Imágenes de páginas

fair-minded person would wish to deprive the illiterate of their little comfort. It is with a feeling more of sadness than of reproach that we turn away from such ; and, though their faithfulness to their opinions may be admired, it is impossible to look with the same equanimity upon the obstinate and culpable credulity of the more intelligent ones, who, mentally able to see and to reason, absolutely refuse to do either.

But does it not appeal to the mind unfettered by the slavery of custom that such a waste of valuable time is very shocking to contemplate, and especially so when we consider what might be learned concerning the truth of the various phenomena that are daily exhibited, which are now as so many dark places to the person of faith, were that time devoted instead to the study of science ? And were these credulous persons, who display such culpable ignorance in even elementary science, told that they were guilty of similar superstitions to the savages in the heart of Africa, they would be as much astonished as we may be at their credulity.

The idea of incessant divine intervention, in opposition to the operation of unvarying law, will always be supported and encouraged by a priesthood, since it must desire to be considered as standing between the prayer of the votary and the providential act. “Astronomical predictions of all kinds," says Draper, “depend upon the admission of the fact that there never has been, and never will be, any intervention in the operation of natural laws. The scientific philosopher affirms that the world at any given moment is the direct result of its condition in the preceding moment, and the direct cause of its condition in the subsequent moment......' Law' and 'chance' are only different names for mechanical necessity. Every event has its warrant in some preceding event, and gives warrant to others that are to follow.” Again he says : “ It has always been inexpedient to admit the prevalence of law of any kind as opposed to Providential intervention. It was considered derogatory to the majesty of God that that will should be fettered in any way.'

We are justified in expressing wonder and admiration, if not reverence, in contemplating the magnificence of the visible universe ; the marvellous beauty and harmony of

nature, and her grand and immutable laws; our own existence, and that of all other life by which we are surrounded. We are also justified in recognizing the existence of an inscrutable power, behind all the phenomena, that is manifested around us. But to attribute all this magnificent result of natural laws to a man-like deity, given to anger, cruelty, and vindictiveness—one god among a number of others, and jealous of the others; demanding worship in the form of cringing self-abasement, flattery, and adulation-is to reduce humanity, in a manner, to the lowest species of animal life, and the human mind to a state of primitive ignorance, cowardice, and fear. Such crass and ignorant notions, fostered through many centuries of priestcraft, have been the means of keeping men in darkness, have led them astray from the truth, and have delayed the progress and development of science and the advancement of knowledge.

With the disappearance of the primitive conception of an anthropomorphous God with human attributes there disappears also, not only lip worship, but divine worship of any sort. Mr. Herbert Spencer says that worship "is not mere lip-homage, but a homage expressed in actions ; not a mere respect, but a respect proved by the sacrifice of time, thought, and labour." Again he says: “It is the neglect of science that is is the refusal to study the surrounding creation...... the universe, and its cause......that is irreligious...... Not only does mankind in general pass by, without study, these things which they daily proclaim to be so wonderful, but they frequently condemn as mere triflers those who give time to the observation of nature, and actually scorn those who show any active interest in these marvels .Devotion to science is a tacit worship-a tacit recognition of worth in the things studied, and, by implication, in their cause."*

[merged small][ocr errors]





FROM spirit worship-ANIMISM—was evolved the worship of material objects-FETICHISM—such as fire, light, stones, trees, animals, etc., which were supposed to be occupied by a spirit and to possess mysterious powers.

Then was evolved the idea of driving away a threatened danger by means of its symbol. When the Israelites were afflicted with fiery serpents, Moses erected a brazen serpent. When the Philistines were troubled with a plague of mice and tumours, they made a golden image of these and sent them out of their country with the hope that the vermin and the disease would depart also. The Indians of Dacotah adopt this custom. If a man suffer from a boil, they carve an image of a boil in wood, which is then placed in a bowl of water and blown to pieces with a gun; the idea being that, as the image is thus destroyed, so will the original boil be.

The Australian native tribes are never without fire. If a fire dies out, they will travel for miles to borrow a spark from the nearest tribe. Watching the sacred flame is a duty assigned to a particular tribesman or woman. The vestal virgins of Rome were stripped and scourged if they neglected to keep up the holy fire.

The Hebrew God Jehovah "was said to be a "sanguinary fire” (Deut. iv. 24), and fire was one of the favourite

emblems of this God, who is said to have appeared to Moses in a “burning bush ”; to have led the Jews in their wanderings “as a cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night”; to have consumed by fire Sodom, Gomorrah, Nadab, Abihu, Korah and his followers, the fifty sent to apprehend Elijah, and to have taken Elijah in a whirlwind with “chariots of fire.” This same God is said to have appeared as fire in sacrifices; Elijah says: “The God that answered by fire let him be God” (1 Kings xviii. 24); Isaiah says that he will come with fire (lxvi. 15, 16); and Paul had the same idea when he says that Jesus will come in "flaming fire," taking “vengeance on those who have known not God” (2 Thess. i. 8), the justice of which is on a par with other acts of so-called justice recorded in the Bible.

We have further examples of fetichism in the Rosetta stone, and in the reputed cures wrought by touching sacred objects, such as the hem of a garment (Matt. xiv. 36), and handkerchiefs—that of Veronica was said to have received the impress of the face of Jesus--and aprons, such objects being believed to be efficacious in exorcising evil spirits. Cauls are supposed to protect sailors. It is also seen in the Bibliomancy—apart from its fraudulent nature--of the early Christians, and in the bibliolatry (Bible worship) of the later Christians, to many of whom, in these days of scientific enlightenment, this book is so sacred that anyone questioning its chimerical and contradictory statements is regarded as in danger of supernatural vengeance, and with whom a Bible text is considered conclusive evidence to establish any antiquated and unscientific absurdity. This fetich of the Christians is still retained in our law courts for purposes of administering oaths, as the phallus was in former days.

Fetichism spread into numerous systems of organized idolatry, and developed into TOTEMISM. A Totem was a tribal fetich or object in which the spirit of an ancestor was supposed to reside. From Totemism was evolved ASTROLOGY (which must not be confused with astronomy). The twelve signs of the zodiac were totemic among the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Jews. The guardian animal, or fetich -“the tutelary genius,” developed into the “presiding stars "—the "guardian demons," or "angels." The stories of Daniel and his safety in the lions' pit, of Jonah in the stomach of the whale, and the guarding of the carcase of the old prophet (1 Kings xii. 24) are totemic; and to feed the Totem was an act of religious worship. In Egypt the gods Anubis and Apis were totem deities, and were fed with sacred food—the former bore an animal-headed staff or rod; and the Greeks, who borrowed a great part of their religious ideas from Egypt, fed wolves with flesh at the sanctuary of the Wolf-Apollo. Trees, as well as corn, had their spirits, and it was customary to kill the spirit as a god ; the corn spirit was supposed to pass into an animal, which was killed and eaten

as a religious “sacrament." The rod—the symbol of power--was also totemic, and had been magical long before the time of Moses and Aaron. Moses and Jesus learned magic in Egypt in their young days, and it was there that the former familiarized himself with the use of the magical rod. The word magic is derived from the word magi-the Persian priestly caste. In Ex. (iv. 3) we are told his rod became changed into a serpent ; that by its power (vii. 21) the waters of Egypt were turned into blood, and the fish died and “stank, and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt”; and that by the same power the Red Sea was divided (xiv. 16). Aaron, by his magic rod, produced plagues of frogs, lice, and flies. Bacchus, of whom Moses or Mises was only a personification-and the mythical character of the latter is admitted by the Christian Father Justinturned water into blood, dried up rivers, and turned water into wine and vinegar by his rod. The conversion of water into wine was a common magical feat, having its origin in the watery juice of the grape, forming by fermentation, wine, and, by further fermentation, vinegar. The name Moses was the Arabian for Bacchus, both meaning "saved from the waters.” Aaron's rod budded, blossomed, and bore almonds (Num. xvii. 8). The water-finder's rod at the present day is of huzel, as was the rod of the Egyptian Thor; and prayers for wet and fine weather still remain as relics of former fetich worship. Human bones were burned to propitiate the clouds to give rain, and this ancient custom is still perpetuated by modern boys, though for amusement only, as a “ bon-” or “ bonefire.” The rain maker—the fetich man--was a very important person among the ancients of nearly all countries.

« AnteriorContinuar »