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Stephen Jay Gould

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Rational Spirituality: Self-evidence of the Web of Life (or: How to quit dancing on the deck of the Titanic but still thoroughly enjoy life)

Copyright 2001, 2002, Dave Ewoldt and Allison Weeks-Ewoldt

   Pre-publication introduction and chapter pulls.


   The Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) is a methodology in applied ecopsychology. Webstring Science is a hypothesis of the attraction relationships that underlie the interconnected structure of reality. Webstring Science provides a framework for how the natural universe communicates its multi-sensory intelligence through the Web of Life. The scientific underpinnings are drawn from both current and ancient thought in the physical, natural and social sciences, and held together with current thinking in systems science.

   When one examines the results of evidence from the above fields, the inescapable conclusion is that attraction relationships hold everything from sub-atomic particles to ecosystems to economic systems together.

   The basis of the concept of Love on a Universal scale is that love starts as allurement, which is a form of attraction. This basic binding energy is found everywhere in reality. It is, for example, the beginning of the attraction sense of love of community. The activity of attraction is both the creation of being and the enhancement of life.

   Attraction relationships can be seen as the manifestations of a 5th Force within quantum mechanics, what Ervin Lazslo refers to as the subtle field. This subtle energy field that guides the cosmological evolutionary lifeforce is a Nameless, Intelligent, Attraction Love known by its acronym NIAL within the NSTP. Webstrings, taken from the experiential Web of Life model used by environmental educators, are the attraction relationships that bond quarks and biosystems. NIAL is the underlying field itself.

   As a method of psychologically therapeutic healing NSTP can have an extremely consciously profound effect and may even become a life altering experience for an individual. Some people express their experiences with Nature as a mental well-being with increased measures of self worth and esteem, others as a spiritual awakening or appreciation of Nature, of finding or sensing their Higher Power. Some people talk about experiencing a personal wholeness or a meaningful fulfillment in honoring the integrity and the unity of Nature. Others say they've learned that the greatest good can be simply to enjoy life and cause no undue harm, and then perhaps to take the next step: to constructively contribute to the community of all life in a harmonious actualization of balanced co-creative evolution.

   The NSTP recognizes that every individual is biologically, psychologically and spiritually part of Nature's nonpolluting, intelligent ways. However, humanity suffers great personal and global troubles because over 95% of our time and 99.9% of our thinking is disconnected from Nature. In compensation and through denial, we exhibit unreasonable, hurtful, greedy behaviors which negatively impact the health of all life on the planet-including humanity itself.

   The NSTP is an ecological process of healing the personal and environmental ills caused by the dualistic world view held by Western society and science. However, it goes far beyond treating just the symptoms and politics that are the result of this mindset. Rather, it has the potential to catalyze the major shift in human consciousness needed to overcome the destructive behaviors that are negatively impacting human and environmental health.

   Through a series of simple yet powerful sensory outdoor activities, the NSTP thoughtfully reconnects people with Nature's balanced, fulfilling intelligence. Destructive thinking is recycled, and participants not only personally experience the relationship between human and environmental health, but they become highly motivated to restore the wellness of humanity and the Earth.

   The Natural Systems Thinking Process produces the following results which contribute to the development of a healthy, informed citizenry of people highly motivated to promote and sustain environmental health and responsible relationships; long-term effectiveness and a lower recidivism rate when compared to traditional therapies; significant effectiveness in healing disorders such as stress and depression, decreasing measures of low self-esteem by increasing self-worth, and in overcoming substance abuse, violence and destructive behaviors; an increased desire to live sustainably, including a deep appreciation of 'natural systems' and satisfaction, happiness, and enjoyment without greed.

   As a scientific psychology and therapeutic methodology in restoring natural balance through personal wellness, the NSTP is being shown to be highly effective in a number of settings and populations, from at-risk youth to corporate structure. By psychologically reconnecting to Nature, we can reverse these self- and Nature-destructive activities and trends.

   Toward these ends, a NSTP based Nature reconnecting program: promotes physical and emotional health on a personal level; shows how to build the healthy and responsible relationships that we are all an intricate part of; and leads to social and environmental health by replacing greed and other destructive behaviors with the elegance of a Nature connected sustainability.

   Our most pressing need is for increased mental health and global ecological sustainability because Earth and all of its creatures need care and healing. The NSTP is enjoying increasing use by mental health professionals who deal with clients on a daily basis, and every environmental organization is aware of the need to educate the general populace in ecological awareness. The NSTP is also proving to be effective in making that education stick and become a part of a person's everyday lifestyle and decision making process. The Nature connecting techniques enhance personal growth in self-help programs and the fields of counseling, education and science teaching. The NSTP also contributes to spirituality, peace and environmental studies.

   The overall effect of the NSTP is to teach and enable people to enjoyably and positively take part in a consciously motivated and balanced co-creative evolution with Nature toward a sustainable world. People learn to think and live the way that Nature works.

   The NSTP shows that our multisensory intelligence consists of more than just our five mechanistically defined senses -- the Big5 handed down through science by Aristotle 2500 years ago. Over four dozen unique senses are a biological inheritance given to people and all other natural organisms by Nature. This multitude of senses is how we shape, refine and otherwise interact with the energy flow through us. Their relative strength/amplitude, hopefully guided by a rational and reasonable conscious, is how we create our environment and guide our evolution in the moment.

   These senses and their Webstring attractions to their analogs in Nature, acted out in that subtle field of the life force called NIAL, define through self-evidence the reality and the truthfulness of the totality of our human experience.

2) The Disconnection: Loss of Natural Spirit and Conformity Enforcers

   In the Euro-American educational system we were schooled in, we're told to not trust our senses. They'll lead you astray, make you appear foolish -- they are deceptive. Facts are only available from the measurable precision of the physical sciences, and only then when validated by mathematical formulas.

   The senses are said to be illusory. But by ignoring the senses we are not only ignoring a major portion of ourselves, but what appears to be the actual underlying reality of the physical universe itself.

   The senses are ambiguous. And yes, they do contain uncertainty, and we must be cautious, and pay full and complete attention to all of our webstring attraction senses. We must use both the new (rational/verbal) and the old (sensory/feeling) brain to make complete sense of our greater selves.

   To return to Nature we must also return to a sensory way of knowing. Our bodily senses bring us into contact with the breathing Earth around us in every moment. If we don't understand our interdependence and relationship to Nature, it is because we have disconnected our senses from their source. Dismissed them as irrelevant. Forgotten their significance.

   The senses, such as breathing and eating, are our most intimate connection to our source of life. The sensations and sensitivity of a bacterium give rise our our experience of sentience. This should then re-mind us that all we are, are gifts from NIAL.

   Our senses have co-evolved with the physical and sensuous world around us. Our tactile senses have been formed and informed by the shifting patterns and the varied structures in Nature. So too have our emotional senses been influenced by their source in NIAL and in all the other lives all around us. If we ignore our senses we imperil our own lives and the health of the Earth that supports our lives.

   We can not break free from our very intimate connections and attractions to the more than human web of influences that has co-created who we really are.

   While on the Friday Harbor to Anacortes ferry through northern Puget Sound one morning, one of the small islands called to me. I became fully cognizant that we are one, that little island and I. Its lifeforce and mine. The Island is the physical presence of another being. It moves along the Earth at its own speed. It interacts with its greater environment. It has its cells, organs, and life processes in its trees, its soil, and its streams. The Webstring attraction relationship we shared was a sensory dynamism between two ways of being animate manifestations of Earth and of NIAL.

   We humans are participants, we are not spectators. Both life and matter are both self-organizing and animate. Our consciousness, our sensuousness, our very soul is inextricably intertwined in the web of life. There is not a hierarchy of needs or any one organism more evolved and worthy. There is a diversely differentiated continuum of being with various uniquenesses that continuously contribute their gifts to each other.

   To fully sensuously experience who we really are, we must learn to speak and act in full awareness of our conscious and sensory intelligence-to our conscious and multi-sensory connection to the very much alive, sensuous intelligence and wisdom of NIAL.

5) The Strength of Diversity: Cultures, Goddesses, and NIAL in Politics (a greening of religion for the 21st century)

   Andrew Newberg's book, "Why God Won't Go Away", is a treatise on the biology of belief. It provides what I believe is some very clear evidence that the experiences we have in Nature when using the NSTP to follow our attractions allow us to feel our connection to the All in exactly the same manner as the spiritual experiences that the mystics of almost all religions live their entire lives for.

   There is evidence for a biological basis, and set of neurological processes, for what is generally known as mystical experience and the practice of mysticism. These experiences exist along a continuum starting with myth and then ritual, to spiritual awe, rapture and trance states, all the way up to complete unity experiences. These are the profound states that are normally only written about by mystics and poets. They don't normally invade the mundane world of us mere mortals.

   Ritual is not as strong as the meditative power of the mind in producing unitary states, but is important in the unifying effects of community. Even secular ritual contains spiritual components: patriotic rituals of flag saluting; greeting rituals, even a handshake, that recognize the sacredness of the individual.

   The first thing we must do is to redefine mysticism. Mysticism is an organic process, it is not a philosophy. It is the act of establishing your conscious relation with the Absolute (NIAL), a spiritual union with something greater than the self. I think that every organism that can be said to have consciousness has the capacity at some level to be a mystic. It's another gift from NIAL.

   "Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their oneness with the universe." - Black Elk, Oglala mystic and shaman.

   A sense of oneness with the Creative Lifeforce (NIAL) is the ultimate goal of all mystical traditions. This sometimes starts by quieting the mind as in meditation or by focusing the mind through chants, prayers or visualizations, and letting the spirit be released from the delusions of the ego.

   Being in community, becoming entranced by music, enchanted by art, feeling the peace and contentment of being in a natural area, and experiencing the "transforming intoxication of romantic love", are examples of "how it feels when the ego slips away and for a dazzling moment or two you vividly understand that you are a part of something larger." These experiences form a continuum of transcendent states that "are not religious in any formal sense" but exist along the same neurological continuum as the unity states of religious experience, up to and including Absolute Unitary Being. (Newberg, 2001.) It seems to me the only actual difference is the context, not the reality and worth of the experience.

   The psychology seems to be of egoless transcendent unitary states. Newberg keeps saying that these states are self-transcendence, but I think a modification, or refinement is necessary here. It is better understood as an awareness of the interrelated structure of reality, of the underlying field of subtle connections, the webstring attraction matrix of NIAL.

   It is not so much a shift from or a loss of the self, as much as it is bringing the self into balance with its greater body and spirit. We should not look at it as going away to something, but we should consider the self as becoming totally involved with something greater than the individual.


"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."
Frank Lloyd Wright


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