After the death of a person this so-called super-natural being is freed from the physical limitations and can wander anywhere without being restricted by time and space.
Tylor considered the belief in spirit or invisible soul or ‘self as almost an inevitable result of a universal phenomenon such as dreams. Very commonly the view is held that spirit visits a man in sleep, that too when he is experiencing dreams. Tylor asserted that the primitive man could hardly explain a dream in which he had certain “actual” experiences.
For example, he dreamt of a hunting adventure which resulted in his taking home the hunted animal and enjoying fine dinner. After waking up from the sleep, he found, in reality that he had not left his cave.
How could he explain this? The primitive man hence believed in a spiritual self which was separable from his bodily self and which could lead an independent existence. When once he got this idea, he gradually started extending the same to regard other animate beings and inanimate objects, as possessing a spirit. In this way, the primitive man was led to animism. Tylor is of the opinion that animism lies at the very basis of all religions.
Herbert Spencer did not completely accept Tylor’s theory of animism. In his “Principles of Sociology he has stated that religion originated mainly in ghost-fear. The ancestral ghosts which were endowed with superhuman powers were believed to manipulate human affairs and natural forces. Hence the primitive men had to keep the ancestral ghosts in good humour if they were to act in his behalf.
Spencer further said that the deceased tribal leaders of great power came to be eventually worshipped as gods. The belief in gods originated in this way. In congruence with Spencer’s ‘ghost-theory’, the Hindus still believe in the spirits or ghosts of ancestors and observe annually ‘shraddha’ to offer some food or ‘pinda’ to them to keep them happy.
Most of the anthropologists believe that the concepts of animism and animatism are fundamental to all religions. One is not believed to precede the other for both coexist and underlie all religions. Hence, Marett’s assertion that animatism precedes animism has not been accepted by many others.