Is Nature Sentient?
People who believe in God the way religions relate to Him attribute to Him feelings and thoughts, and communicate with Him the way we communicate with any powerful individual who determines our fate: We aim to please Him, and in return seek His favor. But what about nature? Is nature sentient? Should we please nature? And if we should, how can we do it?
The wisdom of Kabbalah does not distinguish between nature and God. In the essay “The Peace,” the great 20th century kabbalist Baal HaSulam explained that nature and God are synonymous, so when we speak of nature, we are actually speaking of God, and when we speak of God, we are actually referring to nature.
This mechanism is evidently intelligent. Everything within it is intricately and wisely tied to everything else, and all parts of creation are moving in synchrony toward increasing merger. Just as ants or schools of fish think and act as one, guided by their synchronized intelligence, everything around us operates in congruence; everything but man.
However, in the wisdom of Kabbalah, nature is not a “bookkeeper” who checks our balance of good deeds or bad deeds and rewards or punishes us accordingly. Nature is a super intelligent mechanism that creates everything, conducts everything, and guides everything to its purpose of complete unity and harmony with all of reality. Nature continually develops creation toward greater complexity, from the atomic level through the mineral, vegetative, animate, and human levels.
On the human level, we evolve the way all of nature is evolving. We first huddled in clans, which grew into villages, villages into towns, towns became countries, and today, when the entire world is one global village, people, animals, plants, and minerals are all part of one, interdependent system. We have become a single mechanism threaded and laced throughout the world.
Moreover, this mechanism is evidently intelligent. Everything within it is intricately and wisely tied to everything else, and all parts of creation are moving in synchrony toward increasing merger. Just as ants or schools of fish think and act as one, guided by their synchronized intelligence, everything around us operates in congruence; everything but man.
Humans are the only element in nature that has been denied the instinctive knowledge of right from wrong, and when to do what. But this, too, was done for a purpose. The only element missing in the perfect creation around us is the awareness of our life’s purpose. Awareness cannot be pre-installed; it has to be acquired. This is why we are born devoid of any knowledge about our world. In fact, we are born so helpless that at first, we cannot even reach our mother’s nipple for food, or defecate without making a mess of ourselves. No animal young is as helpless as a newborn baby. However, it is done on purpose, so we will learn everything from scratch, and at the end of the process reach the zenith of creation and become as intelligent as the system that has created us — nature (or God).
Since the “nature” of nature is harmony and merger, and since we must acquire the awareness of the goal, when we are born, we are completely opposite from it, so we will learn every aspect of harmony and merger. The problem is that while we are opposite from nature, we are nothing but a menace, destroying everything around us like senseless children. But as we learn to work in unison, as we become aware of the vitality of unity and solidarity to our understanding of creation, we also learn how to conduct ourselves more wisely, in line with nature’s disposition, and the conflicts we feel among ourselves and with nature become tailwinds that push us forward.
As long as we are obstinate, we suffer. We pollute the sky, the water, and the soil. We deplete the abundance that nature has given us in order to achieve power and control; we use and abuse each other, kill, rape, and denigrate each other as though only we are entitled to enjoy life, and we leave nothing for the future. We behave like grownup children, with bodies of grownups but the mind of a child.
If we focus on connection, we will find the right track and clean up the mess we have created. If we keep demanding for ourselves and shun nature’s disposition toward harmony and merger, our escalating conflict with nature will inflict on us worsening adversities. We may be smart, but we are very unwise. If we truly want to do good for us, we must first learn what we know, what we don’t know, and how we can learn what we must do to help ourselves. If we listen to nature’s intelligent mechanism, go along with its trajectory toward increasing cohesion, life will be much easier and simpler than the havoc we have wreaked upon ourselves.