James Frazer, aka James George Frazer

Frazer, aka James George Frazer

British Anthropologist, Folklorist and Classical Scholar

Author Quotes

In point of fact magicians appear to have often developed into chiefs and kings.

The ablest man is dragged down by the weakest and dullest, who necessarily sets the standard, since he cannot rise, while the other can fall.

The question whether our conscious personality survives after death has been answered by almost all races of men in the affirmative.

Yet perhaps no sacrifice is wholly useless which proves there are men who prefer honor to life.

For strength of character in the race as in the individual consists mainly in the power of sacrificing the present for the future, of disregarding the immediate temptations of ephemeral pleasure for more distant and lasting sources of satisfaction. The more the power is exercised the higher and stronger becomes the character; till the height of heroism is reached in men who renounce the pleasures of life and even life itself for the sake of winning for others, perhaps in distant ages, the blessings of freedom and truth.

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.

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.

The scapegoat upon whom the sins of the people are periodically laid, may also be a human being.

For the present we have journeyed far enough together, and it is time to part.

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.

The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that ever recedes.

The second principle of magic: things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed.

For there are strong grounds for thinking that, in the evolution of thought, magic has preceded religion .

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.

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.

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.

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.

Indeed the influence of music on the development of religion is a subject which would repay a sympathetic study.

The awe and dread with which the untutored savage contemplates his mother-in-law are amongst the most familiar facts of anthropology.

The supreme power tends to fall into the hands of men of the keenest intelligence and the most unscrupulous character.

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.

Intellectual progress, which reveals itself in the growth of art and science and the spread of more liberal views, cannot be dissociated from industrial or economic progress, and that in its turn receives an immense impulse from conquest and empire. It is no mere accident that the most vehement outbursts of activity of the human mind have followed close on the heels of victory, and that the great conquering races of the world have commonly done most to advance and spread civilization, thus healing in peace the wounds they inflicted in war.

The consideration of human suffering is not one which enters into the calculations of primitive man.

The temple of the sylvan goddess, indeed, has vanished, and the King of the Wood no longer stands sentinel over the Golden Bough.

The old view that the principles of right and wrong are immutable and eternal is no longer tenable. The moral world is as little exempt as the physical world from the law of ceaseless change, of perpetual flux.

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British Anthropologist, Folklorist and Classical Scholar