In general we think of a “typical animal” as being warm-blooded, four-legged and mammalian. There are only 3 main groups that have deviated very far from this typical pattern – humans (standing up and talking), birds (growing feathers and flying) and snakes (losing their legs and elongating). In their different ways, these divergences from “the norm” are very wide. Here are summaries of 3 recent fascinating articles from New Scientist
A Spiritual View
Most scientists think that these 3 groups of "odd animals" (humans, birds, snakes) have arisen by random mutations and natural selection, leading to evolution, although sometimes there seems to be an outrageous chain of coincidences for particular evolutions to have ocurred. Theosophists might suggest an equal possibility that these particular groups are evolving TOWARDS a pre-existing template or archetype. It’s hard to tell.
It is also interesting is to look at our internal organs and cells – these “little lights” could be classified as elementals (though that is a word with other meanings too). They are dependent on us, but they also have a life of their own. When we die, our organs survive for a while longer, and, as we now know, they can be transplanted into another person’s body, and cells can be taken from our bodies and propagated independently. But, apart from this, the organs and cells cannot propagate themselves except if and when we ourselves propagate !
Normally we think of 4 main kingdoms of life – human, animal, vegetable and mineral. We can look more closely at exactly what is meant by these four main kingdoms …… Implicit in the spiritual scheme is the idea that all the members of all the kingdoms evolve. They do this as individuals where they can, and this applies particularly to humans, but some humans and all other species evolve in groups, usually within a species or type. At the moment the “doors” to move between kingdoms are not open at all, and in particular, animals souls cannot become human, and human souls can never return to animal bodies during the process of reincarnation.
This classification is all very well, but, there are things that don’t fit into it very well –
- The mineral kingdom usually implies crystals and stones, and the books say that “perfect crystals” are the goal of mineral evolution, but we now have metals, ceramics, silicon chips, which do indeed have crystals at the atomic and microscopic level, and every grain of sand is a crystal too ! But, it’s very hard to see how some of these evolve.
- There are viruses, which can be thought of as intermediate between mineral and plant – they have some life, but not a lot, and they can only reproduce inside the right type of host cell.
- The vegetable kingdom is said to have the goal of perfume.
- Perhaps all the bacteria and other “little lives” should be considered to be part of the plant kingdom, as they reproduce vegetatively, but then again, they are able to move and eat each other, so perhaps they are animals.
- The animal kingdom includes all the reptiles and amphibians, and also all the insects and fishes.