“VEN’s play a role, it appears, in our ability to trust, to joke around, even to love one another. Whatever their purpose, early estimates suggest that dolphins and whales have about three times more of these superstar neurons than we do.” Voices in the Ocean, by Susan Casey, Page 140.
Since I have never swum with dolphins, I wonder if my sense of their great importance to our planet stems from genuine insight, or whether I am just riding on the back of another delusion.
The belief that dolphins possess an intelligence that is equal to and, in some ways, superior to our own can have an almost religious fervor behind it. Just as belief in a divinity arises within a believer’s inner vision, the belief that an advanced awareness is alive in the world’s oceans, inviting us to reach out and engage with it, can fulfill a deep yearning for some. To explore the mystery of being alive, in concert with other beings who share our level of consciousness, could allow us to transcend our limited perspectives and our careless ways of living in this world. Reading Susan Casey’s book, I met a woman, Joan Ocean, who has been swimming her way into the hearts of dolphins off the coast of Hawaii for decades—introducing them to many other human beings. Unlike John Lilly, who kept his dolphins in captivity, Joan meets them where they live, in the open sea.
Some things are clear to anyone who is willing to look—no matter how tied to logic and undiluted rationality we may be. Dolphins have large, complex brains that include the “VEN” cells–only otherwise found in primates—that appear necessary for societal collaboration and self-awareness. Dolphins have an incredible range of audio sensitivity and the brain power to make sense of it. They are far faster than we are in their mental processing of every kind of interaction with our world.
Dolphins can penetrate hidden interiors, whereas we are confined to a superficial mapping of their surfaces. By decoding the echoes of the ultrasonic waves they send out, dolphins may inhabit a truly multi-dimensional “reality”, whereas we are obliged to construct 3 dimensional models from 2 dimensional perceptions. Dolphins know more about us than we do about them. They don’t kill us but are incredibly vulnerable to the killing ways of humans (both through deliberate slaughter and the collateral damage of our mad dash to nowhere). Dolphin bodies–full of mercury and the other toxic chemicals that we dump into the ocean—are sitting in a contaminated fish bowl that was, for millions of years, a sparkling blue sea.
There are many differences between humans and dolphins and some of them can appear to disqualify them from the mantle of higher intelligence. They build no citadels, construct no libraries to preserve the knowledge of prior generations, drive no vehicles, and have no weapons to protect themselves from the aggression of other species. Like the original inhabitants of North and South American, who were dispossessed by Europeans six centuries ago, cetaceans are unable to defend themselves against technologically advanced newcomers to the stage of their ancient world.
Perhaps dog owners—especially those who have been rescued in the wilderness, received timely warnings of immanent seizures or tsunamis, and been delivered from personal isolation and devastating grief by the presence of a canine companion—can naturally recognize the possibility that dolphins possess superior intelligence.
But what can we make of allegations that dolphins are angels embodied on Planet Earth, who are able to heal ailments for which human medicine has no remedy: superior beings who have come from the stars to help a species that has forgotten the responsibility that comes with the gift of consciousness?
Even if we are ready to accept that dolphins are special, where is the historical documentation that could support the conviction that they possess such a unique kind of intelligence?
I suppose I should not be too surprised that cetaceans don’t have speaking parts in the religious writings of the monotheistic religions–Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–nor in Buddhism. However Buddhist writings do mention ocean beings—Nagas—and give them credit for persuading the Buddha to share the fruits of his realization (at a juncture when the Buddha felt it would not be possible to penetrate the walls of illusion that envelop human consciousness).
Ancient spiritual traditions—in the Americas and Australia—revere cetaceans; and it is possible that the “Delphic Oracle” of Ancient Greece (pivotal in the Greek Tragedies of Sophocles) was a dolphin who communicated psychically with Delphic priests.
Yet these relationships between cetaceans and humans have not penetrated into the religions that predominate in today’s world. In fact, apart from the neglected exhortation to be stewards and to treat the least among us as worthy of our care, monotheistic religions seems to assign little importance either to Planet Earth or the web of life that she supports.
I wonder how many people are moved in some unaccountable way—as I am—by pictures that show dolphins swimming among the planets and stars through the openness of space. I can’t really say where the impulse to write my novel “Asleep at the Wheel of Time” (about a planetary crisis that brings forth capacities in an increasing number of people to communicate psychically with cetaceans) came from, but it is strange to now discover how many people feel that they are themselves in communication with dolphins.
I am now reading a book by Susan Casey, “Voices in the Ocean”, which has reawakened in me the energy I felt while writing about dolphins and whales decades ago, in the years immediately following my six-month retreat.
Casey’s book provides a remarkable update from what was available in the ‘90’s (such as the investigations of John Lilly), and shares exciting new knowledge about dolphins (together with documentation of the horrors that are being inflicted on them).
There are so many crises in our world that create great suffering for our fellow human beings. Who needs another cause? Perhaps a more fruitful avenue to explore is what we can learn from our sisters of the sea.
What repositories of understanding must we be destroying when the navy assaults the sensitive hearing of dolphins and whales with blasts of ultrasonic sound, causing such pain and disorientation that many swim blindly onto beaches or are found floating dead in deep water.
When the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959 and destroyed an entire culture with all its libraries, monasteries, and way of life, something precious and unique was lost. Could we be doing something similar with cetaceans? What understandings may be present in the minds and communal experiences of beings whose massive brains have been present on our planet for millions of years? Perhaps dolphins don’t need to fill external libraries and data bases with historical data because they have learned to embody it communally in ways where the sum is greater than the parts. Like the Very Large Array (VLA), where a broad swath of the heavens can be depicted through coordination of individual telescopes, perhaps Cetacean pods are assemblies of living beings who have found ways of acting and being in deep unison.
Our Western world has been the recipient of a great gift from the ancient spiritual traditions of the East, which are infiltrating–through avenues of contemplation and awareness–the harried pace of unchecked materialism. And perhaps a promising renaissance of holistic renewal is underway. But imagine what a renaissance could blossom if our time-stranded, self-imprisoned way of viewing our experience (as taking place outside ourselves), reinforced by the panicked inertias driving our crowded cities, could give way to a chorus of “voices in the sea”, sung by beings who live in the very medium that makes up our own bodies.
Is it so far-fetched that we could learn profound secrets from our ancient cousins, who directly experience three dimensions because they fully inhabit their reality—communicating with it, through it, and within it?