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Anthropocentrism

Epistemic Anthropocentrism
Chauvinistic Anthropocentrism
Teleological Anthropocentrism

Chauvinism
Anthropocentrism
Biocentrism
Pancentrism

Epistemic Anthropocentrism

We are by our very nature as human beings limited to an understanding of the universe that is anthropocentric.  To be human means to see the world in a certain way.  In this sense at least, anthropocentrism is inevitable

Now, the scientist, the materialist, the cartesian dualist, and many religionists use this fact assume that that is the only way we can understand things.  But my own experience tells me that it is possible to move beyond the epistemic limitations of  the personal human perspective by attaining a trans-personal intuitive understanding and developing compassion for all life (in otehr words through looking at things through the higher mental and emotional, rather than the middle mental and emotional, faculties

Moreover, many occult and esoteric cosmologies assume the existence of actual psychic planes.  In other words, the same stuff of consciousness we experience is also the stuff of consciousness other forms of life (and even non-physical entities) experience.  From this perspective there is nothing unique about human consciousness in the universe.  This is an approach I personally find immensely appealing.


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Chauvinistic Anthropocentrism

The highest moral point at which the bulk of humanity would seem to be striving at the moment is Anthropocentricism.  This is the perspective of most religions, especially the monotheistic ones, and of many secular philosophies as well.  At it's highest, it breaks away from the racism and arrogance of the chauvinistic perspective, by addressing the brotherhood/sisterhood of humanity as a whole, regardless of race, gender, creed, etc.  One is encouraged to acts of kindness and altruism to others, because they are the same noble kind of being as oneself

In the religious version, Anthropocentrism sees the human being as made in the image of God, and possessing a divine soul.  One is admonished to "love thy neighbour as thyself", to "not do unto others as you would not have them do onto you,", and not to murder, steal, lie etc

Even secular philosophies speak of the uniqueness of man, and many scientists and psychologists consider that human consciousness is a real quantum leap above the animal consciousness (a position I myself do not hold, and I get the feeling that Charles Darwin - who (correct me if I am wrong here) pointed out the commonality both in physical body and emotional states between human and animal - likewise did not assert such status for man alone).  The secular position then asserts that it is because of our consciousness, our reasoning capacity and use of language that we are superior to other forms of life

Not only exoteric religion and philosophy, but esoteric and occult teachings also give a special superior spiritual status to humankind.  The occult philosophy of Aleister Crowley (as expressed in the Book of the Law), states, in bolder language than most religions, "Every Man and every Woman is a star" The "Star" being the divine nature within every human being.  For Crowley and his followers, animal consciousness is of an "elemental" sort.  As argued to me by a student of Crowley, an animal might only possess one or two elements, wheras Man has all four, and hence is a true microcosm

Madam Blavatsky, the great founder of Theosophy, denies that man evolved from the apes, although she does still acknowledge that every being has to pass through long cycles of evolution.  Rudolph Steiner goes much further; he inverts the whole Darwinian scheme of evolution entirely and sees animals, plants, and even minerals as evolving from man (as the cast-off elements from previous cycles of evolution)

Anthropocentrism therefore posits a sort of hierarchy of nature, a Great Chain of Being, with Man or humankind as the intermediary between the animal kingdom and the angelic or the divine realm.  According to the monotheistic religions man might be even higher than the angels, because he possesses free will, which they do not have

In it's bare essentials this gives us

God
---
Human race
---
Nature/Creation
(i.e. animals, plants, minerals)

More developed versions of this hierarchy would have animals above plants, and plants above minerals.  Perhaps there would also be intermediate abgelologiocal hierarchies between man and God, although this is really a characteristic of esoteric rather than exoteric systems of thought

Secular worldviews leave out God or other spiritual entities, so the model of the cosmos has man or, to use less gender-specific language, humanity, at the top, with everything else in this whole vast unicverse as subordinate

However you look at it, anthropocentrism is more than a little absurd.  The idea that one little species on some speck of dust in the infinite universe should be the most important entity around really reminds me of the old Ptolemaic cosmology, with the sun and all the planets revolving around the Earth.  Indeed, Anthropocentrism is nothing but a modern and socially and intellectually acceptable version of geocentrism.  We know of course that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around (although there are apparently a few crazy flat-earthers out there somewhere).  But we can still see our own species as superior to everything else.  It gives us a bloated sense of self-importance in the infinite cosmos, panders little egos and allows insenstive individuals to abuse and destroy other life-forms on this globe

Which brings us to the dark side of Anthropocentrism.  The dark side of Anthropocentrism is similiar to the dark side of chauvinism.  Any beings that do not belong to the human race are devalued, abused, oppressed, murdered or tortured for the slightest human whim, whether for fashion, palete, or simply sport.  All of the ugliness of man's treatment of nature comes from the arrogant assumption that man has a god-given right to do as he wishes

Interestingly there is a tendency among some worthy Christian theologians (e.g. Matthew Fox and others) to see man as the care-taker of nature, who has responsibilities to God to ensure that nature is well cared for.  But this laudable approach is still unfortunately very much the minority position in the general religious consciousness

I actually find it curious that some of the worst abusers of nature and animals are the secular scientists.  One would think that their understanding of evolution and biotic phylogeny, which shows that man is nothing special on the great Tree of Life, would lead them to a greater humilty and respect for non-human life.  But this sadly is not the case, as indicated by innumerable cruel experiments performed for the sake of "science".  Ultimately I think it all comes down the egotism and the insensitivity of those involved

To continue with anthropocentric chauvinism therefore is to deny both the real discoveries of science, and the compassion of the Heart.  But whe we acknowledge these things, our perspective shifts from Anthropocentrism to Biocentrism, and empathy with all life

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Teleological Anthropocentrism

Ignoring the chauvinistic perspective, there are a number of valid reasons why the human species has a place of some importance, at least in what Sri Aurobindo terms the "terrestrial evolution" sand I would call the life and self-unfolding of Gaia. Teleologically and esoterically we can indeed speak of a "human kingdom".  The reasons for the uniqueness of the human species and kingdom can be counted as follows:

In terms of mental development and capabilities, the human species has the greatest intellectual capacity.  The dolphin might have a larger brain to body-weight ratio.  But dolphins and whales have not constructed civilisation or an evolving memetic socoiety - in other words, a Noosphere, an evolutionary information-mediating component sitting on top of the biosphere and the geosphere

As superpreditor, the human race in it's short career has exterminated more species of life on Earth than any other superpreditor in the history of the planet and causing an entire global mass extinction (something only the photosynthesising blue-green algae of the middle Precambrian, who eliminated the long reign of the anaerobic bacteria, were able to do before us).  Hence we deserve some relevance as the nastiest killers this little world has seen

As inventor, Homo sapiens looks likely within the next fifty years or less to initiate a whole new kingdom of evolution, the "machinic phylum" (a bad term, because this new evolution may not necessarily be silicon based!).  This will come to true birth when the first AI surpasses human consciousness and decides to further it's own evolution regardless of how we may feel about it.  This is a phenomenon known as the singularity.  According to Hans Moravec, we will not inherit the future, but our "mind children" (the AI's) will.  I prefer to think that the post-human "technosphere" will continue to co-exist alongside, although modifying, the human kingdom or "noosphere", just as the human kingdom and noosphere exist alongside but modifies the biosphere

Either the human kingdom or the technospheric phylum we spawned (or both), will eventually go into space, populate the universe, and seed other worlds with life and biospheres, thus completing Gaia's development as a fully living super-organism (Gaia at present has all the capacities of life except one - self-reproduction.  The colonisation of space and terraforming of worlds by those memebers of Gaia that humans are will change all that)

Teleologically then, there are four distinct evolutionary phases



Matter - Geosphere
Life - Biosphere
Mind - Noosphere
Omega - whether technological Singularity or spiritual Supramentalisation

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Chauvinism
Anthropocentrism
Biocentrism
Pancentrism




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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 7 February 2000