Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/229

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Reviews. 2 1 9

important one of secret societies and their relation to the ordinary life of the people and the other institutions of the community. A wide survey of such societies and of the function and history of mysteries is a crying need in ethnology. It is probable that such an enquiry would show that they are traceable to more than one origin. It is clear that they respond to some deep-seated psycho- logical need. They may be turned, as they are in certain of these islands, to some self-regarding purpose of a material kind. But it is incredible that these mummeries would have been carried on in so many parts of the world, and even among races high in the scale of civilization, unless some loftier and real benefit, however elusive it may appear to the coldly judicial enquirer, had been conveyed by their means. This benefit may be a social power; it may be the satisfaction of some religious emotion ; whatever it is, we may be sure that it is conferred. This leads to the question how far we are safe in attributing to the hypothetical kava people the introduction of secret societies into Melanesia. F"or the diffusion of secret societies in the most distant quarters of the globe renders it more than possible that they may in some form or other have been known in the islands from very early times, and before the intrusion of strangers with religious rites which they desired to keep secret from the profane aborigines. But if so, what guarantee have we that the secret societies have preserved the features of an immigrant culture ? Dr. Rivers' scheme avowedly rests largely upon the fidelity with which they have done this.

The work is an example of what is called in the scientific jargon of the present day the "intensive" (which only means detailed) method of enquiry. In Dr. Rivers' hands the method has been applied with an accuracy and logical force that cannot be too highly admired, and with that quality of moderation and common- sense upon which we are apt to plume ourselves as specially English. The observations of preceding paragraphs are intended only to suggest that in the extreme complexity of human civiliza- tion there are considerations to be taken into account that are often not obvious, if we confine our view to the particular culture with which we are for the moment occupied. It is unavoidable that a student labouring at one culture, however