Animism refers to belief in soul or ancestral spirits. It is a theory of religion propagated by E. B. Tylor. He believed that religion originated and was maintained on the beliefs of soul, ghosts, ancestral spirits and other things which were imagined and accepted without much real rationality in them. He named this as animism.
Analysis of Tylor’s theory of Animism: According to Tylor, belief in spirit beings (or soul) was the minimum definition of religion.
Animism has two abiding principles:
• There is life after death;
• There are greater and lesser spirits.
It has two dimensions: life after death, and hierarchies.
Tylor’s theory has two aspects:
The argument that soul explains dreams and other psychic states: This has been criticized on the basis that dreams could not provide the emotional state needed for religious experience.
The argument that from the idea of soul comes animism, polytheism, and monotheism: This has been criticized because it must assume that primitive man remained unchanged [in his animist belief] for hundreds and thousands of years.