Apes & Osho

In my quest of familiarizing myself more with various aspects of popular culture and the spiritual traditions, I read some of Books I have Loved by Osho and watched a documentary about the Planet of the Apes movies.
Nonhumans outside of circle of concern

In the movie documentary, several talked about how science fiction is a good medium for social commentary. In this case, shedding a non-mainstream light on the Vietnam war and racism. But what they left out, which is maybe the most obvious – and literal – way of seeing the movies, is the relationship among species.

The way humans have and still do behave towards other humans, based on somewhat arbitrary distinctions and groupings, and which is abhorred by mainstream society, is how we still behave towards other species, and accepted by mainstream society.

We see it as barbarian to keep human slaves, but we keep other species slaves on a massive scale. We recoil in horror by what the Nazi doctors did to fellow human beings, but mostly unthinkingly support the same and worse experimentation on non-human species. We view with disgust cannibalism, but happily raise close evolutionary relatives to eat their flesh. We condemn imprisonment without trail, and yet imprison without any trail or justification innumerable living sensing beings for their flesh, for experimentation or for entertainment.

And we scientifically justify this behavior because non-human primates and mammals are so similar to us, and ethically justify it because they are different from us. Scientifically, we know that there is very little difference between humans and other mammals, especially in the experience of pain and suffering (how could there be?), but ethically we are still stuck in the old mechanistic view seeing animals as just machines, as not feeling or experiencing in any way similar to us (noble) humans.

There is a profound blindness around this in contemporary society.

And if there is no major collapse of human civilization, future generations are likely to see our current behavior towards non-human species with the same disbelief and horror as we currently view human slavery and the experiments of the Nazi doctors. As our current (eventually suicidal) blind anthropocentrism gives way to a more life sustaining biocentrism and gaiacentrism, there will be many questions coming up for people. How could they do it? How could they be so blind? Why did not more people speak up? Why were these issues not part of the public discourse?

The power of identification

The documentary also mentioned something which mirrors several social psychology findings from the 1950s on: the actors and extras who played chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas naturally group with “their own” during breaks, even if the assignments were arbitrary. This shows the power of believing in thoughts and abstractions as they couldn’t even see their own face and which species they belonged to. As we see over and over again, our identification – no matter how arbitrary it may be – has powerful real life consequences.


I am not sure how far I will get in Osho’s Books I Have Loved as it seems light on substance (any meaningful or insightful description of the books) and heavy on opinion (personal likes and dislikes).

He seems to emphasizes the (somewhat) arbitrary likes and dislikes of his human self, minimize any analysis, explanation or description which could be helpful for the reader, and appears to put a good deal of blame and judgment on some the authors of the books and leave out the perspective that any book is God expressing itself in different ways, sometimes more clear and sometimes not so clear.

There may be many reasons for this…

He may have chosen to emphasize the quirks and arbitrary preferences of his human self, and de-emphasize the Big Mind/Big Heart view. If this is the case, it shows a nice fluidity in moving among the various voices on personal and transpersonal levels – although it does come across as a little harsh.

He may have practiced “tough love” – cutting through the nonsense and emphasizing distinctions rather than soft compassion. Although that may have been more effective if there was more explanation there.

And, I guess it is possible that he didn’t quite see the habitual and arbitrary quirks of his human self as just that, so its edges didn’t soften in the way it came out.

I am sure there are many other possible reasons as well.

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