RELIGION

Animism


ANIMISM DEFINED

The word animism comes from the Latin word anima meaning soul or life. Animism is a philosophical, religious or spiritual belief that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment. Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names or metaphors in mythology. Animism is particularly and widely found in the religions of indigenous peoples, although it is also found in Shinto, and some forms of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Pantheism, and Neopaganism.

ANIMISM: Edward Burnett Tylor's, Primitive Culture

The first systematic attempt to organize non-Western ideas about the soul into a religious and philosophical doctrine is presented in Tylor’s voluminous anthropological study Primitive Culture (1871), a large portion of which is entirely devoted to the principles of animism. “Savages,” according to Tylor, perceive souls everywhere. Souls exist in and as “rivers, stones, trees, weapons, inter alia."  They are treated as living intelligent beings, talked to, propitiated, punished for the harm they do. The very idea of the anima is thus associated with a type of menacing behavior on the part of objects (“the harm they do”), which is reciprocated by an ambivalent performance (“punished,” “propitiated,” “talked to”) by the afflicted subject. As Tylor observes, this habit of animated exchange had been already invoked in the studies on fetishism by De Brosses, as well as David Hume’s Natural History of Religion , and Auguste Comte’s Philosophie Positive . However, Tylor insists on a distinction between animism and fetishism.  Unlike fetishism, animism does not refer to a singular object; instead, the anima is a property common to all natural bodies: human, animal, vegetal, and mineral. Value is produced not by the fixation of power on a single object, but instead by its constant redistribution among a collectivity of persons and things. 

TOTEMISM AND ANIMISM

Throughout European history, philosophers such as Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, among others, contemplated the possibility that souls could exist in animals, plants and people; however, the currently accepted definition of animism which was only developed in the 19th century by Sir Edward Tylor, who created it as "one of anthropology's earliest concepts, if not the first," separates totelism and animism. Again, this is a complex anthropological issue, too complex for a refined discuss in this section of my site.

Whilst having similarities to totemism, animism differs, according to the anthropologist Tim Ingold, in that it focuses on individual spirit beings which help to perpetuate life, whilst totemism more typically holds that there is a primary source, such as the land itself, or the ancestors, who provide the basis to life. Certain indigenous religious groups, such as that of the Australian Aborigines are more typically totemic, whilst others, like the Inuit are more typically animistic in their worldview. Readers are advised to google the subject of animism for what has become an immense library and resources on the subject of the religion of humankind until the neolithic revolution circa 8000 BC. or 10,000 B.P.


MORE ON ANIMISM

Section 1:

Animism, to chose another defintionm is the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. A
nimism is a term used in the anthropology of religion for the religion of some indigenous tribal peoples, especially prior to the development and/or infiltration of colonialism and organized religion. Although each culture has its own different mythologies and rituals, "animism" is said to describe the most common, foundational thread of indigenous peoples' "spiritual" or "supernatural" perspectives. The animistic perspective is so fundamental, mundane, everyday and taken-for-granted that most animistic indigenous people do not even have a word in their languages that corresponds to "animism" or even "religion." The term is an anthropological construct rather than one designated by the people themselves.

Largely due to such ethno-linguistic and cultural discrepancies, opinion has differed on whether animism refers to a broadly religious belief or to a full-fledged religion in its own right. The currently accepted definition of animism was only developed in the late 19th century by Sir Edward Tylor, who created it as "one of anthropology's earliest concepts, if not the first".

Section 2:

Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical, or material, world.  Souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in some other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, and shadows. Animism thus rejects Cartesian dualism. Some members of the non-tribal world also consider themselves animists, such as author Daniel Quinn, sculptor Lawson Oyekan, and many Neopagans.  Not all peoples who describe themselves as tribal would describe themselves as animist. For more on animism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism

JOURNALS WHICH DEAL WITH ANIMISM

Anthropological Perspectives on Religion, Folklore, The Hibbert Journal, The Journal of Religion AND Oceania are journals which deal with animism
in one way or another. Anthropological Perspectives on Religion (Anpere), is an open access journal founded in 2006 by Swedish  anthropologists Pierre Wiktorin and André Möller. The journal's focus is anthropology of religion. The Folklore Society (FLS) was founded in London, England in 1878 to study traditional vernacular culture, including traditional music, song, dance and drama, narrative, arts and crafts, customs and belief. The foundation was prompted by a suggestion made by Eliza Gutch in the pages of Notes and Queries. I leave it to readers with the interest to access these journals at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropological_Perspectives_on_Religion

AVATAR, GREEN RELIGION, AND ANIMISM


Part 1:

Chris Klassen is the Director of Information Technology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. He has written a fine analysis of the film Avatar in the electronic online journal Cultural Studies Review, September 2012, pp. 74–88. The title of the article is: "Avatar, Dark Green Religion, and the Technological Construction of Nature." Avatar exploded onto screens with a vision splendour four years ago in 2009. I had just begun my life on two old-age pensions at the age of 65.  I did not see the film, nor have I seen it sionce it came to television.  I rarely go to films during these years of my retirement since my pensions are the main source of my income. My wife and I get about $1200 a fortnight; this is an adequate money supply as long as we live frugally and keep our leisure-time expenses to a minimum.

The vision, the experience, that those who did go to see Avatar enjoyed was aided by a highly advanced system of computer generated imagery (CGI) and 3D technology. Many viewers were awed by the world and worldview they encountered on Pandora, the main locus of action in the film. A significant element of appeal was the spiritual interaction of the indigenous peoples of Pandora, the Na’vi, with the rest of their ‘natural’ world.

Part 2:

Bron Taylor and Adrian Ivakhiv point out that Avatar’s depiction of Na’vi religion ‘ventures deeply into the terrain described variously by such terms as: animism, pantheism, panentheism, paganism, ecospirituality, and “dark green religion”’.  
Dark green religion is a concept developed by Taylor to make sense of a growing popularity of thinking about the environment in spiritual terms. Many fans have taken Avatar to be a story about a desirable spirituality embedded in the ‘natural’ world.  For some, Avatar became a motivation to act differently in their everyday lives, particularlyin response to environmental issues. Others suffered from what Matthew Holtmeier called 'Post-Pandoran Depression' whereby they grieved at their inability to live in the Avatar world.

In attempting to take seriously the way Avatar represents this kind of ecospirituality, or dark green religion, I suggest that more than simply the narrative must be analysed.  I argue that one reason for this Post-Pandoran Depression is that Avatar does not actually represent a ‘natural world’ as such, but rather it refracts nature, providing an optical illusion of a spiritually embedded nature. This fantasy is hyperreal and thus leads viewers to an engagement with a nature that is ‘unnatural.’  By unnatural these authors mean: constructed by human technology. They also mean that it is ‘better than’ or 'more than’ the environment people actually and currently inhabit.  As an entertaining fantasy film, there is nothing inherently wrong with a construction of a fantastical ‘natural’ world.  

As a representation of dark green religion, though, it must ultimately fail.  It fails because it promotes a kinship to a fictional ‘nature’.  Of course, millions now have a view of spirituality which is essentially animistic, although they often do not know or understand their animistic inclinations or perspectives. They are unable to articulate their essentially animistic religious position often mixed-in with the traditional relgion of their society, from Christianity to Islam, from Judaism to Buddhism, inter alia. This failure or this incapacity, say these film-makers, is also the result of a certain confusion that this film underpins.  Seeing this film thus leads to an optical illusion, an essential misunderstanding of nature itself and, ultimately, to a dark green religion based on fantasy. For more on this insightful analysis go to:  http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/article/view/2757/2947


SHINTOISM

Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan, is highly animistic. In Shinto, spirits of nature, or kami, are believed to exist everywhere. These range from the major spirits such as the goddess of the sun, which can be considered polytheistic, to the minor, which are more likely to be seen as a form of animism.  Shinto, also called kami-no-michi, is the ethnic religion of the people of Japan. It focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shokiin the 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified "Shinto religion", but rather to a collection of native beliefs andmythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to the religion of publicshrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of gods (kami), suited to various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals, and applies as well to various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian periods.

The word Shinto ("way of the gods") was adopted, originally as Jindō or Shindō, from the written Chinese Shendao, combining two kanji: "shin" meaning "spirit" or kami, meaning a philosophical path or study (from the Chinese word dào).The oldest recorded usage of the word Shindo is from the second half of the 6th century. Kamiare defined in English as "spirits", "essences" or "gods", referring to the energy generating the phenomena. Since Japanese language does not distinguish between singular and plural,kami refers to the divinity, or sacredessence, that manifests in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places, and even people can be said to possess the nature of kami. Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.

Shinto is the largest religion in Japan, practiced by nearly 80% of the population, yet only a small percentage of these identify themselves as "Shintoists" in surveys. This is because "Shinto" has different meanings in Japan: most of the Japanese attend Shinto shrines and beseech kami without belonging to an institutional "Shinto" religion, and since there are no formal rituals to become a member of "folk Shinto", "Shinto membership" is often estimated counting those who join organised Shinto sects. Shinto has 81,000 shrines and 85,000 priests in the country. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto

SACRED MYTHOLOGY

Part 1:

Myths are metaphors that convey truth about the indescribable through powerful images and experiences. The mythological models synthesized by Joseph Campbell, such as the monomyth with its attendant metaphysical. cosmological, sociological, and psychological purposes, underscore the fundamental unity of human spiritual experience. The Bahá’í Faith employs three significant spiritual verities to fulfil the purposes of myth and to open for all Bahá’ís the full depth and range of the world’s mythologies: The unknowable nature of the Ultimate Mystery; the relativity of religious- mythological truth; and the necessity of science and investigation of reality. The Bahá’í Faith also possesses a sacred drama—history as myth—from which the Bahá’í community takes its signposts for individual and collective development. All of these aspects of Bahá’í mythology are the basis for a coherent mythological landscape through which each human being must travel. The mythological universe created by Bahá’u’lláh frees the soul to experience and understand all mythologies, to explore and be awed by the physical universe understood by science and reason, and to undertake the universal adventure through which all may become fully human. This article was published in the Journal of Bahá’í Studies(V2, N4, 1990) by the Association for Bahá’í Studies. The title of the article is 'Sacred Mythology and the Bahá’í Faith' William P. Collins. For more go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2.4-Collins.pdf

Part 2:

Mythology can refer to the collected myths of a group of people—their body of stories which they tell to explain nature, history, and customs—or to the study of such myths. As a collection of such stories, mythology is a vital feature of every culture. Various origins for myths have been proposed, ranging from personification of nature, personification of natural phenomenato truthful or hyperbolic accounts of historical events, to explanations of existing ritual. Although the term is complicated by its implicit condescension, mythologizing is not just an ancient or primitive practice, as shown by contemporary mythopoeia such as urban legends & the expansive fictional mythoi created by fantasy novels & Japanese manga. A culture's collective mythology helps convey belonging, shared and religious experience, behavioural models, and moral and practical lessons.

As the study of myth, mythology dates back to antiquity. Rationalists in ancient Greece and China devised allegorical interpretations of their traditional stories. Rival classifications of the Greek myths by Euhemerus, Plato's Phaedrus, & Sallustius were developed by the Neoplatonists and revived by Renaissance mythographers. Nineteenth-century comparative mythology reinterpreted myth as a primitive & failed counterpart of science (E. B. Tylor), a "disease of language" (Max Müller), or a misinterpretation of magical ritual (James Frazer). Some recent approaches have rejected a conflict between the value of myth and rational thought, often viewing myths, rather than being merely inaccurate historical accounts, as expressions for understanding general psychological, cultural or societal truths. For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mythology

Part 3:

The first scholarly theories of myth appeared during the second half of the 19th century. In general, these 19th-century theories framed myth as a failed or obsolete mode of thought, often by interpreting myth as the primitive counterpart of modern science. For example, E. B. Tylor interpreted myth as an attempt at a literal explanation for natural phenomena: unable to conceive of impersonal natural laws, early man tried to explain natural phenomena by attributing souls to inanimate objects, giving rise to animism.  Many 20th-century theories of myth rejected the 19th-century theories' opposition of myth and science. In general, "twentieth-century theories have tended to see myth as almost anything but an outdated counterpart to science. Consequently, moderns are not obliged to abandon myth for science." 

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1873–1961) tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called archetypes. Jung believed that the similarities between the myths from different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes. for more on Jung go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung  Joseph Campbell(1904-1987) was an American mythologist, writer & lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology & comparative religion. His work covers many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss." For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

SHAMANISM

The Voice of the Shaman by Glenn H. Shepard Jr. is a review in The New York Review of Books(6 November 2014) of The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert. It was translated from the French by Nicholas Elliott and Alison Dundy for Belknap and Harvard University Press. The book is 600 pages. The review begins: "The Falling Sky, by the Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa and the French anthropologist Bruce Albert, takes its title from a creation myth of the Yanomami people, who live in the border region between Brazil & Venezuela. The primordial world was crushed by the collapse of the sky, hurling its inhabitants into the underworld. The exposed “back” of the previous sky became the forest where the Yanomami emerged, and where they remain to this day; they still call the forest “the old sky.”  

For more of the above review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/06/davi-kopenawa-voice-shaman/?insrc=toc  Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to encounter & interact with the spirit world & channel these transcendental energies into this world. A shaman is a person regarded as having access to, & influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during aritual, and practices divination and healing. For more on shamanism go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism

VIOLENCE IN PRE-NEOLITHIC SOCIETIES

The media is now both scapegoat and cause, explanatory framework and source of the rationale for the violent society.  Such is the position some social scientists now take. Due to the pervasiveness and influence of the media in its electronic and print forms, the issues surrounding them are immensely complex. The print and electronic media are a type of brontosaurus.
Religion and politics, information and entertainment, the major concerns of the media in a host of different ways, have been intertwined with violence since the days of universal animism. In the hundreds of millennia before the neolithic revolution of 8000 BP(circa) and, arguably, back to Homo Heidelbergensis at 500,000 BP, indeed, far back into the reaches of the hunting and gathering societies of human evolution--violence has been part of the bread and butter, the air that is the breath of life of our species and its several precursors. 

One writer whom I read over twenty years ago, in the years of my middle life(40-60), Guy Murchie, wrote in a book entitled The Seven Mysteries of Life that: we’ve had 14,400 wars in recorded history(Houghton, Mifflin, Boston, 1978).  He was just referring to recorded history. Violence is as human, it appears, as apple pie is American or I might add: as potatoes, pasta or pumpkins are identified with other countries. 
For a discussion of the complex subject of conflict and violence in the evolutionary process after the development of photosynthesis go to:
http://cpfphila.org/NL1009/NL1009%209.html

For a discussion of animism in the writing of one author, Andrei Platonov, go to:
http://The-train-and-the-tortoise-Animism-in-the-prose-work-of-Andrei-Platonov  Other sites or links which will result in some of my comments and the comments of others on animism:  http://bahai-library.com/ronprice_autobiography_essays_history , and
http://ivebeenreadinglately.blogspot.com/2010/01/tolstoy-animist , and http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Oldsite/38Baha%27iPhilosophy
(the blue background needs to be highlighted by left-clicking your mouse. This will make reading easier)

ORKNEY'S STONE AGE TEMPLES

Tonight(22/7/'12, SBS ONE, 7:30-8:30 pm) I watched Lost Worlds: A History of Ancient Britain---Orkney's Stone Age Temples. For an examination of the animism in its theocratic form in neolithic culture about 3000 B.C. this doco is useful. For more on this subject go to these two links: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skara_Brae   and       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maeshowe

ABORIGINAL HEALING TRADITIONS

Producers Simon Green and Liz Thompson document their exploration deep into the geographical and ontological heart of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in South Australia. Here, they meet with Anangu Ngangkari, or traditional healers, Cyril McKenzie, Gordon Ingkatji, Kunmanara Ken and Sam Watson, and learn about the Central Desert people’s healing traditions. With the aid and instruction of these Ngangkari, together we venture through variousTjukurrpa (a word used to describe the force which unites the Anangu people with each other and with the land) and meet Tjukuritja, or ancestor spirits, along the way who have travelled these trails many times in the distant past. Whilst the journey follows well defined paths mapped over a millennia, be prepared for various aural detours which take you into landscapes rarely seen or experienced by European Australians. Go to this link to listen to this audio program: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/soundproof/the-doctor-mans-lair/6650220

EMBRYOGENESIS

In Shoghi Effendi’s World Order Letters(1930 ca), he says the “principle of the oneness of mankind implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society.” He also says that the “epoch-making changes that constitute the great landmarks in the history of human civilization” should appear “as subsidiary adjustments preluding that transformation of unparalled majesty and scope which humanity in this age is bound to undergo. -See The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, 1969, p.114.

The nature and extent of large-scale structural transformations in Western society, as well as their corresponding effects on the nature of social interaction and on the construction of social identity---is a crucial issue raised by post-modernism. -Postmodernism and Social Inquiry, editors: D. Dickens and A. Fontana, Guilford Press, NY, 1994, p.10.

Those great landmarks in the
history of human civilization:

homo sapiens sapiens,
hunting and gathering
the neolithic revolution,
urbanism, the state, bands,
tribes, chiefdoms,city states,
nations, the prophetic figures
of the Adamic cycle, the classical
civilizations of Greece and Rome,
mathematics, the renaissance and
reformation,the scientific revolution
and......what more?.....what else?......

Subsidiary adjustments are all of these,
preluding a transformation of unparalleled
majesty and scope for humanity in this age....

What shall we call this ‘age’?
There are so many possibilities.
I shall take the first forty years
of Shaykh Ahmad’s life as the
embryogenesis: 1754-1793.(1)
That Star decided to tell of
a new Revelation, when revolutions:
American, French, agricultural,
industrial, sciencific, technological,
democratic, population, were all
brewing in one vast pot waiting
to explode onto the planet. And
they did, precipitating our modern
age and all its transforming effects.

Ron Price
10 May 1999

(1) Shaykh Ahmad left his home in NE Iraq in 1793 at the age of 40(Nabil, Dawnbreakers, 1974(1932), p. 1.


RELIGION IN PRE-NEOLITHIC SOCIETIES

Religious behaviour is thought to have emerged by the Upper Paleolithic, before 30,000 years ago at the latest.  But behavioral patterns such as: burial rites, rites that one might characterize as religious, or as ancestral to religious behaviour, now can be found due to the fossil record as far back as the Middle Paleolithic, that is: as early as 300,000 years ago. This coincides with the first appearance of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens.

Religious behaviour may combine, for example: ritual, spirituality, mythology and magical thinking.  This behaviour could be said to be the origins of animism.  They are aspects of human activity that may have had separate histories of development during the Middle Paleolithic before combining into "religion proper" of behavioral modernity. There are suggestions for the first appearance of religious or spiritual experience in the Lower Paleolithic, a period of time significantly earlier than 300,000 years ago, that is: pre-Homo sapiens. These suggestions remain controversial and have limited support. For more on these issues go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_religion


LIFE AS ARTISTIC CREATION: A NEW FORM OF HUNTING AND GATHERING---OF ANIMISM

James Agee(1909-1955), American author, journalist, poet, screenwriter and film critic spent his life in search for a manner of expression that would best enable him to see his artistic creation as a living reality in the present moment, that would help him create a world that existed solely in the present. Joseph Conrad, on the other hand, seemed to endlessly search for, and have his mind set on, one fact, the sea, and its beauty, nobility and monotony. It was the sea that permeated all that was mysterious in life and its protean elusiveness, in Conrad’s writing. –Ron Price with thanks to Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, Vol.1, Gale Research Co., Detroit, 1978, p.14.

Ron Price’s entire career seems to have been, among other things, a search for a manner of expression that would enable him to see his artistic creation as history, sociology, psychology, autobiography, a world that existed not only in the present moment, but in past moments and, hopefully, as a time capsule for a future age. At the centre of this artistic creation was not the sea, but the ocean of a new Revelation. The quintessential mystery of life and its elusiveness was not permeated by the sea, but by an emerging world religion which had captivated Price in his youth and seemed destined to keep him captive well into the evening of his life, if not to the very end of his days on this mortal coil. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.

Well, it was not a conscious search,
at first,
more of a question of
what will I do:
job, marriage, life?
You know the sort of thing.
How will I serve?
Where will I go?
Gradually the search
became conscious,
more and more conscious
and more recently,
I’d define it as
life as artistic creation,
a manner of expression,
words, words, words,
a roving inner eye,
hunting and gathering
in a different way than those
animistic peoples of multi-millennia,
scanning the world for the story,
the preserved tablet, something visual
that would maintain and transform my life.

Ron Price
12 November 1999 to 1 April 2011.


ARNOLD TOYNBEE, MY TRAVELLING AND THE NEOLITHIC REVOLUTION

The great historian Arnold Toynbee draws on the mythology of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, among the many sources he draws on in his massive 12 volume work A Study of History, to discuss the stimulus of new ground for the people going to that new ground.  I want to draw on this same mythology as I try to place this travelling-pioneering venture of mine into a fitting, a reasoned, context.  We have all become pioneers of a sort in this new age, an age we now give a multitude of labels to, labels which try to characterize the tone and texture, the sands and shifts, of our time.

Toynbee writes that in their removal out of the magic garden into the workaday world, Adam and Eve transcend the food-gathering, the hunting and gathering, economy of "Primitive Mankind and gave birth to the fathers of an agricultural and a pastoral civilization. Later, in their exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel….gave birth to a generation which helped to lay the foundations of the Syriac Civilization in taking possession of the Promised Land." Such is part of the symbolic significance of, arguably, the first pioneers.  I do not take this biblical story literally, any more than Toynbee does, but more of a metaphor for the period after the Neolithic revolution(1200-8000 BC) to the period of the late second and early first millennium BC(1300-800 BC). 

Indeed, as I try to place this Baha’i, this pioneering, experience of mine, 1953-2011, into some context, I'd like to draw on the writings of Arnold Toynbee in his A Study of History, Vol.2 which was first published in 1934.  I have done so extensively in my writings, but not all of them are found here.  At the time Baha'i Administration was taking its initial form in several countries around the world from the 1920s through the 1950s, Toynbee wrote his A Study of History. Toynbee quoted the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume, who concluded his essay Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences with the observation that "the arts and sciences, like some plants, require a fresh soil; and, however rich the land may be, and however you may care for it and try to give it new life, this land will never, when once exhausted, produce anything that is perfect or finished, vital and alive, again. 

Toynbee is the great historian of the necessary global political unification process, of the world becoming, as novelist Lawrence Durrell put it: “one place.” For some reason, for many reasons, in August 1962, on the eve of my pioneering venture I felt quite exhausted, or should I say I felt a sense of the tedious, the tedium of the environment, the environment in which I had lived for the previous dozen years in my childhood and adolescence.  I lived in a small town in southern Ontario in the Golden Horseshoe on the edge of Lake Ontario.  It was the environment where I was in the porch-swing of my first bones, where I had first settled into myself and my life and where I stared out at the world with a complex mix of awe and boredom, confusion and psychological hunger.


MIGRATION: ANCIENT AND MODERN

In an article in a new journal called Janus Head, Bernard Jager(1) writes about life's journey. He says that, cut off from the sphere of dwelling, life becomes aimless wandering.  It deteriorates into mere distraction or even chaos or fugue. Perhaps this was part of the human experience forty thousand years ago in band societies, hunting and gathering communities. In some ways we in our world have, in our time, become faced with "forced migration" which, as Douglas Martin, former Director-General of Public Information at the Baha'i World Centre, suggests is "the paradigm for the whole human race."  The process is unstoppable, Martin continues, and will radically alter humanity's sense of place and identity.  My migration was, on the other hand, "unforced."  I made a conscious decision to move, to migrate. My movement was not always unforced. Sometimes necessity in one of its many forms required me to move.  There were occasions among my many moves where relocation was forced by circumstances, circumstances I write about extensively in my memoirs.  But in all cases, as Jager emphasizes, "the sphere of dwelling" and "origin" was important to my sense of space and identity. -Ron Price with thanks to: (1) Bernard Jager in "Editorial: The Tower of Babel: Shadow of the Interdisciplinary," Janus Head: 1999, Internet; and (2) Douglas Martin, "Talk in Lowell Massachusettes," September 2001


REJECTION OF TRADITION: ANIMISM TO MODERNITY

I had come from a culture, a western culture in its North American extension, which in the last two centuries, say 1750 to 1950, had been increasingly rejecting its inherited tradition. This was especially true in the years from the 1960s onward, once that tenth stage of history came into our lives in April 1963 from a Baha'i perspective.  I was 15 years old in 1960 and 25 in 1970.  I was a child, so to speak, of the sixties.  Elvis Presley, Andy Warhol's art, the Mods and Rockers, a Pop culture had come to play its rhythms in the interstices of my life and it affected my ambience, my philosophy of life in complex and indefinable ways. Of course, there were many things that affected my life---too many things to include here on this page devoted to animism.  Improvisation, the instinctual urge, creativity, they were all the buzz in those years before my first wife and I went to live in a hunting and gathering community, the Inuit in the 1960s ,and when my second wife and I came to live among the Aborigines of Australia in the 1980s.  These two animistic cultures were going through a transition from their stone age culture which was dizzying in its speed and immensely complex in its ramifications.

​MY YEARS WITH ANIMISTIC PEOPLES

I had contact with the indigenous peoples of Australia, the Aboriginals, when I lived north of the tropic of Capricorn from 1982 to 1987 in both the Northern Territory and in the north of Western Australia.  Much of their culture is, and most of it was until recently, animistic.  I also lived among Canada's Inuit on Baffin Island from August 1967 to June 1968. My first wife and I were the second Baha'i couple to live in the eastern Arctic. Jamie and Gale Bond lived there in the 1950s and early 1960s.  I have written about  those six years of my life among native peoples in my autobiography and, for now, I leave it to readers with the interest to seek out my autobiography. The Baha'i community in Canada's north can be seen in detail at this link:http://susangammage.com/susan-gammages-rankin-inlet-adventure

SALVATION

...the countless days, months and years I have spent studying my craft, developing and honing my skills...the untold lonely hours of persistence and drudgery....so the believer as aspirant must constantly struggle to discover how best to dramatize the tenets of faith in daily action. -John S. Hatcher,The Arc of Ascent: The Purpose of Physical Reality II, George Ronald, Oxford, 1994, p.32.

Salvation, now there’s a word
that has bedeviled history, theology,
people, religions and me at least
since we struggled out of animism
between 7000 BC and 2000 BC,
if not long before neolithic times.

Salvation is more of a process
than an event, a constant monitoring
of one’s condition, a persistent
evaluation of one’s performance
and an expanding expression
of our understanding in daily life.

Salvation requires a social context;
a theoretical spirituality must be
practiced in a social milieux;
indeed salvation applies to the
whole society as much as it does
to the individual in it.

Salvation involves our detachment
from our personal trip and our
involvement in the social institutions
which are the more inclusive expressions
of our own identity: this verity underpins
the oneness of humankind.

Salvation is an expression of the
desire to belong and to be appreciated
by the group, of the intertwined nature
of self-interest and collective interest;
for salvation is a social reality; personal
transformation involves social transformation.

Salvation, then, is about passionate intensity,
chaos, perplexity and consternation,
about being overwhelmed by longing
and unable to attain one’s desire,
about bewilderment, action and a
whirlwind of wonderment and exhaustion.

Salvation is about a sense of selflessness
that is acheived by individual action in
a divine plan and universal structure,
a perception of ourselves within a
collectivity of meaning, a catching
of a fragrance from an eternal garden.

Salvation is an entering and reentering
the world of shadows and its ephemeral
visions, an uplifting of the human condition,
an experience of the world of creation as an
emotionally charged vision and mystic journey
in this deathbed childbed age.

Ron Price
7 January 1996


HUNTING AND GATHERING: THE LAST DAY

Beginning perhaps as early as 1953, I found ways of making money: collecting pop bottles, selling newspapers, doing the occasional odd-gardening-job but, in July 1960, I landed my first formal job with the A & W Root Beer Company. It only lasted several weeks due to the fact that my father was receiving unemployment benefits in Ontario at the time as a retired man of 70.  I was not allowed to make any money since I was his dependent. What I did earn I had to give back: all of it. The next summer, in July or August of 1961, I began my first job in an organization and received money that I could keep. The job was with the Shell Oil Company in Hamilton Ontario. This time, as I say, I could keep the money and it was $60/week.  This was more money than my father had ever made in any of his jobs, as far as I know.  I had made a start in the modern form of hunting and gatheirng without the animistic religion of my ancestors of old.

From that summer of 1961 until 2005, I had been working at jobs, hunting for jobs and/or going to school. About the same time of year as now, exactly forty years ago in 1961, I began negotiating in a job-seeking process for that Shell Oil job. That job-hunting process came to an end, as I say, in 2001.  I was accepted onto a Disability Support Pension eight weeks before my 57th birthday in 2001. I would continue to work in a casual-volunteer capacity occasionally, presenting radio programs or teaching senior citizens. This I would do after 2001 but, it appeared for now, that paid employment and looking for it had finally ceased. This modern form of hunting and gathering in my life had finally come to an end.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 30 May 2001 to 1 April 2011.

There were times in those forty years
when schools and jobs were just not
on my agenda, when I was zonked out
in a mental hospital somewhere…...or
travelling to this place of refuge in this
little town at the mouth of a river on a
small bay where I watched the boats go
by and the waters of this estuary criss-
cross in many directions, as my life….
continued to flow to the sea.

Those times might add up to a year,
making a net of thirty-nine years on
the jobs-school circuit; and those 39
years of travelling-pioneering, they,
too, were a landmark as I enter these
winter months and a world beyond
those forty years.

Ron Price
31 May 2001 to 1 April 2011


MORE DETAILS ON ANIMISM

Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Examples of Animism can be found in forms of Shinto, Serer, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Pantheism, Paganism, and Neopaganism.
The term Animism appears to have been first developed as animismus by German scientist Georg Ernst Stahl, circa 1720, to refer to the "doctrine that animal life is produced by an immaterial soul." The actual English language form of animism, however, can only be attested to 1819. The term was taken and redefined by the anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor in his 1871 book Primitive Culture, in which he defined it as "the general doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general." According to religious scholar Robert Segal, Tylor saw all religions, "modern and primitive alike", as forms of animism.

According to Tylor, animism often includes "an idea of pervading life and will in nature"; that is, a belief that natural objects other than humans have souls. As a self-described "confirmed scientific rationalist", Tylor believed that this view was "childish" and typical of "cognitive underdevelopment," and that it was therefore common in "primitive" peoples such as those living in hunter gatherer societies. Tylor's definition of animism has since largely been followed by anthropologists, such as Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Tim Ingold. However, some anthropologists, such as Nurit Bird-David, have criticised the Tylorian concept of animism, believing it to be outdated. For more on an outline of animism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism