A Christian Science perspective.
One of the wonders of nature is the sheer number of different creatures and plants that inhabit the earth. With today’s concern about the environment, it’s worth pondering what the writer of the first chapter in the book of Genesis meant by the statement that God gave man “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).
The chapter “Genesis” in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, gives a spiritual interpretation of creation as described in the Bible, highlighting that the real, spiritual man is made in the image and likeness of God, and also referring to the qualities of thought that creatures symbolize. Science and Health explains, for example, how fowl “correspond to aspirations soaring beyond and above corporeality” (pp. 511-512); that a worm symbolizes patience, “creeping over lofty summits, persevering in its intent” (p. 515); and that “the serpent of God’s creating” is “a wise idea, charming in its adroitness” (p. 515).
If we think about God’s creation from a spiritual viewpoint, dominion can be thought of as our innate ability to understand the spiritual significance of God’s creatures as the expressions of the one primal cause. Acknowledging the one Mind as the sole cause and creator enables us to progressively see all God’s creation as harmoniously interacting under the government of this one Mind. Science and Health says, “The real jurisdiction of the world is in Mind, controlling every effect and recognizing all causation as vested in divine Mind” (p. 379).
A friend of mine had an experience that illustrated, in a modest way, how appreciating the spiritual nature of all of God’s creatures, all under the control of the one Mind, can open up ways for us to relate to them in meaningful ways. A magpie was building a nest in a tree about 100 yards down the street from his home. This magpie was familiar to him and his family and was frequently seen in their garden.
One time when the bird was in their garden, my friend watched while the magpie pulled out a long narrow piece of wire fencing that was propping up some plants. She flew off with the wire in her beak, having some difficulty because the wire was quite long. On her way to her chosen tree, she flew first to the top of a utility pole. My friend was concerned that the wire might touch and “short out” on the electric current, fatally injuring the bird, as well as possibly causing a power outage for the street.
He got the bird’s attention by yelling, and she dropped the wire. They both arrived at the wire on the ground at the same instant. My friend thought that if he cut the wire in half, the bird could use the two pieces in the nest without harming herself. He spoke to the magpie, reassuring her. He went to his garage to get wire cutters to cut the wire in half. Meanwhile, the magpie stayed and waited. When the wire was cut, she flew back to “her” tree with one piece at a time and proceeded with constructing her nest.
On hearing this account, I was struck by the spiritual dominion my friend expressed in the way he was able to help the bird. Science and Health reassures us: “All of God’s creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible” (p. 514).
One recent estimate gives the number of species in the natural world as 8.7 million. Opening thought to seeing God’s creatures as “moving in the harmony of Science” we can expect to increasingly be interacting with God’s creation in ways that bring mutual blessings.