Friday, May 17, 2013

Animism vs Anthropocentrism

Western religions hold an anthropocentric worldview, putting mankind on a pedestal above the rest of life. They believe that only humans have an immortal soul and are therefore the only beings with any trace of divinity (having been created “in God’s image”). Because of this fact, they feel entitled to control any and all of nature for their own benefit.  Animistic religions, on the other hand, believe the exact opposite. They see the interconnectedness of life, viewing all animals, planets, and aspects of creation to be just as divine--and alive--as humans. In fact, they believe that every aspect of nature makes up a greater, united whole. The word “Animism” stems from “anima,” meaning spirit or soul. Animistic religions believe that everything in the Universe has a soul.

Unfortunately (and that word doesn’t even begin to capture my emotion), the anthropocentric worldview too easily fits into a capitalist economy and as a result, our world has reached a point where this sort of belief has become so widely embraced that almost everything is used and built for human benefit and monetary profit. The animistic worldview, of course, holds no place in our capitalist economy. This problem can be seen as we continue to destroy our planet--the issues of energy consumption probably being the most obvious result. So many aspects of our life come from non-renewable energy sources. We are creating and living in more pollution than many of us realize. After all, in our society and economy today, hurting and taking advantage of the earth is a great way to make loads of money! (That was sarcasm) 

This fact makes me incredibly sad and at points in the past, spurred depression. I personally feel that this beautiful planet--and all of life for that matter--is spiritually alive. I always unconsciously had this view (i.e. I sensed that my animals had souls and were equals with me), but halfway through high school this worldview started to increase without any conscious effort (it may have to do with the fact that it was around that same time, I started reading more philosophical and spiritual books, creating my own worldview instead of the one I was raised with). I love this quote by Einstein: “Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” 

As sad as the state of our world and society makes me, I finally (though it took a while) realized I needed to stop fixating on this fact. Getting angry about it just sends out more negative energy that this planet cannot afford, and wallowing in sadness is not only bad for my own mental and emotional health, but it prevents me from taking my feelings and putting them to positive use. I have to remind myself to instead maintain a sense of realistic hope. 

As Thomas Paine wrote, “I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.” I can’t force other people to believe what I believe, but I can send out positive energy for this planet and its people. Ultimately, it’s not in my hands. And I’ve finally accepted that. For too long I was a control freak. I can’t control anything. It’s hard enough trying to control my mind and restless thoughts. 

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