The God Head: Animism and The Tree Of Life

The God Head is a pilgrimage spot for naturalists buried in the Stanley Park rainforest in the city of Vancouver.

It was carved by an anonymous Indigenous carver in the early 1970's. It is carved out of the stump of an old-growth Western Red Cedar, which in local Coast Salish culture is considered the "Tree of Life." This tree is highly valued and revered because of a natural preservative in the cedar wood, which makes it ideal for building longhouses, canoes and many of the largest totem poles.

For me, the God Head is a symbol of the interplay between people and the forest. It represents the duality of forces that shape our experience in nature.

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Life is a balancing act between opposites.

As an example of living art, the God Head symbolizes the interplay of matter and spirit, people and nature, light and darkness.

I find it an apt symbol of the revival of animism in the world today. Animism (from Latin anima, "breath, spirit, life") is defined by Anthropologists as:

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

Incredibly, we have been animists for 99% of human history.

What we call agricultural civilization with its strict hierarchies and organized religions started in the late Bronze Age less than 6,000 years ago. Yet we have used Stone Age tools and lived as hunter gatherers in the forests for nearly 2.6 million years.

While monotheistic cultures with written languages and large agricultural surpluses have ruthlessly colonized polytheistic cultures throughout history, today there is a revival in animism as we wake up to the grand scale of our planetary ecological crisis.

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Active participants in a planetary ecology.

It is only in changing the way we see nature and our place in it that we can solve this existential crisis. If we don't experience the air, water and soil as sacred (instead of mistakenly pricing them as externalities), then our problems will only get worse.

Fortunately, change is accelerating and a new generation is challenging the decadence of our current leadership. They are using the Internet and new technological tools to challenge the control of our centralized institutions that are mired in bureaucracy and too slow to adapt to the complex, global challenges of the 21st century.

We have the opportunity today to usher in a new social, political and economic landscape that balances profit with the well-being of people and our ecology. If we care enough, we can unleash our collective will and innate creativity to solve all of these problems.

But I don't believe technological innovation alone will save us. We must learn to see the Great Spirit in everything again, instead of merely filling our minds with abstract ideas and concepts that divide people and nature into strict categories.

That's why I'm so passionate about teaching meditation and flow psychology. The ability to transcend dualistic thinking — even if just for a few moments in your day — can transform the way you see the world and also eliminate so much needless stress, anxiety and overthinking.

A calm and clear mind is exactly what we need to take massive action, inquire to understand the problem and collaborate to solve these problems.


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Author: Kyle Pearce

Kyle is the founder of Spirit Quest Adventures. He is passionate about ecology, creativity and flow psychology. He also runs an online education company called DIY Genius.