Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/351

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The Religious Basis of Social Union. 341

Somehow to-day in every state the social unity seems hopelessly imperilled, quite apart from national conflicts and the selfish but inevitable efforts of younger nations to expand (for I cannot suppose that any but the shallowest thinker believes that autocracy and militarism can exist, or ever have existed, without the backing of the opinion, the wealth and the brains of the community). I do not think that a single one of the convictions, ideals or beliefs current in the Victorian Age is left standing : — on the natural trend of mankind towards peace, the predominance of the Anglo-Saxon race and its moral standards, the scope of government, the value of education or the suffrage, the meaning of the words freedom or democracy . We are still using the old shibboleths as if they had a meaning upon which everyone was agreed ; whereas we all know perfectly well that the most expert statesman, the oldest ' parliamentary hand,' would often be at a loss to explain his own definition, and would only be sure that if he could give one, not half or a quarter of his audience would share it.

The complacent rationalism never understood average human nature, nor even tried to understand it. Constitu- tionalism, bureaucracy, economics, statistics, present us with a highly sophisticated and reflective system of life from which every normal feeling or emotion is eliminated. Such a crisis as the present sends us back (as I have said) to the rudiments, to the origins, of human society.

Folk-Lore — both the study and the publication (to which I owe personally a heavy debt) — have helped to open my eyes and clear them of the mist of academic apriorism natural to a lecturer on Plato and Aristotle, or Machiavelli and Hobbes, or other pioneers of the present national State — that unwieldy, incoherent aggregate of conflicting races, creeds, interests which accident or conquest has roughly put together, which has somehow got possession for use in every department of human life of the old centralised autocracy and the coercive measures of absolute