The origin of man and his superstitions PDF book by Carveth Read (1920)

The origin of man and his superstitions PDF book by Carveth Read (1920)

The origin of man and his superstitions
The origin of man and his superstitions

Excerpt from the author's introduction



The hypothesis occurred to me many years ago and was first published (in brief) in The Metaphysics of Nature (1805), Chap. XIII., and again in Natural and Social Morals (1909); but all it implied did not become clear until, in lecturing on Comparative Psychology, there was forced upon me the necessity of effecting an intelligible transition from the animal to the human mind, and of not being satisfied to say year after year that hands and brains were plainly so useful that they must have been developed by Natural Selection. Then one day the requisite ideas came to light; and an outline of the hypothesis was read at the Meeting of the British Association (Section H) at Birmingham in 1913, and printed in Man, November 1914. The Council of the Anthropological Institute has kindly consented to my using the substance of that article in the first chapter here following.

The article in Man dealt chiefly with the physical changes which our race has undergone. The correlative mental changes were explained in the British Journal of Psychology in an article which supplies the basis of the second chapter of this book. The hunting-pack, then, was the first form of human society; and in lecturing on Ethnopsychology two questions especially interested me : (1) Under what mental conditions did the change take place from the organization of the hunting-pack (when this weakened) to the settled life of the tribe or group? and (2) Why is the human mind everywhere befogged with ideas of Magic and Animism?

They seemed at last to have the same answer: these superstitions were useful and (apparently) even necessary in giving to elders enough prestige to preserve tradition and custom when the leader of the hunt was no longer conspicuous in authority. A magic-working gerontocracy was the second form of society, and the third form was governed by a wizard-king or a priest-king, or by a king supported by wizards or priests. One must, therefore, understand the possibility of these beliefs in Magic and Animism, and how they arose and obtained a hold upon all tribes and nations; and hence the second part of this volume on Superstition.

Author: Carveth Read
 Publication Date: 1920

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