Animism: Spirituality or Religion?

Animism‘ is derived from the Latin word ‘anima‘, which literally means ‘life” or ‘breath’, and is the philosophical position and the spiritual belief that both ‘animate‘ and ‘inanimate‘ objects have a spirit and a soul. Animism is usually a religious belief which is found in indigenous tribes, which is often originated from folklore and shared from one generation to another, as opposed to Abrahamic and other organised religions,. The largest organised religions ‘Christianity‘, ‘Judaism‘, and ‘Islam‘ usually maintain that only humans have a soul ‘psykhḗ‘, but ‘Hinduism‘ and ‘Jainism‘ believe that everything down to unicellular life has a soul. Despite animism having no fixed definition, many agree that there’s no contrast between living and spiritual, and plants have a spiritual presence, and some scholars claim this is evident in the happiness people feel in the countryside, or enjoyment they find from keeping houseplants, or tending to their gardens.

“Animism is the way humanity has been deeply connected to the land and its seasonal cycles for millennia, in rapport and conversation with the animals, plants, elements, Ancestors and earth spirits. The opposite of animism is the “cult of the individual” so celebrated in modern society, and the loss of the animist worldview is at the root of our spiritual disconnect and looming ecological crisis. Human beings are just one strand woven into the complex systems of Earth Community, and the animistic perspective is fundamental to the paradigm shift, and the recovery of our own ancestral wisdom.” – Pegi Eyers

Whilst this is all very interesting, does it have any merit, and is animism identified as spirituality, or religion? As far back as any faith, or belief goes, man has worshipped the world around them, and believed that there’s a ‘materialworld and a spiritual‘ world, so when exactly did the concept of a Godarrive? Primitive man believed that fire was alive, and had a spiritual presence, but was this actually classified as ‘prereligion‘, and only when the idea there was a creator observed, did the move from spirituality to religion occur.

“The world of spirit, for me, isn’t limited to ghosts, holy or otherwise. It means the innate, unique sentience of all beings, now hidden from us by the blinders of our a priori world view. In this way, animistic perspective is the great equalizer: you cannot poison the Earth if you instinctively recognize it as the organic extension of your own body and mind—indeed, as your body and mind.” – Robert Tindall

However you look at it, animism is an abstract concept considering that people consider inanimate objects to be sentient, and anthropologists as a rule say that animism is without scientific merit. It’s difficult to place animism under any general description, as it’s not a materialistic view point as it’s a form of spirituality, and it can’t be described as monotheism or polytheism as there’s no fixed view on a superior being, or beings.

But is there something to link animate and inanimate objects? Astrophysicists say that everything in the known universe originated from stardust, and everything shares the same kind of ‘building blocks’. This is often abbreviated to ‘CHNOPS‘ which stands for ‘carbon‘, ‘hydrogen‘, ‘nitrogen‘, ‘oxygen‘, ‘phosphorus‘ and ‘sulphur, and this is abundant in stars. Carl Sagan famously investigated this in his documentary, ‘Cosmos.

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff” – Carl Sagan

So physically everything shares the same building blocks, but can this also mean that everything is linked through spirituality? I personally find this too difficult to accept.