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London: A. and C. Black, 1914. Pp. xxiv+ 439. 1

The Monist, 27 (July 1917) 480

Mr. Cook is very long-winded, but in spite of dryness and abstractness of style he has written a valuable book. Much thought has evidently gone into it, and its defects are due to a difficult manner of exposition, not to poverty of the ideas. This is not an “Introduction” of the type of Jevons’s book; 2 it gives no data for the beginner, nor, as one is apt to expect from the title, does it deal chiefly with primitive religion. It is rather the comments of a scholar–Mr. Cook is a recognized authority in his field–on the aims and methods of his study. He has a great deal to say, and much that is extremely good, on the evolution of religion–as is indicated by several chapter headings: Survivals, The Environment and Change, Development and Continuity. “The Doctrine of Survivals,” Mr. Cook says, “is entirely inadequate when it forgets that we are human beings and do not accept beliefs and practices merely because they happen to lie within our reach. The Doctrine of Survivals, is, in fact, a very handy and cheap explanation of some one else’s beliefs and practices–hardly of our own!” [xiii]. Survivals are not simply “left behind,” they are subconsciously selected [131]. Mr. Cook warns very wisely against arguing from the part to the whole, against constructing a hypothetical system into which every survival must fit. He warns also against confusing the evolution of beliefs with the evolution of environments, in judging apparent retrogressions. On the critical attitude, on the acceptance of data, Mr. Cook has some excellent observations, and on the historical versus the religious importance of critical revisions. He holds that the present is a time of religious unrest, though like most of us, he cannot point to any definite theology for the future. His conclusion is as follows: “The unbiased student of religions can hardly escape the conviction that the Supreme Power, whom we call God, while enabling man to work out, within limits, his own career, desires the furtherance of those aims and ideals which are for the advance of mankind” [427].


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