I had little scientific basis for my claims. It wasn’t that I didn’t have evidence, but it was more one of those “if you see something say something” kinds of scenarios. I have been claiming for many years that animals experience some kind of spirituality. My evidence was drawn from disparate scientific materials I’d read, along with ancient religions. Egyptians believed baboons worshiped the sun. Chimpanzees make threatening gestures toward the sky during thunderstorms. Penguins grieve. Human spirituality, it seems to me, is part of our kinship with other living creatures. Then I found an article by none other than Marc Bekoff titled “We’re Not the Only Animals Who Feel Grief and Spirituality,” in no less a prestigious place than Psychology Today. Bekoff, some of whose books I’ve reported on here, has studied animal emotions professionally.
Our ideas of human exceptionality, it seems to me, often get us into trouble. Arrogance is perhaps the most dangerous of psychological states. When we see ourselves as part of a continuum, and realize that it can go on beyond us—yes, there are likely greater intelligences—humility should be an expected response. Those who are arrogant frequently experience their comeuppance, even if they have to get elected to high office for it to happen. We share emotions with our fellow creatures, and, now according to at least one expert, we share spirituality. What is spirituality? It seems to be an awareness that the body isn’t everything. In my lexicon it’s listed there right with consciousness, mind, and soul. We know it because we feel it.
The interconnectedness of the world, and beyond, is something many want to take exception from. Looking around, such folks say, “Hey, we’re different than all of this.” Yes and no. We’re different, but that makes us no less a part of it. Nature is our matrix. We build fancy houses, but so do bower birds, and they do it without benefit of opposable thumbs, or even hands. Of late we seem reluctant to admit that even human beings have spirituality. That doesn’t stop us from feeling it, however. I’m glad that others see it in the animal realm also. Anyone who’s “owned” a dog knows what it’s like to receive worship. We’ve selectively bred these wolves to adore us. Is it so much of a stretch, then, to suppose that other animals also feel a sense of admiration for what’s beyond themselves? Only the most arrogant wouldn’t pause to consider it.