The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
September 2006 -- Vol. 9 Issue 7
On my first day volunteering at the pig sanctuary, I was slimed by a 200-pound pink pig. He leaned on me with almost his full weight, rubbing wet mud onto my legs. I was later told that this was their way of introducing themselves, but it gave me pause nonetheless. While I was mildly flattered by the attention, I wasn't sure exactly how to behave with the pigs or what to expect from them.
There were over 200 abandoned or unwanted pigs at the sanctuary, established by a very kindhearted lady who refused to turn away any animal in need. Most of the pigs were of the small black pot-bellied variety, the breed that is most often sold as pets. But a hand-full were "factory pigs," usually bred for food and weighing over 1000 pounds. All of the pigs wandered freely over her thirty-acre farm, sleeping in clean, straw-filled barns or little shelters out in the fields.
When I started working at the sanctuary, I knew nothing about pigs. In fact, I found the creatures odd-looking and a bit frightening. I knew neither their verbal language nor their body language. When they wagged their tales, were they happy? What does a loud squeal mean? Should I back off or approach one that is looking me in the eye? Will a 1000-pound pig bite me? Do they like being petted? Also, I was used to petting the soft fur of cats and dogs, so the when I touched their backs, often caked with mud, their bristly skin felt hard and unpleasant.
Each visit to the sanctuary, I learned a little about the pigs. For one thing, I found out that they are very intelligent. For example, a few of the pigs there had learned to "sit" to receive treats, not by any formal training, but just by watching other pigs. The pigs also quickly learned that visitors to the sanctuary bring special food for them. When they hear a car pull into the farm, herds of pigs run up to the front fence to get whatever treat is offered, often a carrot or an apple. It is quite a sight to see 100 little pigs running back out to the fields, each with a large carrot hanging from its mouth!
Pigs are very social creatures. They not only like to live in herds, but many form close friendships that last for several years. One example was Bailey and a little factory pig called Sophie. The little pig was only about six weeks old when it was found swimming across a lake. It was brought to the sanctuary, extremely frightened. For many days it refused to allow humans to approach it. But it stayed close to Bailey, a blind pig weighing over 300 pounds, who was able to get around very well despite its handicap. Sophie trailed behind Bailey all day long and slept next to him at night. Bailey was so friendly with humans that soon the little pig learned to trust them, too. She is now a happy resident of the sanctuary, and still fast friends with Bailey.
After a few weeks at the sanctuary, I realized that pigs are wonderful creatures. As I came to understand them better I lost my fear of them, and was finally able to feel a connection with them and love them. Consequently, I not only learned a lot about the pigs, I learned a lot from them. My experience at the sanctuary taught me that no matter how odd other creatures look, or how different they are from ourselves, it is possible to find in them noble qualities --gentleness, intelligence, loyalty -- that we all respect and share. I feel that these fine qualities are a reflection of the spark of divinity we all have within, a spark that we receive from the same one divine source. If we can only look past earthly forms, and our own prejudices, we can catch a glimpse of this spark, and hence discover that we are connected with all beings at the deepest, most spiritual level. -- Marilyn O'Day
It is reasonable to suppose that many localities affect people for good or for ill, according to the thoughts and acts of the people who have lived there before and whose subtle influence still lingers. But this does not explain all. The earth itself is a living being and has not only currents in the air and in the sea, but also spiritual currents and forces following their own course and bringing to certain focal points conditions favorable for inner growth. Such places of natural peace and quiet may have been chosen in ancient times as locations for shrines and temples and later impressed by the thought and meditation of many generations of wise and holy men.. -- Allan J. Stover
"The Earth -- A Living Being" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: What does it mean to be alive? Is the distinction between organic and inorganic fundamental? Are we part of the earth, rather than simply living on the earth? What about the Gaia hypothesis? Would a living planet be self-regulating, have a metabolism, or be conscious? If so, how would our understanding of geological, atmospheric, and oceanic events change? What about living stars and galaxies? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
October 5: Our Spiritual Origin
November: Suffering and Sacrifice
December: Religion and Theosophy
January 2007: Living Well -- The Paramitas
Why should we think that the earth is an insensate stage on which chance organic and inorganic activities are played out? There is nothing improbable about it being an evolving entity whose growth is intimately linked to the development of the kingdoms of nature, humanity among them, as well as to geological and climatic changes. Seen from space, our planet certainly has an organic quality we feel quite independent of the plants and animals on its surface.
Theosophical thinkers through the ages have held that immaterial energies underlie earth's physical activity, that everything everywhere is built on the same general principles, and that life and consciousness are universal. Human beings are not unique in their makeup: they are microcosms of the planet, solar system, and universe. Of course, earth is not an enlarged human being with human consciousness; what a planet is analogically closest to -- a divinity, cell, or electron -- we can only speculate. But whatever earth's awareness may be, we physically form part of its body, just as cells and atoms make up our body while remaining organisms with their own evolutionary history, life cycle, and consciousness. We are the environment in which our cells and organs live and evolve, often affected by our mental and emotional states and by the world outside us. In the same way, earth's denizens are affected by planetary life processes and consciousness and the solar and galactic environment. In this context, human evolution is largely determined by the earth's evolution, especially as to time periods and the nature of our physical body, so closely linked to prevailing terrestrial conditions. Even our psychological development may be closely tied to terrestrial and planetary influences.
To exist as an entity the earth must deal with imbalances brought about by its environment and the activity of the minutiae forming its body, just as we do. One would expect the kingdoms of nature and other planets to have roles in provoking or contributing to earth's "immune response" to what threatens its well-being. Looking at mankind, we see that time and again concentrated physical and psychological activity has led to periods of recuperation for arid parts of the globe where civilizations once flowered. World traditions tell of the repeated destruction of lands and much of humanity, and the birth of new lands and peoples. Cataclysmic floods, earthquakes, and volcanic activity accompany these events, so that major geological changes relate to human and terrestrial evolution. H. P. Blavatsky in her Secret Doctrine also mentions phenomena such as reversal of the magnetic poles, shifts in the earth's axis, and ice ages as periodic episodes in our planet's life cycle. Climate and geological activity are sometimes linked with other astronomical bodies. Some connections, such as tides with the moon and sunspots with climate change, are common knowledge; more controversial is the association of earthquakes with influence from other planets or extraterrestrial collisions with mass extinctions. Climatic and geological events may also be related to the collective actions, thoughts, and feelings of mankind who, as part of the earth, contribute as directly to some "natural" cataclysms as to the scourges of war, massacres, and environmental destruction. For we are an integral part of earth's being, rather than it being a mere prop for our activities and development.
Viewing our planet as a mere "thing" has led to abuses now magnified by irresponsible use of industrial and chemical technology. Beyond controlling abuses, we need to discover how the earth functions and maintains its health. The interlinking of each part into a living whole is becoming more widely recognized in many fields. In farm management, for example, there is a growing interest in stewardship, as farmers find working with nature the most productive, efficient, and economical course both in the long and short run.
As individuals we can open ourselves to feeling our planet's impulses and needs, outer and inner. We can each look to our place in an organic system much greater than ourselves to see how we can help promote its health rather than become part of a cancerous growth -- either to be destroyed by forces of the earth's immune system or be responsible for damaging our host-parent and ourselves. Perhaps through protective attitudes and actions we can even become part of the earth's immune system, helping to defend and maintain the planet we all share. Then we will discover the real purpose of human life on earth as active, conscious partners with the globe we help form.