If we have souls, so do chimps , Jane Goodall claims in an article in The Spectator . Her evidence is thin:

At Gombe, she also recorded the chimps performing what she calls a ‘rain dance’, whereby the creatures noisily run around bashing into the trees and each other in response to changes in the atmosphere. ‘It is literally some kind of ritual,’ she explains. ‘It is like a challenging of the elements.’ In another, similar ceremony, which Goodall calls a ‘waterfall display’, the chimps adopted ‘a very rhythmic motion, going from foot to foot, leaping up, swaying on the vines, maybe throwing big rocks’.

This activity, Goodall insists, suggests some spiritual instinct among our closest relatives in the animal kingdom . . . . ‘To me, it is a sense of wonder and awe that we share with them.


Why bashing trees when the atmosphere changes suggests wonder and awe isn’t very clear. For one thing, winds are supposed to affect human behavior . Though maybe not to the extent Raymond Chandler proposed in his story “Red Wind,” in one of the great hard-boiled passages:
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

But then Goodall’s understanding of the Divine doesn’t really require much — doesn’t even require we have a soul ourselves:
She acknowledges that she is herself a cultural Christian, but she prefers to talk in terms of ‘believing in some great spiritual path. I’ve felt it in the forests.’

Articles by David Mills

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