Chicago Tribune

Chicago University Expert in Ethnic Psychology Outlines the Position of Primitive Man on This Subject.

Dr. William I. Thomas, assistant professor of ethnic psychology at the University of Chicago, gave a lecture last night at Central Music Hall on the subject, "Life After Death Among Primitive Men." This is the second lecture of the series given by the university extension department.

Dr. Thomas’ argument was that the ideas of the early tribes in regard to future life could only be understood when taken in connection with the primitive ideas of the spirit world in general. The origin of spirit belief in the savage mind, he said, came from the mysteries of dreams, insensibility, and the mutations of nature.

Dr. Thomas maintained the savage has three conceptions as to the future state of the soul. He believes that it hovers about the recent home of the body, that it is reincarnated, and that it wanders to a distant home. Different tribes have different ideas in regard to the way, location, and nature of reaching this future abode, but they have many similarities in this conception of future life, which are not due to borrowing but to similarity in the operation of human thought in all times and places. The "continuance theory" of the future world, that the condition of this world are repeated in the next, was the most popular idea of primitive thought. But the "retribution theory," which at a higher stage of culture connected religion with ethics, is present in a form corresponding with the crude condition of primitive morals. In early religion the moral element was scanty or lacking altogether. Prayer, sacrifice, and symbolic purification were present. In the higher religious submission to a divine will, purity of life and self-abnegation are developed.


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