Q&A: Animals and Spirit

I have had several questions about the connections among God, nature, animals, and people. One reader recently asked about whether animals have souls like we do. She asked because she was disheartened at how many humans seem to disregard nature and animals as important or worthy of respect. I realize this is a huge topic, and one that could ignite a firestorm because so many religions hold strict beliefs about this. I'll do the best I can from the standpoint of my own learnings and beliefs. As always, I suggest everyone searches within his/her own heart and mind for answers too.

"Free Spirits" Oil on Canvas, (c) Nancy Rynes

I didn't have any direct teachings about the souls or essences of animals during my NDE. I was told and shown, though, that all of creation, and that includes the animals (and us), are part of Divine love and Creation (I explain this more fully in my book, Awakenings from the Light). What that means is that animals are a very real part of Spirit, and the Divine reveres all of them. Every one. In light of this connection, I was asked to show love to nature (including the animals) because of that connection to God.

I think this is why I feel so drawn toward St. Francis of Assisi. He called nature and the animals our brothers and sisters, and I feel the same way. I've been carefully reading the New Testament recently and noted that Jesus said similar things, too. Buddhists, many Native American tribes, and other cultures, also revere animals as an important part of creation, worthy of our respect and good will.

Tundra Swans. Photo by Nancy Rynes

The question as to whether animals have individual souls like we do is another thing. I tend to think, from my own personal experience, that yes, they can and do have some kind of a soul or a soul presence. And I also believe, again from my own experience, that God can choose to work through an animal if that is the best way to have a positive impact on the life of an individual person. I have seen this in my own life with dogs, horses, and even hawks and eagles. 

I understand that different faiths will have different teachings on this, so again, please look within your own heart and feel free to think or believe differently...you won't hurt my feelings :-) I know that I want to do more exploring and learning about this topic, too.

Jolie. One of the animals in my life who has taught me so much.

Does it mean that animals have individual souls like we do? I suspect so, and I treat them all as if they did, with love, respect, compassion, and kindness. They are beautiful creations of the Divine, regardless of the "type" or "level" of soul to which they play host.

But then again, at its most basic level, it doesn't matter. We humans can become endlessly distracted from what is really important (Divine, Love, compassion, etc.) by getting wrapped up in unsolvable arguments like this  ("unsolvable" in our human existence, anyway). I call this spiritual distraction, and it can take us away from our own spiritual practices. Knowing that Divine love flows through all of creation, including humans and all animals, is good enough for me. All deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, as Jesus, the Buddhists, Franciscans, and others teach. But that is just my opinion.

We cannot escape the fact that we rely on nature and animals for our survival. But that does not mean that we are given a free pass to treat them with disdain or disrespect, either. As part of the Divine, they deserve our kindness and compassion. And while we do need them in order to survive, we can commit to "taking" only what we truly need from nature, with respect and reverence. After all, without the natural world and the animals, we humans would not be here.

Belted Galloway Cattle
In my own life, I do what I can to treat both people and animals well, and to pass on the message of Divine love. One of my upcoming books is about Spirit and my own spiritual connections to nature and the animals.