Animism and Animatism
Animism and Animatism
ANIMISM AND ANIMATISM
ANIMISM AND ANIMATISM . The term animism properly refers to a theory set forth by the English scholar E. B. Tylor (1832–1917), one of the founders of modern anthropology, in order to account for the origin and development of religion. Tylor's theory was in general harmony with the dominant evolutionistic views of his age, as represented by the naturalist Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882) and the social philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903). Darwin and Spencer both viewed the development of the natural and social world as a movement from lower to higher forms, from the simple to the complex.
The distinctiveness of Tylor's theory was its assumption that the earliest form of religion was characterized by human ideas concerning a plurality of spirits and ghosts. In this he differed from Spencer, who had posited atheism at the beginning of human culture, although both followed the common pattern of their evolutionistic contemporaries in deriving a most archaic form of religion from humanity's rational reflections on the world of nature and on itself.
Inevitably, each theory of the most archaic form of religion led to speculations on still earlier stages or other hypothetical beginnings. One supposed earlier stage that was widely accepted among scholars was linked to the name of R. R. Marett (1866–1943), best known for his The Threshold of Religion (1909). Marett, who first launched his own theory in 1900, saw it as an extension of Tylor's and for that reason spoke of preanimism, or animatism. This hypothetical earliest stage of "prereligion" was also known as dynamism, a term introduced by the French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep in his Les rites de passage (1909). The term dynamism (from the Greek dunamis, "power, energy") suggests the presence of a power that is not, or is not necessarily, individualized. It is still somehow homogeneous, not yet differentiated as it is in the stage of animism. Marett himself made the comparison with electricity. His term animatism, like dynamism, points to a thing, situation, or state of affairs that is enlivened or animated, but not in any individual, soul-like manner.
The theories of animism and animatism are difficult to take seriously in the present time, given the psychological sophistication that has come to be taken for granted in intellectual circles since Freud. Assuredly, Tylor's theory of successive stages and the production of ever higher religious forms by the human mind is far too unwieldy to account for the phenomena history offers. As early as 1887, sixteen years after Tylor published his influential work Primitive Culture, the Dutch historian of religions P. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye expressed his reservations in his famous Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte. He grouped Tylor together with other evolutionists who, in his opinion, tried too hard to apply a mechanical worldview to historical, social, cultural, and religious facts. However, even though Chantepie de la Saussaye found support for his criticism in F. Max Müller, the famous Indologist and historian of religions, and in the philosophies of the German thinkers Eduard von Hartmann (1842–1906) and R. H. Lotze (1817–1881), he was far from rejecting the theory of animism altogether. The influence of Tylor and the other evolutionists pervaded the age.
At the present time one might feel inclined to dismiss the subjects of animism and animatism as irrelevant for scholarship, were it not for three considerations. In the first place, Tylor's theory in particular has had a firm hold on scholarship for some seventy or eighty years and still turns up in some circles today as if it were authoritative. Second, animism can be seen as a twentieth-century name given to a type of theory that has been influential throughout the history of intellectual dealings with religion. Third, animism, with its progeny, illustrates in a clear fashion the nineteenth-century obsession with origins, and this subject falls squarely within the interest of the history of religions, for in the final analysis the obsession with origins of ultimate human orientations is itself a religious phenomenon.
The Theory, Its Impact, and Its Inadequacies
Turning to the first of the three reasons why animism is still worthy of attention, one should look more closely at the theory Tylor developed. The theory owed not a little of its appeal to Tylor's superb style of writing. He reflected on the diverse mass of ethnological data that reached his desk, tried to account for it by imagining what might have happened in the minds of early man, and presented his findings in vivid colors in perfect harmony with the prevailing ideas and sentiments of his time.
The "noble savage," unspoiled by education, had been popularized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the image of the child's growth was invoked by Lessing in his Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts (1780) to explain the historical development or "education" of the human race. In Tylor's Primitive Culture (1871), however, the poetic simile was presented as science. Tylor argued for a strict, scientific analogy between the primitive human and the child and its mentality. His formulation gave the analogy new force, as if it could be relied on as an established fact, and it would be taken up again several decades later by the French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (1857–1939) and the Dutch phenomenologist Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890–1959).
Tylor's evolutionism did not lose touch with all religious sentiment, however. Tylor was a Quaker, and in the spirit of his age he associated the evolution of humans with the natural process of growth and with a general increase in human understanding and responsibility. The English anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard has suggested that a good many of the anthropologists who theorized on "primitive religion," from the latter half of the nineteenth century to the present, were really preparing a means to attack Christianity, while they despised the primitive religions they studied as a mass of illusions. Such an assessment of Tylor would be unfair. Tylor's evolutionism was in fact more akin to that of Nathan Söderblom (1866–1931), the Swedish Lutheran archbishop and historian of religions, who saw Christianity as the most perfect image of the goal toward which all religous evolution headed. Together with this essentially religious, apologetic motive, however, Tylor's view of primitives also shared something of the vision of Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), the English poet laureate who celebrated the British empire's responsibility to "carry the white man's burden" and lead the way for the savages, even when the latter failed to understand the nobility of that task or went so far as to rebel against their benefactors. This side of Tylor's theory of evolution shows it to be the product of British imperialism and colonialism. Both elements, the religious tenor and the nationalism, intermingle in Tylor's work.
Tylor proposed the term animism for the study of "the deep-lying doctrine of Spiritual Beings, which embodies the very essence of Spiritualistic as opposed to Materialistic philosophy." He called his concept a minimum definition of religion. He would have preferred the term "spiritualism" for his theory if that term had not come into use (especially in his day) to designate groups with extreme views on supernatural phenomena. It is not unfair to say that Tylor's interest in "ghosts" and "souls," in spite of its outstanding quality and distinctiveness, is still part of the intellectual fashions of his time, a time in which the most famous ghost story of all Western literary history, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (first published in 1843), attained an unprecedented success.
Tylor was fascinated with the reflections that he believed to be fundamental to early man, whom he believed to be represented by the "savages" of the present. These reflections, he thought, arose from the experience of death and dying, and from dreams and dreaming. What happens when life leaves a body? Where does one's life, one's dying breath, go? The primitive observed what happened and refused to accept death as final. Moreover, in a dream one would see the deceased alive, moving, speaking. For the primitive, the dreamworld would not be less real than the waking state. In reflections such as these on the spirits of the dead and the ghosts perceived in dreams, Tylor saw the first forms of a religious signature.
Tylor did not at all plan his work as a work of speculation. On the contrary, he did his utmost to be fair to all evidence. Although the experiences of death and dreams seemed to explain many ideas among tribal peoples, he recognized the existence of traditions concerning a great many other "spirits," especially spirits of nature, of woods, lakes, and so on. The spirits of the dead, nevertheless, remained for Tylor the earliest phenomena that could have triggered humans' minds in the formation of religion.
Spirits could take on a truly independent existence, according to his theory, and the manifold traditions from all over the world confirmed it. Nothing seemed more natural than the slow development from low to high, from a plurality of spirits on to a polytheistic system, a hierarchy among nature spirits, and ultimately some form of monotheism. Some elements in his scheme of development had had their predecessors, as in the ideas of the philosopher David Hume (1711–1776) concerning the gradual development of religion leading from polytheism toward monotheism, but the mass of evidence drawn from history and from among contemporary tribal traditions gave Tylor's theory the impressive scientific persuasiveness that a more empirically inclined age desired.
The same tendencies that raised Zeus to his supreme place among the Olympians and elevated the Indian deity Brahma above the rank of mighty nature spirits are visible according to Tylor in the formation of the Great Spirit among North American Indians and have further analogies in the processes at work among the tribesmen on the Chota Nagpur plateau of India, as well as among the peoples of Ethiopia. In general, developments taking place on the "lower level of mythic religion" are confirmed in higher, more intellectual traditions, such as those of Greece and China, and are finally reinforced by the spread of Christianity. It then becomes the ongoing task of systematic theology to develop and define the figure of the supreme deity, whether he is called the God of Heaven, the Sun, or the Great Spirit.
This final building block in Tylor's theory is not a mere ornament but the finishing touch to an architectonic system. Tylor was quite consciously trying to give substance to the traditional, formal Christian-theological concept of natural religion. He called the theory of the soul "one principal part of a system of religious philosophy that unites, in an unbroken line of mental connexion, the savage fetish-worshipper and the civilized Christian."
The completeness of Tylor's theory should not be allowed to conceal a certain ambiguity in its details, however, an ambiguity that is more a characteristic of the scholarship of his time than a personal weakness. Although he wished to show that primitive religion was rational, that it arose from unmistakable observations, nevertheless he judged these observations to be inadequate in themselves. Although logical deductions were drawn from these observations, he believed these deductions were faulty. And although the "savages" managed to construct a natural philosophy, as a philosophy it remained crude. Tylor thus stressed the rational element in primitive religion and at the same time referred to that religion as "this farrago of nonsense." The classification necessary to science was basic to it, yet it went wrong when the magician mistakenly inferred that things that are like have a mystical link between them, thereby mistaking an ideal connection for a real one, a subjective one for an objective one (Evans-Pritchard).
Since the middle of the twentieth century the knowledge of prehistory has increased so much as to make one objection to Tylor's theory evident at once: his theory of "animism" as the original form of religion has not found any historical confirmation. Moreover, the key ingredients of his theory are limited to hypothetical considerations ascribed to the mind of very distant, primordial men, and the chances that those men used the same sort of logic or lived in circumstances calling for positivistic concerns of the sort that Tylor took for granted are remote. At present, prehistorians, historians, and anthropologists would agree that Tylor's theory has very little bearing on anything they would consider a religious phenomenon.
In the history of scholarship, among the first objections raised against Tylor's animism were those that appealed to a theory of preanimism or dynamism. However, as already noted, Marett, who was the first to speak of preanimism (in 1900), thought not of rejecting but rather of extending Tylor's reasoning, and of making a space for a stage in which ideas concerning a life-force had not yet been differentiated into the notion of independent spirits. Marett actually goes so far as to compare the supposed impersonal power with electricity. The comparison is characteristic of the times and had great appeal when some big cities, such as New York, had begun to look like forests of poles for electrical wiring. The idea of a mysterious force, alive and yet homogeneous, not yet individualized, was at once popular. The same objections that can be raised against animism can be raised against preanimism as well. Both theories attribute a modern, mechanical, and positivistic concern to early man. Nor has historical evidence for dynamism as the origin of religion been forthcoming. Marett's theory leaned in part on work done by R. H. Codrington in the Pacific (The Melanesians, 1895). The key conception was mana, a Melanesian idea that in Marett's opinion could be identified with notions of other "primitives" (such as wakan among the Lakota, orenda among the Iroquois, manitou among the Algonquin). It seemed as if mana could provide an improved, even an adequate minimum definition of religion, namely, "supernatural power." Other scholars extended Marett's line of reasoning and found traces of the same original conception in the brahman of the Hindus and in both the numen and the imperium of the Romans.
Anthropologists have since pointed out, however, that even in Codrington's descriptions, mana cannot often be properly interpreted as "impersonal power." The term occurs as a rule in a far more complex context, as do words such as "the sacred" or "magic" with ourselves. Moreover, even when the term mana conveys the notion "power," it is always the power of a spirit or some other agent; hence Marett's insistence on its impersonal character is not convincing. In addition, it is now known that notions of an "impersonal power" do not occur among peoples that are culturally least advanced and who would represent a truly "primitive" stage in an evolutionary process. Contrary to what the theory would require, they do not occur among the most archaic gatherers and hunters but rather in much more developed societies such as those on the cultural level of nomadic cattle breeders with intricate patriarchal kinship systems.
The main objection against the sort of preanimistic theory designed by Marett, as in the case of Tylor's animism, remains philosophical in nature. The theories of animism and preanimism suffer from the problem of reading one's mental assumptions into the data without sufficient critical analysis. Marett's formula of a "supernatural power" as a minimum definition of religion is eloquent. The adjective supernatural, which has dominated the anthropological vocabulary for a long time in endeavors to delineate religion, implies a natural world that is known, on top of which the unknown or rather the not-yet-known or perhaps altogether illusory dimension elevates itself. The real quality of this unknown or illusory upper story escapes not so much one's mind as that of "the primitives." Hence the latter create for themselves strange conceptions and thereby indulge in a strange ("childish") habit from which the investigator is free.
Animism and preanimism are both concepts to which the rule formulated by the philosopher Henri Bergson (in 1903) fully applies: concepts, especially if they are simple, have the disadvantage of being in reality symbols for the object they symbolize and demand no effort on one's part. The very concept of "the primitives" is itself an abstraction for an enormous, variegated group of human traditions. The theories make them into an object and single out the idea of "spirits" or "power" to suggest an even more concise concept. In the process the illusion that the people studied and the modern investigator represent two altogether different groups of mankind (an illusion that always lurks in the background in humanistic and social studies) threatens to become permanent. Such a dichotomy was generally considered valid throughout the period of colonization by Western nations during which Tylor and Marett did their work. The attitude that was then prevalent explains how for several generations, in the best of intellectual circles, the term animist became a synonym for what a former age would have called "pagan." The term had the advantage of a certain scientific ring. Thus, in missionary surveys and elsewhere one can occasionally still read, for instance, that Burma's population consists mainly of Buddhists, Muslims, and Animists. Tylor's theory has had such an impact as to suggest that animism is in fact a religion, whereas in fact it was never more than a theory about religion. One cannot reproach Tylor for this popular revamping of his ideas, and yet the philosophical assumptions of the theory carried this potential danger with them.
Animism in the History of Scholarship
As a theory in religion, Tylor's animism does not stand in total isolation, in spite of its splendor, influence, and popularity. Ideas concerning a creative human imagination conjuring up superhuman figures are ancient. Of special relevance is the idea of the dead as the nucleus around which a world of spiritual beings could have been built up. The name of the Greek Euhemerus (third century bce) is inseparable from the theory that bears his name, "euhemerism." According to this theory, the gods were originally no more than human rulers who were later elevated to the status of gods by subsequent generations because of the benefits they bestowed on mankind. The theory endured well into the eighteenth century, yet Augustine of Hippo and other early Christian thinkers, who were quite familiar with it in its classical form, gave it a new twist. In Christian thought a distinction unknown to Classical Greece was made between true and false religion. Thus whereas formerly the gods owed their divinity to the benefits they had bestowed on man, now the idea was introduced that their superhuman state was the result of their stupendous vices and evil deeds; not their radiant kingship, but their mere humanity came to be emphasized; not veneration, but fear was the proper human response to their acts, not adoration, but propitiation. They were demonic rather than divine. This new interpretation of euhemerism agreed very well with another pre-Christian idea, as expressed by the Roman author Statius (c. 40–96 ce): "Primus in orbe deos fecit timor" ("The first reason in the world for the existence of the gods was fear").
Neither in antiquity nor in the Middle Ages did anyone posit human reflection on death or any other single idea as the cause of religion. Such a theoretical attempt to find a single principle at the origin of religion did not really occur until the end of the eighteenth century, and full-fledged reductionistic theories were not developed until the nineteenth century. However, with regard to this topic, two eighteenth-century names stand out. David Hume's The Natural History of Religion (1757) can be read as a prelude to nineteenth-century evolutionistic schemes of religion. Hume posited a plurality of gods at the beginning of human religious history and a monotheistic system at its culmination. The other name is that of the French magistrate and Enlightenment scholar Charles de Brosses (1709–1777). De Brosses is of interest not only for his idea of an evolving religiousness but also for notions that resemble Tylor's animism and Marett's preanimism. In 1757 de Brosses wrote an essay, Du culte des dieux fétiches (The Cult of the Fetish Gods), that dealt with the similarity between the religion of ancient Egypt and that of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. The Académie des Inscriptions, to which de Brosses had submitted his work, considered it too daring and published it only anonymously in 1760. Most remarkably, de Brosses used the term fetishism in a very wide sense, to describe the original common form of all religion, and precisely this comprehensiveness makes it resemble Tylor's animism.
Fetishism in de Brosses's vocabulary included the cult of animals and plants as well as inanimate objects. This first crude form of religion would have been uniform in humanity's earliest state of existence, again like Tylor's animism. Evolutionist avant la date, the Frenchman posited the idea of a subsequent development of the human mind by degrees "from the lower to the higher." Unlike his fellow philosophes, who in their zeal sought to show a purely natural religion at the root of all later development, de Brosses pointed to idols in ancient Egypt that were partially formed in the shape of animals. Ahead of his time in this respect, he was actually guided more than his contemporaries by empirical evidence. Evidence showed that the origin of religion could only be found in savage expressions, and that is precisely what his "fetishism" tried to explain. (The word fetish was borrowed from the Portuguese for "amulet" or "charm." That the intellectual climate of the nineteenth century was indeed affected by the work of de Brosses is clear from the fact that Auguste Comte, the principal philosopher of positivism, in developing his "law of the three states" through which mankind supposedly passed—the "theological," the "metaphysical," and the "positive"—drew on him to articulate the first (theological) state. Through Comte, de Brosses thus became a source for the socioreligious evolutionism of the century of Darwin and Tylor.
Even when all "influences" and all earlier ideas concerning worship of the dead are listed, however, the origin of the complete evolutionistic systems of the nineteenth century is still not fully explained. This point must be emphasized especially with respect to euhemerism, for contrary to widely held scholarly opinion, the explanatory intent of euhemeristic ideas before the eighteenth century was quite limited. Early euhemerism, although speaking of gods as originally human beings, was primarily a narrative device that allowed people like Snorri Sturluson (1178–1241), the Icelandic scholar, to weave together biblical accounts, the Homeric story about Troy, and traditions concerning the gods of the ancient pagan North.
By contrast, the theories of Tylor, and likewise those of Herbert Spencer, did not merely combine, arrange, or rearrange myths but posited a causal explanation for the phenomenon of religion in general. Thus theories concerning "the dead" as a factor in the formation of religion, although most clearly originating with euhemerism, may be clearly divided into three very different groups: (1) a first group illustrated by Euhemerus himself, who was a narrator, a "novelist," and who told a story concerning the gratitude of people to royal benefactors who came to be adored and thereby lifted onto a celestial plane (notably, in Euhemerus's story, Kronos, Ouranos, and Zeus); (2) Augustine and all other early Christian theologians, who did not regard the pagan gods as nonexistent but made use of euhemeristic ideas to explain them as mere human beings who had become demonic in character and were remembered and placated because of their evil deeds; and (3) the theories of Tylor and Spencer, positing one principal cause for the development of religion and finding that cause located primarily in rational human reflections concerning the departed souls.
Animism and the Obsession with Origins
The distance that separates us from "typical" nineteenth-century views allows us to perceive the peculiar fascination with origins that then dominated scholarship, not merely in the study of life forms (in the famous work of Darwin), but especially in the social, historical, and religious studies of the time. Theories about the primal form of religion abounded. Atheism and ancestor worship (Spencer), preanimism (Marett), totemism (employed by the sociologist Émile Durkheim, 1858–1917, the Old Testament scholar W. Robertson Smith, 1846–1894, and others), a first parricide (Sigmund Freud, 1856–1939), a primal monotheism (the ethnologist Wilhelm Schmidt, 1868–1954), magic (the English folklorist and classicist James G. Frazer, 1845–1941)—all vied with animism. All aimed to provide the best explanation for the origins of religion.
It is true that more recent times have added to the list of supposed "causes"; particularly influential has been the idea that religion originated in the use of intoxicants, which as a subject demanded attention in the wake of medical and pharmaceutical studies and an increase in the use of drugs in and since the 1950s. However, these more recent speculations have not seriously engaged historians and anthropologists. The striking feature of the earlier theories is precisely that reputable scholars did take them seriously and, as in the case of animism, came to rely on them as on a well-established law.
The generally shared worldview that encouraged such lines of inquiry requires special attention. It was a commonly and uncritically held assumption during the nineteenth century that knowledge concerning the origin of something was the only essential knowledge of it. This preoccupation with the knowledge of origins can be explained in various ways; it can itself be shown to have had several different historical origins. The tradition in the history of philosophy that led to Hegel, and through him to most of the nineteenth century, was certainly the most powerful. The wave of philosophical materialism, multifarious as it was, was also of great significance and explains the overwhelming interest in the mechanisms of causality operative in biology, society, and religion. From the point of view of the historian of religions, however, a specifically religious structure can be detected in the nineteenth-century fascination with origins, a structure that was no less evident in evolutionistic scholars who thought of themselves as "areligious" or "antireligious" than it was in consciously religious adherents.
The most easily traceable roots of the nineteenth-century obsession with origins, viewed as a peculiarly religious structure, can be found in the first period of modern history, which saw the beginnings of all modern scientific inquiry. The famous Renaissance thinkers Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) and Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) were not at all exceptional in their time in regarding the newly rediscovered Hermetic writings as some sort of primordial revelation (Frances A. Yates, Mircea Eliade). Ancient Egypt, to which their origin was (erroneously) attributed, was traditionally considered to be the cradle of everything truly archaic (a tradition already attested in the Greek historian Herodotus in the sixth century bce). Renaissance men of the most diverse backgrounds were convinced of the extraordinary significance of these supposedly pre-Mosaic Hermetic writings. This odd enthusiasm, though explicable to some extent by the ignorance of the true history of the Hermetic corpus, can also be understood as an urge to find true origins beyond any limited and known tradition.
The function of the Hermetic writings among the learned in the Renaissance can be compared to the function of cosmogonic myths in all archaic religious traditions (Eliade). They provided a manner of positing an irrefutable, unshakable reality, a primordial revelation, first in time and significance. The mysterious quality of the meaning of the Hermetic writings was not a drawback but rather an enhancement. Giordano Bruno was certain that his understanding of their real meaning allowed him to grasp the significance of Corpernicus's discoveries better than Copernicus himself, because he saw that the primordial revelation, obscure to many, was here confirmed.
Doubts concerning the truth of Christianity, and certainly concerning its traditionally conceived truths, had their place in the intellectual climate of the Renaissance. Nor were similar doubts at all hard to find in the nineteenth century, even if one recognizes that in Tylor, more than in most of his fellow evolutionists, a religious motivation played its part. In a perfectly sober survey of the great figures of anthropology and the history of religions, including Tylor, Marett, Lang, Frazer, and Robertson Smith, it is easy to detect an attitude that came to view religion as a lost cause (David Bidney). However, the climate of erudition and science that developed in the nineteenth century also provided a new sense of an "ultimate reality" or, at the very least, a dependable epistemological framework within which all religious phenomena could be placed, each with its limited value and historical limitations. It is true that this "ultimate reality" turned out to be very limited in its turn, but it is also true that even at the time of Tylor and Marett, and all their fellow scholars, the "ultimate" concern for origins and evolution demanded constant exegesis, exactly as did the Hermetic corpus in the Renaissance, which thereby did not undermine its value, but confirmed it.
The principal epistemological problem of Tylor's evolutionism, as well as other cultural and religious evolutionisms (as in the circles of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule, centered in Germany) was not that it did not recognize its own religious structure, for such recognition as a rule does not occur until the following generation. Rather, the principal problem was that the object of study, the religious traditions of humankind, was mutilated by reducing it to an object on a dissecting table. In the process every religious structure evaporated. The knowledge of religion as basically "animistic" or "preanimistic" is knowledge as power, but this power is destructive. A tradition that is understood reveals itself as a movement in which one generation can pass on its "power" over life and human orientation to the next, as something that gives life. The weakness of animism and related theoretical constructs is the weakness visible in all "emaciation in learning and science" (van der Leeuw) resulting from an unjustifiable objectification. The evolutionisms, of which Tylor's became the most popular and influential, in the end failed epistemologically, in a way analogous to the political failure of the empires in which they were born, and to which they were related.
Henri Bergson's An Introduction to Metaphysics, translated by T. E. Hulme (New York, 1949), is a most helpful discussion for understanding the limited value of concepts, easily applicable to a concept such as animism. David Bidney's "The Concept of Value in Modern Anthropology," in Anthropology Today: Selections, edited by Sol Tax (Chicago, 1962), approaches the same subject from an anthropological point of view. For Euhemerus and the history of euhemerism in Western intellectual history, see my "In Defense of Euhemerus," in Myth and Law among the Indo-Europeans, edited by Jaan Puhvel (Berkeley, 1970). Henry Duméry's Phenomenology and Religion: Structures of the Christian Institution (Berkeley, 1975) contains an appendix with a survey of the history of the philosophy of religion, clearly showing the fundamental shift from the classical era to the Christian era.
A very extensive discussion of the intellectual problems in the interpretation of "primitive" religions is Wilhelm Dupré's Religion in Primitive Cultures: A Study in Ethnophilosophy (The Hague, 1975). Émile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915; New York, 1961) is not only important as a study centering on totemism as an early rival to animism as a theory on origins but remains one of the most articulate works in theoretical problems concerning origins and functions of religion in primitive religions in general. Mircea Eliade's Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, rev. & enl. ed. (New York, 1964), presents elaborate and precisely documented information on spirits and their functions in the most ancient traditions. Of special value for the subject of the fascination with origins in the study of religion is the same author's The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion (Chicago, 1969).
E. E. Evans-Pritchard's Theories of Primitive Religion (Oxford, 1965), in spite of its date of publication, deals almost exclusively with theories of the nineteenth century and their immediate aftermath. Burton Feldman and Robert D. Richardson's The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680–1860 (Bloomington, Ind., 1972), though not covering Tylor and more recent theoreticians, is an indispensable reference work for the entire intellectual history concerning religion leading up to them. Among the most readable works that deal largely with theories in a critical manner is Adolf E. Jensen's Myth and Cult among Primitive Peoples, translated by Marianna Tax Choldin and Wolfgang Weeissleder (Chicago, 1963). Gerardus van der Leeuw's Levensvormen (Amsterdam, 1948) contains an essay on the process of "emaciation" of science, and one on the nature of history; both are of immediate relevance to a critical evaluation of theories such as animism.
The same author's famous work Religion in Essence and Manifestation, 2 vols., translated by J. E. Turner (1938; reprint, Gloucester, Mass., 1967), has as its starting point the author's own conception of power in religion. R. R. Marett's "Pre-Animistic Religion," Folklore 11 (1900): 162–182, and The Threshold of Religion, 3d ed. (London, 1915), present the original formulation of preanimism. Wilhelm E. Mühlmann's Geschichte der Anthropologie, 2d ed. (Frankfurt, 1968), presents the history of anthropology in the widest context of philosophy and history. A much more concise, but helpful discussion of the discipline is given in T. K. Penniman's A Hundred Years of Anthropology (New York, 1974). E. B. Tylor's work on animism, Primitive Culture, vol. 1, The Origins of Culture, vol. 2, Religion in Primitive Culture (London, 1871), is accessible in many reprints (e.g., New York, 1970). Jan de Vries's Perspectives in the History of Religions (Berkeley, 1977) contains critical assessments of the evolutionists' views of religion.
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