By Penelope Smith

How can we separate ourselves from each other? By race, sex, size, species, belief systems...let us count the ways! Differentiation and separation are analytical functions that, when used in certain ways, can cause discord. When we emphasize differences instead of what unites us, such as our common essence and feelings, we can end up with varying degrees of domination, exclusion, harshness and even cruelty to those perceived as different.

     You've probably heard and been subtly conditioned by statements about the separation between humans and other animals. Until recent years, ideas about other species' inferiority were widely accepted. Now many scientific researchers are recognizing and shedding fixed ideas that prevented open observation, and they are coming up with different conclusions.

     One of these ingrained ideas was that animals were not intelligent or were greatly limited in brainpower compared to humans; they could not really think or make conscious decisions, as their brain mass and complexity prevented that. Now countless studies show complex decision making and problem solving ability in many species, even in those with relatively small brains.

     Then there was "tool using". Only humans were considered evolved enough to use tools to survive. Now this ability has been noticed in species as varied as chimpanzees and ants. Another idea was that only humans could be altruistic do things for others without any selfish reward in sight. Countless tales of animals of various species helping and saving humans and each other have refuted that notion.

     For centuries it was accepted that only humans used language and symbols. In recent years, much to the amazement of scientists, complex languages and use of symbols have been noted in a variety of species, from elephants to birds to bees. There is still a widespread thought that animals really don't understand as much as we do about the world, and are unable to express what we can through understandable language, but those ideas are gradually being eroded, too.

     Many people think animals lack self-awareness and a sense of right or wrong, as in our systems of ethics and justice. Modern researchers are seeing self-awareness and ethical concepts expressed in animal behavior and communication. In addition, through direct telepathic communication, it becomes clear that many animals have a deep sense of who they are and their purposes in life; they also have their own systems of right and wrong and deal out justice according to their group customs. While their ethical constructs may be quite different than what we're used to, look at the vast differences in these concepts and systems among human cultures on the earth. Animals usually do not belabor and question their awareness as much as 20th century industrialized humans do, but the awareness and acceptance of their own consciousness is present nevertheless, different in degree or quality in each individual but present in all species.

     I read that human beings are distinguished from all other animals by their ability to reach beyond the present and perceive the reality of other places and other times, to see things from a great height, above the usual scale of everyday life. My experience with countless animals refutes this. They have revealed their awareness of other places and times in this life, in other lives, on earth, in other places, in other dimensions, out of body, etc. They have insights as deep and astounding as any human I have ever communicated with. They usually feel and describe these states in less complex or verbose ways than intellectually-oriented humans, but the deep understanding is there.

     So, what will be the next way to separate humans from other species? Maybe that game has run its course, and we can concentrate instead on the fun of enjoying each other's viewpoints and realities from different body forms and spiritual perspectives.

     It makes much more sense to me to look at differences as expressions of the universe that make life wondrous, rather than trying to find barriers to segregate beings. The more you communicate directly and have a rapport with others of all species, the more the wisdom and unity of all are apparent and sources of mutual expansion. We can learn from our non-human friends to accept what is around us as it is now and feel the unity underlying all creation the divinity that we all share.