ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKI

Life surpasses art. If someone would write a novel having Alejandro Jodorowski as the main character, nobody would ever believe that such a man truly exists.

I discovered him recently, less than three months ago. Searching on YouTube for information about David Lynch’s ‘Dune’, I saw a fragment of Frank Pavich’s documentary on Alejandro Jodorowski’s ‘Dune’, showing extravagant drawings and someone’s voice saying that Jodorowski’s imagination no one can surpass. This made me curious.

I met beautiful spiritual teachers. One of them is known and loved: Thich Nhat Hanh, whose student I was 1990 – 1996.

I learned psychotherapy from wizards. Milton Erickson, to name one.

Many years ago, I met personally, on different occasions, the wonderful writers Michael Ende and Edgar Hilsenrath, and the iconic artists Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic. 

From time to time I consulted a clairvoyant. For example, Annette vd Berg, founder of the School for Effective Intuition, whose three years course I followed.

I met saints: Swami Chidananda Maharaj and Yogi Ramsurakumar.

If someone would have told me that there is a very erudite flamboyant genius walking on Earth who has integrated all these qualities, who is a Seer, a Sage, a Saintly person, a great Artist and Thaumaturg specialised in healing, I would have hardly believed her.

But Alejandro Jodorowski is exactly this:

A Zen Master

After years of intensive training with Japanese Zen Master Ejo Takata, his teacher recognised him as a Zen master in his own right.

About his teaching years with Master Ejo Takata Jodorowski wrote extensively in his book ‘The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowski.’

Many years later Jodorowski wrote ‘The Finger and the Moon: Zen Teachings and Koans’.

In his book ‘The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowski’ he describes also three other teachers he encountered, each one reuniting him with the Feminine Principle: the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, a saintly Mexican bruja named Dona Madalena, and Reyna d’Assia, the daughter of Gurdieff and heiress of his teachings.

There was another important teacher, also a bruja, Pachita, about her he writes in another book, ‘The Dance of Reality’.

The last chapter of the book ‘The Spiritual Journey….’ is extremely beautiful, the summum of his spiritual insights.

A great artist

After studying philosophy of mathematics and cultural history, Jodorowski chose for art, starting his artistic carrier as a puppeteer and a theater director of avant garde plays, which soon evolved into theater improvisations which he called ‘Panic theater’ (‘panic’ from the pagan god Pan.) 

He was also a mim. As a mim, he assisted five years nobody less than Marcel Marceau (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5RLTZSrr4A;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAZLDn8or3M)

He became famous with the cult movies ‘El Topo’, ‘The Holy Mountain’ (sponsored by John Lennon) and ‘Santa Sangre’.

He is the director of the greatest movie never made: ‘Dune’, after Frank Herbert’s novel (http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/jodorowsky/;

Frank Pavich’s documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mYG-uNPkrQ)

Moebius, H.R. Giger, D. O’Bannon, C.Foss worked at it for two years. Orson Welles (the role of Harrokenan) and Salvador Dali (the role of the Mad Emperor of the Galaxy) were supposed to play in it.

Pink Floyd agreed to make the music.

About the contribution of Dali the following anecdote: Dali, surrounded by his court, received Jodorowski at the bar of the hotel San Regis in New York, and greeted him with the question: ‘Picasso and me while walking on one or other beach used to find many watches in the sand. Did you also find many watches?’ To which Jodorowski answered: ‘I did not find even one, but I lost many.’

For twenty three years Jodorowski did not make any movie. After this intermission, he appeared in Cannes in search of sponsors for ‘The Dance of Reality’. At the press conference, a journalist asked him: ‘Are you not too rusted for a new movie after all these years of cinematic inactivity?’ To which Jodorowski answered: ‘A rusted knife has a double action: it cuts and poisons.’

Jodorowski did find sponsors and stole the show at the next Cannes festivals with ‘The Dance of Reality’ and ‘Endless Poetry’.

Jodorowski is also the author of many graphic books, some famous: ‘The Incal’, ‘Metabarons’, ‘The Technopriests,’ ‘The Borgias’, and more.

I read only ‘Madwoman of the Sacred Heart’, illustrated by Moebius.

He wrote three autobiographies:

The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowski’, ‘The Dance of Reality’ and the breathtaking ‘Where the Bird Sings Best’.

His style both in movies as also in his books could be described as surrealistic and magic realistic. The imagination he displays in them is indeed spellbinding. The beauty is breathtaking. He is a lover of Beauty, a seeker of Beauty, a worshipper of Beauty.

What makes his art so fascinating is the reconciliation he found in his mind between two extreme qualities, attitudes: the rigor, rigid discipline,  dryness, maleness, emptiness / absence of all objects of Zen Buddhism and the succulence, the inexhaustibility of shapes, forms, patterns, colours, smells, textures, sounds, the freedom to create of Lady Imagination, the Great Goddess of the Manifest, the Empress governing our lives.

His mind is the Mind of the Androgyne, at the point of balance between the male and the female, the point which contains both and is neither.

His last book: ‘Where the Bird Sings Best’ is a masterpiece. 

He integrates in it his artistic imagination with his thaumaturgic art.

The thaumaturgic art in it is this: he imagines the past not into a linear future, but in a spiral formed future; the future becomes the new unthinkable myth; the myth transmutes the present.

More I cannot say, it is a mystery.

He does not fantasise, he imagines. Fantasy has no mythical dimension, only Imagination has (this is why so many New Age techniques for change are ineffective, they are fantasies.)

The theme in all his art, running like a red thread through his movies, graphic novels, autobiographical books is soteriological in nature.

A great thaumaturg, specialised in healing and Tarot

Alejandro Jodorowski developed the following healing methods: Psychomagic, Metagenealogy and Psychoshamanism.

He wrote about his methods in ‘Psychomagic: the Transformative Power of Psychoshamanism’, ‘Manual of Psychomagic’ and ’Metagenealogy: Self Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree’.

About Tarot he wrote ‘The Way of Tarot: the Spiritual Teacher in the Cards.’

His work as healer and Tarot reader is public and for free. Hundreds of people did not miss for years even one session.

Psychomagic and psychoshamanism teach the Conscious Mind the language of the vast and symbolic Unconscious Mind, in order to address and change it directly. All psychotherapy until now either addresses the conscious rational mind, like the CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), or offers different ways to access the unconscious mind, extracting from it material for the conscious mind to decipher, interpret, and then try, with more or less success, to influence the unconscious mind with the help of the insights gained by the conscious mind (all forms of psychoanalysis).

As already stated, Psychomagic and Psychoshamanism short circuit the conscious mind altogether. They speak directly the symbolic language of the unconscious mind. They solve all kind of suffering, conflicts, handicaps, frustrations, misfortunes. Psychomagic prescribes a ritual act with a strong theatrical flavour which turns the unconscious around, setting the subject free of her predicament. Psychoshamanism entails interventions on the subtle astral body.

An example of a psychomagic act: a man, not capable to have a satisfying love relationship, had to break two water melons with an ax. Then bury the broken, juice oozing melons in a forest and plant on top of them flowers.

After the ritual his relationship to his mother improved and he met a woman with whom he fall in love, engaging this time in a happy relationship.

For the rational mind, living in the consensus time and space, in the consensus reality, the prescription is mostly incomprehensible. It does not make sense. Sometimes it is outrageous, and almost always weird. The subject does not understand why it has to do what. But the unconscious understands it flawlessly, and answers. The answer consists in the alleviation of the problem.

For the unconscious mind, symbols and symbolic acts are real. 

For a baby the melons are as big and as round as the breasts of the mother. By breaking the melons and let their red juice flow, the man murders the mother who did not give the emotional nourishment he needed as a child. The use of force releases the anger and resentment. The burial of the melon gives control over the situation. The planting of the flowers: a new life is allowed to grow over the old expired one.

Hence the improved relationship with the mother and the successful love.

Metagenealogy involves in the healing ritual four generations of the family tree. We are ourselves and our ancestors, our family tree, as the adult we are now grew out of the child we were before. The adult is the child of his inner child – as the inner child has formed him to a high degree. And as we know, a family tree carries both happiness as sorrow. And many secrets: incest, murder, ruin, theft, prostitution, victim. The family tree is the closest expression of the fundamental dynamic on Earth: the dynamic of interchangeability between the perpetrator and the victim. Through  meta genealogy the pattern of the family tree / heritage as expressed in the destiny of the subject is revealed, and subsequently, healed.

In his work as a healer, Jodorowski uses often the Tarot.

Already as a child he was interested in the Tarot. He had a collection of more than 1500 Tarot decks. At a certain point, he chose the Tarot de Marseille. Together with Philippe Camoin, direct descendent of the Marseilles family that had printed the Marseille Tarot deck since 1760, he later restored the deck to its original designs and colours.

Jodorowski does not read Tarot cards. Tarot, an omniscient being, speaks through Jodorowski.

As a healer and tarologist Jodorowski is a Seer and a Sage. Through the years – he is now 88, and he does this work twice a week for the last fifty years, he has helped thousands of people. The testimonies are impressive, mind blowing.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BpUFpncXFM;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B95y1uX3x18;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-bKFEuXYZ0;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MryHZHQVw8Q;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRTr_WiRfNs;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lDIfS75WY8;

the documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsHjdy8GvM4)

A saintly person

I cannot judge if he is a full blown Saint or has only fundamental saintly traits. But ethics is a cornerstone of his philosophy and attitude. He introduced the concept of ‘civic sanctity’ and lives by it. He believes that art has to heal.

Hereby I have to mention that Jodorowski had a very difficult childhood and that his family tree is ridden with tragedies. The healing work he did on himself to transform the trauma’s into such luminous brilliance is extraordinary.

In these two months I saw all his movies and the two documentaries about him, read all his books, the autobiographical ones, the books with interviews and the books about his methods (from the graphic novels I read only ‘Madwoman of the Sacred Heart’), I saw on YouTube all interviews and masterclasses translated into English, bought a Tarot deck of Marseille and started to learn about it.

Are my fascination and dedication only due to his Imagination and Thaumaturgy?

No. What ‘hooked’ me to Jodorowski is the impression that, through his arduous inner work, he has discovered, or uncovered, the source of joy deeply buried and heavily veiled in the heart, that he has found the Bliss. Bliss – the Ananda of Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, which is, according to the Veda’s and the Tantra’s, the Ultimate Reality.

This unconditional joy, free of cause and effect, this Bliss can be attained only through a leap of faith. To dare the jump requires consequent, continuous dwelling in the present.

Jodorowski is free: free of conditioning, conventions, biases, prejudices, guilt, false-ties, like false modesty, false respectability, false pretensions. This freedom makes him also fearless.

To be in contact with his mind changes the vibration of own’s mind.

His Bliss is contagious. Every time I see him on a video or read something he wrote, I become joyful, I feel uplifted, my heart is lighter.

This short essay is a tribute to him. In awe and wonder.

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 JACQUES LUSSEYRAN

There is no more intimate and detailed account of the experience and workings of the inner light than the one given by Jacques Lusseyran in his book “And There Was Light”.

Jacques Lusseyran, born in Paris in 1924, was a professor of French literature, first in France and later in the United States.

When he was eight years old he lost in an accident both his eyes.

Soon after the accident, the lack of any external visual stimuli conferred him access to a light within.

It seemed that he had other, internal eyes, with which he perceived a stream of light in many hues and colours. This inner light was not only colours in different grades of luminosity, no, it carried the most precise and correct information he needed at any given moment – it was a light full of knowledge, meanings, messages.

The light within revealed to him that objects are not inert, that they emanate light, through which they communicate their presence and their state – he did not need to bump into anything, he could recognise the contours of any landscape.

He could find his way in the house, the city, the fields and mountains.

He also knew instantly the nature of the people he met and their true intentions.

He perceived the cruelty behind a soft voice, the unbridled ambition behind a polite talk, the truthfulness of a person in spite of her rough speech, the love behind an ordinary conversation.

He could assess correctly complex social and political situations.

While listening as a ten year old boy to the radio, he heard for the first time, in 1934, representatives of the German Nationalist Socialist Party speak. He knew on the spot that Germans had chosen murderers as leaders. He decided to learn German in order to listen to German radio broadcasts. He was fourteen years old by the time Germany had annexed Austria. He had mastered German language and knew already that a war was coming, and that it will be his war as well.

Last but not least: he could absorb and memorise in short time an immense quantity of data he needed for his studies at school, at the Ecole Normale Superieur and at Sorbonne, and later for his activities as the leader of a Parisian resistance group he had formed during the Nazi occupation.

As the leader of the Maquis group, his power of discrimination and his capacity to organise were legendary.

Once, when talking to a candidate eager to join his resistance group, his inner sight presented him with a balk across the screen of his internal visual field. The image intrigued him, so he went rationally through all the details of the application. He could not find any flaw and accepted the man. It turned out that the candidate was a traitor who denounced him and all his friends to the Gestapo.

This was the only time when his understanding, his power of discrimination, Viveka, failed him.

Only two members of the resistance group, one of them Jacques Lusseyan, survived the torture, the journey to Buchenwald and the camp.

When in Buchenwald, lying to die of a host of illnesses of which even one would have been sufficient to kill him, Jacques Lusseyran saw the inner light restoring him back to life and health.

At the same time, Lusseyran reports that when he was scared, doubtful, insecure, jealous, his inner sight faded – he became truly blind. 

The inner light never failed him, he failed only once to understand its message.

What is this Inner Light?

Western psychology does not have a concept for it, does not even know about it.

Vedic psychology calls the inner light: Chetana. As it also has a separate concept for the power of discrimination: Viveka.

Chetana: individual consciousness in which the omniscient omnipresent omnipotent cosmic consciousness is mirrored. Its seat in the human body-mind-spiritual system is in the heart.

Five weeks volunteer in a Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa

‘From the beasts, I am the lion.’
Krishna to Arjuna
Bhagavad Gita, Ch.10, sl.30

After my discovery last year that communication with animals is possible, I looked up the website of the South African wildlife sanctuary ‘Jukani’, where Anna Breytenbach had talked with the black leopard Spirit with so dramatic consequences.
The website mentioned the possibility to work there as a volunteer.
So I contacted ‘Jukani: ’Could I come as a volunteer?
No, I could not – they have an age limit which I have surpassed by twenty years.
Could they please recommend another place where I could be accepted?
Yes, they could: ‘Panthera Africa’. A newly opened big cat sanctuary in South Africa, in Stanford, 145 km from Cape Town.
And so I ended up registering, at the end of May 2015, for a volunteer residency at ‘Panthera Africa’ to start six months later, when in Europe it is cold winter and in Africa bright summer.
Well, I had never been to Africa, never ever worked as a volunteer, and did not know anything about wildlife sanctuaries.
I had a vague idea that they resemble a natural park with animals roaming around, whereby these animals are rescued from Zoo’s, as Spirit had been, and are protected from human interference by laws, as a natural park is also protected.
The thought to see lions, tigers, leopards, caracals in their own habitat enticed me, as also the prospect to play with their cubs.
Sanjay, my husband, and me, remembered the lion Christian whom John Rendall and Anthony Bourke bought at Harrods and released later into the wilderness of Africa with the help of John Adamson. Perhaps I’ll bond as well with a lion cub, who will be overjoyed to see me, if we would visit him many years later?
The way humans treat domestic animals drives me to despair. When I found out, many years before, about the vivisection practiced in different areas of research, pharmaceutical, medical, cosmetic, chemical, the amount of pain I felt was unbearable, it made me ill. The pain is still there. I thought the wild animals may bring consolation. Yes, some wild animals are kept in bad conditions in Zoo’s, and have to be and are rescued, but at least wild animals are not tortured in laboratory experiments, or undergo the fate of the animals in the meat industry. The majority of them roam proudly and freely the African savannas. Yes, there are poachers, hunting especially elephants for their tusks, but they are punished once caught, aren’t they? To play with lion and leopard cubs who live protected and free, as I had seen in pictures of wildlife reserves, will heal wounds and restore faith in an orderly universe.
One week before the flight to Cape Town, I joined a seminar with Laila del Monte, to learn from her how to communicate with animals – on level one.
The winter before I had read many books on this topic, and I liked Laila del Monte’s the most. It had depth, structure, and style. I watched twice the documentary about her. I thought her to be wonderful, and when meeting her, I was not disappointed.
She is wonderful. Beautiful, tender, strong, gracious, ethical, and very perceptive.
In the seminar she offered tools I thought I’ll be able to use.
Armed with this fresh acquired knowledge, I embarked onto the new adventure.
In Dubai I said crying ‘Good bye’ to Sanjay, who flew further to India, while I boarded almost at the same time a plane to Africa.
After a journey of total 30 hours, on the morning of 6 December 2015, I landed in Cape Town.
Someone from the sanctuary would wait for me and take me there.
And someone did: Berna, one of the two permanent employees of Panthera Africa. The 2 hour drive was along the Whale Coast, between the Overberg mountain on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other. Nice, nice. I learned that the shrub vegetation I saw was called fynbos. ‘Fynbos,’ like many other names I came across, are to me both familiar and strange, as they are an adulterated form of Dutch.
We stopped in Hermanus, the town closest to the sanctuary, at a big shopping mall, to buy food from ‘Cheekers’, the supermarket. The breakfast and lunch were provided by the sanctuary, and Berna had to buy all the food needed for the next couple of days. I had to buy food for myself for the evenings. I quickly filled my basket with avocados, tomatoes, virgin olive oil, cheese and a deliciously smelling fresh rye bread, looking also curiously around.
‘Where are the black people?’ I wondered. The overwhelming majority of customers were white. The well dressed and manicured women who passed me exuded the confidence bestowed by financial and social security. Well, the blacks were present too, as I discovered, although in few numbers – as cleaners and cashiers wearing the Cheekers uniform.
The memory of the Apartheid made me alert to these aspects during my entire stay.
In the places of South Africa I visited – Hermanus, Stanford, Gansbaai, Cape Town, the black population seemed to have barely recovered its dignity, or to have bridged the chasm separating it from the standard of living and self -assured demeanor of the white population.
The social tapestry reminded me of Australia – the social position and the look of the black population resembling the one of the Aboriginal Australians – destitute.
During the drive I came to know that the work at the sanctuary started every morning at eight with a short gathering of the two founders/owners of the sanctuary, Berna herself and the volunteers, at that moment, five in number.
The tasks for the day were distributed, and the team moved on to execute them. Most of the work was done with the whole team, and sometimes with two of the volunteers, but never alone.
All five volunteers were at the sanctuary since longer time and had previous experience with this kind of work.
The food for the breakfast was provided, but everybody made his/her own breakfast. By eight the table had to be clean, as the gathering started.
She, Berna, or another staff member cooked the lunch, served around 1 PM.
Berna, who had impressed me immediately with her huge strong stature, was born and grew up on a farm near Hermanus. She had two horses and a cat, was obviously an animal lover. It made me smile, the difference between our perceptions, of which I was very aware – all too familiar for her, all too new for me. She mentioned that the day before the normal spotted leopard called Zorro had died. ‘Why?’ I inquired. Because of an operation which went wrong. She said something about the operation, but I did not understand what it was about. I was asking already so many questions, I did not press for details.
Eventually we reached Panthera Africa – a large piece of land, flat, with fynbos and few trees, mountain hills as backdrop, and, as I was to discover, bright light and heat during days, cool nights, magic orange-red-purple sunsets and an amazing night sky, sprinkled with thousands of stars.
The two founders, Lizaene – South African, and Cat, originally from Norway, said ‘Welcome’ and ‘Good bye’ in one sentence, as they were heading for five days holiday. They were both in their thirties, pretty and slim, and in a hurry.
We had lunch, to my relief, vegetarian. I met the five volunteers, of which three were due to leave soon – time for them to go back to their countries and to their families.
Yet this, at Panthera Africa, was a family too, as I perceived, sitting with them at the lunch table, trying to memorize their names. I was charmed by the red hair of.…..what was her name? yes, Linsay, the Scottish young lady, by her freckles and her laugh, and by the glitters on the face of Dannii, combined with piercings and a heavy sea green amulet around her neck. Dannii told me later that she started to put glitters on her face when she was a little girl, and never gave it up, as it made her happy. This was a soul family, I felt. The soul family of the animal lovers. It felt good to be there. I was by far the oldest member, and this did not change until my departure – I was between 30 and 50 years older than everybody else. The lunch was delicious.
Later I ventured alone to find my bearings on the ‘farm’, as the volunteers often call the sanctuary. I saw wide spaces enclosed by wires. In one of them, far away, I got a glimpse of a white lion. Opposite it, in a similar enclosed wide space, another white lion was sitting close to the fence, quiet, looking at me. I was so impressed with his regal demeanor, that almost involuntarily I bowed to him, in my mind with the words ‘Your Majesty’. He was without doubt magnificent. But still: ‘Are there white lions,’ I wondered – ‘I thought lions were tawny?!’
Later I learned that white lions are indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa, and are considered by the native population as divine.
Somehow, the scenery, including white lions instead of brown ones, did not look like the safari landscapes I had seen on National Geographic.
I felt disoriented, and went back to the house which I did not lose out of sight, so that I don’t get lost.
I slept for many hours, woke up, ate avocado and tomatoes with rye bread, and slept again.
The next morning at 9.30 AM, Dannii, volunteer & staff member, with glitters around her eyes and a long blond tress hanging under a blue cap with
‘Panthera Africa’ written on it, took me to the reception to get ready for the tourist tour. The reception – a wooden hut at the entrance to the sanctuary, decorated with pictures of lions and tigers, and stocked with items for sale – T-shirts with printed leopards and lions, caps with ‘Panthera Africa’, placemats with giraffes and rhino’s, had a welcoming atmosphere.
Besides Tuesday, the sanctuary offers daily, at 10 AM and 3 PM, educational visits of one to one and a half hours, conducted either by Berna or Dannii, attended mostly by 15 -20 people.
That Monday morning, out of whatever reason, only three people showed up: a Swedish couple, well mannered, well dressed, good looking, well educated, and their baby of eight months, who slept well behaved during the entire tour in his trolley.
We moved from one enclosure to the other, and Dannii gave information about their inhabitants. The visitor tours are conceived as educational tours, and I expected details about the habits of the animals, their character, perhaps about the predicament which brought them here. The first enclosure belonged to the caracals, fantastic looking cats with long black ears as if from a science fiction movie. I came to know that they run 60 km per hour, can leap 3 meters high and catch a bird in flight. One for one Dannii introduced to us the three caracals: Amy, whose mother abandoned her. She almost died of dehydration and starvation, but grew in the sanctuary into a healthy, strong cat. Jack, the most relaxed and loving out of the three. Max, who during my stay became more fierce and possibly injured Amy during feeding. Amy sadly needed to be taken to the vet for the wound to be sewn, one of the many unpredictable events occurring almost on daily basis.
I don’t know why jackals got such a bad name among humans. They were so shy, that tourists were not taken to their enclosure, in order not to stress them. They look incredible cute. In spite of their shyness, they like human attention, and one of the tasks for the volunteers, the easiest, relaxed and quiet task, was to spend some time by their enclosure, reading a book or daydreaming. Lucy, Cody and Maya would appear from behind the bushes, look for a moment, and run away with a very funny inimitable trot.
The enclosure of the jackals, the only one not shown to tourists, is situated at the farthest end from the entrance to the sanctuary, and the nearest end to the farmhouse where everybody stays: the volunteers, Lizaene, Cat, and Joseph, the only black person at the sanctuary. He supports his siblings who live in Cape Town, is always smiling and laughing, and does all the heavy work.
From the caracals we moved with the Swedish couple and the trolley to the enclosure of Pardus, or Lalla, as she is affectionately called by the volunteers. Pardus aka Lalla is the black leopard.
On the fence was a board with two names: Pardus and Zorro. I remembered that Zorro had died two days before. The operation was a vasectomy, informed us Dannii, with tears in her eyes. ‘A vasectomy?!’ I could not believe my ears. Dannii explained: ‘Panthera Africa has as policy no breeding, no interaction of the public with the animals, and no selling. It is one of the seven true sanctuaries from 179 registered in South Africa. All others are in truth breeding and hunting farms, perpetrating what is known as the cycle of the ‘Canned hunting industry.’ I was aghast.
‘In the breeding farms, true breeding factories, the cubs, for example lion cubs, are separated from their mother almost immediately after their birth. This causes terrible stress to the mother and the cubs. The cubs are looked after and hand reared by volunteers, who pay for this lots of money, believing that the lions, once adults, will be released into the wild. As soon as the cubs are able to feed themselves, they are rented out to other so called ‘sanctuaries’, where tourists come to pet them and take pictures with them. This brings further stress, as they are touched day in day out by hundreds of people. They lose fur and get diarrhea. When they are too old to be pet, but not yet adults, they are used for walking with again hundreds of tourists. When they are adults, they are sold to the hunting farms. There they are kept in small enclosures, so that the so called ‘hunters’, for a steep amount of money, can easily kill them at close distance with guns or laser guns. ‘The proud and courageous hunters fly then home with a well-deserved trophy,’ is what the public at large is made to believe. In truth they are cowards who shoot innocent, defenseless living beings without confronting any risk whatsoever. Adult tigers are mostly sold to China, where they are killed for their bones – one kg of tiger bones pays 18.000 US $. The lionesses in the breeding farms are forced to breed two to three litters of cubs a year. In the wild, lionesses breed once in two to three years. None of the rescued animals from these breeding factories can be ever released into the wild – by being born in captivity, separated from their mothers and hand reared by humans they are here for completely unfit. A true sanctuary does not breed, does not sell and does not allow visitors to interact with the animals.
This is why Zorro had to be vasectomized and died. Only 3 % of the facilities who call themselves ‘sanctuaries’ are true sanctuaries. Panthera Africa is one of them, one of seven. The owners of the breeding factories earn money from the volunteers, from the ‘petting and walking sanctuaries’ and from the selling at the end of the cycle. The hunting farms earn money from allowing so called ‘hunters’ to kill the helpless animals. It is a billion dollars business.’
Dannii’s account crushed on me and broke my heart. In front of the next enclosure, of two lions, Oliver and Obi, were the photographs of them from the time – eight months before, when they were rescued. They looked emaciated, Obi on the verge of dying. There were two more photographs: one of the food they were getting at the breeding farm – a bone with some rotten meat attached to it, and of the water – dirty.
Later I read in an article that many breeding and hunting farms owners are Apartheid criminals, some who got and others who did not get amnesty.
Back to the house, after the tour, during the lunch, I could perceive, under the small talk and laugh, an underlying layer of confusion and deep sadness caused by the death of the leopard, Zorro. I looked at Zorro’s photographs hanging on the wall: a most beautiful white cat with brown rosettes and intelligent, playful, inquisitive eyes. Lizaene and Cat did not go on holidays, they were grieving and withdrew for a couple of days. I had arrived in a community struck by tragedy. I felt in shock.
Back into my room, I tried to read something, with little success. I could not concentrate. I fall again in sleep. I woke up towards the evening, ate avocados, tomatoes and rye bread, and went back to sleep.
The next morning I woke up at five. I was in so much pain from what I had heard, that I did not know what to do. I went out, with the thought to see the majestic looking lion, Neptune.
The white lion was sitting close to the fence, and I plumped down in front of him.
I told him aloud everything what I had found out, how much it pained me – too much to be able to cry. I told him about the breeding and hunting farms, about Zorro, deprived of the right to sire cubs and at a much too young age, of his life, about the meat industry, the vivisection laboratories, the mistreated and abandoned pets, I poured out to him my heart.
The lion looked at me, surprised by such an early visit with a truck of emotions unloaded at his feet. When I got up, I saw in the enclosure behind me, sitting close to the fence, another white lion. Unmistakable Neptune. I understood that in my confusion I had told my story to the white lion I had glimpsed far away the day of my arrival – to Oliver, and not to Neptune.
I did not know what to do – tell it again to Neptune, or leave it as it was and go back to the house? I went to the house and prepared for the day – my first working day.
From then on, whenever we passed Oliver’s enclosure, when seeing me, Oliver became alert and followed my every movement. A couple of times, unexpectedly, he run towards me, and stopped just before the electric wire.
‘You wear a colorful shirt’, or: ‘You are so tiny, for him you are a child’ were some of the explanations my colleagues found for his unflinching attention. Every time I answered joking ‘I don’t know if I should feel flattered or scared’. But I thought that he just finds me weird.
There is a lot of work to do: the water bowls have to be cleaned – all the old water scooped out, the cement floor scraped, and the bowl refilled with fresh water; the enclosures have to be cleaned of pooh and bones from the previous meal. Everything has to be done fast and precise, not to stress the animals out with our presence. Every time it is deeply satisfying to do this, to know that the animals have fresh water and clean earth to walk upon. The animals have to be fed – at 10 AM Joseph, or Adam, or Stig leave for neighboring farms to collect chickens or red meat – everything donated.
Between the cleaning and the feeding, lots of other things have to be done. There is always a new project going on. During my stay, the project in progress was the enrichment camp, a huge undertaking.
Because none of the animals will ever be released into the wild, their life in captivity has to be made interesting by providing them with new sensorial and cognitive input. Almost every day volunteers create, from cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, dry and fresh flowers, branches, jute threads, chicken feathers, cardboard egg boxes, and whatever else suitable they come across objects which are placed into the enclosures to be discovered, smelled, tasted, and torn apart. Peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, oregano, mint, other herbs, raw pasta, are tucked into parts of the objects.
Every week each animal has to receive at least one object which enriches his life.
The enrichment activities are registered in a notebook: who got what when – and the reaction to it, for the crafting of future objects.
The enrichment camp takes the enrichment policy one step further: a new enclosure has been built in the middle of the enclosures where the animals stay: the enrichment camp. It has low gates oriented towards all the other enclosures, and a tall gate for humans. The low gates can be attached, through a moveable tunnel, to new gates made with this goal in the enclosures of the lions, the tigers and the leopard.
The animals can enter by rotation the enrichment camp, to climb poles, moveable platforms, to scratch tree trunks, to play, to smell the animals who have been there before, and just to be for a while in another space than the one they live in all the time.
This new enclosure, besides different heavy construction aspects it needed, had to be cleaned of pieces of iron wires and piles of cement stones left by the constructors, and the wood pieces holding portions of the gates had to be painted with tar. This became for a couple of days the task for Perry, an attractive brave young woman from Norway, in the last phase of her biology study, and me.
Every day we had to prepare for Obi, the half tawny half white lion, and Jubatus, a tawny lion, what we called ‘the herbs’: first to cut big chunks of red meat into smaller pieces, then cut in the small pieces pockets in which we hide herbs for joints and Omega 3 capsules. Obi when he arrived, had severe health problems due to malnutrition in the breeding camp from where he had been rescued. Dannii, with her inexhaustible energy and dedication, had raised funds for the herbs and supplements through her own fundraising company: Purrfect World International. This was another daily task for me: to put the herbs and the capsules into the meat pockets cut by one of the other volunteers – Lesley, Haimish, Perry.
Every day the caracals needed extra enrichment because of their exposure to tourist and volunteer interaction at the previous breeding project they came from, the jackals needed human presence, one of the tigers, Arabella, loved having one of us to walk with her – she on one side of the fence, the volunteer on the other side. Arabella, of spellbinding beauty, which I never stopped to marvel at, had been separated from her mother when she was born, got seriously ill of a virus which attacked her brain, and stayed alive thanks to the intensive care from the vet and the people who hand raising her. Much later, after being relocated to a breeding farm, she witnessed the shooting of her brother with whom she had been inseparable. When she was rescued, her vision was impaired from her illness as a cub, and she had the habit to talk to herself and the people around her. An animal communicator, asked to find out how Arabella feels and what extra’s she needs, found out that she likes to walk next to a human. This became for a while another task of mine, to walk with Arabella.
Without knowing anything about sanctuaries, I was lucky to come to a true one, and on top of it, one where the staff had recently followed a course to learn to communicate with animals. The communicator also talked to each and every one of the animals about their special needs. This is how the staff came to know that the caracals need to play a lot, the jackals like human presence, and Arabella likes to be walked.
Soon I fall in love with Arabella. Not during one of our walks. I was sitting near to her enclosure, in front of Lalla’s enclosure, sewing a jute bag filled with 75 kg sand, three times Lalla’s weight – the weight Lalla, as all leopards, can lift and carry in her mouth. The bag was offered to visitors to lift, to give them an idea about the strength of Lalla’s neck muscles. I saw Arabella walking in her enclosure while talking to herself, and the sight pierced my heart. Since that moment I love her deeply. Stig, a Norwegian volunteer who came for only two weeks, in which he worked like a steam machine at the enrichment camp, had fallen in love with Arabella too, during his previous stay at Panthera Africa. He had tattooed her name on his left arm.
The work tempo was high, and the tasks numerous and often unexpected. Yet there were always moments for a short talk heart to heart, and I came to know some of the volunteers well. They are all gems. Their dedication to the wellbeing of the animals is extraordinary. Their love, like mine, unconditional. I think it is the closest we, humans, can come to universal love. Guys, I love you all: Cat, Lizaene, Joseph, Berna, Dannii, Adam, Perry, Haimish, Lesley, Stig, Stina, Chris, Anna.
On Tuesdays we bought groceries and had leisure time. Twice we drove to Kleinrivier, the river running through Stanford, one time for a swim, at sunset, with the backdrop mountain turning golden, and another time to kayak.
We visited an amazing Neolithic cave in a rock high above the shore of the Atlantic, from where we could view the deep blue water of the ocean.

My early morning lament in front of Oliver did not bring catharsis.
I was still deeply harrowed by everything I had come to know. If Dannii was riding the crest of the emotions the place could evoke – bliss, I was at the trough of the wave, mourning.
Meanwhile I fall in love with the white – tawny lion Obi. I found him very sweet, and his gentle nature captures my heart.
In the evening, when all work was finished, after having taken a shower and changed into clean clothes, I went often to see Arabella, Obi and Neptune. I liked to sit in front of Neptune. My thoughts became usually clearer and deeper feelings emerged. His presence had a pacifying effect. Usually, after a while, he got up and walked away. The audience was over.
I remembered an audience I had once with the Dalai Lama, in front of his house in McLeod Ganj. He was standing in the middle of the courtyard, and one for one the Tibetans – I was the only present white European, bowed to him and gave him a white silk scarf for blessing. The Dalai Lama gave me a hand, which I shook with some surprise.
The moment I entered the courtyard, a deep peace descended upon me – the same peace I experienced later in front of a hundreds of years old statue of Buddha in the Lamayuru monastery in Ladakh. The same peace I found now in the presence of Neptune.

Two – three weeks into my stay, I found out another disturbing, deeply unsettling fact: the red meat the animals got two – three times a week, donated by neighboring farms, was the flesh of horses shot dead because they were injured in some way. The day I discovered this, a 1 ½ year young horse had been shot dead because of severe joint problems. He was a race horse, and I suspected that the joint damage was because of extreme training conditions. There are about 20 different obstacles horses have to learn to negotiate, and the difficulty of doing so, under lots of pressure, is often unmanageable. Besides damage to the joints, the lungs of the horses can bleed, and the stress makes many develop gastric ulcers. Or they get injured during a competition, which makes them useless as well.
So this was the red meat our lions, tigers, leopard, caracals and jackals received.
The owners donated the dead horses because they saved in this way the labor and costs to bury them, or drive them away.
The wretchedness hit me. In the evening, I went deeply troubled to Neptune and told him what I had discovered.
Until then, I was mourning the fate of the lions, tigers, leopards in the breeding and hunting factories. Sitting that evening with Neptune, I understood his and all the other rescued animals’ plight: disabled to fend for themselves in the wild for the rest of their lives, they were condemned to a life of total dependency from humans. From us, their rescuers. Without us, they would die of hunger and thirst. We were their saviors and at the same time, it is true, for their own sake, their jailors, lifelong.
Instead of getting their food through hunting in the wild, they got as food the flesh of animals killed by humans because they weren’t any more of use, due to maltreatment, and sometimes, to old age.
The wild animals had to be rescued because they were treated as commodities, and they got flesh of animals who had been killed because they too were considered commodities.
You might think now: but the lions, tigers, leopards, they also kill – innocent deer’s, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, isn’t it? They kill, we kill, what is the difference? Why condemn humans?
Well, here are my answers:
1) We know too little about the ecological consequences of predators in nature in order to compare it to our own behavior and extract from it any kind of ‘license’, both towards wild animals as towards domestic animals. See the chain of events – the so called ‘trophic cascade,’ after wolves, extinct for a century through conscious human intervention, have been brought back into the Yellowstone Natural Park: the deer population which had proliferated and had grazed all vegetation away diminished, as a result bare valleys became forests of aspen, willows and cottonwood; as a result the birds came back, as also the beavers, who are ‘ecosystem engineers’, they create niches for other species; as a result otters, muscrats and ducks appeared, and in the river fish, reptiles and amphibians; the wolves killed coyotes, as a result mice and rabbits came back, which meant more hawks, ravens and eagles, and more weasels, foxes, bears and badgers; last but not least: the rivers meandered less, and stopped to erode the banks and the soil. The physical geography of the immense area of the Yellowstone National Park was thus stabilized. Predators have an ecological function we barely know about. Compare this with the ecological disasters we bring upon the planet.

2) The animals which predators kill in nature led a good natural life in freedom before being caught. They also have a chance to run away from the predators, as mostly the weakest of the pride are the ones killed. And the number is contained, as they are hunted only when the predators are hungry.
3) Concerning our killing of animals to eat their flesh: Before the advent of the meat industry, the slaughter of an animal was a ritual performed once in a while: a goat was slaughtered once a week, a pig once or twice a year. Meat was a weekly feast, often even less frequent. Before being slaughtered, these animals had a good life in the fields, with enough space to move, in the company of other animals, and mostly being taken care of, as they were considered a wealth. No comparison whatsoever with the modern meat industry, where they live a life of torture, undergoing unspeakable cruelties, and are killed in mass in horrendous slaughterhouses. Actually, when we eat meat, we eat pain, fear, despair. Our killing of animals cannot be compared with the killing of animals by predators in nature.
The feeding of the big cats at Panthera Africa with the meat of horses shot dead because they have become useless to their owners appeared to me as the quintessence of the wretchedness we humans have brought onto the animals: we need sanctuaries for wild animals because we have robbed them of their natural life and treat them as commodities – see the documentary: ‘Blood Lions’ by Pippa Hankinson, and we feed them with domestic animals which we treat as commodities as well. We treat the whole world as a commodity, existing only for our pleasures.
Lately we treat our own health as a commodity, by privatizing national health care, what happened in Netherlands 2008 onwards. Actually, we are lost, and we drag in our wreckage all life on Earth, ours included.
I told all this to Neptune, who listened quietly.
Listening to his silence, I understood the following:
On the whole, his attitude was one of helpless nobility in the face of great suffering. About himself, he felt relieved to live in safety, and to be treated with respect.
After he made his position clear, he stood up and walked away.
I felt deep sadness, and for a while, more calm.
The last evening at the sanctuary I went to say ‘Good bye’ to Arabella and Obi.
After that I sat for a long time in front of Neptune, one meter apart, separated by the fence. To be in silent communion with a lion is one of the greatest presents life can give you.
After I left Neptune, on the way to the farmhouse, I met Oliver, sitting not far from the fence, looking at me. I said to him ‘Good bye’ too, and I heard him saying ‘I had to keep an eye on you, because you are unpredictable.’ He made me laugh, and I came in good spirits back to the house.
The next morning my five week stay at the wildlife sanctuary came to an end, and I left Panthera Africa.
Neptune, Arabella, Obi, Oliver, Jubatus, Achilles, Pardus, Raise, Amy, Jack, Max, Cody, Maya, Lucy – you will always be in my heart. I’ll never forget you.

Reflecting on Animals and Humans

Recently, a friend mailed the link to a 14 minutes video in which Anna Breytenbach talks with a black panther in a South African wildlife reserve. Since its rescue and arrival in the reserve six months earlier, the panther was unmanageably aggressive. Persuaded by a common friend, a very skeptical reserve caretaker invited Anna Breytenbach, an animal communicator, to make contact with the panther. The result of Anna’s half an hour conversation with the panther shook the caretaker to the core, and changed forever the behavior of the panther, who became quiet and peaceful. So much so, that the panther got a new name: ‘Spirit’, instead of his old name: ‘Devil’.
Intrigued by the video, I gave the matter some thought, supported by more recorded conversations with animals on YouTube, old documentaries on the lives of animals and two – three books and articles.
What follows is the result of my musings, readings and movie watching.
The word ‘animal’ comes from Latin ‘animalis’ and means: ‘breath’.
All organisms that breathe belong to the kingdom called in Latin ‘Animalia’. This encompasses human animals and animal animals, yet in day to day language, we use the words ‘humans’ and ‘animals’ as if the organisms they designate belong to two distinct orders of being.
In reality, humans and animals have a broad common base: Both are born, age, and die. In order to survive, both need to eat and eliminate waste; both need a favorable climate and both need to reproduce for the continuation of the species. The senses are similar too: both see, hear, taste, smell and feel emotions, including pain, fear, sadness, grief, anger, joy, jealousy, love and happiness. Both need company, guidance, protection, safety. Both have an innate intelligence which enables them to live a satisfying life. Irrespective if one has a naked skin, feathers, fur or scales, or if one is small and the other comparatively large, we all share these basic features.
Of course there are many differences as well. A cat can jump ten times its height, a dog possesses three hundred million olfactory receptors and can therefore whiff a rotten apple in a million barrel (we possess six million), marine crustaceans see the spectrum of our visible light and of ultraviolet, infrared and polarized light, sharks detect half a billionth of a volt, beetles sense fire tens of miles away, elephants hear infrasonic sounds, smell water at great distances and sense seismic activity, iguanas detect in sand temperature differences of two degree Fahrenheit, birds are endowed with GPS’.
But human beings have social skills. Isn’t it this that sets us apart from the other animals?
Well, no – overwhelming empirical data reveals that the social organizations of animal animals is often more complex than the social organization of human animals. It includes collective deliberation, division of labor, ritualized conflict resolution, diverse forms of cooperation, educative punishment, self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, rules for being recognized as a leader, sophisticated courtships.
Many animal animals, among other rats, monkeys, elephants, bats display more mutual solidarity than humans.
Vampire bats don’t let another bat go hungry: they regurgitate ingested blood in order to feed the unhappy fellow who that night did not find food. Yet they recognize each other and remember the past, which makes cheating a perilous undertaking – the cheaters are soon identified and punished.
Lack of cooperation ends too in punishment: monkeys who fail to call other members of the colony when they find food, are hit when discovered.
An elephant Matriarch has to have the discernment and strength to follow her head instead of her heart in situations of great peril. Only one who knows the great caring heart and the depth of elephant love can appreciate the immense wisdom and strength they display when leaving a dying calf behind in order to save the whole family.
About self-sacrifice: Jules Masserman investigated how macaques respond to other monkey’s suffering in a laboratory experiment in 1963. How would they behave if they knew that securing food would give an electric shock to another monkey? Masserman’s monkeys often prolonged their hunger rather than seeing a fellow monkey receive a painful electric shock. One monkey refrained from taking food for twelve days. The monkeys’ behavior demonstrated beyond doubt their empathy, compassion and aversion to cause pain.
The same year 1963, Milgram did his first famous experiment with human animals: 65 percent of the participants administered to their subjects increasingly stronger electric shocks, including the final massive dose of 450 volts.
I find the results of these two experiments, Masserman’s and Milgram’s, disturbing. What I learned in school as hard facts, and heard countless times in conversations – brutish or simply dumb humans pejoratively called ‘animals’, appear to be prejudices and self-serving biases.
The mind-body-spirit of each species leads to different sense acuity, perceptions, worldviews, behaviors and languages, as well as to different kinds of knowledge. The intelligence of the animal animals is the intelligence they need for their lifestyles. The intelligence of human animals is suitable for our lifestyle. What would we do in New York with the intelligence of a hippopotamus living on the banks of the Nile? What would my cat do with my intelligence of an urban academically trained working woman?
Besides being intelligent, animal animals are prescient and wise, as has been demonstrated in many experiments and reported by many human animals in documentaries, non-academic and academic books and research papers.
You doubt it? Then read: ‘The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World’ by A. Merrifield.
Actually, animal animals can be more prescient and wiser than human animals. Human animals can be, and too often are, more primitive and ignorant than animal animals.
Primitive humans are not primitive because they are ‘more animals than humans’ – no, they are primitive because their humanness is not developed. They are stuck at the bifurcation between humans and animals, they have only a rudimentary ‘animalis’ base, and this makes them primitive.
The concept that human animals are superior to animal animals is wrong. It is a fallacy, thousands of years old.
Human animals have befriended a number of animal animals – cats, dogs, horses, cows, sheep, donkeys, goats, elephants, camels. These animal animals with whom we live close, who help us in many tasks, are our friends. We have moved them away from their natural habitat and bound them to us. We are responsible for them. We have to protect them and care for them. We have to work together in harmony and gratitude. Everything else is a perversion.
I rebel against the notion of ‘the animal in us’, often conceived as our ‘lower side’. We do not have any animal in us. We are animals. We share a common base, an ‘animalis’, with the other living beings on this earth. Animal animals are as evolved as we are, and often more. There are individual differences both among animal animals and among human animals. One cat may be wiser than another cat. Only one female elephant is the Matriarch, not all female elephants. Not all human animals are sages, and not all earn a Nobel price.
But any elephant is wiser than a primitive human.
You doubt this? Well, read accounts of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, D.B.E. 1992 UNEP Global 500 Laureate.
We, human animals, can communicate with animal animals and they can communicate with us. Right now only especially gifted people can do this, but we can all achieve their skill.
We can learn to breach the language barrier between our two species. This barrier we have built ourselves millennia ago. We can learn to translate from one language into the other.
It seems to me that the language of the animal animals resembles the language of unconscious parts in our psyche, of human animals. When the unconscious is addressed, for example, during a hypnotic trance – during an alternate state of consciousness, these two languages display the same structure, the same pattern and have the same flavor. The language of the unconscious is much more sensorial than the language of our daily consciousness – it consists of images, feelings, emotions, smells, tastes, and acoustic signals. The same is valid for the language of animal animals – it is sensorial, it consists of images, feelings, emotions, smells, tastes, acoustic signals.
In order to be able to communicate with animal animals we have to silence and bypass the language of our daily consciousness – which is much more abstract, and we have to anchor ourselves in the language of direct experience. This language of direct experience is the language of both our unconscious and of the animal animals, and carries meanings.
Concisely, the language of the unconscious in us and other animals is the sensorial language of direct experience carrying meanings.
By learning to communicate with animal animals, we learn to communicate as well with ourselves, on a deeper, hitherto unconscious level.
We may be convinced that we consciously shape our lives with our daily consciousness, but this is far from truth. The level from where our life is shaped is in the unconscious, in the hidden meanings it carries.
You doubt the possibility to communicate with animals? Well, look up on YouTube videos with Laila del Monte, Olga Porqueras, Anna Breytenbach, Martha Williams, read their books, talk to people who have worked with them.
‘We need another and wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals’, wrote Henry Beston, described as a man ‘in search of the great truth’ on the plaque dedicated to him by the National Literary Landmark.
I agree with him.
The lives of ‘domestic’ animals are constrained by us. Yet our lives are also constrained by collective deeds of our own species, like social and economic upheavals, natural phenomena such as climate change, earthquakes and floods, and invisible forces which make events turn unpredictably.
Under the overt domination of animal animals by human animals, there is a covert undercurrent of domination and constraint for our species too. We stay all under the sway of Destiny, whatever definition and name we may give to it. We may call it Dharma, Moira or Tyche, Parcae, Adonai’s Will, Quadar, Nature, Karma – whatever the name and its definition, its meaning is the same: there are invisible unfathomable forces out there who detain the ultimate power over our lives.
Any given moment the fabric of our lives ca be torn, stranding us at the edge of an existential Abyss.
Just as we constrain the animal animals, invisible forces constrain us. If we want these invisible forces to have mercy on us, we have to have mercy with the animal animals, whom we have befriended long ago and whom we have misused and mistreated.
In the face of Fate we are all equal.
In other words: we are fundamentally equal.
It is written in Buddhist texts that only human animals can reach liberation from the ordeals of Fate, suffering and death. And that human animals can also come back in a ‘lower’ state, that of an animal animal.
It is stated in the Bible that God gave human animals the right to dominate the animal animals.
Well, I don’t believe this anymore. I think that these scriptures are wrong, or have been adulterated with time by ignorant scribes and passed from generation to generation as Gospel truths. I believe that to conceive of animal animals as inferior to human animals, sanctioned by fallacious religious dogma, was the first step in our process of alienation from the ultimate metaphysical truth of existence, and thus the first step to an existential downfall.
It may be bold to assert that both the Bible and Buddhist scriptures are wrong in this regard, but this is what I think. I don’t forget that the Bible asserts that the woman was born from the man’s rib, being thus his inferior – pure bunkum, but through millennia the cause of injustice, pain and huge loss of human potential. Besides, there is the legend that in a previous life Gautama Shakyamuni had met a hungry tigress with cubs, and offered his flesh as food to her so that she could feed herself and her cubs – a deed in contradiction with the assertion that Gautama Buddha considered animal animals as lower to us.
Back to the ultimate metaphysical truth, which is this: there is no ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’, there is only equality. We are equal with everything surrounding us, and everything surrounding us is equal to us.
Between us human animals, there are differences only in the degree of grasping and enacting this ultimate metaphysical truth.
It is often stated, both by natural and metaphysical sciences, that the ultimate truth is that everything is One. Well, physically, on quantum level, this is certainly true. But as soon as we leave this level, things take a shape and a corresponding content. The quantum level is the closest physical level to the metaphysical level of the ‘unborn, pristine, undifferentiated’ consciousness. Yet without shape and content, no manifestation.
Creation may be One, but it is One in Many. And, from the point of view of Creation, the Many are mutually equal. One of the reasons why it is so is the fact that there are no phenomena with an independent existence. Our Sun exists due to electromagnetic, gravitational, intra nuclear and decay forces, due to Helium, Hydrogen, and the surrounding cosmic configuration. I exist due to my parents, due to the physical food provided by the Earth and plants, by animal animals and human animals, and by the culture the human animals have created. The Sun in our solar system is what it is because everything else in the Cosmos is not it. I am who I am because none of the six billion human animals who inhabit the planet are me. Everything exists and is defined by everything else.

We are all different, interdependent and equal. This is the ultimate truth regarding Manifestation. To deny any aspect of it is to estrange ourselves from it.
There is no scale along: ‘inferior’ and ‘superior’, there is only the scale along: ‘primitive’ and ‘evolved’ in relation to the ultimate truth.
Yet is seems that we can barely think in categories which do not employ ‘superior to…’ and ‘inferior to…’
By severing the communication channels between us and animal animals we have found it possible to ignore their pain, anguish, grief, despair because of the way we treat them. Modern animal farming and vivisection in ‘scientifically advanced’ laboratories tell the tale of how primitive, how wretched we are.
If we have ever been in Paradise, then human animals were expelled from Paradise not because they ate from the Tree of Knowledge but because they ate from the Tree of Ignorance. The whole history is upside down.
In order to grasp better our predicament, with such severe consequences for ourselves and our animal animals friends, I did two thought experiments.
In the first one I imagined that all animal animals have left the Earth. I saw endless processions of wild and tamed animals, endless shoals of fish, from giant to tiny, endless flocks of birds, myriads of insects disappear one after the other into the unknown. The biggest and final migration ever. The last to leave were the bees. No paw, tail, wing, fin, fur, feather was any more to be seen, and a deep silence descended on Earth. Their absence had immense practical consequences – no wool, no cotton, no eggs, no buttermilk or cheese, no fruits, no vegetables, no nuts, no grains, no coffee..…..only the products offered by grasses pollinated by wind. No pets. But worse than that, almost impossible to bear, was the pain caused by their departure. An abyssal grief, loneliness, feeling of abandonment, despair overpowered me.
In the second thought experiment I conjured the opposite: human animals conceive animal animals as equal. As a consequence, they understand their language, communicate with them as naturally as among themselves. The ensuing experience is difficult to describe. The Earth became indescribably more alive, more abundant, more felicitous. I heard, sensed, saw, even smelled and touched, and understood, elephants, whales, bears, horses, grasshoppers, spiders – they played with me, told me jokes, explained things to me from their perspective, complained to me, consoled me. I felt loved, accepted, understood, and part of a much bigger, warmer, safer, and more supporting environment.
For a short while, I was in communion with all living beings on Earth. It was blissful.
There is a way back from the estrangement: recapturing step by step a worldview underpinned by the concept of equality.
Human animals and animal animals are equal. If we can conquer this concept, and live accordingly, we take a step in the ascent to Paradise. The Earth ceases to be a place of bloodshed and sorrow, it gains, or re-gains, its quality of the Garden of Eden.