When I was 4 years old, I learned the word “God” in two languages. One language from my country of birth, and another one from far away. Half of my extended family inherited the language from their ancestors who came to my country of birth centuries ago.
Immediately upon learning the words, I saw two people in my pre-logical mind, a man and a woman, standing tall among the stars and galaxies. I associated one word for the man and another for the woman.
The man was holding the earth, and the woman was holding a book. Earth can be a symbol of provision or external supply (masculine) and book a symbol of nourishment or internal supply (feminine).
Why did one of my earliest memories in life come back to me decades later? It began by reading an article here on Medium last year. The article inspired me to explore masculine-feminine values in looking at modern science a.k.a. the pursuit of knowledge by humans in the last several centuries since the first industrial revolution.
Inspired by an academic paper about animistic science, the author contrasts scientific materialism and scientific animism. His usage of animism as the antonym of materialism is to emphasize that the overlooked part of science is not necessarily non-materialism, but the feminine values. Animism implies giving birth, while materialism implies crafting objects. What’s more interesting, the author then associates “scientific animism” with our older form of spirituality, and then “scientific materialism” with our newer form of spirituality a.k.a. monotheism.
Let’s discuss first the materialist and non-materialist science. Typically we pick Newton vs. Einstein to contrast them, i.e. Newton’s is materialistic science and Einstein’s is non-materialistic science a.k.a. spiritualistic science. Einstein is among scientists who use spirituality to understand life. The spiritualistic science in fact represents the divine intellect, which also fits monotheism. Therefore, both Newton and Einstein belong to the masculine “modern” science linked to the newer form of human’s spirituality.
That’s why it’s such an a-ha moment to read the author’s idea that materialism came from monotheism, and the opposite of materialistic science is not spiritualistic science but animistic science. The dichotomy looks clearer to me as monotheism vs. animism. Therefore, rather than using his contrast scientific materialism vs. scientific animism, I’d rather use the terms “scientific monotheism” and “scientific animism”.
Scientific monotheism is the masculine, and scientific animism is the feminine. Scientific animism is the pursuit of knowledge through co-creation instead of just creation by a single person. It’s also the pursuit of knowledge through combining creators and birthing (organic), instead of producing a creation that doesn’t contain its creator (synthetic).
Since scientific monotheism can be materialistic and spiritualistic, then scientific animism can also be materialistic and spiritualistic.
Now that we have discussed science, what about economics? Like science, economics can also be materialistic and spiritualistic, such as the profit based and value based economics. Let’s start with the materialistic discussion. What is economic animism like?
Take the 25 richest countries in the world, a.k.a. those who are strong in money. Many of them are strong in monotheistic belief, but many of them are also “Godless”. Here we can see that both religious and non-religious countries are not different, because the “Godless” ones believe in the negation of monotheism (personified God). Their stance on animism is not necessarily identified.
The obsession with materialistic growth happens anywhere with anyone, regardless of religiosity. Therefore, I’d like to argue that capitalism (the obsession with accumulating wealth) is the friend of economic monotheism.
What’s the friend of animism within economics context? Remember that economic monotheism and economic animism can both be materialistic and spiritualistic. If capitalism is the obsession with materialistic growth, then the opposite of capitalism is not spiritualistic growth.
I’d like to pick degrowth to represent economic animism. It’s the opposite of capitalism, as it’s been discussed by Degrowth economists. Quoted:
A degrowth transition to a steady-state economy could happen in a variety of ways. But the nature of this alternative vision suggests that the changes will need to be driven from the “bottom up”, rather than imposed from the “top down”.
Degrowth is the real sharing economy. It is in fact about animistic growth. Degrowth is the friend of economic animism.
Economic animism is the pursuit of growth through co-creation instead of just creation by a single person. It’s also the pursuit of growth through combining creators and birthing, instead of producing a creation that doesn’t contain its creator.
That discovery has helped me redefine science and the pursuit of knowledge in general, as well as redefining economics and the pursuit of growth (being productive) in general. It also helped me balance between the masculine and the feminine in life.
Deep in our soul we’ve always known the two expressions to represent the divine feminine and the divine masculine, as the Source of our energy. We could feel their influence in our scientific and economic activities.
It’s the connector and the separator, the derivation (satisficing?) and the completion (optimizing?), the bottom-up (organic) and the top-down (synthetic). Let’s embrace both!
PS: Thank you Jack Preston King! Missing your writing as I can’t read beyond paywall these days.