Our collective conclusion seems to be that nature, both in whole and in many parts, is magically self-reflecting and aware

A short excerpt of Chapter 6: Entities from Trialogues at the Edge of the West by Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Rupert Sheldrake.

TERENCE: In our culture, we tend to move into cities that push nature away from us. In our mental environment, we do the same thing. Most people live within a very conventionalized set of notions that are deeply imbedded in a larger set of notions. When we go to the physical edges, such as the desert, jungle, and remote and wild nature, and when we go to the mental edges with meditation, dreams, and psychedelics, we discover an extremely rich flora and fauna in the imagination. This realm is ignored because of our tendency to see in words, to build in words, and to turn our backs on the raging ocean of phenomena that would otherwise entirely overwhelm our metaphors.

RUPERT: If we ask what has caused this blindness, we might answer that it's the satanic spirit of science. In the seventeenth century, the spirit of Satan was portrayed in Milton's Paradise Lost, with a whole taxonomy of various demons and fallen angels that acted as malevolent powers, such as Mammon, the demon of commercial greed. The primary sin of Satan and of the other fallen angels like Mammon was pride, the turning away from God toward their own self-sufficiency. This was the beginning of the whole humanist illusion that turned away from the spirit world and declared humans to be self-sufficient. From this point of view, all gods, demons, and spirits are projections of the human mind, creating a kind of anthropocentric universe.

TERENCE: Humans are said to be the measure of all things.

RUPERT: This is humanism. To adopt the alternative tradition of animism and to recognize the living spirits and souls of all nature is profoundly repugnant to humanism, yet it is the common ground of all human civilization, thought, and tradition. As in Goethe's Faust, the paradigmatic scientist sells his soul to the devil in return for unlimited knowledge and power. The guiding spirit of modern science, according to the Faust myth, is a satanic demon, a fallen angel called Mephistopheles.

      How seriously do we need to take the idea that our whole society and civilization is under the possession of such a spirit, worshiped through money and power? Milton describes Mammon in Paradise Lost:

Even in heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beautific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransacked the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their Mother Earth
For treasures better hid.


     This is an accurate description of our whole civilization. How much are fallen angels actually guiding and perverting the progress of science and technology? Is a great war between the good and evil angels being acted out on Earth? We hardly know how to think or talk about such possibilities since they are so alien to the official, standard models of Western history.

TERENCE: Returning to the subject of discarnate entities, I keep going back to this thing about language. It's as though the field of language itself must be prepared for communication with these beings. In the West, there has been a peculiar stiffening of language against the ability to express this kind of communication, but it is beginning now to break down.

RALPH: It's true. We have to misuse our language even to talk about these things.

TERENCE: Linearity in print and thought has made language unable to deal with the invisible world in any meaningful way, except as pathology. Now this invisible world is returning to the language through people like us with one foot in each world.

      The human mind is haunted both by the many presences sensed within the self and by a confused sense of self. Wherever we turn in the world of nature and the psyche, we encounter life, animation, and a willingness to communicate that confounds the fragile pyramid of boundary consciousness and human values that have emerged over historical time through the suppression of our intuitions.

      I've taken the position that these entities we encounter are nonphysical and somehow autonomous. Ralph, as I understand him, accepts this view but anchors it into the Neoplatonic trinity of body, soul, and spirit. From this point of view, these entities are inhabitants of the spiritual domain of the logos. They are the logos become self-reflecting and articulate. Rupert correctly points out that it's in the realm of dreams that we most commonly encounter entities, and he further suggests that behind these entities is the controlling agency of the world soul. His notion is that the world soul actually communicates to human beings through the production of forms that we interpret as the denizens of an otherwise invisible and mythological world.

      Our collective conclusion seems to be that nature, both in whole and in many parts, is magically self-reflecting and aware. Encountered in its most rarified expression, the world speaks to us, and we, as scientific rationalists are confounded. Nevertheless, it is for us to mold our models and theories to the world as it presents itself in immediate experience, not as we would have it in some grand and sterile abstraction. The elves and gnomes are there to remind us that, in the matter of understanding the self, we have yet to leave the playpen in the nursery of ontology.

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