‘unnatural’ notwithstanding, there remains an uncomfortable itch in my mind as regards the usage of these words. This relates to the fact that these words do have a use despite the false dichotomization they imply. Let us see if we can come to further clarity regarding their value.
A human being sits at the pinnacle of the evolutionary story. The mammalian
brain reaches its highest development and complexity in the human, bestowing reasoning abilities, language, and equivocating desires and intentions and drives. It is said that human life is incredibly precious due to its being the only form of life known to us to be capable of the program of mental training required for complete liberation from the misery inherent to this form of existence. A bird cannot be trained to meditate not only because its repertoire of choices is limited by the programming of its instincts, but also because of the dullness of its awareness, if its measly responding to the world around it can even be called awareness at all.
Having been brought to the question of choice and its willful exertion as only we humans are capable of, we are approaching where I believe the crux of the issue resides. I believe that there are two courses of action possible, to generalize across all conceivable actions, if I may. I will call these ‘actions that are in line with the underlying reality’ and ‘actions that are conflicting with the underlying reality’. Another way to put it is actions born of wisdom vs. actions born of ignorance. I feel a certain appeal to referring to the former as being natural and the latter as being unnatural. Natural actions are those that are harmonious with the natural flow of which we spoke in the previous post. Conversely, unnatural actions are those that are out of tune with and which jar against the current of that flow.
It is clear that I cannot mean anything by the word ‘unnatural’ if by nature I a
referring to the total matter/energy flow of the universe. So, what meaning can this new construal of these words carry and how are their new referents to be sketched out? Again, I am driven to concede that no action can be actually unnatural, but only perhaps symbolically or metaphysically so. We talked previously about how nature refers to the flow of all matter/energy in the universe and its incessant change of form in accordance with the laws of physics. There is a common evolutionary pathway that everything traverses, a cosmic story unfolding across astronomical time-spans, from Big Bang to Big Crunch. What if we were to postulate that there is a correlative to this material story in the mental realm? I have in fact proposed just such an idea in a previous post about panpsychism. In short, I am proposing that the universe is a refracted singular entity that is evolving towards regained wholeness, and that this spiritual journey is mirrored in the cosmic changes that occur to our physical universe, such as its beginning as a singular dot of infinite energy density and its rapid expansion and the acceleration of galaxies away from each other, etc.
If so, we can tacitly suppose that there is a higher purpose, a grand scheme of things, a hidden end that this cosmic play is undulating towards. If there is such an end, then it is possible that not all the subcomponents of the cosmos are aiding the realization of this purpose. While some will be in opposition to it, others in support of it, and still others not impacting it much at all, the overall effect is the gradual progression towards unity and harmony. It is interesting to find a name for this anti-entropic force in the writings of Buckminster Fuller: synergy. This concept has received modern attention in the neuroscience academic community under the guise of a newer term, namely ’emergence’, but I think I shall retain Bucky’s term for its more general and pseudo-symbolic instantiation. Entropy is a pervasive force of nature favoring the increase of micro-information states, i.e. increase in ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’ or ‘uncertainty’. Synergy, on the other hand, is its apparently counteractive force that allows for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, through the complex interconnection and lawful arrangement and interaction of many individual sub-components, whose individual properties are not sufficient to predict the behavior of their vast aggregate. This emergence of pattern and order in a higher scale out of the chaotic soup of the lower scales appears to go against nature’s preference for disorder, and yet persists and progresses in spite of it.
To return to our topic of consideration, before we veer too far off track, what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘unnatural’? It seems rather intuitive then to identify the natural with components that are aiding the realization of the common goal, and the unnatural with whatever is subversive to that aim. In the human, whose willful action can be compared to a force of nature, and which can therefore be either aligned with that universal Omega point or otherwise. We can take as analogy a previous stage of evolution, namely from unicellular to multicellular life, where the unification of multifarious cells and variegated functions and specializations enabled their communal cooperation and the emergence of a higher level of patterned information. This synergetic aggregation is opposed by adventitious agents and pathogens that remain independent and parasitically prey on the multicellular organisms. While these are entirely natural phenomena, in the physical sense of ‘natural’, their action is unnatural in that it acts against the common interest and the ultimate goal of complete synergetic reunification.
I am satisfied with this discussion now, for the time being. In a strict sense of the word ‘unnatural’, it refers to nothing at all. However, the word retains its use in a deeper (or looser) sense of it where it refers to actions that are contrary to spiritual unification. Where this discussion gets rather entangled is how it refers to the common use of these words, consideration of which spurred me to begin this analysis in the first place. When people talk of processed foods, for example, as unnatural, they mean ‘artificial’ and use the word ‘unnatural’ because of the dichotomization shown to be false in the previous post. However, if a large logging corporation cuts down vast forest swaths and does not regenerate them, the consequences of which are the endangerment of the biosphere, then we would have to concede that such acts are unnatural, in the second sense of the word, i.e. contrary to harmonious reintegration with the All. Such actions stem from greed, which itself results from ignorance of the underlying unity of the Spirit, and therefore reinforces the apparent separation of this manifest level, which we described previously as being an entropic force, and which can also be compared to Dark Energy, the anti-gravitational repulsive force in the universe. Conversely, actions that are aligned are those which support the emerging unification of complex realities across scales in its upthrust towards the infinite, are intuitively thought of as natural actions, such as helping the needy, healing the planet, reconnecting to and merging with the underlying Spirit, and are those which stem from compassion and the wisdom out of which this flows.
May we all flow naturally towards the bosom of our cosmic ocean mother spirit!