We live in a relational universe. This is becoming a more accepted concept with people tracking synchronicities and experiences of random not-so-random occurrences. It is popular in new age circles as people claim “the universe is trying to tell me…” It is also popular in some of the new Christian theology around the personal meeting the transpersonal - influenced by the theology of Teilhard de Chardin, Raimon Panikkar, eloquently brought to today’s Christian consciousness by people like Cynthia Bourgeault Matthew Wright and Ilia Delio. From an animist perspective it would seem like belief in a relational universe would be re-affirming, but the “rub” is really when this relationality is generalized to a unified “universe” or “Christic” presence. This misses the exquisite point of multiplicity. Life around us is responding to us, not because of a unifying consciousness or energy or spirit, but because it is filled with individuality that is alive, breathing and ready to interact. By universalizing consciousness or spirit we are actually denigrating the beauty of this multiplicity. We are missing the point of creation and creativity.
And I know why we go for the “universality”. It is safer. If all is connected (and it is) and the underlying force of creation is love (which depending on your definition of love could be seen as a valid assumption), then why wade into the murky waters of the sovereignty of beings which on a human scale can sometimes look pretty scary? My answer to this is that getting into the murky waters is where the beauty of relationship comes alive. If I don’t even see a being, say a nature spirit, and all I see is a universal sense of spirit in the form of a tree, then I am missing out on a huge expression of my humanness with that tree spirit and experiencing a more layered nuance of who that tree spirit is. By universalizing we lose out on important aspects of the sacredness of the specific.
And we deny the validity of a lot of spiritual traditions. To deny the existence of the “old gods” like Orishas, Hindus gods or the Egyptian deities is to deny not only parts of the fabric of creation, but important parts of the collective. And often what gets denied becomes demonized. This becomes even more troubling when the parts of us that are in resonance with these parts of the collective become demonized. This can result in mental illness, self hatred, a lot of misunderstanding.
So by supporting the multiplicity of creation we are tending our psychic spaces. We are opening the door to greater creativity. We are embracing possibility. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to learn to navigate these spaces wisely… there is a lot that lives in these murky waters, even more so because most of us have not culturally tended to the waters for several thousands of years since breaking with animist practices. Not all is friend, but that doesn’t mean we have to turn it all to foe or spiritually bypass it to a more universal perspective.
I believe it is part of the gift of being human to be able to dance with the material existence of things as well as the spiritual. We are tuned into the specific and the collective in beautiful ways. We are designed in this way for a unique way of loving, a unique way of relating. Through animist ways of being with the world we are embracing the fullness of our potential. This has profound implications for our individual psyches and the collective, for our personal and societal impacts on ecology and social justice.
What the universe is really telling us is “listen” …”see me in all my multiplicity”. And what better gift to return to the universe than to embrace what you have been given through this small life and to do just that?
My thoughts on the path of deep animist relationship