The World Soul: Exploring The Lost Language of Animism

1. What Is Animism?

Animism is an ancient worldview at the root of spirituality and religion that see human beings as existing in an interconnected web of life and living within a great mystery that goes beyond our conception.

The word Animism derives from the latin root Anima, which means breath, spirit and life.

Anima is similar to Prana in the Vedic tradition, Chi in the Taoist tradition and the Great Spirit spoken of in many Indigenous traditions.

Celtic Druids call this spiritual lifeforce Nwyfre, the Algonquians call it Manitou and the Haudensaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) call it Orenda.

Throughout human history, nearly every society has had a cultural mythology and cosmology that revered a universal spiritual force that is found in all living beings.

It is only in modern times in the secular churches we call schools that things have fundamentally changed.

The Enlightenment hyper-rationalist prevailing today is unique in world history with a strange "soulless" view of the Universe as an indifferent machine-like entity or code-based simulation.

Animism is about cultivating a relationship with the world soul.  It is a value-system based on respect for the land, reverence for all life and relating to the world as a living being infused with sentience. 

2. The Experience of Animism

The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Eternal Tao. Animism is not an abstract concept but a direct way of experiencing life.

 

Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is defined on Wikipedia 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.

This is a good definition by and for modern minds. But Animism is something much deeper and profound.

Ultimately, Animism is about the cultivation of experience and a love of nature that is often referred to as Biophilia by the ecologist E.O. Wilson.

Animism doesn't necessary describe a belief system although every tribe and culture with an animistic cosmology has a different mythology and belief system rooted in the unique characteristics of their land.

The practice of Animism is an exploration of the natural elements that give us life and the development of our relationship through direct experience with the other living creatures in the web of life.

At its core, the practice of Animism is about the cultivation of direct perception that goes beyond the compulsive labeling, comparison and judgement of the analytical mind.

When we begin to explore the world with more child-like lenses beyond the limitations of language and the pre-conceptions of the analytical mind, nature becomes much more alive to our senses.

Over time, the practice of animistic perception through forest meditation and mindful awareness practices develops an intuitive knowing of our interconnection with all living beings directly through our shared world soul.

All living things we experience through our senses breathe and create subtle electromagnetic fields that we can interact with through our hearts by challenging the "sensory gating" of cultural conditioning and developing the perceptual acuity of our senses.

3. The God Head And How I Got Into Studying Animism

My name is Kyle Pearce, here's my story of discovering the magic and mystery of Animism.

While studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, my refuge from stress and the boredom of lectures was in the Pacific Spirit rainforest that surrounds the campus.

As a young student, I would spend my free time mountain biking, hiking and explore the trails of Pacific Spirit Park, Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains.

My interest in Animism was sparked by the discovery of the God Head, a mysterious carving buried in the rainforests of Stanley Park.

Fascinated by this place of peace and tranquility in the forest, I began to make regular pilgrimage to meditate and contemplate.

The God Head 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.”

The Western Red Cedar tree is highly valued and revered because of a natural preservative in the cedar wood that slows decay, which makes it ideal material for building longhouses, canoes, and many of the largest totem poles that still stand today.

On my regular trips to the God Head, I was continually awe-struck by this beautiful carving that combines human ingenuity and the living art of nature with different mushrooms, bushes, ferns and lichen growing out of it as the seasons change.

For me, it became a powerful symbol of the duality of life and how our existence is a balancing act and interplay between seemingly opposing forces that upon deeper inspection are closely interconnected:

1. Humans and nature
2. Art and science
3. Life and death
4. Growth and decay
5. Wildness and domestication
6. Reality and illusion
7. Matter and spirit

4. The Modern History of Animism

The first modern scientists and cultural anthropologists that spread out across the world with European nautical explorers were perplexed by indigenous worldviews.

Animism actually has a long history in Western culture going back (and beyond) to the ancient priesthood known as the Druids in Western Europe and Plato’s philosophy of a World Soul in ancient Greece, which he called the Anima Mundi.

Today, Western science and Enlightenment rationalism have relegated Animism to the margins but it is making a comeback in this age of mass alienation from nature, relativistic nihilism and climate breakdown.

The avalanche of data, statistics and academic papers from 10,000+ scientific studies and tens of billions of dollars spent on climate change research doesn’t speak to most people’s hearts or mobilize the kind of collective action we need to save ourselves.

What we need is a new story.

The modern Western way of perceiving the world as a detached observer in a reductionist, mechanistic and meaningless Universe is at the root of the crisis of consciousness and  biodiversity collapse happening today.

To challenge this aging worldview, there is an awakening of people who are learning to perceive through the heart again and embody ancient teachings that can set them free from the limited abstractions of the mind.

The modern conception of Animism was first developed by German chemist, physician and philosopher Georg E. Stahl in 1708 as Animismus, which grew out of branch of science called Vitalism.

Vitalism is the belief that a spiritual force is vital to life and that many diseases have spiritual causes.

In 1869, English anthropologist Edward Taylor read Stahl’s theory and coined the word Animism for the belief and value systems of pre-agricultural, nature-based tribal people.

It essentially denotes a belief systems where human beings are not separate from the environments from which they have evolved.

In Animism, all life is understood to have a personhood due to being alive and interconnected in a give-and-take relationship with other living beings.

In the last two decades, the traditional indigenous worldview that all living things are our ancestors is being validated by evolutionary biology tracing back our DNA to the beginning of life on Planet Earth 3.8 billion years ago. 

Animism has been recognized by cultural ecological philosopher David Abram as a phenomenological experience, which means to say a sensory experience that is often trained out of people by heavy reliance on written language, rote learning and ever-present screens.

In 2006, Alf Hornborg, a professor of Human Ecology at Lunds Universitet in Sweden published data from anthropologists who are starting to explore the theory that Animism is a basic human psychological need.

Interestingly, modern psychology going back to Sigmund Freud's book Totem and Taboo has studied Animism and today it is widely accepted by psychologists that children are naturally animistic but this way of seeing and interacting with the world is often lost and forgotten in the process of Western schooling.

From consciousness and neuroscience research, there is also an emerging scientific theory of Panpsychism, which posits that there is an all-pervading sentience and consciousness at every level of the Universe from Microcosm to Macrocosm.

Animism challenges the Western scientific worldview that emphasizes the quantitative over the qualitative and a tendency toward denial of the existence of natural forces that can't be easily measured through current technological instruments.

Interestingly, many conventional scientists are coming full circle back to Animism with recent discoveries that the natural world is infused with sentience, intelligence and communication binding it into whole "networked" communities that operate as if self-aware.

This is starting to be reflected in the development of a more holistic science and the growing importance of systems thinking.

5. The Animate Earth: The Rise of A Holistic Science

You can learn more about the frontiers of animistic science and the development of systems thinking, emergent properties and holistic thinking in the excellent film Animate Earth.

6. The Ancient History of Animism

Incredibly, human beings have been animists for most of our history.

What we call agricultural civilization with its strict hierarchies and organized religions with secretive priesthoods started in the late Bronze Age less than 6,000 years ago.

They arose out of the early Empires of Mesopotamia that grew from the large agricultural surpluses that only intensive agriculture can produce.

Yet, beyond the time scale of written history, our ancestors have had the self-awareness and language to communicate with each other and use Stone Age tools as hunter-gatherers in the forests for nearly 2.6 million years.

The monotheistic cultures that revere the written word of their scriptures are a very recent phenomenon in human history.

The militant literalist of modern fundamentalist and evangelical movements are even more recent at less than 200 years old. They have largely grown out of a reaction against the changes of modernity that have disrupted rural life and lead to extreme poverty in the countryside today. 

While the Abrahamic monotheistic religions have colonized animistic cultures throughout their history, today there is a growing reconciliation with indigenous ways of knowing as young people are well-aware of the  historical atrocities committed in the name of God and the scale of our planetary ecological crisis.

Science and religion alone won't save us in this time of transition and crossroads for humanity.

We also need to experience the Earth again as a vital and sentient living being and explore the interconnected intelligence of nature. We are living miracles embedded in a vast and mysterious cosmos of awe-inspiring power and beauty.

7. The Animistic Worldview Explained

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

8. What Is Animist Ecology

A return to the mythological Garden of Eden or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? The rise of a new regenerative culture of active participation in our planetary ecology.

The word ecology was coined by the German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel (initially as oecology) in 1866.

It derives from the Greek oikos, “referring originally to the family and its daily operations and maintenance.”

The term ecology is therefore intended to refer to the study of the conditions of existence that pertain to, and the interactions between, all the entities that make up our larger, cosmic family here upon earth.

The indigenous worldview that all living creatures are ancestors has been validated by modern science and evolutionary biology.

Yet as a society, we remain profoundly disconnected from the land and stuck in the mental clutter of anxiety and abstraction.

It is typical in highly-developed countries today for both children and adults to spend 90% of their lives sedentary indoors and 10+ hours a day staring at a digital screen.

I believe that a new way of seeing the world around us that inspires people with awe and wonder is necessary to cultivate the passion and biophilia to solve our current existential crisis.

Developing a stronger connection with living beings around us and experiencing the elemental air, water, fire and soil as sacred again can help reconnect us with the lost ancient wisdom of our ancestors.

Today is has become difficult to control information and enforce dogmatic worldviews and there is a new generation rising that is self-educating themselves using the Internet.

We have now have the technological tools and collective power to create self-organizing, grassroots movements that will address the unique global challenges of 21st-century life.

I believe we are at the dawning of a new age of human ingenuity and creative possibility.

This time of transition challenges each of us to shift our perception of who we are, where we come from and why we were are here.

With a different way of seeing we can develop the necessary habits and meaningful rituals that enchant this world and help us live in closer harmony with nature.

9. Best Animism and Animistic Philosophy Quotes

Some of the best quotes illuminating an experiential philosophy and ecological worldview rooted in nature.

1. "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.”

― Robert Tindall M.

2. Animism is worth considering (a) because it exists, (b) because it addresses contemporary issues and debates, and (c) because it clarifies, in various ways, the argument that the project of modernity is ill-conceived and dangerously performed.

― Graham Harvey

3. The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are our biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity—then we will treat each one with greater respect. That is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.

― David Suzuki

4. Animism is not a belief but a worldview: The world is a sacred place and we are part of it. The factuality of this statement is not the issue. To say that the world is a sacred place is to make a statement about values, not facts. It's a statement about what you mean by "sacred," just as "money can't buy happiness" is a statement about what you mean by "happiness." To put it all very simply, Animism isn't a belief system, it's a value system.

― Daniel Quinn

5. “Animism is the way humanity has been deeply connected to the land and its seasonal cycles for millennia, in rapport and conversation with the animals, plants, elements, ancestors and earth spirits. The opposite of animism is the “cult of the individual” so celebrated in modern society, and the loss of the animist worldview is at the root of our spiritual disconnect and looming ecological crisis. Human beings are just one strand woven into the complex systems of Earth Community, and the animistic perspective is fundamental to the paradigm shift, and the recovery of our own ancestral wisdom.”

― Pegi Eyers

6. The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

― John Seed, Thinking Like a Mountain

7. "The elders were wise. They know that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; they knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to a lack of respect for humans too."

― Chief Luther Standing Bear from the Lakota Sioux

8. "This world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence, a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related."

― Plato, Timaeus

9. “The crisis is at root one of perception; we no longer see the cosmos as alive, nor do we any longer recognize that we are inseparable from the whole of nature, and from our earth as a living being. But there is hope, for as the crisis deepens, the call of anima mundi intensifies.”

― Stephan Harding

10. What you intend when you approach something in the world determines, to varying extents, the degree of sensory gating that occurs as you perceive that phenomenon. Intent, task demands, cognitive template, and gating defaults all affect what you sensorally perceive when a part of the exterior world and you meet. More colloquially, all of us see what we expect to see.”

― Stephen Harrod Buhner

11. “People think they understand things because they become familiar with them. This is only superficial knowledge. It is the knowledge of the astronomer who knows the names of the stars, the botanist who knows the classification of the leaves and flowers, the artist who knows the aesthetics of green and red. This is not to know nature itself- the earth and sky, green and red. Astronomer, botanist, and artist have done no more than grasp impressions and interpret them, each within the vault of his own mind. The more involved they become with the activity of the intellect, the more they set themselves apart and the more difficult it becomes to live naturally.”

― Masanobu Fukuoka

12. “Science is a dangerous gift unless it can be brought into contact with wisdom that resides in the sensual, intuitive and ethical aspects of our nature. For most non-Western cultures, nature is truly alive, and every entity within it is endowed with agency, intelligence and wisdom. This animistic perception is archetypal, ancient and primordial.

― Robert Riversong

13. Caught up in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotized by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect us back to ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities. Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth – our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.

― David Abram 

14. "Modern materialists and religious extremists alike lack the spiritual animistic reverence for non-human beings that every culture once understood as a given."

― Zeena Schreck

15. “Life is a planetary level phenomenon and the Earth has been alive for at least 3000 million years. To me the human move to take responsibility for the living Earth is laughable - the rhetoric of the powerless. The planet takes care of us, not we of it. Our self inflated moral imperative to guide a wayward Earth or heal a sick planet is evidence of our immense capacity for self-delusion. Rather, we need to protect us from ourselves.”

― Lynn Margolis

16. “James Hillman so eloquently put it, “It was only when science convinced us that nature was dead that it could begin its autopsy in earnest.” A living, aware, and soul-filled world does not respond well to autopsy.”

― Stephen Harrod Buhner

17. "I was educated at Cambridge. How admirable is the Western method of submitting all theory to scrupulous experimental verification! That procedure has gone hand in hand with the gift for introspection which is my Eastern heritage. Together they have enabled me to sunder the silences of natural realms long uncommunicative. The telltale charts of my crescograph are evidence for the most skeptical that plants have a sensitive nervous system and a varied emotional life. Love, hate, joy, fear, pleasure, pain, excitability, and countless appropriate responses to stimuli are as universal in plants as in animals."

― Jagadish Chandra Bose

18. “Reason flows from the blending of rational thought and feeling. If the two functions are torn apart, thinking deteriorates into schizoid intellectual activity and feeling deteriorates into neurotic life-damaging passions.”

― Erich Fromm

19. "You didn't come into this world.  You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.  You are not a stranger here.

Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe."

― Alan Watts

20. “There is no environment "out there" that is separate from us. We can't manage our impact on the environment if we are our surroundings. Indigenous people are absolutely correct: we are born of the earth and constructed from the four sacred elements of earth, air, fire and water. (Hindus list these four and add a fifth element, space.)”

― David Suzuki

21. "Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way."

— Blackfoot Proverb

22. The nomadic gatherer-hunters live in an entirely sacred world. Their spirituality reaches as far as all of their relations. They know the animals and plants that surround them and not only the ones of immediate importance. They speak with what we would call "inanimate objects," but they can speak the same language. They know how to see beyond themselves and are not limited to the human languages that we hold so dearly. Their existence is grounded in place, they wander freely, but they are always home, welcome and fearless.

― Kevin Tucker

23. “The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”

― Terence Mckenna

24. "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."

― Chief Seattle

25. "The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eye of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity...and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."

― William Blake

26. "One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don't talk to the animals, they won't talk back to you, then you won't understand, and when you don't understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself."

― Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation

27. "Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God."

― George Washington Carver

28. “Animists are people who recognize that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others. Animism is lived out in various ways that are all about learning to act respectfully (carefully and constructively) towards and among other persons. Persons are beings, rather than objects, who are animated and social towards others (even if they are not always sociable). Animism may involve learning how to recognize who is a person and what is not – because it is not always obvious and not all animists agree that everything that exists is alive or personal. However, animism is more accurately understood as being concerned with learning how to be a good person in respectful relationships with other persons.”

― Graham Harvey

29. "Illnesses do not come upon us out of the blue. They are developed from small daily sins against Nature. When enough sins have accumulated, illnesses will suddenly appear."

― Hippocrates

30. “In the oldest religion, everything was alive, not supernaturally but naturally alive. There were only deeper and deeper streams of life, vibrations of life more and more vast. So rocks were alive, but a mountain had a deeper, vaster life than a rock, and it was much harder for a man to bring his spirit, or his energy, into contact with the life of a mountain, and so he drew strength from the mountain, as from a great standing well of life, than it was to come into contact with the rock. And he had to put forth a great religious effort. For the whole life-effort of man was to get his life into contact with the elemental life of the cosmos. mountain-life, cloud-life, thunder-life, air-life, earth-life, sun-life. To come into the immediate felt contact, and so derive energy, power, and a dark sort of joy. This effort into sheer naked contact, without an intermediary or mediator, is the root meaning of religion …”

― D.H. Lawrence

31. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

― Rumi

32. "The animistic perspective has a long and distinguished philosophical pedigree. For some eminent philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibniz, and more recently Alfred North Whitehead, it was inconceivable that sentience (subjective consciousness) could ever emerge or evolve from wholly insentient (objective, physical) matter, for to propose this would be to believe in a fundamental division or inconsistency within the very fabric of reality itself.

Therefore each of these philosophers considered matter to be intrinsically sentient. The new animism that they espoused simply recognizes that the material world around us has always been a dimension of sensation and feelings--albeit sensations that may be very different from our own--and that each entity must be treated with respect for its own kind of experience."

― Stephan Harding

33. If we are to survive, we must learn a new way to live, or relearn an old way. There have existed, and for the time being still exist, many cultures whose members refuse to cut the vocal cords of the planet, and refuse to enter into the deadening deal which we daily accept as part of living. It is perhaps significant that prior to contact with Western Civilization many of these cultures did not have rape, nor did they have child abuse.... wish that we could say the same. It is perhaps significant that members of these cultures listen attentively (as though their lives depend on it, which of course they do) to what plants, animals, rocks, rivers, and stars have to say, and that these cultures have been able to do what we can only dream of, which is to live in dynamic equilibrium with the rest of the world.

― Derrick Jenson, A Language Older Than Words

34. Once the idea of a supernaturalistic creation is fully overcome, the idea returns that the universe must be self-organizing and therefore composed of self-moving parts. Also, insofar as dualistic assumptions are fully overcome and human experience is accepted as fully natural, it begins to seem probable that something analogous to our experience and self-movement is a feature of every level of nature.

― David Ray Griffin

35. "Children arrive animists. They learn about life, themselves, and empathy by imagining the liveliness of everything they come into contact with."

― S. Kelley Harrell

36. "Animism is a monist metaphysical stance, based upon the idea that mind and matter are not distinct and separate substances but an integrated reality, rooted in nature."

― Emma Restall Orr 

37. “Everything in nature is alive and speaking. Our spiritual practice is about opening our eyes, ears and hearts to hear, understand, and communicate back. The elements, the Ancestors and the spirit beings that surround us want us to communicate with them. They want to work with us to heal the Earth, but they need our invitation.”

― Starhawk

38. "Sympathy binds human beings to plants, animals, rocks and stars. Therefore they become beings rather than objects, fellows rather than things, and members in a circle of social relations.”

― Peter Nabokov

39. "Animism, because it seeks to relate and converse with the world, rather than to define and control it, always renews itself. It wakes up every morning fresh and alive, and every evening it tucks itself to bed to dream again for the very first time. Since animism involves a relationship with the world, a living being that exists in the now, the present moment, what more relevant perspective could you find?”

― Willem Larsen

40. “In tribal societies, there is so much to see and hear. The bear speaks, the river speaks, the rainbow signifies, the eclipse is a sign. The animistic personification of natural objects may be difficult for us to accept in any ‘literal’ way. Yet, judged solely on intellectual grounds, animism can be credited with a more sophisticated perception of physicality than Western Knowledge. Far from regarding matter as dead stuff, tribal societies perceive it as infused with mind, will, and intention.”

― Theodore Roszak

41. "In the cosmology of the Haudenosaunee (often referred to as the Iroquois), the world around and all its features – rivers, trees, clouds, springs and mountains are regarded as alive, endowed with spirit and sensibility every bit as real as those of humans, and in fact of exactly the same type and quality as a human’s. Among the Iroquois this was called Orenda, the invisible force inherent in all parts of the universe.”

― Kirkpatrick Sale

42. "We bring breaths of open spaces and hills, of sunshine, showers, and breezes. All of these are part of your being. Even if you live in the midst of a busy city, these natural things are home to you. They are part of the atmosphere of this Earth, part of the surroundings in which you live and grow. Even if your life and thinking are completely enmeshed in the human world, still you are part of our Deva world, which works for the perfect flowering of all life. This is your birthright. You may turn your back on it, but someday you will learn the truth and live in connection with all life on this planet. Only then will you tap your highest potential.”

― Gentian Deva

43. "A human being is part of the whole called by us universe ... We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive."

― Albert Einstein

44. "When we speak of Nature it is wrong to forget that we are ourselves a part of Nature. We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe."

― Henri Matisse

45. "The term environment refers to the external conditions or surroundings of organisms, whereas ecology refers to the relationships between organisms and their external conditions or surroundings, that is, their environment. The prefix eco (for "ecology") is therefore more appropriate for my purposes than the adjective environmental because the kind of approach that I will be developing herein is one that attempts to break down the rigid distinctions that we tend to draw between ourselves and our environment. Instead of seeking to maintain these distinctions, this approach attempts to foster a greater awareness of the intimate and manifold relationships that exist between what we conventionally designate as self and what we conventionally designate as environment.

― Warwick Fox

46. "The basic pattern of life is a network. Whenever you see life, you see networks. The whole planet, what we can term 'Gaia' is a network of processes involving feedback tubes. And the world of bacteria is critical to the details of these feedback processes, because bacteria play a crucial role in the regulation of the whole Gaian system."

― Fritjof Capra

47. "I consider that this shift to an emphasis on our “capacity to identify with the larger collective of all beings”  is essential to our survival at this point in history precisely because it can serve in lieu of morality and because moralising is ineffective. Sermons seldom hinder us from pursuing our self-interest, so we need to be a little more enlightened about what our self-interest is. It would not occur to me, for example, to exhort you to refrain from cutting off your leg. That wouldn’t occur to me or to you, because your leg is part of you. Well, so are the trees in the Amazon Basin; they are our external lungs. We are just beginning to wake up to that. We are gradually discovering that we are our world."

― Joanna Macy

48. “Gaia is a thin spherical shell of matter that surrounds the incandescent interior; it begins where the crustal rocks meet the magma of the Earth’s hot interior, about 100 miles below the surface, and proceeds another 100 miles outwards through the ocean and air to the even hotter thermosphere at the edge of space. It includes the biosphere and is a dynamic physiological system that has kept our planet fit for life for over three billion years. I call Gaia a physiological system because it appears to have the unconscious goal of regulating the climate and the chemistry at a comfortable state for life. Its goals are not set points but adjustable for whatever is the current environment and adaptable to whatever forms of life it carries.

I know that to personalize the Earth System as Gaia, as I have often done and continue to do in this book, irritates the scientifically correct, but I am unrepentant because metaphors are more than ever needed for a widespread comprehension of the true nature of the Earth and an understanding of the lethal dangers that lie ahead.”  

― James Lovelock

49. Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox! This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the Earth, and sun, and stars - and love, poor blossom, we plucked from its stem on the tree of life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table."

― D.H. Lawrence

50. "In my opinion, no more destructive belief exists than the idea that we have escaped the constraints imposed by nature on all other species. We assume that by enabling us to exploit and alter our surroundings, our intellect has freed us from dependence on specific habitats. We believe we are no longer part of nature, because we have acquired the ability to control and manage the forces impinging on us. This illusion of escape from nature has been reinforced by our extraordinary transformation in this century from country dwellers to city dwellers. In an urban setting, we live in a human-created environment, surrounded by other people plus a few domesticated plants and animals, as well as the pests that have overcome our defences. Living among such a dearth of species, we no longer recognize our dependence on the rest of life for our well-being and our very survival. It is simpler to assume that the economy delivers our food, clean air, water and energy and takes away our sewage and waste. We forget that the Earth itself provides all these services, and so makes economists and the economy possible. We are biological beings, as dependent on the biosphere as any other life form and we forget our animal nature at our peril."

― David Suzuki

Live In The Flow of Natural Rhythms

Explore your interconnection with the web of life and build habits and rituals that reconnect you with nature.

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