What Is Animism?

When enough people 's experience of the Earth is of an ancient, vital, sentient organism embedded in a vast, mysterious cosmos of awe inspiring power and beauty… we'll come together to protect what we love.

The God Head

My interest in Animism was sparked by a regular pilgrimage I would make to this spot called the God Head that I discovered buried in the Stanley Park rainforest near my home in the city of Vancouver.

It was carved by an anonymous Indigenous carver in the early 1970s. It is carved out of the stump of an old-growth Western Red Cedar, which in local Coast Salish culture is considered the “Tree of Life.” This tree is highly valued and revered because of a natural preservative in the cedar wood that slows decay, which makes it ideal for building longhouses, canoes, and many of the largest totem poles that stand today.

On my weekly trip to the God Head, I was continually awe-struck by this beautiful carving and piece of living art with mushrooms, bushes and lichen growing out of it. For me, it has become a powerful symbol of duality and how life is a balancing act between opposites. Growth and decay, life and death, light and dark.

As an example of living art, I find that the God Head symbolizes the interplay of matter and spirit, people and nature, reality and illusion.

What Is Animism?

To make more sense of my experiences visiting and contemplating the God Head, I would research on Google and one day down the Internet Rabbit Hole I stumbled upon Animism. It instantly struck me as a powerful way to build relationship with the living behind around us and my curiosity went wild.

Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is defined by Anthropologists as:

1. The attribution of a spirit to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
2. The belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.

Animism is an experience. It isn’t necessary a belief or a perspective. It is direct relationship with the space and beings around you.

At its core, all things have a Spirit. That all spirits are equal. There is no hierarchy. All spirits are connected. Within that connection all spirits can communicate.

The word spirit itself from Latin anima, which means to breathe. All living things we experience breathe and create electromagnetic fields that we can interact by developing our senses.

 

The Ancient History of Animism

Incredibly, we have been animists for most of human history.

What we call agricultural civilization with its strict hierarchies and organized religions with priesthoods started in the late Bronze Age less than 6,000 years ago. Yet, we have had the awareness to communicate with each other and use Stone Age tools as hunter-gatherers in the forests for nearly 2.6 million years.

While monotheistic cultures with written languages and large agricultural surpluses have ruthlessly colonized animistic cultures throughout history, today there is a growing reconciliation with indigenous ways of knowing and a revival in animism as we wake up to the grand scale of our planetary ecological crisis.

"The experience of animistic consciousness wipes away the Cartesian distinction of an independent, rational self surrounded by a mechanical, dead universe. Gone is the hardened dualism of self and other, opening us to a form of apprehension that pre-historian Jean Clottes described as fluid and permeable: “Fluidity means the categories that we have, man, woman, horse, tree, etc., can shift. A tree may speak. A man can get transformed into an animal and the other way around. The concept of permeability is that there are no barriers, so to speak, between the world where we are and the world of spirits.

“The world of spirit,” for me, isn’t limited to ghosts, holy or otherwise. It means the innate, unique sentience of all beings, now hidden from us by the blinders of our a priori world view. In this way, animistic perspective is the great equalizer: you cannot poison the Earth if you instinctively recognize it as the organic extension of your own body and mind—indeed, as your body and mind.”

The Animistic Worldview

This 4-minute video does a good job of describing the Animistic worldview:

Active Participants In The Planetary Ecology

I believe that it is only in changing the way we see nature and our place in it that we will be able to solve our existential crisis.

When build a stronger connection with living beings around us and experience the air, water, fire and soil as sacred, we can reconnect the ancestral and evolutioary hertiage of the Planet that we have lost.

Fortunately, I see a new generation is rising. People of all ages today are using the globally-connected Internet and technological tools that empower self-organizing, grassroots movements to solve the global challenges of the 21st-century and bypass our centralized institutions that are rooted in vested interests oriented toward maintaining the status quo.

We have the opportunity today to usher in what could be the most important grassroot movement in human history to transform the social, political, economic and ecological balance of human civilization.

Animism challenges the Western scientific orientation toward dogmatic materialism that can allow for no purpose, meaning or possibility for sentience in natural forces because it can't be easily measured and objectified with our technological instruments.

It challenges us to shift our perception of who we think we are and develop practices to build deeper relationships with the other beings embedded with us in the web of life.

 

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