ANCIENT VIEWS OF NATURE= Bushido

1,

A good example of ‘balance’ in Nature is this. Since reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone park, the wolves have stalked and killed elk. Hard on the elk… But it has led to more willow trees, more beavers, and new bird habitat– birds driven out by elk over feeding have now returned..

Balance means the interconnectedness and interdependence of things, but it also means that to coexist in this whole with other beings and things, every being and thing has limits placed on its own expansion. Spiders stop flies expanding too much, like wolves stop elk expanding too much; any being or thing has its own niche, and if it expands beyond its ‘natural boundaries’, the Whole itself is harmed, and then that very being or thing will in the long run be harmed!

Acknowledging ‘limits on your expansion’, because it threatens other beings and things, and eventually threatens the Whole Fabric in which everything dwells, is not something human beings seem very good at, especially in the West. Unlimited expansion, to a point of sick fantasy, is at the heart of the recent financial collapse. The selfishness of the very few has jeopardized the continued survival of the vast many.

2,

Bushido — the ancient Samurai Way of Japan — rests in a number of formative elements, including Buddhism, and older still, Japan’s native Shamanism called ‘Shinto.’ Reading up about Bushido recently, by a famous Japanese author, I came across some interesting and very explicit statements about Nature.

Two claims stood out as worth always saying explicitly in any debate about Indigenous Shamanism versus [or vis a vis] Western science.

Both humanity and Nature [including the entire universe] are moral, and spiritual.

1—Bushido would reject the claim of T. Huxley — a great propagandist for Darwin in the 19th Century — ‘that the cosmic process is un-moral.’ This idea has become ingrained, taken for granted as merely obvious, in modern Western culture. But is it true? It is rooted in abstracting out of Natural phenomena only the one mechanical aspect, the aspect which is analyzable into discrete variables in cause-effect interactions. But that leaves much of the actual phenomena of Nature not noticed. What did the ancient samurai ‘see’ and ‘experience’ in Nature, and indeed ‘do’ with Nature, that led them to conclude that there is an inherent ethical dimension to the natural process in which living and non-living things inhere? We should not debate this issue on the level of ‘explanation.’ When you debate the sorts of explanation you need to make sense of things that is already much too abstract; start instead with the phenomena– all the phenomena, not just the parts which are reductionistic, but the holistic factors that are not ‘explained away’ by mechanistic theories, but simply overlooked. Look at the phenomena thoroughly, and contemplatively. Different dimensions, and different questions, crystallize if you really bother to immerse in the phenomena.. This acute noticing of new phenomena previously ignored is what leads to Kuhn’s ‘paradigm shifts.’ If we really plunge into Nature, and look and listen without the usual preconceptions, if we really just observe, experience, interact, will we notice ‘beauty’, ‘meaning’, even ‘ethical purpose’, that current Western science just filters out initially at the level of phenomena? If you only focus upon one limited set of phenomena easy to explain according to the mechanical model, then it is no great surprise when the theoretician comes up with a mechanistic explanation of these phenomena. This does not prove only these phenomena exist! But that is how modern Western science operates; it says, ‘only the phenomena we can fit our paradigm to are worth noting.’ Here, method legislates what exists.. If you can measure it, then it is real. But this puts cart and horse backwards. Aristotle got it right 2500 years ago, when he argued that science must be phenomenon driven, not methods driven.

Thus, what are the phenomena that can be seen, experienced, interacted with, ‘empirically’, which demand a non-mechanical paradigm to understand them, because they support the interpretation, contra T. Huxley, that on the contrary to his famous assertion, ‘Nature is moral’? This ethical dimension in Nature may challenge certain sorts of morality that we take for granted [those rationalizing ‘individualism’, for example], whilst supporting other sorts of morality we neglect or dismiss [those pointing toward communalism, interdependence, and opposite tendencies like yin and yang needing to be in balance].

2—Bushido would embrace the claim that not only is Nature moral, but even more important, Nature is spiritual. Spiritual forces, spiritual presences, spiritual dynamics, inhere the rhythms and textures of natural processes. This claim is not unique to Bushido, nor world-wide Shamanism. The Buddhists and the Greeks saw three levels in Nature, and indeed in all existing entities= [a] the gross or the sensible, [b] the subtle or the intelligible, [c] the pure or the mysterious. The Greek Christians saw the Logos as the meta pattern or ‘implicate order’ bringing all things together, not only in balance, but also in a togetherness of sharing. Thus this Logos in Nature has [a] flesh or material embodiment [b] blood circulating through-out all the cells of the body, and [c] bones binding everything together; these 3 levels correspond to ‘Body, Soul, Spirit.’ Hence St Maximos said that the Logos had 3 equally important incarnations= in Jesus, in Scripture, and in Nature. Logos is the Divine Light in Nature that undergirds its diverse designs and its oneness [unity in diversity], as the Spirit is the Divine Energies that move, dynamise, change, Nature.

But again, it is necessary to start with phenomena, before jumping to any interpretations. The key point is, on what phenomena do these interpretations rest? If you put the phenomenon first, as phenomenology requires you to do, then from studying the phenomenon without a priori theories, operational definitions, quantitative measurements, you empirically get immersed in qualitative, subtle/intelligible levels of gross/sensory things, and you even encounter the indwelling of what is pure and mysterious. In phenomenology, the emphasis is not on testing any hypothesis already formed, but on discovery which operates inductively– the conclusions, ideas, interpretations regarding the phenomenon’s qualitative meaningfulness ‘emerge’ out of the direct study of it. This method of phenomenology is empirical– indeed in some senses more empirical than the a priori logic to which much of science is glued.

God is not an explanation of anything; the divine is a reality that is seen, an experience, an encounter. The same is true of Nature— we see the divine active in Nature, we experience the divine active in Nature, we encounter the divine active in Nature. This is ‘phenomena’, right alongside the phenomena you can measure, analyze, reduce, explain. With these phenomena, you cannot predict and control them— the human is not in the driving seat. But that fact is part and parcel of their empirical nature as phenomena. You can be in I—Thou ‘with’ them, but you cannot be in I—It ‘towards’ them. Moreover, interpreting them authentically turns out to be a very different cognitive exercise to the usual sort of explaining; but that too tells you about the nature of what you behold, empirically.

In sum, all the primal peoples, many Shamanic, but some Buddhist and some Christian, who bore witness to the empirical ‘fact’ that Nature is [1] moral, and that Nature is [2] spiritual, were using, as their methodology, an early, non-formulated, but none the less perfectly cogent form of phenomenology.

Hoka hey!