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Eder, M.D. (1935). Early Social Beliefs and their Social Influence: By Edward Westermarck, Ph.D., Hon.LL.D. (Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London. Pp. 182. Price 7 s. 6 d. net.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 16:115-116.

(1935). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16:115-116

Early Social Beliefs and their Social Influence: By Edward Westermarck, Ph.D., Hon.LL.D. (Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London. Pp. 182. Price 7 s. 6 d. net.)

Review by:
M. D. Eder

These essays, covering a wide field, are distinguished by Westermarck's shrewd observation, his easy learning, powers of exposition and lack of psychological insight. Commenting upon duties to gods the author writes that men offer up human victims to their gods, of course, because they think that the gods are gratified by such offerings! He considers that the main principle that underlies the practice of human sacrifice is to avert any danger to the sacrificers. That is all; what gratification the god or the human being obtains from killing is not even asked. It seems to Westermarck rather odd that the greatest insult that can be offered a god is to deny his existence or that a god should be so extremely sensitive as to his exact attributes. There is no hint as to the ambivalency, conscious and unconscious, invariably felt to gods or their earthly originals.

In a chapter treating of marriage he cannot avoid, of course, mentioning sexual relations, but he is content to remark that the discharge of sexual matter is looked upon as a pollution by virtue of 'the veil of mystery which surrounds the whole sexual nature of man'. It would seem that the writer himself, sharing in this belief, is afraid to penetrate the veil. Woman is a useless animal particularly during menstruation, no doubt on account of its 'marvellous nature'. Natural curiosity would seem to ask why is this more marvellous than other aspects of human physiology. Such questions are dangerous, do not pry too closely; you may learn something unpleasant about your own society.

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