Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Origin of Civilisation and Primitive Condition of Man
Sir John Lubbock (1834–1913)
Origin of Civilisation and Primitive Condition of Man, The: Mental and Social Condition of Savages, by Baron Avebury (John Lubbock) (1870). The aim of this volume is to provide a description based on the evidence of a large variety of travelers and observers, of the social and mental conditions of undeveloped races, their religions, arts, and laws; their ideas of morals, and their systems of marriage and relationship. The careful study of these aspects of primitive life will eventually help to solve many complex problems of ethnology, but the difficulty of obtaining reliable evidence is very great, owing to the unwillingness or incapacity of primitive peoples to make themselves understood by travelers or missionaries, and the absence in their languages of words to express abstract ideas or large numbers. Primitive religion is an affair of this world, and not of another and higher existence; it has little or no connection with morality; its deities are mortal, a part not the author of nature, and can be forced into compliance with the will of man. Nevertheless the scientist can trace in the various forms of primitive religious belief a gradual rise from lower to higher conceptions of God, man, and the world. The earliest traces of art as yet discovered belong to the Stone Age, and sometimes take the form of sculpture and sometimes of drawings or etchings made on bone or horn with the point of a flint. The strongest proof, however, that the race has evolved from lower to higher types is the history of the ideas of marriage, at first a purely physical and temporary relation, devoid of any notion of morality, affection, or companionship. Lord Avebury is of opinion that the varied evidence which he has brought together in his book strongly supports the doctrine of development. He therefore concludes that existing primitive peoples are not, as used sometimes to be asserted, the descendants of civilized ancestors; that the primitive condition of man was one of utter barbarism, and that from this condition various races have independently raised themselves.  1

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