Non-human persons (R.I.P. Pixl)

Pixl, one of the Seven Great Dogs

The One is so compassionate to place the mysteries all around us, every day for us to embrace, live and ponder.

Recently M’s dog Pixl was euthanized or ‘put to sleep’. Pixl was one of the most amazing dogs I have ever had the privilege to know. Almost preternaturally intelligent, beautiful and loyal she was a wonderful being to have in our lives. She touched the hearts and minds of all who met her, even for a single visit. She will of course be missed and mourned deeply.

The love between dogs and humans has been explored many times. Recently it was examined, along with many other deep, wonderful (and esoteric) themes in the delightful and beautiful film Dean Spanley starring one of the finest actors, Peter O’Toole. In this film we learn that there are always ‘seven great dogs’ incarnate at any one time. Pixl was one of these (though we are also sure my son’s dog, Theodore, is one – which is a bit of luck, eh? :)) If me noggin’ ain’t faulty, the Goddess Ishtar once rode upon these seven great dogs, though I’m not sure if the writer of Dean Spanley knew this.

Pixl’s death highlighted several questions for me. Firstly, the mystery of death itself, which is always more real when a family member dies. Then there is the question of human euthanasia. I have not seen many magical or esoteric views on this topic. I suspect this is because such moral issues are more the provenance of religion and most esoteric teachers do not want to open this can of worms. We all have our own personal views. I wonder though if our esoteric and mystery schools are letting the side down a bit by not providing guidance and clear rationales for how euthanasia works esoterically. After all when we are faced with the question for ourselves, seeing a loved one damaged and in unrelenting pain, guidance from our teachers may be useful. Fortunately I am not teaching at the moment, so I am off the hook. 🙂 Though I will get some information on this together at some point.

Persons?

On a related topic to woof-dogs, there is a contemporary push by some scientists and activists to have dolphins declared ‘non-human persons’. This they hope will protect dolphins from hunting. After all we’re not allowed to hunt persons; unless we are in a Coalition of the Willing. What a lovely term though, ‘non-human persons’. This of course, can also apply to the many beings we magicians interact with – the Faery for example. So it is very useful.

At this point we are obligated to applaud and give a link to So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (click for slow song version)

Scientists point to dolphins’ intelligence and complex social behaviour which they claim make them ‘persons’. These clever scientists know our society well enough to highlight the much valorised trait of intelligence rather than other aspects of animal behaviour so like our own. All dog owners know the love, deep emotions, loyalty, concern, intelligence and presence our ‘pets’ display. Some humans exhibit these traits less and give far less than a dog. If these traits are what define a person – which is what Hollywood and other ideology pushers assert – then our dogs are persons.

But will they get to Heaven?

Over at the Guardian recently there has been a discussion, ‘do animals have souls?’, a question I partially referred to in the post on the Rapture. There are various theological answers to this question, though to me we need to first know what we mean by ‘soul’. From a Buddhist point of view animals do not have souls, but then again nor do humans. However, Pixl, like all of us, will be reborn, and she was buried with many initiation threads, thought in Tibetan folk belief to help promote a human rebirth for animals (she may curse us for this next time round).

It is well known that external behaviour, emotions, thoughts and even morality are dependant on brain function. Damage the brain and the person we know is often destroyed. If we assume or believe in the existence of a soul it is seen to be transcendent to these fluctuations. No matter how deep a vegetative state a person enters after an accident, their ‘soul’ unlike their personality, still exists. If we accept this we cannot rule out animals having souls. No matter what outer characteristics we define as being indicative of soul-like behaviour, just because a water-snail does not at present display them, does not mean a soul is not in existence. Just like the coma patient.

The question then becomes meaningless. Either we assume humans have a soul only because they are genetically human or we need to concede animals could have a soul. After all some humans behave exactly like the water-snail in question and far less honourably than a dog 🙂

As a person then, with as much soul as I have, I wish Pixl well in her deep travels. May the Mound keep her and bless her.

4 comments

  1. Kate · January 31, 2010

    Blessings to Pixl on her new journey, Peregrin. I am sure she will be greatly missed. Hopefully, you will meet again.

    An interesting point you mention is the faerie-guide. This brings up all the mythologies that have been sprinkled throughout many cultures of hobgoblin-type or similar type creatures who come to humans in disguise of cats, for instance (much to the unwarranted-torture of our feline friends throughout the middle-ages, but that’s another topic), but also many other animals, foxes, frogs, fish, bears, etc. This also calls to mind animal-guides, shape-shifters and a whole *Host* of otherworldly-dwellers that many cultures have within their mythologies disguised as animals. 🙂

    At the very least, this suggests an undercurrent of belief in spirits or souls within all creatures of nature…and perhaps down a more imaginative path, we might ask ourselves, do we see animals quite as they are at any given moment in time? Do we suppose, as human beings, that we cannot ever be outsmarted? 🙂

    The euthanasia question also brings up some interesting dilemmas. I think, perhaps, at a time when we find ourselves in a situation where we are truly responsible for another’s life (as anyone who has been in this situation with a beloved pet knows), most of us discover, we don’t like being in charge when asked to choose between love and wisdom. The thought of this situation with another human being we love is perhaps the most terrifying of all…

    Personally, I would never want to make that decision.

  2. Rachael · February 1, 2010

    Hi Peregrin!

    I am sorry to hear about Pixl. She looks and sounds like she was an amazing dog. My regards to M too please if you don’t mind.

    I love the concept of non-human persons. Humans seem have the monopoloy on intelligence deciding who *we* think should be intelligent or not. I don’t think this should stop at dolphins though? As an example and if my sources do not fail me; pigs are capable of playing video games, fish have been observed using Machiavellian strategies of social control and as we have discussed, the awesome and intellectual capabilities of octopi in being able to adapt to their environment. You could call it instinct, but is instinct merely a term that humans have coined to diminish animal intelligence?

    This blog is quite timely, I’m reading something now on the perceived intelligence of animals. 🙂

    To end and because I really have no structured conclusion, this quote, “Only until mankind lives in harmony with nature can we truly decree ourselves to be an intellegent species.” – Genelle Haldane.

  3. Frater AIT · February 1, 2010

    Care Fra Peregrin,

    Terribly sorry to hear of your loss; only persons who haven’t loved them debate whether animals have souls! I think that our behaviors toward animals would leave many in a troubled state of mind, if they acknowledged that they are ensouled.

    Thank you for this interesting post!

    In LVX,

    AIT

  4. David · February 2, 2010

    Frater AIT,

    That is a truly interesting point about the non love for animals leaving the person thinking they didn’t have souls. Would you say this applied to the gods/goddess also?

    Its interesting that experiencing love seems to be a way to open our minds to other possibilities.

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