Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
Fascinating insight into animism, a book that will open your eyes.
on 2 May 2010
As a newly discovered animist, I wanted to learn more about my beliefs of life and death, and I thought that Harveys book was a good place to start. The internet gave me some basic definitions of animism, but did not explain what it really meant. This is where Harveys book truly came alive (excuse the pun!).
The book is split into 4 parts covering the history and evolution of the idea of animism, case studies of past and current cultures, issues affecting animism and wider factors and beliefs, and challenges to animism together with how the belief can be used in wider debates.
The best way to describe this book is 'academic theory'. It is not so much a practical handbook of animism, but rather an attempt of explaining what the concept is, how its definition was created, how the activities and languages of cultures are rooted firmly in animism, and how the subject can relate to wider disciplines.
The problem I found is that the book is slightly on the heavy-side, with a great deal of theoretical concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp, together with the way the book is written. The grammer meant at times I was confused as to what exactly Harvey was trying to say. The case studies included indigenous words meaning the flow of the paragraphs was broken up. In addition, Harvey used many difficult-to-understand words to explain something which I think could have been explained in simpler words.
If you can get past the slightly heavy grammar, then the book truly opens your eyes to animism and the world around us. Animism is not just a belief in living things having spirits, but it is a way of respecting and acknowledging all persons in this world, only some of which are human. Living persons don't just take the form of the obvious ones such as animals and plants, but they can include rocks, wind, water, places, stories, languages and traditions.
Whether you are a newly-discovered animist like myself, or just curious as to what animism really means, then this is the book for you. It opened up my eyes to see that life is all around me, and even in the places I had never looked for life before. Humans are just one part of life, and we form complex relationships with so many other persons in our shared world. As Harvey states 'animism is expressed in relatively simple, everyday respectful behaviours that treat the world as a diverse and vibrant community of persons' of which only some are human.
This book shows that without all the living persons in this world, we would never know what it means to be human.