Am I an animist?

Don’t let us imagine we see the sun as the old civilisations saw it. All we see is a scientific little luminary, dwindled to a ball of blazing gas. In the centuries before Ezekiel and John, the sun was still a magnificent reality, men drew forth from him strength and splendor, and gave him back homage and lustre and thanks. But in us, the connection is broken, the responsive centers are dead. Our sun is quite a different thing from the cosmic sun of the ancients, so much more trivial. We may see what we call the sun, but we have lost Helios forever. We have lost the cosmos, by coming out of responsive connection with it, and this is our chief tragedy. …

Who says the sun cannot speak to me! … What we lack is cosmic life, the sun in us and the moon in us. … We can only get the sun by a sort of worship; and the same with the moon.

– D.H. Lawrence, Apocalypse

I found myself excited about a new blogging project called, the Animist Blog Carnival which is organized by Adventures in Animism.  (Unfortunately, all the links are now broken and the blog appears to have disappeared.  I hope it reappears.)

[UPDATE from Mama Fauna: "Despite Heather’s regrettable absence in the blogosphere, the Animist Blog Carnival is still in operation. Home base moved over to Glen Gordon’s Post Pagan website http://postpagan.com/ & this upcoming carnival will be hosted over at Natural Pantheist Musings: http://naturalpantheist.wordpress.com/. (The carnival moves around to a new host each month.) The theme for this month is Science."]

Each month, a different blog “hosts” the Carnival by gathering all the related posts into one place.  All “animist types” are invited to participate by blogging on that month’s theme.  For the purposes of this project, “animists” is an inclusive term, and can include pantheists, naturalists, eco-pagans, polytheists.  If you want to participate, just post your contribution on the first of the month and send the link to that month’s host.  Each month there is a different theme.  May’s theme is “Place Magic”.

So I set about writing my contribution for May.  I found myself struggling with it.  For one thing, I have an ambiguous attitude about magic.  But there are ways around that.  “Magic” can mean so many things.  But still I struggled, and as I did so, I had this nagging thought: “Am I really an animist?”

The Animist Blog Carnival defines “animism” very broadly and technically includes me, but I’ve never really resonated with the term.  Finally, I read Traci’s post at A Sense of Place entitled, “I’m an Animist: and what that means”.  It’s a great post and I urge you to read it.  There are two intertwined themes that seem to run through Traci’s explanation of animism: relationship and personhood.  Traci explains:

“I do have relationships, both with human and other-than-human persons, and I nurture and cherish those connections. …

“The Sun, as a Great Power, is someone I want to develop relationship with.  By attending to the presence of the Sun, and actively communing, I forge connection.”

I understand attending — attending to presence, attending to place, attending to connection.  But I do not understand the unconscious phenomena of the world as persons.  I do not understand calling the Sun a person.  Now, if this is just a rhetorical flourish intended to help us look at natural phenomena in a different way, I can appreciate that.  But, reading Traci’s writing and that of other animists like Graham Harvey, it seems like the idea of personhood is more than metaphor for them.

Traci describes the Ash near her front door as “a living person, who possesses a worldview, culture, and language distinct from my own.”  In fact, many animists talk about “salmon persons”, “tree persons”, and even “rock persons”.  But what does “personhood” mean?  Traci explains in the comments that, for her, the term “personhood” implies relationality and reciprocity.  Also implied in the concept is the notion of rights.  Animists want to see the rights of all “persons” respected.

I have some kind of mental block when it comes to the idea of inanimate nature as persons.  The philosophical naturalist in me balks at any suggestion of personification.  Animals, trees, other plants: these I see as alive.  And so, in some sense, I can understand them as “persons”.  I can enter into a relationship with them, not the kind of relationship I have with humans, but a kind of relationship anyway.  And I can respect that they have certain rights.  But rocks?  What about inanimate matter?

Whenever I am having difficulty grasping animism, I turn to David Abram.  In an interview by Derrick Jensen, Abram explains what it means for a rock to be alive:

“Often when discussing these notions, people will say, ‘Okay, well, sure, humans are alive.  Other animals, okay, I can get that –  critters have their own lives, sure.  And even plants, I get that they’re alive.  But stones?  Rocks?  Matter?  No way! The matter of which this table or that chair is made?  You’re going to tell me that it’s alive?  I can’t go there — forget it! — that’s just inanimate matter.’

“People always want to draw the line somewhere.  But you see, it’s drawing the line at all that’s the problem: the idea that at bottom matter is ultimately inert, or inanimate.  The word ‘matter,’ if you listen with your animal ears, is basically the word ‘mater,’ or mother.  It comes from the same indo-european root as the word “matrix,” which is Latin for ‘womb.’

“We all carry within us an ancient, ancestral awareness of matter as the womb of all things, a sense that matter is alive through and through.  But to speak of matter as inanimate is to think of mother as inanimate, to imply that the female, earthly side of things is inert, is just an object.  If we want to really throw a monkeywrench into the workings of the patriarchy, then we should stop speaking as though matter is in any way, at any depth, inanimate or inert. 

[...]

“If we speak of matter as essentially inanimate, or inert, we establish the need for a graded hierarchy of beings:  stones have no agency or experience whatsoever; bacteria have a minimal degree of life; plants have a bit more life, with a rudimentary degree of sensitivity; ‘lower’ animals are more sentient, yet still stuck in their instincts; ‘higher’ animals are more aware; while humans alone are really awake and intelligent. In this manner we continually isolate human awareness above, and apart from, the sensuous world. It takes us out of relationship with the things around us. If, however, we assume that matter is alive and self-organizing from the get-go, then hierarchies vanish, and we are left with a wildly differentiated field of animate beings, each of which has its gifts relative to the others. And we find ourselves not above, but in the very midst of this web, our own sentience part and parcel of the sensuous landscape.

So, for the animist, there is no such thing as inanimate matter.  All matter is animate, and thus alive in some sense.  I think modern science can be invoked to support this notion that a matter is in motion on some level.  And if we can accept the idea that all this matter is part of a complex self-regulating system (Gaia), then I can see how it all could be said to be alive.  In this sense, I can understand rocks as part of that “field” of animate matter that we are immersed in.  This is what I think D.H. Lawrence was describing in his essay on New Mexico:

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 …

How does that get us to personhood?  I think that I can relate to rocks, not as persons, but as part of Person — that field of animate matter which many Pagans and religious feminists call “Goddess”.  Calling rocks “persons” is still a stumbling block for me, but I think I may get to the same place by calling rocks part of a Person, Goddess.

I suppose, technically, this is a form of personification.  Personification, as the term is typically used, means ascribing human qualities to non-human nature.  But I don’t think that is what I am doing when I speak of Goddess.  Animism recognizes that the term “person” is broader than the term “human”.  Personification, then, need not mean ascribing imputing human characteristics, like consciousness, will, intention, and so on, to things that do not have these qualities.  Rather, calling something a “person” means that we can enter into a “personal” relationship with that thing.  It means that that “thing” is more than a thing — more than a dead thing, it is a living be-ing.

I don’t know if this is enough to qualify me as an animist.  But I think that being an animist is must be less about the abstract ideas I have been discussing above, and more something that you feel in your bones.  Spring is in full swing here in the Midwest.  The dogwoods are in full bloom and their petals are heaped along the edges of the sidewalks.  The air feels thick with new life.  The birds are busy in the nest in my gazebo.  The sun is shining and a cool breeze blows through the open windows of my house.  On a day like this, it is easy to feel myself connected to, nay, immersed in, the material world.  On a day like this, it is easy to feel that the world is overflowing with other-than-human persons.  Bird persons, tree persons, and one vast Person, whose body encompasses the bright sun and the blue sky, the wind and the clouds, the soil and the grass, and the blood in my veins and the water in my cells.  This is my kind of place magic.  So, for today at least, I am an animist.

  • Dhiosdh

    Yes to the last part of your post. Recently I found a half-buried rock in my garden and for some reason it just struck me as somehow special, so I moved it to a more prominent place where I will see it every day. Each time I go and sit out under the willow tree the rock is there; a presence – slowly gathering moss, sometimes rain streaked or adorned by a spider or green bottle fly.

  • Dhiosdh

    Yes to the last part of your post. Recently I found a half-buried rock in my garden and for some reason it just struck me as somehow special, so I moved it to a more prominent place where I will see it every day. Each time I go and sit out under the willow tree the rock is there; a presence – slowly gathering moss, sometimes rain streaked or adorned by a spider or green bottle fly.

  • http://naturalpantheist.wordpress.com naturalpantheist

    Have you read the book “The Wakeful World” by Emma Restall Orr. It gives a quite rational way of viewing the world and even rocks and rivers and forests as “alive”. It has some similar ideas to panexperientialism and panpsychism.

    Also, I’m hosting the June 1st Animism Blog Carnival at Naturalistic Pantheist Musings. The topic this time is Science so please feel free to get in touch if you do want to write something for June.

  • http://naturalpantheist.wordpress.com naturalpantheist

    Have you read the book “The Wakeful World” by Emma Restall Orr. It gives a quite rational way of viewing the world and even rocks and rivers and forests as “alive”. It has some similar ideas to panexperientialism and panpsychism.

    Also, I’m hosting the June 1st Animism Blog Carnival at Naturalistic Pantheist Musings. The topic this time is Science so please feel free to get in touch if you do want to write something for June.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kapple6364 Kenneth Apple

    My son was coming up with his UU credo over the last couple of weeks. He is almost eight. In our conversations he brought up the fact that he thought plants could think and talk to each other. I bit my tongue in my best UU fashion and didn’t shoot down his theory. The next day I saw at least two articles online about how plants speak to one another. In a very different way than us, granted, but still. The line that stuck with me, and I will have to paraphrase, ‘ we are not more evolved than plants. In the millions of years we spent working on big brains and making tools they have spent coming up with survival mechanism just as complex and effective as ours.” Kicks you out of your human centrism just a little.

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Yes it does. My ahah moment was a lecture on evolution at the UU church that I attend. The speaker discussed how humans are not at the pinnacle of biological evolution. I hadn’t even realized until that moment that I had always assumed that humans were somehow the end result of evolution. But we’re just another branch on the tree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kapple6364 Kenneth Apple

    My son was coming up with his UU credo over the last couple of weeks. He is almost eight. In our conversations he brought up the fact that he thought plants could think and talk to each other. I bit my tongue in my best UU fashion and didn’t shoot down his theory. The next day I saw at least two articles online about how plants speak to one another. In a very different way than us, granted, but still. The line that stuck with me, and I will have to paraphrase, ‘ we are not more evolved than plants. In the millions of years we spent working on big brains and making tools they have spent coming up with survival mechanism just as complex and effective as ours.” Kicks you out of your human centrism just a little.

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Yes it does. My ahah moment was a lecture on evolution at the UU church that I attend. The speaker discussed how humans are not at the pinnacle of biological evolution. I hadn’t even realized until that moment that I had always assumed that humans were somehow the end result of evolution. But we’re just another branch on the tree.

  • Dhiosdh

    This just popped up in my rss reader; I think it speaks to this post to some extent and also your previously voiced concerns over the instrumental nature of magic(k): http://animistjottings.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/relational-magic/

    • http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com John Halstead

      Thanks! I think “relational magic” will be the topic of a post in the near future.

  • Dhiosdh

    This just popped up in my rss reader; I think it speaks to this post to some extent and also your previously voiced concerns over the instrumental nature of magic(k): http://animistjottings.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/relational-magic/

  • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

    John,

    Despite Heather’s regrettable absence in the blogosphere, the Animist Blog Carnival is still in operation. Home base moved over to Glen Gordon’s Post Pagan website http://postpagan.com/ & this upcoming carnival will be hosted over at Natural Pantheist Musings: http://naturalpantheist.wordpress.com/. (The carnival moves around to a new host each month.) The theme for this month is Science. I am sure your participation would be quite welcome, just submit you links to NPM before May 30. If you want a breakdown of the schedule for the carnival’s hosts through this fall, feel free to shoot me an email & I can forward all the details to you.

  • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

    John,

    Despite Heather’s regrettable absence in the blogosphere, the Animist Blog Carnival is still in operation. Home base moved over to Glen Gordon’s Post Pagan website http://postpagan.com/ & this upcoming carnival will be hosted over at Natural Pantheist Musings: http://naturalpantheist.wordpress.com/. (The carnival moves around to a new host each month.) The theme for this month is Science. I am sure your participation would be quite welcome, just submit you links to NPM before May 30. If you want a breakdown of the schedule for the carnival’s hosts through this fall, feel free to shoot me an email & I can forward all the details to you.

  • Heather Awen

    Howdy! I am sorry that the ABC moved so fast, it and me are at PostPagan now, with all the info back up. The links from Adventures in Animism are being moved there too so everyone has access to all back “issues.”
    When animists say person we’re not anthropomorphizing. Person and and human are very different. A bee person probably doesn’t see me as a “beemorphized” human, but as whatever it thinks I am in its worldview. The bee is bee-centric. Saying a rock is a person doesn’t mean I can talk with it or even understand what being a rock is like, It is NOT human.But saying person what the value in that is in RIGHTS. It’s just language. Saying “beings” or whatever just doesn’t have the explicit rights aspect added to it. They are persons in that they have their own lives going on and for that reason, even though we probably have no clue what those lives are about (a rock has a long life where it was many bigger rock people,like I will be eaten bacteria and fungi and become those people and the bacon and carrots I ate died and became me), they have value beyond anything to do with humans. It means I don’t high strange trees. I don’t know what they want. It takes a LONG time to form a relationship with a HUMAN person, much less a TREE or ROCK or CAT. Since they are not here as “natural resources” but as persons having their own lives in ways we cannot comprehend, we have to respect their right to exist.
    As we have to eat the first relationship I think any animist struggles with is that our life means someone else’s death. Even for vegans. People who don’t want a realistic, pragmatic lifeway need to go elsewhere.
    A lot of the MoreWolrders I have met are nothing like humans. The world is populated with so much from red blood cells to black holes and very few humans can talk to them, you have to pick and choose whom to have a relationship with although I will say that food is paramount. Making someone become part of your body (and that means your mind and emotions and all that systems) is the most intimate relationship we have outside of the mitrochondria with its own DNA and reproduction in each cell of “us” and the bacteria and microbes in us so we can digest food.
    “Person” is a term that reminds us that they have as much value as us.Words mean different things to different people. Glen and I discuss this a lot. Words get in the way. I just found a Russian scientists who never said the word “life” and did not divide anything into Cartesian categories.Vernadsky I think is his name. Whether it was calcium in a rock or a protist or light or etc he said “living matter.” I am quite happy to be an animal or living matter. Person is a way to get humans to think “OH they have value outside of me using them.” (Although I think many humans see other humans that way!) For some reason saying “You are a human animal” freaks human animals out. So I say human person. Humans seem to have a lot of issues with being part of Nature and understanding we are only seeing our personal humancentric worldview. Trying to convince some human persons that other human persons are different than them is impossible! So stuck in their bell jar.

    Person is a word (squiggly symbol) that if it works to convey the idea that whatever you are encountering has its own thing going on that is as important as your own thing even if you don’t understand it is worth using. If the word doesn’t mean that to you and you think that whatever you are encountering has its own thing going on that is as important as your own thing even if you don’t understand it, then whatever word works for you is the right word.

    Due to everyone’s own ideas of what words mean language kinda sucks. LOL.

    All animists I have encountered are monists. Everything is part of an ever changing ever stable All One. And at the same time in daily life that mystical merged with the All One thing isn’t that practical. I joke we need an animist unified field theory – which Emma Restall Orr has done a great job of writing.

    It’s all a bunch of living matter, sacred because it/we is/are. Various forms emerge and have value beyond a short sighted human who thinks he or she or ze is somehow not part of the living matter.

    The reason I started the ABC was to get diverse voices speaking. Animism really isn’t defined. Which is good.When it gets 30 books by Llewellyn the word will have no meaning, like Druid or Christian or Naturalist. The ABC gives us a chance to define animism for ourselves right here and now. People in the future will hopefully have new ideas. The ABC is for all of us, so diverse, to write our own animism, with topic prompts. July1st the theme of “Becoming an Animist” will be hosted at Paganaidd’s Blog. (See ABC.) As we grow as animals, living matter, human persons, etc we change our animism. We have more and more experiences about what it means. There is no “I am an animist and know it all because I read a book or wiki.” It;s so personal,unfolding in so many ways. Mostly because it is all about relationship. We learn from relationships. I would love to have you write something! I mean THIS piece is a very good “Becoming an Animist” essay! That is the diversity I really want. There is no right answer, it is being created now. I was hoping people might write of an experience that was part of the ever becoming of being animist:a book, a ceremony in some other religion, a science discovery, relationship with someone, a moment when something occurred to them in traffic or camping or at the gym or watching their child or cooking or at a protest or drawing etc.

    I want different bits and pieces of the unknowable whole. There is some Taoism in animism, the never seen All, the All of infinite things, and they are the same. Monism is a lot like pantheism, which sounds like your experience of the rocks. Orr has the exact same experience with rocks herself. So it is interesting you wrote that. There are nesting dolls and layers of persons all over the place seen and unseen,in our bodies, in the soil, in the ultraviolet, etc and we will probably knowingly encounter very few parts of the living matter. Orr herself calls the monism God, not Goddess. Starhawk calls it Goddess. Hindus call it Braham. Heather call it the Tao or “The Creating” or maybe now I’ll say living matter. Sometimes I say collapsed probability fields instead of “person.” Most humans are scared to think of themselves that way;they cannot even handle being animals! So makeup your own words! I HAVE to all the time because they get co-opted so fast and have various meanings region to region, subculture to subculture, generation to generation. A lot of what we are doing has lost words for it in modern English and instead of cultural misappropriation, we work at finding new words. Glen loves that as an English lit geek,I love it as a game. BioMysta was invented by my hating to type out bioregional animist because I am lazy. I didn’t even really see the Life-Mystic in the word at the time! One with All Living Matter: BioMystic. Cracks me up.

    A lot of people hate the word magic. But it’s about using the words that others have picked for our own creative process. A piece on there being no such thing as place magic since there is no magic would have fit in great! I like saying hoodoo because it is obscure and people don;t really know what it really means. It is getting trendy so I won’t use it soon, also as a very few people actually practice it as the religion it was before the city store sellouts happened.

    When someone says they are spiritual I have no idea what they mean. Ditto for Neopagan, or Atheist or when they say Goddess, I am not sure without discussion what they mean Goddess is. All these words have many various meanings humans fight over. Libertarian has been co-opted into something nothing like its original meaning. I used to say I was social libertarian but now I cannot thanks to Ayn Rand and the Tea Party.

    The ABC doesn’t assume anything about words because what we are writing about hasn’t been written about in our time period in our culture for a long time. Before it gets codified and some weird creeds and Right Way and Meaning, I;d love for you to add your part to it. Use the words that work for you. All words are meaningless random symbols to describe second hand experiences. Person doesn’t work for you? Great! Not every rock seems like an individual? Great! That’s common in animism. You can shape it with your own living matter symbols, LOL!

    Hope to see your writing included! Thanks a lot for mentioning us!

  • Heather Awen

    Howdy! I am sorry that the ABC moved so fast, it and me are at PostPagan now, with all the info back up. The links from Adventures in Animism are being moved there too so everyone has access to all back “issues.”
    When animists say person we’re not anthropomorphizing. Person and and human are very different. A bee person probably doesn’t see me as a “beemorphized” human, but as whatever it thinks I am in its worldview. The bee is bee-centric. Saying a rock is a person doesn’t mean I can talk with it or even understand what being a rock is like, It is NOT human.But saying person what the value in that is in RIGHTS. It’s just language. Saying “beings” or whatever just doesn’t have the explicit rights aspect added to it. They are persons in that they have their own lives going on and for that reason, even though we probably have no clue what those lives are about (a rock has a long life where it was many bigger rock people,like I will be eaten bacteria and fungi and become those people and the bacon and carrots I ate died and became me), they have value beyond anything to do with humans. It means I don’t high strange trees. I don’t know what they want. It takes a LONG time to form a relationship with a HUMAN person, much less a TREE or ROCK or CAT. Since they are not here as “natural resources” but as persons having their own lives in ways we cannot comprehend, we have to respect their right to exist.
    As we have to eat the first relationship I think any animist struggles with is that our life means someone else’s death. Even for vegans. People who don’t want a realistic, pragmatic lifeway need to go elsewhere.
    A lot of the MoreWolrders I have met are nothing like humans. The world is populated with so much from red blood cells to black holes and very few humans can talk to them, you have to pick and choose whom to have a relationship with although I will say that food is paramount. Making someone become part of your body (and that means your mind and emotions and all that systems) is the most intimate relationship we have outside of the mitrochondria with its own DNA and reproduction in each cell of “us” and the bacteria and microbes in us so we can digest food.
    “Person” is a term that reminds us that they have as much value as us.Words mean different things to different people. Glen and I discuss this a lot. Words get in the way. I just found a Russian scientists who never said the word “life” and did not divide anything into Cartesian categories.Vernadsky I think is his name. Whether it was calcium in a rock or a protist or light or etc he said “living matter.” I am quite happy to be an animal or living matter. Person is a way to get humans to think “OH they have value outside of me using them.” (Although I think many humans see other humans that way!) For some reason saying “You are a human animal” freaks human animals out. So I say human person. Humans seem to have a lot of issues with being part of Nature and understanding we are only seeing our personal humancentric worldview. Trying to convince some human persons that other human persons are different than them is impossible! So stuck in their bell jar.

    Person is a word (squiggly symbol) that if it works to convey the idea that whatever you are encountering has its own thing going on that is as important as your own thing even if you don’t understand it is worth using. If the word doesn’t mean that to you and you think that whatever you are encountering has its own thing going on that is as important as your own thing even if you don’t understand it, then whatever word works for you is the right word.

    Due to everyone’s own ideas of what words mean language kinda sucks. LOL.

    All animists I have encountered are monists. Everything is part of an ever changing ever stable All One. And at the same time in daily life that mystical merged with the All One thing isn’t that practical. I joke we need an animist unified field theory – which Emma Restall Orr has done a great job of writing.

    It’s all a bunch of living matter, sacred because it/we is/are. Various forms emerge and have value beyond a short sighted human who thinks he or she or ze is somehow not part of the living matter.

    The reason I started the ABC was to get diverse voices speaking. Animism really isn’t defined. Which is good.When it gets 30 books by Llewellyn the word will have no meaning, like Druid or Christian or Naturalist. The ABC gives us a chance to define animism for ourselves right here and now. People in the future will hopefully have new ideas. The ABC is for all of us, so diverse, to write our own animism, with topic prompts. July1st the theme of “Becoming an Animist” will be hosted at Paganaidd’s Blog. (See ABC.) As we grow as animals, living matter, human persons, etc we change our animism. We have more and more experiences about what it means. There is no “I am an animist and know it all because I read a book or wiki.” It;s so personal,unfolding in so many ways. Mostly because it is all about relationship. We learn from relationships. I would love to have you write something! I mean THIS piece is a very good “Becoming an Animist” essay! That is the diversity I really want. There is no right answer, it is being created now. I was hoping people might write of an experience that was part of the ever becoming of being animist:a book, a ceremony in some other religion, a science discovery, relationship with someone, a moment when something occurred to them in traffic or camping or at the gym or watching their child or cooking or at a protest or drawing etc.

    I want different bits and pieces of the unknowable whole. There is some Taoism in animism, the never seen All, the All of infinite things, and they are the same. Monism is a lot like pantheism, which sounds like your experience of the rocks. Orr has the exact same experience with rocks herself. So it is interesting you wrote that. There are nesting dolls and layers of persons all over the place seen and unseen,in our bodies, in the soil, in the ultraviolet, etc and we will probably knowingly encounter very few parts of the living matter. Orr herself calls the monism God, not Goddess. Starhawk calls it Goddess. Hindus call it Braham. Heather call it the Tao or “The Creating” or maybe now I’ll say living matter. Sometimes I say collapsed probability fields instead of “person.” Most humans are scared to think of themselves that way;they cannot even handle being animals! So makeup your own words! I HAVE to all the time because they get co-opted so fast and have various meanings region to region, subculture to subculture, generation to generation. A lot of what we are doing has lost words for it in modern English and instead of cultural misappropriation, we work at finding new words. Glen loves that as an English lit geek,I love it as a game. BioMysta was invented by my hating to type out bioregional animist because I am lazy. I didn’t even really see the Life-Mystic in the word at the time! One with All Living Matter: BioMystic. Cracks me up.

    A lot of people hate the word magic. But it’s about using the words that others have picked for our own creative process. A piece on there being no such thing as place magic since there is no magic would have fit in great! I like saying hoodoo because it is obscure and people don;t really know what it really means. It is getting trendy so I won’t use it soon, also as a very few people actually practice it as the religion it was before the city store sellouts happened.

    When someone says they are spiritual I have no idea what they mean. Ditto for Neopagan, or Atheist or when they say Goddess, I am not sure without discussion what they mean Goddess is. All these words have many various meanings humans fight over. Libertarian has been co-opted into something nothing like its original meaning. I used to say I was social libertarian but now I cannot thanks to Ayn Rand and the Tea Party.

    The ABC doesn’t assume anything about words because what we are writing about hasn’t been written about in our time period in our culture for a long time. Before it gets codified and some weird creeds and Right Way and Meaning, I;d love for you to add your part to it. Use the words that work for you. All words are meaningless random symbols to describe second hand experiences. Person doesn’t work for you? Great! Not every rock seems like an individual? Great! That’s common in animism. You can shape it with your own living matter symbols, LOL!

    Hope to see your writing included! Thanks a lot for mentioning us!

  • Heather Awen
  • Heather Awen
  • http://animistjottings.wordpress.com Brian Taylor

    Good to see you’re on form Heather. I think there may well be animists around who are dualists. A lot of astrologers are Jungian neo-Platonists, for instance, for whom animism is about an ensouled (anima=soul) world. I think they differentiate clearly between matter and spirit, and are very much idealists in the sense of giving primacy to a Platonic world of ‘ideas’ which somehow gets manifested in the material world around us. John (I hope that;s your name?), my recollection is that Graham Harvey reckons that asking whether a rock is alive or not is the wrong question for ‘new’ animists. (its, the sort of question that was very much part of old animism’s caricature of indigenous beliefs). Calling a rock, or a tree, or a fish, a person, in the new animist sense, is more about describing a relationship with them. A rock, tree, or fish that one didn’t have a relationship with would not necessarily be referred to as a person. (I could be wrong here). So much more could be said! Anyway, I recently stumbled upon references to a couple of books that bear upon these discussions. ‘Vibrant Matter’ by Jane Bennett, and ‘New Materialisms’ by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost. I’ve not got hold of copies yet. Personally I understand animist both in ecological relational terms, and in terms of ‘post-spiritualism’ – relations with persons, presences, powers. spirits even, that occasionally come through from ‘other worlds’ or other dimensions of cosmic nature. Edward Tylor coined the term animism as part of a polemic against the latter kind of experience, of course. Hope that makes sense!

  • http://animistjottings.wordpress.com Brian Taylor

    Good to see you’re on form Heather. I think there may well be animists around who are dualists. A lot of astrologers are Jungian neo-Platonists, for instance, for whom animism is about an ensouled (anima=soul) world. I think they differentiate clearly between matter and spirit, and are very much idealists in the sense of giving primacy to a Platonic world of ‘ideas’ which somehow gets manifested in the material world around us. John (I hope that;s your name?), my recollection is that Graham Harvey reckons that asking whether a rock is alive or not is the wrong question for ‘new’ animists. (its, the sort of question that was very much part of old animism’s caricature of indigenous beliefs). Calling a rock, or a tree, or a fish, a person, in the new animist sense, is more about describing a relationship with them. A rock, tree, or fish that one didn’t have a relationship with would not necessarily be referred to as a person. (I could be wrong here). So much more could be said! Anyway, I recently stumbled upon references to a couple of books that bear upon these discussions. ‘Vibrant Matter’ by Jane Bennett, and ‘New Materialisms’ by Diana Coole and Samantha Frost. I’ve not got hold of copies yet. Personally I understand animist both in ecological relational terms, and in terms of ‘post-spiritualism’ – relations with persons, presences, powers. spirits even, that occasionally come through from ‘other worlds’ or other dimensions of cosmic nature. Edward Tylor coined the term animism as part of a polemic against the latter kind of experience, of course. Hope that makes sense!

  • Heather Awen

    I am glad you shared this with the ABC! I love DH Lawrence too!


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