Poffo Ortiz –author, artist, philosopher, HA! contributor and resident Biopantheist– opens up about his background, history and life experiences in this “unofficial” autobiography.
I’m an ex-Christian, one-time aspiring youth minister, with an extensive, self-taught knowledge in biblical studies, history, theology, psychology, philosophy, mythology, folklore, metaphysics and the occult. I also have a strong background in science, astronomy and zoology as well, having grown up in a fairly rural area (Virginia) and having worked with animals on farms and owned many beloved pets throughout my life. I’ve taken care of many hurt, sick, injured and orphaned animals as well, rescuing and rehabilitating a wide variety of wildlife and promoting environmentalism, conservation and Deep Ecology, wherever i go and with whomever I’m interacting with.
In addition to this, I’m also an actor, artist and special make-up effects designer by trade, with an associate’s degree in specialized business. I have drawn, painted and sculpted for numerous productions, including many short films, student films, commercials, TV spots and feature-length movies as well. Most of my work has centered around haunted houses as a live actor and make-up artist, with a good deal of experience in prop fabrication and set design for seasonal haunts and film, but I’m currently in the process of transitioning out of the industry in order to pursue writing in a better environment, where i can explore my philosophical leanings and pursue my spiritual convictions without hindrance.
Over the last 10 years I’ve written a total of 8 books that cover a wide variety of subjects, with topics ranging from spirituality and religion, to mental illness and philosophy, with a particular focus on Pantheism and human psychology as well. I’m also the administrator, creator and co-founder of at least 3 separate Facebook groups that revolve around Pantheism. As a Boy Scout growing up, i have many fond memories of hiking, camping, fishing and spending time outdoors and in the woods and forests, in communion with animals and Nature. I’ve always had a “be prepared” survivalist mentality and a natural distrust of authority and government/religious institutions, that has gradually evolved into a very strong personal desire to become self-sustainable and live a simplistic life of non-dependency upon the government, in a smaller, off-grid community, in or near an ideal rural setting, where i can more easily interact with Nature and be free to write and pursue whatever creative interest i choose, in relative peace and tranquility.
Along these same lines, i am of course, an avid Nature lover and i enjoy hiking and exploring any surrounding forests, canyons, mountains or beaches, wherever i happen to live, whenever i can. I do this, not just for the exercise or the recreational aspect, but to de-stress, unwind, clear my head and connect with Nature. As a Biopantheist, the most notable and significant aspects of my spirituality are wrapped up in (and indeed dependent upon), regular and consistent interaction with the natural world. The earth and all of her living systems are sacred to me.. and i find the greatest inspiration spending time with animals and wildlife, in rustic outdoor settings and rugged wilderness environments; in deliberate and prolonged isolation, away from urban life and all of the stress and chaos of traffic, crowds and dysfunctional people.
In stark seeming contrast to all of this, I’ve also been involved in several “unofficial” counseling programs, helping troubled youths and adults alike with substance abuse problems, teaching and promoting abstinence/moderation and encouraging those negatively affected to quit using drugs and stay clean and sober. Likewise, I’ve spent the better part of my life ministering to those who are lost or broken, due to childhood trauma, parental abuse or neglect, and the emotionally and psychologically damaging consequences of indoctrination and brainwashing from oppressive, Abrahamic religions– showing generosity, kindness, love and compassion, to both people and animals.. and acting tirelessly as a kind of therapist to many loved ones and friends, as well as all those who happened to cross my path that were emotionally unstable, suffering anxiety/depression, or were generally dysfunctional or maladjusted in some way... and I’ve been doing this (sometimes almost constantly), for the last 20 years.
I’ve worked with famous people and I’ve been homeless. I’ve hung out with movie stars and I’ve spent time in a mental hospital. I’ve eaten at the fanciest restaurants and I’ve struggled to make ends meet. I’ve traveled up and down the east coast and I’ve journeyed back and forth from east to west several times, and even stayed oversees in Israel for a spell.. all in search of wisdom, enlightenment and the purported insight derived from many of the world’s most ancient spiritual traditions. On top of all this, i also read, research, study and write about these things constantly.
All of that being said, let it be known, I’m no mystic… and i lean much more toward Atheism and Secular Humanism than some of my more abstract and ‘mystically’ focused contemporaries, who will swear by the teachings of Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell and Terrence McKenna. Although i find great inspiration and insight in these men and their various writings.. in truth, i don’t always agree with everything they say, or their re-interpretations of traditional religion.. as i feel in some instances, their views may be skewed or limited when it comes to their knowledge of history (specifically biblical history). My heroes are more along the lines of Thomas Jefferson, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, HP Lovecraft, JRR Tolkien, John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jacque Cousteau, Jane Goodall, Marty Stouffer, Steve Irwin, Bill Nye, Brian Cox, Neil Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the like.
Personally, i think we should follow science and only believe in what is verifiable, what is demonstrably proven and what can be tested and observed. We should follow our intelligence, follow our hearts and follow our gut instincts when it comes to decision-making in life, but when it comes to matters of ontology and spirituality, we should only believe in and promote what is valid and what is true… what is provable and what is genuinely authentic, based on evidence, common sense, sound logic and reason.
None of this implies that i am closed-minded or that i operate under a strictly reductionist, empirical mindset (i am not a materialist by any means). Likewise, i know that there is a vast amount of information concerning existence that we are not readily able to access and deduce through our (very) limited, physical senses. And so, i am always open to new theoretical concepts and emergent information and i believe that imagination, inspiration and intuitive knowledge, also play a vital role in discovering the fundamental truth that exists on any level.
Where my beliefs dip into speculation and theory are the areas of inspiration and synchronicity, the paranormal world (of which there is far too much evidence for anyone to readily dismiss without being obtuse and willfully ignorant). And of course, the greatest question of all- what actually existed ‘before’ the Big Bang. Add to this, our ultimate future destiny as a species and the true nature of the Omnia (my word for the Universe and the fundamental, “Life Principle” inherent in all things), and this is where i say we must delve into philosophical hypotheses and extrapolate from what we know and observe in the natural world, as well as what is revealed to us through science, logic, observation and intuition.
I am also open to some New Age concepts, with great interest (among other things) in alternative medicine and holistic healing. I have a general knowledge of Eastern mysticism and am well acquainted with the practices of Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Reiki, Acupuncture and the like.. with a firm understanding of the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism as well, but i am always careful to weed out the ‘woo-woo‘ and discern between what is fantasy and what is fiction, what is verifiable and what is pseudoscience, what is superstition and what is objective reality, etc.
Again, whatever advancements we make in Quantum Physics or whatever we have yet to discover in terms of any new and emergent qualities of the Universe, that information will never reinforce or confirm, the fallacious belief in anthropomorphic gods or goddesses, demons and angels, a transcendent, supernatural world, or any other primitive concept assumed by the unenlightened, unintelligent and uninformed collective mindset of ages past. Whatever it is we know now, whatever we think we know and whatever we’ve yet to know in the future, however complex or arcane... in the end, will always simply be just another elusive property of Nature that we were yet to fully grasp, comprehend and understand initially. No need to stretch reality, or exaggerate the truth, or impose any fanciful ideas, simply because we wish them to be so.
In this sense, i am, and will always be.. a Naturalist. Not in a way that i am predisposed or biased to seek naturalistic explanations for miraculous phenomena out of fear or obstinacy, but confident that whatever answers we do uncover (be it extraordinary or mundane), they will never be of ‘supernatural’ origin.. but rather, just another unique and wondrous facet of Nature, that we were uneducated about and unfamiliar with, in the intellectual adolescence of our species. We have much to learn, but in the noble search for truth, purpose and relevant meaning, i will never condone or promote, the melding and mixing of fantasy and delusion with facts and reality.
If i could sum up my form of Pantheism, it would go something like this:
“Biopantheism” (in case you didn’t already know) is my particular form of Pantheism, that specifically focuses on Life, living organisms and all of the complex and subtle biological aspects of Nature. It stresses what is relevant to the human condition, with an emphasis on morals, values, bioethics, cooperation, symbiosis, ecology, environmentalism and wildlife conservation.
It espouses an ontology that is strictly based on logic, reason and the laws of cause and effect, as evidenced through observable science, biology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, microbiology, psychology and anthropology.. and includes a speculative, ‘Pandeistic‘ explanation for the origins of the Universe and our ultimate future destiny, that also involves the energetic pattern of the Torus as the fundamental model for the Universe, as well as the ubiquitous blueprint for the actions and processes of all living and non-living things.
It also sympathizes with Animism, Native American spirituality and culture, modern Wiccan religion and a great deal of Pagan and Neo-Pagan symbolism and aesthetics, embracing personification and metaphor as a poetic way of relating to Nature, including any number of rustic, Earth-based rituals, observances and celebrations one may wish to use and incorporate, in order to bring them closer to the forces and powers existent all around us in the natural world.
Evolution and human progress are key factors in this philosophy, along with the unification and cohesion of our species as a collective whole, through altruism, benevolence, mutual respect and love- promoting morally conscious, upright living and a higher quality of thinking, with a particular importance placed on education, inspiration, self-progression, physical/psychological/emotional health and a sober, astute attitude of balance and moderation in all things, fostered through regular and consistent interaction and communion with Nature.
In summary, i will simply end by citing two quotes from one of my greatest heroes:
“We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact.”
“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”
~ Carl Sagan