I read another interesting essay in Rooted in the Land. It was by a guy named John A. Livingston. He wrote about the flight behavior of flocks of birds, and the coordinated behavior of schools of fish and other groups of animals, and suggested that there’s a higher level of consciousness than mere self-consciousness. In fact he used the term ‘downshifting’ or ‘downgrading’ to indicate how we enter that state of being. I loved the way he implied that self-consciousness is a very base state of being. It’s mostly engaged to deal with issues of brute survival. He suggested that there’s individual self-consciousness, group consciousness, even interspecies consciousness.
Well, of course there is! I used to regularly experience group consciousness when I went to the Dances. Each week there was always a unique group mood or personality. It superseded the individual--we became one unit or organism. Also with the cats at home I often feel this fusion, as if we’re part of the same phenomenon. As if we share the same mind or the same…something.
Here are a few little quotes from the essay “Other Selves”:
If all of the individual beings in a community share that total, greater consciousness, it is not unlikely that they may see individuals of their own and of co-participating species not as ‘others’ but as simultaneous coexistences or coexpressions of that place, perhaps as extensions of themselves.
…Awareness of self as individual, self as (same-species) group, self as (many-species) community inheres in all of us animals. The major differences in this respect between ourselves and the healthily integrated bears, monkeys, and coyotes is that our cherished individualism, celebrated at the expense of other (shared) selves, has left us stalled at an immature stage of social development. They remain whole. They know in their bones and viscera that they belong. We are taught that we do not.