Gayle Nastasi, animal consultant and author
This month, I’d like to share an excerpt from Through Their Eyes: The Nature of the Beast
I first encountered the word anthropocentrism when I was beginning to seriously study animal communication. It was mentioned in When Animals Speak, a book by Penelope Smith, who is a fore-runner in the field and a woman whom I’ve since had the pleasure to get to know personally. Anthropocentrism is, essentially, the opposite of anthropomorphism … the tendency to attribute human qualities to animals. Anthropocentrism is the assumption that the only creature capable of exhibiting “human qualities” are humans. The fact that these attributes are considered “human qualities”, is in itself anthropocentric. Love, devotion, the ability to think and reason, the ability to communicate clearly, spirituality…. All of these things are often considered to be exclusive to homo sapiens.
I assure you they are not. Animals of all species exhibit these attributes regularly within the framework of their own kind; they are a part of their existence just as they are a part of ours. However, this does not mean that there is no such thing as anthropomorphism. There is, in fact, and it can be a problem in trying to understand our animal friends, just as much as anthropocentrism can be a problem.
The truth, as it often does, lurks in between the two.
While being an animal communicator necessitates the acceptance that animals have thoughts, reason, feelings and beliefs, it also means that we have to accept that these thoughts and feelings may not have the same nuances, the same meaning, the same motivations that they would have as expressed and understood by a human being. If we wish to truly understand our animal friends, and help them to adjust to a happy life within our human-centered society, we must try to separate ourselves out from the man-view and see things through their eyes. Although this sounds fairly obvious when stated like this, it’s not always as easy to put into practice as one might think. An animal rarely sees things clearly from our point of view without assistance.
An animal communicator’s job is as much to explain to the animal why their humans have certain idiosyncrasies as it is to explain to the human the motivation behind the animal’s actions. It is to find a compromise, a balance, and a mutual understanding that works for both worlds.
Anthropocentrism, in a broader sense, is the tendency to view the universe from a point that assumes that we, as human beings, are its center. It is a habit of comparing everything our fellow earth-walkers do to the “proper” point of view of a human being.
The animals have taught me that it doesn’t work that way. The universe is so much bigger than that, and to fully appreciate it, one must learn to accept that the universe has many centers, and the circles all intersect in a most wonderful way.
Opening up to new viewpoints, and learning to understand our animal friends for who they are, enlarges the universe for us all.
News and Updates:
Please take a look at my Important Info Page for the changes that have taken place as of January 1st. My rates have gone up to $45 for the base rate, and there are some minor changes in the way billing will be handled, etc. It’s all spelled out on the website, for your convenience.
Be Aware: This is just an early summer notice, on the behalf of our wild friends. Babies are leaving the nest, getting bolder, moving around more on their own. Little birds are hopping about on the ground and in the bushes, learning to use those inexperienced wings. Just because you don’t see parent birds and animals with the little ones, it does not mean that the youngsters are in distress. Enjoy from a distance, but don’t interact. They are supposed to be mischievous and adventurous at this time of year, and mom and dad are not far away.