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.

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The Tower and the Egg

It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia. – Frank Zappa

According to Archdruid John Michael Greer, societal decline will be gradual rather than a single cataclysmic crash but there will be bumps and jolts on the way down. He bases this on the study of the declines of other civilisations which have all followed the same trajectory as ours is now. John Beckett and Byron Ballard describe our time as Tower Time. The idea from the Tarot is that the collapse will mirror the meaning of The Tower, i.e. collapse and ruin. I suspect both are right, it just depends on your perspective and time frame, but the key point is that our current society is crumbling and will continue to do so.

White’s law stipulates that the complexity of a society is proportional to the amount of energy used by it. As our access to energy declines with peak oil and the failure to replace it with renewable energy, the energy available to society will cause the complexities that we have built in to start to creak and crumble until the point that the equilibrium of energy and complexity is reached.

Add to slow decline in available energy the increasing climate disasters which will destroy infrastructure that we can’t afford to replace and which will displace people through war and famine, and we have a perfect storm brewing (if you’ll excuse the poor taste of a pun).

And if this wasn’t enough… the people who have been promised the world are beginning to realise that they have received it yet. Their anger has driven Brexit and Trump, yet it is anger than the liberal middle classes have fostered through continued ‘aspiration’ and with schools teaching kids that they can be or have anything they want.

For example, the idea that 50% of people should go to university is frankly ridiculous. How about teaching kids the useful stuff while they are at school, how about teaching them to think and analyse. How about teaching them some life skills such as money management and growing food? Rant over!

So what follows the collapse? Is something born from the ashes, rising up like a phoenix? Yes, probably but what is the time frame? Is it in our lives, those of our grandchildren or do we have many generations to wait? Is it linear? Will the phoenix rise up across the Earth or will there be pockets coming and going? I suspect the latter. Will these pockets be in places that have access to energy? Of course – it was no coincidence that civilisations grew from areas closer to the equator than the poles.

And what should we do now to prepare for this?


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Happy Imbolg!

John Beckett makes a very important point in his latest blog post, that we can become
easily distracted by the unfolding chaos in the world around us and get ourselves tied up in the struggle against some awful things happening – so much so that wdownloade can forget to honour our gods and goddesses, especially at festival time.

So happy Imbolg everyone! The first shoots of spring are starting to appear, snowdrops delicately braving the still cold nights and the days beginning to lengthen. Remember to honour your gods and to celebrate the season.

Your gods will be needed. Without our spiritual practices we will descend furiously into pits of despair and anger. Our battles won’t have the extra piece of luck that we need without the support of our gods or without a good dose of magic – I think it was Napoleon who talked about the need for lucky generals.

So do your thing now and remember to celebrate those first shoots of spring!

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Stonehenge and the tunnel

Just a short post to ask you to support the campaign against the proposed tunnel under Stonehenge. This is from the Stonehenge Alliance

The Stonehenge World Heritage Site is under threat from a major road building scheme. The UK Government plans to spend £2 billion widening the A303 to the South West. The dual carriageway would cross the the iconic Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) in a short tunnel within a landscape that is considered “the most archaeologically significant land surface in Europe without parallel”. The WHS is 5.4km (3.4 miles) wide (see map below) but the proposal is for a 2.9km (1.8 mile) tunnel.

Petitions to sign are available here:

Better still is a letter to Highways England in response to their consultation. How to do this and suggestions to write are here:

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Speaking post-truth to power?

Post-truth has been named word of the year for 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries who define it as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. That’s a definition that could equally apply to thaumaturgy and much of the dark magic that is circulating the human world at present.

Post-truth has been applied to the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Look at how the statement that the NHS would get an additional £350m each week if we left the EU compared to the statements from the CBI that the economy will take a huge hit. Did people believe either? Possibly not, but connecting the notion of taking control with investing in a much loved institution appealed to people’s emotions in a way that a potential loss of GDP could never match.

The idea that people will listen to scientific information over those who offer them shiny new toys has been a real problem for campaigners such as those involved in climate change. It took years for climate change to begin to be accepted by the majority after the oil lobby used emotionally charged lies against the facts. Sadly it will now take too many years for society to be in a place where they can start to make the changes that would address the root cause. The magic of emotion over the intellect has long been understood by campaigners of all types, especially political campaigners, even if they have repeatedly failed to win the magical battles. Appeal to the heart, not the brain as people go with their gut feelings over their minds most of the time.

While the word ‘post-truth’ really sums up 2016, I’m interested in what it means from Druidry and magical perspectives. Druidry is hardly alone in holding the notion of truth central as a key aspect of its philosophy, almost all religions do this, but Druids are often overt in how important this is to us. Just look at middle of the Druid Prayer: “And in strength, understanding; And in understanding, knowledge; And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice”.

The idea of justice coming out of knowledge and understanding should not be estimated. Personally I would contend that the Druid Prayer has knowledge and understanding the wrong way round. Knowledge should come before understanding in my mind but that is, of course, my own personal truth!

Druid Joanna Van Der Hoeven wrote that “Druidry can be summed up in three words – truth, honour and service.” but that “Truth is not just figurative and literal truth”. Truth is personal too, it is our understanding of our relationship with the Awen, the world around us and with ourselves. Joanna describes it as our soul song. For me that sounds as though there is a significant emotional aspect to truth – does something feel right as well as being intellectually right? Understanding and knowledge are aspects of truth, wisdom is where they should lead.

Joanna’s interpretation of truth suggests that there is more to truth than just facts but when this is applied to much of the political messaging it leads us into troubled water. Those post-truth statements may feel like the truth, they may feel real but their lack of factual truth should eventually spark dissonance. The emotional and factual aspects need to be aligned for real truth.

Which brings us to the “justice” and the “love of it”. Part of that for me would be speaking truth to power but in a way that connects with the emotional part of truth that appeals to our soul songs, connects with the Awen and remains figuratively and literally true too. A campaign that can speak to the heart and the head is a powerful one and one that can make a strong stand against misused power. This type of full truth magic, this thaumaturgical spell, can influence people in a way that right and just, it is done with honour in the name of service – to quote Joanna again. It is powerful once delivered and we need more of it. Perhaps we should use this to make 2017 a full truth year?

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Divination: attempts at prophesy

A key part of magic has to be divination. Having some foresight into the future is a skill that every aspiring mage should try to master. How do you make choices if you can’t see likely outcomes?

I’ve never published a year forward prediction before and I’m slightly nervous that I am going to get this completely wrong. I will find out in 12 months…

2016 has hardly been the quietest of years with the “Western Autumn” replacing the Arab Spring as a sign of hostility towards the status quo – exemplified in Brexit and Trump but also the rise of nationalism in Europe. It is almost as if an angry democratic dragon was released this year which has caused chaos at the ballot box. I can’t see things getting significantly calmer in 2017 but neither can I see them getting massively worse. Perhaps there will be a far right leader in Europe but they will be held back by state machinery.

2016 brought us Trump with his friendship with Russia, more crazy happenings in the Middle East – especially in Syria, and ridiculous arctic temperatures soaring 30C above normal while there was snow in the Sahara. Add to this the demise of the famous, as I write this news of George Michael being added to the annual obituary list has shocked many.

So what will 2017 bring?

I think there is a real chance (perhaps 60%) that Charles will become King in 2017. Hardly a revelation given that the Queen is 90 and is currently off-sick. It will be interesting to see if he continues his political campaigning as monarch, he might impose some much needed green thinking on a government that seems intent on destruction. Obviously, this would go against my democratic principles but the ends could justify the means!

The climate chaos in 2017 is likely to be worse than 2016. The declining polar caps have heralded the arrival of climate feedback loops that will accelerate climate change. 2016 was all about the record breaking global temperatures but the secondary impacts by way of storms, sea rises and droughts will increase in 2017.

The Trump situation… the lack of willingness by the Democrats to challenge his victory suggests that they will be attempting to control him from behind the scenes for the next 4 years, dampening down his rhetoric by ensuring that he can’t enact the worst of his policies. That said, the impact of his victory on US society cannot be underestimated. I feel that the race related incidents will continue to rise combined with increasing Black and Latino backlashes.

Brexit: What a mess! Teresa may won’t be able to get herself out from between the rock and the hard Brexit of Article 50. She will delay Article 50 for as long as she can in the hope that the EU cut her a lifeline. If she is forced towards a hard Brexit she may well call a General Election (perhaps a 40% chance in 2017) and which the Lib Dems will do well in, despite their current polling.

Oil prices are still hard wired to the economy. The global economy is likely to grow in 2017, initially around the 3% that the economists predict. However this will increase the price of oil which has been steadily rising from its low point of 30$ 12 months ago to around 55$ today. While OPEC can flex the price by withholding oil (please…), this can only have an effect in the short and medium term, the longer term will be affected heavily by oil producers ability to produce. I can see the oil price doubling in 2017 but this will dampen economic growth in the second half of the year.

The higher oil prices will bring a renewed enthusiasm for fracking too. Higher prices will make it slightly less affordable for the oil and gas companies, but the public anger at this will increase.

So, I’ll leave it there. Divination / prediction is an art rather than a science and one that can be horribly wrong. We will see in 12 months.

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The magic of Christmas

Christmas is the most overtly Pagan of all western festivals and by it’s nature it is infused with magic. From the dressing of trees to the ritual feasting, and from the Yule log to the birth of the new Sun, the Winter Solstice is my favourite time (plus it’s my birthday too).

Sadly though, it is also the time when corporations take the opportunity to sell us a bunch of stuff that we don’t want or need so that they can increase their profits. The blatant use of magic and enchantments that they use is stark and obvious. If you want a prime example of an enchantment you can go far wrong with the annual M&S or Waitrose adverts. Indeed they have become rites in their own way with high levels of anticipation coursing through the the popular press: what will this year’s advert be?

The M&S advert below is about as close to a perfect thaumaturgic spell as it is possible to get. Both subtle and not so subtle messages infused with emotion and supported by music broadcast into almost every home in the country.

The consumerist magic really kicks off a month before Christmas and as I spoke about last month, Black Friday has been invented to give the spending spell a really launch and the Christmas adverts keep the dark magic going until the Boxing Day sales.

While M&S sell us an idealised version of Christmas and Santa Claus, resplendent in it’s glowing fireside warmth so that we go an buy more crap, our protection spells to counter the thaumaturgic onslaughts have to be switched on and turned right up to 11.

For me that protection spell is one of awareness, strengthened by daily meditation but brought to a climax by an earthy Winter Solstice ritual either with others or alone in my garden.

Finally if you want to know the reality of how the Christmas presents get put beneath your tree, I’ll give you a clue – the elves are on zero hours contracts and the sleigh is a bit too heavy to fly:

From The Lion's Roar

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