Page images

among some little-known Christian sects, and in the European folk-lore custom of passing children through or over fire, if indeed we can be sure that this rite is lustral and not sacrificial.1 The usual medium of purification is water. Holy water is in full use through the Greek and Roman churches. It blesses the worshipper as he enters the temple, it cures disease, it averts sorcery from man and beast, it drives demons from the possessed, it stops the spirit-writer's pen, it drives the spirit-moved table it is sprinkled upon to dash itself frantically against the wall; at least these are among the powers attributed to it, and some of the most striking of them have been lately vouched for by papal sanction. This lustration with holy water so exactly continues the ancient classic rite, that its apologists are apt to explain the correspondence by arguing that Satan stole it for his own wicked ends.3 Catholic ritual follows ancient sacrificial usage in the priest's ceremonial washing of hands before Mass. The priest's touching with his spittle the ears and nostrils of the infant or catechumen, saying,. "Ephphetha," is obviously connected with passages in the Gospels; its adoption as a baptismal ceremony has been compared, perhaps justly, with the classical lustration by spittle.3 Finally, it has but to be said that ceremoniaL purification as a Christian act centres in baptism by water, that symbol of initiation of the convert which history traces from the Jewish rite to that of John the Baptist, and thence to the Christian ordinance. Through later ages adult baptism carries on the Jewish ceremony of the admission of the proselyte, while infant baptism combines this with the lustration of the new-born infant. Passing through a range of meaning such as separates the sacrament of the Roman

1 Bingham, 'Antiquities of Christian Church,' book xi. ch. 2. Grimm, 'Deutsche Mythologic,' p. 592; Leslie, 'Early Races of Scotland,'vol. i. p. 113; Pennant, in Pinkerton, vol. iii. p. 383.

2 Rituale Romanum ; Gaume, 'L'Eau Benito ;' Midilleton, 'Letter from Home,' etc.

3 Rituale Tiomanum. Bingham, book x. ch. 2, book xv. h 3. See Mark vii. 34, viii.23 ; John ix. 6.

centurion from the sacrament of the Roman cardinal, becoming to some a solemn symbol of new life and faith, to some An act in itself of supernatural efficacy, the rite of baptism has remained almost throughout the Christian world the outward sign of the Christian profession.

In considering the present group of religious ceremonies, their manifestations in the religions of the higher nations have been but scantily outlined in comparison with their rudimentary forms in the lower culture. Yet this reversal of the proportions due to practical importance in no way invalidates, but rather aids, the ethnographic lessons to be drawn by tracing their course in history. Through their varied phases of survival, modification, and succession, they have each in its own way, brought to view the threads of continuity which connect the faiths of the lower with the faiths of the higher world; they have shown how hardly the civilized man can understand the religious rites even of his own land without knowledge of the meaning, often the Th idely unlike meaning, which they bore to men of distant ages and countries, representatives of grades of culture far different from his.



Practical results of the study of Primitive Culture—Its bearing least upon 1'ositive Science, greatest upon Intellectual, Moral, Social, and Political Philosophy—Language—Mythology—Ethics and Law—Religion—Action of the Science of Culture, as a means of furthering progress and removing hindrance, effective in the Course of Civilization.

It now remains, in bringing to a close these investigations on the relation of primitive to modern civilization, to urge the practical import of the considerations raised in their ■course. Granted that archaeology, leading the student's mind back to remotest known conditions of human life, ■shows such life to have been of unequivocally savage type; granted that the rough-hewn flint hatchet, dug out from amidst the bones of mammoths in a drift gravel-bed to lie on an ethnologist's writing-table, is to him a very type of primitive culture, simple yet crafty, clumsy yet purposeful, low in artistic level yet fairly started on the ascent toward highest development—what then? Of course the history and pre-history of man take their proper places in the general scheme of knowledge. Of course the doctrine of the world-long evolution of civilization is one which philosophic minds will take up with eager interest, as a theme of abstract science. But beyond this, such research has its practical side, as a source of power destined to influence the course of modern ideas and actions. To establish a connexion between what uncultured ancient men thought and did, and what cultured modern men think and do, is not a matter of inapplicable theoretic knowledge, for it misses the issue, how far are modern opinion and conduct based on the strong ground of soundest modern knowledge, or how far only on such knowledge as was available in the earlier and ruder stages of culture where their types were shaped. It has to be maintained that the early history of man has its bearing, almost ignored as that bearing has been by those whom it ought most stringently to affect, on some of the deepest and most vital points of our intellectual, industrial, and social state.

Even in advanced sciences, such as relate to measure and force and structure in the inorganic and organic world, it is at once a common and a serious error to adopt the principle of letting bygones be bygones. Were scientific systems the oracular revelations they sometimes all but pretend to be, it might be justifiable to take no note of the condition of mere opinion or fancy that preceded them. But the investigator who turns from his modern text-books to the antiquated dissertations of the great thinkers of the past,, gains from the history of his own craft a truer view of the relation of theory to fact, learns from the course of growth in each current hypothesis to appreciate its raison d'etre and full significance, and even finds that a return to older starting-points may enable him to find new paths, where the modern track seems stopped by impassable barriers. It is true that rudimentary conditions of arts and sciences are often rather curious than practically instructive, especially because the modern practitioner has kept up, as mere elementary processes, the results of the ancient of" savage man's most strenuous efforts. Perhaps our toolmakers may not gain more than a few suggestive hints from a museum of savage implements, our physicians may only be interested in savage recipes so far as they involve the use of local drugs, our mathematicians may leave to the infant-school the highest flights of savage arithmetic, our astronomers may only find in the star-craft of the lower races an uninstructive combination of myth and commonplace. But there are departments of knowledge, of not less consequence than mechanics and medicine, arithmetic and astronomy, in which the study of the lowest stages, as influencing the practical acceptance of the higher, cannot be thus carelessly set aside.

If we survey the state of educated opinion, not within the limits of some special school, but in the civilized world at large, on such subjects especially as relate to Man, his intellectual and moral nature, his place and function among his fellow men and in the universe at large, we see existing side by side, as if of equal right, opinions most diverse in real authority. Some, vouched for by direct and positive evidence, hold their ground as solid truths. Others, though founded on crudest theories of the lower culture, have been so modified under the influence of advancing knowledge, as to afford a satisfactory framework for recognized facts; and positive science, mindful of the origin of its own philosophic schemes, must admit the validity of such a title. Others, lastly, are opinions belonging properly to lower intellectual levels, which have held their place into the higher by mere force of ancestral tradition; these are survivals. Now it is the practical office of ethnography to make known to all whom it may concern the tenure of opinions in the public mind, to show what is received on its own direct evidence, what is ruder ancient doctrine reshaped to answer modern ends, and what is but timehonoured superstition in the garb of modern knowledge.

Topic after topic shows at a glimpse the way in which ethnography bears on modern intellectual conditions. Language, appearing as an art in full vigour among rude tribes, already displays the adaptation of childlike devices in self-expressive sound and pictorial metaphor, to utter thoughts as complex and abstruse as savage minds demand speech for. When we consider how far the development of knowledge depends on full and exact means of expressing thought, is it not a pregnant consideration that the language of civilized men is but the language of savages, more or less improved in structure, a good deal extended in vocabulary, made more precise in the dictionary definition of words?

« PreviousContinue »