An American who thinks you are conceited might tell you that you’re ‘too big for your britches.’ Ecologically speaking, the trouble with the human race is that it’s too big for its niches. Our niche is our ‘house’ (Greek oikos, source of both economy and ecology).
‘It is estimated that to support our present Earth population at the level enjoyed in North America would require two or three planets’ (Berry 1999, 114). The irony is that the ‘level enjoyed in North America’ is not really enjoyed – like any addiction, it simply perpetuates its own craving. Actual enjoyment comes only with mindful experience, with the cessation of craving.
The cure for that addiction lies in the recognition of ‘big mind,’ as Shunryu Suzuki called it, or ‘expanding mind outwards’ as Bateson did.
Freudian psychology expanded the concept of mind inwards to include the whole communication system within the body – the autonomic, the habitual, and the vast range of unconscious process. What I am saying expands mind outwards. And both of these changes reduce the scope of the conscious self. A certain humility becomes appropriate, tempered by the dignity or joy of being part of something much bigger. A part – if you will – of God.
If you put God outside and set him vis-a-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks and conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables.
If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or, simply, of overpopulation and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.— Bateson (1972, 461)
The unconscious, then, is not a closet full of skeletons in the private house of the individual mind; it is not even, finally, a cave full of dreams and ghosts in which, like Plato’s prisoners, most of us spend most of our lives …
The unconscious is rather that immortal sea which brought us hither; intimations of which are given in moments of ‘oceanic feeling’; one sea of energy or instinct; embracing all mankind, without distinctions of race, language, or culture; and embracing all the generations of Adam, past, present, and future, in one phylogenetic heritage; in one mystical or symbolical body.— N.O. Brown (1966, 88-9)
We must recognize that the only effective program available as our primary guide toward a viable human mode of being is the program offered by the Earth itself.— Thomas Berry (1999, 71)
No special set of teachings will save the world. The world is only saved by continuous learning, which in the latter day redeems the former teachings. The savings and the learnings do not accumulate but recycle themselves.