In my previous article “An Introduction to Panpsychism and Animism,” I began to explore the two concepts and their relation with one another and consciousness. This time, I’m going a bit deeper…...
Panpsychism is the concept of the presence of consciousness (in all), and Animism is the concept of the presence of energy, and the spiritual practice of creating, manifesting, or altering energy. It is applicable to state that all consciousness consists of energy; however, not all energy consists of consciousness. Panpsychism and Animism seem to brush up with one another in terminology and concept, and this is perhaps the reason the two concepts become so interwoven. I consider Animism and Occultism to be my spiritual paths with Witchcraft as my practice. They weave within and around one another, one always dancing with the other two.
The concept of panpsychism arose with the early Greek philosophers. Although they were polytheists, they were moving toward seeking philosophical answers outside of a ‘godly’ explanation. In fact, Thales of Miletus’ work is considered to be a precursor to modern-day science.
Thales is considered to be the first Greek philosopher to delve into panpsychism concepts within the Western Tradition. It is important to take note of the ‘Western Tradition’ aspect as I feel it is imperative to know that while Thales lived during the 6th century B.C., there was tons of stuff going on elsewhere. Gautama Buddha was alive during the 6th century B.C. and Confucius was born in the 5th century B.C. Archaeologists classify Meso-Americans to be in the ‘Pre-Classic Era’ during this period. The Western Tradition is only one piece of the pie, and I feel it is pertinent to be reminded of this fact.
Thales of Miletus lived during the Age of Antiquity in the ‘Archaic’ period (8th-6th century B.C.). The Archaic period then evolved into the Classical Greek period (5th-4th century B.C.). The Age of Antiquity can be defined politically, socially and economically; however, many of us equate the Age with the creative artistry of writers, painters, and sculptors of the era. Spiritually, this is the Age of Mythology. The Age of the Pantheons, and the Gods of the Pantheons. The Ancient Greeks believed that the Gods were the perpetrators of all natural forces and influenced all human affairs. Zeus was the “All Father” of the Greek Pantheon…..the Supreme Mind, and therefore, of the supreme consciousness. Perhaps it is inevitable that the rise of the Philosophers would occur during this period.
Thales was a mathematician and an astrologer, and is credited with predicting a solar eclipse in 585 B.C. To me, the most notable of Thales’ philosophical work, is his early hypothesis of panpsychism, the belief that everything has a consciousness. In actuality, he broke away from the predominant mythological (God) principles of explaining nature and the Universe. Instead, he indicated that everything had an individual ‘mind,’ and water was the basis behind all of nature and matter. (As a side note: There are no Thales’ writings in existence, the only way we have any record of his work was by those who followed him and credited his work, most notably, Aristotle). Aristotle felt that the soul was the principle for life and is the basis for ‘animating’ nature and matter. Aristotle credits Thales with the assertion that magnets must have a ‘soul’ because they can move and attract other matter. We may find this to be rather humorous, but at that time, to take ‘the Gods’ out of the equation and to individualize consciousness, was a fairly radical idea. Gotta love those early Greek Philosophers….;)
We use terms such as ‘consciousness,’ ‘mind,’ ‘soul,’ ‘entity,’ ‘spirit,’ ‘sentient,’ ‘living,’ ‘energy,’ and ‘matter’ rather fluidly. They are seemingly interchangeable. It is also important to note that terminology and concepts were vastly different in Ancient times than our understanding today. Throughout the aeons of time, there is a common conundrum of semantics coming into play with various participants vying for their favored term to express their contextual meaning. In Ancient Greece, terminology such as ‘consciousness,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘mind’ were interchangeable with the term ‘god’. Thus the Aristotle/Thales quote “all things were full of gods” was actually moving away from the concept of the personification of gods, and moving toward an individualistic consciousness concept, or panpsychism.
The question then becomes, why did panpsychism (a ‘godlike’ consciousness) arise in some societies? If we define panpsychism as “a philosophy which states you cannot arrive at consciousness without consciousness being fundamentally present to begin with,” can the same be said about the Gods? Does there need to be a fundamental belief in the ‘Gods’ in order for them to exist? And then ~ Why did polytheism and later, monotheism thrive in some societies, and Animism, as a dominant spiritual practice, thrive in others?
I came upon what might begin answering these questions a few months ago while watching Ramsey Dukes, a British Occultist, who has a series of Youtube videos that I enjoy. In his video, “Vengeful Gods in Today’s Society,” he referred to an article from LiveScience, entitled "When Ancient Societies Hit One Million People, Vengeful Gods Appeared."
The article is fascinating. It states that studies show that when socially and economically complex societies with populations of 1,000,000 people evolved, the ‘moralizing’ and ‘vengeful’ gods began to appear. The archaeologists conducting the research were amazed by the fact that it was at the ‘one million’ mark, consistently, when societies embraced the concept of an ‘all-knowing,’ ‘all-seeing’ god. The article then went on to explain that smaller societies were more intimate in nature, with everyone knowing everyone else; therefore, they could keep an eye on one another’s behavior.
Is there a correlation between hierarchical complex societies and the belief, and subsequently the worship, of God or the Gods? Smaller societies are often equated with being ‘collective’ in nature. They base their societal structure more on the success and survival of the tribe, not of the individual. Smaller societies were also animistic in their spirituality and everyday lives. While there is mythology in their spirituality, their practices were based more on the collective well-being of the community and veneration, rather than worshiping an omnipresent entity.
I’ve always envisioned Animism to have manifested organically, intuitively. Our Ancient Ancestors would have used animistic practices in order to fulfill the basic needs and survival of our earliest tribes. Initially, these practices would have revolved around herbal medicinal healing, fertility and childbirth rites, ceremony for successful hunts, and death rites. Practices would evolve into weaving for clothing and blankets, pottery making, petroglyphs, and other cave art. Jewelry and other body adornment, such as tattoos, would be considered animistic practices. These societies were self-sufficient, albeit isolated from outside influences, and I feel they were matriarchal in their structure and practices.
Throughout the aeons of human evolution, both complex societies and collective societies have evolved. Small, collective societies outside of the realm of technology, media, social discourse, and a myriad of other traits contingent with the 21st century, still exist. It would seem one layer of consciousness that is prevalent today which separates us is…..domination.
There is a concept that embraces All…..intuition, knowledge, wisdom, philosophy, creativity, survival, the archetypes of the Gods, and the Goddesses….it also includes veneration, worship, rituals, ceremony…..this is the ‘strata of consciousness’. I will be delving into this ‘rabbit hole’ in an upcoming writing…...