Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

God.

their

persons.

combined the adoration of the heavenly bodies--the sun, the moon, Venus, &c., with the deified attributes

Principles of of God. The great and venerable divinities, Egyptian as Osiris, Pthah, Amun, were impersonations of theology. such attributes, just as we speak of the Creator, the Almighty. It was held that not only has God never appeared upon earth in the human form, but that such is altogether an impossibility, since he is the animating principle of the entire universe, visible nature being only a manifestation of him.

These impersonated attributes were arranged in various trinities, in each of which the third member is a procession from the other two, the doctrine and Trinities and even expressions in this respect being full of interest to one who studies the gradual development of comparative theology in Europe. Thus from Âmun by Maut proceeds Khonso, from Osiris by Isis proceeds Horus, from Neph by Saté proceeds Anouké. While, therefore, it was considered unlawful to represent God except by his attributes, these trinities and their persons offered abundant means of idolatrous worship for the vulgar. It was admitted that there had been terrestrial manifestations of these divine attributes for the salvation of men. Thus Osiris was incarnate in the flesh: he fell a sacrifice to the evil principle, and, after his death and resurrection, became the appointed judge of the dead. In his capacity of President of the West, or of the region of the setting stars, he dwells in the under world, which is traversed by the sun at night.

The Egyptian priests affirmed that nothing is ever annihilated; to die is therefore only to assume a new form. Herodotus says that they were the first to discover that the soul is immortal, their conception of it being that it is an emanation from or a particle of the universal soul, which in a less degree animates all animals and plants, and even inorganic things. Their dogma that there had been divine incarnations obliged Incarnations ; them to assert that there had been a fall of fall of mon; man, this seeming to be necessary to obtain a

redemption. logical argument in justification of prodigies so great. For the relief of the guilty soul, they prescribed in this

The future

the dead.

life fasts and penances, and in the future a transmigration through animals for purification. At death, the merits of

the soul were ascertained by a formal trial judgment. before Osiris in the shadowy region of Amentithe under world-in presence of the four genii of that realm, and of forty-two assessors. To this judgment the shade was conducted by Horus, who carried him past Cerberus, a hippopotamus, the gaunt guardian of the gate. He stood by in silence while Anubis weighed his heart in the scales of justice. It his good works preponderated, he was dismissed to the fields of Aahlu—the Elysian Fields; if his evil, he was condemned to transmigration.

But that this doctrine of a judgment in another world might not decline into an idle legend, it was enforced by a preparatory trial in this -a trial of fearful and living import. From the sovereign to the meanest subject, every The trial of man underwent a sepulchral inquisition. As

soon as any one died, his body was sent to the embalmers, who kept it forty days, and for thirty-two in addition the family mourned, the mummy, in its coffin, was placed erect in an inner chamber of the house. Notice was then sent to the forty-two assessors of the district; and un an appointed day, the corpse was carried to the sacred lake, of which every nome, and, indeed, every large town, had one toward the west. Arrived on its shore, the trial commenced; any person might bring charges against the deceased, or speak in his behalf; but woe to the false accuser. The asses-ors then passed sentence according to the evidence before them: if they found an evil life, sepulture was denied, and, in the midst of social disgrace, the friends bore back the mummy to their home, to be redeemed by their own good works in future years; or, if too poor to give it a place of refuge, it was buried on the Origin of the margin of the lake, the culprit ghost waiting Greek Hades. and wandering for a hundred years. On these Stygian shores the bones of some are still dug up in our day: they have remained unsepulchred for more than thirty times their predestined century. Even to wicked kings a burial had thus been denied. But, if the verdict of the assessors was favourable, a coin was paid to the boatman Charon for ferriage; a cake was provided for the hippopotamus Cerberus; they rowed across the lake in the baris, or death-boat, the priest announcing to Osiris and the unearthly assessors the good deeds of the deceased. Arriving on the opposite shore, the procession walked in solemn silence, and the mummy was then deposited in its final resting-place—the catacombs.

From this it may be gathered that the Egyptian relig on did not remain a mere speculative subject, but was enforced on the people by the most solemn ceremonies. Moreover, in the great temples, grand processional services were celebrated, the precursors creeds,

Ceremonies, of some that still endure. There were sacrifices racles,

prophecy. of meat-offerings, libations, incense. The national double creed, adapted in one branch to the vulgar, in the other to the learned, necessarily implied mysteries ; some of these were avowedly transported to Greece. The machinery of oracles was resorted to. The Greek oracles were of Egyptian origin. So profound was the respect paid to their commands that even the sovereigns were obliged to obey them. It was thus that a warning from the oracle of Amun caused Necho to stop the construction of his canal. For the determination of future events, omens were studied, entrails inspected, and nativities were cast.

CHAPTER IV.
GREEK AGE OF INQUIRY,

RISE AND DECLINE OF PHYSICAL SPECULATION.
IONIAN PHILOSOPHY, commencing from Egyptian Ideas, identifies in

Water, or Air, or Fire, the First Principle.- Emerging from the Stage of Sorcery, it founds Psychology, Biology, Cosmogony, Astronomy, and

ends in doubting whether there is any Criterion of Truth. ITALIAN Philosophy depends on Numbers and Harmonies. It

reproduces the Egyptian and Hindu Doctrine of Transmigration. ELEATIC PHILOSOPHY presents a great Advance, indicating a rapid

Approach to Oriental Ideas.-It assumes a Pantheistic Aspect. RISE OF PHILOSOPHY IN EUROPEAN GREECE.-Relations and Influence of

the Mediterranean Commercial and Colonial System.-Athens attains to commercial Supremacy. Her vast Progress in Intelligence and Art.

-Her Demoralization. - She becomes the Intellectual Centre of the Mediterranean. Commencement of the Athenian higher Analysis. It is conducted by THE

SOPHists, who reject Philosophy, Keligion, and even Morality, and end

in Atheism. Political Dangers of the higher Analysis.-Illustrution from the Middle

Ages.

In Chapter II. I have described the origin and decline of

yin of Greek Mythology; in this, I am to relate the Greek philo- first European attempt at philosophizing. The sophy

Ionian systems spring directly out of the contemporary religious opinions, and appear as a phase in Greek comparative theology.

Contrasted with the psychical condition of India, we cannot but be struck with the feebleness of these first European efforts. They correspond to that period in which the mind has shaken off its ideas of sorcery, but has not advanced beyond geocentral and anthropocentral conceptions. As is uniformly observed, as soon as man has

collected what he considers to be trustworthy data, he forthwith applies them to a cosmogony, and develops Its imperfecpseudo-scientific eystems. It is not until a later tions. period that he awakens to the suspicion that we have no absolute knowledge of truth.

The reader, who might, perhaps, be repelled by the apparent worthlessness of the succession of Greek opinions now to be described, will find them assume an interest, if considered in the aggregate, or viewed as a series of steps or stages of European approach to conclusions long before arrived at in Egypt and India. Far in advance of anything that Greece can offer, the intellectual history of India furnishes systems at once consistent and imposingsystems not remaining useless speculations, but becoming inwoven in social life.

Greek philosophy is considered as having originated with Thales, who, though of Phoenician descent, Commences was born at Miletus, a Greek colony in Asia in Asia Minor. Minor, about B.C. 640. At that time, as related in the last chapter, the Egyptian ports had been opened to foreigners by Psammetichus. In the civil war which that monarch had been waging with his colleagues, he owed his success to Ionian and other Greek mercenaries whom he had employed; but, though proving victor in the contest, his political position was such as to compel him to depart from the maxims followed in his country for so many thousand years, and to permit foreigners to have access to it. Hitherto the Europeans had been only known to the Egyptians as pirates and cannibals.

From the doctrine of Thales, it may be inferred that, though he had visited Egypt, he had never been Doctrine of in communication with its sources of learning, Thales but had merely mingled among the vulgar, from whom he had gathered the popular notion that the first principle is water. The state of things in Egypt suggests is derived that this primitive dogma of European philo- from Egypt. sophy was a popular notion in that country. With but little care on the part of men. the fertilizing Nile-water yielded those abundant crops which made Egypt the granary of the Old World. It might therefore be said both philosophically and facetiously, that the first principle

« AnteriorContinuar »