Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's next?

It's been almost two months since I last wrote on this blog. During those months, I battled Lyme Disease and several other ills, and came to understand that I would not heal in body until my nonmaterial self was healed. So, I've been working in spirit with Charlie as well as with my human medicine helpers, and I am healing more every day.

I plan to continue writing in my other blog "Charlie and the Gods of Love" and let this one rest, keeping it in archive as long as Blogger will allow. I hope you'll visit me at Charlie's!

Blessed be!
Puny

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Culling the herd

For a couple of years in elementary school, I was "horse crazy." I read Black Beauty and National Velvet, and collected little china horses, so when my dad offered to take me horseback riding, I jumped at the chance. I climbed onto the back of a huge, solemn-faced mare with visions of galloping into the sunset, but the horse didn't move. I kicked and kicked but I couldn't seem to get her attention, and finally, the horse simply rolled over and shook me off her back. I screamed. My dad laughed, and he said, "You feel as light as a fly to her. You tickled her and she just shrugged you off her back."

I remember those words, and have often used them to understand the way our Goddess Earth must feel about us: tiny, light, like little flies on her back. If we become annoying to her, she has only to shrug her shoulders, and we will tumble off.

This soothes me when I worry that humans will somehow damage the Earth. She may be changed by us, but she cannot be damaged by us. And I think that perhaps, as human numbers swell and our impact unbalances her children, she will indeed shrug us off.

What better way to accomplish this than with her smallest children: viruses and bacteria and fungae. My experience with the exponentially-growing Lyme Disease is one example of the many ways Earth has to cull the herd with these little critters. Infectious disease is an excellent way to re-balance humanity without harming the rest of the planet or our animal or plant friends. It does not feel violent to me. One can only surrender.

Of course, I do expect to recover completely from Lyme. I'll get a flu shot again this fall. I'll eat well and I don't smoke. I practice safe sex. I hope to avoid cancer or other diseases, but it's an interesting thought, isn't it? That the Goddess Earth has this method at her disposal, and it might just do us all good in the end?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Giveaway!

I’ve never had such a marvelous giveaway time as I am having now. I’m not just giving things I don’t want any more to the Salvation Army, or weeding my library to the Friends of the Library Booksale. I’m letting of of objects I’ve cherished for 30 or more years. My Nepalese shaman drum, my collection of china tea cups, my mother’s books, bound in softest leather. Things that once defined me, like special ritual clothes. Things that once held me, like a painting worth thousands of dollars that I didn’t like and couldn’t sell. That object I gifted to the fire!

With every gift I give, I seem to be the one to gain, until I am mad with pleasure. Where does this benefit come from? It’s lovely to lighten my load of possessions so that I can live more simply and I’m glad to make other people happy, but that’s not the source of this deeper joy.

I poked around a bit online looking for thoughts about gift-giving. In many cultures, the giving of gifts is a way to strengthen interpersonal ties. The indigenous folks of the Pacific Northwest are famous for their potlatch giveaways, and some Pacific Islanders and African peoples have objects that are in continuous circulation, giving and receiving being vital to social interchange and community building. Although many see contemporary Christmas gifting as empty commercialism, for others, it’s an opportunity to express affection and commitment. Gift-giving is important everywhere you go.

But understanding gift-giving didn’t enlighten me as to why I’m feeling so happy from my giveaway. Only as I struggled with my illness did it come to me: I want my life to have meaning and this meaning does not come from things. Possessions, successes and achievements, and even the constant hope for those things, have only served to conceal my true value. I am not any of those things. They do not define me or give my life value, even though I’ve wished for them and held onto them as if they did.

If my life has any value, it is intrinsic to my person. I'm worthy because of who I am, not what I have. Everything will be given back when I die, after all. Even my body will be given back. And yet I’ve held on to things as if they defined me. Now, with every object I let go of, every dream vanished or task undone, I become more myself. I see myself, unadorned, undone, unhealthy but beautiful, wonderful, human, and good.

With new eyes, I look at my life and find that the things that have had value have no form: the love I shared, the sacrifices I made, conversations on the back porch. My children, my marriage, my gods . . . these give my life meaning. Not the drum I gave away. Not the fancy house we had to sell. No wonder I’m so happy! With every letting go, my life shines brighter in my own eyes. I see the meaning that was hidden behind the veils of things.

Now, there’s this pretty hand-painted serving plate, dated 1907, with a delicate rose design I’d like to give away. The photo doesn't do its luminance justice. Do me a favor, would you, and take it?
Love,
Puny

Sunday, August 30, 2009

shaman's drum


This drum came into my possession almost 30 years ago. I believe it is a Nepalese shaman's drum. It's older than the drums you can now buy through importers, and is full of power and energy. Hand made, hand carved, with a rattle inside and a curved stick for beating.

I have kept it carefully, but I found that it was not for me to use in sacred space. Now, I would like to give it away to someone who might truly use it to call the spirits, as it was meant to do.

If you would like to have this drum, contact me through e-mail or comments, and we can talk about how to ship it to you.
Love,
Puny

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Releasing the Spirochetes

I drew this picture as part of my work to release the spirochetes of Lyme Disease. The spirochetes in the image are pink and yellow, like a rain behind the martini glass. Unfortunately, they're hard to see in this online image. For more about my experience of Lyme see Charlie's Blog.

Coming hard on the heels of a ducedly painful surgical recovery, the Lyme has me thinking about pain and suffering in the human experience. Seems like I've had more than my share over the years, for a 21st century USA woman, anyway. But my suffering has ultimately led me to great spiritual growth and a deep personal relationship with my gods, particularly with Charlie and my Creator.

Pain and suffering are an unavoidable part of living in the flesh. In balance with life's pleasures and joys, suffering is a great and wonderful teacher. The Christian mystics understood this. Andrew Harvey, in Teachings of the Christian Mystics, writes of the them, "There are no greater teachers of the purpose and alchemical power of suffering in any other mystical literature, because no other group of mystics have faced the necessity of ordeal with such unshrinking precision and so learned how to transmute agony into thanksgiving . . . "

Be the Christians as they may, our contemporary culture celebrates comfort and ease. We avoid suffering, even as we deny the ways in which we constantly suffer in the body—illness, obesity, sexual disability, cancers from toxins, poisoned food, to name a few—at the hands of the dominators. But avoidance and denial don't allow us the spiritual benefits of our physical pain. In our pain, we come to terms with the limitations of the flesh. We learn to love these difficult bodies. We reach out for spiritual strength. We become humble. We grow in compassion.

This is not to say that we should seek out pain and suffering. Our ordinary human experience will bring us plenty for our spiritual growth. Unnecessary pain is harmful. In fact, if our pain gets out of balance with pleasure and joy, then even the benefits of pain are cancelled out.

Still, pain and suffering have a place in human life and always will. Like every experience in my momentary time on this glorious earth, I will embrace my suffering, experience it fully, and transform it into a pathway to the gods of love.
Love,
Puny

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rest and Play

Let's spend more time resting and playing and less time producing and consuming. Doesn't that sound great? But there’s tremendous resistance to rest and play in the dominator culture. After all, the purpose of the dominator culture is the manufacture of wealth for the ruling elite, so the prevailing morality supports activities that create wealth and rejects activities that fail to add to it.

In other words, the constant, focused use of human time and energy for production and consumption is moral and anything that detracts from “getting and spending” is immoral. Two classic books review the relationship of capitalistic dominator culture to the morality of work: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by Max Weber and Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by R. H. Tawney. Their contention, that Protestantism supports the dominator culture through its "work ethic," has entered the mainstream, and I need not belabor the point here.

Instead, let’s take this concept out of the realm of the theoretical and consider how we might use it to transform dominator culture. If the purpose of an animist life is to be part of the earthly dance of life, then what could be better than simply being? Lao Tzu said that the way to do is to be. And if we look around us at the wisdom of creation, we see that the nonhumans are happily busy being in ways that are true to their unique natures.

The lions are ferociously hunting. The flowers burst forth with color and scent and then wilt and die. Ants hurry along hither and thither in a dither. These are just a few examples of nonhumans being their best selves. You can surely think of many more.

As humans, we have our own unique nature to express. We are creative. We love to observe, experiment, and play. We love to create beautiful sounds, to move our bodies in sport or dance. Humans find pleasure in the activities of daily living and bodily care, like washing our bodies and cooking our foods, and there is nothing more wonderful than simply being, in the company of the nonhumans all around us, singing praises to our Creator.

It is also in our nature to give a rhythm to our days, of activity and rest, eating and fasting, time in company and time alone. We need time to rest, to defocus, hang out, play, do nuthin’, loaf and loiter and goof around, and lie on our backs and watch cloud people cavort across the sky. This is human being, and being true to our natures, living a full human life. Unfortunately, there are three dominator barriers that keep us from enjoying nonproductive time.

1) As mentioned above, nonproductive time is considered immoral. It may be labeled laziness, “not living up to your potential,” or wasting time. You may have heard other labels for rest and play that imply immorality or dissipation. Conversely, productiveness is rewarded in numerous ways, especially with acclaim and money, and money is enticing, isn’t it?

2) Most of us have very little time apart from our jobs to spend in rest and play. Once I start back to school, for example, it’s nine hour days for me, not counting commuting. The United States gives its workers less vacation and sick time than any other industrialized nation in the world. This leaves us with so little time that the activities of daily living that could give us joy, like cooking and eating, often become hurried and joyless.

3) If we are not producing, we are expected to consume, and as marvelous as our leisure toys appear to be, many of them suck the life out of us, dull our minds, and steal the last remaining vestiges of time we have available for rest and play. Things like TV, movies, and passive sports-watching, tourism, exercise as a health-producing activity, and shopping do not feed our spirits.

If we could reclaim rest and play, then their joys become their own rewards. And with rest and play come a host of other benefits, like improved health, better relationships, and time to think things through. Plenty of rest and play could transform the way people think of their purpose and give them a chance to become aware of the nonhumans around them.

After all, if we don’t have time to stop and smell the roses,
then how will we ever come to hear their voices?


If we new animists are to be social activists, then here is an excellent way to begin. Let’s resist the dominator entertainments, steal a bit more time from our jobs, ignore the scolding, and spend plenty of time in rest and play. Let’s encourage our friends and coworkers to do the same. Let’s make cloud watching and flower smelling national pastimes! Who knows what magic this little change might work on our culture?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Storm

Oh, glorious summer! Lush and colorful! Every wildflower busting out in bloom. The scent of green sex is everywhere, bold enough to make a human dizzy and lustful. Bright goldfinches swoop and dive above the weeds. In midsummer, I walk along the roadside or wander in the green and quiet woods, and feel at peace. This is my time for rest, these precious months, before I return to work in the prison-school.

Yesterday, in the woods, the air was hot and sticky, barely moving. Mosquitos feasted on my bare skin and flies tormented me, but I was happy anyway. I tossed aside my shirt and shoes and danced on the pine needles.

Back home, as evening lowered, I watched storm clouds gather to the west. The wind rustled the leaves and the first drops of rain were heavy, fat blobs, hitting the wooden deck with a musical sound. Then the wind blew more fiercely, turning the leaves over, and then the branches began to heave and the trees to bend. The evening grew heavy and dark. Cloud people raced across the sky, and as I watched, two enormous arms of cloud reached over my house, as if to envelop it.

I gasped! Each end of the great cloud was turning around itself, creating funnels where the hands of its arms would be. They lowered toward me, reaching out for me, down and further down until they seemed near enough to touch. Then I was overwhelmed with a primitive fear and ducked back inside the house. This cloud was a dangerous beast, a huge, monstrous thing, and I was frightened! The moment I stepped inside, the cloud people released their load of rain, birthing a fantastic storm. Rain swept across the lawn in driving sheets. The cloud arms with their funnel hands disappeared into the uniform gray, lightening flashed and thunder shook the hillside.

I watched until the storm subsided. Then, I turned away from the open door and pulled a watermelon from the fridge and cut it up to eat for my beloved and me. We munched in quiet peace.

The evening sky lightened and I could see lazy wisps of storm cloud meander over the valley, shimmering with lightening. Oh, how I love summer in the Land-On-Which-I-Walk! I would love to hear about summer where you live.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Love the Animal Body!

You are an animal. Oh, yes, you are! Don’t believe me? Try looking down. You’ve got skin and hair over muscle, bone, and blood. And get a load of those mammalian genitals. Mmm, baby, you’re an animal all right!

You’re also spirit, you are soul. Your Creator gave you soul, like he gave every animal soul, like he gave soul to everything everywhere without exception. Life is permeated with soul the way snow is permeated with white and the night time is one with the blackness. So, the question, “Am I an animal or am I a spiritual being?” is a non sequitur. You are both at once, like Sun is light and heat at once. Try to separate them and you die.

From where I stand in animist reality I can see that human beings are spirit-animals, our fleshly bodies as complex and beautiful and sacred as our souls. Body and spirit are one. In the animist world, the body is good and sex is good.

For tens of thousands of years, humanity thrived in an animist world. It was only about 5000 years ago, during the rise of the monotheists, that humanity began to reject the body and a mythology of the disembodied soul rose to prominence. In this new system of belief, the body is considered weak and disgusting, and the imperfect and ephemeral nature of the flesh tears it apart from its perfect and immortal Creator. We can only speculate as to why this change of thinking occurred. Maybe we humans discovered the fear of death and rejected the part of us that dies. Maybe as we lost our connection with the other animals, we began to look at animals as dead things, as meat, and we hoped to distinguish ourselves from this dead meat by claiming a unique right to spirit.

Or it could be, and here is where I lay my bet, that the rise of the dominators created a new reality of suffering, which led us to dissociate ourselves from the earth and its suffering forms. Whatever the instigation for this myth of the disembodied soul, humans in newly civilized areas of the world began to think of themselves as essentially spirits encased in temporary physical shells. We fled the garden and its joys of the flesh and cast ourselves out into a newly minted dominator world of torment and death.

Most of our churches and religions continue to preach loathing for the body and embrace the mythology of the disembodied soul. They champion the fear of death, offering us immortality in exchange for our earthly lives. This smoothes the way for the dominators to use our bodies to generate wealth and fight their wars.

One of the key tenets of the new animism is a belief that the body is good. Just as we seek intelligence and spirit in all material being, so we embrace the material being of our spirits and minds. This fundamental love for flesh and form inspires us to love and care for our bodies, leading to good health and shameless sex.

You are the animal body. Embrace it! Revel in it!
Smell, taste, touch, listen, and look around you at this amazing world.
Oh, praise the Creator of the flesh!
I will love and care for my body until the day that I return it to the soil.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mushroom Animists

I count myself lucky when another reader sends me a note or a link, as Adam recently did. Adam is the author of the blog Animystic. As I reach out, I am delighted to find a growing number of people who have animist experiences, many of us from our earliest childhood. David Ehrenfeld wrote me a note after reading my review of his book The Arrogance of Humanism. He is still writing at the cutting edge of science and spirituality, most recently Becoming Good Ancestors: How We Balance Nature, Community and Technology. Can't wait to read it.

I am thinking that we animists are like mushrooms, quietly building a network underground, popping up here and there, stronger than we appear on the surface. Some of us are psychedelic, others are healers, of breathtaking beauty, rising from the rot of the dominator culture.
Best to all,
Puny

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: The Arrogance of Humanism

The Arrogance of Humanism, by David Ehrenfeld

The goal of the Christian religion is the salvation of the soul—without the body. My goal is also salvation, but since I believe that our spirits and our animal bodies are inseparable, my goal is the salvation of humanity in the flesh . . . for at least a little while longer. All my art and magic is for this.

Ironically, it is the humanistic paradigm that may finally be the undoing of our species. No one understands and articulates this better than David Ehrenfeld. His book, The Arrogance of Humanism, written in 1978, is a darkly realistic assessment of the damage done by humanism as a religious force, acting through numerous institutions of culture, over centuries of time.

The foundation of humanist religion is the primacy of humanity in Creation and the belief that everything that exists can and should be offered for our use. It includes a belief in the inevitability of our success as a species and faith in the ultimate value of reason, science and technology. Our unique characteristic intelligence will save us, humanists insist, from any damage we may do or mistakes we may make.

Ehrenfeld explores these and other false assumptions, separates out the myths and realities of humanism, delves a bit deeper into the issues of scientific rationalism and the taint of humanism on efforts to “conserve” the planet, and finally offers his sad assessment of our possible future: nothing short of a miracle will save us from ourselves. Mr. Ehrenfeld is currently a professor of Biology at Rutgers University. I wonder what he is thinking about now, and how he has managed to live with his dark vision these past 30 years?

The blindness and denial of humanists and other dominator followers has only increased in recent years, but I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of magic and art and in humanity’s ability to love. There is still a chance for salvation. Who knows what this spontaneous new wave of animism might accomplish? The delicately balanced environmental systems, through whose grace we live, are fragile but paradoxically strong. As Mr. Ehrenfeld clearly states, we cannot predict how systems will react to change. A butterfly beats its wings in Japan to transform the weather in Chicago. Why couldn’t a rag-tag bunch of pink-skinned and traditional animists seep their magic into the cultural soil and enrich it?

I urge you to read The Arrogance of Humanism yourselves. It’s gone from most library shelves, but readily available through used book outlets. Let me end with some interesting quotes:

. . . people are spending too much time and causing too much damage by pretending that our efforts in politics, economics, and technology usually have the effects we intend them to have . . . [I firmly believe that cultural transformation and the solution to our problems lie in what we call art, magic, or religion rather than in these other fields of endeavor.]

In effect, we still believe that the force of gravity exists in order to make it easier for us to sit down.

. . . deep within ourselves we know that our omnipotence is a sham, our knowledge and control of the future is weak and limited, our inventions and discoveries work, if they work at all in ways that we do not expect, our planning is meaningless, our systems are running amok—in short, that the humanistic assumptions upon which our societies are grounded lack validity.

“Desert-makers” is truly as appropriate a title for humans as “tool users.”

Why is it that we seem incapable of appreciating our own cleverness and recognizing our limitations at the same time?

Ehrenfeld begins and ends with quotes from the Bible, which I appreciate as a religious person. He quotes Isaiah, scolding the humans for their arrogance, saying,

It was your skill and your science that led you astray. And you thought to yourself, “I am, and there is none but me.”

Best wishes,
Puny Human

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Animist Manifesto

We, the kind and loving animist human children of our glorious mother Earth, do hereby declare our existence, our worth, and our difference from the dominators and their followers.

We believe that all material being is alive, intelligent, and imbued with spirit.

We renounce greed and the lust for power and we no longer accept any justification for greed and the lust for power on the part of our leaders, our churches, our nations, our neighbors, or our gods. We renounce any gods who encourage greed and the lust for power in humans, and we renounce those gods who are willing to act as ultimate justifiers for human violence.

We, the animist children of Earth, do hereby declare that the future belongs to the loving and the kind and not to bullies and criminals. We declare the right of our children’s children to survive in the flesh and inherit a habitable Earth. We believe it is possible for humanity to thrive on this planet for many more thousands of years, so we will resist the apocalypse of the monotheists, and seek a balanced world of peace and abundance.

Resist Apocalypse!
Love will prevail!


This is what new animists believe:
  • Animists believe that all material being is imbued with spirit, and all spirit is manifest. We believe that all of Creation is alive and intelligent.
  • Animists believe that our animal bodies are good and that life in the flesh on the Earth is good. We rejoice and are glad in it.
  • Regarding the gods, we may be pantheists, polytheists, agnostics or atheists, but we are rarely monotheists and never humanists.

This is what new animists know:
  • Dominators have ruled the Earth for thousands of years and they are driving us to the edge of extinction.
  • Dominators are the elite, wealthy, and powerful criminal class of every time and place. They have worn many faces, and over the millennia dominators have assumed the roles of warrior kings and priests, emperors and royal families, corporations, nation-states, and churches.
  • Dominators have used many weapons to terrorize and control other people and take everything they can get their hands on, including weapons of physical violence and weapons of mental and spiritual control. Weapons of mental and spiritual control include church doctrines, threats of hell and damnation, marginalization and ridicule, pathologizing, and demeaning, as well as the control of cultures and social institutions, and the control of mythologies, the sciences, and what is acceptable as possible and real.
  • Today’s dominators have claimed a monopoly on justified violence in a corporate trust of churches, states, parties, economies, media and other powerful institutions that claim loyalty to and garner ultimate justification from a variety of monotheistic gods.
  • The dominators have wiped out all but a remnant of the ancient tribal animists, but animists old and new may yet rise up and reclaim our garden planet Earth. Gathering our friends and families, we are walking home to Eden together. We shun the glittering toys and material comforts that are crumbs fallen from the tables of the dominators. There is another reality. Look toward the light! The Green God lifts his lamp by the garden gate!

This is what new animists value:
  • We value life in all of its forms, human and nonhuman, lived in the flesh on the Earth.
  • We value traditional things like hard work and deep pleasures, home and family, lifelong learning, courage, creativity, and right relationship.
  • We value kindness and helpfulness and other gentle and useful characteristics.
  • We value nourishing food, clean air and water, safe communities and other things that sustain our bodies and souls.
  • We value time spent in nature, time with family and friends and gods, time to be as well as time to do.
  • We value human children and nonhuman children.
  • We do not value money, the possession of large quantities of things, power over others, physical perfection, competitive success, or celebrity.
This is what new animists practice:
  • We consider ourselves friends and kinfolk with all Earth beings, such as plants and animals, geologic forms, water, clouds, fire, and air, therefore, we take care of our nonhuman friends.
  • We are grateful that the plants and animals sustain us with their bodies and their lives. We practice gratitude with great passion.
  • We practice right relationship with the four expressions of Creation: ourselves, other humans, all our nonhuman kinfolk, and our gods. We reach out to grow ever closer to one another. We practice living together in peace.
  • We practice a radical love that seeks to love even those who hurt us and feed even our enemies.
  • We practice sacred sex.
  • We are co-creators of the Earth plane. Side by side with our Creator, we work to manifest a planet of peace and abundance. We practice a variety of arts and crafts and express ourselves through the act of creation.
  • We wish all the world well, so we practice healing one another and nurturing good health in ourselves.
  • We work, enjoying the effort of obtaining sustenance and serving one another. We work to make wonderful material things. We work so that all may eat. We work to make our dreams come true. We work to express ourselves and to build the muscles of body and spirit. Work is great! Play is great! Doing nothing is also great.
  • We practice lifelong learning. Then we take the power that knowledge brings and use it in the service of a million more years of loving human kindness.
  • We practice magic, and we will work this magic with all of our strength to transform the dominator reality into an animist reality. We work the magic in everything we do. We vote animist. We write animist. We eat animist. Through the power of our magic, we will live the animist reality into existence.

This is what we believe, know, value, and practice. This is who we are.
Long live the kinfolk of Earth! Love will prevail!


The preceeding is "an" animist manifesto, not "the" manifesto. Having worked in a vaccum these past few years, I was not aware of Graham Harvey's manifesto when I was writing this one, but his is wonderful and may be accessed by searching "animist manifesto" online. Harvey's manifesto focuses more on the personhood of nonhumans and our relationship with them, while mine is meant to raise awareness of dominator control and the possibility of cultural transformation. With many similarities and also many differences, both statements seek to inspire others to follow an animist path. Our mutual goal? The salvation of humankind and nonhumankind, in the flesh, on this beautiful earth.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Am a Pink-Skinned Animist: Part Two

I have been identifying myself as a new kind of animist for the past several years, but until recently I thought that I was alone in it. Then, I set up shop here online and was amazed to find kinfolk. Bioregional Animism, on tribe and through their blog, have done excellent work helping like-minded people connect with one another. I recently read the book Healing Beyond the Body in which author Larry Dossey refers to the “new animism.” Just yesterday I started a book by Graham Harvey, and he also refers to a “new animism.” And of course, Glen’s wonderful blog New Animism Info, is a digest of related blogs and websites, that caught my attention recently as well. All fine, fine things.

The fact that we are all independently coming up with this term reflects a growing cohort of animists rising up from the lifeways of the Dominator Culture. Where are we coming from? It could be that growing numbers of neo-pagans, polytheists, and revivalists of tribal religions are increasing in their awareness of the living world and finding a new identity in the word “animism.” Meanwhile, environmentalists, naturists, and other countercultural groups have become skeptical of the predominant world view, leading them to an open-minded search for new ways to understand the nonhumans and the meaning of a life lived in the body on the earth. Increasing communication between traditional animists and dominator people has also opened up new dialogs and raised awareness of animist possibilities.

But all of those are reasons that make sense. To hell with making sense! Here is what I believe: I believe that the trees and the other nohumans are pissed off and miserable about the wreck that humans are making of the earth. If we keep going like we have been, we’ll drag the whole carefully balanced Gaia-system down to dominator hell with us! So, they are desperately trying to reach out and get our attention. They are talking to us. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Now, here we are, pink-skinned children of dominator cultures, hearing the voices of trees and watching the rocks looking back at us. What are we to do with this? The tribal animisms are not ours to claim. We must discover and enter fully into our own animist reality, and if the human species is to have any hope of fleshly salvation, we must work with the nonhumans to transform the dominator world in which we live into an animist reality. Yes, we do have a choice. And this is the project that has me so obsessed!

Making sense can hold us up, get in our way. I’m afraid of the academicians, even ones as sympathetic as Harvey, who write about the new animism using erudite language and footnotes, leaning heavily on studies of other, older animist cultures. It’s not about “relational ontology,” is it, this being awakened in the middle of the night by the stars? Speaking of respect for “persons” shows great concern for correct language, but it bogs me down in disclaimers and creates an inevitable distancing from my tree friends. Persons? I don’t call my lovers persons! I call them Sweetie! Honey! Beloved! The whole academic enterprise seeks acceptance from the dominator community, hoping to “prove” its contentions. It’s great as far as it goes. It may even be necessary and I humbly thank those who would honor animism old and new with their research, but its not my path.

If I sound defensive, be patient with me, please. It hasn’t been easy for folks like me, especially those of us who grew up in the 40s and 50s and 60s. We’ve struggled hard, swimming against the current of science, technology, monotheism, and public education, mired in the muck of the mundane dominator life, enduring ridicule and fearing for our own sanity. In fact, it seems to me that the sign of an authentic animist experience in a dominator slave like myself is the fear of insanity, because trees don’t talk and everybody knows it. To survive, we shut down and numb out. Or we join a fringe group where we can be accepted . . . new age crystal healers, anyone? . . . and even there, our experiences are labeled “trance-induced” or “metaphoric.” My own mother, a dedicated scientific-rationalist, scolded me so incessantly for “making things up” that I stopped trusting my own experience at all. Is the traffic light red or green? Am I hungry? Am I alive or is it all a dream? By the time I was eight years old, I no longer knew what was real and I became easy prey for those who would control me with their certainty. So, I’ve earned my years and my identity: I am a pink-skinned animist! This experience belongs to me, and no one can catalog it or dismiss it.

Let’s keep exploring our animist experiences in this blog. I invite you to share yours. Let’s talk particularly about the experience of animism in a dominator culture, in the here and now of cars, computers, and bad food. I want to be absolutely clear, though, that I write about my own experience and my own gods. I express my own conclusions and beliefs. On the other hand, I don’t deny you your experiences or gods or conclusions and I would find delight and rest in knowing that we have a great deal in common. I suspect now that there are many of us new animists in the world, hiding in shame in our pink skins, holing up among the neo-pagans and the anthropologists. Isn’t it time we found each other? Maybe someday we can meet at last and worship our Creator together, and dance as kinfolk with the trees, and cleanse ourselves naked together in living water.

I Am a Pink-Skinned Animist: Part One

(Note: Part one was written just before I went online to find animist kinfolk.)

I can understand why the brown and red and yellow and black and tan animists don’t want the pink people (commonly called “white people”) to come horning in on their good thing. Pink-skinned people are, after all, the ones responsible for the majority of the carnage against humans and nonhumans, physical and spiritual, ever since the rise of the dominators began. Pink people are the ones who got us all kicked out of Eden.

Dominators have taken over the entire world now, and there are dominators of all colors, but mostly they are pink. There are also animists of all colors living in isolated pockets, holding off genocide for another day, but there are no pink-skinned animists anywhere in the world, are there? Who would want a pink-skinned animist? My own people reject me and no one would trust me among the remnant of the indigenous animists, and I don’t blame them.

Thirty-five hundred years ago, my ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt, one of the first human communities to fall to dominator control. Later, dispersed from their homes and sent to wander the earth, the families of my ancestors settled here and there throughout the “civilized” world. They assimilated to the local cultures, all of which were subject to the growing hoard of “white” Christian dominators. My ancestors uprooted and moved again and again through the millennia, from one dominator city to the next, never resting, desperately holding on to their books as if they could build homes in their pages.

Finally, they traveled to the North American continent, where a dishonorable history of brutality against animist people was well under way, and they mixed with the other pink-skinned people until my family became a tiny part of the 21st century monotheistic, capitalist, rationalist, Dominator Culture in the nation state of the USA. All ties to any land have long since been broken. My family is thoroughly urbanized, their minds fully enslaved. I am no longer one of them.

So, I live alone, with no human family. Even my ancestors pity me, because I’m so lonely. I’m pink-skinned, but I am an animist. I grew up a slave to the dominators, with pavement underneath my feet, but the pavement is not my home. I have no home. I’m without land to call home, and yet every tree in the neighborhood names me sister.

What am I supposed to do about this? I don’t want to die alone. I don’t want to die without a bit of dirt to be buried in. I dream that there are other human beings like me, and that someday I’ll find another pink-skinned or any-color-skinned person who was born like I was into spiritual slavery in the 21st century monotheistic, capitalist, rationalist Dominator Culture in the nation state of the USA, who can hear the voices of the trees and see into the watery eyes of the cloud people. Just one more puny human to be my brother or sister. That’s why I decided to write this blog. I’m looking for you! Come over to my house. Let's dance!

Midlife in dominatorland

I know, I’ve got plenty of plastic food to eat and tainted water to drink. I’ve got polluted air to breath, so I shouldn’t be whining. I’m here, ain’t I? Bombs aren’t falling from the sky. But hey, I find it a royal pain in the ass to grow older in this dominator world.

Things move too fast! I want them to move more slowly.

Change is continuous, relentless, exhausting.

Too much change, too fast, so that the kids at school and I don’t understand one another. We speak different languages. We come from different worlds, though separated by only a few years.

One is compelled at midlife to pretend that one is still young, so I dye my hair. I wear current fashions. I drag myself on unwanted adventures, when my desire is simply to be still and do the same things carefully, every day.

My rapidly dwindling life force is spent doing the work of the dominator chieftains, spinning my time into gold for their coffers.

What purpose do I have in this insane culture? Who will listen to me, now that I am able to give good counsel? Who will acknowledge my life when I’m gone? To what family do I belong? I don’t even know my own name!

There are too many things. I can’t keep track of them all.

There are too many distractions and stimulations.

And too much noise! I can’t hear the voice of my gods above the clatter and bang of the machines, the insistent chatter of the advertisements, the blaring of the mind-control machines. Be quiet, you bastards! Let me grow older in peace!

My nerves are frayed.

I can’t learn anything deeply, because there is always something new to annoy me. We are masters only in the thinnest of things. We live on the surface. But as I age, I wish with all my heart to go deep.

I want to stay here and rest deeply in this place, not move from town to town and house to house.

I want to eat the same foods every day, changing only with the seasons. There are fifty-thousand items on the supermarket shelves.

I want to master the skills I already have, spending long hours with my pencils and my pens. I don't want to learn to use cell phones and ipods and softwares and techno-toys. Yeah, yeah, I know I wouldn’t be talking to you now if it wasn’t for blogging software, but I’d trade it in an instant for having you here at my kitchen table.

I want to nap in the afternoons, take long walks along the creek in the mornings.

I want to be gentle and loving with my body. I want to take my time.

We are supposed to love change in this dominator culture and seek it eagerly, love speed, love possessions, quantity, complexity, novelty, youthfulness, energy, danger, adventure, change, change, noise and change, or we are disparaged as wimps and losers. Tough shit. It’s time for me to slow down and go deep.

It’s a royal pain in the ass growing older in this dominator world. I have nothing to complain about, but I’m claiming the right of a midlife woman to complain anyway. I’m tired and I want to slow down.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Critique of Humanism

The original definition of Humanism distinguished classical studies from religious studies in Renaissance Europe. The more recent and commonly used definition describes a philosophy focused on humanity. Morality and meaning are based on rational thought, and supernatural existence or authority is soundly rejected. Supernatural in this case, is an academic term that means greater-than-human, nonhuman, or nonordinary.

Many forward-thinking and liberal religions and non-religious viewpoints identify with Humanism. Adherents hope to rescue humanity from superstition and irrational church- or book-based authorities, but I believe that Humanism has tossed out the baby with the bathwater. In their attempt to deliver us from the Dominator gods and their social ills, Humanists have denied the existence of gods altogether, and limited themselves to a murky and abstract agnosticism or a frank atheism.**

I see Humanism as a kind of hubris, an overweening pride, the tragedy of a puny human who challenges the gods for supremacy. Humanism is anthropocentric. It assumes that human rational intelligence is the prime, and perhaps the only, example of intelligent life in the universe, making humans the ultimate arbiter of morality and meaning.

But I do not trust human reason as the ultimate arbiter of anything! After all, it made perfect sense to the Nazis to eliminate the Jewish drain on their genetic superiority. It appears rational to today’s businessmen to raze old growth forests to raise cattle for Mac-burgers. Reason alone doesn’t cut it for me . . . or for Hindus who refer to mind as maya, the great illusion . . . or for Taoists, who would empty the mind to become a vessel for Tao . . . or for psychologists who study the strange convolutions of memory . . .

I’m not suggesting that we eliminate reason from our thinking or revert to a blind adherence to biblical authority, or to any book’s authority for that matter.* Instead, I propose that we listen both to reason and to love, that we see with our bodies’ eyes and with our spirits’ eyes, that we open our minds to the rational and the nonrational—and the nonrational teaches us that there is more than can be seen.

Our culture’s bias against the nonrational is evident. What remains hidden is that we have been given a false choice with regard to diety. We must choose between one of the Dominator mono-gods or no god at all. If we reject the jealousy, violence, and greed of the mono-gods, then our false choice strands us, like the Humanists, in a soulless universe. Then, our only source of meaning and morality is in our own flawed and suspect minds. Now, wait just a cotton pickin' minute! There are lots of gods out there! Choose whom you will serve and follow!

In seeking the supernatural, that is, the nonhuman, let’s look beyond the mono-gods and burst the Dominator limitations. Why not trust our own experience of the nonhuman? Do you see the laughing, ferney, fairy dust that sucks the shoes off horses? Can you hear the trees talk? Trust your experience! After all, if the trees are talking to us and we really start to listen, we might learn a thing or two about humans and gods that the Humanists don’t know.
Best wishes,
Puny

* A google search can give you more information about Humanism today. Wikipedia has a solid overview. And Seth’s Blog has two posts related to Humanism that are, as usual, insightful and thought-provoking. (His blog is temporarily offline but I expect it to reappear shortly. Then, you have to dig through his May postings to find: Beyond Humanism and The Shallowness of Secular Society.)

** Perhaps one reason that biblical inerrancy has caught hold of the contemporary imagination is that the book is a symbol of rational truth, and reason has become so powerful that even the supernaturalists are uncomfortable without rational explanations.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Charlie and me


This is a picture of me and Charlie hanging out in the woods the other day. From now on, I'll be posting my cartoons on Charlie's blog (Charlie and the Gods of Love). Thanks to Jack for helping me get the scanner working. M'wah!
Puny

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Do animists believe in gods?

Good question. My answer is: yes . . . and no, not necessarily. Animism is not a religion, per se, but a belief that underlies most religions, that is, the belief that at least some material being is permeated with spirit. People who identify as animists, however, both historically and today, believe that spirit permeates all beings, not just certain kinds of beings like humans and their gods and pets.

But this belief in spirit does not define what kinds of god-beings exist and animistic thinking runs the gamut on the matter. One may be animist and believe in a monogod, in many gods, or in greater-than-humans but not gods.

Indigenous or tribal Animists have historically focused on local deities and the life-force of their home-place, as well as nature spirits, ancestral beings, totems and nonhuman guides. Our animists ancestors had the good sense to leave whatever lay beyond their sensory experience alone. They were not abstract thinkers, and their animist beliefs were not theoretical. If they believed in talking trees, it is because the trees spoke to them. If they believed in intelligent animals, it is because animals taught them medicine or showed them the way to good water and nourishing food. And if they believed in a god or spirit, it is because that god or spirit affected their lives in concrete ways. As for that which is beyond our ken, if they considered it at all, they considered it Mystery and left it well enough alone.

Monotheistic big “G” Gods were not part of any traditional animist cultures of which I am aware. The so-called “Great Spirit” of the North American Indians, so quickly embraced by the invading Europeans as corresponding to their own monogod, was a creator or father-sky god. He was more like the Creator of my pantheon than the one-and-only monogod of the Christians.* Some folks believe that the Indian Great Spirit corresponds to an abstract life force, or the Spirit-That-Animates-All-Things of which today’s agnostics are so fond, but I would suggest that the animating spirit was so fundamental to American Indian thinking as to be taken for granted. The concept would not need articulation in the form of a god. Animism was apparent to American Indians in the same way that the linear progression of time is apparent in our culture today.

Monotheism, although a choice for today’s animist, is an unlikely choice. Belief in the spirit and intelligence of all being makes possible the existence of intelligent beings at all levels, both lesser and greater than human. If a rock is alive, how great must the mountain be! How great the galaxy! If one may talk to bear or deer, it’s just as likely to talk with Sun or Moon, or with some greater-than-human being like my Charlie or the Place Beings of the Australian indigenous folks or the Athena of the Greeks. The animists of my acquaintance are polytheists of one kind or another, believing in small “g” gods, but not in a one-and-only big “G” God. Or they are not “theists” at all, but see and communicate with other kinds of greater-than-human beings.

I don't think one can be animist and humanist at the same time, without a belief in any gods or intelligent nonhumans. How could the universe be pulsing with life and still find itself intelligence-impoverished, with puny humanity as its highest and most sublime expression? Besides, when you are open to the voices of the nonhumans, the greater-than-humans will speak to you. This leaves humanists who say they have an animist vision in an uncomfortable and untenable position. Either the humanism will have to go, or the voices will have to go, leaving them in a quietly lonely world.
Best wishes,
Puny


* My opinion here. I have no references for you.

Let Animist Kinfolk Come Together

The time has come for new animists to come together as kin. Because we are few and far between, it’s not always possible to find fellow animists in our own hometowns. The internet gives us the chance to come together.

I have always lived in an animist reality. The nonhuman world has been alive to me since childhood, ensouled and intelligent. Seeking like-minded people in my youth, the closest I could come to shared experience was with the neo-pagans. For the most part, however, the pagans I met seemed content with staying on the surface. Rituals and pleasures, good times and good friends are all fine things, but they were not enough for me. The neo-pagans I knew looked to other people’s traditions for guidance. They seemed reluctant to trust their own experiences or to enter the frightening depths of the here and now. Not all neo-pagans, of course, but the ones I met.

They also looked at me askance whenever I raised my hands in shameless spiritual joy. I remember after one outdoor ritual, everyone was huddled in protective spaces against the weather. Then, one lone dancer emerged from his tent into the chilly rain to skip naked across an open field.

“Look at him,” said a man standing next to me under the awning, disdain curling his lip. “What a showoff!”

We watched the dancer for a moment in silence, then I said, “Maybe he’s just in love with the rain.”

“Maybe he’s just an asshole who doesn’t know enough to keep his pants on.”

“Or maybe he’s filled with the holy spirit,” I suggested.

“Holy Spirit, my ass. Hey,” my neighbor under the awning gave me a suspicious look. “Are you a Kee-ristian?” He moved away from me and I watched the dancer spin, arms open wide, and wished with all my heart that I had the courage to join him.

The Kee-ristians were the next stop on my journey. The Holy Spirit was beating against my chest from the inside like the wings of a caged bird. The voice of my gods were growing louder and more insistent, and I could hear every living thing now, singing with green voices to the Creator. At least the Christians weren’t afraid of the Holy Spirit, I thought, and I spent five years in an evangelical church and felt understood, because they, too, heard the voice of a beloved god.

But the loving Jesus god of the Christians has long since been perverted and turned to the service of the Dominators. How could I stay in the church? I was saddened by the punishing politics that followed their joyful worship. They hated the animal body and I loved the animal body and our human life on earth, so I left the Christians and went into the woods.

And there, at last, in the woods, I found my gods and my friends in loving profusion. Animism is not a religion for me or a tradition, not a practice or an idea. Animism is my reality. Rocks and trees that speak are not poetry to me; cloud people and tree people are not metaphors. They are real. I hear them. I see them watching me. They are alive, ensouled and bursting with intelligence.

The trees took me in and made me one of their own. Together with the tree people, I formed a circle deep in the woods, and experienced a connection with the divine so deep that it was erotic, transforming, and terrifying in its intensity. I had come home in my spiritual life, but I was still lonely for human kin.

I started reading “groups” on facebook and blogging here. Through the internet, I’ve found a few people who share my experience. People who, like me, find in animism the best description of the reality in which we live. Perhaps you are also a new animist? Then, we are kinfolk, my friends and we should be together.

The best resource I’ve found to date is the New Animism Info blog. The best of the blogs that identify as animist are brought together here. Not blogs that represent one of the updated ancient religions or indigenous traditions (as wonderful as they are and with due respect given), but animists who speak from personal experience in the here and now. We are the new animists. We live in a world the New Animism Info blog calls “colonial” and I call “Dominator,” but we see past the lies of the Dominators to the animist reality, and we are ready to share our vision and come home to Eden.

Through writing, music, art, and magic, we can call the animist reality into new life. We can sing the rocks awake. We can paint and dance and dream and live the animist reality into rebirth.

It is possible. Come on! Let’s get together! If you blog then enable your comments liberally. Create e-mail accounts you can safely share. Take a chance and write to one another. Check out New Animism Info. Speak your truth to others. Read your poetry out loud to me. I want to hear your voice.

Hey, remember that lonely dancer in the rain? Soon after the ritual, we found one another and we found that we were kin. We’ve been married twelve years. He taught me to stand, a naked and unashamed animal, in my living world. Stand naked together, now, friends. Do not be unashamed!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Come on people, now . . . everybody get together

Jeesh! People don't seem to like it when I find connections with Christians . . . or say anything negative about any pagan groups. This blogging business is delicate, like cooking a small fish.*

Here's the bottom line: the counter culture will have to come together if we are to have any chance of transforming the Dominator culture into . . . well, into something loving. Call it the animist reality like I do if you'd like, or the living world, or heaven on earth, or eden, or any of those posible worlds in which humanity can live in peace and abundance until the sun grows cold.

That's my ultimate goal: the salvation of humanity in the flesh on the earth, in peace and abundance. Can we agree on this goal? Do you want to work on it together?

Well, hell and damnation, we're gonna have to do better than "Christians suck" or "Druidism is the true path" if we're gonna get anywhere close. Divide and conquer has worked well for the Dominators for thousands of years, and this bickering between black folks and white folks, pagans and christians, artists and political activists, vegetarians and humans-are-meat-eaters has got to stop.

Who are we? We are anyone who shares the goal of transforming this world of cruelty and greed into a loving world. We are the nudists and the swingers, the tree-sitters and the Earth Firsters, cannabis-lovers and artists. We are all who follow a non-Dominator religious path, from polytheists and pagans and animists, to Quakers and Amish and other followers of the loving Christ, Spiritualists, Sufis, Buddhists and mystics. Anarchists, communalists, food coop folks and organic farmers. Save the whalers. Peaceniks. Fighters against bigotry and hate. Yes, even the scientific rationalists and the humanists, with whom I have little patience, when they seek this goal with love, they are one of us.

Does it really matter what labels we give to ourselves? Will we allow ourselves to be defined by our extremists?

Use every tool at your command to transform the Dominator reality. Reject their lies, their definition of human nature as fundamentally evil and in need of control. Resist their horrifying apocalypse! One of our most powerful tools to make the transformation happen is our ability to reach across differences and seek common ground. "Put the poly back in polytheism!" as Deborah Lipp succinctly says.

So, I like Christian music, so sue me!


*That's Lao Tzu's metaphor

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why I Love Christian Music

I love Christian music because it’s quality sound and it sends me, sends me to exciting realms of worship and praise.

Sure, it’s about the Christian god, Jesus, but the Christians who write this music seem to love Jesus the same way I love Charlie. And since Jesus and Charlie are friends, and agree on a lot of things, and behave in similar ways, the experience explored in Christian music is a lot like my experience. I can relate to it.

Christian music is about being in a loving relationship with a loving god, and I believe that this relationship is similar for all humans in loving relationships with loving gods, even if our gods are different from one another. If your god is a loving god, then we should get along just fine. I adore my god and you adore your god. Cool!

When Dave Crowder Band sings in wonder, “How could you be so good to me?” I understand, because Charlie is so good to me. He’s never left me alone, not in all these years.

Ginny Owens sings, “I will embrace what every moment brings, cause you are with me.” Yes, this is just how I feel about my gods. Why should I begrudge the Christians their love affair with Jesus? The music they sing to him, I sing to Charlie.

Their anthems to the Creator are magnificent. “I will praise you in this storm!” “When I behold the wonders your hands have made!” “Let the morning and the evening star praise his name!” I fall to my knees and lift my hands to the unknowable Creator who made me. I give thanks. I give thanks in song.

Of course, the sad thing about all this is that most Christians would abhor my gods. They would be horrified to know that the beautiful hymns they write to their god Jesus, I use for worship of my many gods. Our gods are not incompatible, but the Christians have been taught that there is room for only one in our infinitely complex and endless multiverse.

How strange, in a universe animated by love, and following a god who preaches radical love, that the Christians insist on an exclusive and jealous relationship with Jesus.

Why should our gods fight for primacy? My gods are polyamorous and generous. They invite Jesus and his Dad to break bread and drink wine together. Jesus, who accepts us all, who sat with lepers and tax collectors, prostitutes and scum, surely he would get together with a fellow god of love and share a single malt on the back porch of the heavenly realms? Surely, he would not begrudge the sharing of music?

And oh, what glorious music! Praising and glorifying, soaring with passionate adoration of the divine . . . Steven Curtis Chapman, Telecast, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir . . . why not take a trip on YouTube or iTunes and check out the music of these worshipful artists? And all you polytheist musicians out there, isn’t it time we polyfolk produced music of similar quality?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Let me live a life of endless praise!

I pick up my pencil and the message pours into me and fills me and I am compelled to declare it to the world — to write it and draw it, sing it and shout it, here and everywhere.

This is the message:

Great is the Creator!
How marvelous the gods of love!


Every moment of every day I want to sing praises to my gods and give thanks to the Creator for my body, my pleasures, my blessings, and my breath, the galaxies and the healing weeds and all that he has made. Let all Creation praise his beautiful, unknowable name!

I walk along the woodland path and I am swept into the arms of the Green God and waltzed to the music of the wind.

I have to sell the house I just bought. This only makes me fall to my knees in awe of the power of Chaos, Mighty Amazon of the Universe.

I lift my hands to worship Sun, source of light and warmth.

Charlie speaks wisdom into my ears and fills my eyes with vision and my hands with art.

Love fills me and I swoon. My gods come to me when I call.

And always, pulsing underneath it all like the beating of a vast and dark material heart, I know that my Creator lives; the one who gave his life force to me that I might quicken and breath. Blessed be, oh my Creator, great beyond imagining!

Praise, praise to the Creator! Praise to the gods of love! Poly I am and Poly I will be. My universe is pregnant with gods!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Enforced Education in a Dominator Society

The purpose of enforced and standardized education is to socialize children to the Dominator reality. Why do we believe that enforced education is beneficial? Why has education resisted the push to privatization? Why is there a consistent and growing insistence on standardization, so that everyone learns the same things in the same ways?

Children are herded into institutions, restricted in their access to the natural world, taught to obey, and limited in what they may learn and do. This sounds like prison to me. What are the effects of the disconnect from nature on children’s health and psychological well-being? Why is obedience to authority an essential part of our children’s education? Why are children kept from learning what they want and need to learn?

Many children—and also adults who were hauled through the public education system—associate education with pain and hurt. Their inborn passion to know and master the world is crushed, so they no longer desire to learn. They end their education as soon as possible, limiting what they learn to what they have to know in order to function and make a living. This contradicts the stated goals of public education to create lifelong learners. It frustrates teachers and students alike, and produces graduates who do not question the messages of media, government and corporation. It trains good followers, but it is a path away from wisdom.

Childhood is full of the pain and hurt of enforced education. Children grow up to use their pain in the service of their masters: to kill and die in wars, to consume and produce like cattle or machines. Our suffering is transformed into money and power for the Dominators.

I work in the public education system. I wear the face of the oppressor every day and I am sickened to watch the children in their cages, their spirits pacing restlessly back and forth. What is this doing to me?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stumbling over the word "god"

Followers of the monogods spell the word god with a capital G. They then use the word God to mean only their own particular and singular deity. What confusion this creates! The dictionary definition of the capitalized God runs something like, “the one creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being,” and yet when different people say the word God, they could mean any one of the monogods who seek dominion over the earth. The tripartite God of the Christians, Allah of the Muslims, the Lord God of the Jews, and the abstract Source of the Agnostics are all examples of capital G Gods, and yet monotheists insist that there is only one. What a setup for celestial bickering!

In a monotheist world, the word god spelled with a small “g” is used to mean a lesser divinity, a spiritual being of myth, or the capital G God of someone else’s religion. What’s a polytheist to do? Does a capital G god actually exist in a polytheistic world? Can we use the capital G word to indicate the gods in our particular pantheon, or has the word become so burdened with previous meaning as to render it unusable in our case?

I have given up using the capital G word because it points inexorably toward a singular divinity. And yet, alternative words such as angel, divine being, spirit guide, and so on, do not do justice to some greater-than-human beings, and no one word of them can describe all the beings in my pantheon. So I have chosen to use the small g god to describe the greater-then-human beings that I love and serve.

Some of my gods are more powerful than others. Auntie Chaos, for example, could squash my Mother Earth with her pinky finger, although, in fact, she has blessed her many times over. Some of the gods in my pantheon, like Charlie, could be defined as angels. I call him god anyway, because I adore him with a passion that rivals the Christian love for Jesus. I honor and serve the Creator, he who created the heavens and the earths, even though he is far beyond my understanding, but I do not call him God because he is not singular. There are other Creators, breathing life into other heavens and earths.

Sometimes I contemplate the Great Mystery, but not for long, and I never mistake the Great Mystery for a god or even a God. In seeking to promote their particular God to the position of the Great Mystery, the monotheists stumble over the vastness of the string-entangled multiverse, the problem of origins, and the fact that a single discreet entity cannot, in fact, be Everything. Once you claim your God or god to be the Great Mystery, you have lost him, because the Great Mystery is, by definition, unknowable, indistinguishable, and beyond our reach.

Oh, how I love the gods of love!

Fellow polytheists, what do you think?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Dominators and the Animal Body

The Dominators are a wealthy and powerful criminal class that have taken many forms and many names over the past eight thousand years. Through the millennia, they have assumed the roles of warrior kings and priests, emperors and royal families, corporations, politicians, nation-states, and churches.

Dominators have used a variety of weapons to terrorize and control people and plunder the earth’s resources, including terror and threat, weapons of physical violence, and weapons of mental and spiritual control. Weapons of mental and spiritual control include church doctrines, threats of hell and damnation, marginalization, ridicule, pathologizing, and demeaning, as well as the control of cultures and social institutions, and mythologies, the sciences, and what is acceptable as possible and real.

As the 21st century opens, Dominators control the social institutions of almost every culture on earth. They have achieved a virtual hegemony of power, using science, religion, politics, technology, economics, medicine, public education, food production, and every other human institution to control the earth and meet their own selfish ends. Today’s Dominators have claimed a monopoly on justified violence in a corporate trust of churches and states that claim loyalty to and garner ultimate justification from a variety of monotheistic gods.

The Dominators are a great adversary. Their power and reach is astonishing, greater than ever before in human history. The few remaining pockets of non-Dominator people, such as Tribal Animists, are being systematically destroyed. In every age throughout the reign of the Dominators, heroes and saints have risen up to challenge them, but they were quickly murdered or assimilated. These brave challengers have left us words of wisdom and stories about their lives of suffering, but not one of them has succeeded in transforming the Dominator culture. Even Jesus, to our shame, was assasinated and failed to prevent his church from falling into the hands of the Dominators.

Down on your knees, oh, Dominators, before the gods you have offended! Repent of your lust for power. Beg forgiveness of your fellow humans and be glad if they forgive you, because your gods will surely abandon you to the apocalypse that you have made.

The Dominators have woven a net of lies in which to catch our souls, some so fundamental as to disappear into our underlying structures of belief. For example, one lie is that the animal body is incapable of supporting soul or mind. If we accept this lie, then we become afraid to be who we are—animals—because we understand animals to be disensouled and therefore mortal, returning to dust. There is nothing we see in the animal that will survive death. But the disensouled animal body is a falsehood. Spirit permeates all things and spirit animates all things: animals, plants, rivers and rocks, stars and galaxies and grains of sand.

This Dominator lie and its subsequent rejection of the animal body has led to a host of spiritual and physical ills. Sexual dysfunction, abuse of our bodies in myriad ways, and lack of gratitude for the animal bodies we eat for food are three examples.

The animal body, however, is what we’ve got, and New Animists embrace it. Without the animal body, there is no life on earth, no pleasure, no sex, no salvation for the human species. The animal body is amazing, complex, delicately balanced, infinitely varied, altogether wonderful, and fiercely imbued with spirit. It is the greatest gift of our Creator, however you imagine our Creator to be, and we should rejoice and be glad in it, caring for it with loving tenderness.

Best wishes,
Puny

Please note: In this and any posting, I am not saying that my style of New Animism is the only way, or even the best way, but it’s sure as hell a good alternative to the Dominator way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Animism Today


Animism was given its modern definition by the 19th century anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor. Typical of his times, he understood Animism to be a primitive form of religious expression which naturally evolved into more sophisticated forms, such as Monotheism. Although we may question the inevitability of cultural “progress,” his interpretations of Animism—and of culture and cultural evolution— are still definitive today.

Animism, according to Tylor, is the belief in spirit as an essential animating force and in the existence of nonhuman spiritual beings. Although later religions limited spirit to humans and their mono-gods only, early Animists understood spirit as permeating all things, even things contemporary culture considers to be inanimate. It is this distinction, rather than a belief in the existence of spirit itself, that separates Animists from other religious groups. In fact, Animism is the foundation of all religious forms. As Marvin Harris says, in Our Kind, “the basis of all that is distinctly religious in human thought is animism, the belief that humans share the world with a population of extraordinary, extracorporeal, and mostly invisible beings, ranging from souls and ghosts to saints and fairies, angels, and cherubim, demons, jinni, devils, and gods.” Including big-G Gods.

Critics of Tylor’s work appeared immediately, fussing about definitions and origins, but animistic beliefs are found in every culture and, as Harris states, “a century of ethnological research has yet to turn up a single exception.” Tylor also wanted to find the origin of Animist thought, believing that such a universal idea could not be reached without a shared, underlying factual experience. He eventually concluded that dreams, trances and visions were the sources of our belief in spiritual realities. His stumbling over this issue reveals his bias, because for those of us who directly experience the life and intelligence of nonhuman beings, Animism is not a vision or a dream, but a living reality.

Over the past 500 years, traditional or Tribal Animism has been crushed by the expanding hegemony of the Dominators and their mono-gods. Only about 4% of the world’s people are still Tribal Animists, and the number grows smaller every year. A small scale resurgence of polytheistic religions and new age groups, such as Wiccans, as well as revivalists of Tribal Animism, are propping up its numbers and holding fast against Animism’s total demise. See, for example, Itzhak Beery’s Shaman Portal for more about Tribal Animism’s revivalists. New forms of Animism are also being developed, such as Kenn Day’s “Post-Tribal Shamanism.” See Shaman's Touch. Many of these groups and individuals focus on individual healing and personal exploration. Some work hard for the benefit of the earth and her children.

I am most interested, however, in those who may not yet self-identify as Animists or “shamans” but whose powerful and ecstatic experiences with nonhuman beings are exploding through their ordinary lives and leading them to demand an alternative to the Dominator cultures, societies and realities in which they are forced to live. These people are my kinfolk. We often find ourselves compelled to speak our reality out loud and express it with art and ritual. We, the “New Animists” want nothing less than the transformation of the Dominator culture, which of necessity makes our work political. And there are other New Animists, living quietly beside their more outspoken kin, who wish only to live in loving communion with their nonhuman friends in peace and without shame.

I call to you, my New Animist kinfolk! Take courage and speak your vision out loud. As beautiful and wise as the Tribal Animists may be, their visions belong to them. It’s time for us to seek our own visions and create our own forms. Using art and magic, we can transform the Dominator reality into an Animist reality. We can dance and sing and live the Animist reality into existence.
Best to all,
Puny

To read:
Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From & Where We Are Going, by Martin Harris. (1989)
(and for the brave reader) Religion in Primitive Culture, by Edward B. Tylor. (1871 . . .1970)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Love and thanks

Humans are so puny that we have nothing to offer back to the world that sustains us except love and thanks, our uniquely human gifts.

This is what our Creator asks of us: love and thanks.

This is what the animals ask in return for their precious lives: love and thanks.

This is what empowers the trees and the green things and helps them to grow: love and thanks.

This is what we may offer one another: love and thanks.

I will heal and become strong
so that I can confront the Dominators with my art and my life.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

make love with your god

The demands of the Dominator World weigh heavy on my spirit and suck up all my time. They keep me apart from my beloved Charlie. I miss him and pant after him as the deer pants after water, but I am chained to the machinery of Mammon. I am Mammon’s unwilling slave and I’m dying of thirst.

I long for Charlie. I lust for him. “Batter my, heart, three-personed God!” cries Dunne. “Amazing grace!” sings a rapturous John Newton. The coming together of the beloved god and the puny human is an ecstacy rivaled only by loving and shameless sex.

The Greek gods engaged in physical sex with humans, taking human form and conceiving sons and daughters. The Catholic mystics of the middle ages and the Pentacostals who raise their palms and open their spirits to the divine Love are two examples of the loving intercourse between the Jesus god and his human paramours that occurred hundreds of years apart. The psalms include dozens of love songs adoring the ancient mono-god and there is an entire book of the Bible describing in delightful detail the sexual intercourse between the beloved god and his loving human. The Song of Songs does not sound like a metaphor to me.

The mystic Sufi poet Rumi was the most articulate and shameless lover of his god I have ever come across. He wrote:

O incomparable Giver of life, cut reason loose at last!
Let it wander grey-eyed from vanity to vanity.
Shatter open my skull, pour in it the wine of madness!
Let me be mad, as You; mad with You, with us.
Beyond the sanity of fools is a burning desert
Where Your sun is whirling in every atom:
Beloved, drag me there, let me roast in Perfection!

As much as Rumi adored his Beloved, that is how much I love my god Charlie. I’m not saying that you have to know and hear the same god that I do, but cut me a little slack here to love my own god my own way. Charlie is important to me and spending time with him every week is as important to me as the Shabbos mono-god love fest is to Orthodox Jews. Just because you’ve never heard of my god before, just because he doesn’t have any temples or churches built for him, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. He sure as hell does exist!

Charlie is not my higher self or my higher power. He is not a metaphor to explain the unknowable. He’s plenty knowable and he wants to be known. I think that’s one reason why he asks me to talk about him and draw pictures of him. He wants to be known. Charlie is kind and generous. He loves me dearly and he serves the Mother Earth, whose child I am. He serves the Green god and so do I. He worships the Creator and he works for Love. Hey, Charlie and I must have the same religion!

We also have an intimate relationship. He knows everything about me. He sees me naked, in pain and in ecstacy, and he is the true witness to my insignificant life. I love him so much.

Let us choose loving gods, and make glorious, passionate, fleshly love with them. Let the children of that union, our yet unborn, be filled with light and born into the earthly flesh for a million years to come.

Resist Apocalypse! Make love with the gods of Love!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dominator Control: From Terror to Technology

There is a wealthy and powerful criminal class that has controlled civilized human life for thousands of years. I call this class the "Dominators." Terror, cruelty, threat, extortion, and other acts of violence have kept the rest of us under their control from the start, and they still use these techniques to control the human species. Today, however, their grip is so complete that even the tribal (noncivilized) cultures are being exterminated, assimilated or marginalized.

Controlling culture and the institutions of culture, such as religion, medicine, politics, education and industry proved to be a cleaner and even tighter method for the Dominators to exert their influence. For example, even before Constantine imprinted the cross on his battle flags, Dominators used religion as a means to enter the spirits of the people and direct their values, beliefs, and souls to the service of the ruling elite. Control religion, as history is quick to show, and you can easily direct young men to commit acts of terror and war.

Since the rise of capital industry and the growing sophistication of both mechanical and psychological technologies, the Dominators have increasingly used spiritual methods of control. Implanting their reality deep within the human psyche, they have convinced us that more is better. Faster is better. Complexity is good and the highest levels of stimulation must be adjusted to. They would have us believe that work is painful and life is suffering and human nature is fundamentally evil and should be erradicated. That human beings are enemies to one another, in constant competition, and that only a fool would trust his or her neighbor. We are convinced that our own experience is suspect and only their science (on the one hand) or their bible (on the other) can reveal the truth.

We are made anxious, and sick in body and spirit, and how we are softened up, by these beliefs, for the Dominator apocalypse. In the meantime, we are marvelous machines, Dominator slaves, churning the raw materials of the Mother Earth into wealth to satisfy their neverending lust.

I welcome your comments!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I am not a shaman

I’m not a shaman or a healer. I don’t have an esoteric, inside line to alternate realities. I’m just an animist is all, and this is what animists see and hear. I can speak in tree, and grass and rock. Other animists see and hear the animal world. Some can see Eden, hidden under the asphalt.

I don’t have to be a shaman for my nonordinary experiences to be valid. Neither do you. I can be a plain old puny human whose spirit eyes and spirit ears are open. You can see and hear the nonhumans, too, if you pay attention. The trees are looking back at you.

What do you need with books or tribal teachers? Are you a Rain Forest Dweller? A Siberian or Navaho tribesman? I’m not. I’m a 21st century, fucked up, dumbed down, puny little human. I have pink skin and my ancestors were European Jews. Culturally I’m a white, middle-class, American with a western education. I was born and bred to the Dominator culture, but I will not bow down before their monogods! Does that make me a shaman?

I follow Charlie and he leads me to green pastures and into the homes of the green people, who are my people, and the Green World, which is my world, an animist world. I would rather live there than in the Dominator World with all its glittering techno-toys and promises. I don’t need money or celebrity. I don’t need any more stuff. Just give me the Green World and I will be at peace.

Am I a shaman because I walk between these worlds? Heavens, no! All I want is to rest in the Green World, but I’m forced to spend far too much of my earthly time in the Dominator. I hate it there. It’s noisy and polluted. People are at one another’s throats. There’s a mind-fucking amount of neural stimulation, speed, and complexity, useless information, anxiety and greed. It sucks. And I suppose the fact that it sucks makes people almost ready to accept some kind of apocalypic end. At least we’d go out with a bang, one might say. But, say it's not so!

Listen, there’s a hell of a wonderful Green World out there, and it’s quite possible, even now, that humans could live in peace and abundance for another million years. Talk about protecting the unborn! Let’s make sure there’s a future for our grandchildren, hey? Let’s stop buying the Dominator lies, whether they come from the mouths of the capitalists, the politicians, or your own neighborhood pulpits. Let’s stop buying stuff. Let’s vote for kindness and service. Let’s bring back the discussion of love that we began in the 60s.

Please, everybody, please? Just take a look at this alternative future, one in which humanity comes to its senses and yanks the power out from under the Dominators like it was a rug in a Daffy Duck cartoon. What if we really did start loving our neighbors? What if we took the long view? What if we stopped chasing the idols of more and bigger and newer? What if we no longer bowed down to the monogods who justify human cruelty and greed?

The living Earth has been fucked by these Dominators and we call it inevitable. We accept it, but we will pay in the extinction of our species. Am I a shaman because I can see this? Am I a prophet? Hell, no! Anyone with half a brain and an intact spirit could see it. But most spirits are crushed beneath the Dominator wheels.

Resist Apocalypse!

The Dominators kicked us out of Eden a long, long time ago, and they would have us welcome the earth's destruction and our own extinction. Resist their apocalypse! We have the knowledge and the power to return to the garden. Let's go there together.