Spiritual Democracy of God’s Creatures

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Today the global community is threatened by habitat loss, species extinction, and climate change. Hence we are called for serious philosophical, theological and ethical reflection. This challenge has led thinkers to develop several creative responses. Here I intend to look at eco-deconstruction. It is a cousin to eco-phenomenology and eco-hermeneutics. Maybe we can begin by asking the following question: how does the prefix eco influence deconstruction, phenomenology and hermeneutics? Does it expand or narrow the horizon of the term? Second, is there some sort of historical/dialectical progressive movement from (say) eco-phenomenology through eco-hermeneutics to eco-deconstruction? What about the relations of these movements to fellow philosophy travellers like eco-feminism, eco-sophy and eco-criticism? How are we to live the centrality of relationality as in Heidegger’s “being-in-the-world” and Nietzsche’s “remain faithful to the earth” as well as the intentionality, that reveals to us the way human experience (perhaps animal, too) is central to understanding how the world becomes meaningful to us.

Hermeneuticians underline the centrality of language and interpretation over and against Husserl’s original claim that phenomenology was essentially descriptive and presuppositionless. Hence, they shift the discussion from the individual experience to the text, narrative, literature, art and other public discourse and try to discern the interpretive assumptions built in them that shape our understanding and relation to the created world. Deconstruction does have its roots and links with phenomenology and hermeneutics, yet it is different from them. To come to understand the distinct nature of deconstruction, we will have to view how deconstruction tries to overcome logocentrism that privileges speech over writing, presence over absence, the intelligible over the sensible, a man over woman, human and divine mind over the animal body. Deconstruction has exposed and derailed these and other binary oppositions influencing our thinking and manifested their relations to ethnocentrism, sexism, and anthropocentrism—by exposing the ways in which the dichotomies draw on, but disavow, ineradicable differentiation processes/ play of difference (multiplying the differences) operating prior to the oppositions, including the nature-culture divide. Hence, we cannot describe deconstruction as such but have to do it to understand it. He employ deconstruction to the reigning hierarchal ordering of God’s creatures and open up what we will call spiritual democracy, the unbound community of God’s creation.

Right from the onset Derrida associated these differentiation processes/ play of difference with moral life. The either/ or thinking closes the play of difference and set into play a kind of morality that has upheld anthropocentric thinking that may blind us from our cruelty to animals, ecological destruction as well as exploitative dehumanization of other human beings. By opening the play of difference, we do not just expose the anthropocentric underpinnings of our thinking but also enable us to think beyond the constricted restrictions of dualistic logic of our thought. Opening the play of difference or differing, we open what we may be called the spiritual democracy of God’s creatures. It opens us to the unbound community of God’s creation. This means we are enabled to stretch the limits that are commonly thought to exist between humans, animals, and nonliving entities. The spiritual democracy of God’s creatures gives up Platonic-Cartesian dualisms of mind and matter, space and time, organic and inorganic, or animals and humans. To recognize and enhance, the spiritual democracy of God’s creatures, we have to move beyond human-centred thinking and also debunk utilitarian value systems. We also have the challenge to give up ethics based on Aristotle’s calculus of prudence. We have to embrace compassion which is rooted in non-anthropocentric theological values. St. Francis of Assisi is already a great inspiration to recognize and work for the flourishing of spiritual democracy. Within this spiritual democracy are profound inclusivity and a God’s welcome.

Humans, animals, plants and every created thing take their place in a great cosmic liturgy. It is a liturgy of affirmation, one of saying yes to the creator and yes to every creature. It is because we as humans have failed to say yes and give ourselves to this cosmic liturgy, the spiritual democracy of God’s creatures, we have pushed our earth towards a state of being post-human earth. Our saying no to the cosmic liturgy and the spiritual democracy of God’s creatures has put us on the road to annihilation. Time is indeed running ahead of us. We have to turn the clock in quick time. We have to say yes to our shepherding role of God’s creation. This yes is a yes to the sharing of our common home with the non-human created others living and flourishing with us on earth. Saying yes to life in all its manifestations challenges us to join the cosmic sacrifice/ yajna that does justice to all creatures. It is only by joining the spiritual democracy of creatures that we can truly survive. It is only by just sharing the earth that we can live and survive the ecological crisis that is afflicting all of God’s creatures. We have brought this disaster to our planet earth. Hence, we have to embrace living together that become symbiotic flourishing.

This means we have come to enact what Derrida calls Survivance. It means we have to transcend our self-seeking survival and live to keep a post-human (post-anthropocentric) promise of the earth. It is by moving over from inscribing human telos to everything on the planet earth, we truly sur-vive. Sur-vive means to live beyond. Survivance is a challenge to let the beyond of life be part of life. To say yes to this beyond of life (spiritual democracy of God’s creatures), we will have to open the futures of the non-human others that are closed and tamed to become human futures. By turning the futures of the non-human others on our planet earth into human futures we have brought on all of us a great disaster. This is why we have made our life into a cosmic sacrifice/ yajna/survivance. This yes to the cosmic sacrifice/yajna/survivance will enable us to let the post-human promise of the earth to come. The post-human promise of the earth is not without humans. Humans will have their right full and just role as well as place in the post-human promise of the earth. Working to let the post-human promise of earth to come will let the spiritual democracy of God’s creatures to come.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao