Years ago, while watching the movie African Queen with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, a line in the movie struck me like a lightning bolt. Bogart justified his behavior by saying it was his nature. Hepburn’s character responded: “Nature… is what we are put in this world to rise above.”
A fundamental understanding of the implications of that quote could transform society’s perspective on human behavior, psychotherapy, allopathic medicine, and spiritual development.
Oftentimes, when people think of nature, they imagine it to be something outside of themselves. The reality is exactly the opposite. Human beings are a part of nature. Our essential nature is one with Mother Nature, with all of nature. People don’t seem to have much of a problem viewing other species in that manner. It is only when we speak of human beings that we get confused. Why is that?
Human beings are uniquely endowed with a cognitive mind. We have the ability to think. Our intellect is capable of following a logical progression. The intellect is a very powerful tool. However, not only can it be used, but it can also be misused. We can justify almost anything with the intellect, and people do. The horrors we have justified and imposed upon other people and our planet seem to be without limit. Why is that?
Although the evolutionary process has produced human beings with a cognitive intellect, our species has not learned how to use our intellect in a manner that is in harmony with nature. We have been given this very powerful tool, yet we have not evolved to the point where we can use it properly. If you use a tool improperly, it is better if it is not a powerful tool. For example, if you’re going to run off the road by driving recklessly, better to do it in a little wagon than a high-speed Porsche. As in the African Queen, the idea that we need to override our nature instead of living in harmony with nature, our own true nature, is a grave error.
Physiologists would put this in terms of homeostasis, the body’s natural tendency to heal. There is an inner intelligence that directs the physiology to live in harmony with its own true nature. Theologians might refer to this as the divinity that dwells deep within each individual. The field of psychology has begun to recognize this inner intelligence in the arena of spiritual psychology. The point is that behaviorally, psychologically, physiologically, and spiritually, we are not here to “rise above” nature, but rather to align with it. If that should happen, what might be the result?
Integrative medicine would be a step in that direction. Ideally, it would not be a rejection of traditional allopathic medicine, but rather an adaptation of it with a deeper understanding of where real health comes from. I believe the current rejection of traditional, organized religion is an outcry that will eventually lead to the understanding that truth and divinity does not come from the outside, via dogmatic indoctrination, but is rather an inner awakening to the divinity of our own true nature. In fact, proper meditation integrates the intellect and all levels of a person with nature. Though most forms of meditation have succumbed to the African Queen syndrome of attempting to one-up nature (e.g., mind control, concentration, pushing out thoughts, etc.), the most genuine ones try to align a person with their own true nature. Psychotherapy, too, would be approached as a methodology that frees people from those conditionings that prevent them from living in harmony with nature.
A little one-liner, like the African Queen quote, can carry so much meaning. In order to live life better, we simply need to look deeper.
Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. Dr. Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Connect with Michael Mamas on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.