Animism is far from primitive, nor is it about pre-modernity because animism does not serve as a precursor to modernity. Rather animism is one of the many vitally present and contemporary other-than-modern ways of being human.
Increasing numbers of Pagans are identifying themselves as animists or naming their worldview as animism. Some Pagans use the term animism to refer to one strand within their Paganism, while others identify it as the most appropriate label for everything they do.
As nonhuman animals, plants, and even 'inanimate' rivers once spoke to our oral ancestors, so the ostensibly “inert” letters on the page now speak to us! This is a form of animism that we take for granted, but it is animism nonetheless - as mysterious as a talking stone.
Animists are people who recognize that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human, and that life is always loved in relationship with others. Animism is lived out in various ways that are all about learning to act respectfully (carefully and constructively) toward and among other persons.
Animism is worth considering (a) because it exists, (b) because it addresses contemporary issues and debates, and (c) because it clarifies, in various ways, the argument that the project of modernity is ill-conceived and dangerously performed.
Our beliefs are rooted deep in our earth, no matter what you have done to it and how much of it you have paved over. And if you leave all that concrete unwatched for a year or two, our plants, the native Indian plants, will pierce that concrete and push up through it.
Animism is not a belief system, but a worldview: The world is a sacred place and we are part of it. The factuality of this statement is not the issue. To say that the world is a sacred place is to make a statement about values, not facts. It’s a statement about what you mean by ‘sacred,’ just as ‘Money can’t buy happiness’ is a statement about what you mean by ‘happiness.’ To put it all very simply, animism isn’t a belief system, it’s a value system.
Animism characterizes tribes very low in the scale of humanity, and thence ascends, deeply modified in its transmission, but from first to last preserving an unbroken continuity, into the midst of high modern culture.