Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 9, 1898.djvu/184

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

] 6o Reviews.

which Dr. Brinton might probably and properly reject, although we may think we have nearly enough grasped his meaning. But it would certainly have been convenient had he given us a concise definition, or said why he preferred not to do so.

Passing on to the origin and contents of primitive religions, Dr. Brinton, as will have been gathered from the preceding paragraph, is in accord with most anthropologists in finding the recognition of the supernatural spontaneous, and in rejecting Herbert Spencer's euhemerism. Animism, "the belief that inanimate objects are ani- mated and possess souls or spirits," he ranks only as a secondary phenomenon, holding that " the idea of the world-soul, manifest- ing itself individually in every form of matter from the star to the clod, is as truly the belief of the Sioux Indian or the Fijian can- nibal, as it was of Spinoza or Giordano Bruno." We have no space to discuss this view of the origin of religion, a view which, in a certain sense and within limitations, we should be much in- clined to defend. After some important pages on the special stimuli of the religious emotions the author considers in three weighty chapters the three forms of primitive religious expression, in the word, in the object, and in the rite. He attaches more value to the myth — or the word concerning the gods — as a primi- tive religious expression, than most recent writers. He believes it to be an error to suppose with Professor Robertson Smith that the myth was derived from the ritual, pointing to such peoples as the Bushmen and the Andamanese, peoples in a very low plane of civilisation, who have no ritual, but many myths. Cases where the myth is derived from the ritual he holds to be secondary, the original myths having been forgotten. Here it is probable that the conclusions attacked have been too sweeping, having regard to the universal tale-telling propensities of humanity ; and Dr. Brinton's observations may well lead to a reconsideration of the whole subject of the relations of myth and ritual. He believes that " many myths arose directly from words " — Professor Max Miiller's theory ; and that it is " an error to suppose that myths were at first mere stories and received their religious character later. The true myth," he tells us, '• has a religious aim from the

outset, and is not the product of an idle fancy The savage

understands perfectly the difference between a sacred and a secular story, between a narrative of the doings of the gods handed down from his ancestors, and the creation of the idle fancy brought