Something Otherworldly Hovers Just Beyond What We Can See!
Watching a Stellar Jay flit from branch to branch in a pinyon pine tree near my camp gives me firsthand understanding of an ancient concept rarely talked about today – the Great Chain of Being.
I watched the jay for some time from a lean-to down by the river in the Rio Grande Gorge.
I leisurely observed how the mysterious links progressed in huge leaps upwards in the great chain.
The gravely soil at the base of the pinyon tree is where it all begins.
Then, just as the pinyon grows up from the soil, so too it leaps up to a higher link, because it has life, leaving the completely inanimate soil.
And then the Scrub Jay flits about in the pinyon, taking another giant step upwards with its rudimentary consciousness seeking its food where it believes insects and pinyon nuts are juicier.
And of course, taking all this in, I am the top link of the chain of being, with another extraordinary jump in the chain — my awareness of being conscious.
Soil, tree, bird and I, having our levels of life, consciousness, and self-awareness in the hierarchy of chain links, could this be ground for another great leap in the chain?
We so readily take these leaps for granted, not realizing the marvelous mystery they may be concealing.
I’m Big On Taking a Closer Look.
Our ancestral forebears were wiser than we give them credit. They found the incremental hierarchy of the Chain of Being to have great significance.
A short list of the links can be drawn up like this.
Soil = Mineral
Pinyon = Mineral + Life
Stellar Jay = Mineral + Life + Consciousness
Human = Mineral + Life + Consciousness + Self-awareness
It’s those “plus signs” of the links that carry the big mystery.
The Inner Nature of the Chain of Being
It is in the nature of the leaps.
The pinyon, a step higher, possesses life, something mysterious that enables it to perform all the functions of a living tree. Sounds so commonplace. Yet so little is known about what life actually is.
We know it when we see it. But we can’t put our fingers directly on it, any more than we can put our fingers directly on gravity or electro-magnetism. Yet we know they exist because we observe what they do.
It takes little to know whether a pinyon is dead or alive. When dead its trunk, branches and needles become lifeless rotting wooden trunk and branches. But, a live pinyon continues to grow.
Then there is the jay, a bit higher on the chain, which has sufficient rudimentary consciousness to build its nest, feel fear, pain and hunger, to seek food where it likes and care for its young.
We know what consciousness is, but have no way of describing it or explaining it. And yet we know it when we see it.
It’s easy to tell if a jay is conscious or not.
I’ve seen a jay knock itself unconscious by flying into the window of our casita back home.
My wife, Joy, checked to make sure it was still breathing. And after a bit the jay wobbled, shook its wings and flew away.
Another jay that also banged into our casita window was not so lucky. It didn’t recover consciousness and died.
Joy placed the critter in a little coffin she fashioned from a matchbox and buried it in our yard.
I Am the Top Link In the Chain
In addition to the two incremental links of a stellar jay – life and consciousness – I have a power that birds and beasts do not have. And it is just as mysterious as life and consciousness.
I have self-awareness and am aware that I am conscious. I am able to call myself “I.”
Self-awareness enables me to take all the steps necessary to purposely bring home my memories and insights, sit here and write about it.
Great Leaps In the Great Chain of Being
One mystery of the Great Chain is that its three incremental leaps – life, consciousness and self-awareness – are invisible.
We know they are there. And know when they are not. But we cannot see or sense them.
Then too, adding to the mystery, these three attributes can be destroyed.
You can destroy life, consciousness and self-awareness. But you cannot destroy rocks or dirt.
A rock can be crushed into grains of sand. Fire can burn a log, but that just converts it to smoke and ashes. Inanimate matter cannot be destroyed.
Finally, none of these three – life, consciousness and self-awareness – can be created.
Each attribute – life, consciousness, self-awareness – is created at for the levels of the chain, but out of what?
Life cannot be created out of dirt.
Consciousness cannot be created out of life.
Self-awareness cannot be created out of consciousness.
None of them can be created by anything I’ve ever heard about in the scientific lexicon.
What’s Above the Highest Link In the Chain of Being?
I wonder if the invisible links of the Great Chain of Being actually end at our self-awareness.
If there is something more, right now, today, wouldn’t it be a mystery we just have not yet noticed.
Science continues discovering new things almost daily that it hadn’t known just a few weeks earlier.
One of its latest discoveries is dark energy and matter.
And scientists confess they know less five percent of anything about either. They only have clues that dark energy and matter are there. Somewhere out there.
So isn’t it just possible that there might also be something lurking “out there” higher up the Great Chain of Being waiting to be discovered?
We just might find something like angels up there, just as our forebears believed angels were next higher in the chain than humans.
Just because we can’t see them is no reason to believe they aren’t there. After all, we can’t see life, consciousness or self-awareness.
And we in the West have just recently become aware of techniques for expanding our self-awareness – meditation, yoga, intuition, prayer.
Might we be right on the cusp of something higher up the Great Chain, something amazing and well beyond our self-awareness.
It might be real eye-opening. I mean real inner eye-opening!
What do you think?
The long, broad history of mystics of all times – East and West and Middle East – give surprisingly consistent evidence of what they have found in this cloudy area.
It may be worth taking a peek.
I’d really love to hear from you about this.
Please add your take in the comment section below.