The belief that, “Everything lives!” is at the heart an Animist understanding of the world. Even seemingly inert objects live. Being alive is the very nature of the earth and the whole cosmos. Even in death this flow of life continues. Decomposing matter releases and weaves its energy into the life-web of birth and growth.
Jesus of course agrees:
“Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit” 1
There is complete harmony here between Christians and Animists.2 The ‘Creation Hymn’, with which the Hebrew scriptures open (Gen 1), presents an overwhelming vision of a world teeming with life. The very earth itself is alive. Not simply the medium that nurtures and nourishes vegetation,3 but the very womb from which wild nature itself is born:
‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind…
God made the wild animals from the earth of every kind,
and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps on the ground of every kind.
And God said that it was good.’ 4
We recognise that humans, animals and plants are alive – but is this true of absolutely everything? Yes. In the Psalms the sun, moon, stars, fire, hail, snow, frost, winds, mountains and hills are all called to praise God.5 The prophet Isaiah calls on the skies to sing and the earth to shout.6 For all Animists, including Christians, the word ‘inanimate’ is a meaningless term!
How can this be? Because the creative word and spirit-breath of God (both the source and most intense expression of life imaginable), not only brings all things into being, but sustains them moment-by-moment as well. 7 The earliest Christian voices saw Christ at the heart of this reality:
These texts spell out very clearly what is implied in the Hebrew scriptures and made clear in the Septuagint (LXX):
Without this continuous ongoing and revitalizing activity of the Spirit everything would disintegrate. Because of it all things are alive. Christians see this as linked to Christ, the Logos. Ancient Greeks thought the Logos was the eternal reason that held the universe together. 12 So at the very deepest level the spirituality of the physical is revealed as energizing life. This being so should change our attitude to everything – rocks, mountains, clouds, the sky, as well as humans, animals and plants. Without a doubt what we understand and expect about something ‘being alive’ needs to change completely.
This reality, that ‘everything is alive’, will be further strengthened in our other reflections, particularly those on the sacredness, connectedness and personhood of everything.
1 Jn 12:24
2 In this piece we refer to the biblical creation stories in Genesis because we believe they give a profound insight into how we should understand the world and how we should act within it. We believe in evolution, so do not see these stories as an historical account of how the world came into being…
3 Gen 1:11-12
4 Gen 1:24-25
5 Ps 148:3,7-10
6 Ps 44:23
7 Cf. Ps 33:6
8 Col 1:17
9 Heb 1:3
10 Wisdom 1:7
11 Ecclesiasticus 43:26
12 See Jn 1:1-4