Sunday, January 4, 2015

Are you an Animist or a Pantheist or Both?

Hidden Villa Park CA

Nature abounds in individuality and Nature stirs up a feeling of oneness in the soul. This paradox leads to two alternative spiritual perspectives: animism, in which every creature, rock, fungus or stream is imbued with personhood, an individual soul embedded in a community of souls or spirits, and pantheism, a reverence for and an experience of the underlying unity of Nature. I often shift between the two views. Sometimes, while hiking in the woods, I am filled with respect and awareness of each natural being I encounter. I am aflush with love for the individual unique spirit. At other moments, my focused vision fades a bit and I become conscious of the wind, the deep greenness, and my soul blending into one whole experience.
Is there a way we can reconcile both points of view? Here, metaphors--those unconfined assemblages of words, images and feelings--may aid us in integrating a sense of oneness with particularity. Our bodies are whole and we experience them such, yet when we do yoga or when we feel localized pain, we concentrate on a particular muscle or internal organ. In some ways, our hamstrings seem independent of us when they are sore or when we stretch them in a yoga posture. We are simultaneously unified in consciousness and aware of a particular part of our bodies. We are both one and multiple. Likewise perhaps, Nature is akin to a body, structurally similar to our bodies, an organic unity in variety. Yet each cell contains a potential blueprint, its DNA, that maps onto every other cells DNA. We are homogeneous and differentiated at the same time.
Maybe, just maybe, unified Nature shines through each being, refracted into an individual pattern, condensed into a unique soul. Let's get personal with each natural being and let us be reverent in Nature.