The Pragmatic Animist

I’m not much of an evangelist, but today I would like to persuade you to take an animist approach to life. Not necessarily to believe in animism, but to make the pragmatic decision to act as though you do.

Western humans have become far too prone to treating the world like a bunch of objects that exist for our convenience. We collectively treat the rest of life as resources to exploit. We don’t respect life, and we do not consider that other living things have any right to autonomy, or any feelings about their lives that might matter. The factory farmed animal in a tiny pen, turned into a food producing machine for humans, is a case in point.

Our human-centric view of the world is destroying the world we live in. To survive and thrive, we need to adopt more sustainable perspectives. This is where I think the case for pragmatic animism comes in. If you assume that everything around you could have ideas, intentions, preferences, feelings and so forth, it’s a lot harder to treat these individuals as objects and resources.

Here we simply sidestep the question of which living things have which kinds of thoughts, feelings and experiences. (I think this is the clever bit.) Reject that whole line of questioning. It is enough to consider that anything else you are dealing with could be aware and purposeful. Currently we are most willing to give care and rights to things we see as most like us – although not reliably then. We prioritise thinking and feeling in other beings even though we have little scope to measure or understand it.

Whether we can prove that something non-human thinks and feels is less important than how we behave if we adopt the idea that thinking and feeling are options. If you treat everything as though it exists in its own right and does not exist purely to answer some need of yours, you treat everything with greater respect. The pragmatic animist has reasons to seek co-operative solutions that serve life, not merely human life. It creates a context for not putting human wants centre stage all the time.

It’s a curious irony that our survival as a species won’t depend – as we’ve long imagined – on our out-competing everything else, but on our ability to support and nurture life. Survival of the fittest, going forwards, will not be about the human conquest of the natural world, but our ability to learn to live in balance, harmony and peacefully, with more care and respect.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “The Pragmatic Animist

  • cassandralathamjones

    Indeed without this pragmatic animistic approach to life it would be very difficult to communicate with the spirit world. I know of many who have endeavoured to command and demand from the spirits but almost inevitably it doesn’t end well.

  • Michael

    Love this! Especially your closing lines – so insightful and wise ( as always haha)

  • eberis

    I’ll tell you why I disagree and agree with you . I am a Christian Judeaic Druid Scientist and Postulant at the first church of cannabis who does not regard Nature of fauna rather ‘Nature’ as the work of green computing beginning sustainable business . that is how I disagree with you . The First Church of Cannabis keeps as one of their tenets ; grow food , raise animals , get Nature into your daily routine .. but I am specifically ‘Nature’ net.druid dealing with an issue that does not find tranquility in Nature but hopes to support media ecology in ‘Nature’ . sustainable business we support as green business and sustainable ecology we approach as the somewhat confusing misnomer of postmodernism . my last thought is you should not genetically tailor fauna in Back to Nature . that would lead to the Federated return to animism in gala turn of this gala turn refurbish plato mid . that will be all . I can’t stand tier getting pretense in genetic ageia . if enterprise server is used in the premise of ecoterrorism , I don’t agree with sorcery recovery on the point of scientific magic being unnatural . Peace to you like global peace now .

  • eberis

    your entire frigging Republican group are accusing me of being incoherent on topic~reply . response for the day . the republican internet uses sentence structure . it goes on databasing and gets a report on sentence structure coding and then reads the complete sentence . the democratic internet uses a reader which reads the comment to the person who is reading the reply in the now . the republican internet doesn’t use grammar net it uses a writing net if it’s being good , a typing net if it makes word salad and type net if it’s associate to a terror organization of computer aptitude terrorin . this happens almost every day . you can wtf me if you like but I will explain this … if you cannot stop getting a database pre report on investor acquisition of the internet sentence form of typing net ; you can’t read what I’m typing on data org . IF you can not stop using a terrorist organization as your promoted investment , it will make comments like the one I had to type on steampunk on type net . the republican internet can simply not read my typing . I don’t use the sentence structure program . can you figure that out ? this is a near daily occurance of investors getting told to tell me it’s word salad or the equivalent being quaint . anything else ?

    • Nimue Brown

      that’s an interesting approach. The risk is that in using a different way of communicating, you lose people who might not be able to follow you. Not everyone who favours conventional sentence structure is on the right, or a bot.

  • Operation X

    I believe animism is relevant for understanding language.

  • Becky

    Great post. I like the idea of the ‘pragmatic animist’. Whilst we can’t expect everyone to follow a nature based spirituality, it would be nice to at least get them to consider this approach as an alternative to the really hard work of dominionism!

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