Animism is the worlds oldest religion. Animism teaches that objects, places, and creatures all possess distinctive spiritual qualities, potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words—as animate and alive. Animism is the oldest known type of system in the world that even predates paganism. It is still practiced in a variety of forms in traditional societies. Although each culture has its own different mythologies and rituals, animism is said to describe the most common, foundational thread of indigenous peoples spiritual or supernatural perspectives. The currently accepted definition of animism was only developed in the late 19th century by Sir Edward Tylor, Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Some members of the world also consider themselves animists. Earlier anthropological perspectives – since termed the old animism – were concerned with knowledge surrounding what is alive, the old animism assumed that animists were individuals who were unable to understand the difference between persons and things. Critics of the old animism have accused it of preserving colonialist and dualist worldviews, according to Tylor, animism often includes an idea of pervading life and will in nature, i. e. a belief that natural objects other than humans have souls. This formulation was little different from that proposed by Auguste Comte as fetishism, thus, for Tylor, animism was fundamentally seen as a mistake, a basic error from which all religion grew. The earliest known usage in English appeared in 1819, Tylors definition of animism was a part of a growing international debate on the nature of primitive society by lawyers, theologians, and philologists. The debate defined the field of research of a new science – anthropology and their religion was animism – the belief that natural species and objects had souls. With the development of property, these descent groups were displaced by the emergence of the territorial state. These rituals and beliefs eventually evolved over time into the vast array of developed religions, in 1869, the Edinburgh lawyer, John Ferguson McLellan, argued that the animistic thinking evident in fetishism gave rise to a religion he named Totemism. Primitive people believed, he argued, that they were descended of the species as their totemic animal. Subsequent debate by the armchair anthropologists remained focused on totemism rather than animism, indeed, anthropologists have commonly avoided the issue of Animism and even the term itself rather than revisit this prevalent notion in light of their new and rich ethnographies. Certain indigenous religious groups such as the Australian Aboriginals are more typically totemic, stewart Guthrie saw animism – or attribution as he preferred it – as an evolutionary strategy to aid survival. He argued that humans and other animal species view inanimate objects as potentially alive as a means of being constantly on guard against potential threats
Edward Tylor developed animism as an anthropological theory.
Five Ojibwe chiefs in the 19th century; it was anthropological studies of Ojibwe religion that resulted in the development of the "new animism".