You would definitely think I’d have such a thing as a reading list on animism, but I don’t, because I didn’t learn it from books, I learned it by trying to figure out the underlying theme of the Leaver life as observed by anthropologists worldwide. In the end (and only AT the end), I realized that I had a guide in this study provided by an experience I had at Gethsemane (described in Providence).
My study of the Leaver experience shed light on my own experience and my own experience shed light on the Leaver experience. In the end, I realized I was looking at the world’s first (and only) universal religious vision, irrelevantly named and misunderstood in Taker culture as ANIMISM. To discover the animism I write about in my books, you have to look for it as the never-explicitly-described premise of all the Leaver statements we have (for example, from Chief Seattle).
My relation to animism is somewhat (but not entirely) similar to St. Paul’s to Christianity. As Paul himself makes clear, he wasn’t “there” when Jesus was enunciating his message, but because of his visionary encounter with Jesus, he felt sure he was the person to translate Jesus’s message to the Roman world. As we now know, the actual apostles, still centered in Jerusalem, considered Paul’s understanding of Jesus’s message to be seriously flawed; they tried but failed to rein him in and so ultimately lost control over the developing Christian ethos, which ended by being a Pauline ethos.
I’ve tried to formulate animism for the Taker world much the way Paul tried to formulate Christianity for the Roman world, but my position is not quite the same as his. Although we must look to the Leavers for the authentic tradition of animism, they haven’t been given some ultimately authoritative “word” on animism the way the apostles were given the word of Jesus.
The apostles were “there” and Paul wasn’t. The same can’t be said of the Leavers and me. They have not been “there” any more or less than I have. And the apostles felt that Paul was distorting Jesus’s message. By contrast, no one among surviving Leaver peoples has found any reason to say that I haven’t got the message of animism right.
There are plenty of books that mention animism. All the ones I personally know tend to view it as a collection of childish and “primitive” superstitions—something you would expect from “simpleminded savages.” You might have a look at Vine Deloria’s God Is Red. I don’t think he discusses animism specifically (it’s been a dozen years since I read it and I don’t seem to have a copy on hand), but you may well find it relevant to your purpose nonetheless.
Posted: 13 Feb 1997