Taken from the Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions
Here is a dose of daily religion from A to Z.
Today’s religious topic is as follows:
‘”Animism” , belief in spiritual beings that are capable of helping or harming human interests. In Primitive Culture (1871), SIR EDWARD BURNETT TYLOR proposed the term and the view that animism is the first stage in the development of religion.
To the intellectuals of the 19th century, profoundly affected by Darwin’s new biology, animism seemed a key to the so-called primitive mind-human intellect at the earliest knowable stage of cultural evolution. At present this view is considered to be rooted in a profoundly mistaken premise, as all contemporary cultures and religions reflect a fully evolved human intelligence.
In order to undertake a systematic study of the evolution of religion, Tylor required “minimum definition of religion” and found it in “the Belief in Spiritual Beings.” If it could be shown that no people was devoid of such minimal belief, then it would be known that all of humanity already had passed the threshold into “the religious state of culture.” He assembled ethnographic cases and arranged them in series from what seemed to him the simplest or earliest to the most complex or recent. In this way he argued that religion had evolved from a “doctrine of souls” arising from reflection upon death, dreams, and apparitions to a wider “doctrine of spirits,” which eventually expanded to embrace powerful DEMONS and gods. Tylor asserted that humans everywhere would be impressed by the vividness of dream images and would reason that dreams of dead kin or of distant friends were proof of the existence of souls. The simple belief in these spiritual beings independent of natural bodies would, he thought, expand to include more elaborate religious doctrines, accompanied by rites designed to influence powerful spirits. Tylor showed that animistic beliefs exhibit great variety and often are uniquely suited to the cultures and natural settings in which they are found.
The term animism covers a range of spirits, from sojourning ghosts and mortal witches to perennial beings, whose natures and dispositions to humanity are attributed by categories. Spirits represent particular powers and must be handled accordingly. When trouble is encountered, the responsible witch, demon, or disgruntled spirit must be identified by the diviner. The cure ma rely upon ritual cleansing, propitiation, or even the overpowering of the malevolent force through supernatural counteragency.
(Comeback on 11/01/14 and continue to learn about religion. Tomorrow you’ll read and learn more about “Anitya”.
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