Natural Religion and Folk-lore.
The question of the religious beliefs of these races, subjectq4 as they have been to such a fire of crossinfluences, is surrounded by so many difficulties, that I may perhaps be excused for stating these first before setting down my own conclusions. At present the information that we possess on this most intricate of questions is not only very partial and incomplete, hut also, in some cases, self-contradictory.
Many discrepancies must, I fear, in the first instance be attributed to ignorance of the value of the scientific terminology which has in recent years grown up around the subject of religion, using that word in its widest sense. Ignorance of this kind often prevents the ordinary untrained observer from recognising as a God anything that does not exactly correspond to the monotheistic conceptions of Christianity. On the other hand, a no less serious difficulty is created by those who (generally, I am sure, in all good faith) read into their observations thQ religious ideas by which they are most interested, or who rely upon informants who are simply saying what they think will please. The most remarkable instance of this kind is that of M. Borie (a French Roman Catholic missionary at Malacca), who stated of the Mantra, that a their religious books,