What was the nature of the ‘revelation’ and of the appreciation of William Robertson Smith that, in 1907, Émile Durkheim dated to 1895? This article tracks new developments in his thought after 1895, including an emphasis on creative effervescence. But there was also continuity, involving a search for origins that used the ethnology of a living culture to identify early human socioreligious life with totemism in Australia. It is this continuity, at the core of his thought after 1895, which helps to bring out the nature of his ‘revelation’ and of his homage to Robertson Smith. It also highlights a problem with his start from an already complex Australian world, yet without a suitable evolutionary perspective available to him. However, a modern re-reading can reinstate Durkheim's interest in origins, in a story of hominin/human evolution over millions of years.
William Watts Miller was for many years editor of Durkheimian Studies / Études durkheimiennes and a close colleague of the late Bill Pickering, founder of the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies, the University of Oxford. Email: email@example.com