Belief in the existence of spirits separable from bodies. Such beliefs are traditionally identified with small-scale (“primitive”) societies, though they also occur in major world religions. They were first competently surveyed by Edward Burnett Tylor in Primitive Culture (1871). Classic animism, according to Tylor, consists of attributing conscious life to natural objects or phenomena, a practice that eventually gave rise to the notion of a soul. See also shaman.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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