James Frazer

From Wikiquote
(Redirected from Frazer, James)
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir James George Frazer
The world cannot live at the level of its great men.

Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854May 7, 1941) was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. He is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology.

Sourced[edit]

The Golden Bough (1890)[edit]

There were several editions of The Golden Bough, which used varying chapter numerations, paginations and sub-titles. Those used here currently conform to the edition of 1922
  • If in the present work I have dwelt at some length on the worship of trees, it is not, I trust, because I exaggerate its importance in the history of religion, still less because I would deduce from it a whole system of mythology; it is simply because I could not ignore the subject in attempting to explain the significance of a priest who bore the title of King Of the Wood, and one of whose titles to office was the plucking of a bough — the Golden Bough — from a tree in the sacred grove.
    • Preface, 1 Brick Court Temple, London, June 1922.
  • A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier.
    • Chapter 1, The King of the Wood
  • It is for the philosophic student to trace the train of thought which underlies the magicians practice; to draw out the few simple threads of which the tangled skein is composed; to disengage the abstract principles from their concrete applications; in short, to discern the spurious science from the bastard art.
    • Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic
  • The natives of British Columbia live largely upon the fish which abound in their seas and rivers. If the fish do not come in due season, and the Indians are hungry, A Nootka wizard will make an image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction from which the fish generally appear. This ceremony, accompanied by a prayer to the fish to come, will cause them to arrive at once.
    • Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic
A Nootka wizard will make an image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction from which the fish generally appear. This ceremony, accompanied by a prayer to the fish to come, will cause them to arrive at once.
  • For there are strong grounds for thinking that, in the evolution of thought, magic has preceded religion.
    • Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic
  • Dwellers by the sea cannot fail to be impressed by the sight of its ceaseless ebb and flow, and are apt, on the principles of that rude philosophy of sympathy and resemblance...to trace a subtle relation, a secret harmony, between its tides and the life of man...The belief that most deaths happen at ebb tide is said to be held along the east coast of England from Northumberland to Kent.
    • Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic
  • But once a fool always a fool, and the greater the power in his hands the more disastrous is likely to be the use he makes of it. The heaviest calamity in English history, the breach with America, might never have occurred if George the Third had not been an honest dullard.
    • Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic
  • The old notion that the savage is the freest of mankind is the reverse of the truth. He is a slave, not indeed to a visible master, but to the past, to the spirits of his dead forefathers, who haunt his steps from birth to death, and rule him with a rod of iron.
  • From the earliest times man has been engaged in a search for general rules whereby to turn the order of natural phenomena to his own advantage, and in the long search he has scraped together a great hoard of such maxims, some of them golden and some of them mere dross. The true or golden rules constitute the body of applied science which we call the arts; the false are magic.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
  • By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
  • Ancient magic was the very foundation of religion.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
We seem to move on a thin crust which may at any moment be rent by the subterranean forces slumbering below.
  • We seem to move on a thin crust which may at any moment be rent by the subterranean forces slumbering below.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
  • If the test of truth lay in a show of hands or a counting of heads, the system of magic might appeal, with far more reason than the Catholic Church, to the proud motto, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus [always, everywhere, and by all], as the sure and certain credential of its own infallibility.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
  • Small minds cannot grasp great ideas; to their narrow comprehension, their purblind vision, nothing seems really great and important but themselves. Such minds hardly rise into religion at all.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion (See also: New Atheism...)
  • I am a plain practical man, not one of your theorists and splitters of hairs and choppers of logic.
    • Chapter 4, Magic and Religion
  • In primitive society, where uniformity of occupation is the rule, and the distribution of the community into various classes of workers has hardly begun, every man is more or less his own magician; he practices charms and incantations for his own good and the injury of his enemies.
    • Chapter 5, The Magical Control of the Weather
  • The slow, the never ending approach to truth consists in perpetually forming and testing hypotheses, accepting those at which at the time seem to fit the facts and rejecting the others.
    • Chapter 5, The Magical Control of the Weather
  • In point of fact magicians appear to have often developed into chiefs and kings.
    • Chapter 6, Magicians as Kings
  • With the advance of knowledge, therefore, prayer and sacrifice assume the leading place in religious ritual; and magic; which once ranked with them as a legitimate equal, is gradually relegated to the background and sinks to the level of a black art.
    • Chapter 7, Incarnate Human Gods
  • When a tree comes to be viewed, no longer as the body of the tree spirit, but simply as its abode which it can quit at pleasure, an important advance has been made in religious thought.
    • Chapter 9, The Worship of Trees
  • If their king is their god, he is or should be also their preserver; and if he will not preserve them, he must make room for another who will.
    • Chapter 17, The Burden of Royalty
If mankind had always been logical and wise, history would not be a long chronicle of folly and crime.
  • It is a common rule with primitive people not to waken a sleeper, because his soul is away and might not have time to get back; so if the man wakened without his soul, he would fall sick. If it is absolutely necessary to rouse a sleeper, it must be done very gradually, to allow the soul time to return.
    • Chapter 18, The Perils of the Soul
  • The awe and dread with which the untutored savage contemplates his mother-in-law are amongst the most familiar facts of anthropology.
    • Chapter 18, The Perils of the Soul
  • In primitive society the rules of ceremonial purity observed by divine kings, chiefs, and priests agree in many respects with the rules observed by homicides, mourners, women in childbed, girls at puberty, hunters and fishermen, and so on. To us these various classes of persons appear to differ totally in character and condition; some of them we should call holy, others we might pronounce unclean and polluted. But the savage makes no such moral distinction between them; the conceptions of holiness and pollution are not yet differentiated in his mind. To him the common feature of all these persons is that they are dangerous and in danger, and the danger in which they stand and to which they expose others is what we should call spiritual or ghostly, and therefore imaginary. The danger, however, is not less real because it is imaginary; imagination acts upon man as really does gravitation, and may kill him as certainly as a dose of prussic acid.
    • Chapter 21, Tabooed Things, § I : The Meaning of Taboo
  • Man has created gods in his own likeness and being himself mortal he has naturally supposed his creatures to be in the same sad predicament.
    • Chapter 24, The Killing of the Divine King
  • Yet perhaps no sacrifice is wholly useless which proves there are men who prefer honour to life.
    • Chapter 24, The Killing of the Divine King
  • If any of my readers set out with the notion that that all races of men think and act much in the same way as educated Englishmen, the evidence of superstitious belief and custom collected in this work should suffice to disabuse him of so erroneous a prepossession.
    • Chapter 27, Succession to the Soul
  • In course of time the slow advance of knowledge, which has dispelled so many cherished illusions, convinced at least the more thoughtful portion of mankind that the alterations of summer and winter, of spring and autumn, were not merely the result of their own magical rites, but that some deeper cause, some mightier power, was at work behind the shifting scenes of nature.
    • Chapter 29, The Myth of Adonis
  • If mankind had always been logical and wise, history would not be a long chronicle of folly and crime.
    • Chapter 29, The Myth of Adonis
The scapegoat upon whom the sins of the people are periodically laid, may also be a human being.
  • Indeed the influence of music on the development of religion is a subject which would repay a sympathetic study.
    • Chapter 31, Adonis in Cyprus
  • The world cannot live at the level of its great men.
    • Chapter 37, Oriental Religions in the West
  • For myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten.The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.
    • Chapter 49, Ancient Deities of Vegetation as Animals
  • The notion that we can transfer our guilt and sufferings to some other being who will bear them for us is familiar to the savage mind. It arises from a very obvious confusion between the physical and the mental, between the material and the immaterial.
    • Chapter 55, The Transference of Evil
  • For ages the army of spirits, once so near, has been receding farther and farther from us, banished by the magic wand of science from hearth and home, from ruined cell and ivied tower, from haunted glade and lonely mere, from the riven murky cloud that belches forth lightning, and from those fairer clouds that pillow the silvery moon or fret with flakes of burning red the golden eve.
    • Chapter 56, The Public Expulsion of Evils
  • Thus it comes about that the endeavour of primitive people to make a clean sweep of all their troubles generally takes the form of a grand hunting out and expulsion of devils and ghosts. They think that if they can only shake off these their accursed tormentors, they will make a fresh start in life, happy and innocent; the tales of Eden and the old poetic golden age will come true again.
    • Chapter 56, The Public Expulsion of Evils
  • The scapegoat upon whom the sins of the people are periodically laid, may also be a human being.
    • Chapter 57, Public Scapegoats
  • It may be suspected that the custom of employing a divine man or animal as a public scapegoat is much more widely diffused than appears from the examples cited.
    • Chapter 57, Public Scapegoats
  • For when a nation becomes civilized, if it does not drop human sacrifices altogether, it at least selects as victims only such wretches as would be put to death at any rate. Thus the killing of a god may sometimes come to be confounded with the execution of a criminal.
    • Chapter 57, Public Scapegoats
Thus the killing of a god may sometimes come to be confounded with the execution of a criminal.
  • The Athenians regularly maintained a number of degraded and useless beings at the public expense; and when any calamity, such as plague, drought, or famine, befell the city, they sacrificed two of these outcast scapegoats.
    • Chapter 58, Human Scapegoats in Classical Antiquity
  • The custom of burning a beneficent god is too foreign to later modes of thought to escape misinterpretation.
    • Chapter 64, The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires
  • The consideration of human suffering is not one which enters into the calculations of primitive man.
    • Chapter 64, The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires
  • To a modern reader the connexion at first site may not be obvious between the activity of the hangman and the productivity of the earth.
    • Chapter 64, The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires (spelling as per text...)
  • From time immemorial the mistletoe has been the object of superstitious veneration in Europe.
    • Chapter 65, Balder and the Mistletoe
  • It is not a new opinion that the Golden Bough was the mistletoe. True, Virgil does not identify but only compares it with the mistletoe. But this may be only a poetical device to cast a mystic glamour over the humble plant.
    • Chapter 68, The Golden Bough
  • For the present we have journeyed far enough together, and it is time to part.
    • Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi
  • The abundance, the solidity, and the splendor of the results already achieved by science are well fitted to inspire us with a cheerful confidence in the soundness of its method.
    • Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi
  • The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that ever recedes.
    • Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi
  • In the ages to come man may be able to predict, perhaps even to control,the wayward courses of the winds and the clouds, but hardly will his puny hands have strength to speed afresh our slackening planet in its orbit or rekindle the dying fire of the sun. Yet the philosopher who trembles at the idea of such distant catastrophes may console himself by reflecting that these gloomy apprehensions, like the earth and the sun themselves, are only parts of that unsubstantial world which thought has conjured up out of the void, and that the phantoms which the subtle enchantress has evoked to-day she may ban to-morrow. They too, like so much that to the common eye seems solid, may melt into air, into thin air.
    • Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi
The temple of the sylvan goddess, indeed, has vanished, and the King of the Wood no longer stands sentinel over the Golden Bough.
  • The temple of the sylvan goddess, indeed, has vanished, and the King of the Wood no longer stands sentinel over the Golden Bough.
    • Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi

Quotes about Frazer[edit]

  • Frazer's account of the magical and religious views of mankind is unsatisfactory; it makes these views look like errors.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993), edited by James Carl Klagge and Alfred Nordmann; Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 119
  • Frazer is much more savage than most of his savages, for they are not as far removed from the understanding of spiritual matter as a twentieth-century Englishman. His explanations of primitive practices are much cruder than the meaning of these practices themselves.
    • Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 (1993), edited by James Carl Klagge and Alfred Nordmann; Ch. 7 : Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough, p. 131

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about: