Religion - Animism

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Animism, from Latin anima, "breath" or "soul", belief in spiritual beings. Among biologists and psychologists, animism refers to the view that the human mind is a nonmaterial entity that nevertheless interacts with the body via the brain and nervous system. As a philosophical theory, animism, usually called panpsychism, is the doctrine that all objects in the world have an inner or psychological being. The 18th-century German physician and chemist Georg Ernst Stahl coined the word animism to describe his theory that the soul is the vital principle responsible for organic development. Since the late 19th century, however, the term has been mainly associated with anthropology and the British anthropologist Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, who described the origin of religion and primitive beliefs in terms of animism.

In Primitive Culture (1871) Tylor defined animism as the general belief in spiritual beings and considered it "a minimum definition of religion."

He asserted that all religions, from the simplest to the most complex, involve some form of animism. According to Tylor, primitive peoples, defined as those without written traditions, believe that spirits or souls are the cause of life in human beings; they picture souls as phantoms, resembling vapors or shadows, which can transmigrate from person to person, from the dead to the living, and from and into plants, animals, and lifeless objects. In deriving his theory, Tylor assumed that an animistic philosophy developed in an attempt to explain the causes of sleep, dreams, trances, and death; the difference between a living body and a dead one; and the nature of the images that one sees in dreams and trances.

Tylor's theories were criticized by the British anthropologist Robert R. Marett, who claimed that primitives could not have been so intellectual and that religion must have had a more emotional,