Written by Carl Golden
August 23, 2011
The Elan Vital (or life force) is ancient and evergreen — perennially emerging within the spiraling evolutionary progression of life and culture. Although it is primordial, it was first given cultural expression in ancient Animism.
The Animistic worldview, which is the original thesis of human culture, is profoundly respectful of Nature because Animists worshipped the powerful numinous in Nature. The world was deeply spiritual and personal. All of our distant ancestors walked and talked with the gods, goddesses, and fellow creatures of land, sea, and sky. They revered the Dragon, which symbolized the Elan Vital, and Life was enchanted and beautiful. However, there was much ignorance, superstition, brutality, and fear of our environs, too, that created much suffering.
As human knowledge and technology advanced, most societies around the globe progressively abandoned — more or less — the Animistic paradigm, which had become overly burdened and corrupted by superstitions that were intellecually stifling, and developed or adopted over generations and centuries increasingly rational explanations of reality.
The penultimate rational explanation is the scientific paradigm, which is the antithesis of the animistic view because it has historically viewed reality in merely materialistic terms. The scientific paradigm radically changed the world through scientifically generated knowledge and technology that gave us more control over our environments and vastly enriched our lives in many ways: materially, economically, socially, artistically, intellectually, etc.
Today, however, we have begun to realize that we threw the baby out with the bath water, which is to say we threw out the Sacred with the superstitious. The rational, materialistic worldview seeks to harness the power of the Elan Vital and subjugate it. This view is too reductionistic to appreciate the Sacred, which is essential to our physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and ecological health. Rational materialism is prone to reducing trees to board feet and people to units of production. This worldview fundamentally alienates us from the roots of our humanity. Indeed, it is sickening our souls and the soil, eroding our political and social discourse, and destroying the Web of Life. Consequentially, more and more people are hungering for a deeper, spiritual way to live — a way that feeds the soul, nurtures the heart, inspires the mind, respects the vital principle of the Elan Vital, and respects the precious communion of the kingdoms of life that comprise the biosphere.
The way forward must be a soulful synthesis of sacred enchantment and rational science. This calls for a renaissance of natural philosophy that reclaims the sacred ground rather than repudiates it because there is no argument between intuition and reason except for in the hearts and minds of men and women who are still held captive by the prison of dualism.
Ironically, science has recently begun to discover phenomena that reveal fundamental and universal principles of consciousness, interiority, and communion, which are hallmarks of ancient Animism. We are beginning to understand within many scientific fields that the creative genius of the Cosmos is implicated in the self-emerging Cosmic order itself. As the Animists knew intuitively, the Rationalists are discovering empirically: the material is spiritual. Nature is the body of the divine.