Mind in the Waters

“No doubt about it, the mind can change the universe. (…) The power of imagination within our mind, combined with the abilities of our hands to make that imagination reality, has given us a power that we are scarcely able to master.

But how is it for that other mind, the mind in the waters? How is it for these enormous, alien brains that traverse the oceans, whose songs ring out, which dream, which dwell on distant memories, which school one another in decency and morals? What are things like in the spiritual world of a creature whose brain is bigger and quite possibly more complex than ours, and which is unable to convert its will into world-changing action – and is this merely because it has no hands?

I believe we can immerse ourselves in the mind of the whale as we immerse ourselves in water. Be it a warm, lapping tropical sea or a powerful, cold swell at higher latitudes – water is the cradle of the whale’s consciousness.

Anyone who enters the sphere of the water can see immediately how close the relationship between mind and body is that the sea imposes on its creatures. Without alienating possessions and equipment, alone with the naked body that surrounds the suspended mind, mind and body again become one. The mind penetrates a new sphere, in which it experiences time, gravity and its own self as a whole.

Just to try it out, I imagine I am in the water, in a world of ever-changing currents, revolving days and nights, in which I am just as aware of the gravitational pull of the moon on my body as of the call of my children next to me. Living there, where the world stirs and moves, minute by minute – recognizable across the centuries for me and my kind – I float and breathe and think and allow the water to wash over me and the sun to fill my eyes with silver sparkle.”

This “sequence of thoughts” by Joan McIntyre came to mind when I was writing the last article on the free-diving adventures of Guillaume Nery. “Mind in the Waters” is the book she first published in 1974, from which the above extract comes. Even after nearly forty years, it remains a source of realization and of intellectual pleasure.


Joan McIntyre: Mind in the Waters. A Book to Celebrate the Consciousness of Whales and Dolphins. 1974 by The Yolla Bolly Press in cooperation with Project Jonah, Sausalito, California. Earnings from this book go to Project Jonah and its campaigne for a worldwide moratorium about the killing of whales and dolphins.

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