Meditations on the Path of Knowledge

I have trouble with the differences and exact definitions between pantheism and animism. My mother describers herself as a pantheist and when I was younger I looked it up to see what it was she meant.

pan·the·ism – /ˈpanTHēˌizəm/ – noun
1. a doctrine that identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God

My mother was raised Christian but, her belief is more that God is in everything, and her church was nature. This is mostly how I was raised. We went to Church maybe twice a year, and almost never the same one. I am not sure what it was my Mom was looking for in a Church but she never found it.

I do not consider myself a pantheist, maybe because I don’t require the existence or non-existence of a specific “God” or “Gods”. I have always felt that there was something, that wasn’t explained in the physical sense that was all around and incorporated in everything. Like everything that has mass has gravity, everything has this essence. It is my personal belief that we do not have the tools to explain or understand whatever this is, but it doesn’t keep us from trying. I also in my belief allow for this thing to be “found” characterized and explained. I like to use the term “spirit” or “essence”.

My husband is an atheist and the first time we had a discussion about my views he started laughing and then quoted the following scene.

So now, forever, he just tells me I believe in The Force. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. All of this is to come around to what I consider myself, and that would be an animist. 
 an·i·mism – /ˈanəˌmizəm/ – noun

1. the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
2. the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe.

Now I am always very careful to define my terms, and I don’t like using ones that have a precise and physical meaning. Force is an influence on an object. F = ma right? You grab a physics text book if you want to look up how to describe a force. The same goes for Energy, energy is a basic property of an object and again I go back to physics books. You will rarely find me using these terms for anything other than their physical description (obvious exception The Force). I also don’t like the term “soul” since it has a very specific cultural meaning for us of Western European ancestry. Because I am not good at making up my own terms, I use “spirit” and “essence” but mostly “spirit”.

I don’t discount entirely the existence of one or more deities. It could just be that I have not been made totally aware of them in my work. Most of my work deals with the spirit of place. Different physical locations feel very different to me.

Back to my topic, pantheism vs animism. I am never happy with the definitions I have found, and I am not an anthropologist. This is personally how I define the two. Pantheism is the belief that everything is or is part of A God or set of Gods. Animism is the belief in a spirit that runs through everything and doesn’t require a “God” but doesn’t discount it either. I remember when I first looked up pantheism thinking that it was close to what I believed but not exactly it. My Mom believes in GOD, I don’t, and there had to be something to describe that distinction. Like I said in the beginning I always struggle with the exact definitions of these two words. Maybe that is why I find just saying “I believe in something like “The Force” to really be the quickest way to get my point across.

So does that make me a Jedi? Of course there are Force Witches, but they are dark side…. maybe I am just Force sensitive.

P.S. When I play table top Star Wars I somehow always get Dark Side points… I get too excited about everything including critical hits. Also I never understood how just killing someone doesn’t get you Dark Side points…. even if they are a Sith, you still killed someone…