Animism: the origin of religions?
Humanity, in its more than two million years of existence, has tried to find a logical explanation about the mysteries that surround us. Following this need to know the different religions that have evolved to the present day have been developed .
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 religious beliefs depart that arrive until the present time.
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What is animism?
If we consider the Latin root of his name: animateswhose meaning is soul; It is easier for us to understand what animism is. This concept covers a whole series of beliefs according to which both objects, people or any piece of nature possess a soul and self-awareness
In other words, according to the followers of animism, there is a whole series of spiritual entities, among which are included in the human soul, which occupy all kinds of beings and objects, both animate and inanimate, so that everything that surrounds us , each and every one of the elements that exist in the world, poserían a soul or an essence of consciousness.
However, there are several variants of this doctrine, such as one in which the existence of a series of personified spiritual and supernatural beings is accepted, which they have reason, intellect and will ability 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 go back to remote times, long before the appearance of current religions, animism has a great reputation 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 according to the region of the world and the culture in which it is established. However, they enjoy certain points in common and they are all trying find an explanation or meaning to what is beyond death , as well as the establishment of a link between human beings and all that surround them.
As to whether or not inanimate objects have an inner soul or consciousness, this belief also varies between regions. In some of these places, animism also consists in the belief that some inanimate objects, also including natural events and manifestations such as storms or cyclones ; which are considered as expressions of an intelligent conscience.
Distribution of this belief system
Today you can still find different locations around the world where animism retains great strength; constituting a very complex belief. These regions are located south of the Sahara and in certain territories of Oceania, America 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 mentioned 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 the link between the world of the living and the dead.
In the principles of animism, his followers or supporters firmly held the existence of a series of deities with which they could interact. However, with the passage of time, the new adaptations of animism came to consider these individual elements as forms of manifestation of a single God practically unattainable for the rest of mortals.
The main beliefs of animism can be specified in the following points:
- Recognition of the existence of a large number of spirits and deities .
- It is possible to interact directly with these spirits.
- This interaction is carried out through offerings or sacrifices .
- It is also possible to interact through the mediation of sacred people as shamans or sorcerers.
- The soul of our ancestors persists beyond death .
- The soul can leave our body in certain states of trance or after death.
- Existence of spiritual entities that inhabit the soul or human spirit.
The idea of death in animism
Although there is a high degree of variability among the different followers of animistic beliefs, a large number of them support the idea that the soul lasts after the death of the person's body. Once the body becomes something 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 of North America they maintain that these souls remain in the earth, arriving, sometimes, to become 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. On the contrary, he becomes a ghost condemned to wander during the rest of its existence.
So that this does not happen, the relatives of the deceased person make extensive funerals and duels in which the ancestors are worshiped to guide their souls.
Animism as religion
Opposite to what happens with the great majority of religions, the origins of animism are hardly concrete . Since it is considered to be one of the oldest beliefs in the history of mankind, 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 mystical religions and beliefs; since it associates the beginnings of religions with the characteristic cult of the dead.
A second theory states that animism can be considered the basis of all religion. Although 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 the animism has been considered as a religion, modern religions do not come to interpret it as such. Rather, this is considered as a form of philosophy It influences and is found in many religions, which tries to establish an explanation for spiritual mysteries and manifests an emotional position or disposition towards these mysteries.