David Abram: “Becoming Animal”

“Darwin had rediscovered the deep truth of totemism – the animistic assumption, common to countless indigenous cultures but long banished from polite society, that human beings are closely kindred to other creatures, and indeed have various other animals as our direct ancestors.  Here was a form of totemism transposed into the modern world – the totemic insight now translated into the language of “descent by natural selection from a common ancestor.”  This modern version no longer saw different persons as descendants of different totemic animals, but recognized all humankind as derived from a common lineage of creatures.  In the wake of Darwin’s bold insights, we have learned to consider all humans as members of a common family.  But the wild, animistic implication of Darwin’s insight has taken much longer to surface in our collective awareness, no doubt because it greatly threatens our cherished belief in human transcendence.  Nonetheless, it is an inescapable implication of the evolutionary insight: we humans are corporeally related, by direct and indirect webs of evolutionary affiliation, to every other organism that we encounter.“

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