Mankind, Animals and the Image of God
Animals don’t disobey God. They like it best when people don’t, either.
What does that mean? To mine this idea, let’s talk about animals some more.
Animals are beings of instinct. They don’t have the capacity for reason, because their brains aren’t made that way. It’s not that there is not innate wisdom inherent in their behavior. Think of the squirrels storing food for the winter, the migration patterns of hummingbirds, the way a pride of lions feeds itself. There is no thought to these activities. Rather, there is an impulse and it’s followed.
Animals can be trained out of these behaviors, it’s true. Obviously, circuses are full of animals that are trained to avoid their true nature. If that were not the case, circuses would look more like something the terrible Emperor Nero would entertain. Along these lines, I once saw a bear in the Portland Zoo that walked 20 steps, turned around, and paced 20 back. It did this for the 15 heartbreaking minutes I stood and prayed that he would know that he had a lot more space to be in. But his bear nature had been trained out of him. He was lost, somehow.
Animals are amazing for many reasons, but one of my favorites is for their reliability. They are their nature. Their nature is them. Dolphins, for instance, do what they always do. Not only do they have an inviting natural smile, they’re dependable.
Humans are a different story.
Make no mistake; we also are beings of instinct. We could talk about what this means, but here’s what I have come to understand: we are indeed created in the image of God. I don’t mean to suggest that God has two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Frankly, I don’t care what God looks like. That, to me, is about as superficial a question that a person can ask about Creator.
“Hey, Marley! I met God!”
“Wow! What did God look like?”
Really? That’s the question?
What I mean by “created in the image of God,” is, balanced. Harmonious. Peaceful. Content. Wise.
Now, wait a second there, Marley. Have you seen the news? Have you seen the homeless camps, or the pictures of the Kurdish children with the Syrian chemical burns? Have you listened to the so-called “debates” between so-called “Conservatives” and so-called, “Progressives?” Where are any of those high-falutin’ virtues you named?
Well, they’re not around in abundance, I admit. But that’s my point.
Animals, the non-human ones, do what God says they should do. By the way, so do trees, stones, oceans, mountains, clouds, and stars. In fact, everything we see moves in Her order. It’s the order of Pachamama, Unci Maka, the Great Mother, who I call, “The Governing Goddess of the Material World.” (But that’s just me.)
Everything does this, that is, except mankind.
It’s our brains, which are both our boon and bane. Our boon, because with these fleshy mechanisms we can come up with all kinds of cool ideas. I mean, let’s face it, Teslas are cool. So are smart-phones and snow tires. I used to live in a tipi, and now I live off-grid in a cabin. There are a lot of cool things in the cabin that make my life easier now than it was when I was living in a tipi. And all are created by a human with an advanced brain. This is one example of how a brain is a boon: increased convenience.
How it’s a bane is another subject. With the brain, we are able to dismiss our instinct, which is to be true to our natures. And what is human nature, again? We are created in the image of God, with all those beautiful traits I mentioned above. Yet, we choose to act as if we were not.
A dog is created and exists in God’s image in the manner of, “Dog.” A whale is created and exists in God’s image in the manner of “Whale.” A mushroom, a rabbit, an earthworm… all are created and exist in God’s image in their archetypal manners. All participate in balance. All have an innate understanding of what must be done in the moment; hide, eat, forage, sleep, shelter, grow, breed. A human, vis a vis’ a brain that is capable of choice, may not. We may choose sexuality over a healthy family relationship, or storing far more than we will ever need over serving our communities, for instance. Neither of these align with wisdom. Neither are sustainable.
When we align with our instinct, we are advanced beings. I disagree that mankind is inherently flawed. I reject the notion of The Fall of Adam and the idea that we were cast out from Eden by God. To me, that’s a silly trauma story that needs to be relegated to the junk bin. I hold an infant, and I’ve been lucky enough to hold three of them fresh from their momma, and there is no way this little critter is anything but sacred.
We learn to be other than that.
We learn to take more than we give. We learn to desire control more than another person’s free will. We learn that greed is ok, if you’re strong enough. Now, children do these things all the time. Three-year-olds at play can be a downright violent affair. I’m not talking about immature representatives of a species. Bison bulls, after all, don’t play like bison calves. I’m talking about mature beings. And I submit that it’s against mature human nature to dismiss the soulful and choose the soulless. Furthermore, the cost of doing so is getting steep, with warming oceans, vanishing rainforests and polluted natural waterways, let alone the constant war that someone – not “we, the people,” in my opinion – requires.
I’m convinced that we are in a new position as a species. We either choose to align with the Image of God and return to a sacred state of Being, or we will be extinct. At the very least, what we have come to define as “civilized” will vanish. This has less to do with gun laws and abortion rights than it does with how we treat our offensive neighbor and the corporations, food and entertainment we consume. Guns and abortion aren’t unimportant at all, but they float on a larger concern. This concern is that we don’t walk in the image of God.
We are out of balance internally, which manifests externally. Bring the internal into alignment, and the rest will fall into place. An internally aligned human being doesn’t command the bombing of other human beings for some geographically-defined goal that exists for financial reasons. This is patently insane. Rather, a “human being, aligned,” will seek ways to resolve conflict that honors others who share this desire.
I admit that it’s a long path to there, from here. We’ve become that black bear in the cage in the Zoo. We are lost, and wandering the same twenty steps we’ve wandered for thousands of years now. We’ve operated for so long in dis-aligned manner that it’s become a habit. Generational hatred for other people, the result of how we've been operating, is not easy to overcome, for instance. Nor is it easy to dismantle the old assumptions that made it possible to act in such a soulless way in the first place.
Wherever we start, our insanity as a species is so pervasive that it's going to take some brave questioning of fundamental assumptions to get to the root causes of it. I started with the Fall of Adam and the religious constructs with which I was raised. My life has been more difficult since that time, but immensely more soulful - with a ways to go before I consistently act according to my Nature.
Mankind as a whole is no different. The questioning must occur and the actions must be brought into alignment.
I just walked out my door and almost kicked a rabbit that was eating some birdseed I’d left for the birds. He scampered away for a moment, then turned to look at me. I knelt, and he hopped back a few steps. Speaking softly to him, I held out a crust of bread. He regarded me. I wonder what he was seeing. What process was he going through as he consulted his instinct, about whether or not he would come the last three feet and eat from my hand? Was he seeing an aligned human? Or a conflicted being that was sometimes aligned, sometimes irrational? Was he seeing Human in the Image of God, as he is Rabbit in the Image of God? Or a creature that had strayed from it's soulful nature and existed apart from Nature, from the Great Mother?
We sat there for a few moments like that, two creatures created in the image of God. But only one that consistently acts like it.
He hopped away to take some shelter from the rain.