Try loving an animal

Anyone who has ever cared for a pet dog, or a neighbourhood cow, will verify French writer Anatole France’s statement that, ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’ Do animals function as spiritual doppelgangers? The idea is evident when Yudhisthir is accompanied to heaven by a faithful dog at the end of the Mahabharata. The dog, it turns out, is a physical embodiment of Dharma, the virtue Yudhishthir kept close to him through his life.

In ancient Egypt, animals were considered reincarnations of gods and were worshipped. Native American religious traditions assign one of nine animal guides to every person to provide spiritual direction in this life and the next. In Christianity, traditionally, no spiritual link is created between animals and humans. It is interesting to consider contemporary fantasy writer Philip Pullman’s trilogy titled ‘His Dark Materials’, which is usually read as a reinterpretation of

’s ‘Paradise Lost’.

In Pullman’s fantastical reality, every human has an animal companion called a ‘daemon’ who is actually the human’s externalised soul. The daemons of children keep changing their forms. After puberty, a daemon takes the unchanging form of one animal, whose personality traits match those of its human.

Why do philosophies deem animals to be alter egos of humans? Is it because the uncomplicated natures of animals lend themselves to being typecast? Is there a spiritual connection? For the simplest answer, ask someone who has ever loved an animal.


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