All modern social institutions arise from the evolution of the primitive customs of your savage ancestors; the conventions of today are the modified and expanded customs of yesterday. What habit is to the individual, custom is to the group; and group customs develop into folkways or tribal traditions—mass conventions. From these early beginnings all of the institutions of present-day human society take their humble origin.
It must be borne in mind that the mores originated in an effort to adjust group living to the conditions of mass existence; the mores were man’s first social institution. And all of these tribal reactions grew out of the effort to avoid pain and humiliation while at the same time seeking to enjoy pleasure and power. The origin of folkways, like the origin of languages, is always unconscious and unintentional and therefore always shrouded in mystery.
Ghost fear drove primitive man to envision the supernatural and thus securely laid the foundations for those powerful social influences of ethics and religion which in turn preserved inviolate the mores and customs of society from generation to generation. The one thing which early established and crystallized the mores was the belief that the dead were jealous of the ways by which they had lived and died; therefore would they visit dire punishment upon those living mortals who dared to treat with careless disdain the rules of living which they had honored when in the flesh. All this is best illustrated by the present reverence of the yellow race for their ancestors. Later developing primitive religion greatly reinforced ghost fear in stabilizing the mores, but advancing civilization has increasingly liberated mankind from the bondage of fear and the slavery of superstition.
Prior to the liberating and liberalizing instruction of the Dalamatia teachers, ancient man was held a helpless victim of the ritual of the mores; the primitive savage was hedged about by an endless ceremonial. Everything he did from the time of awakening in the morning to the moment he fell asleep in his cave at night had to be done just so—in accordance with the folkways of the tribe. He was a slave to the tyranny of usage; his life contained nothing free, spontaneous, or original. There was no natural progress toward a higher mental, moral, or social existence.
Early man was mightily gripped by custom; the savage was a veritable slave to usage; but there have arisen ever and anon those variations from type who have dared to inaugurate new ways of thinking and improved methods of living. Nevertheless, the inertia of primitive man constitutes the biologic safety brake against precipitation too suddenly into the ruinous maladjustment of a too rapidly advancing civilization.
But these customs are not an unmitigated evil; their evolution should continue. It is nearly fatal to the continuance of civilization to undertake their wholesale modification by radical revolution. Custom has been the thread of continuity which has held civilization together. The path of human history is strewn with the remnants of discarded customs and obsolete social practices; but no civilization has endured which abandoned its mores except for the adoption of better and more fit customs.
The survival of a society depends chiefly on the progressive evolution of its mores. The process of custom evolution grows out of the desire for experimentation; new ideas are put forward—competition ensues. A progressing civilization embraces the progressive idea and endures; time and circumstance finally select the fitter group for survival. But this does not mean that each separate and isolated change in the composition of human society has been for the better. No! indeed no! for there have been many, many retrogressions in the long forward struggle of Urantia civilization.