MAGICal Reflections: All Species Representation at the North American Bioregional Congress

by David Abram

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

The practice of keeping faith with another species, or with several other species, is a discipline. It is, we might say, a practice that requires practice. Individual persons wishing to act in this capacity should be intimately aware of the biology and ecology of their familiars. And they should know, too, the traditional myths and stories regarding these species that are told by indigenous people—such stories and songs often carry a keen awareness of the emotional character, the traits and the habits of other species, an awareness (honed over the generations of contact) far more nuanced and intimate than is commonly attainable by the civilized and literate intellect. Yet neither of these sources, the scientific or the storied, can take the place of direct, personal contact with other species on their own terms. Scientific evidence from ecology and ethology, like the insights embedded in totemic myths, provide us—at best—with “clues” for entering into a living rapport with other beings. Yet a genuine reciprocity and empathy with other shapes of intelligence is not easily come by, nor quickly achieved—this we all know.

Finally, the practice of maintaining such a rapport while being attentive to the voices and visions of human decision-makers is difficult indeed. It requires listening with one ear to the human speakers while lending the other to the wind whispering in the trees, to the churning voices of the river, to the beating of one’s own heart. In this way we begin to bring the human community into resonance with the larger community of beings. We stand poised on the boundary between human culture and the wilderness, keeping the flow open—ensuring that the boundary functions more like a membrane and less like a barrier. This is a unique ritual—a kind of meditation for our time.

Once again, it is a practice that requires practice. It can be practiced following a deer-trail in the mountains, or while lying on the ground in one’s backyard staring sideways into the deep forest of grass. It can be practiced at town meetings, and at regional congresses. Those of us who acted as species-intermediaries at NABC III suggest that any other folks interested in this work begin preparing themselves as soon as possible.

Excerpted from the MAGIC (Mischief, Animism, Geomancy, and Interspecies Communication) Committee report in the Proceedings of the Third North American Bioregional Congress (NABC III), 1989.

David Abram (b. 1957) is a philosopher, magician, ecologist, and writer. He is the co-founder and creative director of the Alliance for Wild Ethics. His philosophy is informed by the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups around the world and an interest in perception that began with his practice as a magician. His term “the more-than-human world,” a reflection of the idea that human culture exists not as separate from but within and intertwined with the larger world beyond, has been influential and widely adopted.

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