Animism: are we are all one?

buddhistAnimism seems to be one of the hot topics on the occult blogs and podcasts at the moment. Having just worked through Graham Harvey’s Handbook of Contemporary Animism and Emma Restall Orr’s The Wakeful World to enhance my own understanding of the subject, i.e. to see what others are saying about it, I thought I would share some of my thoughts here.

The two books are quite different. While both are written is very scholarly fashion, the latter is far easier to read than the former. Bobcat really gets under the skin of Animism, inclusing a description of Animism as a “a monist metaphysical stance based upon ubiquitous and integrated mindedness” (p132) – all nature is rooted in a underpinning thing and it all has “mind”.

I suppose that I’ve come late to the term. Like many, I have intrinsically rejected the dualism of modernity stemming from Descartes. Drawn instead to the Taoist notion of the One that contains parts within parts, almost holographically, a concept that seems increasingly born out by physics.

The concept of mind being integral to matter is fascinating. A single source of mind but with diversity in its complexity. The mind of a mountain containing the mind of rocks which contain the minds of the compounds and of the atoms. The complexity of the mountain leading to a complexity of mind that is quite distinct from animals yet is still part of the whole mind of the universe. The universe, one mind with one story.

The part that is harder to see in the universal mind is how the spirits, gods and goddesses that are external to a physical identity fit with this world view, i.e. the goddess of a mountain is straightforward but how about how about Cernnunos or the souls of people who have died physically? If matter and mind are part of a whole, can mind exist outside of matter? How can the spirits exist without physical matter to base themselves in? Is there a universal great spirit? Many Animists from native religions believe in a great spirit, an otherworld and an afterlife but these seem not to be possible in Bobcat’s version of Animism.

That leaves me with a problem. Her view of that mind, matter and spirit and soul are all part of the same entity feels right but it leaves no explanation for an afterlife other than in the memory of others or in the decaying body in the ground.

Perhaps there can be a reconciliation between these views. Matter and energy are similarly entwined into a whole. Einstein described it as e=mc2. Matter can appear to exist separately from energy but it is a false perception, we have known for over 100 years that atoms are not solid items but bits of energy. Energy can exist without matter though. The heat radiating from the sun arrives as electromagnetic waves, i.e. a force rather than particles.

Other forces are integral to matter too. The strong nuclear force that binds protons for example. Other forces can be external to matter too, such as gravity, and some theorists suggest that the four forces are really one force expressed in different ways.

Matter / force and energy are not separate, matter is formed of energy and force. If this is replicated with mind/soul/spirit then matter and mind can be one but mind can exist outside of matter too.

It suggests that mind and energy may be synonymous too. Perhaps then the stars are the the largest expressions of gods especially as they are the source of life? Without the energy of the sun the Earth would be a sterile rock, still with matter and mind and energy but not with the vibrant life that we know.

The idea that mind can exist outside of matter but matter cannot exist without mind is appealing. It allows explanations such as Sheldrake’s morphic resonance and his memory theory of how life develops. It allows an understanding of the collective unconscious and for some of our mind / soul to continue after the death of our physical bodies.


About druidgreybeard

Druid, Animist, commentator on worlds events and student of magic.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Animism: are we are all one?

  1. corvusrouge says:

    A few things for you to consider. We know now that matter is just energy that resonates at a certain frequency. We also know that energy can neither be created or nor destroyed but is constantly transmuting. Why should matter be the only form of energy to be able to “host” a mind? Could it be that we only understand “mind” through matter because of our peculiar biology that so strongly suggests to us through physical sensations that only biological entities are capable of mind? Personally i find it hard, to the point of utter disbelief, to assume that mind can only manifest through matter. When you consider that only 5% (approx) of the known universe is what we can see and is, presumably, made of matter, then there is an awful lot of potential energy resonating at different frequencies for mind to interact with and through and it seems statistically improbable to my reasoning to consider that mind would restrict itself to interactions based exclusively through physical matter.


  2. druidgreybeard says:

    Neil, thanks! Great questions and thoughts. I’m off to read Shopenhauer next to get under the skin of ‘will’ which he describes in similar terms to Bobcat’s ‘mind’. Not sure if any of this will lead me to anywhere other than a UPG though!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s