Working on explaining animism


OK, now, lying in bed, I finally saw how this connects to something I have sensed all my life but never could explain… so here I sit at the computer at 4 am to try and put it all into words…

Death of the Scientific Paradigm?

If the sensory system of a living entity serves to tell it whether elements in its surroundings support (feed/help) it or not, and also whether that these element do so in a dependable way, then that means that the living entity itself must embody some regularly recurring process in and of itself.

This cyclical process inside an entity make up its “awareness”; its connection to sensory systems that gauge what goes on outside the entity give it “feelings”. The sensory systems itself must on the other hand have a branched structure in order not to have any interference in the connection between the “aware” and the outside world. Sensory systems with cyclical structures “only” transmit interpretations.

The presence of this cyclical process makes the entity “alive”. Death occurs when for some reason the cyclical process terminates. (Note that in “composite” entities (called “organisms”), sometimes smaller parts can die off while the greater organism continues to live on.)

The absence of this cyclical process makes the entity “dead” (by definition). Note that the death of an organism does not imply that all of its components have died already, too! Nor that the greater organism to which it belongs has died or must die as well.
At the same time, the absence of the cyclical process makes an entity “insensitive”, because any structures that might pass information cannot pass this information to any “awareness”.

Following this line of thought, let’s now consider our relationship with the scientific paradigm. This approach of the world uses a set of hypotheses and takes off from there, no circular reasoning allowed!
Considering the scientific paradigm as a separate entity and knowing that it doesn’t contain any circuits, surely we should call it a “dead” structure!?

But wait, didn’t we see earlier that living entities (such as people) use their senses to determine the trustworthiness of other entities, and that living entities do not consider dead entities trustworthy?
In other words, logical reasoning (a tree structure) by a living entity (me) tells that me that I cannot depend on the scientific paradigm in the long run!

So we see: the scientific paradigm’s hypothesis that it makes a trustworthy study of our surroundings without allowing circular reasoning or subjectivity cannot hold true according to logical reasoning!

I see two remedies (to regain my health):
a) Either the scientific paradigm needs to change and allow circular reasoning – which will make it “alive” and “sensitive”. Instead of a linear world view, it then becomes a world view based on (and depending on) cyclical patterns!
This will allow us to continue to see the paradigm as a trustworthy entity that lives independently of us.
b) We acknowledge the scientific paradigm’s untrustworthiness and recognize that it only serves as one of multiple sensory structures to probe the world around us.
This then implies that there no longer exists a single objective scientific truth that holds for all people – instead, the scientific method requires subjectivity in its perception of the world around us.


For me it is sometimes more helpful to avoid what Nietzsche called “true world theories,” and for me that includes using any words to describe phenomena that have a homogenizing effect, including ideas such as “everything is motion”, “everything is energy”, “everything is love” “everything is flow,” or “everything is will.” In this vein, even the definition “everything is alive” sometimes has a way of pushing me into a mechanistic, determinate mindset.

I think these ways of speaking shift me towards a “view from nowhere” with the perspective that nature is a determinate and predictable set of patterns, rather than the open-ended, participatory, and very uncontrollable world that I experience.

If I had to choose an “everything is” definition that decribes my experience of animism, it would be more like “everything is different” Not that there aren’t temporary patterns and groupings that we can vaguely familiarize ourselves with and roughly try to predict… but that at the root of everything is characteristic differentiation. That every being, no matter how large or small, from the smallest observable particle to the largest and most complex beings (which seem to be comprised of a temporary organizations of smaller beings) all have a uniqueness that can only be found in them, in their presentation to me, at this present moment.

I have often found myself in the pitfall of progressivism, another “true world” theory that imagines the present as a mere point on the way to a destination, rather than the only thing that is really here.

David Abrams makes what I find as a helpful distinction between experiences that are “made” (things that are shaped by humans) and experiences that are “born” (things that emerge from outside of the human sets of controls and symbols and language). Animism to me means to escape the human-created hall of mirrors and try to experience through the senses the wildness and differentiation that seems to exist in unmediated experience.

It’s seems so easy to snap back into the human hall of mirrors that I do need certain “tricks” or maxims to get me back in touch with my senses. So far, I rely mostly on avoiding certain patterns of thought such as the ones I mentioned above. I’m working through david abram’s "becoming animal, and find some of his ideas reconnect me while others don’t. Thinking in terms of what animism “is not” seems to clear things up for me better than conceptualizing what animism “is”, but I’m open to suggestions. Some part of me thinks I’d be better off avoiding reading and avoiding conceptualization altogether, except for maybe maintaining the conceptual distinction between the wild-born and the human-produced. As an animist, I value the emancipation of the born from its human-shaped bondage because I respect the otherness of wild nature as infinitely and inexhaustibly more interesting and primordial
than what humans are alone able to create.


I see myself as something of a simple mind in this sea of deep and incisive thinking. Perhaps that is a good thing? Unseasoned is a good place to begin. I am drastically under-experienced in the arena of intellectual discussion, and maybe even if I was to encounter a good deal of it I would not have much to contribute. But I have thoughts that bubble up from time to time… and I on occasion want to share them. So this, simple as it might be, is my thought on the EVERYTHING IS line of thinking.

Everything might be a shard of the same original substance, the fullness of creation might be rooted in all facets of even the smallest example of creation. I do not claim to know. But what I do see is that EVERYTHING DESERVES -respect-.

We were created free. We have the ability to decide how we want to live. I think everyone on this world, with very few exceptions, want to live good lives. Some simply do not know how to yet. There will be moments of awakening and revelation that leads them down the path to goodness. But that everyone wants to be good is not a good enough reason to respect them. The fact that there is a story behind every person that can be understood and that there is nothing inherently wrong with that persons freedom to choose to be however they choose to be is the reason they deserve respect. In my way of thinking, that God made it possible makes it respectable.

But how does respect manifest? A man is doing something unspeakable to your loved one. You know it is evil. You know the man wants to be good. At the time the man wants to do the evil thing, but in the bigger picture the man does not. Respectfully you stop the evil deed as you know that it is not as the person really wants down in their unseen and as of yet unexhibited core.

Maybe that is not correct. I respect what some people are without finding I like what they do as I scan my reservoir of preferences. I can say ‘I respect your wishes and who you are for I have a profound understanding of your story, but my wishes are going to supersede yours in this instance.’ and the respect does not die. I am all about respect. I think philosophies like ‘respect is earned’ and ‘the strong survive’ are silly. If animism taught me anything it was to find a way to care about and foster respect for whatever I come in contact with. I continue to believe that someone being tortured to death has no soul in this world. I think the Valkyries swoop down and deliver the suffering hero to Valhalla. Or something like that.:slight_smile:


ThomasMaxwell, I am sorry I wasn’t looking at this thread earlier, it is a worthy topic. In response to your first post in it, I would say that is a small step in the direction that vegans take. I wasn’t ready for that years before, I had my religious beliefs to interfere with really considering it, but with once finally seeing facts for it, I couldn’t dismiss it anymore. Vegans see the value in others with animate life. With it being just so much healthier to have what is plant-based for food, with variety and without any processed foods, there is no good reason to remain a consumer of what is derived from many animals, even billions every year, for humanity, with horrible lives they are subjected to and abuse up to their slaughter, when it uses much more resources, land and water, and has a great impact on more emitted gas contributing to the climate change that involves the warming process. It is relevant to rewilding when a sustainable way of living is to be sought, and the value of other life around us can really be respected. If some say plants are to be respected, using just plants will have plants being used up much less than if plants are also being used up to maintain all those animals that we will then use, for the nutrients that are then derived in a very inefficient way second-hand.

It would be nice if suffering ones have their soul taken to never experience the suffering that is inflicted, but I expect that this is too optimistic, and has a danger that with really thinking this we will neglect to release any that we can from suffering when we can, and they will in fact suffer, as they visibly show they are, and sometimes it is all their life, even in cases when it is shortened.


Then how could the Son of that monotheist God say: “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”? Monotheism isn’t as deficient as you may like to think, or as you’ve been told it is. God, the Creator, created all things and, all things have a spirit (an angel) from Him, the Holy Spirit, the Highest Spirit, the Father of all spirits. This is not a Church-spouted doctrine. This is from knowledge of Him–knowledge anyone can have, if one quits the self-deification and gives oneself to Him. This may be the effect of the sweat lodge–one giving oneself to the Creator. You see, this is why the Natives of “America” readily embraced the honest news of Jesus, until that news was distorted beyond recognition by becoming fraudulently co-opted by Godless conquistadors for their unholy intentions.


It would be the capacity of God, being the Creator of all that is here, to give awareness to anything, and even enable stones to cry out, and it could be there were superstones that were able to communicate. But animals are around that we can see, if we observe with honesty to ourselves, that are responsive with feeling things, and seek some things and avoid or flee other things, and among many animals there is a range of emotions with visible expression which we can really relate to, and even expressions of loving and caring. These we can always respect, more than we even do, and it is not better, in any way, to use them yet where it is counter to such respect. There are much better ways for pursuit other than that, for many reasons.


Hi Brian–

Many things in your post resonate clearly with me, but the above quote is what hit me hardest in connection with my practice at this time. For the past month or so I have been constantly reminding myself to pay attention to what my senses are perceiving, but my own “hall of mirrors” is quite well-maintained from many years of constant attention to it, and my practice is facing a very tough challenge from the gauntlet of distorting abstractions that I must pass through at every attempt.

Nevertheless I can already see that this is by far the best thing I’ve ever tried toward fulfilling my intense desire to be in the real world, so that my everyday decisions and actions will be coming from that place. I no longer believe that I must settle for the clunky guesswork which is the cheap substitute for real knowing that is used within the civilization. I have come to believe that connecting with the larger intelligence of the earth, by really experiencing being an actual physical part of it, is the only way that true remedies for the Big Mistake called civilization can be found. Attempts to find solutions from within the civilized mindset only seem to lead to more vicious circles.

I realize that your post was from eleven months ago, but in case you see this, I would very much like to hear about your further experiences. (Or if anybody else is struggling with this kind of thing I would really appreciate your input.)


Hi Eileen

I’m glad my post resonated with you… your description of your struggle resonates with me as well.

In the year since that post I have spent the majority of the time in civilization-influenced mindsets. A lot of it had to do with it being a particularly busy year for me, so keeping the wild-oriented mindset was difficult, and at many times, impossible.

With things settling down again, I’ve been trying to figure out how to reconcile the demands of my current situation with my intuitions about what would be a life best lived. I particularly struggle with conflict between enjoying the privilege of my own moment, with how much time and effort I should devote to preserving the wild for others. I wonder if such a neutral stance towards “nature at this moment” makes me complicit in its imminent and ongoing destruction… and yet when I begin to think in terms of scale of the problems from civ, it’s easy to get discouraged and pessimistic that any effort from me would be more than a drop in the ocean.

I’ve been thinking lately that I need more strategies or techniques to employ in order to switch between the mindset of feeling connected to the wild and the mindset of taking care of practical business within Civilzation. Perhaps this has been covered elsewhere on this site, and I know that many techniques of rewilding itself are covered, but what I struggle with is that as much as I can “believe” in rewilding (and that belief working within me as a sort of practice in itself), perhaps as humans in literate culture we need some proven conceptual tools, practices and actions to counteract the daily influx of purely social/practical thinking.

David Abram suggested a few meditative ideas in his books, but most of his writing consists of anecdotes and verbal perspective realignment… Even he describes the trouble he has feeling connected with the wild in certain circumstances. I’m left trying to come up with some actionable techniques. Obviously there are no shortage of “hard” rewilding ideas on this site and elsewhere, I guess what I’m trying to come up with is a more meditative and regular “spiritual” practice that doesn’t take me too radically far from my family and responsibilities.

So far my ideas are: outdoor meditation, and ritualistic visits to areas near me that make me feel particularly connected to the wild. What I’m wondering is if there are some more specific guided meditation techniques that would peel back the layers of civilized thought better than others. The philosopher Husserl promised something like this from his “phenomenological reductions,” and I’m in the process of investigating to see if there’s anything in his stuff that works for me…

If anyone has any other ideas along these lines, or if it’s already here on the site I’d like to know. I’ll be searching the site myself pretty soon here, and I’m sure in the end I’ll just have to accumulate and tailor a bunch of techniques and practices that work for me.

Anyways thanks Eileen for asking a follow up, I’d like to hear some more thoughts on this as well.


A few observations I’ve made recently regarding animism: the relationship with the life around me that nourishes me most I would characterize as not merely sensuous, but almost sensual… I find I can enter this relationship by focusing more on sound, smell, and touch and by diminishing sight.

To reconnect with sound, I meditate/nap outside (or in a parked car with open windows), drifting in and out of dream time while I kind of half-ass an internal mantra. Based on the behavior of other animals, I think learning to sleep/lay around outside is about 2/3 of what rewilding is, haha.

For touch I keep in mind that everything I run my hands over is touching me back. This is especially powerful if I imagine that the world has a skin and a nervous system that is similar to my own and can feel me in the way that I feel it.

Smells encountered in the wild can be great (I especially love being near pine and pine needles), but I’ve observed that the smell of herbaceous food cooking is the most potent and ritualistically available source of smell… and of course you hopefully get to taste it when it’s done!


Hi again Brian

Thank you so much for your thoughtful input. I didn’t understand clearly everything you said, and what I have to say here is not directly responsive, but you provoked a lot of thoughts that I really want to express.

I think it is a very good step for all of us born into the civilization to acknowledge fully that of course we are complicit in the ongoing destruction, and have been all day every day since birth—not because we ever intended it, but because, all unawares, we were relentlessly trained into a physical dependency on the ways of the civilization, along with the very narrowed-down mental focus that goes with it. Only after years of such conditioning do some of us gradually become aware of how deep is the shit we are in, along with the whole rest of the world. Then we face the very serious dilemma of how to disentangle ourselves from our own daily contribution to the destruction.

What I want to say more than anything here is, I have come to believe that the absolutely only way to know what to do is to ASK. Ask the world—this world that we have been conditioned to believe is a collection of objects and forces without consciousness except for that which is contained within ourselves and a few other more or less sentient beings kind of inserted into the “environment”. We have to get it that that is not true! Of course, we have so thoroughly convinced ourselves of the lie that it is really hard to connect, personally, with the truth that the world all around us is alive and fully conscious. But there is no substitute for that connection. Though we may want very much to be helpful to the world instead of harmful, we cannot possibly figure out how to do that from within the ingrown consciousness that has been our training. Speaking for myself, I now feel sure that the reason I never succeeded to any great extent in my various attempts to live more in line with the world was because this one element was missing: asking. Without asking and listening, moment by moment, we have no way of knowing if our actions might be leading to more harm than good.

I believe that the work of healing is already in progress, (a very obvious example, which I turn to again and again, is the weeds in a city), and our job as civilized humans is not to take charge, but to join in. The big challenge is how to get to a place connected enough to be able to do that, and I agree with Brian that each of us will find the ways that work best for our own self.

This is my favorite of the approaches you mentioned. It is so direct, and quite effective—feeling these different shapes of living matter in all my interactions with them, trying to sense the reciprocity, yielding to their weight and balance and texture.

What is working best for me at this time is a huge change in my way of seeing the things that are supposedly “man made”. I am getting it that they are the flesh of the Earth—horribly distorted, to be sure, but nevertheless undeniably of the Earth. The civilization has nothing of its own; all it can do is distort the substance of the real world. Many of us already feel, viscerally, the horror of the clearcutting, mining, and drilling, but I for one have only recently come to the emotional knowing that that is where these things all come from. They are the flesh of the Earth–alive, conscious, and hurting. When I make the connection at gut level with my own pain as to how distorted and unhealthy I have become because of the very same sickness that has so grotesquely deformed them, then I can feel their wild origins resonating with my own, so that a little more each day I am feeling a kinship and affection for these things close around me, knowing that we are all in this together, and together we can get well. Is this along the lines of what you meant, Brian, in your 2017 post, about “the emancipation of the born from its human-shaped bondage”?

None of this means that I suddenly know how to behave very differently—there is a lot of awkwardness in these newly-acknowledged very intimate relationships. But now I can at least begin to explore this living world, as I would have begun doing long ago if I had grown up in a healthy culture, and begin to find clues as to how to change.

I hope more people here will chime in on this. Whether you agree or disagree with anything I have said, what is your own take on this subject? I believe the feeling that John Walks UK describes in “I Just can’t shake this feeling” is truly the Earth getting through to us despite our conditioning, and if we deliberately turn our attention to that voice, in any way we can, we will gradually find our way to becoming a healthy part of the whole. And it seems to me that the animistic way of being in the world is the key. Maybe many of us have resigned ourselves to the belief that only people who grew up within a healthy indigenous community can ever be in the world that way. But I no longer believe that. It is harder for us to connect with it, but nevertheless it is our birthright.

Many thanks for any contributions on this.


Yes, “Ask”! Communicate! Even the ways in which our upbringing and training by dear nature loving parents, nature guides and many others has taught us to behave in nature, seems very out of place to me. Why should we always have to “be silent”, or “sit still” all the time? Why don’t we learn to “be silent” when we need to? Why not share, sing and tell what we need to tell? Blending in doesn’t mean pure silence mostly. On the contrary. I don’t see trees holding their branches stiff and still when the wind leans against them; I don’t see birds worrying about the whiff of their wing beats. Join in, gently, quietly, at times silent, at times less so.