This Category, *Pagan Ethics, contains a series of posts that are a commentary on a book – Living with Honour – written by Emma Restall Orr.  My interest in Pagan ethics emerges out of a need to capture in words the attitudes and behaviour that might manifest out of a person’s love of Gaia and dedication to an Earthen Spirituality.  Emma’s beautiful book, which I at first eagerly skimmed, then read slowly and carefully and now enjoy re-reading has stimulated my thinking and inspired the comments in these posts. I obviously highly recommend the book and hope that my commentary serves the spirit of *Pagan Ethics and challenges the reader to examine their attitudes and world view toward a greater reverence for our place within and among the life of Gaia.  As my one-time friend Wolf says, may Gaia bless.


Death, Dualism, Consciousness and Panexperientialism


Why the long word panexperientialism?  Probably because narrowing down aspects of a previous long word often results in even longer words.  This one is a refinement of panpsychism, a view that all matter has a mental aspect.  I suspect a lot of Pagans would agree with this proposition and it may be closely related to what Emma has in mind when she says: “*Paganism is non-dual.”  “Panexperientialism, as espoused by Alfred North Whitehead, is a less bold variation, which credits all entities with phenomenal consciousness but not with cognition, and therefore not necessarily with full-fledged minds.”


Now, I don’t have the faintest idea of what a less than full-fledged mind looks like. However, I do have vast respect and stand in awe of Alfred North Whitehead.  An aside, I’ll probably never forget a moment the first or second time I sat in the Depauw University library at the tender and seriously ignorant age of 18 and picked up a book by Whitehead.  I couldn’t get through the first page!  I thought, holy smoke, what have I got myself into here.  Then a couple of three years ago I tried again and managed a few pages but oh my, what a mind.


I’ve introduced the subject of death in my first blog and promised to follow up with the next one.  But first, let me talk a little about dualism.  The *Pagan attitude towards dualism colours attitudes about death. The subjects dualism and consciousness have been analysed, rationalised and categorised such to make all but the most experienced philosophers swoon with a splitting headache. Simply and historically, dualism depicts reality as divided into two separate, fundamental aspects – mind and physicality or spirit and matter.  *Paganism is non-dual.  In a non-dual world there are only manifestations of energy, spirit, song or essence; whatever or however one chooses to name it.  *Pagans don’t hold that a separate spirit leaves the body after death.  To me, death is the start of a change of path and identity for all bodily materiality.  Consciousness channelled by the organism stops coordinating a coherence of multiple parts the manifestation of which we term life.  Transfiguration and changes that we call decay set in and materiality breaks down often into its constituent parts.  Dust to dust so to speak.


Considered from a distance, so to speak, Earthly life is cyclical, tremendously diverse and the material constituents constantly recycled from organism to organism.  Assuming, for a moment, that all life-forms are actually limbs and sensory faculties of Gaia expressing according to their ability Gaia’s consciousness, again I ask, who dies?  Now, from a human being perspective, which is the only embodied perspective open to us, the above only makes sense is when we realise that we ARE the planet. Jean Klein, speaking from a Hindu Advaita Vedanta, non-dualistic viewpoint, might say that we can never observe our consciousness because we are what we are looking for.  Our consciousness is not a separate object that we can perceive. One might as well expect the eye to be able to see itself seeing.  Further, there is no separate “me” in here seeing something, there is only the seeing.


Let me follow on at this point with a perspective that is gaining acceptance.  Our dualistic science and scientific method tends to trap us into an either/or research outcome.  I expect many scientists continue to ignore the results of the famous Schrodinger’s cat thought paradox. The results of the experiment contradicts common sense.  In case you are not familiar with it, “A cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal monitor detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other.”’s_cat



Situations such as the one above lead us to amend our either/or expectations to the realisation that many situations are actually both/ and.  Now of course, in our everyday reality, a cat cannot be both dead and alive according to the instrument{s} observing reality at the time.  However, at another level of consciousness and another type of observing instrument at an extremely smaller or larger physical size, such might be the case.

A carbon element, for example, has 6 electrons, 2 electrons in its inner shell and 4 in its outer shell. Carbon is very brittle, and cannot be rolled into wires or pounded into sheets.  Yet, at nanometer sizes and a cylindrical shape, they become 10 times the tensil strength of graphite or coal.  They also exhibit high conductivity and heat conductance properties.  I cite this example of carbon to illustrate that carbon has both high and low tensil strength according to its size and shape.  More and more we are finding that our differences of opinion and belief are subject to a both/and result due to different world views and levels of consciousness held by the contending parties.  Further, concepts such as ultimate reality, absolute truth and perfect repeatability may be unobtainable when considering a living planet and a living Universe.  The problem of convincing argumentation as to the anthropogenic responsibility for global warming is largely due to the limitations of the worldview of a majority of people.  Instrumentation designed for machines just are NOT VALID for measuring the behaviour of a huge, intelligent, living being.  I leave you with these quotes:


“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” Albert Einstein


“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there”   Roshi, Yasutani