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Animism: the origin of religions?

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Humanity, in its more than two million years of existence, has tried to find a logical explanation for the mysteries that surround us. Because of this need to know the different religions that have evolved to the present have been gestating.

But can there be a belief that is the germ of all religions? Although the answer is complex and widely controversial, numerous theories point to animism as that doctrine from which the rest of the religious beliefs start that come up to the present.

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What is animism?

If we take into account the Latin root of his name: animates, whose meaning is soul; easier for us to understand what animism is. This concept encompasses a whole series of beliefs according to which both objects, people or any piece of nature have a soul and self consciousness.

In other words, according to the followers of animism, there is a whole series of spiritual entities, among which are included the human soul, which occupy all kinds of beings and both animate and inanimate objects, so that everything that surrounds us, each and every one of the elements that exist in the world, would possess a soul or an essence of consciousness.

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However, there are various variants of this doctrine, such as the one in which the existence of a series of personified spiritual and supernatural beings is accepted, which possess reasoning capacity, intellect and will and they inhabit all kinds of elements that, in principle, are not considered by the rest of the culture as living beings.

Although these beliefs date back to remote times, long before the appearance of current religions, animism has a great fame around the entire planet. The reason is that the belief in the soul is a constant that appears in all kinds of cultures and religions regardless of how diverse they are.

There are certain variations within animism depending on the region of the world and the culture in which it is established. However, they have certain points in common and they all try to find an explanation or meaning to what is beyond death, as well as the establishment of a link between human beings and all that surrounds them.

As for whether or not inanimate objects have a soul or inner consciousness, this belief also varies from region to region. In some of these places, animism also consists of the belief that some inanimate objects, also including manifestations and natural events such as storms or cyclones; which are considered as expressions of an intelligent consciousness.

Distribution of this belief system

Today you can still find different locations around the world in which animism retains great strength; constituting a very complex belief. These regions are located south of the Sahara and in certain territories of Oceania, the Americas and Southeast and Central Asia. In them the basis of animism consists of a universal vital energy that unites all the living. This energy for them called "magara" also links all living beings with the souls of the dead.

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Main dogmas and beliefs

As discussed in the previous point, the essential principle of animism is the belief that there is a vital energy that constitutes the essence and nature of all living beings. This essence also has a fundamental role in linking the world of the living and the dead.

In the early days of animism, its followers or adherents firmly supported the existence of a series of deities with which one could interact. However, with the passage of time, the new adaptations of animism began to consider these elements individuals as forms of manifestation of a single God practically unattainable for the rest of deadly.

The main beliefs of animism can be specified in the following points:

  • Acknowledgment of the existence of a large number of spirits and deities.
  • It is possible to interact directly with these spirits.
  • This interaction takes place through offerings or sacrifices.
  • It is also possible to interact through the mediation of sacred people such as shamans or witches.
  • The soul of our ancestors persists beyond death.
  • The soul can leave our body in certain trance states or after death.
  • Existence of spiritual entities that inhabit the human soul or spirit.

The idea of ​​death in animism

Although there is a high degree of variability among the different followers of animistic beliefs, a A large number of them support the idea that the soul lives on after the death of the person's body. Once the body becomes inanimate, the alpa travels to a world or cosmos that guarantees greater comfort and well-being.

In counterpoint, some very specific areas such as the Navajo communities in North America They maintain that these souls remain on earth, sometimes becoming evil entities.

Finally, there are certain cultures that would prefer to combine these two beliefs. According to them, the soul has the obligation to leave this world. Otherwise, becomes a ghost doomed to wander for the rest of its existence.

So that this does not happen, the relatives of the deceased person carry out extensive funerals and duels in which the ancestors are venerated to guide their soul.

Animism as a religion

Contrary to what happens with the vast majority of religions, the origins of animism are difficult to establish. Since it is considered to be one of the oldest beliefs in the history of humanity, reaching the point that there is evidence that the religion of Ancient Egypt already consists of fundamentals of animism.

Throughout time, various theories have been developed that point to animism as the germ of current religions and mystical beliefs; since it associates the beginnings of religions with the characteristic cult of the dead.

A second theory affirms that animism can be considered as the basis of all religion. Despite the fact that the veneration of a large number of gods, as well as the dead, has been overlapped or updated by other cults, the influence that animism had on them is undeniable.

Finally, although throughout history animism has been considered a religion, modern religions fail to interpret it as such. Rather, this is considered as a form of philosophy influencing and found in numerous religions, which attempts to establish an explanation for spiritual mysteries and manifests an emotional stance or disposition toward these mysteries.

Psychologist Emma R. Zarak

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