[Rotting Silver] “Universal Intelligence” by B. T. Newberg

Everything has universal intelligence:

A rock knows how to hold together, and when a wind blows upon it, it knows how to wear away slowly. A corpse knows how to let itself go, to give up its consistency so that other things may be nourished and formed from it. Water knows how to evaporate, rise, and then fall as rain. And it knows how to find its way back to the ocean.

This is an innate intelligence. It inheres in everything, as a very property or condition of existence. That which exists, exists with intelligence.

All things effortlessly find their place, because they are able to communicate with their surroundings according to this intelligence. The rock communicates with the wind, and wears away. The corpse communicates with the earth, and enriches the soil. Water communicates with heat, and rises toward its destiny. Everything exists according to this universal intelligence.

And this intelligence is organized and consistent. It is ordered, and proceeds according to what we call the laws of nature. All things speak this one language. There is not one law for rocks and another for corpses and yet another for water. All things communicate according to a complex but consistent universal intelligence.

We people are intelligent as everything, and when we die we do not lose our intelligence. We lose our personality, but not our intelligence. Our corpses know just how to carry on, according to our new place in the universe. We become nourishment for worms, soil and hence plants, our breath goes out into the air and part of it becomes rain – in all these ways we are in perfect accord with our universe.

All is in perfect communication, and this communion can be called the Goddess. When we are born, many various entities come together to compose us, and this happens by natural universal intelligence, by the Goddess. As we live, we are moved by the same natural intelligence, of which our personal intelligence is a phenomenon. When we die, our personal intelligence dissipates but our universal intelligence carries on according to the way of the Goddess.

Thus, the person dies but we do not die. That part of us which is universally intelligent is immortal. The universal cannot die, any more than the personal can avoid dying.

This is our universal intelligence: the ability to know exactly how to change and when, by the way of the Goddess.


Rotting Silver is a column devoted to this Earth in all its tarnished radiance: poetry, prose, and parables of ugliness alloyed with joy.

A version of this piece was first published at The Witch’s Voice.

The Author

B. T. Newberg

B. T. Newberg:  Since the year 2000, B. T. has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective. He currently volunteers as Education Director for the Spiritual Naturalist Society, where he is creating an online course in naturalistic spirituality. His writings can also be found at Patheos and Pagan Square, as well as right here at HP.

Professionally, he teaches English as a Second Language.  After living in Minnesota, England, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea, he currently resides in St Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and cat.

After founding HumanisticPaganism.com in 2011 and serving as managing editor till 2013, he now serves as advising editor, and feels blessed to be a part of this community.

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4 Comments on “[Rotting Silver] “Universal Intelligence” by B. T. Newberg

  1. You’ll forgive me, but how is this intelligence distinguishable from the laws of Nature described by science? And if it isn’t distinguishable, why use the description? While poetic and reassuring in some ways, I find it unwieldy and confounding when one tries to use this intelligence to deduce or apply it to things.

  2. Brandon, this is very nice. I think that equating the laws of nature with a kind of intelligence helps to highlight the fact that the so-called laws of nature result in a universe that behaves in a highly organized and “intelligent” way. Science helps us understand the laws of nature, but cannot tell us why these “intelligent” laws exist.

    I do have one quibble about your thinking here, though. You write “We people are intelligent as everything, and when we die we do not lose our intelligence. We lose our personality, but not our intelligence.”

    I think there is an important distinction between the intelligence of an intentional human brain and the “intelligence” we find in the laws of nature. Naturalism does not provide a completely clear idea of this distinction, it remains also something of a mystery. We might say however, that biological intelligence is an emergence from the physical intelligence of nature — thus the behavior of a migrating bird is of a different scale than the intelligence of the moon orbiting the earth. And human intelligence is an emergence from biological intelligence — thus the ability to design and build skyscrapers is of a different scale than a birds ability to build a nest.

  3. B.T. you have outdone yourself with this one. My favorite so far. Keep up the good work. Really touching work!!!!

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