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James Frazer

Birthdate: 1. January 1854
Date of death: 7. May 1941

Sir James George Frazer was a Scottish social anthropologist and folklorist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. His most famous work, The Golden Bough , documents and details the similarities among magical and religious beliefs around the globe. Frazer posited that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, in turn replaced by science. Wikipedia

Works

The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough
James Frazer

„The heaviest calamity in English history, the breach with America, might never have occurred if George the Third had not been an honest dullard.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic.
Context: But once a fool always a fool, and the greater the power in his hands the more disastrous is likely to be the use he makes of it. The heaviest calamity in English history, the breach with America, might never have occurred if George the Third had not been an honest dullard.

„The true or golden rules constitute the body of applied science which we call the arts; the false are magic.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 4, Magic and Religion.
Context: From the earliest times man has been engaged in a search for general rules whereby to turn the order of natural phenomena to his own advantage, and in the long search he has scraped together a great hoard of such maxims, some of them golden and some of them mere dross. The true or golden rules constitute the body of applied science which we call the arts; the false are magic.

„They too, like so much that to the common eye seems solid, may melt into air, into thin air.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi
Context: In the ages to come man may be able to predict, perhaps even to control, the wayward courses of the winds and the clouds, but hardly will his puny hands have strength to speed afresh our slackening planet in its orbit or rekindle the dying fire of the sun. Yet the philosopher who trembles at the idea of such distant catastrophes may console himself by reflecting that these gloomy apprehensions, like the earth and the sun themselves, are only parts of that unsubstantial world which thought has conjured up out of the void, and that the phantoms which the subtle enchantress has evoked to-day she may ban to-morrow. They too, like so much that to the common eye seems solid, may melt into air, into thin air.

„Thus the killing of a god may sometimes come to be confounded with the execution of a criminal.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 57, Public Scapegoats
Context: For when a nation becomes civilized, if it does not drop human sacrifices altogether, it at least selects as victims only such wretches as would be put to death at any rate. Thus the killing of a god may sometimes come to be confounded with the execution of a criminal.

„For myth changes while custom remains constant;“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 49, Ancient Deities of Vegetation as Animals.
Context: For myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten. The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.

„A Nootka wizard will make an image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction from which the fish generally appear.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 3, Sympathetic Magic.
Context: The natives of British Columbia live largely upon the fish which abound in their seas and rivers. If the fish do not come in due season, and the Indians are hungry, A Nootka wizard will make an image of a swimming fish and put it into the water in the direction from which the fish generally appear. This ceremony, accompanied by a prayer to the fish to come, will cause them to arrive at once.

„The consideration of human suffering is not one which enters into the calculations of primitive man.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 64, The Burning of Human Beings in the Fires.

„The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that ever recedes.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 69, Farewell to Nemi.

„Indeed the influence of music on the development of religion is a subject which would repay a sympathetic study.“

—  James Frazer, book The Golden Bough

Source: The Golden Bough (1890), Chapter 31, Adonis in Cyprus.

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