What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you?
Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals.
Anna can feel the scars hidden under a monkeys fur, she can understand the detailed story that is causing a birds trauma, she transforms a deadly snarling leopard into a relaxed content cat – the whole animal kingdom comes alive in a way never seen before – wild birds land on her shoulders, fish gather around her when she swims, and wild unfamiliar baboons lie on her body as if she is one of their own.
This is the first full length documentary film on the art of animal communication.
Interview with Anna Breytenbach
by Heidi Stephenson
When did you first realize that you could understand and talk to animals?
As an adult (I still don’t remember any childhood experiences of this, although I’ve come to discover that all children can – certainly pre-linguistic children before language comes along and begins to break up the world into little bits, and we become obsessed with identification and naming things,) so it was in my early thirties.
In my early thirties, I was living and working in IT in Silicon Valley in California, but I’ve always been very passionate about nature and wildlife, so I was spending recreational time outdoors and I decided to do my tracking training while in the States. Learning to follow footprints and signs and so on.
Because I grew up in South Africa, I had no clue what North American species were, much less what the bottoms of their feet looked like. No matter how clear the track was in the sand, therefore, I couldn’t figure out with my logical left brain what was going on and what animal might have made those footprints, and the tracking instructor at the time had a very odd suggestion. He said, “Close your eyes. Hold your hand over the track and see what happens.” As I didn’t have any better idea I did as instructed and immediately I got a mental image of a dog-like face, quite pointy, not just brown as the jackal in Africa, a little more grey, bigger than a fox, and when I opened my eyes, just in sheer shock, convinced I was hallucinating, and I described this to the instructor, he said, “Yes, well done. It is a coyote’s tracks.” To which I promptly responded, “What’s a coyote?” I hadn’t a clue.
So a couple of these things happened, mostly when I was out in nature. By these things, I mean instances where I would get information directly from an animal or a track that would later prove to be true. And I couldn’t explain how I’d come to that information. I really worried about myself. I thought I must be seeing things or hallucinating. And having come from a very rigid, Roman Catholic upbringing, there was certainly no place philosophically or belief system-wise to account for this. But I did my research and discovered the whole field called interspecies telepathic communication. Thereafter, I spent all my vacation days from my day job, over the next couple of years, studying this through the Assisi International Animal Institute, named after St Francis.
Can you tell us a bit about how animal communication works? Are animal communicators using our old, right-brained, picture consciousness?
Not only the right brain picture consciousness. But we certainly don’t use the left brain as the primary way of knowing information either. It’s a very holistic art and practise, so we end up using both hemispheres of our brain and a whole lot more than our brains even. When we are receiving intuitive information, it’s not a mechanistic science. It’s not a mechanical process happening. It all very much happens in the quantum world and in the vibrational world. But the closest approximation we can get to describing it, is that the incoming raw data, let’s say, the incoming quantum truth or energy emissions or the thoughts or feelings of that being we’re communicating with, they land in our unconscious or intuitive knowing.
The bad news is that we still don’t know about it consciously. What happens is that that incoming intuitive information runs against our personal human, mental database of stored life experiences, mental images, vocabulary words, physical sensations, or just concepts and understandings, and when the closest match is found in our little, internal library, in our brain, then the flag goes up. And that’s when a mental image might pop into our awareness or a word for that matter, or a smell, or something else, an emotion perhaps. It doesn’t mean that the animal is choosing to send us a word or a mental image, that is purely an internal translation process. If three people are sitting in front of the same animal, asking “What is your favourite toy?” – one person might get the mental image of a green tennis ball, the other person might get the smell of a really soggy, spit-filled, rancid tennis ball, and the third person may telepathically receive the words “green tennis ball” as if written in front of their mind’s eye. So the left and the right brain are at play in the interpretation.
On a deeper level though, what’s really happening is the essence of our being is connecting with the essence of that other being. We can as easily connect with beings, nonhumans who do not even have brains. So our brains just happen to be how we interpret and come to know consciously what we are receiving unconsciously or intuitively.
But is it different from psychism, for example?
It is in the sense that it is a lot more direct. Often people ask me to do a reading on an animal, and I have to correct them. It’s not a reading. There’s no psychometry. There’s no intermediary, no pendulum, no surrogate. It’s not remote viewing either. If I’m connecting with an animal who is far away, I am not, in some energetic way, travelling or astral travelling or remote viewing what’s happening at that location, I am very present where I am, connecting with a being who happens to be far away – and I might ask them, “Show me where you are. Show me your environment.” And they would show me that information. So it’s very much a two-way sending and receiving of information in a very alive dialogue and a conversation and connection between two beings who are consciously engaging with each other.
For anyone who has had a close relationship with an animal, it is clear that animals have recognition, memory, decision-making abilities, a wide range of complex emotions, intelligence – and so much more that we refuse to credit them with culturally. Can you tell us about your own experience of this?
There is incredible intelligence and consciousness in all of life. Just because they happen to express in a way that looks different than human intelligence doesn’t mean that the innate intelligence of a certain species or individual is any less so than human intelligence. And our very Aristotle-ian ideas, not just from the philosophical circles, but even the modern scientific system is built entirely on this idea of a hierarchy, with us humans at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. Ironically, we fail to notice the fundamental design flaw. It’s that we created that hierarchy, so how can it be objective? (Which tickles me pink.) Anyway, intelligence expresses in many different ways. For example, if you think about the intelligence required within each individual bee in a beehive, for them to execute on their mission and purpose, on a daily basis, for the sake of the collective good, that seems to me to be rather an evolved form of intelligence. In fact, if us humans were to individually do whatever we’re doing for the sake of the collective good, even for the sake of our own kind, we might be in a more pleasant situation, and the planet too. So, intelligence expresses in many different ways than cognitive. And the inherent equal value of all life is the milieu in which this communication happens.
Nonhumans are very aware that we think of ourselves as superior. Even the most well-intentioned communications or attempted solutions with animals are often coming from a place of assumed dominance. Animal behaviourists maybe trying to tell an animal what to do, or advising other humans to pretend that they’re the dominant member of a pack, as if a dog’s going to be confusing us with another dog, and all of these very simplistic approaches to communicating with other beings…Most nonhumans are luckily very tolerant of our foibles and our arrogance. And they just continue being themselves anyway, hoping that we might one day connect with them in a very real being to being way, instead of the patriarchal or ownership sense. The idea of pet owners or even land owners is a very strange concept.
They’re self-serving ideas…
So is there a difference between animal consciousness and human consciousness? And if so, what are the differences?
In my experience, there’s no difference between animal or human consciousness. There’s no difference in degree or magnitude or value or complexity. There is a slight difference in the, let’s say, the personality of different consciousnesses. Just by virtue of the archetypal, collective conscience being different. So it’s only different in nature or in personality. But there’s certainly no relative difference when it comes to complexity, or just the sheer intelligence of consciousness.
Even Darwin recognized that.
What went wrong in the human-animal relationship, and when and why did that occur, in your view?
Historically, approximately 12,000 years ago, when we stopped being hunter-gatherers, and we decided to keep animals and plants for that matter, that’s when things began to go awry. It might have seemed like a good idea to keep animals behind fences for a future day when we may get hungry, instead of going to all the effort of tracking and hunting…It may have seemed like a good idea and it did certainly serve our human needs to keep the plant species that we ate and to start growing them in very orderly fashions in rows in very controlled, high density environments…These actions towards other beings shifted us humans into a relationship of ownership and, if not that at first, at the beginning, it certainly shifted our view of these other beings, plant and animal – into being resources, purely for human consumption. We lost our dynamic relationship with them and we certainly stopped allowing them to live in their natural habitats, and to proliferate as they chose and to give them freedom of movement and choice about where to grow in the soil or where to live their natural lives. And as history has shown, animal and plant lives, under human control, have become less and less natural.
For most of the indigenous cultures around the world, their creation stories or their mythology also reflects this journey of humans away from connection. And some of them are quite dramatic in describing how we humans were tempted. Of course, this occurs in the Garden of Eden story too. And it’s reflected in many, many indigenous culture stories, how we humans were collectively tempted by the idea of some kind of supremacy or a certain flavour of knowledge. And when we bit at that apple, we made ourselves greater than the others. We lost our humility. And some of the stories have it that we then entirely lost our ability to telepathically connect with the others. Because we were no longer equal and we were no longer seeing them as brothers and sisters.
In my view and in my direct experience of this work for fourteen years now, we didn’t actually lose it, we just suppressed it.
We’re not that far, 12,000 years later, from the original brain structure and the blue print of our own human brains. We’re not very far at all. And so it is an inherent part of our nature and our cognitive functioning and our ability, for us to be able to still connect in these ways. We know intuition in our daily life already, even in a human context. It arises under conditions of emotional closeness with another person, knowing what someone is going to say before they open their mouths, or in times of extreme intensity when our life is in danger and intuition takes over and saves our skin, in a way much more effective than our humans brains could have thought to do. So we know intuition already. It just tends to arise only when it really, really matters. However, with telepathic communication we can choose, when we want to pay attention to these ways of knowing, and to meaningfully engage again with our brothers and sisters, the other nonhumans.
Was there a time, do you believe, some primordial time, when there was complete unity and no predation? Do you believe that to be so?
Yes. Yes, I really, really do. There was harmonious co-existence. And about the predation topic. There’s…being predatory could almost be described more as a way of being, rather than an action. There’s a wonderful dynamic unfolding in the few parts of the world that are still allowed to live in their natural state, and in between the plant species and the grasses that are being browsed by the deer and the antelope, there’s…one could call that predatory. One could say that the antelope are preying upon the grasses. But there’s a very loving relationship and continual recycling that is happening – and a beautiful gifting of one form of life to another, that does not feel or look anything like a sacrifice, or predation, or any of these “me versus you” approaches. There’s a wonderful, mutual gifting when there was the sacred relating and the sacred understanding that it might be the right time for a certain organism to recycle. Anyway, the end of its life had come, or the end of its life was to serve another one living. And that’s a very different ethical space, and a very different heart space from the way we humans are running the planet at the moment.
What do the animals feel about humans? What do they feel about the way that most humans treat them? And do they wrongly blame themselves for our persecution of them?
To answer the last part first. No they don’t at all blame themselves. They have no sense of responsibility for it or accountability – and neither should they. They certainly don’t blame themselves or fall into any errant, psychological thinking or reflection upon the state of things. Of course, they are very aware, with a high form of intelligence and insight of the state of things. They really are. They do comment on them. Different species and individuals comment on them. Depending on their circumstance, they’ll have different things to say. But what I can distil and summarize those expressions from the animal kingdoms to be, is that they really wish we would wake up.
I work quite a lot with the factory-farming situation, in both the activist ways and in what one might call the sacred activism way, where you’re really working behind the scenes to energetically try to kind of shift things. Mostly, my role has been to be a voice for the animals though and that includes relaying to humans what the battery hens are saying and the pigs in the sow crates and so on. What amazes me, again and again, (I still can’t quite believe it with my mind,) is the actual compassion that all animals under our subjugation have for humankind. Whether it’s the wild animals in distress, having their habitats destroyed under their very feet, whether it’s the factory-farmed animals whom we subject to lives of torture, whether it’s domestic pets who are unseen or abused or neglected, across the board, all nonhumans hold incredible compassion for the degree to which we humans have lost our way. And that’s probably the single most factor, the single most reason, that they have not risen up against us.
Many of them could. You know I live in Africa and there are many elephants, a horrendous number of them being in captivity in elephant parks and excuses for sanctuaries and so on. The fact that even large animals, or horses whom people ride and mistreat, for example, that the larger animals haven’t just stomped us to death, or trampled us or had some major uprising, with the exception of a few cases in villages etc, is just quite amazing to me. So the absolute compassion they have has really humbled me.
Again and again, I am really humbled by the extent of their wisdom and their unconditional love for us. The messages they have are usually circumstantially related to their particular environments. So they can tell me very specifically what they would like changed.
It sounds very obvious to say that battery hens would like freedom to roam. They would like to have some muscle strength left to be able to even walk. They would like to have their beaks be left whole instead of snipped off at the ends. So these are some very practical things that the animals tell me. Unfortunately, when I relay their messages to the people who are in control of their environments, very often those people are not willing to hear their messages, or even believe that it’s possible to hear what the animals are saying.
There’s a deeper reason for the humans not wanting to hear it though. And that is because we humans individually and collectively are hugely afraid of the implications of acknowledging our disconnection. We would open such a deep well of grief, if we were to acknowledge how separate we have become. We simply can’t face that. So we rather stick our heads in the sand and we go on hiding these things behind doors, out of sight of the common person, and using rather convenient scientific and hierarchical arguments to explain why surely animals don’t have the same levels of intelligence, emotions, or even physical feelings, and pain responses.
So yes, the animals collectively want us humans to wake up and to reconnect with life. It seems to be a secondary request on their part that we reconnect to them and notice what they need. Their primary wish is for us to know ourselves again. For us to know connection again. If we achieve that, individually or collectively, then things improve. Because once we have reconnected we will then be able to come to know what is needed, in any particular circumstance or situation or day, because we will be hearing and knowing the truths and the wishes and needs of the nonhumans in our lives.
So it won’t be possible to factory-farm and kill animals, to eat animals anymore.
Exactly. Yes, that’s right. It really won’t be possible to do that. It would have to come down to an individual who has a relationship with their farm animal, in their home environment. If they then chose, with the agreement of that animal, or the carrots they were harvesting or the lettuces, then that’s a different matter. It’s a conversation, a relationship. It would not be possible to objectify or turn animals, or plants, and I include them in my inter-species communication work…It would not be possible to turn these other beings into just another level of resource for human beings at all.
Have you communicated with animals who are about to be killed? In slaughterhouses and at sacrificial ‘festivals’ for example? And what is that like? It must be terrible.
It really is terrible. Terrible. Even now in the re-telling of it, in the remembering of it, it triggers emotions in me and it’s been quite an important part of my personal journey to prevent myself going into a downward spiral emotionally, and witnessing the direct distress of those animals…You see, to be true to the communication, I have to know it. I have to have that experience so I can know it really. To know their truth I have to experience their truth. So it’s pointless me being in some sort of resistance and saying “oh only show me a little piece of it”. It’s deeply distressing for them and I have to know their distress. What I’ve learned along the way is that it’s not helpful for the animal for me to stay in those unpleasant or reactive emotions that I may have in response to their distress. I have to sort out what it means, my anger, my additional response and my emotional distress. And it’s also not helpful for them for me to feel pity or even sympathy. Empathy is very different to sympathy. We can directly know and understand their experience as empathy. That would be being empathic. Being sympathetic would be pouring pity into the situation which is actually very disempowering, and certainly emotionally, it just makes things a whole lot worse for them. Their situation’s already terrible and now they’re getting pity dumped on them. Pity is in some ways saying, “Gosh, things are really, really awful for you and I’m so sorry you’re not OK.” Empathy is saying, “Your circumstance is really awful. I wish it were different. I know it can’t be changed. I see you, I hear you, I feel you and I acknowledge the whole strong, loving being that you are, despite your circumstances. And in the face of your circumstances, I acknowledge the life and the intelligence that you are and I thank you for your life and your intelligence. So even having those thoughts directed towards the slaughterhouse animals, whether they are about to be slaughtered or not, even the dreadful lives that they are living along the way to their deaths, holding those thoughts in meditation, in our own living room, allows us to be armchair activists.
Or if I’m driving on the road behind a truck on the way to the slaughterhouse, I simply project those thoughts of gratitude… I have to engender in myself feelings of loving kindness to project to them, feelings of peace and calmness to literally help their emotional experience for the next hour or two, for the end of their lives, and literally sending these energy packets of more helpful feelings, of calm, of peaceful feelings, of unconditional love, is useful to them. It really helps the emotional experience of themselves, despite their circumstances and it can ease their distress levels even if the process they’re going through is insurmountable or their circumstances are not going to change. They feel seen. They feel heard and they just feel a little bit better emotionally, and that’s something we humans can do on a case by case basis.
Our indifference must be the most crushing thing to them.
Our indifference is what makes them turn their gaze away from humans, or even worse, what makes their eyes go dull – because they sense our disconnection, our indifference and they sense that we see them as less than. And that is very emotionally painful for them, very disheartening. And I use the word “disheartening” intentionally. Because this form of communication, as all connection, is coming from a heart place. It’s showing unconditional love. Not an attachment-based conditional love, but the real unconditional love that can reside in a state of being.
Scientists always want ‘scientific’ proof of animal consciousness, of animal sapiency, but laboratory animals who are treated as nothing more than numbers and specimens and experimental subjects, have surely withdrawn from and shut down to their human torturers? So how do we get them to supply the ‘proof’ that would force society to treat them with the dignity, compassion and respect they deserve, in these bleak and oppressive conditions?
A lot of animals in those situations have shut down to their human oppressors. If one of their human oppressors were to have a change of mind or a change of heart and to actually just connect with that one guinea pig in that one laboratory cage, that guinea pig would come alive in that moment and appreciate the connection and meet them half way.
Politically speaking, animals are not going to provide us with proof. They refuse to buy into the human paradigm that requires that kind of proof. They’re not going to entertain our cognitive dominance process. They’re not going to indulge our cognitive predilection or that condition…
That arrogant way in which we judge them in the first instance…
Yes. They’re not going to indulge the priority we place upon cognition or measurement-based intelligence. They’re not going to indulge the ways in which we humans think. Much less prove their worth by pacifying and mollifying our left-brained, thinking minds, and our obsession with data.
Connection is about unconditional love and connection is a heart space and a being to being level of relating. And all animals, domesticated, wild and everything in between, are absolutely available to us and ready for us to connect with them at that level. So they’re not going to agree to prove why they should be treated differently because that’s still very head-based stuff. They wish people to experience connection. They just want it to be an experiential thing, because that’s the shift that has to happen. Humans need to shift into feeling and experiencing connection. Not understanding that it’s possible or having science prove that it is, as people like the fabulous Rupert Sheldrake have well proved. And it’s an open invitation, ever present, for us humans to experience connection. Then the data won’t be needed.
The animal exploitation industry is reliant on everything being kept behind closed doors, because if we were to see, we might want to change it. It makes it very difficult to help those poor, enslaved beings who are out of sight and unfortunately thus also out of mind. How do we get round that? And the resistance that says “I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know.” Do you have hope that things will change?
With the exception of that last sentence, yes, how do we get around that? Yes, they’re not going to agree to collectively proving it in that way. However, some individuals certainly have agreed with me to show who they really are or to show their intelligence. For example, doing some documentary film-making and in particular a group of individual baboons, or particular chickens have agreed to really show something, to reveal something and help through me and with me convey that, so that more humans can understand. But that understanding that certain animals are helping me convey is still a very experiential understanding that they are helping people have. When people see the documentary, they are moved emotionally by the messages from the animals and the transformation. They are not moved cognitively. So even when some animals are trying to help people see, they’re still trying to help people have a heart connection and feel something, as opposed to think or know something.
Do I have hope that things will change? Yes, I certainly do. I don’t extrapolate into scenarios on the larger or global scale. In other words, are we really going to realize the 6th great mass extinction or are we going to manage a big enough global shift to prevent that. For me, it’s a lot more of a present question and a present exercise. Things can change, and it starts right here, today, without any concept or predicting of any future outcome. Because it is about quality of life, of every single animal in this moment. And whatever we can do to improve the quality of life of just one animal today is what matters. When I was very active in conservation, I was working a lot with cheetahs. Now cheetahs have been around on the planet for 6000 years already in their current form. And they will be extinct in the wild within the next 10-15 years. That’s just the hard, scientific fact. So I faced a bit of a dilemma. Here I am standing in front of audiences, children or adults, touting the idea of cheetahs surviving in the wild for a lot longer than 15 years, roaming free and having a good lifestyle, knowing full well that the numbers show that that’s highly unlikely. But I realize that me holding the vision of that best outcome, is what might be inspiring some humans in their present moment, to right now, treat a cheetah who might cross their farmland, differently. Or they might be more aware of how they can help an animal in distress that they see on the road as they’re passing. And so the vision that we can hold of a more positive future, where there is harmonious living again, from that retrospective idea which is what informs our present and can shift us into being right now who we are today…and if we can improve the quality of life of just one nonhuman, then we are being the change we wish to see.
So we can’t wait for the mass changes; everybody has a responsibility for every single being they encounter?
Yes. Exactly. And paradoxically, by just doing what we can right now today, we are contributing to the mass change which might come about as a result.
Transmigration, reincarnation across species. Personally I do believe in it. Do you have anything to say about that?
Yes. I’ve absolutely experienced it and having been raised Catholic there was certainly no acceptance in my line for reincarnation, but when I began doing my 60 case studies for the institute at which I studied, I came across several examples of this. I’d be communicating with a perfectly alive dog in someone’s home, trying to understand some behavioural issue that was going on, and the dog would convey to me a cause that had something to do with a past life experience, even as a different species. There was one particular case in Nepal, where a dog was extremely clumsy coming downstairs. He’d go upstairs just fine, but whenever he had to come down a level or two he’d fall over. And the vets had checked him out for possible neurological damage or perceptual issues, none of which were present. When I communicated with him he said to me, “Well, I was a bird in my previous life, in my most recent life.” And he was a young dog, and still trying to get used to the awkwardness of having four legs and the effect of gravity. The up was fine because of the traction, but coming down he’d be wanting to just float down, and of course, couldn’t float and so would stumble and fall. So a wonderful practical example of that. So yes, in my direct experience there are consultations validate that, reincarnation happens in any direction across the species boundaries. There’s no up or down promotional path or demotional path. And so too transmigrations, with the soul agreement of both parties, there can be a trading of places. If it’s for the sake of some higher purpose or goal, in the sacred goal sense, that needs to happen in this dimension of 3D consensus reality.
So humans can become animals. So some of the animals who are being so terribly treated could indeed be your grandmother in a new form.
It’s a good note to end on. Thank you very much.
You’re welcome. You’re welcome.