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Open Thread: Are Animals Spiritual?

Posted by at 5:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)


Open Thread: Are Animals Spiritual? By Steve Martindale

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When I was a zebra, I saw the world through zebra eyes. My mind was a zebra mind; my sensations and body were zebra. I even nuzzled with a good zebra friend. Transcendent mental states like my zebra can be induced in any number of ways, including by fasting or meditating. My visions came to me during relaxation periods after strenuous yoga sessions. I’ve levitated, floated in the air, and become fog and water. These states are far more intense than dreams or daydreams. They are spiritual. My spirit thus leaves my body behind on occasion, but can the same be said for my dog? Do animals have these experiences?

Of course they do. Not exactly like mine, of course, but of the same kind. Ethereal mental states aren’t magical. They are produced in areas of the brain that are shared by all mammals. These neural pathways normally bring sensory input, memories, and emotions together into a firm sense of time and place. But with slight alteration, spirits run free. For people, we know that electrical stimulation of the limbic system can trigger out-of-body hallucinations, as surgical patients can attest. The sensations would be just as real for my dog, even though she wouldn’t talk about it-and I hope she never has to endure the brain surgery involved. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish have functionally similar neural circuitry, so the roots of mysticism go way back in time. Spirituality, then, has evolved, and we share it with other animals.

I’ve made a distinction here between spiritual states of mind and religion, leaving that discussion to Sam Harris.  And I leave it to you to answer this related question: Do animals have souls? What are your thoughts?

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7 Comments

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    Kelly says...

    November 5th, 2010, 4:41 pm

    Yes, they do have souls.

    Kelly says...

    November 5th, 2010, 4:42 pm

    A better question might be, “Do all human beings have souls?”

    angelofthewest says...

    November 6th, 2010, 4:53 am

    Why on earth would other creatures not have souls if we do???

    We’re basically the same as most monkeys. We’re just a bit weird, that’s all. But we’re not special by any means.

    Ann says...

    November 6th, 2010, 7:19 pm

    I woke up this morning with my three little cats curled up against me, purring.

    I’ll bet anyone who has ever experienced a cat or dog or other companion animal’s love would agree they definitely have souls.

    chris brazis says...

    November 10th, 2010, 12:46 am

    The eyes are the gateway to the soul. Just look deeply and you will see.

    nancy says...

    December 27th, 2010, 8:44 pm

    I’ve seen dogs and cats look at the clouds/sky and you could tell they were in a spiritual place- even if that just means appreciating the universe and its wonder just as some humans do.

    Prime Spiritual says...

    January 2nd, 2012, 1:14 am

    @Kelly
    A better question might be, “Do all human beings have souls?”
    That would have been very apt.

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