“Enchantment” is one of those words that seems to have come standard with our brains because, like you, I can’t think back far enough to a time when I didn’t assume to know what the term meant. That changed for me in 2018 during one of the many lectures I attended at the Center for The Study of World Religions at Harvard, where we lived part time. I realized that prior to my time there, I acquired knowledge by asking questions and then finding answers. There during those lectures, I collected answers to questions I had yet to ask. During that lecture, Jason Ā. Josephson-Storm, discussed his book, The Myth of Disenchantment. I realized that the term ‘enchantment’ had more dimensions than I knew about.
I went on to discover that for most of human history, the entire world was enchanted. Native people understand this. Our early ancestors believed in gods who controlled time and weather. They performed critical rituals and played bone games to see the future. The dead were buried with what they would need in the next world. Stones, trees, springs and mountains were all inspirited. Humans knew they were but one species among many. Everything was alive. Modernity changed this when “enlightened” (mostly) white (mostly men) people assumed that they were exalted beings. We thrived on power. Power came from wealth and wealth came from having, extracting, accumulating more than we individually needed, and selling the surplus. We turned wild sources into natural re-sources. Wild nature required ‘de-spiriting’ before it could be commodified. We could not de-forest landscapes for lumber to build houses, temples, and forts without first eliminating the tree spirits. Which we did with a simple shift in point of view. Then came carbon—coal then oil—dug and drilled—extracted–from the beneath the earth’s surface, burned to fuel our newly industrialized lives. The commodification and burning of carbon is now known to be responsible for the most serious threat to life on earth in human history. If disenchantment is at the root of biggest problem we’ve ever faced, then could re-enchantment be part of the solution?