The world of spirits and the respect for nature: towards a new appreciation of animism

10 January 2011

The belief in spirits has diminished in Western thought since Enlightenment. But it has not disappeared totally. In the subconscious of people and in different subcultures and also in literature and art it is still alive. Derrida, before his death, worked out a new spectrology in which the status of reality of spirits is interpreted as absently present. In Sub-Saharan African thought this belief is broadly present and deeply rooted. It is the core of traditional African religions. Also intellectuals, although they may have taken over Christian or Islamic convictions, mostly stick to this belief. An important aspect of the African belief in spirits is that they also dwell in nature. In principle they can choose for all natural things to dwell in them, and there is a special inclination for trees. The spiritual conception of reality as a whole is called animism. This important religion has been devaluated in connection with colonialism. Recently the respect for nature which comes forth from this religion is highly appreciated by ecological philosophy.