Sentientism is the most profound and also the most inclusive ethical system to date. It is the only ethical system that truly requires a non-narcissistic attitude of complete acceptance of the Other. It means the recognition of a Divine Soul, a Divine Person, in all sentient beings, regardless of external form.
Even the greatest humanocentric moral systems still are based on a common speciest premise, that all human beings are special, and hence one has an obligation to other human beings. But there is this obligation because of identity, and ultimately, projection of the ego. This is in no way to denegrate the good work that humanocentric ethical systems and charities do, the sacrifices, the spiritual lives lived, the transformations undergone. Indeed, many people who live such lives are far more dedicated and self-sacrificing then I could ever attain. But it is all about lines of development. They are very highly developed on the empathic Heart-centered human level of consciounsess, but have not yet extended this beyond the human species. Ultimately, and I say this with still the greatest admiration for such people, and in no way meaning to criticise, but there is still a limitation, a certain anthropocentric feeling. There is because of the conditioning of thousands of years, or even hundreds of thousands, of humanocentric thinking, that it is okay to eat animals, or in otehr ways exploit, use, and abuse them.
Even the highest and most spiritual environmental consciousness, such as deep ecology for example, which values nature for its own sake, is still tied in with a sense of spiritual and aesthetic appreciation of nature. So one still gets something out of it. But with pure sentientism, you do not "take", you have to "give". And that is the highest ethical consciousness of all. It is not surprising that vegetarians and environmentalists, who should be allies, are "dissing cousins"
Sentientism is the most confronting ethical system ever formulated. It involves giving up many of one's pleasures, such as the pleasure gained by feasting on the flesh of another, former living, feeling, and loving being. In reply to a friend who had written in an email that she had enjoyed a meal of beef and chicken:
"Would you have enjoyed your meal as much had you experienced even a tiny glimpse of the miserable imprisonment, lived in darkness and squalor & filth, that these poor creatures had to endure, before being shipped to the slaughterhouse, to die in terror, throats cut, just to please the palate of their human oppressors and murderers?"
(A small selection of links here: Cruel Confinement (Humane Society of America), Undercover Investigation Exposes Shocking Cruelty at California Egg Factory Farm, The Truth About Pigs (Animals Australia Unleashed), Factory Farming (Go Veg); many many more links are available for those who care to look)
Of course there is absolutely nothing unusual in my friend's attitude, which is represnetative of teh mass consciousness. I found this quote (from Jane O'Hara's The Animal Lounge blog) instructive:
Moby (vegan) asked Al Gore this in an interview:"I asked Al Gore about why he didnít mention this in An Inconvenient Truth [as animal production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than every car, bus, truck, bus, plane and boat on the planet combined]. He answered honestly, basically saying that getting people to drive a hybrid car isn't that difficult. Getting people to give up animal products is almost impossible. I appreciated his honesty."
I do too. Yet this shows the difference between Pluralistic consciousness, represented by Al Gore and the Green movement, which is trying to advance the planet from a selfish or at best exploitative level to a sustainable one, but which is still in a sense self-centered (because if the ecosystem goes, so do you) to sentientist consciousness, which represents a far higher degree of development, the first that is totally selfless in every way.
In this way, sentientism thus involves confronting the last taboo: that our civilization is based on the murder of billions, trillions of living and loving beings. Why do people have such qualms about cannibalism, when they have no qualms about feasting on the flesh of non-human animals? Ultimately it is the same. Those are the bodies of beings that once lived, felt, loved....
It must surely also be the case - if the universe is a moral place, as I believe it is - that such actions cannot go without having some extreme counter-effect. It has been suggested to me (and this idea has also been championed also by the Hare Krishnas, although not from the full perspective, because they still have an exoteric understanding) that for as long as human beings mistreat animals, they will receive the karma in return, and there will always be wars and attrocities and crimes and terrorist acts.
Even superficially - this has nothing to do with karma on the subtle levels - but even exoterically, it is obvious that the cruelty and lack of empathy in man's treatmant of animals engenders man's inhumanity to man. Even if one is not an animal lover (although anyone who doesn't have some measure of sensitivity for all beings regardless of external form is, I believe, is intrinsically lacking in empathy) it still is a real fact that speciest attitudes of abuse of animals are also tied up with misogyny, racism, and other forms of chauvinism. Just as serial killers commonly start out by torturing small animals, and murdering small animals and then progresses to human victims, so it is the same with society. They begin with animals, who, being objectified as the Other, they are allowed to mistreat, and work their way up to specific human minorities, who are similarily objectified. It is the same consciousness at work, an adverse consciounsess that is the opposite of the spiritual transformation that is required to spiritualise this world.
In this context, at least three books can be recommended:
Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust by Charles Patterson (title coined by the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, a true compassionate individual, and a hero to me, for his observation that "for animals, every day is Treblinka". Ironically, Jews are still as bad as Christians in their treatment of animals.)
The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, Marjorie Spiegel - shows that the exploitation of animals provided a model for the enslavement of humans - the book is worth it for the illustrations alone!
The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory - Carol Adams - the exploitation and objectification of women is intimately tied into the treatment of animals.
It is not hard to see the connections here. Woman, black, jew, the "other", to be exploited and used at will. Why then discriminate, assuming that humans are "special"? All the same arguments used to claim that Man is unique has been used in these cases. But the horror is so great that people refuse to believe. And why should they, when their palates are so well served, the factory farms and abattoirs so well hidden, the propaganda so insidious, the marketers of death so well funded?
To be a sentientist means to have a remarkably developed sense of spiritual empathy. Because most people today are only at a selfish or dualistic stage of consciousness, with some pluralistic and an even smaller number holistic, it is obvious that not everyone can have the consciousness of Gandhi or Ramana (although I believe every sentientist does, as regards feelings to animals). I will also say as regards myself that I was once as insensitive as regards this issue as the next person. When I remember back at how i used to be, it seems impossible that it was the same person (indeed, the Buddhists say we are not the same person from moment to moment). The thing is, when you have known a non-human animal personally, personally, not as a thing, an object, but as a being with a emotions, feelings, sensitivity, that feels love and joy, loneliness and fear, curiosity, possessiveness, pain and terror, then you will understand what sentientism truly means.
Among scientists, Marc Bekoff is to be commended. He is the only scientist I know of who truly understands animal consciousness, and can argue in a scientific, not merely a philosophical context. And that is because of his degree of empathy.
At present sentientism is most associated with the animal liberation movement, with secular philosophers like Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Richard Ryder. This is good, and to be expected, because secular modernity represents the current most progressive stage of collective consciousness. But it also may give advocates of Christianity the excuse to think that they are somehow excused, that God gave Adam or Moses a special disposition to slaughter and enslave, that their religion allows them to believe that animals don't have feelings, that they don't have a divine soul, and God does care for oxen (this is not only the case with Christianity; a friend who follows the Oahspe Book - a 19th century channelled communication - also holds a very anthropocentric moral position). For such people I would recommend Andrew Linzey's book "Animal Theology". Andrew Linzey is to Christianity what Isaac Bashevis Singer is to Judaism. It is heartening to discover such elevated consciousness in these two religions and cultures which are not traditionbally known for special kindness to non-human animals.
It has been said that for some, this world is verily hell. I agree with this statement. For the untold billions of living, feeling, loving beings suffering under the burden of man's oppression, who will never get redress, who will never be comforted, except when death finally releases them from their slavery, so they may ascend with the angels.
This is how it has been ever since man mastered the Earth. But it need not always be this way. We who have conquered the Earth have the responsibity - the unavoidable moral, ethical, responsibility - to ensure that all sentient beings are treated fairly. Indeed, this is part of the work of transformation, of building a new civilization, and ultiamtely of Divinising the Earth. But such transformation can never occur, until non-human sentients are treated with the same consideration as human sentients. And conversely, it may well be that non-human sentients will not be treated with the same consideration as human sentients until this transformation occurs. The two go hand in hand. It is part of the process of tikkun that this must be done. And this is the mighty task that those who are called to this Work, and whose empathy and spiritual development is such that they cannot but live by the sentientist ethic, contribute to.
That is why the world has to change. No system of spirituality and individual and collective transformation today that does not address this issue can be considered complete.
But such is the state of present human consciousness that this is a matter given only low priority, even among progressive individuals. Unlike human and environmental rights and sensitivity, Sentient Rights are still greatly underrepresented in the current New Paradigm/Integral Movement/Global Mindshift. It is not that those involved are callous and don't recognise its relevance; but rather that the mental framework just isn't there yet. A totally new worldview is required, to create a totally new civilization and totally new world.
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