"As a child I used to speak with the mountains in the area where my ancestors are from," confided a woman to me recently. "Perhaps a little weird," she hastily added. That added remark tinged with shame about the natural communion with her ancestral landscape I think points to a fundamental mistake in our dominant worldview of today that I'd like to highlight for a moment.
The beautiful quote in the image from George Washington Carve, an inventor who had, like many scientists and inventors of the 19th century, an inclination towards animacy: the understanding that this universe, and all things in it, is alive.
This way of understanding was commonplace in societies, cultures and native traditions all around the world for millennia (including Europe), and still is in pockets where "modern thinking" did not permeate as pervasively. This way of seeing fuels a foundation of love, respect and reference for the world and gives ground to a humble understanding of our place in it.
Only in the last century did we deviate from this natural understanding by believing that the universe is made up of inanimate/dead "objects" that we can subject to our will as we please. Animacy became seen as backward, primitive and ridiculous. To be in communion and "speaking" with trees, mountains and rivers, as children naturally do, became something to hide and to be ashamed of.
Science today is coming back from that brief aberration in history, as scientists find it increasingly difficult to find a boundary between living and dead, conscious and not, human and non-human. A case may be made that the animist way of seeing is much closer to actual reality than our modern scepticism. And certainly less harmful.
After all, as Rupert Spira points out, despite the materialist paradigm that forms the foundation of much of natural science today, has never been able to prove that matter itself actually exists. Should this not prompt some open-mindedness to other ways of seeing? Spira proposed the consciousness-only model, unifying the concepts of matter and mind in his essays directed at the scientific community. And with that, perhaps offers a ground of logic for the animacy so natural to human beings.
So let's give it a try. When you look with eyes of animism to the objects around you now, imagining them to be alive and conscious, what do you see? How does it feel to see this way? And when you try loving them, what secrets do they reveal?
Let me know your experience.
- inspired on the podcast Inanimate objects aren't inanimate on The Emerald, by Joshua Micheal Schrei. A phenomenal series that I would recommend to anyone interested in breaking out of cultural conditioning and exploring new ways of seeing and thinking.