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J., E. (1924). Primitive Mentality: By Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (Professor at the Sorbonne). Authorized Translation by Lilian A. Clare. (Allen & Unwin, London, 1923. Pp. 458. Price 16 s. net.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:244-244.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:244-244

Primitive Mentality: By Lucien Lévy-Bruhl (Professor at the Sorbonne). Authorized Translation by Lilian A. Clare. (Allen & Unwin, London, 1923. Pp. 458. Price 16 s. net.)

Review by:
E. J.

Those who enjoyed the author's Les Fonctions Mentales dans les Sociétés Inférieures on its appearance in 1910 have regretted that his absorption in the study of ethics and history should have hindered the development of this fascinating theme. The present volume is really a continuation of the first, and applies the theses of the latter by studying in some detail the conception of causation among primitive peoples. As in the former book, the author insists on the complete and instantaneous identification underlying what appears to be a double process of perception and inference, which is exactly what analysts find to hold good of unconscious processes in general (Freud's 'primary process').

Neither the technique of life of primitive communities (tools, cultivation of animals and soil, etc.) nor such complex organizations as totemism are dealt with here, the main theme of the book being the savage's belief in unseen powers and his ideas on causation in such matters as illness, death, birth, and the like. The author dwells at length on the extent to which savages live in what he calls a mystical world, one peopled with real though unseen agents and forces, most often of an evil nature. The part played by wizards and witches and the concept of mana are also fully considered. It is evident that the peoples he describes have an unwonted belief in the reality of psychological processes, one unusual in civilization except among pathological types; this once more confirms the archaic natures of neurotic reactions.

The author takes throughout a psychological view of the phenomena he deals with, and therefore would be out of fashion among the more recent 'ethnological' school with whom human motives are almost confined to the Ancient Egyptians, other people being merely servile imitators of their betters. Not that he shows any familiarity with modern psychology, and it is evident that he has not heard of psycho-analysis. None the less, we cordially recommend the reading of the book to every analyst. He will find there not only a number of fertile suggestions (e.g. on the greater strength of the social bond among savages), but a wealth of material on such topics as fear of ancestors and ghosts, relation of death wishes to evil happenings, belief in psychical reality and omnipotence of thought, and others of similar import to the study of the unconscious.

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