I came across this article from Alison Lilly the other day about anthropocentrism in Paganism and Polytheism. You can find another article here where she defines Anthropocentrism in more detail. My brief definition of anthropocentrism is that it’s a humancentric perspective of the world that considers experiences of consciousness in primarily human terms and applies human behavior, attributes, emotions, etc. to things that aren’t human in an effort to simultaneously categorize and control what is labeled. The problem with such a perspective is that its extremely limited and presupposes that humanity and its perspective is what matters.
In my own spiritual work, one of the things I’ve tried to do is recognize when I’m applying anthropocentric perspectives, behaviors etc to connections I make with spiritual entities, the world around me, and anything that isn’t human. The reason I seek to recognize this application of perspective is because I recognize that it is a filter that stops me from genuinely connecting with whatever it is I’m connecting with. For example, when I was doing my year long work with the element of fire, one of the realizations which came up was how mediated the experience of fire is by anthropocentric perspectives. We label fire with human attributes and emotions such as anger, passion, and creativity. This provides humans a way to understand relate to fire from a human centric perspective, but it doesn’t allow you to experience fire in other ways. When I stripped away the labels, attributes and emotions associated with fire, what I experienced was something much more primal and raw, something that had more to with fire as its own force as opposed to something mediated and interpreted by human perspective. I recognized even then that to some degree I was still applying a human perspective to the experience, but as much as possible I was also being open to experiencing fire on its level.
I make the point that I was still applying human perspective because I don’t think we, as humans, ever fully get away from that human perspective. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to experience other forms of consciousness, but rather that we should acknowledge that on some level, at all times, we are interpreting a given situation through the lens of being human. With that said, by being aware of that lens, we can also open ourselves up to a given experience where we seek connection with something that isn’t human and recognize when we are labeling interactions through the being human lens and put it aside to focus on the interaction. Let me share a very recent experience.
I’m currently working with the bacteria in my stomach. In my opinion, bacteria is pretty far removed from being human, but the probiotic bacteria we have in our bellies play an integral role in the digestion of our food and I want to work more closely with them via magic. In my meditations and my daily awareness I’ve been focusing on connecting with the bacteria. Instead of trying to label the bacteria through human terms, what I’ve done instead is used the feeling of digestion to make contact with the bacteria. This provides me a chance to engage them on their terms, through an activity they are doing. The experience of their consciously isn’t remotely human and the communication that occurs is based more on feeling than on words or visualizations. And even with all that, I recognize I could still be applying human perspectives to the experience, but what I’m not doing is assuming a human consciousness on the other end, or human values, or human communication or anything else, because such an assumption takes away from the experience and the ability to genuinely connect with the bacteria.
I think the same applies to any kind of contact you make with something that isn’t human. Even if that consciousness approaches you on human terms, using human communication, it shouldn’t be assumed that it holds human values, culture, etc. It might, or it could be that its trying to meet us on our terms because its easier to communicate that way or because it wants to experience our consciousness. I figure even if an entity I’m interacting with has two arms, two legs, a a head, and a somewhat human shape, even that doesn’t mean it has the same consciousness needs, etc. That can only be discovered, never assumed and when we apply anthropocentrism to such interactions we make assumptions which can be dangerous, and if nothing else are faulty by virtue of our own limited perspective.