“Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes, And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes The Tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass: Environment is but his looking glass.”
As A Man Thinketh, James Allen
The fundamentals of hybrid vigor were practiced by farmers and animal breeders thousands of years before Gregor Mendel discovered the genetic cause. Basically, two closely related species of plant or animal are crossbred and the offspring often retain the stronger traits of each parent. The phenomenon is not unique to biology and can occur in cultures, ethnic groups, philosophies, religions, ideologies and political constructs. The USA may be the greatest example of social-cultural hybridization in the world. Never have so many people, from so many diverse and disparate cultures, emigrated to a single, amalgamated geopolitical area.
The evolution video, It All Goes Together, narrated by Alan Watts, conjured up old memories of being in college and majoring in biology. Watts was born in England, emigrated to the US, studied and became an Episcopal priest. After five years, he left the church and became friends with Joseph Campbell (The Hero With A Thousand Faces). In 1950 he moved west to Sausalito, California where he became a colorful, controversial scholar in comparative world religions. This was the time of the “Beat Generation,” and Jack Kerouac and the “Dharma Bums” were questioning traditional social values and exploring alternative life styles. Watts was part of that generation and experimented with mescaline, LSD and marijuana. However, he would also meet poet/environmental activist Gary Snyder, who sparked his interest in environmentalism.
Later in his life, following in the footsteps of Muir, Emerson and Thoreau, he equated mystical experiences with ecological awareness. In doing so, he became an advocate of what has recently been called “Spiritual Ecology.” Also, he arrived at a belief system that hybridized elements of Eastern Philosophy and Christianity and suggested that the purpose of man is to attain “oneness” with the universe. I was intrigued with this because we frequently referred to: As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen, who also hybridized Buddhist elements and a proverb from The Old Testament; “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he becomes.” Allen’s book was acceptable because it was not “religious,” but focused on the importance of man’s thought process.
Although I found Watts’ descriptions of Nature interesting, his work was not referenced because he approached Nature from a religious and or philosophical perspective. All of our studies started with biology and focused on “the man of Nature and the nature of man.” This does not mean, however, that any discussions that arose about the hybridization between science and religion were forbidden.
Albert Einstein wrote:
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details.”
The point here is that Einstein did not approach God through a theological or philosophical perspective, but by probing the mysteries of the universe and being open and honest about the limits of “science.”
John Muir acted in a similar way when he wrote:“See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers’ plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul. All that is required is exposure, and purity of material. ‘The pure in heart shall see God!”
This quote came from Christ’s, “Sermon on the Mount” and although Muir was not a “Bible Thumper,” he carried a pocket version of The New Testament on all of his treks.
Again, the focus was not on God, but contemplating Nature and its possible relationship with man’s soul, even if we were not able to define it.
Paralleling Einstein and Muir’s open mindedness, anthropologist Loren Eiseley contemplated human evolution:
“Perhaps there also, among rotting fish heads and blue night-burning bog lights, moved the eternal mystery, the careful finger of God.”
Again, the subject of Eiseley’s line was mystery, not God. Eiseley, like Einstein was intellectually honest enough to admit the limitations of Darwin’s Theory.