« AnteriorContinuar »
to the conquest over lions and serpents; that is to say, the fire ; the fourth property began the conquest of the first three or dark properties; the fifth day was considered favourable for sacrifice, the happy influence of the newlyrisen sun, or light, became perceptible; and on the sixth, the conjunction of Sol with Istar was celebrated with joyous songs. The eighth chapter of Ezekiel comprises the day of mourning and that of rejoicing at the recovery of Tammuz (107).
There is one circumstance connected with the story of Istar referred to above, which though not strictly within the scope of this work, is yet of so striking a character that the reader will readily excuse my referring to it. is comprised within a short poem entitled “Istar's Descent into Hell.” Its opening lines are : “ Towards the country without return, the land of putrefaction, Istar, the daughter of Sin, has set her mind.
Towards the dwelling, into which you enter, whence never to issue
again. Towards the path from which there is no return,
Towards the habitation at whose entrance all light is withdrawn.” Who, on reading these lines, is not inevitably reminded of the “Inferno" of Dante, who, of course, never had heard of this Chaldean poem ?
Another remark, which may fitly be introduced here, has reference to Tammuz. In Chinese his name is Tomos; and to this circumstance is due the fable that St. Thomas had been in India and China. The first Roman Catholic missionaries took Tomos for Thomas, who had there preached the Gospel; wherefore the first Christians in those countries called themselves the Christians of St. Thomas, telling wonderful stories of the doings of St. Thomas, and that at last he was put to death by the Brahmins, whose trade he spoiled.
BRAHMINS AND GYMNOSOPHISTS
34. Vulgar Creed of India. The Indian religion, whether we look on it as an adulteration of Magism, or as the common trunk of all Asiatic theosophy, offers so boundless a wealth of deities, that no other in this respect can approach it. This wealth is an infallible sign of the mental poverty and grossness of the people, who, ignorant of the laws of Nature, and terrified at its phenomena, acknowledged as many supernatural beings as there were mysteries for them. The Brahmins reckon up 300,000 gods—a frightful host, that have kept Indian life servile and stagnant, perpetuated the divisions of caste, upheld ignorance, and weighed like an incubus on the breasts of their deluded dupes, and turned existence into a nightmare of grief and servitude.
35. Secret Doctrines.—But in the secret sanctuary these vain phantoms disappear, and the initiated are taught to look upon
them as countless accidents and outward manifestations of the First Cause. The Brahmins did not consider the people fit to apprehend and preserve in its purity the religion of the spirit, hence they veiled it in these figures, and also invented a language incomprehensible to the vulgar, but which the investigations of Oriental scholars have enabled us to read, and to perceive that the creed of India is one of the purest ever known to man. Thus in the second chapter of the first part of the “Vishnu Purana,” it is written: “God is without form, epithet, definition, or description; free from defect, incapable of annihilation, change, grief, or pain. We can only say that He, that is, the Eternal Being, is God. Vulgar men think that God is in the water; the more enlightened, in celestial bodies; the ignorant, in wood and stone; but the wise, in the universal mind.” The “Mahanirvana” says: “Numerous figures, corresponding with the nature of divers powers and quality, were invented for the benefit of those who are wanting in sufficient understanding." Again,“ We have no notion of how the Eternal
Being is to be described; he is above all the mind can apprehend, above Nature. . . . That Only One that was never defined by any language, and gave to language all its meaning, he is the Supreme Being and no partial thing that man worships. . . . This Being extends over all things. He is mere spirit without corporeal form ; without extension of any size, unimpressionable, and without any organs; he is pure, perfect, omniscient, omnipresent, the ruler of the intellect he is the soul of the whole universe.'
36. Hindoo Cosmogony.—The Hindoo cosmogony certainly is the most ancient we possess; the laws of Menu, embodying it, were written before Moses was born, and may thus describe the Creation.
“This universe existed only in the first divine idea, yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness. ... Then the sole, self-existing power appeared with undiminished glory, expanding his idea.”
He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first created the waters.”
“From that which Is, the first cause, was produced the divine male."
“He framed the heaven above, and the earth beneath; in the midst he placed the subtile ether.”
“He framed all creatures.” “He, too, first assigned to all creatures distinct names.
“He gave being to time, and the divisions of time to the stars also and the planets.
Having divided his own substance, the mighty power became half male, half female."
"He, ... having created this universe, was again absorbed in the spirit, changing the time of energy for the time of repose.
It will be seen that the author of Genesis has given us a faint echo of those grand utterances, as a child feebly attempting to repeat the teachings of a sage.
37. Buddhism.—A dangerous antagonist to the Brahman priesthood, and the literature and traditions, on which they rested their claims to power, sprang up in Buddhism. Buddha preached the equality of all men, and denied the value, much more the necessity, of the Vedic system. The new gospel of universal charity and brotherhood was eagerly received by men, who were groaning under the yoke of Brahmanical tyranny, and it found an ally in the halfexpressed scepticism of some of the Vedic schools of philosophy. It was in the south of India especially that Buddha's
doctrines found a ready welcome, while Ceylon became converted to Buddhism as early as 240 B.C. In India, Buddhism was exterminated by its sanguinary persecution by the Brahmins. Ceylon is now the only part of India in which the religion of Buddha still survives.
38. Buddhistic Teaching.-Buddha, or to give him his real name, Sakyamuni—for Buddha is a title, and means a “Sage"—is said to have been born in the sixth century B.C. But of his real existence there is no proof; the most recent researches show that the story of Buddha is a solar myth, first told of Krishna, and afterwards transferred to Buddha. The most sacred Buddhist symbols, and the most frequent Buddhist similes, have their Vedic analogies, with the distinction that Brahminism resolves the individual into a (personal) god, Buddhism into the (universal) Nothing, or Nirvana. For Buddhism teaches that the original matter, or prakriti, is the only existing divine per se. In this matter there are immanent two forces, which produce two different conditions—quiescence and activity. In one state it remains quiescent with consciousness in an absolute inactive vacuity, and this is the state of bliss of the original Nothing. In another state the matter steps out of itself by its activity, and is shaped into limited forms. In doing so it loses its consciousness, which it re-acquires in becoming man, and there is in this manner an original and a born consciousness. The aim of man is to reproduce the original consciousness. On arriving at it he learns that there is nothing real beside the original matter; his spirit then becomes identical with the original conscious Nothing; that is to say, his individual soul, set free from the body, in which it was imprisoned, returns into the universal soul, just as the solar light, imprisoned in a piece of wood, when this is burnt, returns into the universal ocean of light. On this doctrine was afterwards engrafted the false belief in the metempsychosis or transmigration of souls, and the misanthropic system of self-renunciation, which in India led to the self-torturings of fakirs and other fanatics; and which finds its analogies in Christian communities in the asceticism of fasts, penances, macerations, solitude, flagellation, and all the mad practices of monks, anchorets, and other religious zealots.
39. Asceticism.—This asceticism, founded on the above notion, viz., that the Absolute or All is the real existence, and that individual phenomena, especially matter in all its forms, are really nothing, i.e., mere phantasms, and to be
avoided, as increasing the distance from the Absolute, and that absorption into the Deity is to be obtained, even in this life, by the maceration of the body, was and even now is prevalent in India, where it was carried, in thousands of instances, further than mere self-torture, even to death. When, at the festival of the dread goddess Bhovani, the wife of Siva, her ponderous image was borne on a car, with cutting wheels, to the Ganges, a crowd of frantic beings, wreathed with flowers, joyous as if they went to the nuptial altar, would cast themselves under the wheels of the car, offering themselves, amidst the sounding of trumpets, as voluntary sacrifices, to be cut to pieces by the wheels. And in various sects asceticism has led to the adoption of many strange practices. In the “Contes de la Reine de Navarre" there is a passage which at some length refers to a special mode adopted by monks and other men for the mortification of the flesh.
40. Gymnosophists. We have very few notices of the Gymnosophists, the Magi of Brahminism, the most severe custodians of the primitive law, and originally most free from imposture. They spread over Africa; and in Ethiopia they lived as solitaires, and revived on the banks of the Nile many phases of Asiatic theosophy, traces of which abound in the doctrines of the Dervishes. Priests-errant, they were reported to carry with them a secret doctrine, of which the simplicity of their lives and the purity of their morals might be considered as the outward manifestation; though in after times they became one of the most debauched and immoral sects in India.
They went almost naked (hence their name-yuvos, naked; copòs, wise), and lived on herbs; but their own austerity did not render them harsh towards other men, nor unjust as regarded other common conditions of life. They believed in one only God, the immortality of the soul and its transmigration, and when old age or disease prostrated them, they ascended the funeral pile, deeming it ignominious to let years or evils afflict them. Alexander saw one of them close his life in this manner.
The priestly colleges of Ethiopia and Egypt maintained constant relations. Osiris is an Ethiopian divinity. Every year the two families of priests met on the boundaries of the two countries to offer common sacrifices to Ammon, -another name for Jupiter, and celebrate the festival which the Greeks called heliotrapeza, or Table of the Sun. Amidst the predominant fetishism of Africa, produced partly