“What differentiates us from animals is the fact that we can listen to other people’s dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, desires and defeats—and they in turn can listen to ours.” – Henning Mankell, author of the Wallander mysteries.
Whatever you believe or don’t believe, we are different from animals. To deny that is to deny the history and evolution of civilization.
Whether it’s self-awareness, our ability to feel wonder and awe, our capacity for politics and religion and philosophy, our advanced technology, our (differing but nevertheless existing) moral laws, or the fact we have language and written words to understand it all, something superior is there. If nothing else, our capacity to question and understand meaning at all is proof enough that we are a higher creature. Animals are not asking this question because they cannot.
Our superiority does not give us permission to oppress the rest of creation. We are not supposed to use the world to the point of destruction, but take care of it, help it along its evolutionary path.
When we deny our divinity, we are just like the animals. No spirit, no destination, just living day to day trying to survive with no purpose other than to do so. It is a circular, bland life. Animals cannot be stewards of the earth. Their minds are not like ours, their will is focused on survival and they cannot evolve beyond that. Our humanity gave us the technology to build habitats safe from external threats, so we could evolve our minds and cultivate the seed of spirit that dwelled within our ancient ancestors. That spirit spark is what allowed evolution to this point, when we now have full spirit recognition and actualization.
Humans have goals because we see our lives as linear, going towards a destination. Why? Because we are. We are divine animals on a path to becoming fully divine – yet not gods. Our end is to transubstantiate the animal into divinity, so that we can be divine spirits in divine physical form, akin to Christ’s physical manifestation. Death is a necessary step in this path to becoming, when we shed the earthly animal in exchange for the purified version in the new kingdom yet to come. We live as spirits in Heaven until that day, learning more than we ever could on earth.
Many people reject and deny this. It feels easier to be lethargic and uncaring, to live day to day using society rather than contributing to it. But living this way devolves the human back into a simple animal, nothing more than a predator on the food chain (or herbivore if you prefer).
There are those who are comfortable believing this, because how can we be “superior” to animals given our tendency to be malicious and cruel? Isn’t the innocence of an animal far superior to what we as humans have become with our greed, bigotry, and pollution of our mother earth? How can we be anything more than advanced tool-makers/users?
It sounds terrible, but the fact that we can be malicious for the sake of being malicious proves that we are advanced. Animals do not have the capacity in their minds to be evil. However vicious an animal becomes, it is due to environmental factors that have conditioned it to see every living thing around it as a threat to its life (or as food). Animals cannot make a conscious choice. They are not self-aware to the extent that we are. They recognize they are alive and do what they can to stay that way, and they recognize individuals of their species to interact with, but anything beyond that (e.g. gender identity, spirituality, meaning of life, artistic ingenuity) is beyond their scope.
Another perception is that we cannot be superior because, unlike animals, we cannot survive in the natural elements. But the thing is, we don’t need to. We have adapted to a sheltered existence because we were able to create one. Animals have fur to survive the cold, yes, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy ice storms. They survive extremes, but nothing can thrive in those extremes. Bears find caves, humans create our caves. And air condition them, and run electricity through them, and establish artificial light sources in them. We survive because of our advanced ability to make tools.
The question becomes not if, but why. Why are we in this position of self-awareness with the ability to reason and create? Why, if you hold to the evolutionary theory of creation, has no other species evolved side by side with us to the same extent? At most, some animals have a complex communication system and a hierarchy of leadership, but that is where it ends.
My answer is our divinity within. If God is the mind of the universe, we are the millions of organs and blood cells keeping the body living.
We are more and we can do more. The special “uniqueness” so many people crave is something we already have as humans. Animals share the same abilities within their species to survive. Humans, however, have predilections for certain talents. Some of us can sing; some of us can draw so well it looks like a photograph; some of us are gifted with words; others are gifted with their hands and mechanics; others can grasp deep philosophical concepts; while still others are at ease with the law or medicine. Some of us have multiple talents while some are good at one specific thing.
We need to realize what it means to be human. Not an animal, not a god, but a bit of both, in everyday life and in our goals. Even a simple act like raising children to adulthood is uniquely human. Animals produce offspring. Some, such as the elephant, raise them to adulthood. But humans alone possess the knowledge that gods produce, and teach it to the next generation.
We are holy, sacred, consecrated, divine animals.
I want to quote what I said in Why I Cannot Support Atheism:
Man is both an evolved ape-man and a separate creature. To protect and have compassion for creation, we must be a part of creation. All sentient beings have eyes, are able to eat, having beating hearts, are able to breathe. We are designed to recognize this in order to connect with them.
Why are our brains so highly functioning, while other animals do not have such capabilities? Why did our weak, fleshly husks become the dominant species (ahead of lions, tigers, wolves, and other large predators)?
We are the result of intelligent design via evolution.
The result of evolution shows us that we are the chosen creatures of God, to be like him, to grow as his children into sub-creators with him. The process of our evolution shows that in this mortal realm, we are as animals: both to show compassion and protection for them, and to recognize that we are not purely divine. Only God is divine.
Everything we are that is higher than animals is for the purpose of creation beyond procreation. Everything except the knowledge of death, and that, too, is meant to keep us humble in the knowledge that we are God’s children, not God itself.
Postscript: I am conflicted as to why, with all the evil he is experiencing through us, He doesn’t just end it and start over. The only answer I see is that He won’t commit suicide after forbidding his people from doing it. Self-destruction is counterintuitive to His plan. Which, post-Messiah, I couldn’t begin to understand. He could create another body, but He obeys the laws he put into place – He must wait for the body to die of natural aging and then rebirth into something new. Hence, supernovas and new stars emerging.
God bless with mother earth’s bliss.
(Art: “Urania and Calliope” by Vouet)