The Mole Problem: Why Good Animists Make Good Neighbors

The Mole Problem: Why Good Animists Make Good Neighbors

When a friend visited our new home for the first time recently, he observed, “Looks like you’ve got a mole problem.”

“We’ve got a mole,” I said, “I don’t know if that’s a problem!”

That’s how this post began, rather innocently, although it quickly veered into controversial territory. Or perhaps it started there already. I guess it all depends on how you feel about moles.

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Animist Blog Carnival: Wakeful World Book Club

Animist Blog Carnival: Wakeful World Book Club

Welcome to the May 2014 edition of the Animist Blog Carnival! For this month’s theme, the ABC hosts its first-ever virtual book club — exploring the work of renowned animist and Druid author, Emma Restall Orr.

In the year or so since I first read it, I’ve returned to this book again and again. (The pages of my copy are now worn and bent, the margins thick with notes — the highest compliment I can give to a writer!) But what I’ve enjoyed most about the book are the endless discussions it’s provoked. There is so much to chew on, and plenty to disagree with and debate. When grappling with questions about the mind, the soul and existence itself, every reader will inevitably bring their own unique perspectives and experiences to the discussion. This wonderful variety is reflected in this month’s ABC!

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The Hunt for a Wakeful World: Anthropocentrism & Subjectivity

The Hunt for a Wakeful World: Anthropocentrism & Subjectivity

Druidic author Emma Restall Orr sets herself no easy task when she endeavors to articulate a philosophy of modern animism that can hold its own among the heavyweights of Western philosophy. In her latest work, The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature, she presents a compelling and intellectually rigorous case for nature’s inherent value apart from our human judgements about its use or beauty. Although the book is a challenging read, the thoughtful reader will find much to ponder in her systematic treatment of a modern animistic perspective on concepts of self, soul, community, individuality and consciousness.

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Anthropocentrism and Animal Instinct

Anthropocentrism and Animal Instinct

Where does our anthropocentrism come from? Some scientists cite evolutionary pressures as one possible influence among many. But others point to instinctual cognitive processes to explain just the opposite, suggesting that the anthropocentric worldview is actually a rejection of the human instinct, not its inevitable consequence.

Even if anthropocentrism isn’t instinctual, for many of us it is deeply ingrained. To a man with a shovel, it can be hard to imagine any other solution but to keep digging our way out of this anthropocentric hole we find ourselves stuck in. Western society has spent a long time convincing us that the shovel is the only effective tool we have. Are there alternatives? How do we learn to think beyond the biases of anthropocentrism and reconnect with the more-than-human world?

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Defining Anthropocentrism

Defining Anthropocentrism

What is anthropocentrism?

Turns out, there is no single, simple answer to this question. (Just among the nearly fifty books on environmental ethics and deep ecology that I have, only one actually offers a definition of the term, despite almost all of them referring to it in their discussions. As with many words, its meaning often has to be teased out and inferred from context.) In my earlier post I hinted at the beginnings of a definition when I referred to an approach to ritual that “takes for granted a worldview in which humans are the only measure of what is real.” The question of how our idea of “the real” and our practical responses to it (for instance, through ritual activity) influence our underlying values and where we locate (or create) meaning is a complex conversation in its own right, and it is in this particular theological meadow that I’ll do much of my lingering and bee-gazing in the following posts.

But for now, it’s probably more helpful to sketch out a basic definition, one we can use as a kind of measure against which we can hold up more complex, fidgety ideas later in the conversation…

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