There are as many definitions of Animism as there are people on that path. Terms like Modern Animism, Primitive Animism and Bio-regional Animism have been created, defined, then redefined over the last century, and it can all be very confusing. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll define Practical Animism here, with the understanding that there are other definitions out there.
Let’s start with Animism. Here is the dictionary definition. (WARNING: Skip over the next three lines if, like me, reading big words makes you sleepy)
… 1. a doctrine that the vital principle of organic development is immaterial spirit
… 2. attribution of conscious life to objects and phenomena of nature or to inanimate objects
… 3. belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies
Wow. That was REALLY dry, which is not a surprise from a dictionary. Let’s make this all more accessible. For starters, let’s call the “immaterial spirit”, which is a real mouthful, the “spark”. With that term, I’ll lay out a few beliefs…
All things host a spark.
… And I mean ALL things. People, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, clouds, planets, and ideas.
Sparks have desires.
… This implies consciousness and free will. So a river wants to flow, and rain wants to fall.
Sparks can affect their host.
… When a host has a choice its spark affects that choice. Nothing is really random.
Sparks are aware of each other.
… Sparks can combine their wills when they agree. Everything is connected.
Given these four deceptively simple affirmations, a huge variety of very complex and very different belief structures can be created. This is where we come to the Practical part. How do we apply these simple affirmations to our lives? Since there is no way to know if any of this is really true, I am suggesting a practical approach. In this approach, we will create a practice that follows this one all important guideline:
Your practice must have a positive effect that is separate from your religious beliefs.
This is actually a hard rule to follow. The idea is that anything we do based on our religious beliefs must have some benefit, even if the religion turns out to be myth. The inverse is that you must never justify a negative act with your religious beliefs. Of course, the definitions of positive and negative are open to interpretation, which is where all the hard work lies.
And that is the purpose of this blog, to study the complex ethical and moral dilemmas that arise when you live your life according to these simple beliefs. In each post I will try to examine some ethical question, guess how the spark for some object sees the world, or provide elements that can be used in meditation or ritual.
… If I can help someone, must I? Should I?
… Should I be a vegetarian, or is it fine to eat animals if they were treated well?
… What does a birthday cake want?
… How can I invoke the Beaver to help me stop procrastinating? Let’s face it, beavers get it done, or die. They really know how to stick with a job.
And the list goes on and on. See you on the ether!
One Reply to “What is Practical Animism?”
Very interesting. I am looking forward to future posts. BTW, I think a birthday cake wants to be appreciated for its beauty (even if its construction is a failed attempt at beauty), then eaten!