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..:: Predation ::..


Alan Schneider


            The subject of this essay is frequently perceived as quite gruesome in character – the process whereby individuals within species, and also whole species on occasion, are removed forcibly from the gene pool – predation.  Although this would seem to be the arena of biology, and I have no argument with this, it is also the implicit subject of spirituality – that which does not survive cannot experience, cannot learn from that experience, and cannot communicate about what was experienced and learned. 

            Our conscious experience of the world is the direct result of the process of biological evolution on this planet, as the immediate forum of the Physical Plane of manifestation. Animals may have one extent of experience of consciousness or another, but, with the possible exception of dolphins, this experience appears to be substantially less developed than ours. We have evolved to be a total organism that sustains and enhances conscious manifestation – our hands have opposing thumbs and extended fingers that support tool use, we stand fully upright, and have (for the most part) bimodal sense organs. We have one of the largest brains in the animal kingdom, and, again with the exception of dolphins, the most structurally complex – a complexity that supports extensive symbolic thought and communication. This latter capacity is expressed both vocally and pictorially in words, images, and script. We have also evolved an integrated sense of individual presence – the ego – existing in both a social and physical environment.

            All of our extended capabilities have been driven into manifest form by evolutionary pressures – scarcity of resources, the inherent violence of the elements, and, most significantly from the perspective of this article, the threat of predation. We have ascended to the peak of the food chain, consuming even our possible brothers in consciousness – the dolphins – and all other species of interest on the planet. We have become the dominant species on Earth and – as Shakespeare has remarked in Hamlet – are “The paragon of animals.”  

            And, like our ocean-going brothers, the dolphins, we are predators. In the case of humanity, this predatory behavior customarily takes the form of total consumption of all available resources in an area, coupled with the conversion of those resources into more human beings through the action of yet another of our ascendant characteristics – a heightened and voracious set of appetites, including our sex drive and attendant prolific reproductive cycle. New human beings possess the same behavioral traits as their parents, augmented by an additional evolutionary cycle of development.  If this development is more aggressive, they will almost certainly survive to reproduce even more aggressive offspring – if not, they will not compete as well, and will not be favored to reproduce as efficiently. 

            The observant reader will probably, upon pondering what has been presented thus far, realize that this evolutionary mechanism of change is concerned neither with the comfort of the participants, nor with their well-being, but arbitrarily with individual and interspecies dominance over the available resources present in the environment. What we see in evolution is the mechanism of change on Earth – a machine that automatically determines outcome based on individual and species advantages statistically across time. Nor is the inherent meaning of this process at issue. As Jung has said, and I have quoted often in these articles, “The meaning of life is that it is a battle.” We can explore our condition and identify other meanings as we see fit, but this meaning remains basic. And from the evolutionary perspective, the fact that we all individually lose this battle eventually at death is also not as important as the fact that we must compete for the available resources while still alive, and the successful competitors will survive and pass on their characteristics to successive generations in the ever-advancing gene pool. It is the gene pool that is the meaning of evolution and life’s endless battle, not the individual. 

             It is a matter of some perplexity that such an automated, arbitrary process could have resulted in sentient self-awareness as the apparent current peak of its manifestation. It would seem that consciousness was inevitable as a consequence of evolution on this planet. Since this conscious manifestation has only recently differentiated from the general animal background consciousness – estimates place our emergent ancestry arguably from about one hundred thousand to one million years ago based on available fossil evidence and various schools of interpretation – we can surmise that self-aware consciousness has just begun, and will continue to evolve with our species into the foreseeable future, provided that we continue to develop alternative resources and conserve the existing ones carefully. This is the crux of a major question regarding evolution. Since we are inherently automated consumers of all available resources, the evolutionary process may be an eventual dead end for our species – we may end up blindly consuming everything available and collectively end our days in violent strife and starvation as a race of beings. The evidence suggesting this outcome scenario is abundantly apparent in the form of the burgeoning human population present everywhere on the planet, coupled with a dwindling resource base. 

            In the face of this population “epidemic” that is overtaking the planet, we are witnessing the exacerbation of what has always been the fundamental reality of life on Earth – predation – in the form of social competition for available resources. This competition has resulted worldwide in the creation of a new class structure in the Post-Modern world composed of privileged “haves” who constitute a very small minority of the total population, and underprivileged “have-nots” who make up the vast majority of humanity.  In a word, today’s social predators tend to fall into the privileged bracket, while their victims fall into the underprivileged majority. One tends to see recognition of this condition in the use of such phrases as “killer instinct” and “mopping up” with reference to successful sales and contract activity in the business world – the arena of choice for competitors today. There are remaining pockets of so-called middleclass individuals around the world, but the relentless assault of the privileged through the extension of credit and market domination continues to affect attrition from above, while the equally relentless activities of the underprivileged – robbery, drug abuse, violence, extortion, and irresponsible breeding (to name a few) – affect attrition from below. Welcome to the world jungle today... 

            If we make it that far, a gene or gene complex that determines aggressive, predatory behavior patterns will probably be scientifically identified at some point in the future. This author is quite sure that such a complex exists, represented in varying degrees in the human genome, and that this phenomenon determines propensities toward aggressive human behavior.  Such a complex may exist in general in the animal kingdom as well. Certain species are known for their aggressive behavior toward not only other species, but each other as well. No species, however, is more prone to intra-species aggression than is humanity. We became each other’s predators with (and probably before) the advent of even primitive civilization, and before the ascendance of our species to our current dominant position in the food chain. The grand caveat of evolution is that aggression determines resource acquisition, survival, and reproduction, more or less in that order. 

            If left unchecked, our aggression will be our undoing as a sentient race. We must express self-interest as a consequence of individual identity, but this needs to be enlightened self-interest, steeped in compassion for each other, and tempered with the acceptance of eventual death as the final arbiter of the ego and the senses. Blind aggression driven by instinct has carried us up to the brink of destruction and will carry us over that edge into oblivion very soon now if we do not find a better way to carry on our interactions with each other. The question confronting our race now is whether our instincts and animal nature can be controlled by our wisdom and enlightened understanding. 

            It is quite possible that genetic aggression has a built-in failsafe mechanism that results in catastrophic termination when the process reaches a certain level of intensity in a population, human or otherwise. But, when one takes the most expansive perspective possible on human affairs – the perspective of Ascension – certain features of life become apparent as causative agents superseding even evolution. The continuum of experience that we know through the senses – the Physical Plane of manifestation – is seen to be fraught with difficulty and suffering for good reason – these conditions call into question the assumptions through which the ego conducts its affairs, opening the door to inquiry regarding possible additional information lying beyond sensory experience. As soon as the question “Why” is asked, the process of enlightenment begins, and may continue through extended investigation of the many altered states of consciousness that exist beyond the senses. This process of investigation has the immediate de-emphasis of aggression as one of its many benefits, along with the provocation of rational discourse as a social problem solving tool. It may be that aggression is simply a behavioral “bad habit” that can be adjusted to more positive levels of activity through simply interrupting the manifestation loop involved with another “good habit”, such as introspective therapy or meditation. The action of aggression is often synchronistically interrupted through spontaneous epiphanies that occur in the process of aggressive manifestation. The Logos is continuously speaking to us on the Physical Plane through such synchronicities, sending messages of guidance and enlightenment to the embattled Soul that is the real focus of individual human existence. It is our supreme challenge as sentient beings to learn to listen to these messages, and turn our lives in the directions they indicate.  

            When we do listen and act accordingly, the eventual result is a permanent check placed on our instinctual aggressive tendencies as we learn to act with enlightenment in accord with the best interests of the Soul, and the Logos as the source of that Soul and the source ultimately of all Being – including the mechanistic processes apparent on the material Physical Plane. The process of evolution itself is the result of the Divine Plan – this is the reason why it has culminated in the conscious self-awareness of at least one, and possibly more, species on this Earth. It is our challenge as thinking individuals to use our awareness wisely, not impulsively, to ensure the constructive, productive future development of our planet and, beyond that, the solar system. We stand at the crisis of this matter today, as instinct is pitted against enlightenment in what may well be the final contest of humanity. May love and grace prevail!


                                                                               - With Love, Alan -

                                                                        (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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