang of the trick, inserting the token for her and allowing her to eat the food reward.
One of the most compelling examples of animals having a sense of morality is the story of a female Western Lowland gorilla named Binti Jua, Swahili for "daughter of sunshine," who lived in the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. One summer day in 1996, a threeyear-old boy climbed the wall of the gorilla enclosure and fell 20 feet onto the concrete floor below. As spectators gaped and the boy's mother screamed in terror, Binti Jua approached the unconscious boy. She reached down and gently lifted him, cradling him in her arms while her own infant, Koola, clung to her back. Growling warnings at the other gorillas who tried to get close, Binti Jua carried the boy safely to an access gate and the waiting zoo staff. Binti Jua was widely hailed as an animal hero. She was even awarded a medal from the American Legion.
In addition, through telepathic communication, it becomes clear that many animals have a deep sense of who they are and their purposes in life. They also have their own systems of right and wrong, and deal out justice according to their group customs. While their ethical constructs may be quite different from what we're accustomed to, compare this with the vast differences in systems of ethics and justice among human cultures on the Earth.
Animals usually do not belabor and question their awareness as much as modern humans do. The awareness and acceptance of their own consciousness is present nevertheless -- different in degree or quality in each individual but present in all species.
I have read the opinion that human beings are distinguished from all other animals by their ability to reach beyond the present and perceive the reality of other places and other times -- to see things from a great height, above the usual scale of everyday life. My experience with countless animals refutes this opinion. They have revealed their awareness of other places and times in this life, in other lives, on Earth, in other places, in other dimensions, and out of body. They have insights as deep and astounding as any human with whom I have ever communicated. They usually feel and describe these states in less complex ways than intellectually oriented humans, but the deep understanding is there.
It makes much more sense to me to look at differences as expressions of the universe that make life wondrous, rather than seeing them as barriers that segregate beings. The more you communicate directly and have a rapport with others of a variety of species, the more the wisdom and unity of all are apparent and can be sources of mutual expansion. We can learn from our nonhuman friends to accept what is around us as it is now, and feel the unity underlying all creation and the divinity that we all share.
Animal intelligence, awareness, and connection with the rest of life was profoundly demonstrated in an encounter I had with a tree frog. It occurred on a cool February night in 1991. We had just come home from the community center after a slide show by a local naturalist, who had intrigued me with his thoughts regarding the possible underlying causes of drought conditions: that we were not asking the Thunderbird for rain, as native peoples have done for eons, and that we needed to listen to what the animals have to tell us. I took to heart the familiar and true words, which become more urgent as human ways disrupt the natural environment for many creatures on Earth.
On our doorstep, facing the door as if waiting to go in, was a tree frog, resplendently green. Picking him up gently, I intended to place him among plants in the garden. He had other plans. Instead of jumping away as I expected, he refused to leave my hand, crawling back on as I tried to coax him off. I brought him close to my face to find out why he wanted to stay. He calmly and clearly conveyed his warmth and appreciation of me. I felt an ancient kinship. He said that I should let people know: "We need clean water; we need pure air." I knew he was speaking for all the Earth's amphibians, whose vast numbers are noted to be shrinking at alarming rates worldwide. He wanted to spend a moment with me, feeling it was important that we connect and that the message be carried forward.
When he finished, he gently pirouetted in my hand, and as I lowered him to the ground, he hopped away. Later, I heard his voice, along with those of his companions, calling for the much needed rain to come.
Humans in our culture have been inculcated with the idea that the Homo sapiens species is superior to and almost separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. While humans are more biologically complex than most species in brain development and manipulative ability, we are not separate from the rest. We have our place in the functioning whole, as do all the other animals.
The idea that there is a difference in evolution of spirit, or that different kinds of spirit inhabit different forms, also creates a chasm separating animals from humans. I have found that we are all the same spiritual essence, and we are free to evolve as individuals through any form.
Bodies of different types evolve according to their needs to adapt to changing environments and to stretch their capacities. We, as spiritual beings, have a variety of choices in how we can express our creativity during life on Earth. We inhabit bodies of different species according to our purposes, and we express ourselves within the limits of biological forms. Each species, each group within a species, and each individual has a purpose and evolution in the physical universe and as a spirit moving through form after form, dimension to dimension. It is an interwoven pattern.
I have looked at the relationship of humans to the rest of the animal kingdom for a long time. We humans have unequaled power to create and destroy environments. No other species appears to categorize, separate, and synthesize the meanings of life as humans do. Humans may also get lost in the process and never arrive at integration, complete understanding, and knowing. Nonhuman animals have the power to abstract, but the fundamental knowing of their place in the universe and the purpose of life is intact and does not need to be rationalized, taken apart, and put back together for them.
We play with language, study, write, and record stories about the world and ourselves. Other animals pass down their observations and memories through custom and group consciousness, cellular memory, and direct knowing. I have often felt that humans are the students of all of life around them. One of our functions is to study and communicate with each other about what we see and experience. Humans are the mental expressionists of life realities, finding numerous imaginative ways to bring forth meaning. We increase our empathy and communion with others as we express our discoveries with music, dance, writing, and other creative forms.
An American woman, who was researching Australian aboriginal life, asked an aboriginal woman about how humans differ from animals. The aborigine explained, with disbelief at the other's ignorance, that we are the ones who can tell all the others' stories. FORM AND SPIRIT
In the mid 1970s, while living in Edinburgh, Scotland, I had a cat friend named Ipsis. He chose his name, which means "himself" in Latin. He was a striking black cat who looked deeply into people's eyes and caused them to make remarks like "That is not just a cat!"
Ipsis was a special friend and helper who accompanied me in my spiritual counseling sessions with people, usually greeting the client, then quietly curling up in the background. He often knew when we were nearing the resolution of an issue and the person was about to have an important insight and release of emotional energy. He'd jump up on the desk and gaze at the person, encouraging and listening for the realization. People would laugh, saying they knew the session was nearing its conclusion when Ipsis jumped up to help them recognize and voice their incipient insight.
I remember, in particular, another way Ipsis assisted me. We lived in a high-ceilinged, drafty apartment whose only source of heat in the damp and chilly Scottish climate was a small electric heater that you had to feed precious coins to operate. It was difficult to rise from a warm bed in the morning darkness before the sun came up, but Ipsis helped to make it easier. He often slept under the covers at my feet. Just before the alarm sounded, he'd come up to my face and gently pat it with his paw to wake me. I'd smile and pet him, and sometimes drift back to sleep. If the alarm sounded and I still didn't get up, Ipsis became more insistent, licking my face with his scratchy tongue or biting my chin. He'd say to me, "You have to get up and do your work. It's very important." With his help, I managed to face the cold room, and together, we went to the counseling center where we worked.
I lauded Ipsis's virtues to my boyfriend, and, while he loved Ipsis, he became impatient with my perceptions. He said to me, "All I see is a cat. Ipsis is just a cat." I replied, "But, if I look at you in the same way as you're looking at Ipsis, all I see is a human. You are just a human."
You can only see what you perceive -- what you allow to enter into your awareness. Being in the physical world, we are masters of limitation, working with apparently finite boundaries, senses, mortality, and change. For me, life would lack meaning and richness without also having the consciousness of the pulsing of infinite spirit throughout everything, and the understanding of thought and feeling that reveals the depth of beings.
So, I saw both the deep and wise spirit that was Ipsis and the beauty and grace that he manifested through his cat form. It was all wonderful -- the spiritual communication and wisdom, cat instincts, senses, and habits -- all to be enjoyed, all part of the whole, all good.
Separating the physical from the spiritual is a risky proposition. Even what we call physical is spiritual in essence. As modern physicists have discovered, when you look at what the universe is composed of, down to the energy forms in each atom, it all disappears and reappears like magic. It is neither here nor there, although the illusion is that these energies form solid particles and fairly permanent objects. The energies that form the basis of matter are so influenced by our perception that we appear to be a part of them and share in their creation, their continuance, and their form. We are not separate from them in essence. How fascinating!
We, as individual spirits who are animating forms, are also elusive, taking on identity, personality, and ways of being that we may think are our real selves. These are all changeable as we shift from state to state within physical reality, beyond physical reality to spiritual dimensions, and in our return to the physical. We can have identities in infinite variations. We can be one with individuals, with groups of beings, or with all or No-thing/God. Who can pin a name on us and say that's all there is?
To be practical in the physical realm, we (of any species) are capable of expressing ourselves as spirit within the limits of the physical form and agreements of the other players in this dimension. We can be wise, wonderful, balanced, aware beings or full of fears and strongly influenced by what has been done to our bodies, or both at different times and circumstances. We can rise above negative influences or environments and determine our own futures, or we can consider ourselves totally formed by them. We can also come through our restrictions to express ourselves in the fullest possible way, manifesting the potential of our species and our purpose as individual spirits.
Each of us, as individuals, has a unique body-mind-spirit combination and approach to the universe. Our bodies influence us as we communicate through our physical senses. We can identify with others of our own species in our common physical, emotional, and social needs and natural behaviors. We can identify with all species in our sharing of life on Earth, symbiotic relationships, physical and emotional similarities, and in our essence as spirit.
Beings generally choose to incarnate as certain body forms and in certain situations that help them fulfill their chosen destiny or their next step on the winding road of adventure through life. They can be very conscious about what they are doing or very unaware, hiding their own decisions about life choices from themselves to enhance the intensity of limitation and the element of surprise or adventure, or because they become mired in unknowing and the physical game. The game of life is played in many ways, and eventually beings come back to full knowing of self as spirit. To not know self as a spiritual being for very long is to become very miserable indeed.
As human beings, apparently at the top of the biological totem pole and most involved in analytical mind functions, we need the other species to help us use our human forms without losing our spiritual connection. Animals teach us the joy of being, enjoying the senses and potentials of the body and the universe each moment while maintaining that high connection to self as infinite spirit (which most animals never lose).
Not all animals are more spiritually evolved than humans, as some people suppose. Animals have their spiritual paths and make "mistakes," as we all do, from which they suffer or learn. Some animals become deranged by living under the influence of human cruelty or imbalance and mimic or create human-type neuroses. Natural forces normally eliminate unbalanced animals as they usually cannot survive well. If humans intervene, breeding animals who are deformed or deranged, we can get the same weakening of the genetic pool and disease we find in humans. Humans mirror their own state in the animals whose breeding they control. Of course, an animal's development and well-being may be enhanced by positive human contact. That's really why different species are together -- to help each other survive, grow, and enjoy life to the fullest.
We are individuals making our way through infinity, taking different paths and crisscrossing along the way. All paths and all forms are valid. Depending on the viewpoint of the individual spirit at any given time, some forms are more fun or purposeful than others. While it is wonderful to recognize the abilities of any species, whether human, dolphin, dog, cat, llama, or bird, it is essential to understand each individual uniquely. Not everyone is an embodiment of the spiritual fullness or purpose of that species. Each can express that species' purpose as they choose.
Some animals appear wise beyond their form, beyond any form. People look at them and say they are like humans. What they usually mean is that they are exceptionally conscious and aware, or intelligently responsive. Some individuals will be shining examples of their species and of themselves as infinite beings, and are exceptional as individuals of any form. Generally noted for their joy in living, and their confidence in self, and their love of others as fellow spirits, they are conscious of their choices in incarnating from life to life. I call them "master beings."
It can be fun to characterize species according to traits or purposes. We humans love to categorize. However, we gain the most insight into individuals by looking at them in their wholeness, noting who they are in their travels as spirit throughout this and other planes. What an adventure it is to discover each other in and through and beyond form! HIGHER SELF / LOWER SELF
Many people think of themselves and other species as divided into parts -- soul, spirit, mind, body, higher self, lower self, emotional body, astral body, and so on. There are many systems developed to explain conflicting impulses or different functions. While you can learn from analysis into parts, to understand beings fully, you have to put them back together again.
Some people have told me that they talked to an animal's higher self, as if the rest of the animal was completely separate or inferior. This presumes a lower self that is not as pleasant to experience or wouldn't know what the higher self was talking about. I recommend communicating with living beings as they are, body-mind-spirit united, with all their experience and knowledge. This approach acknowledges them respectfully and with full appreciation, and they have an opportunity to respond to you as whole beings and to grow accordingly.
Animals can tell you about anything from the highest values and purposes to what they want for dinner. You don't need to split them up into parts of consciousness and correspondingly negate or prioritize communications.
On March 15, 1986, just before teaching a course, this discourse on the subject of elements influencing the level of our exchange of communication with animals came through me:
There are the manifestations of the animal in its physical form -- its function, operation, and purpose on Earth as that type of animal.
There are our judgments -- our ingrained conceptions, societal attitudes, and personal interpretations of experience that color our perception of the animal.
There is the individual spirit who animates the animal form, with all its purposes, drives, desires, needs, lessons, energies, loves, choices of ways to be, life.
There is the spirit of energy (God, Life Force, Divinity, Great Spirit, Essence) uniting us all and calling forth the unique contribution each has to the other to walk in balance on the Earth. In physical form we of all species complement each other and make each other whole. In spirit we recognize each other as equal, parts of the Whole, aspects of Divinity, and one in Essence.
To recognize the beauty and transcendence of each form is to recognize the Essence and commune with Spirit, and is the highest purpose.
On all levels we can commune (become one with or know without words or analysis) and communicate (exchange energies and understanding) and know each other as we manifest. Beauty and truth come out and speak for themselves as we allow them.
Don't be fooled by an emphasis on one topic, level, or state of communication. Spirit in any form has infinite potential and innate wisdom. It is your job (and your joy!) to see. See deeply. See the whole being. See behind the disguise of the physical. See, feel, and know the spirit, and be willing to receive communication on any level.
Some people have posited that animals, especially those who live in herds or large groups, do not possess individual consciousness but have a group mind or group soul. I have found that all species and groups that operate in harmony for a common task have leaders who coordinate activity and keep a link, telepathic or otherwise, with the rest of the group. They may have a physically present leader and/or a discarnate, spiritual leader -- sometimes referred to as an "oversoul." You can address any animals, from elephants to snakes to termites, as individuals and experience communication with them. You may also address the oversoul, or group/species leader, through communicating with an individual of the group or with the oversoul directly.
A course I led in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 1993 was heightened by the presence and messages from a barred owl and gopher snake brought by Suzanne Ballard, a representative of Animals as Intermediaries (now called The Nature Connection, Inc.). Unable to be returned to the wild due to injury or human habituation, these animals were willing teachers in human education and therapy programs.
Owl, whose right wing had been amputated, was presented to us seated on Suzanne's arm. I asked our group to tune in quietly to Owl, but I could not restrain myself from excitedly relaying her thoughts. First she surveyed the entire room and thought, as she looked at a floor lamp about fifteen feet away, "Oh, that's a tree; no, it's not, but I could fly to it anyway if I need to. There's the window. What's that noise? Oh, traffic outside." She proceeded to analyze the lighting from the windows and all around the room, and I could see all the various shades of light in the room, highly differentiated through her eyes.
Owl broadly surveyed us and found us to be safe and compatible with her. She then looked directly at people, focusing her big, dark eyes briefly from person to person, taking those who dared to follow into her sanctified realm of deepest mystery, a vast pool of floating darkness and peace. She gave us this message:
You may think that I am broken and cannot fly, but I can. Even now I look for a place to land. I am wild and free. You can fly with me in your dreams. I will take you to realms where you can fly and be free to expand as spirits. I am glad to be here as your teacher.
I represent all owls, all keepers of the realm of mystery from which spirits come and to which all return. You will not forget me, and I will not forget you. Come fly with me. Be free. In your dreams, I will take you flying. We are One.
As Owl delivered this message, Suzanne softly commented, with surprise, that Owl was presenting her vulnerable right side without the wing to the audience, showing how safe she felt and that she was comfortable with staying out longer than ever before. In group presentations, she generally stayed with her winged side exposed only. Owl conveyed to me that she felt that we all understood she was whole and free, even without her wing, and we were at one with her. What a breathtaking experience to communicate with her and receive her blessing!
Then Snake was presented. Beautiful in lithe form and multicolored, light and humorous in spirit, Snake contrasted the somber wellspring of dark beauty and wisdom given by Owl. Snake first looked up at Suzanne, winding toward her face and thought, "Oh, it's you, my friend, how beautiful you are." Then she turned her face to the group of spellbound people and noted how their energy surged toward her in interest. As she relayed her feelings through me, the group of course participants relaxed, their energies calmed. Through Snake's perception, I could see the many colors of the energies all around the people.
Your light is beautiful, like rainbows. You are all very aware of me and sensitive to my feelings. I like that. I feel a kinship with you. My world is one of beauty and peace. I came to share that with people, and I delight in your awareness. I feel the heat and light all around you, intermingling, questioning, and changing. I am happy in my life. I do not think of living in the wild as my path, yet I bring the joy and knowledge of all snakes. We are an old and ancient people on the Earth and have much to share. I am a young and free spirit, enjoying bringing warmth and joy to people. Come talk with me.
Both Owl and Snake shared much with individual people later as the students went to the animals to learn how to telepathically communicate with them.
I experience the oversoul of a species or group as the unifying energy, the One Voice, the consciousness or total wisdom of that group or species. The oversoul is a guiding presence within each individual of a species, yet it's greater than the individuals as separate entities. I have read that those souls who are bears, for example, return to a group soul and reincarnate in the same form. This has often been confirmed by animals who have revealed their paths to me. Yet my experience also suggests that beings can go wherever their purposes and choices take them, to any form of life, kingdom or dimension, according to their path.
Many spirits may choose to reincarnate in one form repeatedly and remain part of that consciousness or group energy or soul. Others shift to different species, including human. We can be a part of one tribe, race, species, or any form, from life to life, if we desire. We can also share in the experience of many forms, energies, and purposes as our awareness of connection with all life expands, even while we still have one particular body as our identity.
When individual spirits adopt forms of any species, they adopt the overall programming, function, purpose, and way of being of that species. They can immerse themselves into that pattern totally or alter it to some extent in that life experience, according to their desires, purposes, and spiritual abilities or mastery of form.
A history of a species can be presented, but, as with human history, you many find in communicating with individuals that you get other viewpoints or pieces of the puzzle. This planet is a place where souls can incarnate in whatever form of body they choose and have opportunities to learn from their adventures, bringing out the very best in themselves, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Copyright © 1993, 1999, 2004, 2009 by Penelope Smith