Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Christian Twelve Apostles, and one for each day of the month; and, as the later Christians invoked the saint of the day in the Mass, so did these disciples of Zoroaster call upon the angel of the day in their daily prayers; but the Christian theory of angels is not nearly such a complete one as the Persian from which it was taken, through the Babylonians and Hebrews.

Voluntary acts of propitiation developed into worship and sacrifice as religious obligations; the periodical journeying to the grave, into “pilgrimages to the shrine”; the custom of eulogizing the dead at the grave with praises for their good deeds and flattery--repeated for a time, afterwards at periodical intervals—developed into praise and prayer; and prayer, at first to ghosts, developed into prayer to gods. In Egypt the virtues and good deeds of the departed were read out by the priest at the tomb, and the crowd joined in praising him, following in the manner of responses. Thus were evolved the tomb, the altar, the shrine, and the temple, by gradual stages, from simple grave or tumulus out in the open, to one within the hut, or one specially roofed over; from the ghosts of ancestors were evolved, by the same gradual stages, angels, devils, and gods; and from the performance of good deeds to dead relatives at the grave were evolved simple acts of propitiation, which have assumed such enormous proportions, and have developed such a network of dogmas as is witnessed in the religious systems of modern days.

In supplying food for the dead, privation and hunger were frequently suffered, and this condition conduced to dreams and religious excitement. In dream-land all sorts of events took place, such as ghosts visiting ghosts and performing acts of valour; dreamers thus becoming heroes in ghostly legends. From this was evolved the idea of “revelations” and “visions,” such as are to be found in the Apocalypse, consisting of wars in heaven between good and evil spirits, in which serpents, horned and other animals (obtained from the Zodiac) made their appearance. It is very probable that most of the messiahs that have appeared, and pretended to have received “revelations,” having had the idea first put into their heads by their ignorant and wonder-seeking following, conceived a great deal of the details of their revelations in dreams. From these ideas arose the custom of intentional dreaming by abstaining from

food in order to dream, and so visit ghost-land; from which again was evolved, later, fasting as a pious custom. Privation, again, produced mental and religious excitement and hysteria. The enormous increase of muscular strength in maniacs, and excessive muscular contraction and rigidity in epilepsy, tended to produce the ideas of superhuman strength, from which was evolved the idea of " omnipotence.” And, as the inhabitants of the invisible world were believed to have the power of making themselves at one time visible, and at another invisible, they must, it was thought, be omnipotent. Hysteria, lunacy, epilepsy, and accidental acts of heroism, which gave rise to the idea of superhuman intelligence, all tended to evolve “ inspiration”; the ghost, or spirit, that had taken possession of the body was acting, and not the individual.

From dreams, then, we see the groundwork of the “visions” of madonnas, declared to be seen by hysterical, devoutly inclined, and weak-minded girls among Catholics. These visions, it will be observed, nearly always occur in lonely country places, away from the prying crowd, the loneliness of which lends itself to the imagination. The Hebrew Prophets called their predictions “visions.” The miraculous birth of a son was announced to Joseph in his sleep; and the Apocalypse, or “ Revelation” (copied chiefly from preexisting Pagan writings), is the narrative of scenes which John's soul, or second self, witnessed when it mounted up to heaven in his dream. · With the evolution of ghosts and spirits, and their taking possession of the human body-at first of deceased relatives, afterwards of departed heroes-came, almost of necessity, the evolution of gods. Living heroes were born of gods, like the earlier kings of Egypt; and many of the heroes of the O. T. were considered gods — Moses (Exodus viii. 1), Samuel (1 Sam. xxviii. 13), and the Judges (Psalm lxxxii. 6). Gods descended from heaven and became incarnate in men, were also intimate with the women of the earth, by whom they had giants ; and men ascended to heaven and took their seats among the gods. Enoch was taken up by the god “Jehovah” (more correctly Yahuh). Gods (not "angels," as the word 'aleim, or elohim, is rendered in the A. V. of the Bible) appeared at Lot's house in Sodom. When Saul went to the Witch of Endor, and asked

her “to bring up Samuel,” that enchantress said she saw gods (aleim) ascending out of the earth; the ghost of Samuel is then said to have appeared, to whom Saul offered adoration, and with whom he afterwards held a consultation.

Not only were living heroes regarded as gods and sons of gods, but saints (who were supposed to have answered prayer, given rain, or worked other miracles) and sorcerers (who made a lucky hit by predicting victory, performing cures, casting out demons by the administration of a powerful purgative) were acclaimed as gods. The gods, too, were not always ghosts or spirits, for with the writers of the Vedic Hymns the gods were living beings; and, down to civilized times, the Greeks thought of their gods as material persons.

The idea of sacrifice, we have seen, was evolved from "propitiation.” Human sacrifice was ordered by the Hebrew god " Jehovah” (Yahuh); Abram was ordered to offer up his son Isaac, when, by order of an angel, a ram was substituted (Gen. xxii. 7). This barbarous and vindictive idea of substitution of the innocent for the guilty has survived to our own day, and is carried out in the Christian idea of redemption by the death of a man represented by Christians as being innocent. The Ram and the Ram's head and horns were sacred emblems with the Egyptians. The god Amen, or Ammon, was represented as having the body of a man and the head of a ram. The above story is a very old Pagan legend ; the Hindu version is that a king, who had no son, promised the goddess Varuna that, if he were granted the favour of a son, he would offer him up as a sacrifice. The child (Kohita) was duly born, and when the father told him of the vow he had made, and bade him prepare for sacrifice, the boy ran away, and wandered in the forest, where he met a starving Brahmin, whom he persuaded to sell one of his sons for 100 Cows. This boy was brought to the king, and was about to be sacrificed as a substitute, when, on praying to the gods, he was released. The Greeks had two versions of a similar fable. One, that Agamemnon had a daughter whom he dearly loved, and whom he was ordered by the deity to offer up as a sacrifice. When preparations were being made, the goddess carried the girl away, and substituted a stag. The other, that one of their kings, who had offended Diana, was ordered to sacrifice his daughter,

when, just before the fatal blow, she managed to disappear. Human sacrifices were also offered up by the Jews to Moloch, Baal (the old Babylonian god Bel), Chemosh, and Apis—the Bull-god (of the zodiacal sign taurus) of the Egyptians and Carthaginians (see Ex. xiii. 2 ; xxii. 29; xxxii. 27 ; Judges xi. 31 ; Joshua vi. 17 ; 1 Samuel xv. 32; 2 Samuel xxi. 6; 1 Kings xviii. 40 ; 2 Kings X. 24 ; Jer. vii. 30). A cruel and barbarous command put into the mouth of Jehovah by the priests was that no one devoted (or consecrated) of men should be redeemed, but be surely put to death (Lev. xxvii. 28), so that there was no chance of escape by substitution, except through the intervention of the priest.

In time of war the captives were chosen for sacrifice, but in time of peace slaves were offered. In great calamities or famines the king was, on the least pretext, sacrificed, as being the highest price with which they could purchase the divine favour. Kings also offered their children. “The altar of Moloch reeked with blood.” Fair virgins and children were sacrificed by being thrown into a furnace shaped like a bull, “while trumpets and flutes drowned their screams, and the mothers looked on, and were bound to restrain their tears.” Carthage was a notable place for these sacrifices. The offering of human sacrifices to the sun in Mexico and Peru was extensively practised. In the hunting stage human life was freely offered ; in the pastoral stage animals were substituted ; and in later times came the Communion of bread and wine, as substitutes for the actual flesh and blood.

It is a popular idea that cannibalism originated from motives of hunger ; but this is erroneous. Hunger may have been a motive on certain occasions ; but a very ancient motive was that of imbibing the qualities and attributesvalour, bravery, strength, etc.—of the person eaten; and it was certainly from this idea that the idea of eating the god, by which they hoped to incorporate the ghost or spirit of their god with their own bodies, arose ; and from which sprang the Bacchanalian “mysteries” of Rome, the Eleusinian “ mysteries ” of Greece, and the Eucharistic “mysteries” and “Love Feasts” of the Essenes and of the Jessæans (Pisciculi, or primitive Christians). “To murder a man was to do an act of the greatest devotion, and to eat his flesh was to receive the highest blessings,” says Pliny ; and again : “These monstrous rites the (pagan] Roman people put an end to "; and this gives us an insight into the cause of the so-called Christian “persecutions” under the Roman Emperors.

The idea of “mystery” was very ancient, and had its origin with the Chaldeans and Persians, who concealed the higher branches of science from the people under the veil of allegory. From them the Hebrews adopted it, the book of Job being allegorical and nothing more than an astrodrama. The seven sons of Job are the seven summer months, which are killed by the five winter months, but are all alive again in the next summer months, when Job (the year) is fully restored to health and happiness.

The “mysteries ” were offered up by the Athenians every fifth year in honour of Ceres, the goddess of corn ; she was supposed to give her “flesh to eat,” and Bacchus, the god of wine (an old sun-god), his “ blood to drink.” Many of the forms of expression in the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Communion Service of the various Protestant Churches, are precisely the same as those appertaining to the pagan rite. In the Eleusinian mysteries was celebrated “the sacrament of the Lord's Supper” (long before the Christian Jesus arrived on the scene), and the pagan priest dismissed his congregation with “The Lord be with you,” an expression retained to this day in the English Church, and in the Catholic Church as “Dominus vobiscum." In one of the chambers dedicated to Osiris, in the temple of Philæ, the dead body of the Egyptian god is represented with stalks of corn springing from it ; a priest is watering the stalks, and an inscription says : “This is the form of him whom one may not name, Osiris of the Mysteries, who springs from the returning waters” (of the Nile). The ancient Egyptians annually celebrated the resurrection of their god and saviour Osiris, and at the same time commemorated his death by eating “the consecrated wafer" which had become “ veritable flesh of his flesh ”—the body of Osiris—thus eating their god, as the Christians do. Bread and wine, too, were brought to the temples as offerings. In the John Gospel we read that “I am the true vine; ye are the branches”; “I am the bread of life”; “Take, eat; this is my body,” etc. In the Parable of the

« AnteriorContinuar »