Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/126

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ii6 Psychology and Ethnology.

of that custom. We thus conclude that the desire for peace and security is the origin of modern government, or a disHke of inbreeding the motive for exogamy. It was and is still the way of rationalistic utilitarian psychology applied to the history of mankind. The curtain used to rise on highly intelligent White Men sealing a compact for the abolition of strife ; now it rises on a camp meeting of " dull " Australian Blacks discussing how to prevent the injurious effects of incest. Religion used to open with philosophical reasonings about the First Cause ; now it is content to originate with speculations about natural phenomena.

To explain a custom as the outcome of deliberate invention is to explain nothing. It is taking refuge in an event of which no records can be discovered, and which never can be proved. It is a surrender to ignorance, a confession that it is too strong for us, and that the explan- ation is for ever concealed in the dark and intricate mazes of unknown individual minds, that vanished from the earth thousands, it may be myriads, of years ago.

But, it may be objected, it is not a question whether this pleases us or not, but whether such things do happen or not. Now it is a fact that men do deliberate and invent things. For instance, a modern novel does not make use of traditional plots ; they spring out of the individual mind, according to definite laws, no doubt, and from definite antecedents, but the processes are so complex, the ante- cedents so numerous, and our clues so few, that to trace back the finished novel to all its origins is an impossible task. We can only describe it therefore as the work of fancy, which is a way of saying we know not what it is.

The argument, however, is not to the point, because the plot of a modern novel is not the creation of a society, nor does it become an institution. As far as the incidents go, the plot is not an ethnological object, because they have their roots in individual experience and do not become