Religious Ideas of Savages
Religious Ideas of Savages.—Having remarked that the conception of the Great Spirit of the North American Indians has been found not to be original with them, but suggested by the early Christian missionaries. Dr. E. B. Tylor proceeded, in a paper before the Anthropological Institute, to show that the mistaken attribution to barbaric races of beliefs really belonging to the cultivated world, as well as their development among these races under civilized influence, are due to several causes. Among them are direct adoption from foreign teachers; the exaggeration of genuine native deities of a lower order into a god or devil; the conversion of native words, denoting a whole class of minor spiritual beings, such as ghosts or demons, into individual names, alleged to be those of a supreme good deity or of a rival evil deity. Detailed criticism of the names and descriptions of such beings in accounts of the religions of native tribes of America and Australasia was adduced, which gave in many cases direct proof of the beliefs in question being borrowed or developed under foreign influence. The problems involved in the discussion are of great difficulty, and the only hope for their full solution in many cases lies in the researches of anthropologists and philologists minutely acquainted with the culture and languages of the districts. Such researches should be carried out without delay, before important evidence, still available, has disappeared.