Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Lee W. Bailey
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_32

A Modern Tool: Tylor

“Animism” is not a religion. It is a theoretical construct that attempts to explain a wide range of religious beliefs and practices. It is a modern concept, a by-product of the theoretical dualistic division between subject and object, grouping together religious beliefs that breach or confuse that division. Originally defined as the erroneous attribution of life or soul to inanimate objects by primitive people, “animism” was developed as a major category in “primitive” religions, a “minimum” definition of natural religion by E. B. Tylor (1832–1917) in his 1871 six-volume, Primitive Culture. Today a “new animism” is developing along quite different, more ecological lines.

Traditional beliefs grouped under this concept originally included the view that a person’s or animal’s shadow, breath, blood, liver, heart, or eye holds their soul. Animals have souls, and all of the earth and sky is full of souls. Some are reincarnated ancestors, some are friendly spirits, and...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and ReligionIthaca CollegeIthacaUSA