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Making Things BetterA Workbook on Ritual, Cultural Values, and Environmental Behavior$
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A. David Napier

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199969357

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199969357.001.0001

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Why Animism Matters

Why Animism Matters

Chapter:
(p.109) Chapter 4 Why Animism Matters
Source:
Making Things Better
Author(s):

A. David Napier

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199969357.003.0013

In 1871 Edward Burnett Tylor published Primitive Culture, at the time a radical book for arguing that animism represented a form of religious practice in which direct evidence of sensory experience is translated into embodied rules, norms, and prohibitions about the body and its local moral world. Tylor saw animism as constituting a minimal definition of religion in which the belief that the soul could travel in sleep was evidence for religion's spiritual universality. Religion, in this view, derived from the twin beliefs that the soul could exist outside of the body and that it could thus function as a free medium inhabiting the space between the living and the dead. Animism, then, depends on an immediate contagious connection between humans and their physical environments as well as on the idea that the soul can be released through sleep, trance, and liminal psychic states. Unlike less physically oriented notions of religion, animism is highly empirical, based on the direct observation and reading of the natural world and the place of humans in it. Today, the stigma against envisioning genuinely different notions of experience is undermined by global narratives about the uniformity—the universality—of psychological experience.

Keywords:   Animism, Personhood, Body Image, Contagion, Empiricism, Soul, Dreams, Psychology

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