Ecology between heaven and earth

Ecology between heaven and earth

The great planetary emergencies, such as the great migrations linked to social crises and instability, global warming, the loss of biodiversity and so on, offer us a scenario that is anything but reassuring and to which we must find answers that have, at the same time, the characteristic concreteness but also a depth of vision.
Perhaps the time has come to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but to God what belongs to God.
From the dawn of human civilization we have passed from the relationship with Nature which was originally interpreted by religions to the more strictly scientific one which probed its tangible aspects.
To reach the present day, especially in the last half century, in which it would seem that the question of the ecological crisis is in the exclusive hands of science.
Is it really so? Or Science and Religion must open a new dialogue *, with the obvious fields of competence and relevance.
On the other hand, the relationship between religion and science, since classical antiquity, has always been the subject of study by philosophers, theologians, scientists and others. The perspectives that have developed are different according to geographic regions, cultures and historical eras, some of which characterize the relationship as a conflict, others describe it as harmonious, and still others say that there is less interaction.
In short, a relationship that is anything but defined and, with all due respect to an increasingly impregnating atheism, resolved.
In this regard, A. Einstein himself stated “During the last century, and in part of the previous one, it was widely believed that there was an irremediable conflict between knowledge and faith. Among the advanced minds the opinion prevailed that faith must now be increasingly replaced by knowledge; belief that was not based on knowledge was superstition, and as such had to be opposed. According to this conception, the only function of education was to open the way to reflection and knowledge, and the school was to serve only that purpose. It will probably happen rarely, if ever, to see the rationalistic point of view expressed in such a crude form [. . . ].
In this direction, the encyclical of Pope Francis “Laudato Sì” is monumental, due to the historical repercussions that have yet to manifest themselves; a work that integrates the two points of view, amplifies the two languages, merging and expanding them and drawing from them a common Ethics that, beyond one’s belief or not, it is difficult not to share.
In short, an Ecological Crisis that cannot be solved only on the material level but which must be faced by integrating the spiritual one.
For this reason, from the very first lines, Pope Francis indicates that the ecological crisis is “… a dramatic consequence of the uncontrolled activity of the human being” and that “… through a reckless exploitation of nature, he risks destroying it and to be in turn a victim of this degradation ». It indicates the “… urgency and necessity of a radical change in the conduct of humanity”, because, he affirms, without “… authentic social and moral progress …” economic growth and the most prodigious technological progress they can have repercussions on man.
For these reasons, the Pope calls man to a “global ecological conversion”, to “an authentic human ecology”, to “… an integral ecology, lived with joy and authenticity”, to “… eliminate the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and to correct the growth models that seem unable to guarantee respect for the environment ”.
Pope Francis therefore redefines the very concept of ecology which up to now was an almost exclusive place for discussion of science.
At this point, let’s do a bit of history on the term ecology (etymology that comes from the Greek: οἶκος, oikos, “house” or even “environment”; and λόγος, logos, “speech” or “study”).
Ecology is the scientific analysis of the interactions between organisms and their environment. The object of study of ecology is therefore ecosystems and is therefore, by its nature, an interdisciplinary field that includes (or has so far included) both the life sciences, that is biology, and the earth sciences.
Historically, the term “ecology” was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) in the book Generelle Morphologie der Organismen and, during a speech at the University of Jena.
However, it was above all Arthur George Tansley (1871–1955), English ecologist and botanist, who with his studies on the structural and functional relationships between plant and animal communities made him a pioneer of ecology.
But the great innovation in the field of ecology does not come from a botanist, nor from a biologist or an agronomist; they come from Ilya Prigogine (1917–2003), Russian chemist and physicist, naturalized Belgian, known for his theories on dissipative structures, complex systems and the irreversibility of processes.
To him we owe the concept of “dissipative structures”, configurations, which, beyond the in-depth analysis of merit, are typical of Ecological Systems.
Ilya Prigogine, putting aside the mechanistic and reductionist conception of a nature organized in a deterministic way, according to cause-effect links, proposes an alternative vision of a systemic type, at the center of which is the notion of instability (which does not equate to randomness ). For him, even the appearance of life on Earth, and biological evolution, are the result of a succession of instability, and the very condition of instability that characterizes life as a complex system far from equilibrium makes it possible to evolution of the living world towards ever more orderly and ever more complex forms, although this continuous process of self-organization comes at the expense of a growing cosmic disorder.
Life is therefore due to a preordained condition of instability, without which it would not be possible, and through which the magnitude of Entropy that generates the arrow of time (which allows history) is generated.
This concept of instability for I. Prigogine is the essential conceptual basis for effectively facing the ecological crisis, starting from a “new alliance” with nature that sees man, in his own interest, assume full and humble awareness of the bonds thus complex and so delicate between themselves and the natural world.
In these statements there is perhaps the genesis of the thought of Pope Francis who, perhaps few know, is also a chemical expert who therefore knows the fundamentals of thermodynamics and the structures and balances of complex structures.
In these great people, to name just two of the countless ranks of philosophers and scientists who share an integral vision of Life (materialistic – spiritual), there is the synthesis of something that historical reductionism has tried to erase but which is, for use the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “as old as the mountains”.
The relationship between humanity, cultures, behaviors, traditions, from the beginning of history has been a matter of philosophical reflection, of thought projections and, last but not least, a topic addressed by all the religions of the world.
In this regard, it is worth making an excursus of religious thought on nature (the term ecology is, as mentioned, recently coined) and its relationship between humanity and it.

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Christianity and Judaism –
In the Old Testament (which therefore unites Christianity and Judaism) this relationship is well defined.
In Genesis (I, 26) it is stated: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and dominate over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, over livestock, over all wild beasts and over all crawling reptiles. on earth”.
Subsequently, the sacred Author, again in Genesis (I, 30) reminds us: “To all wild beasts, to all birds of the sky and to all beings that crawl on the earth and in which there is the breath of life, I give as food every green grass. And so it happened “.
And again (Gen 2:15): “The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, so that he would cultivate it and keep it”
Progressive and hierarchical steps with which the ancient Author of Sacred Scripture gives an “ecological” sense to the relationship between all living beings, remembering that there can be no domination without service, management without sharing. According to this conception, it follows the obligation to work and take care of creation, not a blind and frenzied exploitation that would only lead to desertification, poverty and destruction. A very timely lesson “because what you have been given you must know how to deserve it”.

Christianity –
In the New Testament, the Prologue of John’s Gospel (Jn 1,1-5) is fundamental in the understanding of Nature. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was, in the beginning, with God: everything was made through him and without him nothing was made of what exists. In him was life and life was the light of men; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
The reference at the beginning of the book of Genesis is clear: “In the beginning God created the sky (literally the heavens) and the earth” (Gn 1,1), but the “beginning” here is to be understood in a radically different way: if , in fact, in the book of Genesis we can read the beginning of creation, in this “beginning”, that of John, we are in a time prior to creation, we are in a time beyond time. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the term “principle” is the translation of the Greek arché, the principle of all things around which Greek philosophical speculation was born, a few centuries earlier.

Islam –
Also in Islam the relationship between this religion and ecology (Nature) is remarkable, with a much deeper (and therefore integral ecological) meaning than the perceived reality.
In the Quran (55: 1-9) we find: “In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the All-Merciful. The Compassionate, he taught the Koran, created man and taught him to express himself (Literally “he taught him the” bayân “”, that is, clear and comprehensive speech). The sun and the moon [move] according to [precise] calculation. And the stars and the trees prostrate themselves. He raised the sky and raised the scales, so that you do not defraud it: establish the weight fairly and do not distort it! ”.
Furthermore (Koran 3,104) “A community may arise among you that invites to good, recommends good customs and prohibits what is reprehensible”.
In this ancient teaching and, therefore, perspective, the environmental crisis is the result of the erosion of human spiritual and existential wisdom, which results in the oblivion of God and, consequently, in the neglect of the miracle of creation and creation.

Hinduism –
In Hinduism, of course, the references are remarkable and interpreted and embodied in Mahatma Gandhi.
In his words we find contemporary concepts, such as ecology and the destiny of the world, degrowth, a sense of limitation and small communities. Furthermore, his nonviolent philosophy was applied in every field, even to the relationship between man and nature. The Indian philosopher and activist in fact supported the equal right to life of all living beings on the planet and praised a sober lifestyle, far from consumerism, and the beauty of the little one (in this regard we must mention the great work of the economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher “Small is beautiful” written in 1973).
Gandhi imagined the formation of small communities that had to integrate with the environment, something that anticipated the zero kilometer philosophy.
In Hinduism, references to the environment are numerous and constant. In its concrete application, the faithful begin their day very early (Brahama-Muhurta), as the “prana” (vital energy) present in the air is much richer in the hours that anticipate the sunrise (there are less acoustic contaminations and the smog is less). After having scrupulously carried out his ablutions (the quality of the water is therefore an important element), he begins his spiritual practice (Sadhana) through both community and individual chants and prayers.
The Hindu is attentive to the smallest details that can compromise the vital environment, both because it is a gift from God (mahatatva), because it is a legacy that we must leave to future generations. According to the law of Karma, one could see the one who has been the cause of pollution reincarnate with a form of life that will suffer the environmental degradation that previously, in the form of human life, had foolishly caused.
The Hindu is constantly attentive to the environment in which he lives, he is sensitive to the study of the stars, to the position that the house must have in relation to the sun, the moon, the river, the sea, the mountains, etc. (vastu). The Hindu’s sensitivity towards the environment goes to its subtlest dimension: he is aware that any verbal manifestation will affect the environment, as it cannot be destroyed, but after traveling thousands of kilometers in the ether. of the planet earth, it will disperse in the cosmos without ever being destroyed. And so on. Hinduism is certainly the religion that makes the relationship between Man and Nature the greatest practical speculation, of lifestyles and philosophical thought.

Buddhism –
Due to its characteristics it can be said that the main aspects of environmental thought are comparing them to Buddhist thought.
Current environmental theories have in fact passed from atomism to the holistic and relational conception contained in the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origin. They also opened up to biodiversity and the importance of symbiosis between humans and other living forms.
The conception of the inseparability of human beings and nature has been accepted, as shown in the Buddhist theories of the non-duality of life and environment (esho funi) and of the three realms of existence (san-seken); moreover, current environmental thinking has adopted a biocentric environmental vision.
The immanent value of nature and the equality between human beings and nature are recognized, as the doctrines of dependent origin and Buddha nature affirm.
The conception of life passes from a mechanistic view to an organic theory and is also considered the inseparability of body and mind, as shown in the Buddhist doctrines of the three thousand kingdoms in one life (ichinen-sanzen) and of the non-duality of body and mind (shiki-shin rope).
Furthermore, current environmental thinking transitions from a linear to a circular concept, as shown in the theories of the four kalpas (shiko) and the transmigration of life (rinne).
Obviously the relations and speculations between Buddhism and ecology are much wider and of an almost disconcerting actuality.

Taoism –
In Taoism (or Daoism) the reference to the intimate and inseparable relationships between humanity and nature are remarkable. As early as 2,500 years ago, the ancient Chinese philosophers Laozi and Zhuāngzi argued that human beings should strive to live in harmony with nature to keep the planet green, clean and safe. Laozi and Zhuāngzi are considered to be the two most important figures of Taoism: environmental and ecological development in China and other regions has been largely influenced by their teachings.
In the most essential explanation the Tao (a term that has been translated in various ways, including way, principle, sense, guide, nature) is “the first all-encompassing principle of things”. It is the logos of the universe (similar to the Word or Verb of the prologue of John’s Gospel) that determines the cosmos and everything contained therein. The classic book of this religion, the Daodejing, states that individuals are part of the whole and seeks to develop their well-being within this context. Therefore, all is in one and one is in all; everything is intrinsically related and interdependent.
The Daodejing proposes a vision of life and nature marked by the spontaneous simplicity that comes from following nature, a principle expressed as wu wei, which means “no action”. This non-action does not imply that not anything is done, but only those things which are in accord with nature, so that we reach fullness and establish a harmonious and peaceful society.

Shinto –
Shinto, Shinto or Shinto is a religion of a polytheistic and animistic nature native to Japan.
This religion provides for the worship of “kami”, that is, divinities, natural spirits or simply spiritual presences. Some kami are local and can be considered as the guardian spirits of a particular place, but others can represent a specific object or natural event, such as Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun.
Shinto places nature in a particular light, everything is inherently sacred, every living thing and every rock in the universe. Nature is considered sacred as a manifestation of the strength of the kami and an eternal abode of themselves. In the Shinto view, valleys, mountains, abyss, forests, rivers, even the cities and artificial forests replanted by man are manifestations of the divine essence of the universe, as the very matter of which everything is made up has a basis, a divine foundation.
It is for this reason that in Shintoism the absolute importance of nature stands out, which has led to the custom of building temples especially in the heart of woods and areas of peace and meditative silence. For this reason, the most amazing spectacle of all the wonders of Japan is the spontaneity and natural dimension of its religion, characterized by temples surrounded by greenery, as if to indicate that the best place to go to seek the divine is none other than the world around us.
This is how Shinto survives in a country (Japan) studded with very advanced technologies including robots, which are increasingly widespread. In a worldview where everything that exists is believed to have a spirit, in fact, even a robot must consequently have one. This spirit is not to be understood in the Christian sense of the term, since this divine essence of a robot is nothing more than part of the divine matrix that generates all the manifestations of the universe. Put more simply, the spirit of the robot is contained in the very matter of which the robot is constituted, since the matter itself is generated by the divine.
And so if modern science has come to discover that atoms are made up of further subatomic particles, these subatomic particles generate activity by moving from a positive to a negative polarity, all this corresponds to the two polarities that give rise to all the manifestations of the universe. , in the philosophies related to the concept of Yin and Yang.

Confucianism –
Confucianism, recently referred to as ruism in some specialized publications (儒教 T, RújiàoP; “teaching of the ru”), is one of the major philosophical-religious, moral and political traditions of China.
The center of Confucianism is the harmony between living beings and these with the things they are surrounded by.
To achieve harmonious coexistence, Confucius recommended the practice of virtue. The first area in which it is necessary to act correctly is the family, the second civil society, the third the state. In these areas, Confucius identified five fundamental relationships: sovereign-subject, father-son, husband-wife, older brother-younger brother, friend-friend. For Confucius (Kongzi or Kongfuzi, hence the Latinization Confutius) the cult of ancestors, respect for parents and elders and respect for state authorities (emperor and princes) are of fundamental importance. Music is very important for the growth of the person, since it is “a manifestation of order and harmony, and an expression of noble and elevated feelings”.
In his teaching Confucius used to say that he transmitted only what the ancients had thought and practiced (experience derived from relationships with Nature) and for him the study consisted above all in the search for behavior models drawn from the past, when the virtues had not yet been blurred.

Pachamama –
The Pachamama or Mama Pacha, is the Earth Goddess of the Andean peoples of South America, still revered by the people who still recognize themselves in the Inca culture.
Pachamama in Quechua language means “Mother Earth”. She is a divinity venerated by the Incas and by other peoples inhabiting the Andean plateau, such as the Aymara and Quechua. She is the great mother goddess, goddess of the earth, agriculture and fertility.
Pacha Mama literally means “mother space time” or “mother universe”, one with mother Earth.
Pachamama is therefore generous Goddess of fertility and agriculture, her nourishing mother who gives life, but she too can show her cruel side when she produces earthquakes to remind her children that they must always honor her.
In this veneration it is also noted that among these peoples a greater respect for the earth is accompanied by a role of greater social prominence that is assigned to the elderly, as well as an attitude of greater attention towards women, children and all socially weaker categories. An integral ecology with well-structured hierarchical levels.

Inca Religion –
The Inca religion is made up of a series of legends and myths that fueled the pantheism of the Incas Empire, centralized in Cusco, Peru, which still survives in often syncretistic traditions such as those linked to the Pachamama.
The Inca religion included the devotion of some Gods who were the forces of nature, especially the Sun, Inti, and the Moon, Quilla.
Other important deities were the Thunderbolt, the Rainbow and the luminous stars. Above all reigned Viracocha, the Creator. He was at the same time father and mother of the Sun and the Moon. Being invisible, he was considered the one who presides over destiny; his abode in the heavens was a dark area, the “Coal Sack” in the Milky Way.
In this religion, the priests observed the stars and kept a complicated calendar based on the combination of the solar and lunar cycles. This calendar was used to predict good or bad luck. The numerous Inca religious festivals were also based on the cycles of the Sun and the Moon. Sacrifices were an important part of parties. In general, the Incas sacrificed lamas or guinea pigs, although human victims were also immolated from time to time in the most important temples. In this religion every living being, every object, every manifestation played a role within Viracocha, the Creator.

Mayan Religion –
The Maya religion is that set of polytheistic beliefs, with more than 3000 years of history, of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. This religion, which made strong reference to the forces of nature (sun, moon and rain in particular), was a complex form of polytheism based on the concept of duality: life and death, day and night, male and female . The few elements of ancient religion that survive today do not derive from the complex theology of the priestly class, but from beliefs in simple mythological deities of nature, such as the Chac and fertility deities.
In the beginning the Mayan religion was simply a nature cult that required few apparatuses, no priests, no complicated ceremonies, no particular places of worship. Each head of the family was probably the priest of the family unit, and the family temple was little more than a temporary hut attached to the equally temporary residences.
Also in this religion, nature, hierarchical levels, well-organized structures, traced that incredible order present in Nature and with which it was integrated.

Aztec Religion –
The Aztec religion is a Mesoamerican religion that combines elements of polytheism, shamanism and animism, as well as aspects related to astronomy and the calendar. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it combines human sacrifice with numerous religious holidays whose recurrence followed the Aztec calendar.
In this religion, sacrifice was a religious custom. Human sacrifice was seen as the payment of a debt to the gods who had allowed, for example, a good culture. The sacrifice was now preceded by ceremonies organized by the priests and which lasted for days.
In human sacrifice, the apex of a relationship between this civilization and the divinities was represented in a much more intimate bond with Nature than we can imagine today.

Conclusions –
We could continue this excursus by reviewing all the religions, even the minor ones, of the world but we would realize how much there is a common denominator which, despite the geographical differences, of cultures, of traditions, is called respect for Nature and, above all, relationship inseparable with it.
A respect and a relationship that, with the advent of the Enlightenment, positivism and consequent reductionism, have generated that historical materialism that has led to the deterioration of every relationship between human activities and the cosmos.
This split between science and theology, which nevertheless had and has had great importance in subsequent development, often and unfortunately generates scientism, especially in the last times of history. That is, that intellectual attitude of total trust in the physical and experimental sciences and in their method, to the point of giving them the ability to explain all phenomena, solve all problems and satisfy all human needs, and exhaust the scope of knowledge at the expense of any other form of knowledge.
A position that has generated an intellectual reductionism, generating confusion, and putting forward, as stated by A. Einstein, the rationalistic point of view in such a crude and clumsy form.
This attitude, certainly not negligible, risks mixing, on both sides, the respective fields of competence and experience of Science and Religion, generating very dangerous deviations.
On the other hand, A. Einstein himself had to affirm that: “But science can only be created by those who are totally dedicated to truth and understanding. This emotional source, however, stems from the sphere of religion [. . . ] We can express the situation with an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind [. . . ] and so I have the impression that science not only purifies the religious impulse from the dross of its anthropomorphism, but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.
In all this it emerges that the ecological crisis cannot be solved exclusively in scientific and technical terms; it belongs to a much higher and much deeper level, in which the spiritual world (transcendent) and the scientific world (immediate) must find new and great energies to dialogue and feed each other. As in a nuclear fusion, the near future history, with its ecological and social crises, can only be resolved and evolved by drawing on the immense energy that this process can give.

Guido Bissanti




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