The Wakeful World : Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature
by Emma Restall Orr
(Moon Books, 2012)
Over the past few hundred years, animism has been dismissed as a primitive, naïve and irrational perspective, relevant perhaps amongst tribal peoples but not within the intellectual arenas of the civilised West. In The Wakeful World, Emma Restall Orr argues that this is based on the misrepresentation, ‘drawn in crayon’, that each tree and stone has its own Christian-like immortal soul. With the popularity of animism growing once more, this book provides the comprehensive definition so urgently needed.
Taking the reader on a philosophical adventure, Restall Orr explores the heritage of Western thought with precision, enthusiasm and sensitivity, considering how soul, spirit, mind and consciousness have been understood through millennia. Challenging the prevailing worldviews of materialism and dualism, she outlines the alternatives, presenting animism as a radically different, yet mature and coherent philosophy.
Providing deep green ethics with a wholly rational metaphysical foundation, The Wakeful World is a compelling view of the nature of existence and the experience of reality, giving solid ground for the now necessary journey to an integrated and sustainable world.
'Emma Restall Orr has accomplished a most difficult task: combining academic-quality research with an accessible and compelling narrative. The concepts of animism, panpsychism, and mind in nature are all explored with great dexterity and insight. The Wakeful World offers a fascinating and powerful vision of animism for the present day — a vision that promises to reconnect us to the living Earth.'
David Skrbina PhD, author of Panpsychism in the West
'This original and lively book brings back animism - a most useful range of ideas which reductivists have somewhat wildly abandoned during the last century - into focus once more just when it is badly needed to cure current confusions about mind and body. In clear, contemporary language Emma Restall Orr deploys a new vision of this distracted scene that will surely prove really helpful.'
Dr Mary Midgley, Moral Philosopher and prestigious author
'In a mindful encounter between herself (her self) and the wider worlds of nature and scholarly debate, Emma Restall Orr contributes philosophically, provocatively and proactively to current debates about animism and panpsychism. She does far more than survey the scenery, she leads us on a journey towards re-integration within a self-aware cosmos full of engaging subjects. New science and ancient philosophy contribute to her careful and grounded consideration of the value of being a thoughtful animist today.'
Graham Harvey, Reader in Religious Studies, The Open University, author of Animism: Respecting the Living World.
'The Wakeful World sets out to map a philosophical grounding for contemporary animism, and as both an animist and philosopher, Restall Orr is well placed to draw such a map. The result is more than a provocative and thoughtful model of how philosophy can illuminate our understanding of animism: Restall Orr's animist perspective returns the favour, opening up new horizons for philosophy itself. '
Adrian Harris PhD, ecopsychologist and founder of the Dragon Environmental Network