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immortality is the crown, and in some sort the interpreter, of the optimistic view of the Hebrew prophets concerning the future of the world under a righteous, manifested Theocracy. But the goal of the personal hope and of the hope concerning the world at large is still the same a perfected life in a purified Universe.
23. “ Philosophy,” then, like “Science," terminates in Religion.” And by means of the Christian religion we secure an optimism to which we can hold fast-not a flimsy, superficial, or one-sided theory, denying or ignoring the fact of evil, but a sobered, practical optimism; in the strength of which, men can hope on, and work on, confident that although man is strangely inuuens, sin, which is the only essential evil, is abnormal, and that the end and final cause of the created Universe is Harmony; not "the primitive harmony of the Unconscious" (a lame and impotent conclusion, which makes life and the world an illusive passage from nothing to nothing !) but the divine harmony spoken of by Panl of Tarsus when he says that God shall be all in all. He who holds this before him as the terminus ad quem of all hope and effort can never cease to be a practical optimist.
24. For “ practical optimism is not a complacent setting aside of effort. It is, to quote Mr. Sully's words again, not “the unqualified optimism ” which makes "a mere rosy image of life," and " tends to paralyse the loftier and more arduous varieties of human effort,” but it is a view of life, and of the course of the world, which asserts that “life is as good as it can be, provided we make the best of it.”
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. D. Howard, V.P.C.S.-I am
sure all will accord the Author their best thanks for this paper ;-it is a curious phenomenon of the progress of science and education that such a paper as this, containing a clear and distinct exposition of the real facts of the case with regard to optimism and pessimism, should be needed, and should indeed be regarded as a matter of great practical importance at the present day ; and yet, so it is. No doubt, in some cases, the result of our boasted science is to go back to the old longing for nirvana, as if the last hope which the nineteenth century can give is an escape from life as from an evil intolerable to those who have to endure it, although it be but a mere phantom with no real existence; and yet, when we study the writings of those who adopt these ideas, we see that they are all put forward in the name of science ; but how scientific men can refuse, as these do, to take due cognisance of the facts of science I cannot conceive. Who, let me ask, are the pessimists of the present day? Buddhism, we know, is a pessimism of the most advanced type ; but is it the most miserable who are the
Buddhists? There is plenty of misery here in London, and it is certainly not the Buddhist who is most miserable. These pessimistic views are the luxury of the rich, of the very affected and the very pampered class of Sybarites, who consider indulgence in pessimism a matter of enjoyment. It strikes us as a strange and curious phenomenon to witness these things, and one can but wonder how on earth such people are not practical optimists ; they love life only too well, and yet they like to make us believe that they hold the pessimistic view of existence. To many of us, it is a startling thing to remember that such an exposition as we find in this paper is really needed. Hartmann confessed that Christianity is “The best consolation of the poor and wretched,” and so it really is ; and if we study the life-history of the inhabitants of London, we shall certainly find that now, as at all times, it is the idle, the rich, and the luxurious who are the pessimists, while the poor and miserable, to whom eighteen hundred years ago the gospel of Christ was given, are those who regard it as their chief hope and blessing.
Captain FRANCIS PETRIE, F.G.S. (Hon. Sec.).—Among the letters received from those unable to be present this evening is one fronı Dr. Harold Browne, Bishop of Winchester, who says :-“I have read Canon Saumarez Smith's paper with great interest. I think it very able and good.”
Mr. P. VERNON SMITII.-I do not think it possible to express a different opinion from that which has been put before us in the very able and interesting paper which we have just had the privilege of hearing. Consequently, what remains to be said must, like the remarks which have fallen from our Chairman, be merely in illustration of what the lecturer has put before us. Proceeding on that line, I would venture to call the attention of the members of this Institute to a passage that was brought to my recollection by glancing at the paper before I came here. It is contained in a book, entitled Rcasonable Apprehensions and Reassuring Hints.
Among the apprehensions" with which the author deals is one which he says must strike everybody as being put forward as an objection to Christianity by all who look at the problem apart from Revelation. He asks, "Can man from nature arrive at any definite conclusions, any trustworthy indications, as to the disposition, the benevolence, or the malevolence of the Creator towards the creatures of His hand ?” This question must, I think, bear very clearly on the question of optimism or pessimism, because if we admit a Creator, and if He be a benevolent Creator, we must take up the optimistic view; but if, on the other hand, He is a malevolent Creator, we must suppose the state of things He has created to be otherwise than optimistic.
Canon W. SAUMAREZ SMITI.-I am very much obliged to those who have spoken in regard to the line of thought I have followed in my paper. The quotation of my cousin, Mr. Vernon Smith, was very apt and remarkable, and what our Chairman said at the beginning of the discussion was very much in illustration of the ineradicable truth which resides in the contest between persons who are either pessimists or not. I think I may say that
228 CANON SAUMAREZ SMITH, B.D., ON PRACTICAL OPTIMISM.
the adage about the tendency of bad things towards good really embraces almost all that has been said. We have seen this in nature, and in the lessons we are able to draw from our own experience, as well as in those we have derived from the Hebrew and subsequent revelations. I refer to the proverb, mors janua vitae—death is the portal of life.
The Meeting was then adjourned.
ORDINARY MEETING, DECEMBER 6, 1886.
PROFESSOR G. G. STOKES, D.C.L., P.R.S., PRESIDENT,
IN THE CHAIR.
The Minutes of the last Meeting were read and confirmed.
The following paper was then read by the Rev. R. Thornton, D.D., V.P. the author being unavoidably absent in the United States.
THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS OF THE
ABORIGINES OF NORTH AMERIOA. By the Rev
TI \HE traces of Bible ideas in the aboriginal religions of
America is the subject of a recent paper by the Rev. M. Eells.* It is an interesting subject, and one on which he is well qualified to speak. His acquaintance with the languages and traditions of the North-west is quite complete; at the same time his reading has extended over the wide field of American archæology and ethnology. In this article he does not confine himself to personal observation, but quotes largely from other authors. In these quotations he throws himself upon authorities which are well known, and supplements his own information and investigations by those which have been conducted by others, and gathered into permanent shape by various publications. There is a double advantage in this course. In the first place, it permits him to announce his own discoveries in a modest and unassuming form. In the second place, it enables him to buttress his own positions by the opinions of others, and through this means to exhibit the analogies which exist between the religious beliefs of all the native tribes of America. It should be said that the
* Transactions of Victoria Institute, vol. xix.
missionaries among the Indian tribes have great advantages, and frequently find opportunities for learning the peculiar beliefs of the aborigines. It is true that many have failed to improve their opportunities, and have very strangely remained in ignorance of the very systems of thought and of ethnical religion which are so prevalent around them. Mr. Eells has, however, taken the pains to investigate the traditions and customs, and has brought out from time to time a considerable amount of valuable material. This is fortunate, for the opinion is held quite extensively in this country that the missionaries are poor authorities on ethnological subjects. It is not an opinion which is justifiable, for there are very many scholars among these Christian laborers, and some of the very best contributions to the science have come from them. The many translations of the Bible into Indian are monuments of industry. These translations were many of them made at a time when there were no ethnologists in this country, and had it not been for their self-denying and scholarly labour there would be no record of the state of the native languages at the time.
It is a remarkable fact that the Indian Bible which was prepared by Rev. John Eliot in 1661 is now, not only very scarce, bringing fabulous prices, but the persons who are able to read it are still more scarce. The Dakotah dictionary of Rev. S. L. Riggs is an extremely valuable work, and the only one which has ever been prepared on that stock of languages. In this department, the labors of the missionaries are appreciated, but in the line of mythology and comparative religion there seems to be a strange lack of confidence. (1) It is said that they do not discriminate between the native traditions and those which have been borrowed. (2) The attitude of the missionaries toward their superstitions have the effect to make the Indians reticent in reference to their belief. (3) The missionaries are never allowed to enter into the sacred feasts or religious ceremonies of the pagan Indians. (4) The questions which are presented to the Indians are very likely to bring back a response which is deceiving, and on this account the missionaries are likely to confound the native ideas with those which reflect their own thought. (5) The teaching of preceding missionaries has had a tendency to confuse the natives themselves, and they are quite likely to mingle the Bible stories with their own traditions. On these accounts, ethnologists are inclined to reject the testimony of missionaries in reference to traditions. It is a question, however, whether there are any better authorities. The following