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´╗┐Title: Pagan and Christian creeds: their origin and meaning
Author: Carpenter, Edward, 1844-1929
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pagan and Christian creeds: their origin and meaning" ***

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By Edward Carpenter

"The different religions being lame attempts to represent under various
guises this one root-fact of the central universal life, men have at
all times clung to the religious creeds and rituals and ceremonials as
symbolising in some rude way the redemption and fulfilment of their own
most intimate natures--and this whether consciously understanding
the interpretations, or whether (as most often) only doing so in an
unconscious or quite subconscious way."

The Drama of Love and Death, p. 96.



     I.    REST



The subject of Religious Origins is a fascinating one, as the great
multitude of books upon it, published in late years, tends to show.
Indeed the great difficulty to-day in dealing with the subject, lies in
the very mass of the material to hand--and that not only on account of
the labor involved in sorting the material, but because the abundance
itself of facts opens up temptation to a student in this department of
Anthropology (as happens also in other branches of general Science) to
rush in too hastily with what seems a plausible theory. The more facts,
statistics, and so forth, there are available in any investigation, the
easier it is to pick out a considerable number which will fit a given
theory. The other facts being neglected or ignored, the views put
forward enjoy for a time a great vogue. Then inevitably, and at a later
time, new or neglected facts alter the outlook, and a new perspective is

There is also in these matters of Science (though many scientific men
would doubtless deny this) a great deal of "Fashion". Such has been
notoriously the case in Political Economy, Medicine, Geology, and even
in such definite studies as Physics and Chemistry. In a comparatively
recent science, like that with which we are now concerned, one would
naturally expect variations. A hundred and fifty years ago, and since
the time of Rousseau, the "Noble Savage" was extremely popular; and he
lingers still in the story books of our children. Then the reaction from
this extreme view set in, and of late years it has been the popular cue
(largely, it must be said, among "armchair" travelers and explorers)
to represent the religious rites and customs of primitive folk as a
senseless mass of superstitions, and the early man as quite devoid of
decent feeling and intelligence. Again, when the study of religious
origins first began in modern times to be seriously taken up--say in the
earlier part of last century--there was a great boom in Sungods. Every
divinity in the Pantheon was an impersonation of the Sun--unless indeed
(if feminine) of the Moon. Apollo was a sungod, of course; Hercules was
a sungod; Samson was a sungod; Indra and Krishna, and even Christ, the
same. C. F. Dupuis in France (Origine de tous les Cultes, 1795), F. Nork
in Germany (Biblische Mythologie, 1842), Richard Taylor in England (The
Devil's Pulpit, (1) 1830), were among the first in modern times to put
forward this view. A little later the PHALLIC explanation of everything
came into fashion. The deities were all polite names for the organs and
powers of procreation. R. P. Knight (Ancient Art and Mythology,
1818) and Dr. Thomas Inman (Ancient Faiths and Ancient Names, 1868)
popularized this idea in England; so did Nork in Germany. Then again
there was a period of what is sometimes called Euhemerism--the theory
that the gods and goddesses had actually once been men and women,
historical characters round whom a halo of romance and remoteness
had gathered. Later still, a school has arisen which thinks little of
sungods, and pays more attention to Earth and Nature spirits, to gnomes
and demons and vegetation-sprites, and to the processes of Magic by
which these (so it was supposed) could be enlisted in man's service if
friendly, or exorcised if hostile.

 (1) This extraordinary book, though carelessly composed and
containing many unproven statements, was on the whole on the right
lines. But it raised a storm of opposition--the more so because its
author was a clergyman! He was ejected from the ministry, of course, and
was sent to prison twice.

It is easy to see of course that there is some truth in ALL these
explanations; but naturally each school for the time being makes the
most of its own contention. Mr. J. M. Robertson (Pagan Christs and
Christianity and Mythology), who has done such fine work in this field,
(1) relies chiefly on the solar and astronomical origins, though he does
not altogether deny the others; Dr. Frazer, on the other hand--whose
great work, The Golden Bough, is a monumental collection of primitive
customs, and will be an inexhaustible quarry for all future students--is
apparently very little concerned with theories about the Sun and the
stars, but concentrates his attention on the collection of innumerable
details (2) of rites, chiefly magical, connected with food and
vegetation. Still later writers, like S. Reinach, Jane Harrison and
E. A. Crowley, being mainly occupied with customs of very primitive
peoples, like the Pelasgian Greeks or the Australian aborigines, have
confined themselves (necessarily) even more to Magic and Witchcraft.

 (1) If only he did not waste so much time, and so needlessly, in
slaughtering opponents!

 (2) To such a degree, indeed, that sometimes the connecting clue
of the argument seems to be lost.

Meanwhile the Christian Church from these speculations has kept itself
severely apart--as of course representing a unique and divine revelation
little concerned or interested in such heathenisms; and moreover (in
this country at any rate) has managed to persuade the general public
of its own divine uniqueness to such a degree that few people, even
nowadays, realize that it has sprung from just the same root as
Paganism, and that it shares by far the most part of its doctrines and
rites with the latter. Till quite lately it was thought (in Britain)
that only secularists and unfashionable people took any interest in
sungods; and while it was true that learned professors might point to a
belief in Magic as one of the first sources of Religion, it was easy in
reply to say that this obviously had nothing to do with Christianity!
The Secularists, too, rather spoilt their case by assuming, in their
wrath against the Church, that all priests since the beginning of
the world have been frauds and charlatans, and that all the rites of
religion were merely devil's devices invented by them for the purpose of
preying upon the superstitions of the ignorant, to their own enrichment.
They (the Secularists) overleaped themselves by grossly exaggerating a
thing that no doubt is partially true.

Thus the subject of religious origins is somewhat complex, and yields
many aspects for consideration. It is only, I think, by keeping a broad
course and admitting contributions to the truth from various sides, that
valuable results can be obtained. It is absurd to suppose that in this
or any other science neat systems can be found which will cover all the
facts. Nature and History do not deal in such things, or supply them for
a sop to Man's vanity.

It is clear that there have been three main lines, so far, along which
human speculation and study have run. One connecting religious rites and
observations with the movements of the Sun and the planets in the sky,
and leading to the invention of and belief in Olympian and remote gods
dwelling in heaven and ruling the Earth from a distance; the second
connecting religion with the changes of the season, on the Earth and
with such practical things as the growth of vegetation and food, and
leading to or mingled with a vague belief in earth-spirits and magical
methods of influencing such spirits; and the third connecting religion
with man's own body and the tremendous force of sex residing in
it--emblem of undying life and all fertility and power. It is clear
also--and all investigation confirms it--that the second-mentioned phase
of religion arose on the whole BEFORE the first-mentioned--that is, that
men naturally thought about the very practical questions of food and
vegetation, and the magical or other methods of encouraging the same,
before they worried themselves about the heavenly bodies and the laws of
THEIR movements, or about the sinister or favorable influences the stars
might exert. And again it is extremely probable that the third-mentioned
aspect--that which connected religion with the procreative desires and
phenomena of human physiology--really came FIRST. These desires and
physiological phenomena must have loomed large on the primitive mind
long before the changes of the seasons or of the sky had been at all
definitely observed or considered. Thus we find it probable that, in
order to understand the sequence of the actual and historical phases of
religious worship, we must approximately reverse the order above-given
in which they have been STUDIED, and conclude that in general the
Phallic cults came first, the cult of Magic and the propitiation of
earth-divinities and spirits came second, and only last came the belief
in definite God-figures residing in heaven.

At the base of the whole process by which divinities and demons were
created, and rites for their propitiation and placation established, lay
Fear--fear stimulating the imagination to fantastic activity. Primus in
orbe deos fecit Timor. And fear, as we shall see, only became a mental
stimulus at the time of, or after, the evolution of self-consciousness.
Before that time, in the period of SIMPLE consciousness, when the human
mind resembled that of the animals, fear indeed existed, but its nature
was more that of a mechanical protective instinct. There being no figure
or image of SELF in the animal mind, there were correspondingly no
figures or images of beings who might threaten or destroy that self. So
it was that the imaginative power of fear began with Self-consciousness,
and from that imaginative power was unrolled the whole panorama of the
gods and rites and creeds of Religion down the centuries.

The immense force and domination of Fear in the first self-conscious
stages of the human mind is a thing which can hardly be exaggerated, and
which is even difficult for some of us moderns to realize. But naturally
as soon as Man began to think about himself--a frail phantom and waif in
the midst of tremendous forces of whose nature and mode of operation he
was entirely ignorant--he was BESET with terrors; dangers loomed upon
him on all sides. Even to-day it is noticed by doctors that one of the
chief obstacles to the cure of illness among some black or native races
is sheer superstitious terror; and Thanatomania is the recognized word
for a state of mind ("obsession of death") which will often cause a
savage to perish from a mere scratch hardly to be called a wound.
The natural defence against this state of mind was the creation of an
enormous number of taboos--such as we find among all races and on every
conceivable subject--and these taboos constituted practically a
great body of warnings which regulated the lives and thoughts of the
community, and ultimately, after they had been weeded out and to some
degree simplified, hardened down into very stringent Customs and Laws.
Such taboos naturally in the beginning tended to include the avoidance
not only of acts which might reasonably be considered dangerous, like
touching a corpse, but also things much more remote and fanciful in
their relation to danger, like merely looking at a mother-in-law, or
passing a lightning-struck tree; and (what is especially to be noticed)
they tended to include acts which offered any special PLEASURE or
temptation--like sex or marriage or the enjoyment of a meal. Taboos
surrounded these things too, and the psychological connection is easy to
divine: but I shall deal with this general subject later.

It may be guessed that so complex a system of regulations made life
anything but easy to early peoples; but, preposterous and unreasonable
as some of the taboos were, they undoubtedly had the effect of
compelling the growth of self-control. Fear does not seem a very worthy
motive, but in the beginning it curbed the violence of the purely animal
passions, and introduced order and restraint among them. Simultaneously
it became itself, through the gradual increase of knowledge and
observation, transmuted and etherealized into something more like wonder
and awe and (when the gods rose above the horizon) into reverence.
Anyhow we seem to perceive that from the early beginnings (in the
Stone Age) of self-consciousness in Man there has been a gradual
development--from crass superstition, senseless and accidental, to
rudimentary observation, and so to belief in Magic; thence to Animism
and personification of nature-powers in more or less human form,
as earth-divinities or sky-gods or embodiments of the tribe; and to
placation of these powers by rites like Sacrifice and the Eucharist,
which in their turn became the foundation of Morality. Graphic
representations made for the encouragement of fertility--as on the
walls of Bushmen's rock-dwellings or the ceilings of the caverns of
Altamira--became the nurse of pictorial Art; observations of plants
or of the weather or the stars, carried on by tribal medicine-men for
purposes of witchcraft or prophecy, supplied some of the material of
Science; and humanity emerged by faltering and hesitating steps on the
borderland of those finer perceptions and reasonings which are supposed
to be characteristic of Civilization.

The process of the evolution of religious rites and ceremonies has in
its main outlines been the same all over the world, as the reader will
presently see--and this whether in connection with the numerous creeds
of Paganism or the supposedly unique case of Christianity; and now the
continuity and close intermixture of these great streams can no longer
be denied--nor IS it indeed denied by those who have really studied the
subject. It is seen that religious evolution through the ages has been
practically One thing--that there has been in fact a World-religion,
though with various phases and branches.

And so in the present day a new problem arises, namely how to account
for the appearance of this great Phenomenon, with its orderly phases
of evolution, and its own spontaneous (1) growths in all corners of the
globe--this phenomenon which has had such a strange sway over the hearts
of men, which has attracted them with so weird a charm, which has drawn
out their devotion, love and tenderness, which has consoled them in
sorrow and affliction, and yet which has stained their history with such
horrible sacrifices and persecutions and cruelties. What has been the
instigating cause of it?

 (1) For the question of spontaneity see chap. x and elsewhere.

The answer which I propose to this question, and which is developed to
some extent in the following chapters, is a psychological one. It is
that the phenomenon proceeds from, and is a necessary accompaniment of,
the growth of human Consciousness itself--its growth, namely, through
the three great stages of its unfoldment. These stages are (1) that of
the simple or animal consciousness, (2) that of SELF-consciousness, and
(3) that of a third stage of consciousness which has not as yet been
effectively named, but whose indications and precursive signs we here
and there perceive in the rites and prophecies and mysteries of the
early religions, and in the poetry and art and literature generally of
the later civilizations. Though I do not expect or wish to catch Nature
and History in the careful net of a phrase, yet I think that in the
sequence from the above-mentioned first stage to the second, and then
again in the sequence from the second to the third, there will be found
a helpful explanation of the rites and aspirations of human religion. It
is this idea, illustrated by details of ceremonial and so forth, which
forms the main thesis of the present book. In this sequence of growth,
Christianity enters as an episode, but no more than an episode. It does
not amount to a disruption or dislocation of evolution. If it did, or
if it stood as an unique or unclassifiable phenomenon (as some of its
votaries contend), this would seem to be a misfortune--as it would
obviously rob us of at any rate one promise of progress in the future.
And the promise of something better than Paganism and better than
Christianity is very precious. It is surely time that it should be

The tracing, therefore, of the part that human self-consciousness has
played, psychologically, in the evolution of religion, runs like a
thread through the following chapters, and seeks illustration in a
variety of details. The idea has been repeated under different aspects;
sometimes, possibly, it has been repeated too often; but different
aspects in such a case do help, as in a stereoscope, to give solidity to
the thing seen. Though the worship of Sun-gods and divine figures in
the sky came comparatively late in religious evolution, 1 have put this
subject early in the book (chapters ii and iii), partly because (as I
have already explained) it was the phase first studied in modern times,
and therefore is the one most familiar to present-day readers, and
partly because its astronomical data give great definiteness and
"proveability" to it, in rebuttal to the common accusation that the
whole study of religious origins is too vague and uncertain to have much
value. Going backwards in Time, the two next chapters (iv and v) deal
with Totem-sacraments and Magic, perhaps the earliest forms of religion.
And these four lead on (in chapters vi to xi) to the consideration of
rites and creeds common to Paganism and Christianity. XII and xiii deal
especially with the evolution of Christianity itself; xiv and xv explain
the inner Meaning of the whole process from the beginning; and xvi and
xvii look to the Future.

The appendix on the doctrines of the Upanishads may, I hope, serve to
give an idea, intimate even though inadequate, of the third Stage--that
which follows on the stage of self-consciousness; and to portray the
mental attitudes which are characteristic of that stage. Here in this
third stage, it would seem, one comes upon the real FACTS of the inner
life--in contradistinction to the fancies and figments of the second
stage; and so one reaches the final point of conjunction between Science
and Religion.


To the ordinary public--notwithstanding the immense amount of work which
has of late been done on this subject--the connection between Paganism
and Christianity still seems rather remote. Indeed the common notion
is that Christianity was really a miraculous interposition into and
dislocation of the old order of the world; and that the pagan gods (as
in Milton's Hymn on the Nativity) fled away in dismay before the sign of
the Cross, and at the sound of the name of Jesus. Doubtless this was a
view much encouraged by the early Church itself--if only to enhance its
own authority and importance; yet, as is well known to every student, it
is quite misleading and contrary to fact. The main Christian doctrines
and festivals, besides a great mass of affiliated legend and ceremonial,
are really quite directly derived from, and related to, preceding
Nature worships; and it has only been by a good deal of deliberate
mystification and falsification that this derivation has been kept out
of sight.

In these Nature-worships there may be discerned three fairly independent
streams of religious or quasi-religious enthusiasm: (1) that connected
with the phenomena of the heavens, the movements of the Sun, planets and
stars, and the awe and wonderment they excited; (2) that connected with
the seasons and the very important matter of the growth of vegetation
and food on the Earth; and (3) that connected with the mysteries of Sex
and reproduction. It is obvious that these three streams would mingle
and interfuse with each other a good deal; but as far as they were
separable the first would tend to create Solar heroes and Sun-myths;
the second Vegetation-gods and personifications of Nature and the
earth-life; while the third would throw its glamour over the other two
and contribute to the projection of deities or demons worshipped with
all sorts of sexual and phallic rites. All three systems of course have
their special rites and times and ceremonies; but, as, I say, the rites
and ceremonies of one system would rarely be found pure and unmixed with
those belonging to the two others. The whole subject is a very large
one; but for reasons given in the Introduction I shall in this and
the following chapter--while not ignoring phases (2) and (3)--lay most
stress on phase (1) of the question before us.

At the time of the life or recorded appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, and
for some centuries before, the Mediterranean and neighboring world had
been the scene of a vast number of pagan creeds and rituals. There were
Temples without end dedicated to gods like Apollo or Dionysus among the
Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra among the Persians, Adonis and
Attis in Syria and Phrygia, Osiris and Isis and Horus in Egypt, Baal
and Astarte among the Babylonians and Carthaginians, and so forth.
Societies, large or small, united believers and the devout in the
service or ceremonials connected with their respective deities, and
in the creeds which they confessed concerning these deities. And an
extraordinarily interesting fact, for us, is that notwithstanding great
geographical distances and racial differences between the adherents
of these various cults, as well as differences in the details of their
services, the general outlines of their creeds and ceremonials were--if
not identical--so markedly similar as we find them.

I cannot of course go at length into these different cults, but I may
say roughly that of all or nearly all the deities above-mentioned it was
said and believed that:

(1) They were born on or very near our Christmas Day.

(2) They were born of a Virgin-Mother.

(3) And in a Cave or Underground Chamber.

(4) They led a life of toil for Mankind.

(5) And were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator,
Savior, Deliverer.

(6) They were however vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.

(7) And descended into Hell or the Underworld.

(8) They rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to
the Heavenly world.

(9) They founded Communions of Saints, and Churches into which disciples
were received by Baptism.

(10) And they were commemorated by Eucharistic meals.

Let me give a few brief examples.

Mithra was born in a cave, and on the 25th December. (1) He was born of
a Virgin. (2) He traveled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator
of men. He slew the Bull (symbol of the gross Earth which the sunlight
fructifies). His great festivals were the winter solstice and the Spring
equinox (Christmas and Easter). He had twelve companions or disciples
(the twelve months). He was buried in a tomb, from which however he rose
again; and his resurrection was celebrated yearly with great rejoicings.
He was called Savior and Mediator, and sometimes figured as a Lamb; and
sacramental feasts in remembrance of him were held by his followers.
This legend is apparently partly astronomical and partly vegetational;
and the same may be said of the following about Osiris.

 (1) The birthfeast of Mithra was held in Rome on the 8th day
before the Kalends of January, being also the day of the Circassian
games, which were sacred to the Sun. (See F. Nork, Der Mystagog,

 (2) This at any rate was reported by his later disciples (see
Robertson's Pagan Christs, p. 338).

Osiris was born (Plutarch tells us) on the 361st day of the year,
say the 27th December. He too, like Mithra and Dionysus, was a great
traveler. As King of Egypt he taught men civil arts, and "tamed them by
music and gentleness, not by force of arms"; (1) he was the discoverer
of corn and wine. But he was betrayed by Typhon, the power of darkness,
and slain and dismembered. "This happened," says Plutarch, "on the 17th
of the month Athyr, when the sun enters into the Scorpion" (the sign of
the Zodiac which indicates the oncoming of Winter). His body was placed
in a box, but afterwards, on the 19th, came again to life, and, as in
the cults of Mithra, Dionysus, Adonis and others, so in the cult
of Osiris, an image placed in a coffin was brought out before the
worshipers and saluted with glad cries of "Osiris is risen." (1) "His
sufferings, his death and his resurrection were enacted year by year in
a great mystery-play at Abydos." (2)

 (1) See Plutarch on Isis and Osiris.

 (2) Ancient Art and Ritual, by Jane E. Harrison, chap. i.

The two following legends have more distinctly the character of
Vegetation myths.

Adonis or Tammuz, the Syrian god of vegetation, was a very beautiful
youth, born of a Virgin (Nature), and so beautiful that Venus and
Proserpine (the goddesses of the Upper and Underworlds) both fell in
love with him. To reconcile their claims it was agreed that he should
spend half the year (summer) in the upper world, and the winter half
with Proserpine below. He was killed by a boar (Typhon) in the autumn.
And every year the maidens "wept for Adonis" (see Ezekiel viii. 14). In
the spring a festival of his resurrection was held--the women set out
to seek him, and having found the supposed corpse placed it (a wooden
image) in a coffin or hollow tree, and performed wild rites and
lamentations, followed by even wilder rejoicings over his supposed
resurrection. At Aphaca in the North of Syria, and halfway between
Byblus and Baalbec, there was a famous grove and temple of Astarte,
near which was a wild romantic gorge full of trees, the birthplace of
a certain river Adonis--the water rushing from a Cavern, under lofty
cliffs. Here (it was said) every year the youth Adonis was again wounded
to death, and the river ran red with his blood, (1) while the scarlet
anemone bloomed among the cedars and walnuts.

 (1) A discoloration caused by red earth washed by rain from the
mountains, and which has been observed by modern travelers. For the
whole story of Adonis and of Attis see Frazer's Golden Bough, part iv.

The story of Attis is very similar. He was a fair young shepherd or
herdsman of Phrygia, beloved by Cybele (or Demeter), the Mother of the
gods. He was born of a Virgin--Nana--who conceived by putting a ripe
almond or pomegranate in her bosom. He died, either killed by a boar,
the symbol of winter, like Adonis, or self-castrated (like his own
priests); and he bled to death at the foot of a pine tree (the pine
and pine-cone being symbols of fertility). The sacrifice of his blood
renewed the fertility of the earth, and in the ritual celebration of
his death and resurrection his image was fastened to the trunk of a
pine-tree (compare the Crucifixion). But I shall return to this legend
presently. The worship of Attis became very widespread and much honored,
and was ultimately incorporated with the established religion at Rome
somewhere about the commencement of our Era.

The following two legends (dealing with Hercules and with Krishna) have
rather more of the character of the solar, and less of the vegetational
myth about them. Both heroes were regarded as great benefactors of
humanity; but the former more on the material plane, and the latter on
the spiritual.

Hercules or Heracles was, like other Sun-gods and benefactors of
mankind, a great Traveler. He was known in many lands, and everywhere
he was invoked as Saviour. He was miraculously conceived from a divine
Father; even in the cradle he strangled two serpents sent to destroy
him. His many labors for the good of the world were ultimately
epitomized into twelve, symbolized by the signs of the Zodiac. He slew
the Nemxan Lion and the Hydra (offspring of Typhon) and the Boar. He
overcame the Cretan Bull, and cleaned out the Stables of Augeas; he
conquered Death and, descending into Hades, brought Cerberus thence and
ascended into Heaven. On all sides he was followed by the gratitude and
the prayers of mortals.

As to Krishna, the Indian god, the points of agreement with the general
divine career indicated above are too salient to be overlooked, and too
numerous to be fully recorded. He also was born of a Virgin (Devaki)
and in a Cave, (1) and his birth announced by a Star. It was sought to
destroy him, and for that purpose a massacre of infants was ordered.
Everywhere he performed miracles, raising the dead, healing lepers, and
the deaf and the blind, and championing the poor and oppressed. He had
a beloved disciple, Arjuna, (cf. John) before whom he was transfigured.
(2) His death is differently related--as being shot by an arrow, or
crucified on a tree. He descended into hell; and rose again from the
dead, ascending into heaven in the sight of many people. He will return
at the last day to be the judge of the quick and the dead.

 (1) Cox's Myths of the Aryan Nations, p. 107.

 (2) Bhagavat Gita, ch. xi.

Such are some of the legends concerning the pagan and pre-Christian
deities--only briefly sketched now, in order that we may get something
like a true perspective of the whole subject; but to most of them, and
more in detail, I shall return as the argument proceeds.

What we chiefly notice so far are two points; on the one hand the
general similarity of these stories with that of Jesus Christ; on the
other their analogy with the yearly phenomena of Nature as illustrated
by the course of the Sun in heaven and the changes of Vegetation on the

(1) The similarity of these ancient pagan legends and beliefs with
Christian traditions was indeed so great that it excited the attention
and the undisguised wrath of the early Christian fathers. They felt no
doubt about the similarity, but not knowing how to explain it fell
back upon the innocent theory that the Devil--in order to confound the
Christians--had, CENTURIES BEFORE, caused the pagans to adopt certain
beliefs and practices! (Very crafty, we may say, of the Devil, but also
very innocent of the Fathers to believe it!) Justin Martyr for instance
describes (1) the institution of the Lord's Supper as narrated in the
Gospels, and then goes on to say: "Which the wicked devils have IMITATED
in the mysteries of Mithra, commanding the same thing to be done. For,
that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in
the mystic rites of one who is being initiated you either know or can
learn." Tertullian also says (2) that "the devil by the mysteries of
his idols imitates even the main part of the divine mysteries."...
"He baptizes his worshippers in water and makes them believe that
this purifies them from their crimes."... "Mithra sets his mark on the
forehead of his soldiers; he celebrates the oblation of bread; he offers
an image of the resurrection, and presents at once the crown and the
sword; he limits his chief priest to a single marriage; he even has his
virgins and ascetics." (3) Cortez, too, it will be remembered complained
that the Devil had positively taught to the Mexicans the same things
which God had taught to Christendom.

 (1) I Apol. c. 66.

 (2) De Praescriptione Hereticorum, c. 40; De Bapt. c. 3; De
Corona, c. 15.

 (3) For reference to both these examples see J. M. Robertson's
Pagan Christs, pp. 321, 322.

Justin Martyr again, in the Dialogue with Trypho says that the Birth in
the Stable was the prototype (!) of the birth of Mithra in the Cave of
Zoroastrianism; and boasts that Christ was born when the Sun takes its
birth in the Augean Stable, (1) coming as a second Hercules to cleanse
a foul world; and St. Augustine says "we hold this (Christmas) day holy,
not like the pagans because of the birth of the Sun, but because of the
birth of him who made it." There are plenty of other instances in the
Early Fathers of their indignant ascription of these similarities to the
work of devils; but we need not dwell over them. There is no need for
US to be indignant. On the contrary we can now see that these
animadversions of the Christian writers are the evidence of how and to
what extent in the spread of Christianity over the world it had become
fused with the Pagan cults previously existing.

 (1) The Zodiacal sign of Capricornus, iii.

It was not till the year A.D. 530 or so--five centuries after the
supposed birth of Christ--that a Scythian Monk, Dionysius Exiguus, an
abbot and astronomer of Rome, was commissioned to fix the day and the
year of that birth. A nice problem, considering the historical science
of the period! For year he assigned the date which we now adopt, (2) and
for day and month he adopted the 25th December--a date which had been
in popular use since about 350 B.C., and the very date, within a day or
two, of the supposed birth of the previous Sungods. (3) From that
fact alone we may fairly conclude that by the year 530 or earlier the
existing Nature-worships had become largely fused into Christianity. In
fact the dates of the main pagan religious festivals had by that time
become so popular that Christianity was OBLIGED to accommodate itself to
them. (1)

 (1) As, for instance, the festival of John the Baptist in June
took the place of the pagan midsummer festival of water and bathing;
the Assumption of the Virgin in August the place of that of Diana in the
same month; and the festival of All Souls early in November, that of the
world-wide pagan feasts of the dead and their ghosts at the same season.

 (2) See Encycl. Brit. art. "Chronology."

 (3) "There is however a difficulty in accepting the 25th December
as the real date of the Nativity, December being the height of the rainy
season in Judaea, when neither flocks nor shepherds could have been at
night in the fields of Bethlehem" (!). Encycl. Brit. art. "Christmas
Day." According to Hastings's Encyclopaedia, art. "Christmas," "Usener
says that the Feast of the Nativity was held originally on the 6th
January (the Epiphany), but in 353-4 the Pope Liberius displaced it to
the 25th December... but there is no evidence of a Feast of the Nativity
taking place at all, before the fourth century A.D." It was not till 534
A.D. that Christmas Day and Epiphany were reckoned by the law-courts as
dies non.

This brings us to the second point mentioned a few pages back--the
analogy between the Christian festivals and the yearly phenomena of
Nature in the Sun and the Vegetation.

Let us take Christmas Day first. Mithra, as we have seen, was reported
to have been born on the 25th December (which in the Julian Calendar was
reckoned as the day of the Winter Solstice AND of the Nativity of the
Sun); Plutarch says (Isis and Osiris, c. 12) that Osiris was born on
the 361st day of the year, when a Voice rang out proclaiming the Lord of
All. Horus, he says, was born on the 362nd day. Apollo on the same.

Why was all this? Why did the Druids at Yule Tide light roaring fires?
Why was the cock supposed to crow all Christmas Eve ("The bird of
dawning singeth all night long")? Why was Apollo born with only one hair
(the young Sun with only one feeble ray)? Why did Samson (name derived
from Shemesh, the sun) lose all his strength when he lost his hair? Why
were so many of these gods--Mithra, Apollo, Krishna, Jesus, and others,
born in caves or underground chambers? (1) Why, at the Easter Eve
festival of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem is a light brought from the
grave and communicated to the candles of thousands who wait outside, and
who rush forth rejoicing to carry the new glory over the world? (2) Why
indeed? except that older than all history and all written records has
been the fear and wonderment of the children of men over the failure of
the Sun's strength in Autumn--the decay of their God; and the anxiety
lest by any means he should not revive or reappear?

 (1) This same legend of gods (or idols) being born in caves has,
curiously enough, been reported from Mexico, Guatemala, the Antilles,
and other places in Central America. See C. F. P. von Martius,
Etknographie Amerika, etc. (Leipzig, 1867), vol. i, p. 758.

 (2) Compare the Aztec ceremonial of lighting a holy fire and
communicating it to the multitude from the wounded breast of a human
victim, celebrated every 52 years at the end of one cycle and the
beginning of another--the constellation of the Pleiades being in the
Zenith (Prescott's Conquest of Mexico, Bk. I, ch. 4).

Think for a moment of a time far back when there were absolutely NO
Almanacs or Calendars, either nicely printed or otherwise, when all that
timid mortals could see was that their great source of Light and Warmth
was daily failing, daily sinking lower in the sky. As everyone now knows
there are about three weeks at the fag end of the year when the days are
at their shortest and there is very little change. What was happening?
Evidently the god had fallen upon evil times. Typhon, the prince of
darkness, had betrayed him; Delilah, the queen of Night, had shorn his
hair; the dreadful Boar had wounded him; Hercules was struggling
with Death itself; he had fallen under the influence of those malign
constellations--the Serpent and the Scorpion. Would the god grow weaker
and weaker, and finally succumb, or would he conquer after all? We can
imagine the anxiety with which those early men and women watched for the
first indication of a lengthening day; and the universal joy when the
Priest (the representative of primitive science) having made some
simple observations, announced from the Temple steps that the day WAS
lengthening--that the Sun was really born again to a new and glorious
career. (1)

 (1) It was such things as these which doubtless gave the
Priesthood its power.

Let us look at the elementary science of those days a little closer.
How without Almanacs or Calendars could the day, or probable day, of the
Sun's rebirth be fixed? Go out next Christmas Evening, and at midnight
you will see the brightest of the fixed stars, Sirius, blazing in the
southern sky--not however due south from you, but somewhat to the
left of the Meridian line. Some three thousand years ago (owing to the
Precession of the Equinoxes) that star at the winter solstice did
not stand at midnight where you now see it, but almost exactly ON
the meridian line. The coming of Sirius therefore to the meridian at
midnight became the sign and assurance of the Sun having reached the
very lowest point of his course, and therefore of having arrived at the
moment of his re-birth. Where then was the Sun at that moment? Obviously
in the underworld beneath our feet. Whatever views the ancients may have
had about the shape of the earth, it was evident to the mass of people
that the Sungod, after illuminating the world during the day, plunged
down in the West, and remained there during the hours of darkness in
some cavern under the earth. Here he rested and after bathing in the
great ocean renewed his garments before reappearing in the East next

But in this long night of his greatest winter weakness, when all the
world was hoping and praying for the renewal of his strength, it is
evident that the new birth would come--if it came at all--at midnight.
This then was the sacred hour when in the underworld (the Stable or the
Cave or whatever it might be called) the child was born who was destined
to be the Savior of men. At that moment Sirius stood on the southern
meridian (and in more southern lands than ours this would be more nearly
overhead); and that star--there is little doubt--is the Star in the East
mentioned in the Gospels.

To the right, as the supposed observer looks at Sirius on the midnight
of Christmas Eve, stands the magnificent Orion, the mighty hunter. There
are three stars in his belt which, as is well known, lie in a straight
line pointing to Sirius. They are not so bright as Sirius, but they are
sufficiently bright to attract attention. A long tradition gives them
the name of the Three Kings. Dupuis (1) says: "Orion a trois belles
etoiles vers le milieu, qui sont de seconde grandeur et posees en ligne
droite, l'une pres de l'autre, le peuple les appelle les trois rois.
On donne aux trois rois Magis les noms de Magalat, Galgalat, Saraim;
et Athos, Satos, Paratoras. Les Catholiques les appellent Gaspard,
Melchior, et Balthasar." The last-mentioned group of names comes in
the Catholic Calendar in connection with the feast of the Epiphany (6th
January); and the name "Trois Rois" is commonly to-day given to these
stars by the French and Swiss peasants.

 (1) Charles F. Dupuis (Origine de Tous les Cultes, Paris, 1822)
was one of the earliest modern writers on these subjects.

Immediately after Midnight then, on the 25th December, the Beloved Son
(or Sun-god) is born. If we go back in thought to the period, some three
thousand years ago, when at that moment of the heavenly birth Sirius,
coming from the East, did actually stand on the Meridian, we shall come
into touch with another curious astronomical coincidence. For at the
same moment we shall see the Zodiacal constellation of the Virgin in
the act of rising, and becoming visible in the East divided through the
middle by the line of the horizon.

The constellation Virgo is a Y-shaped group, of which [gr a], the star
at the foot, is the well-known Spica, a star of the first magnitude. The
other principal stars, [gr g] at the centre, and [gr b] and [gr e] at
the extremities, are of the second magnitude. The whole resembles more a
cup than the human figure; but when we remember the symbolic meaning
of the cup, that seems to be an obvious explanation of the name Virgo,
which the constellation has borne since the earliest times. (The three
stars [gr b], [gr g] and [gr a], lie very nearly on the Ecliptic, that
is, the Sun's path--a fact to which we shall return presently.)

At the moment then when Sirius, the star from the East, by coming to the
Meridian at midnight signalled the Sun's new birth, the Virgin was seen
just rising on the Eastern sky--the horizon line passing through
her centre. And many people think that this astronomical fact is the
explanation of the very widespread legend of the Virgin-birth. I do not
think that it is the sole explanation--for indeed in all or nearly all
these cases the acceptance of a myth seems to depend not upon a single
argument but upon the convergence of a number of meanings and reasons in
the same symbol. But certainly the fact mentioned above is curious, and
its importance is accentuated by the following considerations.

In the Temple of Denderah in Egypt, and on the inside of the dome,
there is or WAS an elaborate circular representation of the Northern
hemisphere of the sky and the Zodiac. (1) Here Virgo the constellation
is represented, as in our star-maps, by a woman with a spike of corn in
her hand (Spica). But on the margin close by there is an annotating and
explicatory figure--a figure of Isis with the infant Horus in her arms,
and quite resembling in style the Christian Madonna and Child, except
that she is sitting and the child is on her knee. This seems to show
that--whatever other nations may have done in associating Virgo with
Demeter, Ceres, Diana (2) etc.--the Egyptians made no doubt of the
constellation's connection with Isis and Horus. But it is well known as
a matter of history that the worship of Isis and Horus descended in the
early Christian centuries to Alexandria, where it took the form of the
worship of the Virgin Mary and the infant Savior, and so passed into
the European ceremonial. We have therefore the Virgin Mary connected by
linear succession and descent with that remote Zodiacal cluster in the
sky! Also it may be mentioned that on the Arabian and Persian globes of
Abenezra and Abuazar a Virgin and Child are figured in connection with
the same constellation. (3)

 (1) Carefully described and mapped by Dupuis, see op. cit.

 (2) For the harvest-festival of Diana, the Virgin, and her
parallelism with the Virgin Mary, see The Golden Bough, vol. i, 14 and
ii, 121.

 (3) See F. Nork, Der Mystagog (Leipzig, 1838).

A curious confirmation of the same astronomical connection is afforded
by the Roman Catholic Calendar. For if this be consulted it will be
found that the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin is placed on the
15th August, while the festival of the Birth of the Virgin is dated the
8th September. I have already pointed out that the stars, [gr a], [gr
b] and [gr g] of Virgo are almost exactly on the Ecliptic, or Sun's path
through the sky; and a brief reference to the Zodiacal signs and the
star-maps will show that the Sun each year enters the sign of Virgo
about the first-mentioned date, and leaves it about the second date. At
the present day the Zodiacal signs (owing to precession) have shifted
some distance from the constellations of the same name. But at the time
when the Zodiac was constituted and these names were given, the first
date obviously would signalize the actual disappearance of the cluster
Virgo in the Sun's rays--i. e. the Assumption of the Virgin into the
glory of the God--while the second date would signalize the reappearance
of the constellation or the Birth of the Virgin. The Church of Notre
Dame at Paris is supposed to be on the original site of a Temple of
Isis; and it is said (but I have not been able to verify this myself)
that one of the side entrances--that, namely, on the left in entering
from the North (cloister) side--is figured with the signs of the Zodiac
EXCEPT that the sign Virgo is replaced by the figure of the Madonna and

So strange is the scripture of the sky! Innumerable legends and customs
connect the rebirth of the Sun with a Virgin parturition. Dr. J. G.
Frazer in his Part IV of The Golden Bough (1) says: "If we may trust the
evidence of an obscure scholiast the Greeks (in the worship of Mithras
at Rome) used to celebrate the birth of the luminary by a midnight
service, coming out of the inner shrines and crying, 'The Virgin has
brought forth! The light is waxing!' ([gr 'H parhenos tetoken, auzei
pws].)" In Elie Reclus' little book Primitive Folk (2) it is said of the
Esquimaux that "On the longest night of the year two angakout (priests),
of whom one is disguised as a WOMAN, go from hut to hut extinguishing
all the lights, rekindling them from a vestal flame, and crying out,
'From the new sun cometh a new light!'"

 (1) Book II, ch. vi.

 (2) In the Contemporary Science Series, I. 92.

All this above-written on the Solar or Astronomical origins of the myths
does not of course imply that the Vegetational origins must be denied
or ignored. These latter were doubtless the earliest, but there is no
reason--as said in the Introduction (ch. i)--why the two elements should
not to some extent have run side by side, or been fused with each other.
In fact it is quite clear that they must have done so; and to separate
them out too rigidly, or treat them as antagonistic, is a mistake. The
Cave or Underworld in which the New Year is born is not only the place
of the Sun's winter retirement, but also the hidden chamber beneath the
Earth to which the dying Vegetation goes, and from which it re-arises
in Spring. The amours of Adonis with Venus and Proserpine, the lovely
goddesses of the upper and under worlds, or of Attis with Cybele, the
blooming Earth-mother, are obvious vegetation-symbols; but they do not
exclude the interpretation that Adonis (Adonai) may also figure as a
Sun-god. The Zodiacal constellations of Aries and Taurus (to which I
shall return presently) rule in heaven just when the Lamb and the Bull
are in evidence on the earth; and the yearly sacrifice of those two
animals and of the growing Corn for the good of mankind runs
parallel with the drama of the sky, as it affects not only the said
constellations but also Virgo (the Earth-mother who bears the sheaf of
corn in her hand).

I shall therefore continue (in the next chapter) to point out these
astronomical references--which are full of significance and poetry; but
with a recommendation at the same time to the reader not to forget the
poetry and significance of the terrestrial interpretations.

Between Christmas Day and Easter there are several minor festivals or
holy days--such as the 28th December (the Massacre of the Innocents),
the 6th January (the Epiphany), the 2nd February (Candlemas (1) Day),
the period of Lent (German Lenz, the Spring), the Annunciation of the
Blessed Virgin, and so forth--which have been commonly celebrated in
the pagan cults before Christianity, and in which elements of Star and
Nature worship can be traced; but to dwell on all these would take too
long; so let us pass at once to the period of Easter itself.

 (1) This festival of the Purification of the Virgin corresponds
with the old Roman festival of Juno Februata (i. e. purified) which was
held in the last month (February) of the Roman year, and which included
a candle procession of Ceres, searching for Proserpine. (F. Nork, Der


The Vernal Equinox has all over the ancient world, and from the earliest
times, been a period of rejoicing and of festivals in honor of the
Sungod. It is needless to labor a point which is so well known. Everyone
understands and appreciates the joy of finding that the long darkness is
giving way, that the Sun is growing in strength, and that the days are
winning a victory over the nights. The birds and flowers reappear, and
the promise of Spring is in the air. But it may be worth while to give
an elementary explanation of the ASTRONOMICAL meaning of this period,
because this is not always understood, and yet it is very important in
its bearing on the rites and creeds of the early religions. The priests
who were, as I have said, the early students and inquirers, had worked
out this astronomical side, and in that way were able to fix dates and
to frame for the benefit of the populace myths and legends, which were
in a certain sense explanations of the order of Nature, and a kind of
"popular science."

The Equator, as everyone knows, is an imaginary line or circle girdling
the Earth half-way between the North and South poles. If you imagine a
transparent Earth with a light at its very centre, and also imagine the
SHADOW of this equatorial line to be thrown on the vast concave of
the Sky, this shadow would in astronomical parlance coincide with the
Equator of the Sky--forming an imaginary circle half-way between the
North and South celestial poles.

The Equator, then, may be pictured as cutting across the sky either by
day or by night, and always at the same elevation--that is, as seen from
any one place. But the Ecliptic (the other important great circle of the
heavens) can only be thought of as a line traversing the constellations
as they are seen at NIGHT. It is in fact the Sun's path among the fixed
stars. For (really owing to the Earth's motion in its orbit) the Sun
appears to move round the heavens once a year--travelling, always to the
left, from constellation to constellation. The exact path of the sun is
called the Ecliptic; and the band of sky on either side of the Ecliptic
which may be supposed to include the said constellations is called the
Zodiac. How then--it will of course be asked--seeing that the Sun and
the Stars can never be seen together--were the Priests ABLE to map out
the path of the former among the latter? Into that question we need not
go. Sufficient to say that they succeeded; and their success--even with
the very primitive instruments they had--shows that their astronomical
knowledge and acuteness of reasoning were of no mean order.

To return to our Vernal Equinox. Let us suppose that the Equator and
Ecliptic of the sky, at the Spring season, are represented by two lines
Eq. and Ecl. crossing each other at the point P. The Sun, represented
by the small circle, is moving slowly and in its annual course along the
Ecliptic to the left. When it reaches the point P (the dotted circle)
it stands on the Equator of the sky, and then for a day or two, being
neither North nor South, it shines on the two terrestrial hemispheres
alike, and day and night are equal. BEFORE that time, when the sun
is low down in the heavens, night has the advantage, and the days are
short; AFTERWARDS, when the Sun has travelled more to the left, the days
triumph over the nights. It will be seen then that this point P where
the Sun's path crosses the Equator is a very critical point. It is the
astronomical location of the triumph of the Sungod and of the arrival of

How was this location defined? Among what stars was the Sun moving at
that critical moment? (For of course it was understood, or supposed,
that the Sun was deeply influenced by the constellation through which it
was, or appeared to be, moving.) It seems then that at the period when
these questions were occupying men's minds--say about three thousand
years ago--the point where the Ecliptic crossed the Equator was, as a
matter of fact, in the region of the constellation Aries or the he-Lamb.
The triumph of the Sungod was therefore, and quite naturally, ascribed
to the influence of Aries. THE LAMB BECAME THE SYMBOL OF THE RISEN
HEAVEN. At first such an explanation sounds hazardous; but a thousand
texts and references confirm it; and it is only by the accumulation of
evidence in these cases that the student becomes convinced of a theory's
correctness. It must also be remembered (what I have mentioned before)
that these myths and legends were commonly adopted not only for
one strict reason but because they represented in a general way the
convergence of various symbols and inferences.

Let me enumerate a few points with regard to the Vernal Equinox. In the
Bible the festival is called the Passover, and its supposed institution
by Moses is related in Exodus, ch. xii. In every house a he-lamb was to
be slain, and its blood to be sprinkled on the doorposts of the house.
Then the Lord would pass over and not smite that house. The Hebrew word
is pasach, to pass. (1) The lamb slain was called the Paschal Lamb. But
what was that lamb? Evidently not an earthly lamb--(though certainly
the earthly lambs on the hillsides WERE just then ready to be killed and
eaten)--but the heavenly Lamb, which was slain or sacrificed when the
Lord "passed over" the equator and obliterated the constellation Aries.
This was the Lamb of God which was slain each year, and "Slain since the
foundation of the world." This period of the Passover (about the 25th
March) was to be (2) the beginning of a new year. The sacrifice of
the Lamb, and its blood, were to be the promise of redemption. The
door-frames of the houses--symbols of the entrance into a new life--were
to be sprinkled with blood. (3) Later, the imagery of the saving power
of the blood of the Lamb became more popular, more highly colored. (See
St. Paul's epistles, and the early Fathers.) And we have the expression
"washed in the blood of the Lamb" adopted into the Christian Church.

 (1) It is said that pasach sometimes means not so much to pass
over, as to hover over and so protect. Possibly both meanings enter in
here. See Isaiah xxxi. 5.

 (2) See Exodus xii. i.

 (3) It is even said (see The Golden Bough, vol. iii, 185) that
the doorways of houses and temples in Peru were at the Spring festival
daubed with blood of the first-born children--commuted afterwards to the
blood of the sacred animal, the Llama. And as to Mexico, Sahagun, the
great Spanish missionary, tells us that it was a custom of the people
there to "smear the outside of their houses and doors with blood drawn
from their own ears and ankles, in order to propitiate the god of
Harvest" (Kingsborough's Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi, p. 235).

In order fully to understand this extraordinary expression and its
origin we must turn for a moment to the worship both of Mithra, the
Persian Sungod, and of Attis the Syrian god, as throwing great light
on the Christian cult and ceremonies. It must be remembered that in the
early centuries of our era the Mithra-cult was spread over the whole
Western world. It has left many monuments of itself here in Britain.
At Rome the worship was extremely popular, and it may almost be said
to have been a matter of chance whether Mithraism should overwhelm
Christianity, or whether the younger religion by adopting many of the
rites of the older one should establish itself (as it did) in the face
of the latter.

Now we have already mentioned that in the Mithra cult the slaying of a
Bull by the Sungod occupies the same sort of place as the slaving of the
Lamb in the Christian cult. It took place at the Vernal Equinox and the
blood of the Bull acquired in men's minds a magic virtue. Mithraism was
a greatly older religion than Christianity; but its genesis was similar.
In fact, owing to the Precession of the Equinoxes, the crossing-place of
the Ecliptic and Equator was different at the time of the establishment
of Mithra-worship from what it was in the Christian period; and the
Sun instead of standing in the He-lamb, or Aries, at the Vernal Equinox
stood, about two thousand years earlier (as indicated by the dotted line
in the diagram), in this very constellation of the Bull. (1) The bull
therefore became the symbol of the triumphant God, and the sacrifice
of the bull a holy mystery. (Nor must we overlook here the agricultural
appropriateness of the bull as the emblem of Spring-plowings and of
service to man.)

 (1) With regard to this point, see an article in the Nineteenth
Century for September 1900, by E. W. Maunder of the Greenwich
Observatory on "The Oldest Picture Book" (the Zodiac). Mr. Maunder
calculates that the Vernal Equinox was in the centre of the Sign of
the Bull 5,000 years ago. (It would therefore be in the centre of Aries
2,845 years ago--allowing 2,155 years for the time occupied in passing
from one Sign to another.) At the earlier period the Summer solstice was
in the centre of Leo, the Autumnal equinox in the centre of Scorpio, and
the Winter solstice in the centre of Aquarius--corresponding roughly,
Mr. Maunder points out, to the positions of the four "Royal Stars,"
Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares and Fomalhaut.

The sacrifice of the Bull became the image of redemption. In a certain
well-known Mithra-sculpture or group, the Sungod is represented as
plunging his dagger into a bull, while a scorpion, a serpent, and other
animals are sucking the latter's blood. From one point of view this may
be taken as symbolic of the Sun fertilizing the gross Earth by plunging
his rays into it and so drawing forth its blood for the sustenance of
all creatures; while from another more astronomical aspect it symbolizes
the conquest of the Sun over winter in the moment of "passing over" the
sign of the Bull, and the depletion of the generative power of the Bull
by the Scorpion--which of course is the autumnal sign of the Zodiac
and herald of winter. One such Mithraic group was found at Ostia, where
there was a large subterranean Temple "to the invincible god Mithras."

In the worship of Attis there were (as I have already indicated) many
points of resemblance to the Christian cult. On the 22nd March (the
Vernal Equinox) a pinetree was cut in the woods and brought into the
Temple of Cybele. It was treated almost as a divinity, was decked
with violets, and the effigy of a young man tied to the stem (cf. the
Crucifixion). The 24th was called the "Day of Blood"; the High Priest
first drew blood from his own arms; and then the others gashed and
slashed themselves, and spattered the altar and the sacred tree with
blood; while novices made themselves eunuchs "for the kingdom of
heaven's sake." The effigy was afterwards laid in a tomb. But when
night fell, says Dr. Frazer, (1) sorrow was turned to joy. A light was
brought, and the tomb was found to be empty. The next day, the 25th, was
the festival of the Resurrection; and ended in carnival and license
(the Hilaria). Further, says Dr. Frazer, these mysteries "seem to have
included a sacramental meal and a baptism of blood."

 (1) See Adonis, Attis and Osiris, Part IV of The Golden Bough, by
J. G. Frazer, p. 229.

"In the baptism the devotee, crowned with gold and wreathed with
fillets, descended into a pit, the mouth of which was covered with a
wooden grating. A bull, adorned with garlands of flowers, its forehead
glittering with gold leaf, was then driven on to the grating and there
stabbed to death with a consecrated spear. Its hot reeking blood
poured in torrents through the apertures, and was received with devout
eagerness by the worshiper on every part of his person and garments,
till he emerged from the pit, drenched, dripping, and scarlet from head
to foot, to receive the homage, nay the adoration, of his fellows--as
one who had been born again to eternal life and had washed away his sins
in the blood of the bull." (1) And Frazer continuing says: "That the
bath of blood derived from slaughter of the bull (tauro-bolium)
was believed to regenerate the devotee for eternity is proved by an
inscription found at Rome, which records that a certain Sextilius
Agesilaus Aedesius, who dedicated an altar to Attis and the mother of
the gods (Cybele) was taurobolio criobolio que in aeternum renatus."
(2) "In the procedure of the Taurobolia and Criobolia," says Mr. J. M.
Robertson, (3) "which grew very popular in the Roman world, we have the
literal and original meaning of the phrase 'washed in the blood of the
lamb' (4); the doctrine being that resurrection and eternal life
were secured by drenching or sprinkling with the actual blood of a
sacrificial bull or ram." (5) For the POPULARITY of the rite we may
quote Franz Cumont, who says:--"Cette douche sacree (taurobolium) pareit
avoir ete administree en Cappadoce dans un grand nombre de sanctuaires,
et en particulier dans ceux de Ma la grande divinite indigene, et dans
ceux: de Anahita."

 (1) See vol. i, pp. 334 ff.

 (2) Adonis, Attis and Osiris, p. 229. References to Prudentius,
and to Firmicus Maternus, De errore 28. 8.

 (3) That is, "By the slaughter of the bull and the slaughter of
the ram born again into eternity."

 (4) Pagan Christs, p. 315.

 (5) Mysteres de Mithra, Bruxelles, 1902, p. 153.

Whether Mr. Robertson is right in ascribing to the priests (as he
appears to do) so materialistic a view of the potency of the actual
blood is, I should say, doubtful. I do not myself see that there is
any reason for supposing that the priests of Mithra or Attis regarded
baptism by blood very differently from the way in which the Christian
Church has generally regarded baptism by water--namely, as a SYMBOL of
some inner regeneration. There may certainly have been a little more
of the MAGICAL view and a little less of the symbolic, in the older
religions; but the difference was probably on the whole more one of
degree than of essential disparity. But however that may be, we cannot
but be struck by the extraordinary analogy between the tombstone
inscriptions of that period "born again into eternity by the blood of
the Bull or the Ram," and the corresponding texts in our graveyards
to-day. F. Cumont in his elaborate work, Textes et Monuments relatifs
aux Mysteres de Mithra (2 vols., Brussels, 1899) gives a great number of
texts and epitaphs of the same character as that above-quoted, and they
are well worth studying by those interested in the subject. Cumont, it
may be noted (vol. i, p. 305), thinks that the story of Mithra and the
slaying of the Bull must have originated among some pastoral people to
whom the bull was the source of all life. The Bull in heaven--the symbol
of the triumphant Sungod--and the earthly bull, sacrificed for the good
of humanity were one and the same; the god, in fact, SACRIFICED HIMSELF
OR HIS REPRESENTATIVE. And Mithra was the hero who first won this
conception of divinity for mankind--though of course it is in essence
quite similar to the conception put forward by the Christian Church.

As illustrating the belief that the Baptism by Blood was accompanied by
a real regeneration of the devotee, Frazer quotes an ancient writer
(1) who says that for some time after the ceremony the fiction of a new
birth was kept up by dieting the devotee on MILK, like a new-born
babe. And it is interesting in that connection to find that even in the
present day a diet of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT MILK for six or eight
weeks is by many doctors recommended as the only means of getting rid
of deep-seated illnesses and enabling a patient's organism to make a
completely new start in life.

 (1) Sallustius philosophus. See Adonis, Attis and Osiris, note,
p. 229.

"At Rome," he further says (p. 230), "the new birth and the remission
of sins by the shedding of bull's blood appear to have been carried
out above all at the sanctuary of the Phrygian Goddess (Cybele) on
the Vatican Hill, at or near the spot where the great basilica of St.
Peter's now stands; for many inscriptions relating to the rites were
found when the church was being enlarged in 1608 or 1609. From
the Vatican as a centre," he continues, "this barbarous system of
superstition seems to have spread to other parts of the Roman empire.
Inscriptions found in Gaul and Germany prove that provincial sanctuaries
modelled their ritual on that of the Vatican."

It would appear then that at Rome in the quiet early days of the
Christian Church, the rites and ceremonials of Mithra and Cybele,
probably much intermingled and blended, were exceedingly popular. Both
religions had been recognized by the Roman State, and the Christians,
persecuted and despised as they were, found it hard to make any headway
against them--the more so perhaps because the Christian doctrines
appeared in many respects to be merely faint replicas and copies of the
older creeds. Robertson maintains (1) that a he-lamb was sacrificed in
the Mithraic mysteries, and he quotes Porphyry as saying (2) that
"a place near the equinoctial circle was assigned to Mithra as an
appropriate seat; and on this account he bears the sword of the Ram
(Aries) which is a sign of Mars (Ares)." Similarly among the early
Christians, it is said, a ram or lamb was sacrificed in the Paschal

 (1) Pagan Christs, p. 336.

 (2) De Antro, xxiv.

Many people think that the association of the Lamb-god with the Cross
arose from the fact that the constellation Aries at that time WAS on the
heavenly cross (the crossways of the Ecliptic and Equator-see diagram,
ch. iii), and in the very place through which the Sungod had to pass
just before his final triumph. And it is curious to find that Justin
Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho (1) (a Jew) alludes to an old Jewish
practice of roasting a Lamb on spits arranged in the form of a Cross.
"The lamb," he says, meaning apparently the Paschal lamb, "is roasted
and dressed up in the form of a cross. For one spit is transfixed right
through the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to
which are attached the legs (forelegs) of the lamb."

 (1) Ch. xl.

To-day in Morocco at the festival of Eid-el-Kebir, corresponding to the
Christian Easter, the Mohammedans sacrifice a young ram and hurry it
still bleeding to the precincts of the Mosque, while at the same time
every household slays a lamb, as in the Biblical institution, for its
family feast.

But it will perhaps be said, "You are going too fast and proving too
much. In the anxiety to show that the Lamb-god and the sacrifice of the
Lamb were honored by the devotees of Mithra and Cybele in the Rome of
the Christian era, you are forgetting that the sacrifice of the Bull and
the baptism in bull's blood were the salient features of the Persian and
Phrygian ceremonials, some centuries earlier. How can you reconcile
the existence side by side of divinities belonging to such different
periods, or ascribe them both to an astronomical origin?" The answer
is simple enough. As I have explained before, the Precession of the
Equinoxes caused the Sun, at its moment of triumph over the powers of
darkness, to stand at one period in the constellation of the Bull, and
at a period some two thousand years later in the constellation of the
Ram. It was perfectly natural therefore that a change in the sacred
symbols should, in the course of time, take place; yet perfectly natural
also that these symbols, having once been consecrated and adopted,
should continue to be honored and clung to long after the time of their
astronomical appropriateness had passed, and so to be found side by side
in later centuries. The devotee of Mithra or Attis on the Vatican
Hill at Rome in the year 200 A.D. probably had as little notion or
comprehension of the real origin of the sacred Bull or Ram which he
adored, as the Christian in St. Peter's to-day has of the origin of the
Lamb-god whose vicegerent on earth is the Pope.

It is indeed easy to imagine that the change from the worship of the
Bull to the worship of the Lamb which undoubtedly took place among
various peoples as time went on, was only a ritual change initiated
by the priests in order to put on record and harmonize with the
astronomical alteration. Anyhow it is curious that while Mithra in the
early times was specially associated with the bull, his association with
the lamb belonged more to the Roman period. Somewhat the same happened
in the case of Attis. In the Bible we read of the indignation of
Moses at the setting up by the Israelites of a Golden Calf, AFTER
the sacrifice of the ram-lamb had been instituted--as if indeed the
rebellious people were returning to the earlier cult of Apis which they
ought to have left behind them in Egypt. In Egypt itself, too, we find
the worship of Apis, as time went on, yielding place to that of the
Ram-headed god Amun, or Jupiter Ammon. (1) So that both from the Bible
and from Egyptian history we may conclude that the worship of the Lamb
or Ram succeeded to the worship of the Bull.

 (1) Tacitus (Hist. v. 4) speaks of ram-sacrifice by the Jews in
honor of Jupiter Ammon. See also Herodotus (ii. 42) on the same in

Finally it has been pointed out, and there may be some real connection
in the coincidence, that in the quite early years of Christianity the
FISH came in as an accepted symbol of Jesus Christ. Considering that
after the domination of Taurus and Aries, the Fish (Pisces) comes next
in succession as the Zodiacal sign for the Vernal Equinox, and is now
the constellation in which the Sun stands at that period, it seems
not impossible that the astronomical change has been the cause of the
adoption of this new symbol.

Anyhow, and allowing for possible errors or exaggerations, it becomes
clear that the travels of the Sun through the belt of constellations
which forms the Zodiac must have had, from earliest times, a profound
influence on the generation of religious myths and legends. To say that
it was the only influence would certainly be a mistake. Other causes
undoubtedly contributed. But it was a main and important influence. The
origins of the Zodiac are obscure; we do not know with any certainty the
reasons why the various names were given to its component sections, nor
can we measure the exact antiquity of these names; but--pre-supposing
the names of the signs as once given--it is not difficult to imagine the
growth of legends connected with the Sun's course among them.

Of all the ancient divinities perhaps Hercules is the one whose role
as a Sungod is most generally admitted. The helper of gods and men, a
mighty Traveller, and invoked everywhere as the Saviour, his labors
for the good of the world became ultimately defined and systematized
as twelve and corresponding in number to the signs of the Zodiac. It
is true that this systematization only took place at a late period,
probably in Alexandria; also that the identification of some of the
Labors with the actual signs as we have them at present is not always
clear. But considering the wide prevalence of the Hercules myth over
the ancient world and the very various astronomical systems it must have
been connected with in its origin, this lack of exact correspondence is
hardly to be wondered at.

The Labors of Hercules which chiefly interest us are: (1) The capture
of the Bull, (2) the slaughter of the Lion, (3) the destruction of the
Hydra, (4) of the Boar, (5) the cleansing of the stables of Augeas, (6)
the descent into Hades and the taming of Cerberus. The first of these
is in line with the Mithraic conquest of the Bull; the Lion is of course
one of the most prominent constellations of the Zodiac, and its conquest
is obviously the work of a Saviour of mankind; while the last four
labors connect themselves very naturally with the Solar conflict in
winter against the powers of darkness. The Boar (4) we have seen already
as the image of Typhon, the prince of darkness; the Hydra (3) was said
to be the offspring of Typhon; the descent into Hades (6)--generally
associated with Hercules' struggle with and victory over Death--links on
to the descent of the Sun into the underworld, and its long and doubtful
strife with the forces of winter; and the cleansing of the stables
of Augeas (5) has the same signification. It appears in fact that the
stables of Augeas was another name for the sign of Capricorn through
which the Sun passes at the Winter solstice (1)--the stable of course
being an underground chamber--and the myth was that there, in this
lowest tract and backwater of the Ecliptic all the malarious and evil
influences of the sky were collected, and the Sungod came to wash them
away (December was the height of the rainy season in Judaea) and cleanse
the year towards its rebirth.

 (1) See diagram of Zodiac.

It should not be forgotten too that even as a child in the cradle
Hercules slew two serpents sent for his destruction--the serpent and the
scorpion as autumnal constellations figuring always as enemies of the
Sungod--to which may be compared the power given to his disciples by
Jesus (1) "to tread on serpents and scorpions." Hercules also as a
Sungod compares curiously with Samson (mentioned above, ii), but we
need not dwell on all the elaborate analogies that have been traced (2)
between these two heroes.

 (1) Luke x. 19.

 (2) See Doane's Bible Myths, ch. viii, (New York, 1882.)

The Jesus-story, it will now be seen, has a great number of
correspondences with the stories of former Sungods and with the actual
career of the Sun through the heavens--so many indeed that they cannot
well be attributed to mere coincidence or even to the blasphemous wiles
of the Devil! Let us enumerate some of these. There are (1) the birth
from a Virgin mother; (2) the birth in a stable (cave or underground
chamber); and (3) on the 25th December (just after the winter solstice).
There is (4) the Star in the East (Sirius) and (5) the arrival of the
Magi (the "Three Kings"); there is (6) the threatened Massacre of the
Innocents, and the consequent flight into a distant country (told also
of Krishna and other Sungods). There are the Church festivals of (7)
Candlemas (2nd February), with processions of candles to symbolize the
growing light; of (8) Lent, or the arrival of Spring; of (9) Easter Day
(normally on the 25th March) to celebrate the crossing of the Equator
by the Sun; and (10) simultaneously the outburst of lights at the Holy
Sepulchre at Jerusalem. There is (11) the Crucifixion and death of the
Lamb-God, on Good Friday, three days before Easter; there are (12) the
nailing to a tree, (13) the empty grave, (14) the glad Resurrection (as
in the cases of Osiris, Attis and others); there are (15) the twelve
disciples (the Zodiacal signs); and (16) the betrayal by one of the
twelve. Then later there is (17) Midsummer Day, the 24th June, dedicated
to the Nativity of John the Baptist, and corresponding to Christmas
Day; there are the festivals of (18) the Assumption of the Virgin
(15th August) and of (19) the Nativity of the Virgin (8th September),
corresponding to the movement of the god through Virgo; there is the
conflict of Christ and his disciples with the autumnal asterisms, (20)
the Serpent and the Scorpion; and finally there is the curious fact that
the Church (21) dedicates the very day of the winter solstice (when any
one may very naturally doubt the rebirth of the Sun) to St. Thomas, who
doubted the truth of the Resurrection!

These are some of, and by no means all, the coincidences in question.
But they are sufficient, I think, to prove--even allowing for possible
margins of error--the truth of our general contention. To go into the
parallelism of the careers of Krishna, the Indian Sungod, and
Jesus would take too long; because indeed the correspondence is so
extraordinarily close and elaborate. (1) I propose, however, at the
close of this chapter, to dwell now for a moment on the Christian
festival of the Eucharist, partly on account of its connection with the
derivation from the astronomical rites and Nature-celebrations already
alluded to, and partly on account of the light which the festival
generally, whether Christian or Pagan, throws on the origins of
Religious Magic--a subject I shall have to deal with in the next

 (1) See Robertson's Christianity and Mythology, Part II, pp.
129-302; also Doane's Bible Myths, ch. xxviii, p. 278.

I have already (Ch. II) mentioned the Eucharistic rite held in
commemoration of Mithra, and the indignant ascription of this by Justin
Martyr to the wiles of the Devil. Justin Martyr clearly had no doubt
about the resemblance of the Mithraic to the Christian ceremony. A
Sacramental meal, as mentioned a few pages back, seems to have been held
by the worshipers of Attis (1) in commemoration of their god; and
the 'mysteries' of the Pagan cults generally appear to have included
rites--sometimes half-savage, sometimes more aesthetic--in which a
dismembered animal was eaten, or bread and wine (the spirits of the Corn
and the Vine) were consumed, as representing the body of the god whom
his devotees desired to honor. But the best example of this practice is
afforded by the rites of Dionysus, to which I will devote a few lines.
Dionysus, like other Sun or Nature deities, was born of a Virgin (Semele
or Demeter) untainted by any earthly husband; and born on the 25th.
December. He was nurtured in a Cave, and even at that early age was
identified with the Ram or Lamb, into whose form he was for the time
being changed. At times also he was worshiped in the form of a Bull.
(2) He travelled far and wide; and brought the great gift of wine to
mankind. (3) He was called Liberator, and Saviour. His grave "was shown
at Delphi in the inmost shrine of the temple of Apollo. Secret offerings
were brought thither, while the women who were celebrating the feast
woke up the new-born god.... Festivals of this kind in celebration of
the extinction and resurrection of the deity were held (by women and
girls only) amid the mountains at night, every third year, about the
time of the shortest day. The rites, intended to express the excess of
grief and joy at the death and reappearance of the god, were wild even
to savagery, and the women who performed them were hence known by
the expressive names of Bacchae, Maenads, and Thyiades. They wandered
through woods and mountains, their flying locks crowned with ivy or
snakes, brandishing wands and torches, to the hollow sounds of the drum,
or the shrill notes of the flute, with wild dances and insane cries and

 (1) See Frazer's Golden Bough, Part IV, p. 229.

 (2) The Golden Bough, Part II, Book II, p. 164.

 (3) "I am the TRUE Vine," says the Jesus of the fourth gospel,
perhaps with an implicit and hostile reference to the cult of
Dionysus--in which Robertson suggests (Christianity and Mythology, p.
357) there was a ritual miracle of turning water into wine.

Oxen, goats, even fawns and roes from the forest were killed, torn to
pieces, and eaten raw. This in imitation of the treatment of Dionysus by
the Titans, (1)--who it was supposed had torn the god in pieces when a

 (1) See art. Dionysus. Dictionary of Classical Antiquities,
Nettleship and Sandys 3rd edn., London, 1898).

Dupuis, one of the earliest writers (at the beginning of last century)
on this subject, says, describing the mystic rites of Dionysus (1):
"The sacred doors of the Temple in which the initiation took place were
opened only once a year, and no stranger might ever enter. Night lent to
these august mysteries a veil which was forbidden to be drawn aside--for
whoever it might be. (2) It was the sole occasion for the representation
of the passion of Bacchus (Dionysus) dead, descended into hell, and
rearisen--in imitation of the representation of the sufferings of Osiris
which, according to Herodotus, were commemorated at Sais in Egypt. It
was in that place that the partition took place of the body of the god,
(3) which was then eaten--the ceremony, in fact, of which our Eucharist
is only a reflection; whereas in the mysteries of Bacchus actual raw
flesh was distributed, which each of those present had to consume in
commemoration of the death of Bacchus dismembered by the Titans, and
whose passion, in Chios and Tenedos, was renewed each year by the
sacrifice of a man who represented the god. (4) Possibly it is this last
fact which made people believe that the Christians (whose hoc est corpus
meum and sharing of an Eucharistic meal were no more than a shadow of a
more ancient rite) did really sacrifice a child and devour its limbs."

 (1) See Charles F. Dupuis, "Traite des Mysteres," ch. i.

 (2) Pausan, Corinth, ch. 37.

 (3) Clem, Prot. Eur. Bacch.

 (4) See Porphyry, De Abstinentia, lii, Section 56.

That Eucharistic rites were very very ancient is plain from the
Totem-sacraments of savages; and to this subject we shall now turn.


Much has been written on the origin of the Totem-system--the system,
that is, of naming a tribe or a portion of a tribe (say a CLAN)
after some ANIMAL--or sometimes--also after some plant or tree or
Nature-element, like fire or rain or thunder; but at best the subject is
a difficult one for us moderns to understand. A careful study has been
made of it by Salamon Reinach in his Cultes, Mythes et Religions, (1)
where he formulates his conclusions in twelve statements or definitions;
but even so--though his suggestions are helpful--he throws very little
light on the real origin of the system. (2)

 (1) See English translation of certain chapters (published by
David Nutt in 1912) entitled Cults, Myths and Religions, pp. 1-25. The
French original is in three large volumes.

 (2) The same may be said of the formulated statement of the
subject in Morris Jastrow's Handbooks of the History of Religion, vol.

There are three main difficulties. The first is to understand why
primitive Man should name his Tribe after an animal or object of nature
at all; the second, to understand on what principle he selected the
particular name (a lion, a crocodile, a lady bird, a certain tree); the
third, why he should make of the said totem a divinity, and pay honor
and worship to it. It may be worth while to pause for a moment over

(1) The fact that the Tribe was one of the early things for which Man
found it necessary to have a name is interesting, because it shows
how early the solidarity and psychological actuality of the tribe
was recognized; and as to the selection of a name from some animal or
concrete object of Nature, that was inevitable, for the simple reason
that there was nothing else for the savage to choose from. Plainly to
call his tribe "The Wayfarers" or "The Pioneers" or the "Pacifists" or
the "Invincibles," or by any of the thousand and one names which modern
associations adopt, would have been impossible, since such abstract
terms had little or no existence in his mind. And again to name it after
an animal was the most obvious thing to do, simply because the animals
were by far the most important features or accompaniments of his own
life. As I am dealing in this book largely with certain psychological
conditions of human evolution, it has to be pointed out that to
primitive man the animal was the nearest and most closely related of all
objects. Being of the same order of consciousness as himself, the animal
appealed to him very closely as his mate and equal. He made with regard
to it little or no distinction from himself. We see this very clearly in
the case of children, who of course represent the savage mind, and who
regard animals simply as their mates and equals, and come quickly into
rapport with them, not differentiating themselves from them.

(2) As to the particular animal or other object selected in order to
give a name to the Tribe, this would no doubt be largely accidental. Any
unusual incident might superstitiously precipitate a name. We can hardly
imagine the Tribe scratching its congregated head in the deliberate
effort to think out a suitable emblem for itself. That is not the way in
which nicknames are invented in a school or anywhere else to-day. At the
same time the heraldic appeal of a certain object of nature, animate or
inanimate, would be deeply and widely felt. The strength of the lion,
the fleetness of the deer, the food-value of a bear, the flight of a
bird, the awful jaws of a crocodile, might easily mesmerize a whole
tribe. Reinach points out, with great justice, that many tribes placed
themselves under the protection of animals which were supposed (rightly
or wrongly) to act as guides and augurs, foretelling the future.
"Diodorus," he says, "distinctly states that the hawk, in Egypt, was
venerated because it foretold the future." (Birds generally act as
 and Samoa the kangaroo, the crow and the owl premonish their fellow
clansmen of events to come. At one time the Samoan warriors went so far
as to rear owls for their prophetic qualities in war. (The jackal,
or 'pathfinder'--whose tracks sometimes lead to the remains of a
food-animal slain by a lion, and many birds and insects, have a value of
this kind.) "The use of animal totems for purposes of augury is, in all
likelihood, of great antiquity. Men must soon have realized that the
senses of animals were acuter than their own; nor is it surprising that
they should have expected their totems--that is to say, their natural
allies--to forewarn them both of unsuspected dangers and of those
provisions of nature, WELLS especially, which animals seem to scent
by instinct." (1) And again, beyond all this, I have little doubt that
there are subconscious affinities which unite certain tribes to certain
animals or plants, affinities whose origin we cannot now trace, though
they are very real--the same affinities that we recognize as existing
between individual PERSONS and certain objects of nature. W. H.
Hudson--himself in many respects having this deep and primitive relation
to nature--speaks in a very interesting and autobiographical volume (2)
of the extraordinary fascination exercised upon him as a boy, not
only by a snake, but by certain trees, and especially by a particular
flowering-plant "not more than a foot in height, with downy soft
pale green leaves, and clusters of reddish blossoms, something like
valerian." ... "One of my sacred flowers," he calls it, and insists on
the "inexplicable attraction" which it had for him. In various ways of
this kind one can perceive how particular totems came to be selected by
particular peoples.

 (1) See Reinach, Eng. trans., op. cit., pp. 20, 21.

 (2) Far away and Long ago (1918) chs. xvi and xvii.

(3) As to the tendency to divinize these totems, this arises no doubt
partly out of question (2). The animal or other object admired on
account of its strength or swiftness, or adopted as guardian of the
tribe because of its keen sight or prophetic quality, or infinitely
prized on account of its food-value, or felt for any other reason to
have a peculiar relation and affinity to the tribe, is by that fact SET
APART. It becomes taboo. It must not be killed--except under necessity
and by sanction of the whole tribe--nor injured; and all dealings with
it must be fenced round with regulations. It is out of this taboo or
system of taboos that, according to Reinach, religion arose. "I propose
(he says) to define religion as: A SUM OF SCRUPLES (TABOOS) WHICH IMPEDE
THE FREE EXERCISE OF OUR FACULTIES." (1) Obviously this definition is
gravely deficient, simply because it is purely negative, and leaves
out of account the positive aspect of the subject. In Man, the positive
content of religion is the instinctive sense--whether conscious or
subconscious--of an inner unity and continuity with the world around.
This is the stuff out of which religion is made. The scruples or taboos
which "impede the freedom" of this relation are the negative forces
which give outline and form to the relation. These are the things which
generate the RITES AND CEREMONIALS of religion; and as far as Reinach
means by religion MERELY rites and ceremonies he is correct; but clearly
he only covers half the subject. The tendency to divinize the totem is
at least as much dependent on the positive sense of unity with it, as on
the negative scruples which limit the relation in each particular case.
But I shall return to this subject presently, and more than once, with
the view of clarifying it. Just now it will be best to illustrate the
nature of Totems generally, and in some detail.

 (1) See Orpheus by S. Reinach, p. 3.

As would be gathered from what I have just said, there is found among
all the more primitive peoples, and in all parts of the world, an
immense variety of totem-names. The Dinkas, for instance, are a rather
intelligent well-grown people inhabiting the upper reaches of the Nile
in the vicinity of the great swamps. According to Dr. Seligman their
clans have for totems the lion, the elephant, the crocodile, the
hippopotamus, the fox, and the hyena, as well as certain birds which
infest and damage the corn, some plants and trees, and such things as
rain, fire, etc. "Each clan speaks of its totem as its ancestor, and
refrains (as a rule) from injuring or eating it." (1) The members of the
Crocodile clan call themselves "brothers of the crocodile." The tribes
of Bechuana-land have a very similar list of totem-names--the buffalo,
the fish, the porcupine, the wild vine, etc. They too have a Crocodile
clan, but they call the crocodile their FATHER! The tribes of Australia
much the same again, with the differences suitable to their country; and
the Red Indians of North America the same. Garcilasso, della Vega,
the Spanish historian, son of an Inca princess by one of the Spanish
conquerors of Peru and author of the well-known book Commentarias
Reales, says in that book (i, 57), speaking of the pre-Inca period, "An
Indian (of Peru) was not considered honorable unless he was descended
from a fountain, river or lake, or even from the sea, or from a wild
animal, as a bear, lion, tiger, eagle, or the bird they call cuntur
(condor), or some other bird of prey." (2) According to Lewis Morgan,
the North American Indians of various tribes had for totems the wolf,
bear, beaver, turtle, deer, snipe, heron, hawk, crane, loon, turkey,
muskrat; pike, catfish, carp; buffalo, elk, reindeer, eagle, hare,
rabbit, snake; reed-grass, sand, rock, and tobacco-plant.

 (1) See The Golden Bough, vol. iv, p. 31.

 (2) See Andrew Lang, Custom and Myth, p. 104, also Myth, Ritual
and Religion, vol. i, pp. 71, 76, etc.

So we might go on rather indefinitely. I need hardly say that in more
modern and civilized life, relics of the totem system are still to be
found in the forms of the heraldic creatures adopted for their crests by
different families, and in the bears, lions, eagles, the sun, moon and
stars and so forth, which still adorn the flags and are flaunted as the
insignia of the various nations. The names may not have been ORIGINALLY
adopted from any definite belief in blood-relationship with the animal
or other object in question; but when, as Robertson says (Pagan Christs,
p. 104), a "savage learned that he was 'a Bear' and that his father
and grandfather and forefathers were so before him, it was really
impossible, after ages in which totem-names thus passed current, that he
should fail to assume that his folk were DESCENDED from a bear."

As a rule, as may be imagined, the savage tribesman will on no account
EAT his tribal totem-animal. Such would naturally be deemed a kind of
sacrilege. Also it must be remarked that some totems are hardly suitable
for eating. Yet it is important to observe that occasionally, and
guarding the ceremony with great precautions, it has been an almost
universal custom for the tribal elders to call a feast at which
an animal (either the totem or some other) IS killed and commonly
eaten--and this in order that the tribesmen may absorb some virtue
belonging to it, and may confirm their identity with the tribe and with
each other. The eating of the bear or other animal, the sprinkling with
its blood, and the general ritual in which the participants shared its
flesh, or dressed and disguised themselves in its skin, or otherwise
identified themselves with it, was to them a symbol of their community
of life with each other, and a means of their renewal and salvation in
the holy emblem. And this custom, as the reader will perceive, became
the origin of the Eucharists and Holy Communions of the later religions.

Professor Robertson-Smith's celebrated Camel affords an instance of
this. (1) It appears that St. Nilus (fifth century) has left a detailed
account of the occasional sacrifice in his time of a spotless white
camel among the Arabs of the Sinai region, which closely resembles a
totemic communion-feast. The uncooked blood and flesh of the animal had
to be entirely consumed by the faithful before daybreak. "The slaughter
of the victim, the sacramental drinking of the blood, and devouring in
wild haste of the pieces of still quivering flesh, recall the details
of the Dionysiac and other festivals." (2) Robertson-Smith himself
says:--"The plain meaning is that the victim was devoured before its
life had left the still warm blood and flesh... and that thus in the
most literal way, all those who shared in the ceremony absorbed part of
the victim's life into themselves. One sees how much more forcibly
than any ordinary meal such a rite expresses the establishment or
confirmation of a bond of common life between the worshipers, and also,
since the blood is shed upon the altar itself, between the worshipers
and their god. In this sacrifice, then, the significant factors are two:
the conveyance of the living blood to the godhead, and the absorption of
the living flesh and blood into the flesh and blood of the worshippers.
Each of these is effected in the simplest and most direct manner, so
that the meaning of the ritual is perfectly transparent."

 (1) See his Religion of the Semites, p. 320.

 (2) They also recall the rites of the Passover--though in this
latter the blood was no longer drunk, nor the flesh eaten raw.

It seems strange, of course, that men should eat their totems; and
it must not by any means be supposed that this practice is (or was)
universal; but it undoubtedly obtains in some cases. As Miss Harrison
says (Themis, p. 123); "you do not as a rule eat your relations," and as
a rule the eating of a totem is tabu and forbidden, but (Miss Harrison
continues) "at certain times and under certain restrictions a man not
only may, but MUST, eat of his totem, though only sparingly, as of a
thing sacrosanct." The ceremonial carried out in a communal way by the
tribe not only identifies the tribe with the totem (animal), but is
held, according to early magical ideas, and when the animal is desired
for food, to favor its manipulation. The human tribe partakes of the
mana or life-force of the animal, and is strengthened; the animal tribe
is sympathetically renewed by the ceremonial and multiplies exceedingly.
The slaughter of the sacred animal and (often) the simultaneous
outpouring of human blood seals the compact and confirms the magic. This
is well illustrated by a ceremony of the 'Emu' tribe referred to by Dr.

"In order to multiply Emus which are an important article of food, the
men of the Emu totem in the Arunta tribe proceed as follows: They clear
a small spot of level ground, and opening veins in their arms they let
the blood stream out until the surface of the ground for a space of
about three square yards is soaked with it. When the blood has dried
and caked, it forms a hard and fairly impermeable surface, on which they
paint the sacred design of the emu totem, especially the parts of the
bird which they like best to eat, namely, the fat and the eggs. Round
this painting the men sit and sing. Afterwards performers wearing long
head-dresses to represent the long neck and small head of the emu, mimic
the appearance of the bird as it stands aimlessly peering about in all
directions." (1)

 (1) The Golden Bough i, 85--with reference to Spencer and
Gillen's Native Tribes of Central Australia, pp. 179, 189.

Thus blood sacrifice comes in; and--(whether this has ever actually
happened in the case of the Central Australians I know not)--we can
easily imagine a member of the Emu tribe, and disguised as an actual
emu, having been ceremonially slaughtered as a firstfruits and promise
of the expected and prayed-for emu-crop; just as the same certainly
HAS happened in the case of men wearing beast-masks of Bulls or Rams
or Bears being sacrificed in propitiation of Bull-gods, Ram-gods or
Bear-gods or simply in pursuance of some kind of magic to favor the
multiplication of these food-animals.

"In the light of totemistic ways of thinking we see plainly enough the
relation of man to food-animals. You need or at least desire flesh food,
yet you shrink from slaughtering 'your brother the ox'; you desire his
mana, yet you respect his tabu, for in you and him alike runs the common
life-blood. On your own individual responsibility you would never kill
him; but for the common weal, on great occasions, and in a fashion
conducted with scrupulous care, it is expedient that he die for his
people, and that they feast upon his flesh." (1)

 (1) Themis, p. 140.

In her little book Ancient Art and Ritual (1) Jane Harrison describes
the dedication of a holy Bull, as conducted in Greece at Elis, and at
Magnesia and other cities. "There at the annual fair year by year the
stewards of the city bought a Bull 'the finest that could be got,' and
at the new moon of the month at the beginning of seed-time (? April)
 Bull was led in procession at the head of which went the chief priest
and priestess of the city. With them went a herald and sacrificer,
and two bands of youths and maidens. So holy was the Bull that nothing
unlucky might come near him. The herald pronounced aloud a prayer for
'the safety of the city and the land, and the citizens, and the women
and children, for peace and wealth, and for the bringing forth of grain
and all other fruits, and of cattle.' All this longing for fertility,
for food and children, focuses round the holy Bull, whose holiness is
his strength and fruitfulness." The Bull is sacrificed. The flesh is
divided in solemn feast among those who take part in the procession.
"The holy flesh is not offered to a god, it is eaten--to every man his
portion--by each and every citizen, that he may get his share of the
strength of the Bull, of the luck of the State." But at Athens the
Bouphonia, as it was called, was followed by a curious ceremony. "The
hide was stuffed with straw and sewed up, and next the stuffed animal
was set on its feet and yoked to a plough as though it were ploughing.
The Death is followed by a Resurrection. Now this is all important. We
are accustomed to think of sacrifice as the death, the giving up, the
renouncing of something. But SACRIFICE does not mean 'death' at all. It
means MAKING HOLY, sanctifying; and holiness was to primitive man just
special strength and life. What they wanted from the Bull was just that
special life and strength which all the year long they had put into him,
and nourished and fostered. That life was in his blood. They could not
eat that flesh nor drink that blood unless they killed him. So he must
die. But it was not to give him up to the gods that they killed him,
not to 'sacrifice' him in our sense, but to have him, keep him, eat him,
live BY him and through him, by his grace."

 (1) Home University Library, p. 87.

We have already had to deal with instances of the ceremonial eating of
the sacred he-Lamb or Ram, immolated in the Spring season of the year,
and partaken of in a kind of communal feast--not without reference (at
any rate in later times) to a supposed Lamb-god. Among the Ainos in the
North of Japan, as also among the Gilyaks in Eastern Siberia, the Bear
is the great food-animal, and is worshipped as the supreme giver of
health and strength. There also a similar ritual of sacrifice occurs. A
perfect Bear is caught and caged. He is fed up and even pampered to the
day of his death. "Fish, brandy and other delicacies are offered to him.
Some of the people prostrate themselves before him; his coming into
a house brings a blessing, and if he sniffs at the food that brings a
blessing too." Then he is led out and slain. A great feast takes place,
the flesh is divided, cupfuls of the blood are drunk by the men;
the tribe is united and strengthened, and the Bear-god blesses the
ceremony--the ideal Bear that has given its life for the people. (1)

 (1) See Art and Ritual, pp. 92-98; The Golden Bough, ii, 375
seq.; Themis, pp. 140, 141; etc.

That the eating of the flesh of an animal or a man conveys to you some
of the qualities, the life-force, the mana, of that animal or man, is an
idea which one often meets with among primitive folk. Hence the common
tendency to eat enemy warriors slain in battle against your tribe. By
doing so you absorb some of their valor and strength. Even the enemy
scalps which an Apache Indian might hang from his belt were something
magical to add to the Apache's power. As Gilbert Murray says, (1) "you
devoured the holy animal to get its mana, its swiftness, its strength,
its great endurance, just as the savage now will eat his enemy's brain
or heart or hands to get some particular quality residing there."
Even--as he explains on the earlier page--mere CONTACT was often
considered sufficient--"we have holy pillars whose holiness consists
in the fact that they have been touched by the blood of a bull." And in
this connection we may note that nearly all the Christian Churches have
a great belief in the virtue imparted by the mere 'laying on of hands.'

 (1) Four Stages of Greek Religion, p. 36.

In quite a different connection--we read (1) that among the Spartans a
warrior-boy would often beg for the love of the elder warrior whom he
admired (i. e. the contact with his body) in order to obtain in that
way a portion of the latter's courage and prowess. That through the
mediation of the lips one's spirit may be united to the spirit of
another person is an idea not unfamiliar to the modern mind; while the
exchange of blood, clothes, locks of hair, etc., by lovers is a custom
known all over the world. (2)

 (1) Aelian VII, iii, 12: [gr autoi goun (oi paides) deontai twn
erastwn] [gr eispnein autois]. See also E. Bethe on "Die Dorische
Knabenliebe" in the Rheinisches Museum, vol. 26, iii, 461.

 (2) See Crawley's Mystic Rose, pp. 238, 242.

To suppose that by eating another you absorb his or her soul is somewhat
naive certainly. Perhaps it IS more native, more primitive. Yet there
may be SOME truth even in that idea. Certainly the food that one eats
has a psychological effect, and the flesh-eaters among the human race
have a different temperament as a rule from the fruit and vegetable
eaters, while among the animals (though other causes may come in
here) the Carnivora are decidedly more cruel and less gentle than the

To return to the rites of Dionysus, Gilbert Murray, speaking of
Orphism--a great wave of religious reform which swept over Greece and
South Italy in the sixth century B.C.--says: (1) "A curious relic of
primitive superstition and cruelty remained firmly imbedded in Orphism,
a doctrine irrational and unintelligible, and for that very reason
wrapped in the deepest and most sacred mystery: a belief in the
BLOOD. It seems possible that the savage Thracians, in the fury of their
worship on the mountains, when they were possessed by the god and became
'wild beasts,' actually tore with their teeth and hands any hares,
goats, fawns or the like that they came across.... The Orphic
congregations of later times, in their most holy gatherings, solemnly
partook of the blood of a bull, which was by a mystery the blood of
Dionysus-Zagreus himself, the Bull of God, slain in sacrifice for the
purification of man." (2)

 (1) See Notes to his translation of the Bacch[ae] of Euripides.

 (2) For a description of this orgy see Theocritus, Idyll xxvi;
also for explanations of it, Lang's Myth, Ritual and Religion, vol. ii,
pp, 241-260, on Dionysus. The Encyclop[ae]dia Brit., article "Orpheus,"
says:--"Orpheus, in the manner of his death, was considered to personate
the god Dionysus, and was thus representative of the god torn to pieces
every year--a ceremony enacted by the Bacchae in the earliest times with
a human victim, and afterwards with a bull, to represent the bull-formed
god. A distinct feature of this ritual was [gr wmofagia] (eating the
flesh of the victim raw), whereby the communicants imagined that they
consumed and assimilated the god represented by the victim, and thus
became filled with the divine ecstasy." Compare also the Hindu doctrine
of Praj[pati, the dismembered Lord of Creation.

Such instances of early communal feasts, which fulfilled the double part
of confirming on the one hand the solidarity of the tribe, and on the
other of bringing the tribe, by the shedding of the blood of a divine
Victim into close relationship with the very source of its life,
are plentiful to find. "The sacramental rite," says Professor
Robertson-Smith, (1) "is also an atoning rite, which brings the
community again into harmony with its alienated god--atonement being
simply an act of communion designed to wipe out all memory of previous
estrangement." With this subject I shall deal more specially in chapter
vii below. Meanwhile as instances of early Eucharists we may mention the
following cases, remembering always that as the blood is regarded as the
Life, the drinking or partaking of, or sprinkling with, blood is always
an acknowledgment of the common life; and that the juice of the grape
being regarded as the blood of the Vine, wine in the later ceremonials
quite easily and naturally takes the place of the blood in the early

 (1) Religion of the Semites, p. 302.

Thus P. Andrada La Crozius, a French missionary, and one of the first
Christians who went to Nepaul and Thibet, says in his History of India:
"Their Grand Lama celebrates a species of sacrifice with BREAD and WINE,
in which, after taking a small quantity himself, he distributes the
rest among the Lamas present at this ceremony." (1) "The old Egyptians
celebrated the resurrection of Osiris by a sacrament, eating the sacred
cake or wafer after it had been consecrated by the priest, and thereby
becoming veritable flesh of his flesh." (2) As is well known, the eating
of bread or dough sacramentally (sometimes mixed with blood or seed)
as an emblem of community of life with the divinity, is an extremely
ancient practice or ritual. Dr. Frazer (3) says of the Aztecs,
that "twice a year, in May and December, an image of the great god
Huitzilopochtli was made of dough, then broken in pieces and solemnly
eaten by his worshipers." And Lord Kingsborough in his Mexican
Antiquities (vol. vi, p. 220) gives a record of a "most Holy Supper"
in which these people ate the flesh of their god. It was a cake made of
certain seeds, "and having made it, they blessed it in their manner, and
broke it into pieces, which the high priest put into certain very clean
vessels, and took a thorn of maguey which resembles a very thick needle,
with which he took up with the utmost reverence single morsels, which
he put into the mouth of each individual in the manner of a communion."
Acostas (4) confirms this and similar accounts. The Peruvians partook of
a sacrament consisting of a pudding of coarsely ground maize, of which
a portion had been smeared on the idol. The priest sprinkled it with the
blood of the victim before distributing it to the people. Priest and
people then all took their shares in turn, "with great care that no
particle should be allowed to fall to the ground--this being looked upon
as a great sin." (5)

 (1) See Doane's Bible Myths, p. 306.

 (2) From The Great Law, of religious origins: by W. Williamson
(1899), p. 177.

 (3) The Golden Bough, vol. ii, p. 79.

 (4) Natural and Moral History of the Indies. London (1604).

 (5) See Markham's Rites and laws of the Incas, p. 27.

Moving from Peru to China (instead of 'from China to Peru') we find that
"the Chinese pour wine (a very general substitute for blood) on a straw
image of Confucius, and then all present drink of it, and taste the
sacrificial victim, in order to participate in the grace of Confucius."
(Here again the Corn and Wine are blended in one rite.) And of Tartary
Father Grueber thus testifies: "This only I do affirm, that the devil so
mimics the Catholic Church there, that although no European or Christian
has ever been there, still in all essential things they agree so
completely with the Roman Church, as even to celebrate the Host with
bread and wine: with my own eyes I have seen it." (1) These few
instances are sufficient to show the extraordinarily wide diffusion of
Totem-sacraments and Eucharistic rites all over the world.

 (1) For these two quotations see Jevons' Introduction to the
History of Religion, pp. 148 and 219.


I have wandered, in pursuit of Totems and the Eucharist, some way from
the astronomical thread of Chapters II and III, and now it would appear
that in order to understand religious origins we must wander still
farther. The chapters mentioned were largely occupied with Sungods and
astronomical phenomena, but now we have to consider an earlier period
when there were no definite forms of gods, and when none but the vaguest
astronomical knowledge existed. Sometimes in historical matters it is
best and safest to move thus backwards in Time, from the things recent
and fairly well known to things more ancient and less known. In this way
we approach more securely to some understanding of the dim and remote

It is clear that before any definite speculations on heaven-dwelling
gods or divine beings had arisen in the human mind--or any clear
theories of how the sun and moon and stars might be connected with the
changes of the seasons on the earth--there were still certain obvious
things which appealed to everybody, learned or unlearned alike. One of
these was the return of Vegetation, bringing with it the fruits or the
promise of the fruits of the earth, for human food, and also bringing
with it increase of animal life, for food in another form; and the other
was the return of Light and Warmth, making life easier in all ways. Food
delivering from the fear of starvation; Light and Warmth delivering from
the fear of danger and of cold. These were three glorious things which
returned together and brought salvation and renewed life to man. The
period of their return was 'Spring,' and though Spring and its benefits
might fade away in time, still there was always the HOPE of its
return--though even so it may have been a long time in human evolution
before man discovered that it really did always return, and (with
certain allowances) at equal intervals of time.

Long then before any Sun or Star gods could be called in, the return of
the Vegetation must have enthralled man's attention, and filled him with
hope and joy. Yet since its return was somewhat variable and uncertain
the question, What could man do to assist that return? naturally
became a pressing one. It is now generally held that the use of
Magic--sympathetic magic--arose in this way. Sympathetic magic seems to
have been generated by a belief that your own actions cause a similar
response in things and persons around you. Yet this belief did not rest
on any philosophy or argument, but was purely instinctive and sometimes
of the nature of a mere corporeal reaction. Every schoolboy knows how
in watching a comrade's high jump at the Sports he often finds himself
lifting a knee at the moment 'to help him over'; at football matches
quarrels sometimes arise among the spectators by reason of an
ill-placed kick coming from a too enthusiastic on-looker, behind one;
undergraduates running on the tow-path beside their College boat in
the races will hurry even faster than the boat in order to increase its
speed; there is in each case an automatic bodily response increased
by one's own desire. A person ACTS the part which he desires to be
successful. He thinks to transfer his energy in that way. Again, if by
chance one witnesses a painful accident, a crushed foot or what-not,
it commonly happens that one feels a pain in the same part oneself--a
sympathetic pain. What more natural than to suppose that the pain
really is transferred from the one person to the other? and how easy the
inference that by tormenting a wretched scape-goat or crucifying a human
victim in some cases the sufferings of people may be relieved or their
sins atoned for?

Simaetha, it will be remembered, in the second Idyll of Theocritus,
curses her faithless lover Delphis, and as she melts his waxen image she
prays that HE TOO MAY MELT. All this is of the nature of Magic, and is
independent of and generally more primitive than Theology or Philosophy.
Yet it interests us because it points to a firm instinct in early
man--to which I have already alluded--the instinct of his unity and
continuity with the rest of creation, and of a common life so close
that his lightest actions may cause a far-reaching reaction in the world

Man, then, independently of any belief in gods, may assist the arrival
of Spring by magic ceremonies. If you want the Vegetation to appear you
must have rain; and the rain-maker in almost all primitive tribes has
been a MOST important personage. Generally he based his rites on quite
fanciful associations, as when the rain-maker among the Mandans wore a
raven's skin on his head (bird of the storm) or painted his shield with
red zigzags of lightning (1); but partly, no doubt, he had observed
actual facts, or had had the knowledge of them transmitted to him--as,
for instance that when rain is impending loud noises will bring about
its speedy downfall, a fact we moderns have had occasion to notice on
battlefields. He had observed perhaps that in a storm a specially loud
clap of thunder is generally followed by a greatly increased downpour
of rain. He had even noticed (a thing which I have often verified in
the vicinity of Sheffield) that the copious smoke of fires will generate
rain-clouds--and so quite naturally he concluded that it was his smoking
SACRIFICES which had that desirable effect. So far he was on the track
of elementary Science. And so he made "bull-roarers" to imitate the
sound of wind and the blessed rain-bringing thunder, or clashed
great bronze cymbals together with the same object. Bull-voices and
thunder-drums and the clashing of cymbals were used in this connection
by the Greeks, and are mentioned by Aeschylus (2); but the bull-roarer,
in the form of a rhombus of wood whirled at the end of a string, seems
to be known, or to have been known, all over the world. It is described
with some care by Mr. Andrew Lang in his Custom and Myth (pp. 29-44),
where he says "it is found always as a sacred instrument employed in
religious mysteries, in New Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, ancient
Greece, and Africa."

 (1) See Catlin's North American Indians, Letter 19.

 (2) Themis, p. 61.

Sometimes, of course, the rain-maker was successful; but of the inner
causes of rain he knew next to nothing; he was more ignorant even than
we are! His main idea was a more specially 'magical' one--namely, that
the sound itself would appeal to the SPIRITS of rain and thunder and
cause them to give a response. For of course the thunder (in Hebrew
Bath-Kol, "the daughter of the Voice") was everywhere regarded as
the manifestation of a spirit. (1) To make sounds like thunder would
therefore naturally call the attention of such a spirit; or he, the
rain-maker, might make sounds like rain. He made gourd-rattles (known
in ever so many parts of the world) in which he rattled dried seeds
or small pebbles with a most beguiling and rain-like insistence; or
sometimes, like the priests of Baal in the Bible, (2) he would cut
himself with knives till the blood fell upon the ground in great drops
suggestive of an oncoming thunder-shower. "In Mexico the rain god was
propitiated with sacrifices of children. If the children wept and shed
abundant tears, they who carried them rejoiced, being convinced that
rain would also be abundant." (3) Sometimes he, the rain-maker, would
WHISTLE for the wind, or, like the Omaha Indians, flap his blankets for
the same purpose.

 (1) See A. Lang, op. cit.: "The muttering of the thunder is said
to be his voice calling to the rain to fall and make the grass grow up
green." Such are the very words of Umbara, the minstrel of the Tribe

 (2) I Kings xviii.

 (3) Quoted from Sahagun II, 2, 3 by A. Lang in Myth, Ritual and
Religion, vol. ii, p. 102.

In the ancient myth of Demeter and Persephone--which has been adopted by
so many peoples under so many forms--Demeter the Earth-mother loses her
daughter Persephone (who represents of course the Vegetation), carried
down into the underworld by the evil powers of Darkness and Winter.
And in Greece there was a yearly ceremonial and ritual of magic for the
purpose of restoring the lost one and bringing her back to the world
again. Women carried certain charms, "fir-cones and snakes and unnamable
objects made of paste, to ensure fertility; there was a sacrifice of
pigs, who were thrown into a deep cleft of the earth, and their remains
afterwards collected and scattered as a charm over the fields."
(1) Fir-cones and snakes from their very forms were emblems of male
fertility; snakes, too, from their habit of gliding out of their own
skins with renewed brightness and color were suggestive of resurrection
and re-vivification; pigs and sows by their exceeding fruitfulness would
in their hour of sacrifice remind old mother Earth of what was expected
from her! Moreover, no doubt it had been observed that the scattering of
dead flesh over the ground or mixed with the seed, did bless the
ground to a greater fertility; and so by a strange mixture of primitive
observation with a certain child-like belief that by means of symbols
and suggestions Nature could be appealed to and induced to answer to the
desires and needs for her children this sort of ceremonial Magic arose.
It was not exactly Science, and it was not exactly Religion; but it was
a naive, and perhaps not altogether mistaken, sense of the bond between
Nature and Man.

 (1) See Gilbert Murray's Four Stages of Greek Religion, p. 29.

For we can perceive that earliest man was not yet consciously
differentiated from Nature. Not only do we see that the tribal life was
so strong that the individual seldom regarded himself as different or
separate or opposed to the rest of the tribe; but that something of the
same kind was true with regard to his relation to the Animals and to
Nature at large. This outer world was part of himself, was also himself.
His sub-conscious sense of unity was so great that it largely dominated
his life. That brain-cleverness and brain-activity which causes modern
man to perceive such a gulf between him and the animals, or between
himself and Nature, did not exist in the early man. Hence it was
no difficulty to him to believe that he was a Bear or an Emu.
Sub-consciously he was wiser than we are. He knew that he was a bear or
an emu, or any other such animal as his totem-creed led him to fix his
mind upon. Hence we find that a familiarity and common consent existed
between primitive man and many of his companion animals such as has
been lost or much attenuated in modern times. Elisee Reclus in his very
interesting paper La Grande Famille (1) gives support to the idea that
the so-called domestication of animals did not originally arise from any
forcible subjugation of them by man, but from a natural amity with
them which grew up in the beginning from common interests, pursuits and
affections. Thus the chetah of India (and probably the puma of Brazil)
from far-back times took to hunting in the company of his two-legged and
bow-and-arrow-armed friend, with whom he divided the spoil. W. H. Hudson
(2) declares that the Puma, wild and fierce though it is, and capable
of killing the largest game, will never even to-day attack man, but
when maltreated by the latter submits to the outrage, unresisting, with
mournful cries and every sign of grief. The Llama, though domesticated
in a sense, has never allowed the domination of the whip or the bit,
but may still be seen walking by the side of the Brazilian peasant
and carrying his burdens in a kind of proud companionship. The mutual
relations of Women and the Cow, or of Man and the Horse (3) (also the
Elephant) reach so far into the past that their origin cannot be traced.
The Swallow still loves to make its home under the cottage eaves and
still is welcomed by the inmates as the bringer of good fortune. Elisee
Reclus assures us that the Dinka man on the Nile calls to certain snakes
by name and shares with them the milk of his cows.

 (1) Published originally in Le Magazine International, January

 (2) See The Naturalist in La Plata, ch. ii.

 (3) "It is certain that the primitive Indo-European reared droves
of tame or half-tame horses for generations, if not centuries, before
it ever occurred to him to ride or drive them" (F. B. Jevons, Introd. to
Hist. Religion, p. 119).

And so with Nature. The communal sense, or subconscious perception,
which made primitive men feel their unity with other members of their
tribe, and their obvious kinship with the animals around them, brought
them also so close to general Nature that they looked upon the trees,
the vegetation, the rain, the warmth of the sun, as part of their
bodies, part of themselves. Conscious differentiation had not yet set
in. To cause rain or thunder you had to make rain- or thunder-like
noises; to encourage Vegetation and the crops to leap out of the ground,
you had to leap and dance. "In Swabia and among the Transylvanian Saxons
it is a common custom (says Dr. Frazer) for a man who has some hemp to
leap high in the field in the belief that this will make the hemp grow
tall." (1) Native May-pole dances and Jacks in the Green have hardly
yet died out--even in this most civilized England. The bower of green
boughs, the music of pipes, the leaping and the twirling, were all an
encouragement to the arrival of Spring, and an expression of Sympathetic
Magic. When you felt full of life and energy and virility in yourself
you naturally leapt and danced, so why should you not sympathetically do
this for the energizing of the crops? In every country of the world
the vernal season and the resurrection of the Sun has been greeted with
dances and the sound of music. But if you wanted success in hunting
or in warfare then you danced before-hand mimic dances suggesting the
successful hunt or battle. It was no more than our children do to-day,
and it all was, and is, part of a natural-magic tendency in human

 (1) See The Golden Bough, i, 139 seq. Also Art and Ritual, p. 31.

Let me pause here for a moment. It is difficult for us with our
academical and somewhat school-boardy minds to enter into all this, and
to understand the sense of (unconscious or sub-conscious) identification
with the world around which characterized the primitive man--or to look
upon Nature with his eyes. A Tree, a Snake, a Bull, an Ear of Corn. WE
know so well from our botany and natural history books what these things
are. Why should our minds dwell on them any longer or harbor a doubt as
to our perfect comprehension of them?

And yet (one cannot help asking the question): Has any one of us really
ever SEEN a Tree? I certainly do not think that I have--except most
superficially. That very penetrating observer and naturalist, Henry D.
Thoreau, tells us that he would often make an appointment to visit a
certain tree, miles away--but what or whom he saw when he got there, he
does not say. Walt Whitman, also a keen observer, speaks of a tulip-tree
near which he sometimes sat--"the Apollo of the woods--tall and
graceful, yet robust and sinewy, inimitable in hang of foliage and
throwing-out of limb; as if the beauteous, vital, leafy creature could
walk, if it only would"; and mentions that in a dream-trance he actually
once saw his "favorite trees step out and promenade up, down and around
VERY CURIOUSLY." (1) Once the present writer seemed to have a partial
vision of a tree. It was a beech, standing somewhat isolated, and
still leafless in quite early Spring. Suddenly I was aware of its
skyward-reaching arms and up-turned finger-tips, as if some vivid life
(or electricity) was streaming through them far into the spaces of
heaven, and of its roots plunged in the earth and drawing the same
energies from below. The day was quite still and there was no movement
in the branches, but in that moment the tree was no longer a separate or
separable organism, but a vast being ramifying far into space, sharing
and uniting the life of Earth and Sky, and full of a most amazing

 (1) Specimen Days, 1882-3 Edition, p. iii.

The reader of this will probably have had some similar experiences.
Perhaps he will have seen a full-foliaged Lombardy poplar swaying in
half a gale in June--the wind and the sun streaming over every little
twig and leaf, the tree throwing out its branches in a kind of ecstasy
and bathing them in the passionately boisterous caresses of its two
visitants; or he will have heard the deep glad murmur of some huge
sycamore with ripening seed clusters when after weeks of drought the
steady warm rain brings relief to its thirst; and he will have known
that these creatures are but likenesses of himself, intimately and
deeply-related to him in their love and hunger longing, and, like
himself too, unfathomed and unfathomable.

It would be absurd to credit early man with conscious speculations
like these, belonging more properly to the twentieth century; yet it is
incontrovertible, I think, that in SOME ways the primitive peoples, with
their swift subconscious intuitions and their minds unclouded by mere
book knowledge, perceived truths to which we moderns are blind. Like
the animals they arrived at their perceptions without (individual) brain
effort; they knew things without thinking. When they did THINK of course
they went wrong. Their budding science easily went astray. Religion
with them had as yet taken no definite shape; science was equally
protoplasmic; and all they had was a queer jumble of the two in the form
of Magic. When at a later time Science gradually defined its outlook and
its observations, and Religion, from being a vague subconscious feeling,
took clear shape in the form of gods and creeds, then mankind gradually
emerged into the stage of evolution IN WHICH WE NOW ARE. OUR scientific
laws and doctrines are of course only temporary formulae, and so also
are the gods and the creeds of our own and other religions; but these
things, with their set and angular outlines, have served in the past
and will serve in the future as stepping-stones towards another kind of
knowledge of which at present we only dream, and will lead us on to
a renewed power of perception which again will not be the laborious
product of thought but a direct and instantaneous intuition like that of
the animals--and the angels.

To return to our Tree. Though primitive man did not speculate in modern
style on these things, I yet have no reasonable doubt that he felt (and
FEELS, in those cases where we can still trace the workings of his
mind) his essential relationship to the creatures of the forest more
intimately, if less analytically, than we do to-day. If the animals with
all their wonderful gifts are (as we readily admit) a veritable part
of Nature--so that they live and move and have their being more or less
submerged in the spirit of the great world around them--then Man, when
he first began to differentiate himself from them, must for a long
time have remained in this SUBconscious unity, becoming only distinctly
CONSCIOUS of it when he was already beginning to lose it. That early
dawn of distinct consciousness corresponded to the period of belief
in Magic. In that first mystic illumination almost every object was
invested with a halo of mystery or terror or adoration. Things were
either tabu, in which case they were dangerous, and often not to be
touched or even looked upon--or they were overflowing with magic grace
and influence, in which case they were holy, and any rite which released
their influence was also holy. William Blake, that modern prophetic
child, beheld a Tree full of angels; the Central Australian native
believes bushes to be the abode of spirits which leap into the bodies of
passing women and are the cause of the conception of children; Moses
saw in the desert a bush (perhaps the mimosa) like a flame of fire, with
Jehovah dwelling in the midst of it, and he put off his shoes for
he felt that the place was holy; Osiris was at times regarded as a
Tree-spirit (1); and in inscriptions is referred to as "the solitary one
in the acacia"--which reminds us curiously of the "burning bush." The
same is true of others of the gods; in the old Norse mythology Ygdrasil
was the great branching World-Ash, abode of the soul of the universe;
the Peepul or Bo-tree in India is very sacred and must on no account be
cut down, seeing that gods and spirits dwell among its branches. It is
of the nature of an Aspen, and of little or no practical use, (2) but so
holy that the poorest peasant will not disturb it. The Burmese believe
the things of nature, but especially the trees, to be the abode of
spirits. "To the Burman of to-day, not less than to the Greek of long
ago, all nature is alive. The forest and the river and the mountains
are full of spirits, whom the Burmans call Nats. There are all kinds of
Nats, good and bad, great and little, male and female, now living round
about us. Some of them live in the trees, especially in the huge figtree
that shades half-an-acre without the village; or among the fern-like
fronds of the tamarind." (3)

 (1) The Golden Bough, iv, 339.

 (2) Though the sap is said to contain caoutchouc.

 (3) The Soul of a People, by H. Fielding (1902), p. 250.

There are also in India and elsewhere popular rites of MARRIAGE of women
(and men) to Trees; which suggest that trees were regarded as very
near akin to human beings! The Golden Bough (1) mentions many of these,
including the idea that some trees are male and others female. The
well-known Assyrian emblem of a Pine cone being presented by a priest to
a Palm-tree is supposed by E. B. Tylor to symbolize fertilization--the
Pine cone being masculine and the Palm feminine. The ceremony of the god
Krishna's marriage to a Basil plant is still celebrated in India down
to the present day; and certain trees are clasped and hugged by pregnant
women--the idea no doubt being that they bestow fertility on those
who embrace them. In other cases apparently it is the trees which are
benefited, since it is said that men sometimes go naked into the
Clove plantations at night in order by a sort of sexual intercourse to
fertilize them. (2)

 (1) Vol. i, p. 40, Vol. iii, pp. 24 sq.

 (2) Ibid., vol. ii, p. 98.

One might go on multiplying examples in this direction quite
indefinitely. There is no end to them. They all indicate--what was
instinctively felt by early man, and is perfectly obvious to all to-day
who are not blinded by "civilization" (and Herbert Spencer!) that the
world outside us is really most deeply akin to ourselves, that it is
not dead and senseless but intensely alive and instinct with feeling and
intelligence resembling our own. It is this perception, this conviction
of our essential unity with the whole of creation, which lay from the
first at the base of all Religion; yet at first, as I have said, was
hardly a conscious perception. Only later, when it gradually became more
conscious, did it evolve itself into the definite forms of the gods and
the creeds--but of that process I will speak more in detail presently.

The Tree therefore was a most intimate presence to the Man. It grew in
the very midst of his Garden of Eden. It had a magical virtue, which
his tentative science could only explain by chance analogies and
assimilations. Attractive and beloved and worshipped by reason of its
many gifts to mankind--its grateful shelter, its abounding fruits, its
timber, and other invaluable products--why should it not become the
natural emblem of the female, to whom through sex man's worship is ever
drawn? If the Snake has an unmistakable resemblance to the male organ in
its active state, the foliage of the tree or bush is equally remindful
of the female. What more clear than that the conjunction of Tree and
Serpent is the fulfilment in nature of that sex-mystery which is so
potent in the life of man and the animals? and that the magic ritual
most obviously fitted to induce fertility in the tribe or the herds
(or even the crops) is to set up an image of the Tree and the Serpent
combined, and for all the tribe-folk in common to worship and pay it
reverence. In the Bible with more or less veiled sexual significance
we have this combination in the Eden-garden, and again in the brazen
Serpent and Pole which Moses set up in the wilderness (as a cure for the
fiery serpents of lust); illustrations of the same are said to be found
in the temples of Egypt and of South India, and even in the ancient
temples of Central America. (1) In the myth of Hercules the golden
apples of the Hesperides garden are guarded by a dragon. The Etruscans,
the Persians and the Babylonians had also legends of the Fall of man
through a serpent tempting him to taste of the fruit of a holy Tree. And
De Gubernatis, (2) pointing out the phallic meaning of these stories,
says "the legends concerning the tree of golden apples or figs which
yields honey or ambrosia, guarded by dragons, in which the life, the
fortune, the glory, the strength and the riches of the hero have their
beginning, are numerous among every people of Aryan origin: in India,
Persia, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Greece and Italy."

 (1) See Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism, by Thomas
Inman (Trubner, 1874), p. 55.

 (2) Zoological Mythology, vol. ii, pp. 410 sq.

Thus we see the natural-magic tendency of the human mind asserting
itself. To some of us indeed this tendency is even greater in the case
of the Snake than in that of the Tree. W. H. Hudson, in Far Away
and Long Ago, speaks of "that sense of something supernatural in
the serpent, which appears to have been universal among peoples in a
primitive state of culture, and still survives in some barbarous or
semi-barbarous countries." The fascination of the Snake--the fascination
of its mysteriously gliding movement, of its vivid energy, its
glittering eye, its intensity of life, combined with its fatal dart of
Death--is a thing felt even more by women than by men--and for a reason
(from what we have already said) not far to seek. It was the Woman who
in the story of the Fall was the first to listen to its suggestions.
No wonder that, as Professor Murray says, (1) the Greeks worshiped a
gigantic snake (Meilichios) the lord of Death and Life, with ceremonies
of appeasement, and sacrifices, long before they arrived at the worship
of Zeus and the Olympian gods.

 (1) Four Stages of Greek Religion, p. 29.

Or let us take the example of an Ear of Corn. Some people
wonder--hearing nowadays that the folk of old used to worship a
Corn-spirit or Corn-god--wonder that any human beings could have been so
foolish. But probably the good people who wonder thus have never REALLY
LOOKED (with their town-dazed eyes) at a growing spike of wheat. (1) Of
all the wonderful things in Nature I hardly know any that thrills one
more with a sense of wizardry than just this very thing--to observe,
each year, this disclosure of the Ear within the Blade--first a swelling
of the sheath, then a transparency and a whitey-green face within a
hooded shroud, and then the perfect spike of grain disengaging itself
and spiring upward towards the sky--"the resurrection of the wheat with
pale visage appearing out of the ground."

 (1) Even the thrice-learned Dr. Famell quotes apparently with
approval the scornful words of Hippolytus, who (he says) "speaks of the
Athenians imitating people at the Eleusinian mysteries and showing to
the epoptae (initiates) that great and marvelous mystery of perfect
revelation--in solemn silence--a CUT CORNSTALK ([gr teqerismenon] [gr
stacon])."--Cults of the Greek States, vol. iii, p. 182.

If this spectacle amazes one to-day, what emotions must it not have
aroused in the breasts of the earlier folk, whose outlook on the world
was so much more direct than ours--more 'animistic' if you like! What
wonderment, what gratitude, what deliverance from fear (of starvation),
what certainty that this being who had been ruthlessly cut down and
sacrificed last year for human food had indeed arisen again as a savior
of men, what readiness to make some human sacrifice in return, both as
an acknowledgment of the debt, and as a gift of something which would
no doubt be graciously accepted!--(for was it not well known that where
blood had been spilt on the ground the future crop was so much more
generous?)--what readiness to adopt some magic ritual likely to
propitiate the unseen power--even though the outline and form of the
latter were vague and uncertain in the extreme! Dr. Frazer, speaking of
the Egyptian Osiris as one out of many corn-gods of the above character,
says (1): "The primitive conception of him as the corn-god comes clearly
out in the festival of his death and resurrection, which was celebrated
the month of Athyr. That festival appears to have been essentially a
festival of sowing, which properly fell at the time when the husbandman
actually committed the seed to the earth. On that occasion an effigy of
the corn-god, moulded of earth and corn, was buried with funeral rites
in the ground in order that, dying there, he might come to life again
with the new crops. The ceremony was in fact a charm to ensure the
growth of the corn by sympathetic magic, and we may conjecture that as
such it was practised in a simple form by every Egyptian farmer on his
fields long before it was adopted and transfigured by the priests in the
stately ritual of the temple." (2)

 (1) The Golden Bough, iv, p. 330.

 (2) See ch. xv.

The magic in this case was of a gentle description; the clay image of
Osiris sprouting all over with the young green blade was pathetically
poetic; but, as has been suggested, bloodthirsty ceremonies were also
common enough. Human sacrifices, it is said, had at one time been
offered at the grave of Osiris. We bear that the Indians in Ecuador used
to sacrifice men's hearts and pour out human blood on their fields
when they sowed them; the Pawnee Indians used a human victim the same,
allowing his blood to drop on the seed-corn. It is said that in Mexico
girls were sacrificed, and that the Mexicans would sometimes GRIND their
(male) victim, like corn, between two stones. ("I'll grind his bones to
make me bread.") Among the Khonds of East India--who were particularly
given to this kind of ritual--the very TEARS of the sufferer were an
incitement to more cruelties, for tears of course were magic for Rain.

 (1) The Golden Bough, vol. vii, "The Corn-Spirit," pp. 236 sq.

And so on. We have referred to the Bull many times, both in his
astronomical aspect as pioneer of the Spring-Sun, and in his more direct
role as plougher of the fields, and provider of food from his own body.
"The tremendous mana of the wild bull," says Gilbert Murray, "occupies
almost half the stage of pre-Olympic ritual." (1) Even to us there is
something mesmeric and overwhelming in the sense of this animal's
glory of strength and fury and sexual power. No wonder the primitives
worshiped him, or that they devised rituals which should convey his
power and vitality by mere contact, or that in sacramental feasts
they ate his flesh and drank his blood as a magic symbol and means of

 (1) Four Stages, p. 34.


It is perhaps necessary, at the commencement of this chapter, to say a
few more words about the nature and origin of the belief in Magic.
Magic represented on one side, and clearly enough, the beginnings of
Religion--i.e. the instinctive sense of Man's inner continuity with the
world around him, TAKING SHAPE: a fanciful shape it is true, but with
very real reaction on his practical life and feelings. (1) On the other
side it represented the beginnings of Science. It was his first attempt
not merely to FEEL but to UNDERSTAND the mystery of things.

 (1) For an excellent account of the relation of Magic to Religion
see W. McDougall, Social Psychology (1908), pp. 317-320.

Inevitably these first efforts to understand were very puerile, very
superficial. As E. B. Tylor says (1) of primitive folk in general, "they
mistook an imaginary for a real connection." And he instances the case
of the inhabitants of the City of Ephesus, who laid down a rope, seven
furlongs in length, from the City to the temple of Artemis, in order to
place the former under the protection of the latter! WE should lay down
a telephone wire, and consider that we established a much more efficient
connection; but in the beginning, and quite naturally, men, like
children, rely on surface associations. Among the Dyaks of Borneo (2)
when the men are away fighting, the WOMEN must use a sort of telepathic
magic in order to safeguard them--that is, they must themselves rise
early and keep awake all day (lest darkness and sleep should give
advantage to the enemy); they must not OIL their hair (lest their
husbands should make any SLIPS); they must eat sparingly and put aside
rice at every meal (so that the men may not want for food). And so on.
Similar superstitions are common. But they gradually lead to a little
thought, and then to a little more, and so to the discovery of actual
and provable influences. Perhaps one day the cord connecting the temple
with Ephesus was drawn TIGHT and it was found that messages could be, by
tapping, transmitted along it. That way lay the discovery of a fact. In
an age which worshiped fertility, whether in mankind or animals, TWINS
were ever counted especially blest, and were credited with a magic
power. (The Constellation of the Twins was thought peculiarly lucky.)
Perhaps after a time it was discovered that twins sometimes run in
families, and in such cases really do bring fertility with them. In
cattle it is known nowadays that there are more twins of the female sex
than of the male sex. (3)

 (1) Primitive Culture, vol. i, p. 106.

 (2) See The Golden Bough, i, 127.

 (3) See Evolution of Sex, by Geddes and Thomson (1901), p. 41,

Observations of this kind were naturally made by the ablest members of
the tribe--who were in all probability the medicine-men and wizards--and
brought in consequence power into their hands. The road to power in
fact--and especially was this the case in societies which had not
yet developed wealth and property--lay through Magic. As far as magic
represented early superstition land religion it laid hold of the HEARTS
of men--their hopes and fears; as far as it represented science and the
beginnings of actual knowledge, it inspired their minds with a sense of
power, and gave form to their lives and customs. We have no reason to
suppose that the early magicians and medicine-men were peculiarly wicked
or bent on mere self-aggrandizement--any more than we have to think the
same of the average country vicar or country doctor of to-day. They
were merely men a trifle wiser or more instructed than their flocks.
But though probably in most cases their original intentions were decent
enough, they were not proof against the temptations which the possession
of power always brings, and as time went on they became liable to trade
more and more upon this power for their own advancement. In the
matter of Religion the history of the Christian priesthood through the
centuries shows sufficiently to what misuse such power can be put; and
in the matter of Science it is a warning to us of the dangers attending
the formation of a scientific priesthood, such as we see growing up
around us to-day. In both cases--whether Science or Religion--vanity,
personal ambition, lust of domination and a hundred other vices, unless
corrected by a real devotion to the public good, may easily bring as
many evils in their train as those they profess to cure.

The Medicine-man, or Wizard, or Magician, or Priest, slowly but
necessarily gathered power into his hands, and there is much evidence to
show that in the case of many tribes at any rate, it was HE who became
ultimate chief and leader and laid the foundations of Kingship. The
Basileus was always a sacred personality, and often united in himself as
head of the clan the offices of chief in warfare and leader in priestly
rites--like Agamemnon in Homer, or Saul or David in the Bible. As a
magician he had influence over the fertility of the earth and, like the
blameless king in the Odyssey, under his sway

                         "the dark earth beareth in season
     Barley and wheat, and the trees are laden with fruitage, and
      Yean unfailing the flocks, and the sea gives fish in
     abundance." (1)

 (1) Odyssey xix, 109 sq. Translation by H. B. Cotterill.

As a magician too he was trusted for success in warfare; and
Schoolcraft, in a passage quoted by Andrew Lang, (1) says of the Dacotah
Indians "the war-chief who leads the party to war is always one of
these medicine-men." This connection, however, by which the magician is
transformed into the king has been abundantly studied, and need not be
further dwelt upon here.

And what of the transformation of the king into a god--or of the
Magician or Priest directly into the same? Perhaps in order to
appreciate this, one must make a further digression.

For the early peoples there were, as it would appear, two main objects
in life: (1) to promote fertility in cattle and crops, for food; and (2)
to placate or ward off Death; and it seemed very obvious--even before
any distinct figures of gods, or any idea of prayer, had arisen--to
attain these objects by magic ritual. The rites of Baptism, of
Initiation (or Confirmation) and the many ceremonies of a Second Birth,
which we associate with fully-formed religions, did belong also to
the age of Magic; and they all implied a belief in some kind of
re-incarnation--in a life going forward continually and being renewed
in birth again and again. It is curious that we find such a belief among
the lowest savages even to-day. Dr. Frazer, speaking of the Central
Australian tribes, says the belief is firmly rooted among them "that the
human soul undergoes an endless series of re-incarnations--the living
men and women of one generation being nothing but the spirits of their
ancestors come to life again, and destined themselves to be reborn
in the persons of their descendants. During the interval between
two re-incarnations the souls live in their nanja spots, or local
totem-centres, which are always natural objects such as trees or rocks.
Each totem-clan has a number of such totem-centres scattered over the
country. There the souls of the dead men and women of the totem, but no
others, congregate, and are born again in human form when a favorable
opportunity presents itself." (2)

 (1) Myth, Ritual and Religion, vol. i, p. 113.

 (2) The Golden Bough, vol. i, p. 96.

And what the early people believed of the human spirit, they believed of
the corn-spirits and the tree and vegetation spirits also. At the great
Spring-ritual among the primitive Greeks "the tribe and the growing
earth were renovated together: the earth arises afresh from her dead
seeds, the tribe from its dead ancestors." And the whole process
projects itself in the idea of a spirit of the year, who "in the first
stage is living, then dies with each year, and thirdly rises again from
the dead, raising the whole dead world with him. The Greeks called him
in this stage 'The Third One' (Tritos Soter) or 'the Saviour'; and the
renovation ceremonies were accompanied by a casting-off of the old year,
the old garments, and everything that is polluted by the infection of
death." (1) Thus the multiplication of the crops and the renovation of
the tribe, and at the same time the evasion and placation of death, were
all assured by similar rites and befitting ceremonial magic. (2)

 (1) Gilbert Murray, Four Stages, p. 46.

 (2) It is interesting to find, with regard to the renovation of
the tribe, that among the Central Australians the foreskins or male
members of those who died were deposited in the above-mentioned nanja
spots--the idea evidently being that like the seeds of the corn the
seeds of the human crop must be carefully and ceremonially preserved for
their re-incarnation.

In all these cases, and many others that I have not mentioned--of
the magical worship of Bulls and Bears and Rams and Cats and Emus and
Kangaroos, of Trees and Snakes, of Sun and Moon and Stars, and the
spirit of the Corn in its yearly and miraculous resurrection out of the
ground--there is still the same idea or moving inspiration, the sense
mentioned in the foregoing chapter, the feeling (hardly yet conscious of
its own meaning) of intimate relationship and unity with all this outer
world, the instinctive conviction that the world can be swayed by the
spirit of Man, if the man can only find the right ritual, the right
word, the right spell, wherewith to move it. An aura of emotion
surrounded everything--of terror, of tabu, of fascination, of desire.
The world, to these people, was transparent with presences related to
themselves; and though hunger and sex may have been the dominant and
overwhelmingly practical needs of their life, yet their outlook on the
world was essentially poetic and imaginative.

Moreover it will be seen that in this age of magic and the belief in
spirits, though there was an intense sense of every thing being
alive, the gods, in the more modern sense of the world, hardly existed
(1)--that is, there was no very clear vision, to these people, of
supra-mundane beings, sitting apart and ordaining the affairs of
earth, as it were from a distance. Doubtless this conception was slowly
evolving, but it was only incipient. For the time being--though there
might be orders and degrees of spirits (and of gods)--every such being
was only conceived of, and could only be conceived of, as actually a
part of Nature, dwelling in and interlaced with some phenomenon of Earth
and Sky, and having no separate existence.

 (1) For a discussion of the evolution of RELIGION out of MAGIC,
see Westermarck's Origin of Moral Ideas, ch. 47.

How was it then, it will be asked, that the belief in separate and
separable gods and goddesses--each with his or her well-marked outline
and character and function, like the divinities of Greece, or of India,
or of the Egyptian or Christian religions, ultimately arose? To
this question Jane Harrison (in her Themis and other books) gives an
ingenious answer, which as it chimes in with my own speculations (in the
Art of Creation and elsewhere) I am inclined to adopt. It is that the
figures of the supranatural gods arose from a process in the human mind
similar to that which the photographer adopts when by photographing a
number of faces on the same plate, and so superposing their images on
one another, he produces a so-called "composite" photograph or image.
Thus, in the photographic sphere, the portraits of a lot of members
of the same family superposed upon one another may produce a composite
image or ideal of that family type, or the portraits of a number of
Aztecs or of a number of Apache Indians the ideals respectively of the
Aztec or of the Apache types. And so in the mental sphere of each member
of a tribe the many images of the well-known Warriors or Priests or
wise and gracious Women of that tribe did inevitably combine at last
to composite figures of gods and goddesses--on whom the enthusiasm
and adoration of the tribe was concentrated. (1) Miss Harrison has
ingeniously suggested how the leading figures in the magic rituals of
the past--being the figures on which all eyes would be concentrated; and
whose importance would be imprinted on every mind--lent themselves to
this process. The suffering Victim, bound and scourged and crucified,
recurring year after year as the centre-figure of a thousand ritual
processions, would at last be dramatized and idealized in the great
race-consciousness into the form of a Suffering God--a Jesus Christ or
a Dionysus or Osiris--dismembered or crucified for the salvation of
mankind. The Priest or Medicine-Man--or rather the succession of Priests
or Medicine-Men--whose figures would recur again and again as leaders
and ordainers of the ceremonies, would be glorified at last into the
composite-image of a God in whom were concentrated all magic powers.
"Recent researches," says Gilbert Murray, "have shown us in abundance
the early Greek medicine-chiefs making thunder and lightning and rain."
Here is the germ of a Zeus or a Jupiter. The particular medicine-man
may fail; that does not so much matter; he is only the individual
representative of the glorified and composite being who exists in the
mind of the tribe (just as a present-day King may be unworthy, but is
surrounded all the same by the agelong glamour of Royalty). "The real
[gr qeos], tremendous, infallible, is somewhere far away, hidden in
clouds perhaps, on the summit of some inaccessible mountain. If the
mountain is once climbed the god will move to the upper sky. The
medicine-chief meanwhile stays on earth, still influential. He has some
connection with the great god more intimate than that of other men... he
knows the rules for approaching him and making prayers to him." (2) Thus
did the Medicine-man, or Priest, or Magician (for these are but three
names for one figure) represent one step in the evolution of the god.

 (1) See The Art of Creation, ch. viii, "The Gods as Apparitions
of the Race-Life."

 (2) The Four Stages, p. 140.

And farther back still in the evolutionary process we may trace (as in
chapter iv above) the divinization or deification of four-footed animals
and birds and snakes and trees and the like, from the personification of
the collective emotion of the tribe towards these creatures. For people
whose chief food was bear-meat, for instance, whose totem was a bear,
and who believed themselves descended from an ursine ancestor, there
would grow up in the tribal mind an image surrounded by a halo of
emotions--emotions of hungry desire, of reverence, fear, gratitude and
so forth--an image of a divine Bear in whom they lived and moved and had
their being. For another tribe or group in whose yearly ritual a Bull or
a Lamb or a Kangaroo played a leading part there would in the same
way spring tip the image of a holy bull, a divine lamb, or a sacred
kangaroo. Another group again might come to worship a Serpent as its
presiding genius, or a particular kind of Tree, simply because these
objects were and had been for centuries prominent factors in its yearly
and seasonal Magic. As Reinach and others suggest, it was the Taboo
(bred by Fear) which by first forbidding contact with the totem-animal
or priest or magician-chief gradually invested him with Awe and

According to this theory the god--the full-grown god in human shape,
dwelling apart and beyond the earth--did not come first, but was a late
and more finished product of evolution. He grew up by degrees and out of
the preceding animal-worships and totem-systems. And this theory is much
supported and corroborated by the fact that in a vast number of early
cults the gods are represented by human figures with animal heads. The
Egyptian religion was full of such divinities--the jackal-headed
Anubis, the ram-headed Ammon, the bull-fronted Osiris, or Muth, queen of
darkness, clad in a vulture's skin; Minos and the Minotaur in Crete; in
Greece, Athena with an owl's head, or Herakles masked in the hide
and jaws of a monstrous lion. What could be more obvious than that,
following on the tribal worship of any totem-animal, the priest or
medicine-man or actual king in leading the magic ritual should don the
skin and head of that animal, and wear the same as a kind of mask--this
partly in order to appear to the people as the true representative of
the totem, and partly also in order to obtain from the skin the magic
virtues and mana of the beast, which he could then duly impart to the
crowd? Zeus, it must be remembered, wears the aegis, or goat-skin--said
to be the hide of the goat Amaltheia who suckled him in his infancy;
there are a number of legends which connected the Arcadian Artemis with
the worship of the bear, Apollo with the wolf, and so forth. And, most
curious as showing similarity of rites between the Old and New Worlds,
there are found plenty of examples of the wearing of beast-masks in
religious processions among the native tribes of both North and South
America. In the Atlas of Spix and Martius (who travelled together in
the Amazonian forests about 1820) there is an understanding and
characteristic picture of the men (and some women) of the tribe of the
Tecunas moving in procession through the woods mostly naked, except for
wearing animal heads and masks--the masks representing Cranes of various
kinds, Ducks, the Opossum, the Jaguar, the Parrot, etc., probably
symbolic of their respective clans.

By some such process as this, it may fairly be supposed, the forms of
the Gods were slowly exhaled from the actual figures of men and women,
of youths and girls, who year after year took part in the ancient
rituals. Just as the Queen of the May or Father Christmas with us are
idealized forms derived from the many happy maidens or white-bearded
old men who took leading parts in the May or December mummings and thus
gained their apotheosis in our literature and tradition--so doubtless
Zeus with his thunderbolts and arrows of lightning is the idealization
into Heaven of the Priestly rain-maker and storm-controller; Ares the
god of War, the similar idealization of the leading warrior in the
ritual war-dance preceding an attack on a neighboring tribe; and Mercury
of the foot-running Messenger whose swiftness in those days (devoid of
steam or electricity) was so precious a tribal possession.

And here it must be remembered that this explanation of the genesis of
the gods only applies to the SHAPES and FIGURES of the various deities.
It does not apply to the genesis of the widespread belief in spirits or
a Great Spirit generally; that, as I think will become clear, has
quite another source. Some people have jeered at the 'animistic' or
'anthropomorphic' tendency of primitive man in his contemplation of the
forces of Nature or his imaginations of religion and the gods. With a
kind of superior pity they speak of "the poor Indian whose untutored
mind sees God in clouds and hears him in the wind." But I must confess
that to me the "poor Indian" seems on the whole to show more good sense
than his critics, and to have aimed his rude arrows at the philosophic
mark more successfully than a vast number of his learned and scientific
successors. A consideration of what we have said above would show that
early people felt their unity with Nature so deeply and intimately
that--like the animals themselves--they did not think consciously or
theorize about it. It was just their life to be--like the beasts of the
field and the trees of the forest--a part of the whole flux of things,
non-differentiated so to speak. What more natural or indeed more
logically correct than for them to assume (when they first began to
think or differentiate themselves) that these other creatures, these
birds, beasts and plants, and even the sun and moon, were of the same
blood as themselves, their first cousins, so to speak, and having the
same interior nature? What more reasonable (if indeed they credited
THEMSELVES with having some kind of soul or spirit) than to credit these
other creatures with a similar soul or spirit? Im Thurn, speaking of the
Guiana Indians, says that for them "the whole world swarms with beings."
Surely this could not be taken to indicate an untutored mind--unless
indeed a mind untutored in the nonsense of the Schools--but rather a
very directly perceptive mind. And again what more reasonable (seeing
that these people themselves were in the animal stage of evolution) than
that they should pay great reverence to some ideal animal--first cousin
or ancestor--who played an important part in their tribal existence, and
make of this animal a totem emblem and a symbol of their common life?

And, further still, what more natural than that when the tribe passed
to some degree beyond the animal stage and began to realize a life more
intelligent and emotional--more specially human in fact--than that
of the beasts of the field, that it should then in its rituals and
ceremonies throw off the beast-mask and pay reverence to the interior
and more human spirit. Rising to a more enlightened consciousness of its
own intimate quality, and still deeply penetrated with the sense of its
kinship to external nature, it would inevitably and perfectly logically
credit the latter with an inner life and intelligence, more
distinctly human than before. Its religion in fact would become MORE
'anthropomorphic' instead of less so; and one sees that this is a
process that is inevitable; and inevitable notwithstanding a
certain parenthesis in the process, due to obvious elements in our
'Civilization' and to the temporary and fallacious domination of
a leaden-eyed so-called 'Science.' According to this view the true
evolution of Religion and Man's outlook on the world has proceeded not
by the denial by man of his unity with the world, but by his seeing and
understanding that unity more deeply. And the more deeply he understands
himself the more certainly he will recognize in the external world a
Being or beings resembling himself.

W. H. Hudson--whose mind is certainly not of a quality to be jeered
at--speaks of Animism as "the projection of ourselves into nature:
the sense and apprehension of an intelligence like our own, but more
powerful, in all visible things"; and continues, "old as I am this same
primitive faculty which manifested itself in my early boyhood, still
persists, and in those early years was so powerful that I am almost
afraid to say how deeply I was moved by it." (1) Nor will it be quite
forgotten that Shelley once said:--

     The moveless pillar of a mountain's weight
     Is active living spirit. Every grain
     Is sentient both in unity and part,
     And the minutest atom comprehends
     A world of loves and hatreds.

 (1) Far Away and Long Ago, ch. xiii, p. 225.

The tendency to animism and later to anthropomorphism is I say
inevitable, and perfectly logical. But the great value of the work done
by some of those investigators whom I have quoted has been to show that
among quite primitive people (whose interior life and 'soul-sense' was
only very feeble) their projections of intelligence into Nature were
correspondingly feeble. The reflections of themselves projected into
the world beyond could not reach the stature of eternal 'gods,' but
were rather of the quality of ephemeral phantoms and ghosts; and the
ceremonials and creeds of that period are consequently more properly
described as, Magic than as Religion. There have indeed been great
controversies as to whether there has or has not been, in the course
of religious evolution, a PRE-animistic stage. Probably of course human
evolution in this matter must have been perfectly continuous from stages
presenting the very feeblest or an absolutely deficient animistic sense
to the very highest manifestations of anthropomorphism; but as there is
a good deal of evidence to show that ANIMALS (notably dogs and horses)
see ghosts, the inquiry ought certainly to be enlarged so far as to
include the pre-human species. Anyhow it must be remembered that the
question is one of CONSCIOUSNESS--that is, of how far and to what degree
consciousness of self has been developed in the animal or the primitive
man or the civilized man, and therefore how far and to what degree the
animal or human creature has credited the outside world with a similar
consciousness. It is not a question of whether there IS an inner life
and SUB-consciousness common to all these creatures of the earth and
sky, because that, I take it, is a fact beyond question; they all emerge
or have emerged from the same matrix, and are rooted in identity; but
it is a question of how far they are AWARE of this, and how far by
separation (which is the genius of evolution) each individual creature
has become conscious of the interior nature both of itself and of the
other creatures AND of the great whole which includes them all.

Finally, and to avoid misunderstanding, let me say that
Anthropomorphism, in man's conception of the gods, is itself of course
only a stage and destined to pass away. In so far, that is, as the
term indicates a belief in divine beings corresponding to our PRESENT
conception of ourselves--that is as separate personalities having each
a separate and limited character and function, and animated by
the separatist motives of ambition, possession, power, vainglory,
superiority, patronage, self-greed, self-satisfaction, etc.--in so far
as anthropomorphism is the expression of that kind of belief it is of
course destined, with the illusion from which it springs, to pass away.
When man arrives at the final consciousness in which the idea of such a
self, superior or inferior or in any way antagonistic to others, ceases
to operate, then he will return to his first and primal condition, and
will cease to need ANY special religion or gods, knowing himself and all
his fellows to be divine and the origin and perfect fruition of all.


There is a passage in Richard Jefferies' imperishably beautiful book
The Story of my Heart--a passage well known to all lovers of that
prose-poet--in which he figures himself standing "in front of the Royal
Exchange where the wide pavement reaches out like a promontory," and
pondering on the vast crowd and the mystery of life. "Is there any
theory, philosophy, or creed," he says, "is there any system of culture,
any formulated method, able to meet and satisfy each separate item of
this agitated pool of human life? By which they may be guided, by which
they may hope, by which look forward? Not a mere illusion of the craving
heart--something real, as real as the solid walls of fact against
which, like seaweed, they are dashed; something to give each separate
personality sunshine and a flower in its own existence now; something
to shape this million-handed labor to an end and outcome that will leave
more sunshine and more flowers to those who must succeed? Something real
now, and not in the spirit-land; in this hour now, as I stand and the
sun burns.... Full well aware that all has failed, yet, side by side
with the sadness of that knowledge, there lives on in me an unquenchable
belief, thought burning like the sun, that there is yet something to
be found.... It must be dragged forth by the might of thought from the
immense forces of the universe."

In answer to this passage we may say "No,--a thousand times No! there
is no theory, philosophy, creed, system or formulated method which
will meet or ever satisfy the demand of each separate item of the
human whirlpool." And happy are we to know there is no such thing! How
terrible if one of these bloodless 'systems' which strew the history
of religion and philosophy and the political and social paths of
human endeavor HAD been found absolutely correct and universally
applicable--so that every human being would be compelled to pass
through its machine-like maw, every personality to be crushed under
its Juggernath wheels! No, thank Heaven! there is no theory or creed or
system; and yet there is something--as Jefferies prophetically felt and
with a great longing desired--that CAN satisfy; and that, the root
of all religion, has been hinted at in the last chapter. It is the
CONSCIOUSNESS of the world-life burning, blazing, deep down within us:
it is the Soul's intuition of its roots in Omnipresence and Eternity.

The gods and the creeds of the past, as shown in the last
chapter--whatever they may have been, animistic or anthropomorphic
or transcendental, whether grossly brutish or serenely ideal and
abstract--are essentially projections of the human mind; and no doubt
those who are anxious to discredit the religious impulse generally will
catch at this, saying "Yes, they are mere forms and phantoms of the
mind, ephemeral dreams, projected on the background of Nature, and
having no real substance or solid value. The history of Religion (they
will say) is a history of delusion and illusion; why waste time over
it? These divine grizzly Bears or Aesculapian Snakes, these cat-faced
Pashts, this Isis, queen of heaven, and Astarte and Baal and Indra
and Agni and Kali and Demeter and the Virgin Mary and Apollo and Jesus
Christ and Satan and the Holy Ghost, are only shadows cast outwards onto
a screen; the constitution of the human mind makes them all tend to
be anthropomorphic; but that is all; they each and all inevitably pass
away. Why waste time over them?"

And this is in a sense a perfectly fair way of looking at the matter.
These gods and creeds ARE only projections of the human mind. But all
the same it misses, does this view, the essential fact. It misses the
fact that there is no shadow without a fire, that the very existence of
a shadow argues a light somewhere (though we may not directly see it) as
well as the existence of a solid form which intercepts that light.
Deep, deep in the human mind there is that burning blazing light of
the world-consciousness--so deep indeed that the vast majority of
individuals are hardly aware of its existence. Their gaze turned
outwards is held and riveted by the gigantic figures and processions
passing across their sky; they are unaware that the latter are only
shadows--silhouettes of the forms inhabiting their own minds. (1) The
vast majority of people have never observed their own minds; their own
mental forms. They have only observed the reflections cast by these.
Thus it may be said, in this matter, that there are three degrees of
reality. There are the mere shadows--the least real and most
evanescent; there are the actual mental outlines of humanity (and of
the individual), much more real, but themselves also of course slowly
changing; and most real of all, and permanent, there is the light "which
lighteth every man that cometh into the world"--the glorious light
of the world-consciousness. Of this last it may be said that it never
changes. Every thing is known to it--even the very IMPEDIMENTS to its
shining. But as it is from the impediments to the shining of a light
that shadows are cast, so we now may understand that the things of this
world and of humanity, though real in their degree, have chiefly a
kind of negative value; they are opaquenesses, clouds, materialisms,
ignorances, and the inner light falling upon them gradually reveals
their negative character and gradually dissolves them away till they
are lost in the extreme and eternal Splendor. I think Jefferies, when
he asked that question with which I have begun this chapter, was in some
sense subconsciously, if not quite consciously, aware of the answer. His
frequent references to the burning blazing sun throughout The Story of
the Heart seem to be an indication of his real deep-down attitude of

 (1) See, in the same connection, Plato's allegory of the Cave,
Republic, Book vii.

The shadow-figures of the creeds and theogonies pass away truly like
ephemeral dreams; but to say that time spent in their study is wasted,
is a mistake, for they have value as being indications of things much
more real than themselves, namely, of the stages of evolution of the
human mind. The fact that a certain god-figure, however grotesque and
queer, or a certain creed, however childish, cruel, and illogical, held
sway for a considerable time over the hearts of men in any corner or
continent of the world is good evidence that it represented a real
formative urge at the time in the hearts of those good people, and
a definite stage in their evolution and the evolution of humanity.
Certainly it was destined to pass away, but it was a step, and a
necessary step in the great process; and certainly it was opaque and
brutish, but it is through the opaque things of the world, and not
through the transparent, that we become aware of the light.

It may be worth while to give instances of how some early rituals and
creeds, in themselves apparently barbarous or preposterous, were really
the indications of important moral and social conceptions evolving in
the heart of man. Let us take, first, the religious customs connected
with the ideas of Sacrifice and of Sin, of which such innumerable
examples are now to be found in the modern books on Anthropology. If we
assume, as I have done more than once, that the earliest state of Man
was one in which he did not consciously separate himself from the world,
animate and inanimate, which surrounded him, then (as I have also said)
it was perfectly natural for him to take some animal which bulked large
on his horizon--some food-animal for instance--and to pay respect to it
as the benefactor of his tribe, its far-back ancestor and totem-symbol;
or, seeing the boundless blessing of the cornfields, to believe in
some kind of spirit of the corn (not exactly a god but rather a magical
ghost) which, reincarnated every year, sprang up to save mankind
from famine. But then no sooner had he done this than he was bound to
perceive that in cutting down the corn or in eating his totem-bear
or kangaroo he was slaying his own best self and benefactor. In
that instant the consciousness of DISUNITY, the sense of sin in some
undefined yet no less disturbing and alarming form would come in. If,
before, his ritual magic had been concentrated on the simple purpose of
multiplying the animal or, vegetable forms of his food, now in addition
his magical endeavor would be turned to averting the just wrath of the
spirits who animated these forms--just indeed, for the rudest savage
would perceive the wrong done and the probability of its retribution.
Clearly the wrong done could only be expiated by an equivalent sacrifice
of some kind on the part of the man, or the tribe--that is by the
offering to the totem-animal or to the corn-spirit of some victim whom
these nature powers in their turn could feed upon and assimilate. In
this way the nature-powers would be appeased, the sense of unity would
be restored, and the first At-one-ment effected.

It is hardly necessary to recite in any detail the cruel and hideous
sacrifices which have been perpetrated in this sense all over the world,
sometimes in appeasement of a wrong committed or supposed to have been
committed by the tribe or some member of it, sometimes in placation or
for the averting of death, or defeat, or plague, sometimes merely
in fulfilment of some long-standing custom of forgotten origin--the
flayings and floggings and burnings and crucifixions of victims without
end, carried out in all deliberation and solemnity of established
ritual. I have mentioned some cases connected with the sowing of the
corn. The Bible is full of such things, from the intended sacrifice of
Isaac by his father Abraham, to the actual crucifixion of Jesus by
the Jews. The first-born sons were claimed by a god who called himself
"jealous" and were only to be redeemed by a substitute. (1) Of the
Canaanites it was said that "even their daughters they have BURNT in the
fire to their gods"; (2) and of the King of Moab, that when he saw
his army in danger of defeat, "he took his eldest son that should have
reigned in his stead and offered him for a burnt-offering on the wall!"
(3) Dr. Frazer (4) mentions the similar case of the Carthaginians
(about B.C. 300) sacrificing two hundred children of good family as a
propitiation to Baal and to save their beloved city from the assaults
of the Sicilian tyrant Agathocles. And even so we hear that on that
occasion three hundred more young folk VOLUNTEERED to die for the

 (1) Exodus xxxiv. 20.

 (2) Deut. xii. 31.

 (3) 2 Kings iii. 27.

 (4) The Golden Bough, vol. "The Dying God," p. 167.

The awful sacrifices made by the Aztecs in Mexico to their gods
Huitzilopochtli, Texcatlipoca, and others are described in much detail
by Sahagun, the Spanish missionary of the sixteenth century. The victims
were mostly prisoners of war or young children; they were numbered by
thousands. In one case Sahagun describes the huge Idol or figure of the
god as largely plated with gold and holding his hands palm upward and in
a downward sloping position over a cauldron or furnace placed below. The
children, who had previously been borne in triumphal state on litters
over the crowd and decorated with every ornamental device of feathers
and flowers and wings, were placed one by one on the vast hands and
ROLLED DOWN into the flames--as if the god were himself offering them.
(1) As the procession approached the temple, the members of it wept and
danced and sang, and here again the abundance of tears was taken for a
good augury of rain. (2)

 (1) It is curious to find that exactly the same story (of the
sloping hands and the children rolled down into the flames) is related
concerning the above-mentioned Baal image at Carthage (see Diodorus
Siculus, xx. 14; also Baring Gould's Religious Belief, vol. i, p. 375).

 (2) "A los ninos que mataban, componianlos en muchos atavios para
llevarlos al sacrificio, y llevabos en unas literas sobre los hombros,
estas literas iban adornadas con plumages y con flores: iban tanendo,
cantando y bailando delante de ellos... Cuando Ileviban los ninos a
matar, si llevaban y echaban muchos lagrimas, alegrabansi los que los
llevaban porque tomaban pronostico de que habian de tener muchas aguas
en aquel ano." Sahagun, Historia Nueva Espana, Bk. II, ch. i.

Bernal Diaz describes how he saw one of these monstrous figures--that
of Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, all inlaid with gold and precious
stones; and beside it were "braziers, wherein burned the hearts of three
Indians, torn from their bodies that very day, and the smoke of them and
the savor of incense were the sacrifice."

Sahagun again (in Book II, ch. 5) gives a long account of the sacrifice
of a perfect youth at Easter-time--which date Sabagun connects with the
Christian festival of the Resurrection. For a whole year the youth had
been held in honor and adored by the people as the very image of the
god (Tetzcatlipoca) to whom he was to be sacrificed. Every luxury
and fulfilment of his last wish (including such four courtesans as he
desired) had been granted him. At the last and on the fatal day, leaving
his companions and his worshipers behind, be slowly ascended the Temple
staircase; stripping on each step the ornaments from his body; and
breaking and casting away his flutes and other musical instruments;
till, reaching the summit, he was stretched, curved on his back, and
belly upwards, over the altar stone, while the priest with obsidian
knife cut his breast open and, snatching the heart out, held it up, yet
beating, as an offering to the Sun. In the meantime, and while the heart
still lived, his successor for the next year was chosen.

In Book II, ch. 7 of the same work Sahagun describes the similar
offering of a woman to a goddess. In both cases (he explains) of young
man or young woman, the victims were richly adorned in the guise of the
god or goddess to whom they were offered, and at the same time great
largesse of food was distributed to all who needed. (Here we see the
connection in the general mind between the gift of food (by the gods)
and the sacrifice of precious blood (by the people).) More than once
Sahagun mentions that the victims in these Mexican ceremonials not
infrequently offered THEMSELVES as a voluntary sacrifice; and Prescott
says (1) that the offering of one's life to the gods was "sometimes
voluntarily embraced, as a most glorious death opening a sure passage
into Paradise."

 (1) Conquest of Mexico, Bk. I, ch. 3.

Dr. Frazer describes (1) the far-back Babylonian festival of the Sacaea
in which "a prisoner, condemned to death, was dressed in the king's
robes, seated on the king's throne, allowed to issue whatever commands
he pleased, to eat, drink and enjoy himself, and even to lie with the
king's concubines." But at the end of the five days he was stripped
of his royal robes, scourged, and hanged or impaled. It is certainly
astonishing to find customs so similar prevailing among peoples so far
removed in space and time as the Aztecs of the sixteenth century A.D.
and the Babylonians perhaps of the sixteenth century B.C. But we know
that this subject of the yearly sacrifice of a victim attired as a
king or god is one that Dr. Frazer has especially made his own, and for
further information on it his classic work should be consulted.

 (1) Golden Bough, "The Dying God," p. 114. (See also S. Reinach,
Cults, Myths and Religion, p. 94) on the martyrdom of St. Dasius.

Andrew Lang also, with regard to the Aztecs, quotes largely from
Sahagun, and summarizes his conclusions in the following passage:
"The general theory of worship was the adoration of a deity, first by
innumerable human sacrifices, next by the special sacrifice of a MAN for
the male gods, of a WOMAN for each goddess. (1) The latter victims were
regarded as the living images or incarnations of the divinities in, each
case; for no system of worship carried farther the identification of the
god with the sacrifice (? victim), and of both with the officiating pri
 connection was emphasized by the priests wearing the newly-flayed skins
of the victims--just as in Greece, Egypt and Assyria, the fawn-skin
or bull-hide or goat-skin or fish-skin of the victims is worn by the
celebrants. Finally, an image of the god was made out of paste, and this
was divided into morsels and eaten in a hideous sacrament by those who
communicated." (2)

 (1) Compare the festival of Thargelia at Athens, originally
connected with the ripening of the crops. A procession was formed and
the first fruits of the year offered to Apollo, Artemis and the Horae.
It was an expiatory feast, to purify the State from all guilt and avert
the wrath of the god (the Sun). A man and a woman, as representing
the male and female population, were led about with a garland of figs
(fertility) round their necks, to the sound of flutes and singing. They
were then scourged, sacrificed, and their bodies burned by the seashore.
(Nettleship and Sandys.)

 (2) A Lang, Myth, Ritual and Religion, vol. ii, p. 97.

Revolting as this whole picture is, it represents as we know a mere
thumbnail sketch of the awful practices of human sacrifice all over the
world. We hold up our hands in horror at the thought of Huitzilopochtli
dropping children from his fingers into the flames, but we have to
remember that our own most Christian Saint Augustine was content to
describe unbaptized infants as crawling for ever about the floor of
Hell! What sort of god, we may ask, did Augustine worship? The Being who
could condemn children to such a fate was certainly no better than the
Mexican Idol.

And yet Augustine was a great and noble man, with some by no means
unworthy conceptions of the greatness of his God. In the same way the
Aztecs were in many respects a refined and artistic people, and their
religion was not all superstition and bloodshed. Prescott says of them
(1) that they believed in a supreme Creator and Lord "omnipresent,
knowing all thoughts, giving all gifts, without whom Man is as
nothing--invisible, incorporeal, one God, of perfect perfection and
purity, under whose wings we find repose and a sure defence." How can
we reconcile St. Augustine with his own devilish creed, or the religious
belief of the Aztecs with their unspeakable cruelties? Perhaps we can
only reconcile them by remembering out of what deeps of barbarism and
what nightmares of haunting Fear, man has slowly emerged--and is
even now only slowly emerging; by remembering also that the ancient
ceremonies and rituals of Magic and Fear remained on and were cultivated
by the multitude in each nation long after the bolder and nobler spirits
had attained to breathe a purer air; by remembering that even to the
present day in each individual the Old and the New are for a long period
thus intricately intertangled. It is hard to believe that the practice
of human and animal sacrifice (with whatever revolting details) should
have been cultivated by nine-tenths of the human race over the globe
out of sheer perversity and without some reason which at any rate to
the perpetrators themselves appeared commanding and convincing. To-day
(1918) we are witnessing in the Great European War a carnival of human
slaughter which in magnitude and barbarity eclipses in one stroke all
the accumulated ceremonial sacrifices of historical ages; and when
we ask the why and wherefore of this horrid spectacle we are told,
apparently in all sincerity, and by both the parties engaged, of the
noble objects and commanding moralities which inspire and compel it. We
can hardly, in this last case, disbelieve altogether in the genuineness
of the plea, so why should we do so in the former case? In both cases we
perceive that underneath the surface pretexts and moralities Fear is and
was the great urging and commanding force.

 (1) Conquest of Mexico, Bk. I, ch. 3.

The truth is that Sin and Sacrifice represent--if you once allow for the
overwhelming sway of fear--perfectly reasonable views of human conduct,
adopted instinctively by mankind since the earliest times. If in a
moment of danger or an access of selfish greed you deserted your brother
tribesman or took a mean advantage of him, you 'sinned' against him; and
naturally you expiated the sin by an equivalent sacrifice of some kind
made to the one you had wronged. Such an idea and such a practice were
the very foundation of social life and human morality, and must have
sprung up as soon as ever, in the course of evolution, man became
CAPABLE of differentiating himself from his fellows and regarding his
own conduct as that of a 'separate self.' It was in the very conception
of a separate self that 'sin' and disunity first began; and it was
by 'sacrifice' that unity and harmony were restored, appeasement and
atonement effected.

But in those earliest times, as I have already indicated more than once,
man felt himself intimately related not only to his brother tribesman,
but to the animals and to general Nature. It was not so much that he
THOUGHT thus as that he never thought OTHERWISE! He FELT subconsciously
that he was a part of all this outer world. And so he adopted for his
totems or presiding spirits every possible animal, as we have seen,
and all sorts of nature-phenomena, such as rain and fire and water and
clouds, and sun, moon and stars--which WE consider quite senseless and
inanimate. Towards these apparently senseless things therefore he felt
the same compunction as I have described him feeling towards his brother
tribesmen. He could sin against them too. He could sin against his
totem-animal by eating it; he could sin against his 'brother the ox' by
consuming its strength in the labor of the plough; he could sin against
the corn by cutting it down and grinding it into flour, or against the
precious and beautiful pine-tree by laying his axe to its roots and
converting it into mere timber for his house. Further still, no doubt he
could sin against elemental nature. This might be more difficult to be
certain of, but when the signs of elemental displeasure were not to be
mistaken--when the rain withheld itself for months, or the storms and
lightning dealt death and destruction, when the crops failed or evil
plagues afflicted mankind--then there could be little uncertainty that
he had sinned; and Fear, which had haunted him like a demon from the
first day when he became conscious of his separation from his fellows
and from Nature, stood over him and urged to dreadful propitiations.

In all these cases some sacrifice in reparation was the obvious thing.
We have seen that to atone for the cutting-down of the corn a human
victim would often be slaughtered. The corn-spirit clearly approved of
this, for wherever the blood and remains of the victim were strewn the
corn always sprang up more plentifully. The tribe or human group made
reparation thus to the corn; the corn-spirit signified approval. The
'sin' was expiated and harmony restored. Sometimes the sacrifice was
voluntarily offered by a tribesman; sometimes it was enforced, by lot
or otherwise; sometimes the victim was a slave, or a captive enemy;
sometimes even an animal. All that did not so much matter. The main
thing was that the formal expiation had been carried out, and the wrath
of the spirits averted.

It is known that tribes whose chief food-animal was the bear felt it
necessary to kill and cat a bear occasionally; but they could not do
this without a sense of guilt, and some fear of vengeance from the great
Bear-spirit. So they ate the slain bear at a communal feast in which
the tribesmen shared the guilt and celebrated their community with their
totem and with each other. And since they could not make any reparation
directly to the slain animal itself AFTER its death, they made their
reparation BEFORE, bringing all sorts of presents and food to it for a
long anterior period, and paying every kind of worship and respect to
it. The same with the bull and the ox. At the festival of the Bouphonia,
in some of the cities of Greece as I have already mentioned, the actual
bull sacrificed was the handsomest and most carefully nurtured that
could be obtained; it was crowned with flowers and led in procession
with every mark of reverence and worship. And when--as I have already
pointed out--at the great Spring festival, instead of a bull or a goat
or a ram, a HUMAN victim was immolated, it was a custom (which can be
traced very widely over the world) to feed and indulge and honor the
victim to the last degree for a WHOLE YEAR before the final ceremony,
arraying him often as a king and placing a crown upon his head, by way
of acknowledgment of the noble and necessary work he was doing for the
general good.

What a touching and beautiful ceremony was that--belonging especially
to the North of Syria, and lands where the pine is so beneficent and
beloved a tree--the mourning ceremony of the death and burial of Attis!
when a pine-tree, felled by the axe, was hollowed out, and in the hollow
an image (often itself carved out of pinewood) of the young Attis was
placed. Could any symbolism express more tenderly the idea that the
glorious youth--who represented Spring, too soon slain by the rude tusk
of Winter--was himself the very human soul of the pine-tree? (1) At some
earlier period, no doubt, a real youth had been sacrificed and his body
bound within the pine; but now it was deemed sufficient for the maidens
to sing their wild songs of lamentation; and for the priests and male
enthusiasts to cut and gash themselves with knives, or to sacrifice
(as they did) to the Earth-mother the precious blood offering of their
virile organs--symbols of fertility in return for the promised and
expected renewal of Nature and the crops in the coming Spring. For
the ceremony, as we have already seen, did not end with death and
lamentation, but led on, perfectly naturally, after a day or two to a
festival of resurrection, when it was discovered--just as in the case of
Osiris--that the pine-tree coffin was empty, and the immortal life had
flown. How strange the similarity and parallelism of all these things to
the story of Jesus in the Gospels--the sacrifice of a life made in order
to bring salvation to men and expiation of sins, the crowning of the
victim, and arraying in royal attire, the scourging and the mockery, the
binding or nailing to a tree, the tears of Mary, and the resurrection
and the empty coffin!--or how not at all strange when we consider in
what numerous forms and among how many peoples, this same parable
and ritual had as a matter of fact been celebrated, and how it had
ultimately come down to bring its message of redemption into a somewhat
obscure Syrian city, in the special shape with which we are familiar.

 (1) See Julius Firmicus, who says (De Errore, c. 28): "in sacris
Phrygiis, quae Matris deum dicunt, per annos singulos arbor pinea
caeditur, et in media arbore simulacrum uvenis subligatur. In Isiacis
sacris de pinea arbore caeditur truncus; hujus trunci media pars
subtiliter excavatur, illis de segminibus factum idolum Osiridis
sepelitur. In Prosperpinae sacris caesa arbor in effigiem virginis
formaraque componitur, et cum intra civitatem fuerit illata, quadraginta
noctibus piangitur, quadragesima vero nocte comburitur."

Though the parable or legend in its special Christian form bears with it
the consciousness of the presence of beings whom we may call gods, it is
important to remember that in many or most of its earlier forms, though
it dealt in 'spirits'--the spirit of the corn, or the spirit of the
Spring, or the spirits of the rain and the thunder, or the spirits of
totem-animals--it had not yet quite risen to the idea of gods. It
had not risen to the conception of eternal deities sitting apart and
governing the world in solemn conclave--as from the slopes of Olympus
or the recesses of the Christian Heaven. It belonged, in fact, in its
inception, to the age of Magic. The creed of Sin and Sacrifice, or of
Guilt and Expiation--whatever we like to call it--was evolved perfectly
naturally out of the human mind when brought face to face with Life
and Nature) at some early stage of its self-consciousness. It was
essentially the result of man's deep, original and instinctive sense of
solidarity with Nature, now denied and belied and to some degree
broken up by the growth and conscious insistence of the self-regarding
impulses. It was the consciousness of disharmony and disunity,
causing men to feel all the more poignantly the desire and the need of
reconciliation. It was a realization of union made clear by its very
loss. It assumed of course, in a subconscious way as I have already
indicated, that the external world was the HABITAT of a mind or minds
similar to man's own; but THAT being granted, it is evident that the
particular theories current in this or that place about the nature of
the world--the theories, as we should say, of science or theology--did
not alter the general outlines of the creed; they only colored its
details and gave its ritual different dramatic settings. The mental
attitudes, for instance, of Abraham sacrificing the ram, or of the
Siberian angakout slaughtering a totem-bear, or of a modern and pious
Christian contemplating the Saviour on the Cross are really almost
exactly the same. I mention this because in tracing the origins or the
evolution of religions it is important to distinguish clearly what is
essential and universal from that which is merely local and temporary.
Some people, no doubt, would be shocked at the comparisons just made;
but surely it is much more inspiriting and encouraging to think that
whatever progress HAS been made in the religious outlook of the world
has come about through the gradual mental growth and consent of the
peoples, rather than through some unique and miraculous event of a
rather arbitrary and unexplained character--which indeed might never be
repeated, and concerning which it would perhaps be impious to suggest
that it SHOULD be repeated.

The consciousness then of Sin (or of alienation from the life of the
whole), and of restoration or redemption through Sacrifice, seems to
have disclosed itself in the human race in very far-back times, and
to have symbolized itself in some most ancient rituals; and if we are
shocked sometimes at the barbarities which accompanied those rituals,
yet we must allow that these barbarities show how intensely the early
people felt the solemnity and importance of the whole matter; and we
must allow too that the barbarities did sear and burn themselves into
rude and ignorant minds with the sense of the NEED of Sacrifice, and
with a result perhaps which could not have been compassed in any other

For after all we see now that sacrifice is of the very essence of social
life. "It is expedient that ONE man should die for the people"; and not
only that one man should actually die, but (what is far more important)
that each man should be ready and WILLING to die in that cause, when
the occasion and the need arises. Taken in its larger meanings and
implications Sacrifice, as conceived in the ancient world, was a
perfectly reasonable thing. It SHOULD pervade modern life more than it
does. All we have or enjoy flows from, or is implicated with, pain
and suffering in others, and--if there is any justice in Nature or
Humanity--it demands an equivalent readiness to suffer on our part. If
Christianity has any real essence, that essence is perhaps expressed
in some such ritual or practice of Sacrifice, and we see that the dim
beginnings of this idea date from the far-back customs of savages coming
down from a time anterior to all recorded history.


We have suggested in the last chapter how the conceptions of Sin and
Sacrifice coming down to us from an extremely remote past, and
embodied among the various peoples of the world sometimes in crude and
bloodthirsty rites, sometimes in symbols and rituals of a gentler and
more gracious character, descended at last into Christianity and became
a part of its creed and of the creed of the modern world. On the whole
perhaps we may trace a slow amelioration in this process and may flatter
ourselves that the Christian centuries exhibit a more philosophical
understanding of what Sin is, and a more humane conception of what
Sacrifice SHOULD be, than the centuries preceding. But I fear that any
very decided statement or sweeping generalization to that effect would
be--to say the least--rash. Perhaps there IS a very slow amelioration;
but the briefest glance at the history of the Christian churches--the
horrible rancours and revenges of the clergy and the sects against
each other in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., the heresy-hunting
crusades at Beziers and other places and the massacres of the Albigenses
in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the witch-findings and
burnings of the sixteenth and seventeenth, the hideous science-urged and
bishop-blessed warfare of the twentieth--horrors fully as great as any
we can charge to the account of the Aztecs or the Babylonians--must give
us pause. Nor must we forget that if there is by chance a substantial
amelioration in our modern outlook with regard to these matters the same
had begun already before the advent of Christianity and can by no means
be ascribed to any miraculous influence of that religion. Abraham was
prompted to slay a ram as a substitute for his son, long before the
Christians were thought of; the rather savage Artemis of the old Greek
rites was (according to Pausanias) (1) honored by the yearly sacrifice
of a perfect boy and girl, but later it was deemed sufficient to draw a
knife across their throats as a symbol, with the result of spilling only
a few drops of their blood, or to flog the boys (with the same result)
upon her altar. Among the Khonds in old days many victims (meriahs) were
sacrificed to the gods, "but in time the man was replaced by a horse,
the horse by a bull, the bull by a ram, the ram by a kid, the kid by
fowls, and the fowls by many flowers." (2) At one time, according to the
Yajur-Veda, there was a festival at which one hundred and twenty-five
victims, men and women, boys and girls, were sacrificed; "but reform
supervened, and now the victims were bound as before to the stake,
but afterwards amid litanies to the immolated (god) Narayana, the
sacrificing priest brandished a knife and--severed the bonds of the
captives." (3) At the Athenian festival of the Thargelia, to which I
referred in the last chapter, it appears that the victims, in later
times, instead of being slain, were tossed from a height into the sea,
and after being rescued were then simply banished; while at Leucatas a
similar festival the fall of the victim was graciously broken by tying
feathers and even living birds to his body. (4)

 (1) vii. 19, and iii. 8, 16.

 (2) Primitive Folk, by Elie Reclus (Contemp. Science Series), p.

 (3) Ibid.

 (4) Muller's Dorians Book II, ch. ii, par. 10.

With the lapse of time and the general progress of mankind, we may,
I think, perceive some such slow ameliorations in the matter of the
brutality and superstition of the old religions. How far any later
ameliorations were due to the direct influence of Christianity might
be a difficult question; but what I think we can clearly see--and what
especially interests us here--is that in respect to its main religious
ideas, and the matter underlying them (exclusive of the MANNER of
their treatment, which necessarily has varied among different peoples)
Christianity is of one piece with the earlier pagan creeds and is
for the most part a re-statement and renewed expression of world-wide
doctrines whose first genesis is lost in the haze of the past, beyond
all recorded history.

I have illustrated this view with regard to the doctrine of Sin and
Sacrifice. Let us take two or three other illustrations. Let us take the
doctrine of Re-birth or Regeneration. The first few verses of St. John's
Gospel are occupied with the subject of salvation through rebirth or
regeneration. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
God."... "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God." Our Baptismal Service begins by saying that
"forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin; and that our
Saviour Christ saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God except he
be regenerate and born anew of water and the Holy Ghost"; therefore it
is desirable that this child should be baptized, "received into Christ's
Holy Church, and be made a lively member of the same." That, is to say,
there is one birth, after the flesh, but a second birth is necessary, a
birth after the Spirit and into the Church of Christ. Our Confirmation
Service is simply a service repeating and confirming these views, at
an age (fourteen to sixteen or so) when the boy or girl is capable of
understanding what is being done.

But our Baptismal and Confirmation ceremonies combined are clearly
the exact correspondence and parallel of the old pagan ceremonies of
Initiation, which are or have been observed in almost every primitive
tribe over the world. "The rite of the second birth," says Jane
Harrison, (1) "is widespread, universal, over half the savage world.
With the savage to be twice-born is the rule. By his first birth he
comes into the world; by his second he is born into his tribe. At his
first birth he belongs to his mother and the women-folk; at his second
he becomes a full-fledged man and passes into the society of the
warriors of his tribe."... "These rites are very various, but they all
point to one moral, that the former things are passed away and that
the new-born man has entered upon a new life. Simplest of all, and most
instructive, is the rite practised by the Kikuyu tribe of British East
Africa, who require that every boy, just before circumcision, must be
born again. The mother stands up with the boy crouching at her feet; she
pretends to go through all the labour pains, and the boy on being reborn
cries like a babe and is washed." (2)

 (1) Ancient Art and Ritual, p. 104.

 (2) See also Themis, p. 21.

Let us pause for a moment. An Initiate is of course one who "enters
in." He enters into the Tribe; he enters into the revelation of certain
Mysteries; he becomes an associate of a certain Totem, a certain God; a
member of a new Society, or Church--a church of Mithra, or Dionysus or
Christ. To do any of these things he must be born again; he must die
to the old life; he must pass through ceremonials which symbolize the
change. One of these ceremonials is washing. As the new-born babe is
washed, so must the new-born initiate be washed; and as by primitive
man (and not without reason) BLOOD was considered the most vital and
regenerative of fluids, the very elixir of life, so in earliest times
it was common to wash the initiate with blood. If the initiate had to be
born anew, it would seem reasonable to suppose that he must first die.
So, not unfrequently, he was wounded, or scourged, and baptized with his
own blood, or, in cases, one of the candidates was really killed and his
blood used as a substitute for the blood of the others. No doubt HUMAN
sacrifice attended the earliest initiations. But later it was sufficient
to be half-drowned in the blood of a Bull as in the Mithra cult, (1)
or 'washed in the blood of the Lamb' as in the Christian phraseology.
Finally, with a growing sense of decency and aesthetic perception
among the various peoples, washing with pure water came in the
initiation-ceremonies to take the place of blood; and our baptismal
service has reduced the ceremony to a mere sprinkling with water. (2)

 (1) See ch. iii.

 (2) For the virtue supposed to reside in blood see Westermarck's
Moral Ideas, Ch. 46.

To continue the quotation from Miss Harrison: "More often the new birth
is stimulated, or imagined, as a death and a resurrection, either of
the boys themselves or of some one else in their presence. Thus at
initiation among some tribes of South-east Australia, when the boys are
assembled an old man dressed in stringy bark-fibre lies down in a
grave. He is covered up lightly with sticks and earth, and the grave is
smoothed over. The buried man holds in his hand a small bush which seems
to be growing from the ground, and other bushes are stuck in the ground
round about. The novices are then brought to the edge of the grave and
a song is sung. Gradually, as the song goes on, the bush held by the
buried man begins to quiver. It moves more and more, and bit by bit the
man himself starts up from the grave."

Strange in our own Baptismal Service and just before the actual
christening we read these words, "Then shall the Priest say: O merciful
God, grant that old Adam in this child may be so BURIED that the new
man may be raised up in him: grant that all carnal affections may die
in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow
in him!" Can we doubt that the Australian medicine-man, standing at the
graveside of the re-arisen old black-fellow, pointed the same moral to
the young initiates as the priest does to-day to those assembled before
him in church--for indeed we know that among savage tribes initiations
have always been before all things the occasions of moral and social
teaching? Can we doubt that he said, in substance if not in actual
words: "As this man has arisen from the grave, so you must also arise
from your old childish life of amusement and self-gratification and,
ENTER INTO the life of the tribe, the life of the Spirit of the tribe."
"In totemistic societies," to quote Miss Harrison again, "and in the
animal secret societies that seem to grow out of them, the novice is
born again as THE SACRED ANIMAL. Thus among the Carrier Indians (1)
when a man wants to become a Lulem or 'Bear,' however cold the season
he tears off his clothes, puts on a bear-skin and dashes into the
woods, where he will stay for three or four days. Every night his
fellow-villagers will go out in search parties to find him. They cry out
Yi! Kelulem (come on, Bear), and he answers with angry growls. Usually
they fail to find him, but he comes back at last himself. He is met, and
conducted to the ceremonial lodge, and there in company with the rest
of the Bears dances solemnly his first appearance. Disappearance and
reappearance is as common a rite in initiation as stimulated killing and
resurrection, and has the same object. Both are rites of transition,
of passing from one to another." In the Christian ceremonies the boy or
girl puts away childish things and puts on the new man, but instead
of putting on a bear-skin he puts on Christ. There is not so much
difference as may appear on the surface. To be identified with your
Totem is to be identified with the sacred being who watches over your
tribe, who has given his life for your tribe; it is to be born again,
to be washed not only with water but with the Holy Spirit of all your
fellows. To be baptized into Christ ought to mean to be regenerated
in the Holy Spirit of all humanity; and no doubt in cases it does mean
this, but too often unfortunately it has only amounted to a pretence of
religious sanction given to the meanest and bitterest quarrels of the
Churches and the States.

 (1) Golden Bough, Section 2, III, p. 438.

This idea of a New Birth at initiation explains the prevalent pagan
custom of subjecting the initiates to serious ordeals, often painful and
even dangerous. If one is to be born again, obviously one must be ready
to face death; the one thing cannot be without the other. One must be
able to endure pain, like the Red Indian braves; to go long periods
fasting and without food or drink, like the choupan among the Western
Inoits--who, wanders for whole nights over the ice-fields under the
moon, scantily clothed and braving the intense cold; to overcome the
very fear of death and danger, like the Australian novices who, at first
terrified by the sound of the bull-roarer and threats of fire and the
knife, learn finally to cast their fears away. (1) By so doing one
puts off the old childish things, and qualifies oneself by firmness
and courage to become a worthy member of the society into which one
is called. (2) The rules of social life are taught--the duty to one's
tribe, and to oneself, truth-speaking, defence of women and children,
the care of cattle, the meaning of sex and marriage, and even the
mysteries of such religious ideas and rudimentary science as the tribe
possesses. And by so doing one really enters into a new life. Things of
the spiritual world begin to dawn. Julius Firmicus, in describing
the mysteries of the resurrection of Osiris, (3) says that when the
worshipers had satiated themselves with lamentations over the death
of the god then the priest would go round anointing them with oil and
whispering, "Be of good cheer, O Neophytes of the new-arisen God, for to
us too from our pains shall come salvation." (4)

 (1) According to accounts of the Wiradthuri tribe of Western
Australia, in their initiations, the lads were frightened by a large
fire being lighted near them, and hearing the awful sound of the
bull-roarers, while they were told that Dhuramoolan was about to burn
them; the legend being that Dhuramoolan, a powerful being, whose voice
sounded like thunder, would take the boys into the bush and instruct
them in all the laws, traditions and customs of the community. So he
pretended that he always killed the boys, cut them up, and burnt them to
ashes, after which he moulded the ashes into human shape, and restored
them to life as new beings. (See R. H. Matthews, "The Wiradthuri
tribes," Journal Anthrop. Inst., vol. xxv, 1896, pp. 297 sq.)

 (2) See Catlin's North-American Indians, vol. i, for initiations
and ordeals among the Mandans.

 (3) De Errore, c. 22.

 (4) [gr Qarreite, mustai ton qeou seswsmenou,]
[gr Estai gar hmin ek ponwn swthria.]

It would seem that at some very early time in the history of tribal and
priestly initiations an attempt was made to impress upon the neophytes
the existence and over-shadowing presence of spiritual and ghostly
beings. Perhaps the pains endured in the various ordeals, the long
fastings, the silences in the depth of the forests or on the mountains
or among the ice-floes, helped to rouse the visionary faculty.
The developments of this faculty among the black and colored
peoples--East-Indian, Burmese, African, American-Indian, etc.--are well
known. Miss Alice Fletcher, who lived among the Omaha Indians for thirty
years, gives a most interesting account (1) of the general philosophy
of that people and their rites of initiation. "The Omahas regard all
animate and inanimate forms, all phenomena, as pervaded by a common
life, which was continuous with and similar to the will-power they were
conscious of in themselves. This mysterious power in all things they
called Wakonda, and through it all things were related to man and
to each other. In the idea of the continuity of life a relation was
maintained between the seen and the unseen, the dead and the living,
and also between the fragment of anything and its entirety." (2) Thus an
Omaha novice might at any time seek to obtain Wakonda by what was called
THE RITE OF THE VISION. He would go out alone, fast, chant incantations,
and finally fall into a trance (much resembling what in modern times has
been called COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS) in which he would perceive the inner
relations of all things and the solidarity of the least object with the
rest of the universe.

 (1) Summarized in Themis, pp. 68-71.

 (2) A. C. Fletcher, The Significance of the Scalp-lock, Journal
of Anthropological Studies, xxvii (1897-8), p. 436.

Another rite in connection with initiation, and common all over
the pagan world--in Greece, America, Africa, Australia, New Mexico,
etc.--was the daubing of the novice all over with clay or chalk or even
dung, and then after a while removing the same. (1) The novice must have
looked a sufficiently ugly and uncomfortable object in this state; but
later, when he was thoroughly WASHED, the ceremony must have afforded a
thrilling illustration of the idea of a new birth, and one which would
dwell in the minds of the spectators. When the daubing was done as not
infrequently happened with white clay or gypsum, and the ritual took
place at night, it can easily be imagined that the figures of young men
and boys moving about in the darkness would lend support to the idea
that they were spirits belonging to some intermediate world--who had
already passed through death and were now waiting for their second birth
on earth (or into the tribe) which would be signalized by their thorough
and ceremonial washing. It will be remembered that Herodotus (viii)
gives a circumstantial account of how the Phocians in a battle with the
Thessalians smeared six hundred of their bravest warriors with white
clay so that, looking like supernatural beings, and falling upon the
Thessalians by night, they terrified the latter and put them to instant

 (1) See A. Lang's Myth, Ritual and Religion, i, 274 sq.

Such then--though only very scantily described--were some of the rites
of Initiation and Second Birth celebrated in the old Pagan world. The
subject is far too large for adequate treatment within the present
limits; but even so we cannot but be struck by the appropriateness in
many cases of the teaching thus given to the young, the concreteness of
the illustrations, the effectiveness of the symbols used, the dramatic
character of the rites, the strong enforcement of lessons on the nature
and duties of the life into which the candidates were about to enter.
Christianity followed on, and inherited these traditions, but one feels
that in its ceremonies of Baptism and Confirmation, which of course
correspond to the Pagan Initiations, it falls short of the latter. Its
ceremonies (certainly as we have them to-day in Protestant countries)
are of a very milk-and-watery character; all allusion to and teaching on
the immensely important subject of Sex is omitted, the details of social
and industrial morality are passed by, and instruction is limited to a
few rather commonplace lessons in general morality and religion.

It may be appropriate here, before leaving the subject of the Second
Birth, to inquire how it has come about that this doctrine--so remote
and metaphysical as it might appear--has been taken up and embodied in
their creeds and rituals by quite PRIMITIVE people all over the world,
to such a degree indeed that it has ultimately been adopted and built
into the foundations of the latter and more intellectual religions, like
Hinduism, Mithraism, and the Egyptian and Christian cults. I think the
answer to this question must be found in the now-familiar fact that the
earliest peoples felt themselves so much a part of Nature and the animal
and vegetable world around them that (whenever they thought about these
matters at all) they never for a moment doubted that the things which
were happening all round them in the external world were also happening
within themselves. They saw the Sun, overclouded and nigh to death in
winter, come to its birth again each year; they saw the Vegetation
shoot forth anew in spring--the revival of the spirit of the Earth; the
endless breeding of the Animals, the strange transformations of Worms
and Insects; the obviously new life taken on by boys and girls at
puberty; the same at a later age when the novice was transformed into
the medicine-man--the choupan into the angakok among the Esquimaux, the
Dacotah youth into the wakan among the Red Indians; and they felt in
their sub-conscious way the same everlasting forces of rebirth and
transformation working within themselves. In some of the Greek Mysteries
the newly admitted Initiates were fed for some time after on milk only
"as though we were being born again." (See Sallustius, quoted by Gilbert
Murray.) When sub-conscious knowledge began to glimmer into direct
consciousness one of the first aspects (and no doubt one of the truest)
under which people saw life was just thus: as a series of rebirths and
transformations. (1) The most modern science, I need hardly say, in
biology as well as in chemistry and the field of inorganic Nature,
supports that view. The savage in earliest times FELT the truth of some
things which we to-day are only beginning intellectually to perceive and

 (1) The fervent and widespread belief in animal metamorphoses
among early peoples is well known.

Christianity adopted and absorbed--as it was bound to do--this
world-wide doctrine of the second birth. Passing over its physiological
and biological applications, it gave to it a fine spiritual
significance--or rather it insisted especially on its spiritual
significance, which (as we have seen) had been widely recognized before.
Only--as I suppose must happen with all local religions--it narrowed the
application and outlook of the doctrine down to a special case--"As
in Adam all die, so in CHRIST shall all be made alive." The Universal
Spirit which can give rebirth and salvation to EVERY child of man to
whom it comes, was offered only under a very special form--that of Jesus
Christ. (1) In this respect it was no better than the religions
which preceded it. In some respects--that is, where it was especially
fanatical, blinkered, and hostile to other sects--it was WORSE. But
to those who perceive that the Great Spirit may bring new birth and
salvation to some under the form of Osiris, equally well as to others
under the form of Jesus, or again to some under the form of a Siberian
totem-Bear equally as to others under the form of Osiris, these
questionings and narrowings fall away as of no importance. We in this
latter day can see the main thing, namely that Christianity was and is
just one phase of a world-old religion, slowly perhaps expanding its
scope, but whose chief attitudes and orientations have been the same
through the centuries.

 (1) The same happened with regard to another great Pagan doctrine
(to which I have just alluded), the doctrine of transformations and
metamorphoses; and whereas the pagans believed in these things, as the
common and possible heritage of EVERY man, the Christians only allowed
themselves to entertain the idea in the special and unique instance of
the Transfiguration of Christ.

Many other illustrations might be taken of the truth of this view, but
I will confine myself to two or three more. There is the instance of the
Eucharist and its exceedingly widespread celebration (under very various
forms) among the pagans all over the world--as well as among Christians.
I have already said enough on this subject, and need not delay over it.
By partaking of the sacramental meal, even in its wildest and crudest
shapes, as in the mysteries of Dionysus, one was identified with and
united to the god; in its milder and more spiritual aspects as in the
Mithraic, Egyptian, Hindu and Christian cults, one passed behind the
veil of maya and this ever-changing world, and entered into the region
of divine peace and power. (1)

 (1) Baring Gould in his Orig. Relig. Belief, I. 401,
says:--"Among the ancient Hindus Soma was a chief deity; he is called
the Giver of Life and Health.... He became incarnate among men, was
taken by them and slain, and brayed in a mortar (a god of corn and wine
apparently). But he rose in flame to heaven to be 'the Benefactor of the
World' and the 'Mediator between God and Man!' Through communion with
him in his sacrifice, man (who partook of this god) has an assurance of
immortality, for by that sacrament he obtains union with his divinity."

Or again the doctrine of the Saviour. That also is one on which I need
not add much to what has been said already. The number of pagan deities
(mostly virgin-born and done to death in some way or other in their
efforts to save mankind) is so great (1) as to be difficult to keep
account of. The god Krishna in India, the god Indra in Nepaul and
Thibet, spilt their blood for the salvation of men; Buddha said,
according to Max Muller, (2) "Let all the sins that were in the world
fall on me, that the world may be delivered"; the Chinese Tien, the Holy
One--"one with God and existing with him from all eternity"--died to
save the world; the Egyptian Osiris was called Saviour, so was Horus;
so was the Persian Mithras; so was the Greek Hercules who overcame Death
though his body was consumed in the burning garment of mortality, out
of which he rose into heaven. So also was the Phrygian Attis called
Saviour, and the Syrian Tammuz or Adonis likewise--both of whom, as we
have seen, were nailed or tied to a tree, and afterwards rose again
from their biers, or coffins. Prometheus, the greatest and earliest
benefactor of the human race, was NAILED BY THE HANDS and feet, and with
arms extended, to the rocks of Mount Caucasus. Bacchus or Dionysus,
born of the virgin Semele to be the Liberator of mankind (Dionysus
Eleutherios as he was called), was torn to pieces, not unlike Osiris.
Even in far Mexico Quetzalcoatl, the Saviour, was born of a virgin, was
tempted, and fasted forty days, was done to death, and his second coming
looked for so eagerly that (as is well known) when Cortes appeared, the
Mexicans, poor things, greeted HIM as the returning god! (3) In Peru
and among the American Indians, North and South of the Equator, similar
legends are, or were, to be found.

 (1) See for a considerable list Doane's Bible Myths, ch. xx.

 (2) Hist. Sanskrit Literature, p. 80.

 (3) See Kingsborough, Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi.

Briefly sketched as all this is, it is enough to prove quite abundantly
that the doctrine of the Saviour is world-wide and world-old, and that
Christianity merely appropriated the same and (as the other cults did)
gave it a special color. Probably the wide range of this doctrine would
have been far better and more generally known, had not the Christian
Church, all through, made the greatest of efforts and taken the greatest
precautions to extinguish and snuff out all evidence of pagan claims on
the subject. There is much to show that the early Church took this line
with regard to pre-Christian saviours; (1) and in later times the same
policy is remarkably illustrated by the treatment in the sixteenth
century of the writings of Sahagun the Spanish missionary--to whose work
I have already referred. Sahagun was a wonderfully broad-minded and fine
man who, while he did not conceal the barbarities of the Aztec religion,
was truthful enough to point out redeeming traits in the manners and
customs of the people and some resemblances to Christian doctrine and
practice. This infuriated the bigoted Catholics of the newly formed
Mexican Church. They purloined the manuscripts of Sahagun's Historia and
scattered and hid them about the country, and it was only after infinite
labor and an appeal to the Spanish Court that he got them together
again. Finally, at the age of eighty, having translated them into
Spanish (from the original Mexican) he sent them in two big volumes home
to Spain for safety; but there almost immediately THEY DISAPPEARED, and
could not be found! It was only after TWO CENTURIES that they ultimately
turned up (1790) in a Convent at Tolosa in Navarre. Lord Kingsborough
published them in England in 1830.

 (1) See Tertullian's Apologia, c. 16; Ad Nationes, c. xii.

I have thus dwelt upon several of the main doctrines of
Christianity--namely, those of Sin and Sacrifice, the Eucharist, the
Saviour, the Second Birth, and Transfiguration--as showing that they are
by no means unique in our religion, but were common to nearly all the
religions of the ancient world. The list might be much further extended,
but there is no need to delay over a subject which is now very generally
understood. I will, however, devote a page or two to one instance, which
I think is very remarkable, and full of deep suggestion.

There is no doctrine in Christianity which is more reverenced by the
adherents of that religion, or held in higher estimation, than that God
sacrificed his only Son for the salvation of the world; also that since
the Son was not only of like nature but of the SAME nature with the
Father, and equal to him as being the second Person of the Divine
Trinity, the sacrifice amounted to an immolation of Himself for the good
of mankind. The doctrine is so mystical, so remote, and in a sense so
absurd and impossible, that it has been a favorite mark through the
centuries for the ridicule of the scoffers and enemies of the Church;
and here, it might easily be thought, is a belief which--whether it be
considered glorious or whether contemptible--is at any rate unique, and
peculiar to that Church.

And yet the extraordinary fact is that a similar belief ranges all
through the ancient religions, and can be traced back to the earliest
times. The word host which is used in the Catholic Mass for the bread
and wine on the Altar, supposed to be the transubstantiated body
and blood of Christ, is from the Latin Hostia which the dictionary
interprets as "an animal slain in sacrifice, a sin-offering." It takes
us far far back to the Totem stage of folk-life, when the tribe, as I
have already explained, crowned a victim-bull or bear or other animal
with flowers, and honoring it with every offering of food and worship,
sacrificed the victim to the Totem spirit of the tribe, and consumed it
in an Eucharistic feast--the medicine-man or priest who conducted the
ritual wearing a skin of the same beast as a sign that he represented
the Totem-divinity, taking part in the sacrifice of 'himself to
himself.' It reminds us of the Khonds of Bengal sacrificing their
meriahs crowned and decorated as gods and goddesses; of the Aztecs doing
the same; of Quetzalcoatl pricking his elbows and fingers so as to draw
blood, which he offered on his own altar; or of Odin hanging by his own
desire upon a tree. "I know I was hanged upon a tree shaken by the winds
for nine long nights. I was transfixed by a spear; I was moved to Odin,
myself to myself." And so on. The instances are endless. "I am the
oblation," says the Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, (1) "I am the
sacrifice, I the ancestral offering." "In the truly orthodox conception
of sacrifice," says Elie Reclus, (2) "the consecrated offering, be it
man, woman or virgin, lamb or heifer, cock or dove, represents THE DEITY
HIMSELF.... Brahma is the 'imperishable sacrifice'; Indra, Soma, Hari
and the other gods, became incarnate in animals to the sole end that
they might be immolated. Perusha, the Universal Being, caused himself to
be slain by the Immortals, and from his substance were born the birds of
the air, wild and domestic animals, the offerings of butter and curds.
The world, declared the Rishis, is a series of sacrifices disclosing
other sacrifices. To stop them would be to suspend the life of Nature.
The god Siva, to whom the Tipperahs of Bengal are supposed to have
sacrificed as many as a thousand human victims a year, said to the
Brahamins: 'It is I that am the actual offering; it is I that you
butcher upon my altars.'"

 (1) Ch. ix, v. 16.

 (2) Primitive Folk, ch. vi.

It was in allusion to this doctrine that R. W. Emerson, paraphrasing the
Katha-Upanishad, wrote that immortal verse of his:--

     If the red slayer thinks he slays,
          Or the slain thinks he is slain,
     They know not well the subtle ways
          I take, and pass, and turn again.

I say it is an astonishing thing to think and realize that this profound
and mystic doctrine of the eternal sacrifice of Himself, ordained by
the Great Spirit for the creation and salvation of the world--a doctrine
which has attracted and fascinated many of the great thinkers and nobler
minds of Europe, which has also inspired the religious teachings of
the Indian sages and to a less philosophical degree the writings of the
Christian Saints--should have been seized in its general outline and
essence by rude and primitive people before the dawn of history, and
embodied in their rites and ceremonials. What is the explanation of this

It is very puzzling. The whole subject is puzzling. The world-wide
adoption of similar creeds and rituals (and, we may add, legends and
fairy tales) among early peoples, and in far-sundered places and times
is so remarkable that it has given the students of these subjects
'furiously to think' (1)--yet for the most part without great success in
the way of finding a solution. The supposition that (1) the creed, rite
or legend in question has sprung up, so to speak, accidentally, in one
place, and then has travelled (owing to some inherent plausibility) over
the rest of the world, is of course one that commends itself readily at
first; but on closer examination the practical difficulties it presents
are certainly very great. These include the migrations of customs and
myths in quite early ages of the earth across trackless oceans and
continents, and between races and peoples absolutely incapable of
understanding each other. And if to avoid these difficulties it is
assumed that the present human race all proceeds from one original
stock which radiating from one centre--say in South-Eastern Asia
(2)--overspread the world, carrying its rites and customs with it, why,
then we are compelled to face the difficulty of supposing this radiation
to have taken place at an enormous time ago (the continents being then
all more or less conjoined) and at a period when it is doubtful if any
religious rites and customs at all existed; not to mention the further
difficulty of supposing all the four or five hundred languages now
existing to be descended from one common source. The far tradition of
the Island of Atlantis seems to afford a possible explanation of the
community of rites and customs between the Old and New World, and
this without assuming in any way that Atlantis (if it existed) was the
original and SOLE cradle of the human race. (3) Anyhow it is clear that
these origins of human culture must be of extreme antiquity, and that
it would not be wise to be put off the track of the investigation of a
possible common source merely by that fact of antiquity.

 (1) See A. Lang's Myth, Ritual and Religion, vol. ii.

 (2) See Hastings, Encycl. Religion and Ethics, art. "Ethnology."

 (3) E. J. Payne, History of the New World called America (vol. i,
p. 93) says: "It is certain that Europe and America once formed a single
continent," but inroads of the sea "left a vast island or peninsula
stretching from Iceland to the Azores--which gradually disappeared."
Also he speaks (i. 93) of the "Miocene Bridge" between Siberia and the
New World.

A second supposition, however, is (2) that the natural psychological
evolution of the human mind has in the various times and climes led folk
of the most diverse surroundings and heredity--and perhaps even sprung
from separate anthropoid stocks--to develop their social and religious
ideas along the same general lines--and that even to the extent of
exhibiting at times a remarkable similarity in minute details. This is a
theory which commends itself greatly to a deeper and more philosophical
consideration; but it brings us up point-blank against another most
difficult question (which we have already raised), namely, how to
account for extremely rude and primitive peoples in the far past, and on
the very borderland of the animal life, having been SUSCEPTIBLE to the
germs of great religious ideas (such as we have mentioned) and having
been instinctively--though not of course by any process of conscious
reasoning--moved to express them in symbols and rites and ceremonials,
and (later no doubt) in myths and legends, which satisfied their
FEELINGS and sense of fitness--though they may not have known WHY--and
afterwards were capable of being taken up and embodied in the great
philosophical religions.

This difficulty almost compels us to a view of human knowledge which has
found supporters among some able thinkers--the view, namely, that a vast
store of knowledge is already contained in the subconscious mind of man
(and the animals) and only needs the provocation of outer experience
to bring it to the surface; and that in the second stage of human
psychology this process of crude and piecemeal externalization is
taking place, in preparation for the final or third stage in which the
knowledge will be re-absorbed and become direct and intuitional on a
high and harmonious plane--something like the present intuition of the
animals as we perceive it on the animal plane. However this general
subject is one on which I shall touch again, and I do not propose to
dwell on it at any length now.

There is a third alternative theory (3)--a combination of (1) and
(2)--namely, that if one accepts (2) and the idea that at any given
stage of human development there is a PREDISPOSITION to certain symbols
and rites belonging to that stage, then it is much more easy to accept
theory (1) as an important factor in the spread of such symbols and
rites; for clearly, then, the smallest germ of a custom or practice,
transported from one country or people to another at the right time,
would be sufficient to wake the development or growth in question
and stimulate it into activity. It will be seen, therefore, that the
important point towards the solution of this whole puzzling question is
the discussion, of theory (2)--and to this theory, as illustrated by the
world-wide myth of the Golden Age, I will now turn.


The tradition of a "Golden Age" is widespread over the world, and it is
not necessary to go at any length into the story of the Garden of Eden
and the other legends which in almost every country illustrate this
tradition. Without indulging in sentiment on the subject we may hold it
not unlikely that the tradition is justified by the remembrance, among
the people of every race, of a pre-civilization period of comparative
harmony and happiness when two things, which to-day we perceive to be
the prolific causes of discord and misery, were absent or only weakly
developed--namely, PROPERTY and SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS. (1)

 (1) For a fuller working out of this, see Civilisation: its Cause
and Cure, by E. Carpenter, ch. i.

During the first century B.C. there was a great spread of Messianic
Ideas over the Roman world, and Virgil's 4th Eclogue, commonly called
the Messianic Eclogue, reflects very clearly this state of the public
mind. The expected babe in the poem was to be the son of Octavian
(Augustus) the first Roman emperor, and a messianic halo surrounded it
in Virgil's verse. Unfortunately it turned out to be a GIRL! However
there is little doubt that Virgil did--in that very sad age of the
world, an age of "misery and massacre," and in common with thousands
of others--look for the coming of a great 'redeemer.' It was only a few
years earlier--about B.C. 70--that the great revolt of the shamefully
maltreated Roman slaves occurred, and that in revenge six thousand
prisoners from Spartacus' army were nailed on crosses all the way from
Rome to Capua (150 miles). But long before this Hesiod had recorded a
past Golden Age when life had been gracious in communal fraternity and
joyful in peace, when human beings and animals spoke the same language,
when death had followed on sleep, without old age or disease, and after
death men had moved as good daimones or genii over the lands. Pindar,
three hundred years after Hesiod, had confirmed the existence of the
Islands of the Blest, where the good led a blameless, tearless, life.
Plato the same, (1) with further references to the fabled island of
Atlantis; the Egyptians believed in a former golden age under the god
R[a^] to which they looked back with regret and envy; the Persians had
a garden of Eden similar to that of the Hebrews; the Greeks a garden
of the Hesperides, in which dwelt the serpent whose head was ultimately
crushed beneath the heel of Hercules; and so on. The references to a
supposed far-back state of peace and happiness are indeed numerous.

 (1) See arts. by Margaret Scholes, Socialist Review, Nov. and
Dec. 1912.

So much so that latterly, and partly to explain their prevalence, a
theory has been advanced which may be worth while mentioning. It is
called the "Theory of intra-uterine Blessedness," and, remote as it may
at first appear, it certainly has some claim for attention. The theory
is that in the minds of mature people there still remain certain vague
memories of their pre-natal days in the maternal womb--memories of a
life which, though full of growing vigor and vitality, was yet at that
time one of absolute harmony with the surroundings, and of perfect peace
and contentment, spent within the body of the mother--the embryo indeed
standing in the same relation to the mother as St. Paul says WE stand to
God, "IN whom we live and move and have our being"; and that these vague
memories of the intra-uterine life in the individual are referred back
by the mature mind to a past age in the life of the RACE. Though it
would not be easy at present to positively confirm this theory, yet one
may say that it is neither improbable nor unworthy of consideration;
also that it bears a certain likeness to the former ones about the
Eden-gardens, etc. The well-known parallelism of the Individual history
with the Race-history, the "recapitulation" by the embryo of the
development of the race, does in fact afford an additional argument for
its favorable reception.

These considerations, and what we have said so often in the foregoing
chapters about the unity of the Animals (and Early Man) with Nature, and
their instinctive and age-long adjustment to the conditions of the
world around them, bring us up hard and fast against the following
conclusions, which I think we shall find difficult to avoid.

We all recognize the extraordinary grace and beauty, in their different
ways, of the (wild) animals; and not only their beauty but the extreme
fitness of their actions and habits to their surroundings--their subtle
and penetrating Intelligence in fact. Only we do not generally use
the word "Intelligence." We use another word (Instinct)--and rightly
perhaps, because their actions are plainly not the result of definite
self-conscious reasoning, such as we use, carried out by each
individual; but are (as has been abundantly proved by Samuel Butler and
others) the systematic expression of experiences gathered up and sorted
out and handed down from generation to generation in the bosom of the
race--an Intelligence in fact, or Insight, of larger subtler scope than
the other, and belonging to the tribal or racial Being rather than to
the isolated individual--a super-consciousness in fact, ramifying afar
in space and time.

But if we allow (as we must) this unity and perfection of nature, and
this somewhat cosmic character of the mind, to exist among the Animals,
we can hardly refuse to believe that there must have been a period when
Man, too, hardly as yet differentiated from them, did himself
possess these same qualities--perhaps even in greater degree than the
animals--of grace and beauty of body, perfection of movement and action,
instinctive perception and knowledge (of course in limited spheres); and
a period when he possessed above all a sense of unity with his fellows
and with surrounding Nature which became the ground of a common
consciousness between himself and his tribe, similar to that which
Maeterlinck, in the case of the Bees, calls the Spirit of the Hive. (1)
It would be difficult, nay impossible, to suppose that human beings
on their first appearance formed an entire exception in the process of
evolution, or that they were completely lacking in the very graces and
faculties which we so admire in the animals--only of course we see that
(LIKE the animals) they would not be SELF-conscious in these matters,
and what perception they had of their relations to each other or to
the world around them would be largely inarticulate and
SUB-conscious--though none the less real for that.

 (1) See The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck; and for
numerous similar cases among other animals, P. Kropotkin's Mutual Aid: a
factor in Evolution.

Let us then grant this preliminary assumption--and it clearly is not
a large or hazardous one--and what follows? It follows--since to-day
discord is the rule, and Man has certainly lost the grace, both physical
and mental, of the animals--that at some period a break must have
occurred in the evolution-process, a discontinuity--similar perhaps to
that which occurs in the life of a child at the moment when it is born
into the world. Humanity took a new departure; but a departure which for
the moment was signalized as a LOSS--the loss of its former harmony and
self-adjustment. And the cause or accompaniment of this change was the
growth of Self-consciousness. Into the general consciousness of the
tribe (in relation to its environment) which in fact had constituted
the mentality of the animals and of man up to this stage, there now was
intruded another kind of consciousness, a consciousness centering round
each little individual self and concerned almost entirely with the
interests of the latter. Here was evidently a threat to the continuance
of the former happy conditions. It was like the appearance of
innumerable little ulcers in a human body--a menace which if continued
would inevitably lead to the break-up of the body. It meant loss of
tribal harmony and nature-adjustment. It meant instead of unity a myriad
conflicting centres; it meant alienation from the spirit of the tribe,
the separation of man from man, discord, recrimination, and the fatal
unfolding of the sense of sin. The process symbolized itself in the
legend of the Fall. Man ate of the Tree of the knowledge of good and
evil. Sometimes people wonder why knowledge of any kind--and especially
the knowledge of good and evil--should have brought a curse. But the
reason is obvious. Into, the placid and harmonious life of the animal
and human tribes fulfilling their days in obedience to the slow
evolutions and age-long mandates of nature, Self-consciousness broke
with its inconvenient and impossible query: "How do these arrangements
suit ME? Are they good for me, are they evil for me? I want to know. I
WILL KNOW!" Evidently knowledge (such knowledge as we understand by
the word) only began, and could only begin, by queries relating to the
little local self. There was no other way for it to begin. Knowledge and
self-consciousness were born, as twins, together. Knowledge therefore
meant Sin (1); for self-consciousness meant sin (and it means sin
to-day). Sin is Separation. That is probably (though disputed) the
etymology of the word--that which sunders. (2) The essence of sin is
one's separation from the whole (the tribe or the god) of which one is
a part. And knowledge--which separates subject from object, and in its
inception is necessarily occupied with the 'good and evil' of the little
local self, is the great engine of this separation. (Mark! I say nothing
AGAINST this association of Self-consciousness with 'Sin' (so-called)
and 'Knowledge' (so-called). The growth of all three together is an
absolutely necessary part of human evolution, and to rail against it
would be absurd. But we may as well open our eyes and see the fact
straight instead of blinking it.) The culmination of the process and the
fulfilment of the 'curse' we may watch to-day in the towering expansion
of the self-conscious individualized Intellect--science as the handmaid
of human Greed devastating the habitable world and destroying its
unworthy civilization. And the process must go on--necessarily must
go on--until Self-consciousness, ceasing its vain quest (vain in both
senses) for the separate domination of life, surrenders itself back
again into the arms of the Mother-consciousness from which it originally
sprang--surrenders itself back, not to be merged in nonentity, but to be
affiliated in loving dependence on and harmony with the cosmic life.

 (1) Compare also other myths, like Cupid and Psyche, Lohengrin
etc., in which a fatal curiosity leads to tragedy.

 (2) German Sunde, sin, and sonder, separated; Dutch zonde, sin;
Latin sons, guilty. Not unlikely that the German root Suhn, expiation,
is connected; Suhn-bock, a scape-goat.

All this I have dealt with in far more detail in Civilization: its
Cause and Cure, and in The Art of Creation; but I have only repeated the
outline of it as above, because some such outline is necessary for the
proper ordering and understanding of the points which follow.

We are not concerned now with the ultimate effects of the 'Fall' of Man
or with the present-day fulfilment of the Eden-curse. What we want to
understand is how the 'Fall' into self-consciousness led to that great
panorama of Ritual and Religion which we have very briefly described
and summarized in the preceding chapters of this book. We want for the
present to fix our attention on the COMMENCEMENT of that process by
which man lapsed away from his living community with Nature and his
fellows into the desert of discord and toil, while the angels of the
flaming sword closed the gates of Paradise behind him.

It is evident I think that in that 'golden' stage when man was simply
the crown and perfection of the animals--and it is hardly possible
to refuse the belief in such a stage--he possessed in reality all the
essentials of Religion. (1) It is not necessary to sentimentalize over
him; he was probably raw and crude in his lusts of hunger and of sex;
he was certainly ignorant and superstitious; he loved fighting with
and persecuting 'enemies' (which things of course all religions
to-day--except perhaps the Buddhist--love to do); he was dominated often
by unreasoning Fear, and was consequently cruel. Yet he was full of that
Faith which the animals have to such an admirable degree--unhesitating
faith in the inner promptings of his OWN nature; he had the joy which
comes of abounding vitality, springing up like a fountain whose outlet
is free and unhindered; he rejoiced in an untroubled and unbroken
sense of unity with his Tribe, and in elaborate social and friendly
institutions within its borders; he had a marvelous sense-acuteness
towards Nature and a gift in that direction verging towards
"second-sight"; strengthened by a conviction--which had never become
CONSCIOUS because it had never been QUESTIONED--of his own personal
relation to the things outside him, the Earth, the Sky, the Vegetation,
the Animals. Of such a Man we get glimpses in the far past--though
indeed only glimpses, for the simple reason that all our knowledge of
him comes through civilized channels; and wherever civilization has
touched these early peoples it has already withered and corrupted
them, even before it has had the sense to properly observe them. It
is sufficient, however, just to mention peoples like some of the early
Pacific Islanders, the Zulus and Kafirs of South Africa, the Fans of the
Congo Region (of whom Winwood Reade (2) speaks so highly), some of the
Malaysian and Himalayan tribes, the primitive Chinese, and even the
evidence with regard to the neolithic peoples of Europe, (3) in order to
show what I mean.

 (1) See S. Reinach, Cults, Myths, etc., introduction: "The
primitive life of humanity, in so far as it is not purely animal, is
religious. Religion is the parent stem which has thrown off, one by one,
art, agriculture, law, morality, politics, etc."

 (2) Savage Africa, ch. xxxvii.

 (3) See Kropotkin's Mutual Aid, ch. iii.

Perhaps one of the best ideas of the gulf of difference between the
semi-civilized and the quite primal man is given by A. R. Wallace in
his Life (Vol. i, p. 288): "A most unexpected sensation of surprise and
delight was my first meeting and living with man in a state of nature
with absolute uncontaminated savages! This was on the Uaupes river....
They were all going about their own work or pleasure, which had nothing
to do with the white men or their ways; they walked with the free step
of the independent forest-dweller... original and self-sustaining as the
wild animals of the forests, absolutely independent of civilization...
living their own lives in their own way, as they had done for countless
generations before America was discovered. Indeed the true denizen of
the Amazonian forests, like the forest itself, is unique and not to be
forgotten." Elsewhere (3) Wallace speaks of the quiet, good-natured,
inoffensive character of these copper-colored peoples, and of their
quickness of hand and skill, and continues: "their figures are generally
superb; and I have never felt so much pleasure in gazing at the finest
statue as at these living illustrations of the beauty of the human

 (3) Travels on the Amazon (1853), ch. xvii.

Though some of the peoples just mentioned may be said to belong to
different grades or stages of human evolution and physically some no
doubt were far superior to others, yet they mostly exhibit this simple
grace of the bodily and mental organism, as well as that closeness of
tribal solidarity of which I have spoken. The immense antiquity, of
the clan organization, as shown by investigations into early marriage,
points to the latter conclusion. Travellers among Bushmen, Hottentots,
Fuegians, Esquimaux, Papuans and other peoples--peoples who have been
pushed aside into unfavorable areas by the invasion of more warlike
and better-equipped races, and who have suffered physically in
consequence--confirm this. Kropotkin, speaking of the Hottentots, quotes
the German author P. Kolben who travelled among them in 1275 or so. "He
knew the Hottentots well and did not pass by their defects in silence,
but could not praise their tribal morality highly enough. Their word is
sacred, he wrote, they know nothing of the corruption and faithless arts
of Europe. They live in great tranquillity and are seldom at war with
their neighbors, and are all kindness and goodwill to one another." (1)
Kropotkin further says: "Let me remark that when Kolben says 'they are
certainly the most friendly, the most liberal and the most benevolent
people to one another that ever appeared on the earth' he wrote a
sentence which has continually appeared since in the description of
savages. When first meeting with primitive races, the Europeans usually
make a caricature of their life; but when an intelligent man has
stayed among them for a longer time he generally describes them as the
'kindest' or the 'gentlest' race on the earth. These very same words
have been applied to the Ostyaks, the Samoyedes, the Eskimos, the Dyaks,
the Aleuts, the Papuans, and so on, by the highest authorities. I also
remember having read them applied to the Tunguses, the Tchuktchis, the
Sioux, and several others. The very frequency of that high commendation
already speaks volumes in itself." (2)

 (1) P. Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, p. 90. W. J. Solias also speaks in
terms of the highest praise of the Bushmen--"their energy, patience,
courage, loyalty, affection, good manners and artistic sense" (Ancient
Hunters, 1915, p. 425).

 (2) Ibid, p. 91.

Many of the tribes, like the Aleuts, Eskimos, Dyaks, Papuans, Fuegians,
etc., are themselves in the Neolithic stage of culture--though for the
reason given above probably degenerated physically from the standard of
their neolithic ancestors; and so the conclusion is forced upon one
that there must have been an IMMENSE PERIOD, (1) prior to the first
beginnings of 'civilization,' in which the human tribes in general led a
peaceful and friendly life on the earth, comparatively little broken
up by dissensions, in close contact with Nature and in that degree
of sympathy with and understanding of the Animals which led to the
establishment of the Totem system. Though it would be absurd to credit
these tribes with any great degree of comfort and well-being according
to our modern standards, yet we may well suppose that the memory of
this long period lingered on for generations and generations and was
ultimately idealized into the Golden Age, in contrast to the succeeding
period of everlasting warfare, rancor and strife, which came in with the
growth of Property with its greeds and jealousies, and the accentuation
of Self-consciousness with all its vanities and ambitions.

 (1) See for estimates of periods ch. xiv; also, for the
peacefulness of these early peoples, Havelock Ellis on "The Origin of
War," where he says "We do not find the WEAPONS of warfare or the WOUNDS
of warfare among these Palaeolithic remains ... it was with civilization
that the art of killing developed, i. e. within the last 10,000 or
12,000 years when Neolithic men (who became our ancestors) were just

I say that each tribe at this early stage of development had within it
the ESSENTIALS of what we call Religion--namely a bedrock sense of its
community with Nature, and of the Common life among its members--a sense
so intimate and fundamental that it was hardly aware of itself (any more
than the fish is aware of the sea in which it lives), but yet was really
the matrix of tribal thought and the spring of tribal action. It
was this sense of unity which was destined by the growth of
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS to come to light and evidence in the shape of all
manner of rituals and ceremonials; and by the growth of the IMAGINATIVE
INTELLECT to embody itself in the figures and forms of all manner of

Let us examine into this a little more closely. A lark soaring in the
eye of the sun, and singing rapt between its "heaven and home" realizes
no doubt in actual fact all that those two words mean to us; yet
its realization is quite subconscious. It does not define its own
experience: it FEELS but it does not THINK. In order to come to the
stage of THINKING it would perhaps be necessary that the lark should
be exiled from the earth and the sky, and confined in a cage. Early Man
FELT the great truths and realities of Life--often I believe more purely
than we do--but he could not give form to his experience. THAT stage
came when he began to lose touch with these realities; and it showed
itself in rites and ceremonials. The inbreak of self-consciousness
brought OUT the facts of his inner life into ritualistic and afterwards
into intellectual forms.

Let me give examples. For a long time the Tribe is all in all; the
individual is completely subject to the 'Spirit of the Hive'; he
does not even THINK of contravening it. Then the day comes when
self-interest, as apart from the Tribe, becomes sufficiently strong to
drive him against some tribal custom. He breaks the tabu; he eats the
forbidden apple; he sins against the tribe, and is cast out. Suddenly he
finds himself an exile, lonely, condemned and deserted. A horrible sense
of distress seizes him--something of which he had no experience before.
He tries to think about it all, to understand the situation, but
is dazed and cannot arrive at any conclusion. His one NECESSITY is
Reconciliation, Atonement. He finds he cannot LIVE outside of and
alienated from his tribe. He makes a Sacrifice, an offering to his
fellows, as a seal of sincerity--an offering of his own bodily suffering
or precious blood, or the blood of some food-animal, or some valuable
gift or other--if only he may be allowed to return. The offering is
accepted. The ritual is performed; and he is received back. I have
already spoken of this perfectly natural evolution of the twin-ideas
of Sin and Sacrifice, so I need not enlarge upon the subject. But two
things we may note here: (1) that the ritual, being so concrete (and
often severe), graves itself on the minds of those concerned, and
expresses the feelings of the tribe, with an intensity and sharpness of
outline which no words could rival, and (2) that such rituals may have,
and probably did, come into use even while language itself was in an
infantile condition and incapable of dealing with the psychological
situation except by symbols. They, the rituals, were the first effort of
the primitive mind to get beyond, subconscious feeling and emerge into a
world of forms and definite thought.

Let us carry the particular instance, given above, a stage farther, even
to the confines of abstract Thought and Philosophy. I have spoken of
"The Spirit of the Hive" as if the term were applicable to the Human as
well as to the Bee tribe. The individual bee obviously has never THOUGHT
about that 'Spirit,' nor mentally understood what Maeterlinck means by
it; and yet in terms of actual experience it is an intense reality to
the bee (ordaining for instance on some fateful day the slaughter of all
the drones), controlling bee-movements and bee-morality generally. The
individual tribesman similarly steeped in the age-long human life of his
fellows has never thought of the Tribe as an ordaining being or Spirit,
separate from himself--TILL that day when he is exiled and outcast from
it. THEN he sees himself and the tribe as two opposing beings, himself
of course an Intelligence or Spirit in his own limited degree, the Tribe
as a much greater Intelligence or Spirit, standing against and over him.
From that day the conception of a god arises on him. It may be only
a totem-god--a divine Grizzly-Bear or what not--but still a god or
supernatural Presence, embodied in the life of the tribe. This is
what Sin has taught him. (1) This is what Fear, founded on
self-consciousness, has revealed to him. The revelation may be true,
or it may be fallacious (I do not prejudge it); but there it is--the
beginning of that long series of human evolutions which we call

 (1) It is to be noted, in that charming idyll of the Eden garden,
that it is only AFTER eating of the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve
perceive the Lord God walking in the garden, and converse with him
(Genesis iii. 8).

 (For when the human mind has reached that stage of
consciousness in which each man realizes his own 'self' as a rational
and consistent being, "looking before and after," then, as I have
said already, the mind projects on the background of Nature similarly
rational Presences which we may call 'Gods'; and at that stage
'Religion' begins. Before that, when the mind is quite unformed and
dream-like, and consists chiefly of broken and scattered rays, and when
distinct self-consciousness is hardly yet developed, then the presences
imagined in Nature are merely flickering and intermittent phantoms, and
their propitiation and placation comes more properly under, the head of

So much for the genesis of the religious ideas of Sin and Sacrifice, and
the rites connected with these ideas--their genesis through the in-break
of self-consciousness upon the corporate SUB-consciousness of the life
of the Community. But an exactly similar process may be observed in the
case of the other religious ideas.

I spoke of the doctrine of the SECOND BIRTH, and the rites connected
with it both in Paganism and in Christianity. There is much to show that
among quite primitive peoples there is less of shrinking from death and
more of certainty about a continued life after death than we generally
find among more intellectual and civilized folk. It is, or has been,
quite, common among many tribes for the old and decrepit, who are
becoming a burden to their fellows, to offer themselves for happy
dispatch, and to take willing part in the ceremonial preparations for
their own extinction; and this readiness is encouraged by their
na[i:]ve and untroubled belief in a speedy transference to "happy
hunting-grounds" beyond the grave. The truth is that when, as in such
cases, the tribal life is very whole and unbroken--each individual
identifying himself completely with the tribe--the idea of the
individual's being dropped out at death, and left behind by the tribe,
hardly arises. The individual is the tribe, has no other existence.
The tribe goes on, living a life which is eternal, and only changes its
hunting-grounds; and the individual, identified with the tribe, feels in
some subconscious way the same about himself.

But when one member has broken faith with the tribe, when he has sinned
against it and become an outcast--ah! then the terrors of death and
extinction loom large upon him. "The wages of sin is death." There comes
a period in the evolution of tribal life when the primitive bonds are
loosening, when the tendency towards SELF-will and SELF-determination
(so necessary of course in the long run for the evolution of humanity)
becomes a real danger to the tribe, and a terror to the wise men and
elders of the community. It is seen that the children inherit this
tendency--even from their infancy. They are no longer mere animals,
easily herded; it seems that they are born in sin--or at least in
ignorance and neglect of their tribal life and calling. The only cure is
that they MUST BE BORN AGAIN. They must deliberately and of set purpose
be adopted into the tribe, and be made to realize, even severely,
in their own persons what is happening. They must go through the
initiations necessary to impress this upon them. Thus a whole series of
solemn rites spring up, different no doubt in every locality, but all
having the same object and purpose. (And one can understand how the
necessity of such initiations and second birth may easily have been
itself felt in every race, at some stage of its evolution--and THAT
quite as a spontaneous growth, and independently of any contagion of
example caught from other races.)

The same may be said about the world-wide practice of the Eucharist.
No more effective method exists for impressing on the members of a body
their community of life with each other, and causing them to forget
their jangling self-interests, than to hold a feast in common. It is a
method which has been honored in all ages as well as to-day. But when
the flesh partaken of at the feast is that of the Totem--the guardian
and presiding genius of the tribe--or perhaps of one of its chief
food-animals--then clearly the feast takes on a holy and solemn
character. It becomes a sacrament of unity--of the unity of all with the
tribe, and with each other. Self-interests and self-consciousness are
for the time submerged, and the common life asserts itself; but here
again we see that a custom like this would not come into being as a
deliberate rite UNTIL self-consciousness and the divisions consequent
thereon had grown to be an obvious evil. The herd-animals (cows, sheep,
and so forth) do not have Eucharists, simply because they are sensible
enough to feed along the same pastures without quarrelling over the
richest tufts of grass.

When the flesh partaken of (either actually or symbolically) is not that
of a divinized animal, but the flesh of a human-formed god--as in the
mysteries of Dionysus or Osiris or Christ--then we are led to suspect
(and of course this theory is widely held and supported) that the rites
date from a very far-back period when a human being, as representative
of the tribe, was actually slain, dismembered and partly devoured;
though as time went on, the rite gradually became glossed over and
mitigated into a love-communion through the sharing of bread and wine.

It is curious anyhow that the dismemberment or division into fragments
of the body of a god (as in the case of Dionysus, Osiris, Attis,
Praj[a']pati and others) should be so frequent a tenet of the
old religions, and so commonly associated with a love-feast of
reconciliation and resurrection. It may be fairly interpreted as a
symbol of Nature-dismemberment in Winter and resurrection in Spring; but
we must also not forget that it may (and indeed must) have stood as
an allegory of TRIBAL dismemberment and reconciliation--the tribe,
conceived of as a divinity, having thus suffered and died through the
inbreak of sin and the self-motive, and risen again into wholeness by
the redemption of love and sacrifice. Whatever view the rank and file of
the tribe may have taken of the matter, I think it is incontestable that
the more thoughtful regarded these rites as full of mystic and spiritual
meaning. It is of the nature, as I have said before, of these early
symbols and ceremonies that they held so many meanings in solution; and
it is this fact which gave them a poetic or creative quality, and their
great hold upon the public mind.

I use the word "tribe" in many places here as a matter of convenience;
not forgetting however that in some cases "clan" might be more
appropriate, as referring to a section of a tribe; or "people" or "folk"
as referring to unions of SEVERAL tribes. It is impossible of course to
follow out all the gradations of organization from tribal up to national
life; but it may be remembered that while animal totems prevail as a
rule in the earlier stages, human-formed gods become more conspicuous in
the later developments. All through, the practice of the Eucharist goes
on, in varying forms adapting itself to the surrounding conditions; and
where in the later societies a religion like Mithraism or Christianity
includes people of very various race, the Rite loses quite naturally
its tribal significance and becomes a celebration of allegiance to a
particular god--of unity within a special Church, in fact. Ultimately it
may become--as for a brief moment in the history of the early Christians
it seemed likely to do--a celebration of allegiance to all Humanity,
irrespective of race or creed or color of skin or of mind: though
unfortunately that day seems still far distant and remains yet
unrealized. It must not be overlooked, however, that the religion of the
Persian B[a^]b, first promulgated in 1845 to 1850--and a subject I shall
deal with presently--had as a matter of fact this all embracing and
universal scope.

To return to the Golden Age or Garden of Eden. Our conclusion seems to
be that there really was such a period of comparative harmony in human
life--to which later generations were justified in looking back, and
looking back with regret. It corresponded in the psychology of human
Evolution to stage One. The second stage was that of the Fall; and so
one is inevitably led to the conjecture and the hope that a third stage
will redeem the earth and its inhabitants to a condition of comparative


From the consideration of the world-wide belief in a past Golden Age,
and the world-wide practice of the Eucharist, in the sense indicated
in the last chapter, to that of the equally widespread belief in a
human-divine Saviour, is a brief and easy step. Some thirty years ago,
dealing with this subject, (1) I wrote as follows:--"The true Self of
man consists in his organic relation with the whole body of his fellows;
and when the man abandons his true Self he abandons also his true
relation to his fellows. The mass-Man must rule in each unit-man, else
the unit-man will drop off and die. But when the outer man tries to
separate himself from the inner, the unit-man from the mass-Man, then
the reign of individuality begins--a false and impossible individuality
of course, but the only means of coming to the consciousness of the true
individuality." And further, "Thus this divinity in each creature,
being that which constitutes it and causes it to cohere together, was
conceived of as that creature's saviour, healer--healer of wounds of
body and wounds of heart--the Man within the man, whom it was not only
possible to know, but whom to know and be united with was the alone
salvation. This, I take it, was the law of health--and of holiness--as
accepted at some elder time of human history, and by us seen as through
a glass darkly."

 (1) See Civilisation: its Cause and Cure, ch. i.

I think it is impossible not to see--however much in our pride of
Civilization (!) we like to jeer at the pettinesses of tribal
life--that these elder people perceived as a matter of fact and direct
consciousness the redeeming presence (within each unit-member of the
group) of the larger life to which he belonged. This larger life was a
reality--"a Presence to be felt and known"; and whether he called it by
the name of a Totem-animal, or by the name of a Nature-divinity, or
by the name of some gracious human-limbed God--some Hercules, Mithra,
Attis, Orpheus, or what-not--or even by the great name of Humanity
itself, it was still in any case the Saviour, the living incarnate Being
by the realization of whose presence the little mortal could be lifted
out of exile and error and death and suffering into splendor and life

It is impossible, I think, not to see that the myriad worship of
"Saviours" all over the world, from China to Peru, can only be
ascribed to the natural working of some such law of human and tribal
psychology--from earliest times and in all races the same--springing up
quite spontaneously and independently, and (so far) unaffected by the
mere contagion of local tradition. To suppose that the Devil, long
before the advent of Christianity, put the idea into the heads of all
these earlier folk, is really to pay TOO great a compliment both to the
power and the ingenuity of his Satanic Majesty--though the ingenuity
with which the early Church DID itself suppress all information about
these pre-Christian Saviours almost rivals that which it credited to
Satan! And on the other hand to suppose this marvellous and universal
consent of belief to have sprung by mere contagion from one accidental
source would seem equally far-fetched and unlikely.

But almost more remarkable than the world-encircling belief in
human-divine Saviours is the equally widespread legend of their birth
from Virgin-mothers. There is hardly a god--as we have already had
occasion to see--whose worship as a benefactor of mankind attained
popularity in any of the four continents, Europe, Asia, Africa and
America--who was not reported to have been born from a Virgin, or at
least from a mother who owed the Child not to any earthly father, but to
an impregnation from Heaven. And this seems at first sight all the more
astonishing because the belief in the possibility of such a thing is so
entirely out of the line of our modern thought. So that while it
would seem not unnatural that such a legend should have, sprung up
spontaneously in some odd benighted corner of the world, we find it
very difficult to understand how in that case it should have spread
so rapidly in every direction, or--if it did not spread--how we are
to account for its SPONTANEOUS appearance in all these widely sundered

I think here, and for the understanding of this problem, we are thrown
back upon a very early age of human evolution--the age of Magic. Before
any settled science or philosophy or religion existed, there were
still certain Things--and consequently also certain Words--which had
a tremendous influence on the human mind, which in fact affected it
deeply. Such a word, for instance, is 'Thunder'; to hear thunder, to
imitate it, even to mention it, are sure ways of rousing superstitious
attention and imagination. Such another word is 'Serpent,' another
'Tree,' and so forth. There is no one who is insensible to the
reverberation of these and other such words and images (1); and among
them, standing prominently out, are the two 'Mother' and 'Virgin.'
The word Mother touches the deepest springs of human feeling. As the
earliest word learnt and clung to by the child, it twines itself with
the heart-strings of the man even to his latest day. Nor must we forget
that in a primitive state of society (the Matriarchate) that influence
was probably even greater than now; for the father of the child being
(often as not) UNKNOWN the attachment to the mother was all the more
intense and undivided. The word Mother had a magic about it which has
remained even until to-day. But if that word rooted itself deep in the
heart of the Child, the other word 'virgin' had an obvious magic for
the full grown and sexually mature Man--a magic which it, too, has never

 (1) Nor is it difficult to see how out of the discreet use of
such words and images, combined with elementary forms like the square,
the triangle and the circle, and elementary numbers like 3, 4, 5, etc.,
quite a science, so to speak, of Magic arose.

There is ample evidence that one of the very earliest objects of human
worship was the Earth itself, conceived of as the fertile Mother of all
things. Gaia or Ge (the earth) had temples and altars in almost all the
cities of Greece. Rhea or Cybele, sprung from the Earth, was "mother of
all the gods." Demeter ("earth mother") was honored far and wide as the
gracious patroness of the crops and vegetation. Ceres, of course, the
same. Maia in the Indian mythology and Isis in the Egyptian are forms
of Nature and the Earth-spirit, represented as female; and so forth. The
Earth, in these ancient cults, was the mystic source of all life, and
to it, as a propitiation, life of all kinds was sacrificed. (There are
strange accounts of a huge fire being made, with an altar to Cybele in
the midst, and of deer and fawns and wild animals, and birds and sheep
and corn and fruits being thrown pell-mell into the flames. (1)) It was,
in a way, the most natural, as it seems to have been the earliest
and most spontaneous of cults--the worship of the Earth-mother,
the all-producing eternal source of life, and on account of her
never-failing ever-renewed fertility conceived of as an immortal Virgin.

 (1) See Pausanias iv. 32. 6; and Lucian, De Syria Dea, 49.

But when the Saviour-legend sprang up--as indeed I think it must
have sprung up, in tribe after tribe and people after people,
independently--then, whether it sprang from the divinization of some
actual man who showed the way of light and deliverance to his fellows
"sitting in darkness," or whether from the personification of the tribe
itself as a god, in either case the question of the hero's parentage was
bound to arise. If the 'saviour' was plainly a personification of the
tribe, it was obviously impossible to suppose him the son of a mortal
mother. In that case--and if the tribe was generally traced in the
legends to some primeval Animal or Mountain or thing of Nature--it was
probably easy to think of him (the saviour) as, born out of Nature's
womb, descended perhaps from that pure Virgin of the World who is
the Earth and Nature, who rules the skies at night, and stands in the
changing phases of the Moon, and is worshiped (as we have seen) in
the great constellation Virgo. If, on the other hand, he was the
divinization of some actual man, more or less known either personally
or by tradition to his fellows, then in all probability the name of his
mortal mother would be recognized and accepted; but as to his father,
that side of parentage being, as we have said, generally very uncertain,
it would be easy to suppose some heavenly Annunciation, the midnight
visit of a God, and what is usually termed a Virgin-birth.

There are two elements to be remembered here, as conspiring to this
conclusion. One is the condition of affairs in a remote matriarchial
period, when descent was reckoned always through the maternal line, and
the fatherhood in each generation was obscure or unknown or commonly
left out of account; and the other is the fact--so strange and difficult
for us to realize--that among some very primitive peoples, like the
Australian aborigines, the necessity for a woman to have intercourse
with a male, in order to bring about conception and child-birth, was
actually not recognized. Scientific observation had not always got as
far as that, and the matter was still under the domain of Magic! (1)
A Virgin-Mother was therefore a quite imaginable (not to say
'conceivable') thing; and indeed a very beautiful and fascinating thing,
combining in one image the potent magic of two very wonderful words.
It does not seem impossible that considerations of this kind led to the
adoption of the doctrine or legend of the virgin-mother and the heavenly
father among so many races and in so many localities--even without any
contagion of tradition among them.

 (1) Probably the long period (nine months) elapsing between
cohabitation and childbirth confused early speculation on the subject.
Then clearly cohabitation was NOT always followed by childbirth. And,
more important still, the number of virgins of a mature age in primitive
societies was so very minute that the fact of their childlessness
attracted no attention--whereas in OUR societies the sterility of the
whole class is patent to everyone.

Anyhow, and as a matter of fact, the world-wide dissemination of the
legend is most remarkable. Zeus, Father of the gods, visited Semele, it
will be remembered, in the form of a thunderstorm; and she gave birth to
the great saviour and deliverer Dionysus. Zeus, again, impregnated Danae
in a shower of gold; and the child was Perseus, who slew the Gorgons
(the powers of darkness) and saved Andromeda (the human soul (1)).
Devaki, the radiant Virgin of the Hindu mythology, became the wife
of the god Vishnu and bore Krishna, the beloved hero and prototype of
Christ. With regard to Buddha St. Jerome says (2) "It is handed down
among the Gymnosophists, of India that Buddha, the founder of their
system, was brought forth by a Virgin from her side." The Egyptian Isis,
with the child Horus, on her knee, was honored centuries before the
Christian era, and worshiped under the names of "Our Lady," "Queen of
Heaven," "Star of the Sea," "Mother of God," and so forth. Before her,
Neith, the Virgin of the World, whose figure bends from the sky over the
earthly plains and the children of men, was acclaimed as mother of the
great god Osiris. The saviour Mithra, too, was born of a Virgin, as we
have had occasion to notice before; and on the Mithrais monuments the
mother suckling her child is a not uncommon figure. (3)

 (1) For this interpretation of the word Andromeda see The Perfect
Way by Edward Maitland, preface to First Edition, 1881.

 (2) Contra Jovian, Book I; and quoted by Rhys Davids in his

 (3) See Doane's Bible Myths, p. 332, and Dupuis' Origins of
Religious Beliefs.

The old Teutonic goddess Hertha (the Earth) was a Virgin, but was
impregnated by the heavenly Spirit (the Sky); and her image with a child
in her arms was to be seen in the sacred groves of Germany. (1) The
Scandinavian Frigga, in much the same way, being caught in the embraces
of Odin, the All-father, conceived and bore a son, the blessed Balder,
healer and saviour of mankind. Quetzalcoatl, the (crucified) saviour of
the Aztecs, was the son of Chimalman, the Virgin Queen of Heaven. (2)
Even the Chinese had a mother-goddess and virgin with child in her arms
(3); and the ancient Etruscans the same. (4)

 (1) R. P. Knight's Ancient Art and Mythology, p. 21.

 (2) See Kingsborough's Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi, p. 176,
where it is said "an ambassador was sent from heaven on an embassy to a
Virgin of Tulan, called Chimalman... announcing that it was the will
of the God that she should conceive a son; and having delivered her the
message he rose and left the house; and as soon as he had left it
she conceived a son, without connection with man, who was called
Quetzalcoat, who they say is the god of air." Further, it is explained
that Quetzalcoatl sacrificed himself, drawing forth his own blood with
thorns; and that the word Quetzalcoatlotopitzin means "our well-beloved

 (3) Doane, p. 327.

 (4) See Inman's Pagan and Christian Symbolism, p. 27.

Finally, we have the curiously large number of BLACK virgin mothers
who are or have been worshiped. Not only cases like Devaki the Indian
goddess, or Isis the Egyptian, who would naturally appear black-skinned
or dark; but the large number of images and paintings of the same
kind, yet extant--especially in the Italian churches--and passing for
representations of Mary and the infant Jesus. Such are the well-known
image in the chapel at Loretto, and images and paintings besides in the
churches at Genoa, Pisa, Padua, Munich and other places. It is difficult
not to regard these as very old Pagan or pre-Christian relics which
lingered on into Christian times and were baptized anew--as indeed
we know many relics and images actually were--into the service of the
Church. "Great is Diana of the Ephesians"; and there is I believe more
than one black figure extant of this Diana, who, though of course a
virgin, is represented with innumerable breasts (1)--not unlike some of
the archaic statues of Artemis and Isis. At Paris, far on into Christian
times there was, it is said, on the site of the present Cathedral of
Notre Dame, a Temple dedicated to 'our Lady' Isis; and images belonging
to the earlier shrine would in all probability be preserved with altered
name in the later.

 (1) See illustration, p. 30, in Inman's Pagan and Christian

All this illustrates not only the wide diffusion of the doctrine of the
Virgin-mother, but its extreme antiquity. The subject is obscure, and
worthy of more consideration than has yet been accorded it; and I do not
feel able to add anything to the tentative explanations given a page or
two back, except perhaps to suppose that the vision of the Perfect Man
hovered dimly over the mind of the human race on its first emergence
from the purely animal stage; and that a quite natural speculation
with regard to such a being was that he would be born from a Perfect
Woman--who according to early ideas would necessarily be the Virgin
Earth itself, mother of all things. Anyhow it was a wonderful Intuition,
slumbering as it would seem in the breast of early man, that the Great
Earth after giving birth to all living creatures would at last bring
forth a Child who should become the Saviour of the human race.

There is of course the further theory, entertained by some, that
virgin-parturition--a kind of Parthenogenesis--has as a matter of fact
occasionally occurred among mortal women, and even still does occur. I
should be the last to deny the POSSIBILITY of this (or of anything else
in Nature), but, seeing the immense difficulties in the way of PROOF
of any such asserted case, and the absence so far of any thoroughly
attested and verified instance, it would, I think, be advisable to leave
this theory out of account at present.

But whether any of the EXPLANATIONS spoken of are right or wrong,
and whatever explanation we adopt, there remains the FACT of the
universality over the world of this legend--affording another instance
of the practical solidarity and continuity of the Pagan Creeds with


It is unnecessary to labor the conclusion of the last two or three
chapters, namely that Christianity grew out of the former Pagan Creeds
and is in its general outlook and origins continuous and of one piece
with them. I have not attempted to bring together ALL the evidence
in favor of this contention, as such work would be too vast, but more
illustrations of its truth will doubtless occur to readers, or will
emerge as we proceed.

I think we may take it as proved (1) that from the earliest ages, and
before History, a great body of religious belief and ritual--first
appearing among very primitive and unformed folk, whom we should call
'savages'--has come slowly down, broadening and differentiating itself
on the way into a great variety of forms, but embodying always certain
main ideas which became in time the accepted doctrines of the later
Churches--the Indian, the Egyptian, the Mithraic, the Christian, and
so forth. What these ideas in their general outline have been we can
perhaps best judge from our "Apostles' Creed," as it is recited every
Sunday in our churches.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in
Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified,
dead and buried. He descended into Hell; the third day he rose again
from the dead, He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick
and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the
communion of Saints; the Forgiveness of sins; the Resurrection of the
body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

Here we have the All-Father and Creator, descending from the Sky in the
form of a spirit to impregnate the earthly Virgin-mother, who thus gives
birth to a Saviour-hero. The latter is slain by the powers of Evil, is
buried and descends into the lower world, but arises again as God
into heaven and becomes the leader and judge of mankind. We have the
confirmation of the Church (or, in earlier times, of the Tribe) by means
of a Eucharist or Communion which binds together all the members, living
or dead, and restores errant individuals through the Sacrifice of the
hero and the Forgiveness of their sins; and we have the belief in a
bodily Resurrection and continued life of the members within the fold of
the Church (or Tribe), itself regarded as eternal.

One has only, instead of the word 'Jesus,' to read Dionysus or Krishna
or Hercules or Osiris or Attis, and instead of 'Mary' to insert Semele
or Devaki or Alcmene or Neith or Nana, and for Pontius Pilate to use the
name of any terrestrial tyrant who comes into the corresponding story,
and lo! the creed fits in all particulars into the rites and worship of
a pagan god. I need not enlarge upon a thesis which is self-evident
from all that has gone before. I do not say, of course, that ALL
the religious beliefs of Paganism are included and summarized in our
Apostles' Creed, for--as I shall have occasion to note in the next
chapter--I think some very important religious elements are there
OMITTED; but I do think that all the beliefs which ARE summarized in the
said creed had already been fully represented and elaborately expressed
in the non-Christian religions and rituals of Paganism.

Further (2) I think we may safely say that there is no certain proof
that the body of beliefs just mentioned sprang from any one particular
centre far back and radiated thence by dissemination and mental
contagion over the rest of the world; but the evidence rather shows that
these beliefs were, for the most part, the SPONTANEOUS outgrowths
(in various localities) of the human mind at certain stages of its
evolution; that they appeared, in the different races and peoples, at
different periods according to the degree of evolution, and were largely
independent of intercourse and contagion, though of course, in cases,
considerably influenced by it; and that one great and all-important
occasion and provocative of these beliefs was actually the RISE OF
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS--that is, the coming of the mind to a more or
less distinct awareness of itself and of its own operation, and
the consequent development and growth of Individualism, and of the
Self-centred attitude in human thought and action.

In the third place (3) I think we may see--and this is the special
subject of the present chapter--that at a very early period, when
humanity was hardly capable of systematic expression in what we call
Philosophy or Science, it could not well rise to an ordered and literary
expression of its beliefs, such as we find in the later religions
and the 'Churches' (Babylonian, Jewish, East Indian, Christian, or
what-not), and yet that it FELT these beliefs very intensely and was
urged, almost compelled, to their utterance in some form or other. And
so it came about that people expressed themselves in a vast mass of
ritual and myth--customs, ceremonies, legends, stories--which on account
of their popular and concrete form were handed down for generations, and
some of which linger on still in the midst of our modern civilization.
These rituals and legends were, many of them, absurd enough, rambling
and childish in character, and preposterous in conception, yet they gave
the expression needed; and some of them of course, as we have seen, were
full of meaning and suggestion.

A critical and commercial Civilization, such as ours, in which
(notwithstanding much TALK about Art) the artistic sense is greatly
lacking, or at any rate but little diffused, does not as a rule
understand that poetic RITES, in the evolution of peoples, came
naturally before anything like ordered poems or philosophy or
systematized VIEWS about life and religion--such as WE love to wallow
in! Things were FELT before they were spoken. The loading of diseases
into disease-boats, of sins onto scape-goats, the propitiation of the
forces of nature by victims, human or animal, sacrifices, ceremonies of
re-birth, eucharistic feasts, sexual communions, orgiastic celebrations
of the common life, and a host of other things--all SAID plainly enough
what was meant, but not in WORDS. Partly no doubt it was that at some
early time words were more difficult of command and less flexible in use
than actions (and at all times are they not less expressive?). Partly it
was that mankind was in the child-stage. The Child delights in ritual,
in symbol, in expression through material objects and actions:

      See, at his feet some little plan or chart,
      Some fragment from his dream of human life,
      Shaped by himself with newly learned art;
          A wedding or a festival,
          A mourning or a funeral;
               And this hath now his heart.

And primitive man in the child-stage felt a positive joy in ritual
celebrations, and indulged in expressions which we but little
understand; for these had then his heart.

One of the most pregnant of these expressions was DANCING. Children
dance instinctively. They dance with rage; they dance with joy, with
sheer vitality; they dance with pain, or sometimes with savage glee at
the suffering of others; they delight in mimic combats, or in animal
plays and disguises. There are such things as Courting-dances, when
the mature male and female go through a ritual together--not only in
civilized ball-rooms and the back-parlors of inns, but in the farmyards
where the rooster pays his addresses to the hen, or the yearling bull
to the cow--with quite recognized formalities; there are elaborate
ceremonials performed by the Australian bower-birds and many other
animals. All these things--at any rate in children and animals--come
before speech; and anyhow we may say that LOVE-RITES, even in mature
and civilized man, hardly ADMIT of speech. Words only vulgarize love and
blunt its edge.

So Dance to the savage and the early man was not merely an amusement or
a gymnastic exercise (as the books often try to make out), but it was
also a serious and intimate part of life, an expression of religion and
the relation of man to non-human Powers. Imagine a young dancer--and
the admitted age for ritual dancing was commonly from about eighteen
to thirty--coming forward on the dancing-ground or platform for the
INVOCATION OF RAIN. We have unfortunately no kinematic records, but it
is not impossible or very difficult to imagine the various gestures
and movements which might be considered appropriate to such a rite in
different localities or among different peoples. A modern student of
Dalcroze Eurhythmics would find the problem easy. After a time a certain
ritual dance (for rain) would become stereotyped and generally adopted.
Or imagine a young Greek leading an invocation to Apollo to STAY SOME
PLAGUE which was ravaging the country. He might as well be accompanied
by a small body of co-dancers; but he would be the leader and chief
representative. Or it might be a WAR-DANCE--as a more or less magical
preparation for the raid or foray. We are familiar enough with accounts
of war-dances among American Indians. C. O. Muller in his History and
Antiquities of the Doric Race (1) gives the following account of the
Pyrrhic dance among the Greeks, which was danced in full armor:--"Plato
says that it imitated all the attitudes of defence, by avoiding a thrust
or a cast, retreating, springing up, and crouching-as also the opposite
movements of attack with arrows and lances, and also of every kind of
thrust. So strong was the attachment to this dance at Sparta that, long
after it had in the other Greek states degenerated into a Bacchanalian
revel, it was still danced by the Spartans as a warlike exercise, and
boys of fifteen were instructed in it." Of the Hunting-dance I have
already given instances. (2) It always had the character of Magic about
it, by which the game or quarry might presumably be influenced; and it
can easily be understood that if the Hunt was not successful the blame
might well be attributed to some neglect of the usual ritual mimes or
movements--no laughing matter for the leader of the dance.

 (1) Book IV, ch. 6, Section 7.

 (2) See also Winwood Reade's Savage Africa, ch. xviii, in which
he speaks of the "gorilla dance," before hunting gorillas, as a
"religious festival."

Or there were dances belonging to the ceremonies of Initiation--dances
both by the initiators and the initiated. Jane E. Harrison in Themis (p.
24) says, "Instruction among savage peoples is always imparted in more
or less mimetic dances. At initiation you learn certain dances which
confer on you definite social status. When a man is too old to dance,
he hands over his dance to another and a younger, and he then among
some tribes ceases to exist socially.... The dances taught to boys at
initiation are frequently if not always ARMED dances. These are not
necessarily warlike. The accoutrement of spear and shield was in part
decorative, in part a provision for making the necessary hubbub." (Here
Miss Harrison reproduces a photograph of an Initiation dance among the
Akikuyu of British East Africa.) The Initiation-dances blend insensibly
and naturally with the Mystery and Religion dances, for indeed
initiation was for the most part an instruction in the mysteries and
social rites of the Tribe. They were the expression of things which
would be hard even for us, and which for rude folk would be impossible,
to put into definite words. Hence arose the expression--whose meaning
has been much discussed by the learned--"to dance out ([gr ezorceisqai])
a mystery." (1) Lucian, in a much-quoted passage, (2) observes: "You
cannot find a single ancient mystery in which there is not dancing ...
and this much all men know, that most people say of the revealers of the
mysteries that they 'dance them out.'" Andrew Lang, commenting on this
passage, (3) continues: "Clement of Alexandria uses the same term when
speaking of his own 'appalling revelations.' So closely connected are
mysteries with dancing among savages that when Mr. Orpen asked Qing, the
Bushman hunter, about some doctrines in which Qing was not initiated,
he said: 'Only the initiated men of that dance know these things.' To
'dance' this or that means to be acquainted with this or that
myth, which is represented in a dance or ballet d'action. So widely
distributed is the practice that Acosta in an interesting passage
mentions it as familiar to the people of Peru before and after the
Spanish conquest." (And we may say that when the 'mysteries' are of a
sexual nature it can easily be understood that to 'dance them out' is
the only way of explaining them!)

 (1) Meaning apparently either simply to represent, or, sometimes
to DIVULGE, a mystery.

 (2) [gr peri 'Orchsews], Ch. xv. 277.

 (3) Myth, Ritual and Religion, i, 272.

Thus we begin to appreciate the serious nature and the importance of the
dance among primitive folk. To dub a youth "a good dancer" is to pay him
a great compliment. Among the well-known inscriptions on the rocks in
the island of Thera in the Aegean sea there are many which record in
deeply graven letters the friendship and devotion to each other of
Spartan warrior-comrades; it seems strange at first to find how often
such an epithet of praise occurs as Bathycles DANCES WELL, Eumelos is
a PERFECT DANCER ([gr aristos orcestas]). One hardly in general expects
one warrior to praise another for his dancing! But when one realizes
what is really meant--namely the fitness of the loved comrade to lead in
religious and magical rituals--then indeed the compliment takes on a
new complexion. Religious dances, in dedication to a god, have of course
been honored in every country. Muller, in the work just cited, (1)
describes a lively dance called the hyporchema which, accompanied by
songs, was used in the worship of Apollo. "In this, besides the chorus
of singers who usually danced around THE BLAZING ALTAR, several persons
were appointed to accompany the action of the poem with an appropriate
pantomimic display." It was probably some similar dance which is
recorded in Exodus, ch. xxxii, when Aaron made the Israelites a golden
Calf (image of the Egyptian Apis). There was an altar and a fire and
burnt offerings for sacrifice, and the people dancing around. Whether in
the Apollo ritual the dancers were naked I cannot say, but in the affair
of the golden Calf they evidently were, for it will be remembered that
it was just this which upset Moses' equanimity so badly--"when he SAW
THAT THE PEOPLE WERE NAKED"--and led to the breaking of the two tables
of stone and the slaughter of some thousands of folk. It will be
remembered also that David on a sacrificial occasion danced naked before
the Lord. (2)

 (1) Book II, ch. viii, Section 14.

 (2) 2 Sam. vi.

It may seem strange that dances in honor of a god should be held naked;
but there is abundant evidence that this was frequently the case, and it
leads to an interesting speculation. Many of these rituals undoubtedly
owed their sanctity and solemnity to their extreme antiquity. They came
down in fact from very far back times when the average man or woman--as
in some of the Central African tribes to-day--wore simply nothing at
all; and like all religious ceremonies they tended to preserve their
forms long after surrounding customs and conditions had altered.
Consequently nakedness lingered on in sacrificial and other rites into
periods when in ordinary life it had come to be abandoned or thought
indecent and shameful. This comes out very clearly in both instances
above--quoted from the Bible. For in Exodus xxxii. 25 it is said that
"Aaron had made them (the dancers) naked UNTO THEIR SHAME among their
enemies (READ opponents)," and in 2 Sam. vi. 20 we are told that Michal
came out and sarcastically rebuked the "glorious king of Israel" for
"shamelessly uncovering himself, like a vain fellow" (for which rebuke,
I am sorry to say, David took a mean revenge on Michal). In both cases
evidently custom had so far changed that to a considerable section of
the population these naked exhibitions had become indecent, though as
parts of an acknowledged ritual they were still retained and supported
by others. The same conclusion may be derived from the commands recorded
in Exodus xx. 26 and xxviii. 42, that the priests be not "uncovered"
before the altar--commands which would hardly have been needed had not
the practice been in vogue.

Then there were dances (partly magical or religious) performed at rustic
and agricultural festivals, like the Epilenios, celebrated in Greece at
the gathering of the grapes. (1) Of such a dance we get a glimpse in the
Bible (Judges xxi. 20) when the elders advised the children of Benjamin
to go out and lie in wait in the vineyards, at the time of the yearly
feast; and "when the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the
dances, then come ye out of the vineyards and catch you every man a wife
from the daughters of Shiloh"--a touching example apparently of early
so-called 'marriage by capture'! Or there were dances, also partly or
originally religious, of a quite orgiastic and Bacchanalian character,
like the Bryallicha performed in Sparta by men and women in hideous
masks, or the Deimalea by Sileni and Satyrs waltzing in a circle; or the
Bibasis carried out by both men and women--a quite gymnastic exercise in
which the performers took a special pride in striking their own buttocks
with their heels! or others wilder still, which it would perhaps not be
convenient to describe.

 (1) [gr Epilhnioi umnoi]:  hymns sung over the winepress

We must see how important a part Dancing played in that great panorama
of Ritual and Religion (spoken of in the last chapter) which, having
originally been led up to by the 'Fall of Man,' has ever since the dawn
of history gradually overspread the world with its strange procession of
demons and deities, and its symbolic representations of human destiny.
When it is remembered that ritual dancing was the matrix out of which
the Drama sprang, and further that the drama in its inception (as still
to-day in India) was an affair of religion and was acted in, or in
connection with, the Temples, it becomes easier to understand how all
this mass of ceremonial sacrifices, expiations, initiations, Sun and
Nature festivals, eucharistic and orgiastic communions and celebrations,
mystery-plays, dramatic representations, myths and legends, etc., which
I have touched upon in the preceding chapters--together with all the
emotions, the desires, the fears, the yearnings and the wonderment which
they represented--have practically sprung from the same root: a root
deep and necessary in the psychology of Man. Presently I hope to show
that they will all practically converge again in the end to one meaning,
and prepare the way for one great Synthesis to come--an evolution also
necessary and inevitable in human psychology.

In that truly inspired Ode from which I quoted a few pages back, occur
those well-known words whose repetition now will, on account of their
beauty, I am sure be excused:--

      Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
      The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting,
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
      But trailing clouds of glory do we come
          From God, who is our home:
      Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
      Shades of the prison-house begin to close
          Upon the growing Boy,
      But He beholds the light and whence it flows
          He sees it in his joy;
      The youth who daily farther from the east
          Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
          And by the vision splendid
          Is on his way attended;
      At length the man perceives it die away
      And fade into the light of common day.

Wordsworth--though he had not the inestimable advantage of a
nineteenth-century education and the inheritance of the Darwinian
philosophy--does nevertheless put the matter of the Genius of the Child
in a way which (with the alteration of a few conventional terms) we
scientific moderns are quite inclined to accept. We all admit now that
the Child does not come into the world with a mental tabula rasa of
entire forgetfulness but on the contrary as the possessor of vast stores
of sub-conscious memory, derived from its ancestral inheritances; we
all admit that a certain grace and intuitive insight and even prophetic
quality, in the child-nature, are due to the harmonization of these
racial inheritances in the infant, even before it is born; and that
after birth the impact of the outer world serves rather to break up
and disintegrate this harmony than to confirm and strengthen it. Some
psychologists indeed nowadays go so far as to maintain that the child
is not only 'Father of the man,' but superior to the man, (1) and that
Boyhood and Youth and Maturity are attained to not by any addition but
by a process of loss and subtraction. It will be seen that the last ten
lines of the above quotation rather favor this view.

 (1) "Man in the course of his life falls away more and more from
the specifically HUMAN type of his early years, but the Ape in the
course of his short life goes very much farther along the road of
degradation and premature senility." (Man and Woman, by Havelock Ellis,
p. 24).

But my object in making the quotation was not to insist on the truth
of its application to the individual Child, but rather to point out
the remarkable way in which it illustrates what I have said about the
Childhood of the Race. In fact, if the quotation be read over again with
this interpretation (which I do not say Wordsworth intended) that
the 'birth' spoken of is the birth or evolution of the distinctively
self-conscious Man from the Animals and the animal-natured,
unself-conscious human beings of a preceding age, then the parable
unfolds itself perfectly naturally and convincingly. THAT birth
certainly was sleep and a forgetting; the grace and intuition and
instinctive perfection of the animals was lost. But the forgetfulness
was not entire; the memory lingered long of an age of harmony, of an
Eden-garden left behind. And trailing clouds of this remembrance
the first tribal men, on the edge of but not yet WITHIN the
civilization-period, appear in the dawn of History.

As I have said before, the period of the dawn of Self-consciousness was
also the period of the dawn of the practical and inquiring Intellect; it
was the period of the babyhood of both; and so we perceive among these
early people (as we also do among children) that while in the main the
heart and the intuitions were right, the intellect was for a long period
futile and rambling to a degree. As soon as the mind left the ancient
bases of instinct and sub-conscious racial experience it fell into
a hopeless bog, out of which it only slowly climbed by means of the
painfully-gathered stepping-stones of logic and what we call Science.
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy." Wordsworth perceived that
wonderful world of inner experience and glory out of which the child
emerges; and some even of us may perceive that similar world in which
the untampered animals STILL dwell, and OUT of which self-regarding Man
in the history of the race was long ago driven. But a curse went
with the exile. As the Brain grew, the Heart withered. The inherited
instincts and racially accumulated wisdom, on which the first men
thrived and by means of which they achieved a kind of temporary
Paradise, were broken up; delusions and disease and dissension set
in. Cain turned upon his brother and slew him; and the shades of the
prison-house began to close. The growing Boy, however, (by whom we may
understand the early tribes of Mankind) had yet a radiance of Light and
joy in his life; and the Youth--though travelling daily farther from the
East--still remained Nature's priest, and by the vision splendid was on
his way attended: but

     At length the Man perceived it die away.
     And fade into the light of common day.

What a strangely apt picture in a few words (if we like to take it
so) of the long pilgrimage of the Human Race, its early and pathetic
clinging to the tradition of the Eden-garden, its careless and vigorous
boyhood, its meditative youth, with consciousness of sin and endless
expiatory ritual in Nature's bosom, its fleeting visions of
salvation, and finally its complete disillusionment and despair in the
world-slaughter and unbelief of the twentieth century!

Leaving Wordsworth, however, and coming back to our main line of
thought, we may point out that while early peoples were intellectually
mere babies--with their endless yarns about heroes on horseback leaping
over wide rivers or clouds of monks flying for hundreds of miles
through the air, and their utter failure to understand the general
concatenations of cause and effect--yet practically and in their
instinct of life and destiny they were, as I have already said, by no
means fools; certainly not such fools as many of the arm-chair students
of these things delight to represent them. For just as, a few years
ago, we modern civilizees studying outlying nations, the Chinese for
instance, rejoiced (in our vanity) to pick out every quaint peculiarity
and absurdity and monstrosity of a supposed topsyturvydom, and failed
entirely to see the real picture of a great and eminently sensible
people; so in the case of primitive men we have been, and even still
are, far too prone to catalogue their cruelties and obscenities and
idiotic superstitions, and to miss the sane and balanced setting of
their actual lives.

Mr. R. R. Marett, who has a good practical acquaintance with his
subject, had in the Hibbert Journal for October 1918 an article on "The
Primitive Medicine Man" in which he shows that the latter is as a rule
anything but a fool and a knave--although like 'medicals' in all ages he
hocuspocuses his patients occasionally! He instances the medicine-man's
excellent management, in most cases, of childbirth, or of wounds and
fractures, or his primeval skill in trepanning or trephining--all of
which operations, he admits, may be accompanied with grotesque and
superstitious ceremonies, yet show real perception and ability. We all
know--though I think the article does not mention the matter--what a
considerable list there is of drugs and herbs which the modern art of
healing owes to the ancient medicine-man, and it may be again mentioned
that one of the most up-to-date treatments--the use of a prolonged and
exclusive diet of MILK as a means of giving the organism a new start
in severe cases--has really come down to us through the ages from this
early source. (1) The real medicine-man, Mr. Marett says, is largely
a 'faith-healer' and 'soul-doctor'; he believes in his vocation, and
undergoes much for the sake of it: "The main point is to grasp that by
his special initiation and the rigid taboos which he practises--not to
speak of occasional remarkable gifts, say of trance and ecstasy, which
he may inherit by nature and have improved by art--he HAS access to a
wonder-working power.... And the great need of primitive folk is for
this healer of souls." Our author further insists on the enormous play
and influence of Fear in the savage mind--a point we have touched on
already--and gives instances of Thanatomania, or cases where, after a
quite slight and superficial wound, the patient becomes so depressed
that he, quite needlessly, persists in dying! Such cases, obviously,
can only be countered by Faith, or something (whatever it may be) which
restores courage, hope and energy to the mind. Nor need I point out
that the situation is exactly the same among a vast number of 'patients'
to-day. As to the value, in his degree, of the medicine-man many modern
observers and students quite agree with the above. (2) Also as the
present chapter is on Ritual Dancing it may not be out of place to call
attention to the supposed healing of sick people in Ceylon and other
places by Devil-dancing--the enormous output of energy and noise in the
ritual possibly having the effect of reanimating the patient (if it does
not kill him), or of expelling the disease from his organism.

 (1) Milk ("fast-milk" or vrata) was, says Mr. Hewitt, the only
diet in the Soma-sacrifice. See Ruling Races of Prehistoric Times
(preface). The Soma itself was a fermented drink prepared with ceremony
from the milky and semen-like sap of certain plants, and much used in
sacrificial offerings. (See Monier-Williams. Sanskrit Dictionary.)

 (2) See Winwood Reade (Savage Africa), Salamon Reinach (Cults,
Myths and Religions), and others.

With regard to the practical intelligence of primitive peoples,
derived from their close contact with life and nature, Bishop Colenso's
experiences among the Zulus may appropriately be remembered. When
expounding the Bible to these supposedly backward 'niggers' he was met
at all points by practical interrogations and arguments which he was
perfectly unable to answer--especially over the recorded passage of the
Red Sea by the Israelites in a single night. From the statistics given
in the Sacred Book these naughty savages proved to him absolutely
conclusively that the numbers of fugitives were such that even supposing
them to have marched--men, women and children--FIVE ABREAST and in close
order, they would have formed a column 100 miles long, and this
not including the baggage, sheep and cattle! Of course the feat was
absolutely impossible. They could not have passed the Red Sea in a night
or a week of nights.

But the sequel is still more amusing and instructive. Colenso, in his
innocent sincerity, took the side of the Zulus, and feeling sure the
Church at home would be quite glad to have its views with regard to
the accuracy of Bible statistics corrected, wrote a book embodying the
amendments needed. Modest as his criticisms were, they raised a STORM of
protest and angry denunciation, which even led to his deposition for the
time being from his bishopric! While at the same time an avalanche of
books to oppose his heresy poured forth from the press. Lately I had the
curiosity to look through the British Museum catalogue and found that
in refutation of Colenso's Pentateuch Examined some 140 (a hundred and
forty) volumes were at that time published! To-day, I need hardly
say, all these arm-chair critics and their works have sunk into utter
obscurity, but the arguments of the Zulus and their Bishop still stand
unmoved and immovable.

This is a case of searching intelligence shown by 'savages,' an
intelligence founded on intimate knowledge of the needs of actual
life. I think we may say that a similarly instinctive intelligence
(sub-conscious if you like) has guided the tribes of men on the whole
in their long passage through the Red Sea of the centuries, from those
first days of which I speak even down to the present age, and has in
some strange, even if fitful, way kept them along the path of that final
emancipation towards which Humanity is inevitably moving.


In the course of the last few chapters I have spoken more than once
of the solidarity and continuity of Christianity, in its essential
doctrines, with the Pagan rites. There is, however, one notable
exception to this statement. I refer of course to Christianity's
treatment of Sex. It is certainly very remarkable that while the Pagan
cults generally made a great deal of all sorts of sex-rites, laid much
stress upon them, and introduced them in what we consider an unblushing
and shameless way into the instincts connected with it. I say 'the
Christian Church,' on the whole took quite the opposite line--ignored
sex, condemned it, and did much despite to the perfectly natural
instincts connected with it. I say 'the Christian Church,' because
there is nothing to show that Jesus himself (if we admit his figure as
historical) adopted any such extreme or doctrinaire attitude; and the
quite early Christian teachers (with the chief exception of Paul) do not
exhibit this bias to any great degree. In fact, as is well known, strong
currents of pagan usage and belief ran through the Christian assemblies
of the first three or four centuries. "The Christian art of this period
remained delightfully pagan. In the catacombs we see the Saviour as a
beardless youth, like a young Greek god; sometimes represented, like
Hermes the guardian of the flocks, bearing a ram or lamb round his neck;
sometimes as Orpheus tuning his lute among the wild animals." (1)
The followers of Jesus were at times even accused--whether rightly
or wrongly I know not--of celebrating sexual mysteries at their
love-feasts. But as the Church through the centuries grew in power and
scope--with its monks and their mutilations and asceticisms, and its
celibate clergy, and its absolute refusal to recognize the sexual
meaning of its own acclaimed symbols (like the Cross, the three fingers
of Benediction, the Fleur de Lys and so forth)--it more and more
consistently defined itself as anti-sexual in its outlook, and stood out
in that way in marked contrast to the earlier Nature-religions.

 (1) Angels' Wings, by E. Carpenter, p. 104.

It may be said of course that this anti-sexual tendency can be traced in
other of the pre-Christian Churches, especially the later ones, like the
Buddhist, the Egyptian, and so forth; and this is perfectly true; but it
would seem that in many ways the Christian Church marked the culmination
of the tendency; and the fact that other cults participated in the taboo
makes us all the more ready and anxious to inquire into its real cause.

To go into a disquisition on the Sex-rites of the various pre-Christian
religions would be 'a large order'--larger than I could attempt to fill;
but the general facts in this connection are fairly patent. We know,
of course, from the Bible that the Syrians in Palestine were given to
sexual worships. There were erect images (phallic) and "groves" (sexual
symbols) on every high hill and under every green tree; (1) and these
same images and the rites connected with them crept into the Jewish
Temple and were popular enough to maintain their footing there for a
long period from King Rehoboam onwards, notwithstanding the efforts of
Josiah (2) and other reformers to extirpate them. Moreover there were
girls and men (hierodouloi) regularly attached during this period to
the Jewish Temple as to the heathen Temples, for the rendering of sexual
services, which were recognized in many cases as part of the ritual.
Women were persuaded that it was an honor and a privilege to be
fertilized by a 'holy man' (a priest or other man connected with the
rites), and children resulting from such unions were often called
"Children of God"--an appellation which no doubt sometimes led to a
legend of miraculous birth! Girls who took their place as hierodouloi in
the Temple or Temple-precincts were expected to surrender themselves
to men-worshipers in the Temple, much in the same way, probably, as
Herodotus describes in the temple of the Babylonian Venus Mylitta, where
every native woman, once in her life, was supposed to sit in the Temple
and have intercourse with some stranger. (3) Indeed the Syrian and
Jewish rites dated largely from Babylonia. "The Hebrews entering
Syria," says Richard Burton (4) "found it religionized by Assyria and
Babylonia, when the Accadian Ishtar had passed West, and had become
Ashtoreth, Ashtaroth, or Ashirah, the Anaitis of Armenia, the Phoenician
Astarte, and the Greek Aphrodite, the great Moon-goddess who is queen of
Heaven and Love." The word translated "grove" as above, in our Bible,
is in fact Asherah, which connects it pretty clearly with the Babylonian
Queen of Heaven.

 (1) 1 Kings xiv. 22-24.

 (2) 2 Kings xxiii.

 (3) See Herodotus i. 199; also a reference to this custom in the
apocryphal Baruch, vi. 42, 43.

 (4) The Thousand Nights and a Night (1886 edn.), vol. x, p. 229.

In India again, in connection with the Hindu Temples and their rites,
we have exactly the same institution of girls attached to the Temple
service--the Nautch-girls--whose functions in past times were certainly
sexual, and whose dances in honor of the god are, even down to the
present day, decidedly amatory in character. Then we have the very
numerous lingams (conventional representations of the male organ) to
be seen, scores and scores of them, in the arcades and cloisters of the
Hindu Temples--to which women of all classes, especially those who
wish to become mothers, resort, anointing them copiously with oil, and
signalizing their respect and devotion to them in a very practical
way. As to the lingam as representing the male organ, in some form or
other--as upright stone or pillar or obelisk or slender round tower--it
occurs all over the world, notably in Ireland, and forms such a
memorial of the adoration paid by early folk to the great emblem and
instrument of human fertility, as cannot be mistaken. The pillars set
up by Solomon in front of his temple were obviously from their
names--Jachin and Boaz (1)--meant to be emblems of this kind; and the
fact that they were crowned with pomegranates--the universally accepted
symbol of the female--confirms and clinches this interpretation. The
obelisks before the Egyptians' temples were signs of the same character.
The well-known T-shaped cross was in use in pagan lands long before
Christianity, as a representation of the male member, and also at the
same time of the 'tree' on which the god (Attis or Adonis or Krishna or
whoever it might be) was crucified; and the same symbol combined with
the oval (or yoni) formed THE Crux Ansata {Ankh} of the old Egyptian
ritual--a figure which is to-day sold in Cairo as a potent charm, and
confessedly indicates the conjunction of the two sexes in one design.
(2) MacLennan in The Fortnightly Review (Oct. 1869) quotes with approval
the words of Sanchoniathon, as saying that "men first worship plants,
next the heavenly bodies, supposed to be animals, then 'pillars'
(emblems of the Procreator), and last, the anthropomorphic gods."

 (1) "He shall establish" and "In it is strength" are in the Bible
the marginal interpretations of these two words.

 (2) The connection between the production of fire by means of the
fire-drill and the generation of life by sex-intercourse is a very
obvious one, and lends itself to magical ideas. J. E. Hewitt in his
Ruling Races of Prehistoric Times (1894) says (vol. i, p. 8) that
"Magha, the mother-goddess worshipped in Asia Minor, was originally the
socket-block from which fire was generated by the fire-drill." Hence we
have, he says, the Magi of Persia, and the Maghadas of Indian History,
also the word "Magic."

It is not necessary to enlarge on this subject. The facts of the
connection of sexual rites with religious services nearly everywhere in
the early world are, as I say, sufficiently patent to every inquirer.
But it IS necessary to try to understand the rationale of this
connection. To dispatch all such cases under the mere term "religious
prostitution" is no explanation. The term suggests, of course, that the
plea of religion was used simply as an excuse and a cover for sexual
familiarities; but though this kind of explanation commends itself,
no doubt, to the modern man--whose religion is as commercial as his
sex-relationships are--and though in CASES no doubt it was a true
explanation--yet it is obvious that among people who took religion
seriously, as a matter of life and death and who did not need
hypocritical excuses or covers for sex-relationships, it cannot be
accepted as in general the RIGHT explanation. No, the real explanation
is--and I will return to this presently--that sexual relationships are
so deep and intimate a part of human nature that from the first it has
been simply impossible to keep them OUT of religion--it being of
course the object of religion to bring the whole human being into
some intelligible relation with the physical, moral, and if you like
supernatural order of the great world around him. Sex was felt from the
first to be part, and a foundational part, of the great order of the
world and of human nature; and therefore to separate it from Religion
was unthinkable and a kind of contradiction in terms. (1)

 (1) For further development of this subject see ch. xv.

If that is true--it will be asked--how was it that that divorce DID take
place--that the taboo did arise? How was it that the Jews, under the
influence of Josiah and the Hebrew prophets, turned their faces away
from sex and strenuously opposed the Syrian cults? How was it that this
reaction extended into Christianity and became even more definite in the
Christian Church--that monks went by thousands into the deserts of the
Thebaid, and that the early Fathers and Christian apologists could
not find terms foul enough to hurl at Woman as the symbol (to them) of
nothing but sex-corruption and delusion? How was it that this contempt
of the body and degradation of sex-things went on far into the Middle
Ages of Europe, and ultimately created an organized system of hypocrisy,
and concealment and suppression of sex-instincts, which, acting as cover
to a vile commercial Prostitution and as a breeding ground for horrible
Disease, has lasted on even to the edge of the present day?

This is a fair question, and one which demands an answer. There must
have been a reason, and a deep-rooted one, for this remarkable reaction
and volte-face which has characterized Christianity, and, perhaps to
a lesser degree, other both earlier and later cults like those of the
Buddhists, the Egyptians, the Aztecs, (1) and so forth.

 (1) For the Aztecs, see Acosta, vol. ii, p. 324 (London, 1604).

It may be said--and this is a fair answer on the SURFACE of the
problem--that the main reason WAS something in the nature of a reaction.
The excesses and corruptions of sex in Syria had evidently become pretty
bad, and that very fact may have led to a pendulum-swing of the Jewish
Church in the opposite direction; and again in the same way the general
laxity of morals in the decay of the Roman empire may have confirmed the
Church of early Christendom in its determination to keep along the
great high road of asceticism. The Christian followed on the Jewish
and Egyptian Churches, and in this way a great tradition of sexual
continence and anti-pagan morality came right down the centuries even
into modern times.

This seems so far a reasonable theory; but I think we shall go farther
and get nearer the heart of the problem if we revert to the general clue
which I have followed already more than once--the clue of the necessary
evolution of human Consciousnss. In the first or animal stage of
human evolution, Sex was (as among the animals) a perfectly necessary,
instinctive and unself-conscious activity. It was harmonious with
itself, natural, and unproductive of evil. But when the second stage set
in, in which man became preponderantly SELF-conscious, he inevitably
set about deflecting sex-activities to his own private pleasure and
advantage; he employed his budding intellect in scheming the derailment
of passion and desire from tribal needs and, Nature's uses to the poor
details of his own gratification. If the first stage of harmonious
sex-instinct and activity may be held as characteristic of the Golden
Age, the second stage must be taken to represent the Fall of man and his
expulsion from Paradise in the Garden of Eden story. The pleasure and
glory of Sex having been turned to self-purposes, Sex itself became the
great Sin. A sense of guilt overspread man's thoughts on the subject.
"He knew that he was naked," and he fled from the voice and face of the
Lord. From that moment one of the main objects of his life (in its inner
and newer activities) came to be the DENIAL of Sex. Sex was conceived
of as the great Antagonist, the old Serpent lying ever in wait to betray
him; and there arrived a moment in the history of every race, and of
every representative religion, when the sexual rites and ceremonies of
the older time lost their naive and quasi-innocent character and became
afflicted with a sense of guilt and indecency. This extraordinarily
interesting and dramatic moment in human evolution was of course that in
which self-consciousness grew powerful enough to penetrate to the centre
of human vitality, the sanctumof man's inner life, his sexual instinct,
and to deal it a terrific blow--a blow from which it has never yet
recovered, and from which indeed it will not recover, until the very
nature of man's inner life is changed.

It may be said that it was very foolish of Man to deny and to try
to expel a perfectly natural and sensible thing, a necessary and
indispensable part of his own nature. And that, as far as I can see, is
perfectly true. But sometimes it is unavoidable, it would seem, to do
foolish things--if only to convince oneself of one's own foolishness.
On the other hand, this policy on the part of Man was certainly very
wise--wiser than he knew--for in attempting to drive out Sex (which of
course he could not do) he entered into a conflict which was bound
to end in the expulsion of SOMETHING; and that something was the
domination, within himself, of self-consciousness, the very thing which
makes and ever has made sex detestable. Man did not succeed in driving
the snake out of the Garden, but he drove himself out, taking the real
old serpent of self-greed and self-gratification with him. When some day
he returns to Paradise this latter will have died in his bosom and been
cast away, but he will find the good Snake there as of old, full of
healing and friendliness, among the branches of the Tree of Life.

Besides it is evident from other considerations that this moment of the
denial of sex HAD to come. When one thinks of the enormous power of this
passion, and its age-long, hold upon the human race, one realizes that
once liberated from the instinctive bonds of nature, and backed by a
self-conscious and self-seeking human intelligence it was on the way to
become a fearful curse.

  A monstrous Eft was of old the Lord and Master of Earth;
  For him did his high sun flame, and his river billowing ran.

And this may have been all very well and appropriate in the
carboniferous Epoch, but WE in the end of Time have no desire to fall
under any such preposterous domination, or to return to the primal
swamps from which organic nature has so slowly and painfully emerged.

I say it was the entry of self-consciousness into the sphere of Sex, and
the consequent use of the latter for private ends, which poisoned
this great race-power at its root. For above all, Sex, as representing
through Childbirth the life of the Race (or of the Tribe, or, if you
like, of Humanity at large) should be sacred and guarded from merely
selfish aims, and therefore to use it only for such aims is indeed a
desecration. And even if--as some maintain and I think rightly (1)--sex
is not MERELY for child-birth and physical procreation, but for mutual
vitalizing and invigoration, it still subserves union and not egotism;
and to use it egotistically is to commit the sin of Separation indeed.
It is to cast away and corrupt the very bond of life and fellowship. The
ancient peoples at any rate threw an illumination of religious (that is,
of communal and public) value over sex-acts, and to a great extent made
them into matters either of Temple-ritual and the worship of the gods,
or of communal and pandemic celebration, as in the Saturnalia and
other similar festivals. We have certainly no right to regard these
celebrations--of either kind--as insincere. They were, at any rate in
their inception, genuinely religious or genuinely social and festal;
and from either point of view they were far better than the secrecy
of private indulgence which characterizes our modern world in these
matters. The thorough and shameless commercialism of Sex has alas!
been reserved for what is called "Christian civilization," and with
it (perhaps as a necessary consequence) Prostitution and Syphilis have
grown into appalling evils, accompanied by a gigantic degradation of
social standards, and upgrowth of petty Philistinism and niaiserie.
Love, in fact, having in this modern world-movement been denied, and its
natural manifestations affected with a sense of guilt and of sin, has
really languished and ceased to play its natural part in life; and a
vast number of people--both men and women, finding themselves barred or
derailed from the main object of existence, have turned their energies
to 'business' or 'money-making' or 'social advancement' or something
equally futile, as the only poor substitute and pis aller open to them.

 (1) See Havelock Ellis, The Objects of Marriage, a pamphlet
published by the "British Society for the Study of Sex-psychology."

Why (again we ask) did Christianity make this apparently great mistake?
And again we must reply: Perhaps the mistake was not so great as
it appears to be. Perhaps this was another case of the necessity of
learning by loss. Love had to be denied, in the form of sex, in order
that it might thus the better learn its own true values and needs. Sex
had to be rejected, or defiled with the sense of guilt and self-seeking,
in order that having cast out its defilement it might return one day,
transformed in the embrace of love. The whole process has had a deep and
strange world-significance. It has led to an immensely long period of
suppression--suppression of two great instincts--the physical instinct
of sex and the emotional instinct of love. Two things which should
naturally be conjoined have been separated; and both have suffered.
And we know from the Freudian teachings what suppressions in the
root-instincts necessarily mean. We know that they inevitably terminate
in diseases and distortions of proper action, either in the body or
in the mind, or in both; and that these evils can only be cured by the
liberation of the said instincts again to their proper expression and
harmonious functioning in the whole organism. No wonder then that, with
this agelong suppression (necessary in a sense though it may have
been) which marks the Christian dispensation, there should have
been associated endless Sickness and Crime and sordid Poverty, the
Crucifixion of animals in the name of Science and of human workers in
the name of Wealth, and wars and horrors innumerable! Hercules writhing
in the Nessus-shirt or Prometheus nailed to the rocks are only as
figures of a toy miniature compared with this vision of the great and
divine Spirit of Man caught in the clutches of those dread Diseases
which through the centuries have been eating into his very heart and

It would not be fair to pile on the Christian Church the blame for all
this. It had, no doubt, its part to play in the whole great scheme,
namely, to accentuate the self-motive; and it played the part very
thoroughly and successfully. For it must be remembered (what I have
again and again insisted on) that in the pagan cults it was always
the salvation of the CLAN, the TRIBE, the people that was the main
consideration; the advantage of the individual took only a very
secondary part. But in Christendom--after the communal enthusiasms
of apostolic days and of the medieval and monastic brotherhoods and
sisterhoods had died down--religion occupied itself more and more with
each man or woman's INDIVIDUAL salvation, regardless of what might
happen to the community; till, with the rise of Protestantism and
Puritanism, this tendency reached such an extreme that, as some one has
said, each man was absorbed in polishing up his own little soul in a
corner to himself, in entire disregard to the damnation which might come
to his neighbor. Religion, and Morality too, under the commercial regime
became, as was natural, perfectly selfish. It was always: "Am _I_ saved?
Am _I_ doing the right thing? Am _I_ winning the favor of God and man?
Will my claims to salvation be allowed? Did _I_ make a good bargain
in allowing Jesus to be crucified for me?" The poison of a diseased
self-consciousness entered into the whole human system.

As I say, one must not blame the Christians too much for all
this--partly because, AFTER the communal periods which I have just
mentioned, Christianity was evidently deeply influenced by the rise
of COMMERCIALISM, to which during the last two centuries it has so
carefully and piously adapted itself; and partly because--if our view is
anywhere near right--this microbial injection of self-consciousness was
just the necessary work which (in conjunction with commercialism) it HAD
to perform. But though one does not blame Christianity one cannot blind
oneself to its defects--the defects necessarily arising from the part it
had to play. When one compares a healthy Pagan ritual--say of Apollo or
Dionysus--including its rude and crude sacrifices if you like, but also
including its whole-hearted spontaneity and dedication to the common
life and welfare--with the morbid self-introspection of the Christian
and the eternally recurring question "What shall I do to be saved?"--the
comparison is not favorable to the latter. There is (at any rate in
modern days) a mawkish milk-and-wateriness about the Christian attitude,
and also a painful self-consciousness, which is not pleasant; and though
Nietzsche's blonde beast is a sufficiently disagreeable animal, one
almost thinks that it were better to be THAT than to go about with one's
head meekly hanging on one side, and talking always of altruism and
self-sacrifice, while in reality one's heart was entirely occupied with
the question of one's own salvation. There is besides a lamentable want
of grit and substance about the Christian doctrines and ceremonials.
Somehow under the sex-taboo they became spiritualized and etherealized
out of all human use. Study the initiation-rites of any savage
tribe--with their strict discipline of the young braves in fortitude,
and the overcoming of pain and fear; with their very detailed lessons in
the arts of war and life and the duties of the grown man to his tribe;
and with their quite practical instruction in matters of Sex; and then
read our little Baptismal and Confirmation services, which ought to
correspond thereto. How thin and attenuated and weak the latter
appear! Or compare the Holy Communion, as celebrated in the sentimental
atmosphere of a Protestant Church, with an ancient Eucharistic feast of
real jollity and community of life under the acknowledged presence
of the god; or the Roman Catholic service of the Mass, including its
genuflexions and mock oblations and droning ritual sing-song, with the
actual sacrifice in early days of an animal-god-victim on a blazing
altar; and I think my meaning will be clear. We do not want, of course,
to return to all the crudities and barbarities of the past; but also we
do not want to become attenuated and spiritualized out of all mundane
sense and recognition, and to live in an otherworld Paradise void of
application to earthly affairs.

The sex-taboo in Christianity was apparently, as I have said, an effort
of the human soul to wrest itself free from the entanglement of physical
lust--which lust, though normal and appropriate and in a way gracious
among the animals, had through the domination of self-consciousness
become diseased and morbid or monstrous in Man. The work thus done has
probably been of the greatest value to the human race; but, just as in
other cases it has sometimes happened that the effort to do a certain
work has resulted in the end in an unbalanced exaggeration so here. We
are beginning to see now the harmful side of the repression of sex, and
are tentatively finding our way back again to a more pagan attitude.
And as this return-movement is taking place at a time when, from many
obvious signs, the self-conscious, grasping, commercial conception of
life is preparing to go on the wane, and the sense of solidarity to
re-establish itself, there is really good hope that our return-journey
may prove in some degree successful.

Man progresses generally, not both legs at once like a sparrow, but
by putting one leg forward first, and then the other. There was this
advantage in the Christian taboo of sex that by discouraging the
physical and sensual side of love it did for the time being allow the
spiritual side to come forward. But, as I have just now indicated,
there is a limit to that process. We cannot always keep one leg first in
walking, and we do not want, in life, always to put the spiritual first,
nor always the material and sensual. The two sides in the long run have
to keep pace with each other.

And it may be that a great number of the very curious and seemingly
senseless taboos that we find among the primitive peoples can be partly
explained in this way: that is, that by ruling out certain directions
of activity they enabled people to concentrate more effectually, for
the time being, on other directions. To primitive folk the great world,
whose ways are puzzling enough in all conscience to us, must have been
simply bewildering in its dangers and complications. It was an amazement
of Fear and Ignorance. Thunderbolts might come at any moment out of the
blue sky, or a demon out of an old tree trunk, or a devastating plague
out of a bad smell--or apparently even out of nothing at all! Under
those circumstances it was perhaps wise, wherever there was the smallest
SUSPICION of danger or ill-luck, to create a hard and fast TABOO--just
as we tell our children ON NO ACCOUNT to walk under a ladder (thereby
creating a superstition in their minds), partly because it would take
too long to explain all about the real dangers of paint-pots and other
things, and partly because for the children themselves it seems simpler
to have a fixed and inviolable law than to argue over every case that
occurs. The priests and elders among early folk no doubt took the
line of FORBIDDAL of activities, as safer and simpler, even if
carried sometimes too far, than the opposite, of easy permission and
encouragement. Taboos multiplied--many of them quite senseless--but
perhaps in this perilous maze of the world, of which I have spoken,
it really WAS simpler to cut out a large part of the labyrinth, as
forbidden ground, thus rendering it easier for the people to find their
way in those portions of the labyrinth which remained. If you read in
Deuteronomy (ch. xiv) the list of birds and beasts and fishes permitted
for food among the Israelites, or tabooed, you will find the list on
the whole reasonable, but you will be struck by some curious exceptions
(according to our ideas), which are probably to be explained by the
necessity of making the rules simple enough to be comprehended by
everybody--even if they included the forbiddal of some quite eatable

At some early period, in Babylonia or Assyria, a very stringent taboo on
the Sabbath arose, which, taken up in turn by the Jewish and Christian
Churches, has ruled the Western World for three thousand years or more,
and still survives in a quite senseless form among some of our rural
populations, who will see their corn rot in the fields rather than save
it on a Sunday. (1) It is quite likely that this taboo in its first
beginning was due not to any need of a weekly rest-day (a need which
could never be felt among nomad savages, but would only occur in
some kind of industrial and stationary civilization), but to some
superstitious fear, connected with such things as the changes of the
Moon, and the probable ILL-LUCK of any enterprise undertaken on the
seventh day, or any day of Moon-change. It is probable, however, that as
time went on and Society became more complex, the advantages of a weekly
REST-DAY (or market-day) became more obvious and that the priests and
legislators deliberately turned the taboo to a social use. (2) The
learned modern Ethnologists, however, will generally have none of this
latter idea. As a rule they delight in representing early peoples as
totally destitute of common sense (which is supposed to be a monopoly
of us moderns!); and if the Sabbath-arrangement has had any value or
use they insist on ascribing this to pure accident, and not to the
application of any sane argument or reason.

 (1) For other absurd Sunday taboos see Westermarck on The Moral
Ideas, vol. ii, p. 289.

 (2) For a tracing of this taboo from useless superstition to
practical utility see Hastings's Encycl. Religion and Ethics, art. "The

It is true indeed that a taboo--in order to be a proper taboo--must not
rest in the general mind on argument or reason. It may have had good
sense in the past or even an underlying good sense in the present, but
its foundation must rest on something beyond. It must be an absolute
fiat--something of the nature of a Mystery (1) or of Religion or
Magic-and not to be disputed. This gives it its blood-curdling quality.
The rustic does not know what would happen to him if he garnered his
corn on Sunday, nor does the diner-out in polite society know what
would happen if he spooned up his food with his knife--but they both are
stricken with a sort of paralysis at the very suggestion of infringing
these taboos.

 (1) See Westermarck, Ibid., ii. 586.

Marriage-customs have always been a fertile field for the generation
of taboos. It seems doubtful whether anything like absolute promiscuity
ever prevailed among the human race, but there is much to show that wide
choice and intercourse were common among primitive folk and that the
tendency of later marriage custom has been on the whole to LIMIT this
range of choice. At some early period the forbiddal of marriage between
those who bore the same totem-name took place. Thus in Australia "no man
of the Emu stock might marry an Emu woman; no Blacksnake might marry a
Blacksnake woman, and so forth." (1) Among the Kamilaroi and the Arunta
of S. Australia the tribe was divided into classes or clans, sometimes
four, sometimes eight, and a man of one particular clan was only
marriageable with a woman of another particular clan--say (1) with (3)
or (2) with (4), and so on. (2) Customs with a similar tendency, but
different in detail, seem to have prevailed among native tribes in
Central Africa and N. America. And the regulations in all this matter
have been so (apparently) entirely arbitrary in the various cases that
it would almost appear as if the bar of kinship through the Totem had
been the EXCUSE, originating perhaps in some superstition, but that the
real and more abiding object was simply limitation. And this perhaps was
a wise line to take. A taboo on promiscuity had to be created, and for
this purpose any current prejudice could be made use of. (3)

 (1) Myth, Ritual and Religion, i, p. 66.

 (2) See Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Australia.

 (3) The author of The Mystic Rose seems to take this view. See
p. 214 of that book.

With us moderns the whole matter has taken a different complexion. When
we consider the enormous amount of suffering and disease, both of mind
and body, arising from the sex-suppression of which I have just spoken,
especially among women, we see that mere unreasoning taboos--which
possibly had their place and use in the past--can be tolerated no
longer. We are bound to turn the searchlight of reason and science on a
number of superstitions which still linger in the dark and musty
places of the Churches and the Law courts. Modern inquiry has shown
conclusively not only the foundational importance of sex in the
evolution of each human being, but also the very great VARIETY of
spontaneous manifestations in different individuals and the vital
necessity that these should be recognized, if society is ever to expand
into a rational human form. It is not my object here to sketch the
future of marriage and sex-relations generally--a subject which is now
being dealt with very effectively from many sides; but only to insist on
our using our good sense in the whole matter, and refusing any longer to
be bound by senseless pre-judgments.

Something of the same kind may be said with regard to Nakedness, which
in modern Civilization has become the object of a very serious and
indeed harmful taboo; both of speech and act. As someone has said, it
became in the end of the nineteenth century almost a crime to mention
by name any portion of the human body within a radius of about twenty
inches from its centre (!) and as a matter of fact a few dress-reformers
of that period were actually brought into court and treated as criminals
for going about with legs bare up to the knees, and shoulders and chest
uncovered! Public follies such as these have been responsible for much
of the bodily and mental disease and suppression just mentioned, and
the sooner they are sent to limbo the better. No sensible person
would advocate promiscuous nakedness any more than promiscuous
sex-relationship; nor is it likely that aged and deformed people would
at any time wish to expose themselves. But surely there is enough good
sense and appreciation of grace and fitness in the average human mind
for it to be able to liberate the body from senseless concealment, and
give it its due expression. The Greeks of old, having on the whole
clean bodies, treated them with respect and distinction. The young men
appeared quite naked in the palaestra, and even the girls of Sparta ran
races publicly in the same condition; (1) and some day when our
bodies (and minds too) have become clean we shall return to similar
institutions. But that will not be just yet. As long as the defilement
of this commercial civilization is on us we shall prefer our dirt and
concealment. The powers that be will protest against change. Heinrich
Scham, in his charming little pamphlet Nackende Menschen, (2) describes
the consternation of the commercial people at such ideas:

"'What will become of us,' cried the tailors, 'if you go naked?'

"And all the lot of them, hat, cravat, shirt, and shoemakers joined in
the chorus.

"'AND WHERE SHALL I CARRY MY MONEY?' cried one who had just been made a

 (1) See Theocritus, Idyll xviii.

 (2) Published at Leipzig about 1893.


Referring back to the existence of something resembling a great
World-religion which has come down the centuries, continually expanding
and branching in the process, we have now to consider the genesis of
that special brand or branch of it which we call Christianity. Each
religion or cult, pagan or Christian, has had, as we have seen, a vast
amount in common with the general World-religion; yet each has had its
own special characteristics. What have been the main characteristics of
the Christian branch, as differentiating it from the other branches?

We saw in the last chapter that a certain ascetic attitude towards Sex
was one of the most salient marks of the Christian Church; and that
whereas most of the pagan cults (though occasionally favoring frightful
austerities and cruel sacrifices) did on the whole rejoice in pleasure
and the world of the senses, Christianity--following largely on
Judaism--displayed a tendency towards renunciation of the world and the
flesh, and a withdrawal into the inner and more spiritual regions of the
mind. The same tendency may be traced in the Egyptian and Phrygian cults
of that period. It will be remembered how Juvenal (Sat. VI, 510-40)
chaffs the priests of Cybele at Rome for making themselves "eunuchs for
the kingdom of heaven's sake," or the rich Roman lady for plunging in
the wintry Tiber for a propitiation to Isis. No doubt among the later
pagans "the long intolerable tyranny of the senses over the soul" had
become a very serious matter. But Christianity represented perhaps the
most powerful reaction against this; and this reaction had, as indicated
in the last chapter, the enormously valuable result that (for the time)
it disentangled love from sex and established Love, pure and undefiled,
as ruler of the world. "God is Love." But, as also indicated, the
divorce between the two elements of human nature, carried to an extreme,
led in time to a crippling of both elements and the development of a
certain morbidity and self-consciousness which, it cannot be denied, is
painfully marked among some sections of Christians--especially those of
the altruistic and 'philanthropic' type.

Another characteristic of Christianity which is also very fine in
its way but has its limits of utility, has been its insistence on
"morality." Some modern writers indeed have gone so far--forgetting, I
suppose, the Stoics--as to claim that Christianity's chief mark is its
high morality, and that the pagans generally were quite wanting in the
moral sense! This, of course, is a profound mistake. I should say that,
in the true sense of the word, the early and tribal peoples have been
much more 'moral' as a rule--that is, ready as individuals to pay
respect to the needs of the community--than the later and more civilized
societies. But the mistake arises from the different interpretations of
the word; for whereas all the pagan religions insisted very strongly on
the just-mentioned kind of morality, which we should call CIVIC DUTY TO
ONE'S NEIGHBOR, the Christian made morality to consist more especially
in a mans DUTY TO GOD. It became with them a private affair between a
mans self and-God, rather than a public affair; and thus led in the end
to a very obnoxious and quite pharisaic kind of morality, whose chief
inspiration was not the helping of one's fellow-man but the saving of
one's own soul.

There may perhaps be other salient points of differentiation between
Christianity and the preceding pagan religions; but for the present we
may recognize these two--(a) the tendency towards a renunciation of the
world, and the consequent cultivation of a purely spiritual love and (b)
the insistence on a morality whose inspiration was a private sense of
duty to God rather than a public sense of duty to one's neighbor and to
society generally. It may be interesting to trace the causes which led
to this differentiation.

Three centuries before our era the conquests of Alexander had had the
effect of spreading the Greek thought and culture over most of the known
world. A vast number of small bodies of worshipers of local deities,
with their various rituals and religious customs, had thus been broken
up, or at least brought into contact with each other and partially
modified and hellenized. The orbit of a more general conception of life
and religion was already being traced. By the time of the founding of
the first Christian Church the immense conquests of Rome had greatly
extended and established the process. The Mediterranean had become a
great Roman lake. Merchant ships and routes of traffic crossed it in all
directions; tourists visited its shores. The known world had become one.
The numberless peoples, tribes, nations, societies within the girdle of
the Empire, with their various languages, creeds, customs, religions,
philosophies, were profoundly influencing each other. (1) A great fusion
was taking place; and it was becoming inevitable that the next great
religious movement would have a world-wide character.

 (1) For an enlargement on this theme see Glover's Conflict of
Religions in the early Roman Empire; also S. J. Case, Evolution of
Early Christianity (University of Chicago, 1914). The Adonis worship, for
instance (a resurrection-cult), "was still thriving in Syria and Cyprus
when Paul preached there," and the worship of Isis and Serapis had
already reached then, Rome and Naples.

It was probable that this new religion would combine many elements from
the preceding rituals in one cult. In connection with the fine temples
and elaborate services of Isis and Cybele and Mithra there was growing
up a powerful priesthood; Franz Cumont (1) speaks of "the learned
priests of the Asiatic cults" as building up, on the foundations of old
fetichism and superstition, a complete religious philosophy--just as
the Brahmins had built the monism of the Vedanta on the "monstrous
idolatries of Hinduism." And it was likely that a similar process would
evolve the new religion expected. Toutain again calls attention to the
patronage accorded to all these cults by the Roman Emperors, as favoring
a new combination and synthesis:--"Hadrien, Commode, Septime Severe,
Julia Domna, Elagabal, Alexandre Severe, en particulier ont contribue
personnellement a la popularite et au succes des cultes qui se
celebraient en l'honneur de Serapis et d'Isis, des divinites syriennes
et de Mithra." (2)

 (1) See Cumont, Religions Orientales dans le Paganisme Romain
(Paris, 1906), p. 253.

 (2) Cultes paiens dans l'Empire Romain (2 vols., 1911), vol. ii,
p. 263.

It was also probable that this new Religion would show (as indicated
in the last chapter) a reaction against mere sex-indulgence; and,
as regards its standard of Morality generally, that, among so many
conflicting peoples with their various civic and local customs, it could
not well identify itself with any ONE of these but would evolve an
inner inspiration of its own which in its best form would be love of the
neighbor, regardless of the race, creed or customs of the neighbor, and
whose sanction would not reside in any of the external authorities
thus conflicting with each other, but in the sense of the soul's direct
responsibility to God.

So much for what we might expect a priori as to the influence of the
surroundings on the general form of the new Religion. And what about the
kind of creed or creeds which that religion would favor? Here again
we must see that the influence of the surroundings compelled a certain
result. Those doctrines which we have described in the preceding
chapters--doctrines of Sin and Sacrifice, a Savior, the Eucharist, the
Trinity, the Virgin-birth, and so forth--were in their various forms
seething, so to speak, all around. It was impossible for any new
religious synthesis to escape them; all it could do would be to
appropriate them, and to give them perhaps a color of its own. Thus
it is into the midst of this germinating mass that we must imagine the
various pagan cults, like fertilizing streams, descending. To trace all
these streams would of course be an impossible task; but it may be of
use, as an example of the process, to take the case of some particular
belief. Let us take the belief in the coming of a Savior-god; and this
will be the more suitable as it is a belief which has in the past been
commonly held to be distinctive of Christianity. Of course we know now
that it is not in any sense distinctive, but that the long tradition of
the Savior comes down from the remotest times, and perhaps from every
country of the world. (1) The Messianic prophecies of the Jews and the
fifty-third chapter of Isaiah emptied themselves into the Christian
teachings, and infected them to some degree with a Judaic tinge. The
"Messiah" means of course the Anointed One. The Hebrew word occurs some
40 times in the Old Testament; and each time in the Septuagint or Greek
translation (made mainly in the third century BEFORE our era) the word
is translated [gr cristos], or Christos, which again means Anointed.
Thus we see that the idea or the word "The Christ" was in vogue in
Alexandria as far back certainly as 280 B.C., or nearly three centuries
before Jesus. And what the word "The Anointed" strictly speaking means,
and from what the expression is probably derived, will appear later. In
The Book of Enoch, written not later than B.C. 170, (2) the Christ is
spoken of as already existing in heaven, and about to come as judge
of all men, and is definitely called "the Son of Man." The Book of
Revelations is FULL of passages from Enoch; so are the Epistles of Paul;
so too the Gospels. The Book of Enoch believes in a Golden Age that is
to come; it has Dantesque visions of Heaven and Hell, and of Angels good
and evil, and it speaks of a "garden of Righteousness" with the "Tree of
Wisdom" in its midst. Everywhere, says Prof. Drews, in the first century
B.C., there was the longing for a coming Savior.

 (1) Even to-day, the Arabian lands are always vibrating with
prophecies of a coming Mahdi.

 (2) See Edition by R. H. Charles (1893).

But the Savior-god, as we also know, was a familiar figure in Egypt. The
great Osiris was the Savior of the world, both in his life and death: in
his life through the noble works he wrought for the benefit of mankind,
and in his death through his betrayal by the powers of darkness and
his resurrection from the tomb and ascent into heaven. (1) The Egyptian
doctrines descended through Alexandria into Christianity--and though
they did not influence the latter deeply until about 300 A.D., yet they
then succeeded in reaching the Christian Churches, giving a color to
their teachings with regard to the Savior, and persuading them to accept
and honor the Egyptian worship of Isis in the Christian form of the
Virgin Mary.

 (1) See ch. ii.

Again, another great stream of influence descended from Persia in the
form of the cult of Mithra. Mithra, as we have seen, (1) stood as a
great Mediator between God and man. With his baptisms and eucharists,
and his twelve disciples, and his birth in a cave, and so forth,
he seemed to the early Fathers an invention of the devil and a most
dangerous mockery on Christianity--and all the more so because his
worship was becoming so exceedingly popular. The cult seems to have
reached Rome about B.C. 70. It spread far and wide through the Empire.
It extended to Great Britain, and numerous remains of Mithraic
monuments and sculptures in this country--at York, Chester and other
places--testify to its wide acceptance even here. At Rome the vogue of
Mithraism became so great that in the third century A. D., it was quite
doubtful (2) whether it OR Christianity would triumph; the Emperor
Aurelian in 273 founded a cult of the Invincible Sun in connection with
Mithraism; (3) and as St. Jerome tells us in his letters, (4) the latter
cult had at a later time to be suppressed in Rome and Alexandria by
PHYSICAL FORCE, so powerful was it.

 (1) Ch. ii.

 (2) See Cumont, op. cit., who says, p. 171:--"Jamais, pas meme a
l'epoque des invasions mussulmanes, l'Europe ne sembla plus pres
de devenir asiatique qu'au moment ou Diocletien reconnaissait
officiellement en Mithra, le protecteur de l'empire reconstitue." See
also Cumont's Mysteres de Mithra, preface. The Roman Army, in fact,
stuck to Mithra throughout, as against Christianity; and so did the
Roman nobility. (See S. Augustine's Confessions, Book VIII, ch. 2.)

 (3) Cumont indeed says that the identification of Mithra with the
Sun (the emblem of imperial power) formed one reason why Mithraism was
NOT persecuted at that time.

 (4) Epist. cvii, ad Laetam. See Robertson's Pagan Christs, p.

Nor was force the only method employed. IMITATION is not only the
sincerest flattery, but it is often the most subtle and effective way of
defeating a rival. The priests of the rising Christian Church were, like
the priests of ALL religions, not wanting in craft; and at this moment
when the question of a World-religion was in the balance, it was an
obvious policy for them to throw into their own scale as many elements
as possible of the popular Pagan cults. Mithraism had been flourishing
for 600 years; and it is, to say the least, CURIOUS that the Mithraic
doctrines and legends which I have just mentioned should all have been
adopted (quite unintentionally of course!) into Christianity; and still
more so that some others from the same source, like the legend of the
Shepherds at the Nativity and the doctrine of the Resurrection and
Ascension, which are NOT mentioned at all in the original draft of the
earliest Gospel (St. Mark), should have made their appearance, in the
Christian writings at a later time, when Mithraism was making great
forward strides. History shows that as a Church progresses and expands
it generally feels compelled to enlarge and fortify its own foundations
by inserting material which was not there at first. I shall shortly give
another illustration of this; at present I will merely point out
that the Christian writers, as time went on, not only introduced new
doctrines, legends, miracles and so forth--most of which we can trace to
antecedent pagan sources--but that they took especial pains to
destroy the pagan records and so obliterate the evidence of their own
dishonesty. We learn from Porphyry (1) that there were several elaborate
treatises setting forth the religion of Mithra; and J. M. Robertson adds
(Pagan Christs, p. 325): "everyone of these has been destroyed by the
care of the Church, and it is remarkable that even the treatise of
Firmicus is mutilated at a passage (v.) where he seems to be accusing
Christians of following Mithraic usages." While again Professor Murray
says, "The polemic literature of Christianity is loud and triumphant;
the books of the Pagans have been DESTROYED." (2)

 (1) De Abstinentia, ii. 56; iv. 16.

 (2) Four Stages, p. 180. We have probably an instance of this
destruction in the total disappearance of Celsus' lively attack
on Christianity (180 A.D.), of which, however, portions have been
fortunately preserved in Origen's rather prolix refutation of the same.

Returning to the doctrine of the Savior, I have already in preceding
chapters given so many instances of belief in such a deity among the
pagans--whether he be called Krishna or Mithra or Osiris or Horus or
Apollo or Hercules--that it is not necessary to dwell on the subject any
further in order to persuade the reader that the doctrine was 'in the
air' at the time of the advent of Christianity. Even Dionysus, then
a prominent figure in the 'Mysteries,' was called Eleutherios, The
Deliverer. But it may be of interest to trace the same doctrine among
the PRE-CHRISTIAN sects of Gnostics. The Gnostics, says Professor
Murray, (1) "are still commonly thought of as a body of CHRISTIAN
heretics. In reality there were Gnostic sects scattered over the
Hellenistic world BEFORE Christianity as well as after. They must have
been established in Antioch and probably in Tarsus well before the
days of Paul or Apollos. Their Savior, like the Jewish Messiah, was
established in men's minds before the Savior of the Christians. 'If
we look close,' says Professor Bousset, 'the result emerges with great
clearness that the figure of the Redeemer as such did not wait for
Christianity to force its way into the religion of Gnosis, but was
already present there under various forms.'"

 (1) Four Stages, p. 143.

This Gnostic Redeemer, continues Professor Murray, "is descended by a
fairly clear genealogy from the 'Tritos Soter' ('third Savior') (1) of
early Greece, contaminated with similar figures, like Attis and Adonis
from Asia Minor, Osiris from Egypt, and the special Jewish conception of
the Messiah of the Chosen people. He has various names, which the name
of Jesus or 'Christos,' 'the Anointed,' tends gradually to supersede.
Above all, he is in some sense Man, or 'the second Man' or 'the Son of
Man'... He is the real, the ultimate, the perfect and eternal Man, of
whom all bodily men are feeble copies." (2)

 (1) There seems to be some doubt about the exact meaning of this
expression. Even Zeus himself was sometimes called 'Soter,' and at
feasts, it is said, the THIRD goblet was always drunk in his honor.

 (2) See also The Gnostic Story of Jesus Christ, by Gilbert T.
Sadler (C. W. Daniel, 1919).

This passage brings vividly before the mind the process of which I
have spoken, namely, the fusion and mutual interchange of ideas on the
subject of the Savior during the period anterior to our era. Also it
exemplifies to us through what an abstract sphere of Gnostic religious
speculation the doctrine had to travel before reaching its expression in
Christianity. (1) This exalted and high philosophical conception passed
on and came out again to some degree in the Fourth Gospel and the
Pauline Epistles (especially I Cor. xv); but I need hardly say it
was not maintained. The enthusiasm of the little scattered Christian
bodies--with their communism of practice with regard to THIS world and
their intensity of faith with regard to the next--began to wane in the
second and third centuries A.D. As the Church (with capital initial)
grew, so was it less and less occupied with real religious feeling, and
more and more with its battles against persecution from outside, and its
quarrels and dissensions concerning heresies within its own borders. And
when at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) it endeavored to establish an
official creed, the strife and bitterness only increased. "There is no
wild beast," said the Emperor Julian, "like an angry theologian." Where
the fourth Evangelist had preached the gospel of Love, and Paul had
announced redemption by an inner and spiritual identification with
Christ, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive";
and whereas some at any rate of the Pagan cults had taught a glorious
salvation by the new birth of a divine being within each man: "Be of
good cheer, O initiates in the mystery of the liberated god; For to
you too out of all your labors and sorrows shall come Liberation"--the
Nicene creed had nothing to propound except some extremely futile
speculations about the relation to each other of the Father and the
Son, and the relation of BOTH to the Holy Ghost, and of all THREE to the
Virgin Mary--speculations which only served for the renewal of shameful
strife and animosities--riots and bloodshed and murder--within the
Church, and the mockery of the heathen without. And as far as it dealt
with the crucifixion, death and resurrection of the Lord it did not
differ from the score of preceding pagan creeds, except in the thorough
materialism and lack of poetry in statement which it exhibits. After
the Council of Nicaea, in fact, the Judaic tinge in the doctrines of the
Church becomes more apparent, and more and more its Scheme of Salvation
through Christ takes the character of a rather sordid and huckstering
bargain by which Man gets the better of God by persuading the latter
to sacrifice his own Son for the redemption of the world! With the
exception of a few episodes like the formation during the Middle Ages of
the noble brotherhoods and sisterhoods of Frairs and Nuns, dedicated to
the help and healing of suffering humanity, and the appearance of a few
real lovers of mankind (and the animals) like St. Francis--(and these
manifestations can hardly be claimed by the Church, which pretty
consistently opposed them)--it may be said that after about the fourth
century the real spirit and light of early Christian enthusiasm died
away. The incursions of barbarian tribes from the North and East, and
later of Moors and Arabs from the South, familiarized the European
peoples with the ideas of bloodshed and violence; gross and material
conceptions of life were in the ascendant; and a romantic and aspiring
Christianity gave place to a worldly and vulgar Churchianity.

 (1) When travelling in India I found that the Gnanis or Wise Men
there quite commonly maintained that Jesus (judging from his teaching)
must have been initiated at some time in the esoteric doctrines of the

I have in these two or three pages dealt only--and that very
briefly--with the entry of the pagan doctrine of the Savior into the
Christian field, showing its transformation there and how Christianity
could not well escape having a doctrine of a Savior, or avoid giving a
color of its own to that doctrine. To follow out the same course
with other doctrines, like those which I have mentioned above, would
obviously be an endless task--which must be left to each student or
reader to pursue according to his opportunity and capacity. It is clear
anyhow, that all these elements of the pagan religions--pouring down
into the vast reservoir, or rather whirlpool, of the Roman Empire,
and mixing among all these numerous brotherhoods, societies, collegia,
mystery-clubs, and groups which were at that time looking out intently
for some new revelation or inspiration--did more or less automatically
act and react upon each other, and by the general conditions prevailing
were modified, till they ultimately combined and took united shape
in the movement which we call Christianity, but which only--as I have
said--narrowly escaped being called Mithraism--so nearly related and
closely allied were these cults with each other.

At this point it will naturally be asked: "And where in this scheme of
the Genesis of Christianity is the chief figure and accredited leader of
the movement--namely Jesus Christ himself--for to all appearance in the
account here given of the matter he is practically non-existent or a
negligible quantity?" And the question is a very pertinent one, and very
difficult to answer. "Where is the founder of the Religion?"--or to
put it in another form: "Is it necessary to suppose a human and visible
Founder at all?" A few years ago such a mere question would have been
accounted rank blasphemy, and would only--if passed over--have been
ignored on account of its supposed absurdity. To-day, however, owing to
the enormous amount of work which has been done of late on the
subject of Christian origins, the question takes on quite a different
complexion. And from Strauss onwards a growingly influential and learned
body of critics is inclined to regard the whole story of the Gospels as
LEGENDARY. Arthur Drews, for instance, a professor at Karlsruhe, in his
celebrated book The Christ-Myth, (1) places David F. Strauss as first
in the myth field--though he allows that Dupuis in L'origine de tous
les cultes (1795) had given the clue to the whole idea. He then mentions
Bruno Bauer (1877) as contending that Jesus was a pure invention
of Mark's, and John M. Robertson as having in his Christianity and
Mythology (1900) given the first thoroughly reasoned exposition of the
legendary theory; also Emilio Bossi in Italy, who wrote Jesu Christo
non e mai esistito, and similar authors in Holland, Poland, and other
countries, including W. Benjamin Smith, the American author of The
Pre-christian Jesus (1906), and P. Jensen in Das Gilgamesch Epos in
den Welt-literatur (1906), who makes the Jesus-story a variant of the
Babylonian epic, 2000 B.C. A pretty strong list! (2) "But," continues
Drews, "ordinary historians still ignore all this." Finally, he
dismisses Jesus as "a figure swimming obscurely in the mists of
tradition." Nevertheless I need hardly remark that, large and learned
as the body of opinion here represented is, a still larger (but less
learned) body fights desperately for the actual HISTORICITY of Jesus,
and some even still for the old view of him as a quite unique and
miraculous revelation of Godhood on earth.

 (1) Die Christus-mythe: verbesserte und erweitezte Ausgabe, Jena,

 (2) To which we may also add Schweitzer's Quest of the historical
Jesus (1910).

At first, no doubt, the LEGENDARY theory seems a little TOO far-fetched.
There is a fashion in all these things, and it MAY be that there is a
fashion even here. But when you reflect how rapidly legends grow up even
in these days of exact Science and an omniscient Press; how the figure
of Shakespeare, dead only 300 years, is almost completely lost in
the mist of Time, and even the authenticity of his works has become a
subject of controversy; when you find that William Tell, supposed to
have lived some 300 years again before Shakespeare, and whose deeds in
minutest detail have been recited and honored all over Europe, is almost
certainly a pure invention, and never existed; when you remember--as
mentioned earlier in this book (1)--that it was more than five hundred
years after the supposed birth of Jesus before any serious effort
was made to establish the date of that birth--and that then a purely
mythical date was chosen: the 25th December, the day of the SUN'S new
birth after the winter solstice, and the time of the supposed birth of
Apollo, Bacchus, and the other Sungods; when, moreover, you think for
a moment what the state of historical criticism must have been, and
the general standard of credibility, 1,900 years ago, in a country like
Syria, and among an ignorant population, where any story circulating
from lip to lip was assured of credence if sufficiently marvelous
or imaginative;--why, then the legendary theory does not seem so
improbable. There is no doubt that after the destruction of Jerusalem
(in A.D. 70), little groups of believers in a redeeming 'Christ' were
formed there and in other places, just as there had certainly existed,
in the first century B.C., groups of Gnostics, Therapeutae, Essenes and
others whose teachings were very SIMILAR to the Christian, and there was
now a demand from many of these groups for 'writings' and 'histories'
which should hearten and confirm the young and growing Churches. The
Gospels and Epistles, of which there are still extant a great abundance,
both apocryphal and canonical, met this demand; but how far their
records of the person of Jesus of Nazareth are reliable history, or how
far they are merely imaginative pictures of the kind of man the Saviour
might be expected to be, (2) is a question which, as I have already
said, is a difficult one for skilled critics to answer, and one on which
I certainly have no intention of giving a positive verdict. Personally I
must say I think the 'legendary' solution quite likely, and in some ways
more satisfactory than the opposite one--for the simple reason that
it seems much more encouraging to suppose that the story of Jesus,
(gracious and beautiful as it is) is a myth which gradually formed
itself in the conscience of mankind, and thus points the way of
humanity's future evolution, than to suppose it to be the mere record
of an unique and miraculous interposition of Providence, which depended
entirely on the powers above, and could hardly be expected to occur

 (1) Ch. II.

 (2) One of Celsus' accusations against the Christians was that
their Gospels had been written "several times over" (see Origen, Contra
Celsum, ii. 26, 27).

However, the question is not what we desire, but what we can prove to be
the actual fact. And certainly the difficulties in the way of regarding
the Gospel story (or stories, for there is not one consistent story)
as TRUE are enormous. If anyone will read, for instance, in the four
Gospels, the events of the night preceding the crucifixion and reckon
the time which they would necessarily have taken to enact--the Last
Supper, the agony in the Garden, the betrayal by Judas, the haling
before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and then before Pilate in the Hall
of judgment (though courts for the trial of malefactors do not GENERALLY
sit in the middle of the night); then--in Luke--the interposed visit to
Herod, and the RETURN to Pilate; Pilate's speeches and washing of hands
before the crowd; then the scourging and the mocking and the arraying of
Jesus in purple robe as a king; then the preparation of a Cross and the
long and painful journey to Golgotha; and finally the Crucifixion at
sunrise;--he will see--as has often been pointed out--that the whole
story is physically impossible. As a record of actual events the story
is impossible; but as a record or series of notes derived from the
witnessing of a "mystery-play"--and such plays with VERY SIMILAR
incidents were common enough in antiquity in connection with cults of
a dying Savior, it very likely IS true (one can see the very dramatic
character of the incidents: the washing of hands, the threefold denial
by Peter, the purple robe and crown of thorns, and so forth); and as
such it is now accepted by many well-qualified authorities. (1)

 (1) Dr. Frazer in The Golden Bough (vol. ix, "The Scapegoat," p.
400) speaks of the frequency in antiquity of a Mystery-play relating
to a God-man who gives his life and blood for the people; and he
puts forward tentatively and by no means dogmatically the following
note:--"Such a drama, if we are right, was the original story of Esther
and Mordecai, or (to give their older names) Ishtar and Marduk. It was
played in Babylonia, and from Babylonia the returning Captives brought
it to Judaea, where it was acted, rather as an historical than a
mythical piece, by players who, having to die in grim earnest on a
cross or gallows, were naturally drawn from the gaol rather than the
green-room. A chain of causes, which because we cannot follow them
might--in the loose language of common life--be called an accident,
determined that the part of the dying god in this annual play should
be thrust upon Jesus of Nazareth, whom the enemies he had made in high
places by his outspoken strictures were resolved to put out of the way."
See also vol. iv, "The Dying God," in the same book.

There are many other difficulties. The raising of Lazarus, already dead
three days, the turning of water into wine (a miracle attributed to
Bacchus, of old), the feeding of the five thousand, and others of the
marvels are, to say the least, not easy of digestion. The "Sermon on the
Mount" which, with the "Lord's Prayer" embedded in it, forms the great
and accepted repository of 'Christian' teaching and piety, is well known
to be a collection of sayings from pre-christian writings, including the
Psalms, Isaiah, Ecclesiasticus, the Secrets of Enoch, the Shemonehesreh
(a book of Hebrew prayers), and others; and the fact that this
collection was really made AFTER the time of Jesus, and could not
have originated from him, is clear from the stress which it lays on
"persecutions" and "false prophets"--things which were certainly not a
source of trouble at the time Jesus is supposed to be speaking, though
they were at a later time--as well as from the occurrence of the word
"Gentiles," which being here used apparently in contra-distinction to
"Christians" could not well be appropriate at a time when no recognized
Christian bodies as yet existed.

But the most remarkable point in this connection is the absolute
silence of the Gospel of Mark on the subject of the Resurrection and
Ascension--that is, of the ORIGINAL Gospel, for it is now allowed on
all hands that the twelve verses Mark xvi. 9 to the end, are a later
insertion. Considering the nature of this event, astounding indeed, if
physically true, and unique in the history of the world, it is strange
that this Gospel--the earliest written of the four Gospels, and nearest
in time to the actual evidence--makes no mention of it. The next Gospel
in point of time--that of Matthew--mentions the matter rather briefly
and timidly, and reports the story that the body had been STOLEN from
the sepulchre. Luke enlarges considerably and gives a whole long chapter
to the resurrection and ascension; while the Fourth Gospel, written
fully twenty years later still--say about A. D. 120--gives two chapters

This increase of detail, however, as one gets farther and farther from
the actual event is just what one always finds, as I have said before,
in legendary traditions. A very interesting example of this has lately
come to light in the case of the traditions concerning the life and
death of the Persian Bab. The Bab, as most of my readers will know, was
the Founder of a great religious movement which now numbers (or numbered
before the Great War) some millions of adherents, chiefly Mahommedans,
Christians, Jews and Parsees. The period of his missionary activity
was from 1845 to 1850. His Gospel was singularly like that of Jesus--a
gospel of love to mankind--only (as might be expected from the
difference of date) with an even wider and more deliberate inclusion of
all classes, creeds and races, sinners and saints; and the incidents and
entourage of his ministry were also singularly similar. He was born at
Shiraz in 1820, and growing up a promising boy and youth, fell at the
age Of 21 under the influence of a certain Seyyid Kazim, leader of a
heterodox sect, and a kind of fore-runner or John the Baptist to the
Bab. The result was a period of mental trouble (like the "temptation in
the wilderness"), after which the youth returned to Shiraz and at the
age of twenty-five began his own mission. His real name was Mirza Ali
Muhammad, but he called himself thenceforth The Bab, i.e. the Gate ("I
am the Way"); and gradually there gathered round him disciples, drawn
by the fascination of his personality and the devotion of his character.
But with the rapid increase of his following great jealousy and hatred
were excited among the Mullahs, the upholders of a fanatical and
narrow-minded Mahommedanism and quite corresponding to the Scribes and
Pharisees of the New Testament. By them he was denounced to the
Turkish Government. He was arrested on a charge of causing political
disturbance, and was condemned to death. Among his disciples was one
favorite, (1) who was absolutely devoted to his Master and refused to
leave him at the last. So together they were suspended over the city
wall (at Tabriz) and simultaneously shot. This was on the 8th July,

 (1) Mirza Muhammad Ali; and one should note the similarity of
the two names.

In November 1850--or between that date and October 1851, a book
appeared, written by one of the B[a^]b's earliest and most enthusiastic
disciples--a merchant of Kashan--and giving in quite simple and
unpretending form a record of the above events. There is in it no
account of miracles or of great pretensions to godhood and the like. It
is just a plain history of the life and death of a beloved teacher.
It was cordially received and circulated far and wide; and we have no
reason for doubting its essential veracity. And even if proved now to be
inaccurate in one or two details, this would not invalidate the moral of
the rest of the story--which is as follows:

After the death of the Bab a great persecution took place (in 1852);
there were many Babi martyrs, and for some years the general followers
were scattered. But in time they gathered themselves together again;
successors to the original prophet were appointed--though not without
dissensions--and a Babi church, chiefly at Acca or Acre in Syria, began
to be formed. It was during this period that a great number of legends
grew up--legends of miraculous babyhood and boyhood, legends of miracles
performed by the mature Bab, and so forth; and when the newly-forming
Church came to look into the matter it concluded (quite naturally!) that
such a simple history as I have outlined above would never do for the
foundation of its plans, now grown somewhat ambitious. So a new Gospel
was framed, called the Tarikh-i-Jadid ("The new History" or "The new
Way"), embodying and including a lot of legendary matter, and issued
with the authority of "the Church." This was in 1881-2; and comparing
this with the original record (called The point of Kaf) we get a
luminous view of the growth of fable in those thirty brief years which
had elapsed since the Bab's death. Meanwhile it became very necessary of
course to withdraw from circulation as far as possible all copies of the
original record, lest they should give the lie to the later 'Gospel';
and this apparently was done very effectively--so effectively indeed
that Professor Edward Browne (to whom the world owes so much on account
of his labors in connection with Babism), after arduous search, came at
one time to the conclusion that the original was no longer extant. Most
fortunately, however, the well-known Comte de Gobineau had in the course
of his studies on Eastern Religions acquired a copy of The point of Kaf;
and this, after his death, was found among his literary treasures and
identified (as was most fitting) by Professor Browne himself.

Such in brief is the history of the early Babi Church (1)--a Church
which has grown up and expanded greatly within the memory of many yet
living. Much might be written about it, but the chief point at present
is for us to note the well-verified and interesting example it gives of
the rapid growth in Syria of a religious legend and the reasons which
contributed to this growth--and to be warned how much more rapidly
similar legends probably grew up in the same land in the middle of
the First Century, A.D. The story of the Bab is also interesting to us
because, while this mass of legend was formed around it, there is no
possible doubt about the actual existence of a historical nucleus in the
person of Mirza Ali Muhammad.

 (1) For literature, see Edward G. Browne's Traveller's Narrative
on the Episode of the Bab (1891), and his New History of the Bab
translated from the Persian of the Tarikh-i-Jadid (Cambridge, 1893).
Also Sermons and Essays by Herbert Rix (Williams and Norgate, 1907), pp.
295-325, "The Persian Bab."

On the whole, one is sometimes inclined to doubt whether any great
movement ever makes itself felt in the world, without dating first from
some powerful personality or group of personalities, ROUND which the
idealizing and myth-making genius of mankind tends to crystallize. But
one must not even here be too certain. Something of the Apostle Paul we
know, and something of 'John' the Evangelist and writer of the Epistle
I John; and that the 'Christian' doctrines dated largely from the
preaching and teaching of these two we cannot doubt; but Paul never
saw Jesus (except "in the Spirit"), nor does he ever mention the man
personally, or any incident of his actual life (the "crucified Christ"
being always an ideal figure); and 'John' who wrote the Gospel was
certainly not the same as the disciple who "lay in Jesus' bosom"--though
an intercalated verse, the last but one in the Gospel, asserts the
identity. (1)

 (1) It is obvious, in fact, that the WHOLE of the last chapter of
St. John is a later insertion, and again that the two last verses of
that chapter are later than the chapter itself!

There may have been a historic Jesus--and if so, to get a reliable
outline of his life would indeed be a treasure; but at present it would
seem there is no sign of that. If the historicity of Jesus, in any
degree, could be proved, it would give us reason for supposing--what I
have personally always been inclined to believe--that there was also
a historical nucleus for such personages as Osiris, Mithra, Krishna,
Hercules, Apollo and the rest. The question, in fact, narrows itself
down to this, Have there been in the course of human evolution certain,
so to speak, NODAL points or periods at which the psychologic currents
ran together and condensed themselves for a new start; and has each such
node or point of condensation been marked by the appearance of an actual
and heroic man (or woman) who supplied a necessary impetus for the
new departure, and gave his name to the resulting movement? OR is
it sufficient to suppose the automatic formation of such nodes or
starting-points without the intervention of any special hero or genius,
and to imagine that in each case the myth-making tendency of mankind
CREATED a legendary and inspiring figure and worshiped the same for a
long period afterwards as a god?

As I have said before, this is a question which, interesting as it is,
is not really very important. The main thing being that the prophetic
and creative spirit of mankind HAS from time to time evolved those
figures as idealizations of its "heart's desire" and placed a halo
round their heads. The long procession of them becomes a REAL piece of
History--the history of the evolution of the human heart, and of human
consciousness. But with the psychology of the whole subject I shall deal
in the next chapter.

I may here, however, dwell for a moment on two other points which belong
properly to this chapter. I have already mentioned the great reliance
placed by the advocates of a unique 'revelation' on the high morality
taught in the Gospels and the New Testament generally. There is no need
of course to challenge that morality or to depreciate it unduly; but the
argument assumes that it is so greatly superior to anything of the kind
that had been taught before that we are compelled to suppose something
like a revelation to explain its appearance--whereas of course anyone
familiar with the writings of antiquity, among the Greeks or Romans
or Egyptians or Hindus or later Jews, knows perfectly well that the
reported sayings of Jesus and the Apostles may be paralleled abundantly
from these sources. I have illustrated this already from the Sermon
on the Mount. If anyone will glance at the Testament of the Twelve
Patriarchs--a Jewish book composed about 120 B. C.--he will see that
it is full of moral precepts, and especially precepts of love and
forgiveness, so ardent and so noble that it hardly suffers in any way
when compared with the New Testament teaching, and that consequently no
special miracle is required to explain the appearance of the latter.

The twelve Patriarchs in question are the twelve sons of Jacob, and the
book consists of their supposed deathbed scenes, in which each patriarch
in turn recites his own (more or less imaginary) life and deeds and
gives pious counsel to his children and successors. It is composed in a
fine and poetic style, and is full of lofty thought, remindful in scores
of passages of the Gospels--words and all--the coincidences being too
striking to be accidental. It evidently had a deep influence on the
authors of the Gospels, as well as on St. Paul. It affirms a belief
in the coming of a Messiah, and in salvation for the Gentiles. The
following are some quotations from it: (1) Testament of Zebulun (p.
116): "My children, I bid you keep the commands of the Lord, and show
mercy to your neighbours, and have compassion towards all, not towards
men only, but also towards beasts." Dan (p. 127): "Love the Lord through
all your life, and one another with a true heart." Joseph (p. 173): "I
was sick, and the Lord visited me; in prison, and my God showed favor
unto me." Benjamin (p. 209): "For as the sun is not defiled by shining
on dung and mire, but rather drieth up both and driveth away the evil
smell, so also the pure mind, encompassed by the defilements of earth,
rather cleanseth them and is not itself defiled."

 (1) The references being to the Edition by R. H. Charles (1907).

I think these quotations are sufficient to prove the high standard of
this book, which was written in the Second Century B. C., and FROM which
the New Testament authors copiously borrowed.

The other point has to do with my statement at the beginning of this
chapter that two of the main 'characteristics' of Christianity were its
insistence on (a) a tendency towards renunciation of the world, and a
consequent cultivation of a purely spiritual love, and (b) on a morality
whose inspiration was a private sense of duty to God rather than a
public sense of duty to one's neighbor and to society generally. I
think, however, that the last-mentioned characteristic ought to
be viewed in relation to a third, namely, (c) the extraordinarily
DEMOCRATIC tendency of the new Religion. (1) Celsus (A.D. 200) jeered
at the early Christians for their extreme democracy: "It is only
the simpletons, the ignoble, the senseless--slaves and womenfolk and
children--whom they wish to persuade (to join their churches) or CAN
persuade"--"wool-dressers and cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated
and vulgar persons," and "whosoever is a sinner, or unintelligent or
a fool, in a word, whoever is god-forsaken ([gr kakodaimwn]), him the
Kingdom of God will receive." (2) Thus Celsus, the accomplished, clever,
philosophic and withal humorous critic, laughed at the new religionists,
and prophesied their speedy extinction. Nevertheless he was mistaken.
There is little doubt that just the inclusion of women and weaklings
and outcasts did contribute LARGELY to the spread of Christianity (and
Mithraism). It brought hope and a sense of human dignity to the despised
and rejected of the earth. Of the immense numbers of lesser officials
who carried on the vast organization of the Roman Empire, most perhaps,
were taken from the ranks of the freedmen and quondam slaves, drawn from
a great variety of races and already familiar with pagan cults of all
kinds--Egyptian, Syrian, Chaldean, Iranian, and so forth. (3) This
fact helped to give to Christianity--under the fine tolerance of the
Empire--its democratic character and also its willingness to accept all.
The rude and menial masses, who had hitherto been almost beneath the
notice of Greek and Roman culture, flocked in; and though this was
doubtless, as time went on, a source of weakness to the Church, and a
cause of dissension and superstition, yet it was in the inevitable
line of human evolution, and had a psychological basis which I must now
endeavor to explain.

 (1) It is important to note, however, that this same democratic
tendency was very marked in Mithraism. "Il est certain," says Cumont,
"qu'il a fait ses premieres conquetes dans les classes inferieures de
la societe et c'est l'a un fait considerable; le mithracisme est reste
longtemps la religion des humbles." Mysteres de Mithra, p. 68.

 (2) See Glover's Conflict of Religions in the early Roman Empire,
ch. viii.

 (3) See Toutain, Cultes paiens, vol. ii, conclusion.


The general drift and meaning of the present book must now, I think,
from many hints scattered in the course of it, be growing clear. But it
will be well perhaps in this chapter, at the risk of some repetition,
to bring the whole argument together. And the argument is that since the
dawn of humanity on the earth--many hundreds of thousands or perhaps
a million years ago--there has been a slow psychologic evolution, a
gradual development or refinement of Consciousness, which at a certain
stage has spontaneously given birth in the human race to the phenomena
of religious belief and religious ritual--these phenomena (whether in
the race at large or in any branch of it) always following, step by
step, a certain order depending on the degrees of psychologic evolution
concerned; and that it is this general fact which accounts for the
strange similarities of belief and ritual which have been observed all
over the world and in places far remote from each other, and which have
been briefly noted in the preceding chapters.

And the main stages of this psychologic evolution--those at any rate
with which we are here concerned--are Three: the stage of Simple
Consciousness, the stage of Self-consciousness, and a third Stage
which for want of a better word we may term the stage of Universal
Consciousness. Of course these three stages may at some future time be
analyzed into lesser degrees, with useful result--but at present I only
desire to draw attention to them in the rough, so to speak, to show that
it is from them and from their passage one into another that there
has flowed by a perfectly natural logic and concatenation the strange
panorama of humanity's religious evolution--its superstitions and
magic and sacrifices and dancings and ritual generally, and later its
incantations and prophecies, and services of speech and verse, and
paintings and forms of art and figures of the gods. A wonderful Panorama
indeed, or poem of the Centuries, or, if you like, World-symphony with
three great leading motives!

And first we have the stage of Simple Consciousness. For hundreds of
centuries (we cannot doubt) Man possessed a degree of consciousness not
radically different from that of the higher Animals, though probably
more quick and varied. He saw, he heard, he felt, he noted. He acted or
reacted, quickly or slowly, in response to these impressions. But the
consciousness of himSELF, as a being separate from his impressions, as
separate from his surroundings, had not yet arisen or taken hold on him.
He was an instinctive part, of Nature. And in this respect he was very
near to the Animals. Self-consciousness in the animals, in a germinal
form is there, no doubt, but EMBEDDED, so to speak, in the general
world consciousness. It is on this account that the animals have such
a marvellously acute perception and instinct, being embedded in Nature.
And primitive Man had the same. Also we must, as I have said before,
allow that man in that stage must have had the same sort of grace and
perfection of form and movement as we admire in the (wild) animals now.
It would be quite unreasonable to suppose that he, the crown in the same
sense of creation, was from the beginning a lame and ill-made abortion.
For a long period the tribes of men, like the tribes of the higher
animals, must have been (on the whole, and allowing for occasional
privations and sufferings and conflicts) well adapted to their
surroundings and harmonious with the earth and with each other. There
must have been a period resembling a Golden Age--some condition at
any rate which, compared with subsequent miseries, merited the epithet

It was during this period apparently that the system of Totems arose.
The tribes felt their relationship to their winged and fourfooted mates
(including also other objects of nature) so deeply and intensely that
they adopted the latter as their emblems. The pre-civilization Man
fairly worshipped, the animals and was proud to be called after them.
Of course we moderns find this strange. We, whose conceptions of these
beautiful creatures are mostly derived from a broken-down cab-horse,
or a melancholy milk-rummaged cow in a sooty field, or a diseased and
despondent lion or eagle at the Zoo, have never even seen or loved them
and have only wondered with our true commercial instinct what profit we
could extract from them. But they, the primitives, loved and admired
the animals; they domesticated many of them by the force of a natural
friendship, (1) and accorded them a kind of divinity. This was the age
of tribal solidarity and of a latent sense of solidarity with Nature.
And the point of it all is (with regard to the subject we have in hand)
that this was also the age from which by a natural evolution the sense
of Religion came to mankind. If Religion in man is the sense of ties
binding his inner self to the powers of the universe around him, then it
is evident I think that primitive man as I have described him possessed
the REALITY of this sense--though so far buried and subconscious that
he was hardly aware of it. It was only later, and with the coming of
the Second Stage, that this sense began to rise distinctly into

 (1) See ch. iv. Tylor in his Primitive Culture (vol. i, p. 460,
edn. 1903) says: "The sense of an absolute psychical distinction between
man and beast, so prevalent in the civilized world, is hardly to be
found among the lower races."

Let us pass then to the Second Stage. There is a moment in the evolution
of a child--somewhere perhaps about the age of three (1)--when the
simple almost animal-like consciousness of the babe is troubled by a new
element--SELF-consciousness. The change is so marked, so definite, that
(in the depth of the infant's eyes) you can almost SEE it take place. So
in the evolution of the human race there has been a period--also marked
and definite, though extending intermittent over a vast interval
of time--when on men in general there dawned the consciousness of
THEMSELVES, of their own thoughts and actions. The old simple acceptance
of sensations and experiences gave place to REFLECTION. The question
arose: "How do these sensations and experiences affect ME? What can _I_
do to modify them, to encourage the pleasurable, to avoid or inhibit the
painful, and so on?" From that moment a new motive was added to life.
The mind revolved round a new centre. It began to spin like a little
eddy round its own axis. It studied ITSELF first and became deeply
concerned about its own pleasures and pains, losing touch the while with
the larger life which once dominated it--the life of Nature, the life of
the Tribe. The old unity of the spirit, the old solidarity, were broken

 (1) See Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness (Philadelphia, 1901), pp. 1
and 39; also W. McDougall's Social Psychology (1908), p. 146--where the
same age is tentatively suggested.

I have touched on this subject before, but it is so important that the
reader must excuse repetition. There came an inevitable severance, an
inevitable period of strife. The magic mirror of the soul, reflecting
nature as heretofore in calm and simple grace, was suddenly cracked
across. The new self-conscious man (not all at once but gradually)
became alienated from his tribe. He lapsed into strife with his fellows.
Ambition, vanity, greed, the love of domination, the desire for property
and possessions, set in. The influences of fellowship and solidarity
grew feebler. He became alienated from his great Mother. His instincts
were less and less sure--and that in proportion as brain-activity and
self-regarding calculation took their place. Love and mutual help were
less compelling in proportion as the demands of self-interest grew
louder and more insistent. Ultimately the crisis came. Cain murdered
his brother and became an outcast. The Garden of Eden and the Golden Age
closed their gates behind him. He entered upon a period of suffering--a
period of labor and toil and sorrow such as he had never before
known, and such as the animals certainly have never known. And in that
distressful state, in that doleful valley of his long pilgrimage, he
still remains to-day.

Thus has the canker of self-consciousness done its work. It would be
foolish and useless to rail against the process, or to blame any one for
it. It had to be. Through this dismal vale of self-seeking mankind had
to pass--if only in order at last to find the True Self which was (and
still remains) its goal. The pilgrimage will not last for ever. Indeed
there are signs that the recent Great War and the following Events mark
the lowest point of descent and the beginning of the human soul's return
to sanity and ascent towards the heavenly Kingdom. No doubt Man will
arrive again SOME day at the grace, composure and leisurely beauty of
life which the animals realized long ago, though he seems a precious
long time about it; and when all this nightmare of Greed and Vanity and
Self-conceit and Cruelty and Lust of oppression and domination, which
marks the present period, is past--and it WILL pass--then Humanity will
come again to its Golden Age and to that Paradise of redemption and
peace which has for so long been prophesied.

But we are dealing with the origins of Religion; and what I want
the reader to see is that it was just this breaking up of the old
psychologic unity and continuity of man with his surroundings which led
to the whole panorama of the rituals and creeds. Man, centering round
himself, necessarily became an exile from the great Whole. He committed
the sin (if it was a sin) of Separation. Anyhow Nemesis was swift. The
sense of loneliness and the sense of guilt came on him. The realization
of himself as a separate conscious being necessarily led to his
attributing a similar consciousness of some kind to the great Life
around him. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Whatever he may
have felt before, it became clear to him now that beings more or less
like himself--though doubtless vaster and more powerful--moved behind
the veil of the visible world. From that moment the belief in Magic and
Demons and Gods arose or slowly developed itself; and in the midst of
this turmoil of perilous and conflicting powers, he perceived himself an
alien and an exile, stricken with Fear, stricken with the sense of Sin.
If before, he had experienced fear--in the kind of automatic way of
self-preservation in which the animals feel it--he now, with fevered
self-regard and excited imagination, experienced it in double or treble
degree. And if, before, he had been aware that fortune and chance were
not always friendly and propitious to his designs, he now perceived
or thought he perceived in every adverse happening the deliberate
persecution of the powers, and an accusation of guilt directed against
him for some neglect or deficiency in his relation to them. Hence by
a perfectly logical and natural sequence there arose the belief in
other-world or supernatural powers, whether purely fortuitous and
magical or more distinctly rational and personal; there arose the sense
of Sin, or of offence against these powers; there arose a complex ritual
of Expiation--whether by personal sacrifice and suffering or by
the sacrifice of victims. There arose too a whole catalogue of
ceremonies--ceremonies of Initiation, by which the novice should learn
to keep within the good grace of the Powers, and under the blessing of
his Tribe and the protection of its Totem; ceremonies of Eucharistic
meals which should restore the lost sanctity of the common life and
remove the sense of guilt and isolation; ceremonies of Marriage and
rules and rites of sex-connection, fitted to curb the terrific and
demonic violence of passions which else indeed might easily rend the
community asunder. And so on. It is easy to see that granted an early
stage of simple unreflecting nature-consciousness, and granting
this broken into and, after a time, shattered by the arrival of
SELF-consciousness there would necessarily follow in spontaneous yet
logical order a whole series of religious institutions and beliefs,
which phantasmal and unreal as they may appear to us, were by no
means unreal to our ancestors. It is easy also to see that as the
psychological process was necessarily of similar general character in
every branch of the human race and all over the world, so the religious
evolutions--the creeds and rituals--took on much the same complexion
everywhere; and, though they differed in details according to climate
and other influences, ran on such remarkably parallel lines as we have

Finally, to make the whole matter clear, let me repeat that this event,
the inbreak of Self-consciousness, took place, or BEGAN to take place,
an enormous time ago, perhaps in the beginning of the Neolithic Age.
I dwell on the word "began" because I think it is probable that in its
beginnings, and for a long period after, this newborn consciousness had
an infantile and very innocent character, quite different from its later
and more aggressive forms--just as we see self-consciousness in a little
child has a charm and a grace which it loses later in a boastful
or grasping boyhood and manhood. So we may understand that though
self-consciousness may have begun to appear in the human race at this
very early time (and more or less contemporaneously with the invention
of very rude tools and unformed language), there probably did elapse
a very long period--perhaps the whole of the Neolithic Age--before the
evils of this second stage of human evolution came to a head. Max Muller
has pointed out that among the words which are common to the various
branches of Aryan language, and which therefore belong to the very early
period before the separation of these branches, there are not found
the words denoting war and conflict and the weapons and instruments of
strife--a fact which suggests a long continuance of peaceful habit among
mankind AFTER the first formation and use of language.

That the birth of language and the birth of self-consciousness were
APPROXIMATELY simultaneous is a probable theory, and one favored by many
thinkers; (1) but the slow beginnings of both must have been so
very protracted that it is perhaps useless to attempt any very exact
determination. Late researches seem to show that language began in what
might be called TRIBAL expressions of mood and feeling (holophrases like
"go-hunting-kill-bear") without reference to individual personalities
and relationships; and that it was only at a later stage that words like
"I" and "Thou" came into use, and the holophrases broke up into "parts
of speech" and took on a definite grammatical structure. (2) If
true, these facts point clearly to a long foreground of rude communal
language, something like though greatly superior to that of the animals,
preceding or preparing the evolution of Self-consciousness proper, in
the forms of "I" and "Thou" and the grammar of personal actions and
relations. "They show that the plural and all other forms of number in
grammar arise not by multiplication of an original 'I,' but by selection
and gradual EXCLUSION from an original collective 'we.'" (3) According
to this view the birth of self-consciousness in the human family, or
in any particular race or section of the human family, must have been
equally slow and hesitating; and it would be easy to imagine, as just
said, that there may have been a very long and 'golden' period at its
beginning, before the new consciousness took on its maturer and harsher

 (1) Dr. Bucke (Cosmic Consciousness) insists on their
simultaneity, but places both events excessively far back, as we
should think, i.e. 200,000 or 300,000 years ago. Possibly he does not
differentiate sufficiently between the rude language of the holophrase
and the much later growth of formed and grammatical speech.

 (2) See A. E. Crawley's Idea of the Soul, ch. ii; Jane Harrison's
Themis, pp. 473-5; and E. J. Payne's History of the New World called
America, vol. ii, pp. 115 sq., where the beginning of self-consciousness
is associated with the break-up of the holophrase.

 (3) Themis, p. 471.

All estimates of the Time involved in these evolutions of early man are
notoriously most divergent and most difficult to be sure of; but if we
take 500,000 years ago for the first appearance of veritable Man (homo
primigenius), (2) and (following Professor W. J. Sollas) (3) 30,000
or 40,000 years ago for the first tool-using men (homo sapiens) of
the Chellean Age (palaeolithic), 15,000 for the rock-paintings and
inscriptions of the Aurignacian and Magdalenian peoples, and 5,000 years
ago for the first actual historical records that have come down to us,
we may perhaps get something like a proportion between the different
periods. That is to say, half a million years for the purely animal man
in his different forms and grades of evolution. Then somewhere
towards the end of palaeolithic or commencement of neolithic times
Self-consciousness dimly beginning and, after some 10,000 years of slow
germination and pre-historic culture, culminating in the actual historic
period and the dawn of civilization 40 or 50 centuries ago, and to-day
(we hope), reaching the climax which precedes or foretells its abatement
and transformation.

 (2) Though Dr. Arthur Keith, Ancient Types of Man (1911), pp. 93
and 102, puts the figure at more like a million.

 (3) See Ancient Hunters (1915); also Hastings's Encycl. art.
"Ethnology"; and Havelock Ellis, "The Origin of War," in The Philosophy
of Conflict and other Essays.

No doubt many geologists and anthropologists would favor periods greatly
LONGER than those here mentioned; but possibly there would be some
agreement as to the RATIO to each other of the times concerned: that
is, the said authorities would probably allow for a VERY long animal-man
(1)-period corresponding to the first stage; for a much shorter
aggressively 'self conscious' period, corresponding to the Second
Stage--perhaps lasting only one thirtieth or fiftieth of the time of
the first period; and then--if they looked forward at all to a third
stage--would be inclined for obvious reasons to attribute to that again
a very extended duration.

 (1) I use the phrase 'animal-man' here, not with any flavor of
contempt or reprobation, as the dear Victorians would have used it, but
with a sense of genuine respect and admiration such as one feels towards
the animals themselves.

However, all this is very speculative. To return to the difficulty about
Language and the consideration of those early times when words adequate
to the expression of religious or magical ideas simply did not exist,
it is clear that the only available, or at any rate the CHIEF means
of expression, in those times, must have consisted in gestures, in
attitudes, in ceremonial ACTIONS--in a more or less elaborate ritual,
in fact. (1) Such ideas as Adoration, Thanksgiving, confession of Guilt,
placation of Wrath, Expiation, Sacrifice, Celebration of Community,
sacramental Atonement, and a score of others could at that time be
expressed by appropriate rites--and as a matter of fact are often
so expressed even now--MORE readily and directly than by language.
'Dancing'--when that word came to be invented--did not mean a mere
flinging about of the limbs in recreation, but any expressive movements
of the body which might be used to convey the feelings of the dancer or
of the audience whom he represented. And so the 'religious dance' became
a most important part of ritual.

 (1) See ch. ix and xi.

So much for the second stage of Consciousness. Let us now pass on to
the Third Stage. It is evident that the process of disruption and
dissolution--disruption both of the human mind, and of society round
about it, due to the action of the Second Stage--could not go on
indefinitely. There are hundreds of thousands of people at the present
moment who are dying of mental or bodily disease--their nervous
systems broken down by troubles connected with excessive
self-consciousness--selfish fears and worries and restlessness. Society
at large is perishing both in industry and in warfare through the
domination in its organism of the self-motives of greed and vanity and
ambition. This cannot go on for ever. Things must either continue in
the same strain, in which case it is evident that we are approaching
a crisis of utter dissolution, OR a new element must enter in, a new
inspiration of life, and we (as individuals) and the society of which
we form a part, must make a fresh start. What is that new and necessary
element of regeneration?

It is evident that it must be a new birth--the entry into a further
stage of consciousness which must supersede the present one. Through
some such crisis as we have spoken of, through the extreme of
suffering, the mind of Man, AS AT PRESENT CONSTITUTED, has to die. (1)
Self-consciousness has to die, and be buried, and rise again in a new
form. Probably nothing but the extreme of suffering can bring this
about. (2) And what is this new form in which consciousness has to
rearise? Obviously, since the miseries of the world during countless
centuries have dated from that fatal attempt to make the little personal
SELF the centre of effort and activity, and since that attempt has
inevitably led to disunity and discord and death, both within the mind
itself and within the body of society, there is nothing left but
the return to a Consciousness which shall have Unity as its
foundation-principle, and which shall proceed from the direct SENSE
AND PERCEPTION of such an unity throughout creation. The simple mind of
Early Man and the Animals was of that character--a consciousness, so
to speak, continuous through nature, and though running to points of
illumination and foci of special activity in individuals, yet at no
point essentially broken or imprisoned in separate compartments. (And
it is this CONTINUITY of the primitive mind which enables us, as I have
already explained, to understand the mysterious workings of instinct
and intuition.) To some such unity-consciousness we have to return; but
clearly it will be--it is not--of the simple inchoate character of the
First Stage, for it has been enriched, deepened, and greatly extended
by the experience of the Second Stage. It is in fact, a new order of
mentality--the consciousness of the Third Stage.

 (1) "The mind must be restrained in the heart till it comes to an
end," says the Maitrayana-Brahmana-Upanishad.

 (2) One may remember in this connection the tapas of the Hindu
yogi, or the ordeals of initiates into the pagan Mysteries generally.

In order to understand the operation and qualities of this Third
Consciousness, it may be of assistance just now to consider in what more
or less rudimentary way or ways it figured in the pagan rituals and in
Christianity. We have seen the rude Siberyaks in North-Eastern Asia or
the 'Grizzly' tribes of North American Indians in the neighborhood of
Mount Shasta paying their respects and adoration to a captive bear--at
once the food-animal, and the divinity of the Tribe. A tribesman had
slain a bear--and, be it said, had slain it not in a public hunt with
all due ceremonies observed, but privately for his own satisfaction. He
had committed, therefore, a sin theoretically unpardonable; for had he
not--to gratify his personal desire for food--levelled a blow at the
guardian spirit of the Tribe? Had he not alienated himself from his
fellows by destroying its very symbol? There was only one way by which
he could regain the fellowship of his companions. He must make amends by
some public sacrifice, and instead of retaining the flesh of the animal
for himself he must share it with the whole tribe (or clan) in a common
feast, while at the same time, tensest prayers and thanks are offered to
the animal for the gift of his body for food. The Magic formula demanded
nothing less than this--else dread disaster would fall upon the man who
sinned, and upon the whole brotherhood. Here, and in a hundred similar
rites, we see the three phases of tribal psychology--the first, in which
the individual member simply remains within the compass of the tribal
mind, and only acts in harmony with it; the second, in which the
individual steps outside and to gratify his personal SELF performs an
action which alienates him from his fellows; and the third, in which,
to make amends and to prove his sincerity, he submits to some sacrifice,
and by a common feast or some such ceremony is received back again
into the unity of the fellowship. The body of the animal-divinity is
consumed, and the latter becomes, both in the spirit and in the flesh,
the Savior of the tribe.

In course of time, when the Totem or Guardian-spirit is no longer merely
an Animal, or animal-headed Genius, but a quite human-formed Divinity,
still the same general outline of ideas is preserved--only with gathered
intensity owing to the specially human interest of the drama. The
Divinity who gives his life for his flock is no longer just an ordinary
Bull or Lamb, but Adonis or Osiris or Dionysus or Jesus. He is betrayed
by one of his own followers, and suffers death, but rises again
redeeming all with himself in the one fellowship; and the corn and the
wine and the wild flesh which were his body, and which he gave for the
sustenance of mankind, are consumed in a holy supper of reconciliation.
It is always the return to unity which is the ritual of Salvation, and
of which the symbol is the Eucharist--the second birth, the formation of
"a new creature when old things are passed away." For "Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God"; and "the first man is of
the earth, earthly, but the second man is the Lord from heaven." Like
a strange refrain, and from centuries before our era, comes down this
belief in a god who is imprisoned in each man, and whose liberation is a
new birth and the beginning of a new creature: "Rejoice, ye initiates
in the mystery of the liberated god"--rejoice in the thought of the hero
who died as a mortal in the coffin, but rises again as Lord of all!

Who then was this "Christos" for whom the world was waiting three
centuries before our era (and indeed centuries before that)? Who was
this "thrice Savior" whom the Greek Gnostics acclaimed? What was the
meaning of that "coming of the Son of Man" whom Daniel beheld in vision
among the clouds of heaven? or of the "perfect man" who, Paul declared,
should deliver us from the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God? What was this salvation which time after
time and times again the pagan deities promised to their devotees, and
which the Eleusinian and other Mysteries represented in their religious
dramas with such convincing enthusiasm that even Pindar could say "Happy
is he who has seen them (the Mysteries) before he goes beneath the
hollow earth: that man knows the true end of life and its source
divine"; and concerning which Sophocles and Aeschylus were equally
enthusiastic? (1)

 (1) See Farnell's Cults of the Greek States, vol. iii, p. 194;
also The Mysteries, Pagan and Christian, by S. Cheetham, D.D. (London,

Can we doubt, in the light of all that we have already said, what
the answer to these questions is? As with the first blossoming of
self-consciousness in the human mind came the dawn of an immense cycle
of experience--a cycle indeed of exile from Eden, of suffering and toil
and blind wanderings in the wilderness, yet a cycle absolutely necessary
and unavoidable--so now the redemption, the return, the restoration has
to come through another forward step, in the same domain. Abandoning
the quest and the glorification of the separate isolated self we have to
return to the cosmic universal life. It is the blossoming indeed of this
'new' life in the deeps of our minds which is salvation, and which
all the expressions which I have just cited have indicated. It is
this presence which all down the ages has been hailed as Savior and
Liberator: the daybreak of a consciousness so much vaster, so much more
glorious, than all that has gone before that the little candle of the
local self is swallowed up in its rays. It is the return home, the
return into direct touch with Nature and Man--the liberation from the
long exile of separation, from the painful sense of isolation and
the odious nightmare of guilt and 'sin.' Can we doubt that this new
birth--this third stage of consciousness, if we like to call it so--has
to come, that it is indeed not merely a pious hope or a tentative
theory, but a FACT testified to already by a cloud of witnesses in the
past--witnesses shining in their own easily recognizable and authentic
light, yet for the most part isolated from each other among the arid and
unfruitful wastes of Civilization, like glow-worms in the dry grass of a
summer night?

Since the first dim evolution of human self-consciousness an immense
period, as we have said--perhaps 30,000 years, perhaps even more--has
elapsed. Now, in the present day this period is reaching its
culmination, and though it will not terminate immediately, its end is,
so to speak, in sight. Meanwhile, during all the historical age behind
us--say for the last 4,000 or 5,000 years--evidence has been coming in
(partly in the religious rites recorded, partly in oracles, poems and
prophetic literature) of the onset of this further illumination--"the
light which never was on sea or land"--and the cloud of witnesses,
scattered at first, has in these later centuries become so evident and
so notable that we are tempted to believe in or to anticipate a great
and general new birth, as now not so very far off. (1) (We should, h
 that many a time already in the history the Millennium has been
prophesied, and yet not arrived punctual to date, and to take to
ourselves the words of 'Peter,' who somewhat grievously disappointed
at the long-delayed second coming of the Lord Jesus in the clouds of
heaven, wrote in his second Epistle: "There shall come in the last
days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the
promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things
continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." (2))

 (1) For an amplification of all this theme, see Dr. Bucke's
remarkable and epoch-making book, Cosmic Consciousness (first published
at Philadelphia, 1901).

 (2) 2 Peter iii. 4; written probably about A.D. 150.

I say that all through the historical age behind us there has been
evidence--even though scattered--of salvation and the return of the
Cosmic life. Man has never been so completely submerged in the bitter
sea of self-centredness but what he has occasionally been able to dash
the spray from his eyes and glimpse the sun and the glorious light of
heaven. From how far back we cannot say, but from an immense antiquity
come the beautiful myths which indicate this.

 Cinderella, the cinder-maiden, sits unbeknown in her earthly.
 Gibed and jeered at she bewails her lonely fate;
 Nevertheless youngest-born she surpasses her sisters and endues
     a garment of the sun and stars;
 From a tiny spark she ascends and irradiates the universe,
     and is wedded to the prince of heaven.

How lovely this vision of the little maiden sitting unbeknown close to
the Hearth-fire of the universe--herself indeed just a little spark from
it; despised and rejected; rejected by the world, despised by her two
elder sisters (the body and the intellect); yet she, the soul, though
latest-born, by far the most beautiful of the three. And of the Prince
of Love who redeems and sets her free; and of her wedding garment the
glory and beauty of all nature and of the heavens! The parables of
Jesus are charming in their way, but they hardly reach this height of

Or the world-old myth of Eros and Psyche. How strange that here again
there are three sisters (the three stages of human evolution), and the
latest-born the most beautiful of the three, and the jealousies and
persecutions heaped on the youngest by the others, and especially by
Aphrodite the goddess of mere sensual charm. And again the coming of the
unknown, the unseen Lover, on whom it is not permitted for mortals to
look; and the long, long tests and sufferings and trials which Psyche
has to undergo before Eros may really take her to his arms and translate
her to the heights of heaven. Can we not imagine how when these things
were represented in the Mysteries the world flocked to see them, and the
poets indeed said, "Happy are they that see and seeing can understand?"
Can we not understand how it was that the Amphictyonic decree of the
second century B.C. spoke of these same Mysteries as enforcing the
lesson that "the greatest of human blessings is fellowship and mutual


Thus we come to a thing which we must not pass over, because it throws
great light on the meaning and interpretation of all these rites and
ceremonies of the great World-religion. I mean the subject of the
Ancient Mysteries. And to this I will give a few pages.

These Mysteries were probably survivals of the oldest religious rites
of the Greek races, and in their earlier forms consisted not so much
in worship of the gods of Heaven as of the divinities of Earth, and
of Nature and Death. Crude, no doubt, at first, they gradually became
(especially in their Eleusinian form) more refined and philosophical;
the rites were gradually thrown open, on certain conditions, not only
to men generally, but also to women, and even to slaves; and in the end
they influenced Christianity deeply. (1)

 (1) See Edwin Hatch, D.D., The Influence of Greek Ideas and
Usages on the Christian Church (London, 1890), pp. 283-5.

There were apparently three forms of teaching made use of in these
rites: these were [gr legomena], things SAID; [gr deiknumena], things
SHOWN; and [gr drwmena], things PERFORMED or ACTED. (1) I have given
already some instances of things said-texts whispered for consolation in
the neophyte's car, and so forth; of the THIRD group, things enacted,
we have a fair amount of evidence. There were ritual dramas or
passion-plays, of which an important one dealt with the descent of Kore
or Proserpine into the underworld, as in the Eleusinian representations,
(2) and her redemption and restoration to the upper world in Spring;
another with the sufferings of Psyche and her rescue by Eros, as
described by Apuleius (3)--himself an initiate in the cult of Isis.
There is a parody by Lucian, which tells of the birth of Apollo, the
marriage of Coronis, and the coming of Aesculapius as Savior; there was
the dying and rising again of Dionysus (chief divinity of the Orphic
cult); and sometimes the mystery of the birth of Dionysus as a holy
child. (4) There was, every year at Eleusis, a solemn and lengthy
procession or pilgrimage made, symbolic of the long pilgrimage of the
human soul, its sufferings and deliverance.

 (1) Cheetham, op. cit., pp. 49-61 sq.

 (2) See Farnell, op. cit., iii. 158 sq.

 (3) See The Golden Ass.

 (4) Farnell, ii, 177.

"Almost always," says Dr. Cheetham, "the suffering of a god--suffering
followed by triumph--seems to have been the subject of the sacred
drama." Then occasionally to the Neophytes, after taking part in the
pilgrimage, and when their minds had been prepared by an ordeal of
darkness and fatigue and terrors, was accorded a revelation of Paradise,
and even a vision of Transfiguration--the form of the Hierophant
himself, or teacher of the Mysteries, being seen half-lost in a blaze
of light. (1) Finally, there was the eating of food and drinking
of barley-drink from the sacred chest (2)--a kind of Communion or

 (1) Ibid., 179 sq.

 (2) Ibid., 186. Sacred chests, in which holy things were kept,
figure frequently in early rites and legends--as in the case of the ark
of the Jewish tabernacle, the ark or box carried in celebrations of the
mysteries of Bacchus (Theocritus, Idyll xxvi), the legend of Pandora's
box which contained the seeds of all good and evil, the ark of Noah
which saved all living creatures from the flood, the Argo of the
argonauts, the moonshaped boat in which Isis floating over the waters
gathered together the severed limbs of Osiris, and so brought about his
resurrection, and the many chests or coffins out of which the various
gods (Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Jesus), having been laid there in death,
rose again for the redemption of the world. They all evidently refer to
the mystic womb of Nature and of Woman, and are symbols of salvation and
redemption (For a full discussion of this subject, see The Great Law of
religious origins, by W. Williamson, ch. iv.)

Apuleius in The Golden Ass gives an interesting account of his induction
into the mysteries of Isis: how, bidding farewell one evening to the
general congregation outside, and clothed in a new linen garment, he was
handed by the priest into the inner recesses of the temple itself; how
he "approached the confines of death, and having trod on the threshold
of Proserpine (the Underworld), returned therefrom, being borne through
all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining with its brilliant
light: and I approached the presence of the Gods beneath and the Gods
above, and stood near and worshipped them." During the night things
happened which must not be disclosed; but in the morning he came forth
"consecrated by being dressed in twelve stoles painted with the figures
of animals." (1) He ascended a pulpit in the midst of the Temple,
carrying in his right hand a burning torch, while a chaplet encircled
his head, from which palm-leaves projected like rays of light. "Thus
arrayed like the Sun, and placed so as to resemble a statue, on a
sudden the curtains being drawn aside, I was exposed to the gaze of the
multitude. After this I celebrated the most joyful day of my initiation,
as my natal day (day of the New Birth) and there was a joyous banquet
and mirthful conversation."

 (1) An allusion no doubt to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the
pathway of the Sun, as well as to the practice of the ancient priests of
wearing the skins of totem-animals in sign of their divinity.

One can hardly refuse to recognize in this account the description of
some kind of ceremony which was supposed to seal the illumination of a
man and his new birth into divinity--the animal origin, the circling of
all experience, the terrors of death, and the resurrection in the
form of the Sun, the symbol of all light and life. The very word
"illumination" carries the ideas of light and a new birth with it.
Reitzenstein in his very interesting book on the Greek Mysteries (1)
speaks over and over again of the illumination ([gr fwtismos]) which
was held to attend Initiation and Salvation. The doctrine of Salvation
indeed ([gr swthria]) was, as we have already seen, rife and widely
current in the Second Century B. C. It represented a real experience,
and the man who shared this experience became a [gr qeios] [gr anqrwpos]
or divine man. (2) In the Orphic Tablets the phrase "I am a child of
earth and the starry heaven, but my race is of heaven (alone)" occurs
more than once. In one of the longest of them the dead man is instructed
"after he has passed the waters (of Lethe) where the white Cypress and
the House of Hades are" to address these very words to the guardians
of the Lake of Memory while he asks for a drink of cold water from that
Lake. In another the dead person himself is thus addressed: "Hail, thou
who hast endured the Suffering, such as indeed thou hadst never suffered
before; thou hast become god from man!" (3) Ecstacy was the acme of the
religious life; and, what is especially interesting to us, Salvation or
the divine nature was open to all men--to all, that is, who should go
through the necessary stages of preparation for it. (4)

 (1) Die hellenistischen Mysterien-Religionen, by R. Reitzenstein,
Leipzig, 1910.

 (2) Reitzenstein, p. 12.

 (3) These Tablets (so-called) are instructions to the dead as to
their passage into the other world, and have been found in the tombs, in
Italy and elsewhere, inscribed on very thin gold plates and buried with
the departed. See Manual of Greek Antiquities by Percy Gardner and F.
B. Jerome (1896); also Prolegomena to Greek Religion by Jane E. Harrison

 (4) Reitzenstein, pp. 15 and 18; also S. J. Case, Evolution of
Early Christianity, p. 301.

Reitzenstein contends (p. 26) that in the Mysteries, transfiguration
([gr metamorfwsis]), salvation ([gr swthria]), and new birth ([gr
paliggenesia]) were often conjoined. He says (p. 31), that in the
Egyptian Osiris-cult, the Initiate acquires a nature "equal to God"
([gr isoqeos]), the very same expression as that used of Christ Jesus in
Philippians ii. 6; he mentions Apollonius of Tyana and Sergius Paulus
as instances of men who by their contemporaries were considered to have
attained this nature; and he quotes Akhnaton (Pharaoh of Egypt in 1375
B.C.) as having said, "Thou art in my heart; none other knows Thee, save
thy son Akhnaton; Thou hast initiated him into thy wisdom and into thy
power." He also quotes the words of Hermes (Trismegistus)--"Come unto
Me, even as children to their mother's bosom: Thou art I, and I am Thou;
what is thine is mine, and what is mine is thine; for indeed I am thine
image ([gr eidwlon])," and refers to the dialogue between Hermes and
Tat, in which they speak of the great and mystic New Birth and Union
with the All--with all Elements, Plants and Animals, Time and Space.

"The Mysteries," says Dr. Cheetham very candidly, "influenced
Christianity considerably and modified it in some important respects";
and Dr. Hatch, as we have seen, not only supports this general view, but
follows it out in detail. (1) He points out that the membership of the
Mystery-societies was very numerous in the earliest times, A.D.; that
their general aims were good, including a sense of true religion, decent
life, and brotherhood; that cleanness from crime and confession were
demanded from the neophyte; that confession was followed by baptism
([gr kaqarsis]) and THAT by sacrifice; that the term [gr fwtismos]
(illumination) was adopted by the Christian Church as the name for the
new birth of baptism; that the Christian usage of placing a seal on the
forehead came from the same source; that baptism itself after a time
was called a mystery ([gr musihriou]); that the sacred cakes and
barley-drink of the Mysteries became the milk and honey and bread
and wine of the first Christian Eucharists, and that the occasional
sacrifice of a lamb on the Christian altar ("whose mention is often
suppressed") probably originated in the same way. Indeed, the conception
of the communion-table AS an altar and many other points of ritual
gradually established themselves from these sources as time went on. (2)
It is hardly necessary to say more in proof of the extent to which
in these ancient representations "things said" and "scenes enacted"
forestalled the doctrines and ceremonials of Christianity.

 (1) See Hatch, op. cit., pp. 290 sq.

 (2) See Dionysus Areop. (end of fifth century), who describes the
Christian rites generally in Mystery language (Hatch, 296).

"But what of the second group above-mentioned, the "things SHOWN"? It
is not so easy naturally to get exact information concerning these, but
they seem to have been specially holy objects, probably things connected
with very ancient rituals in the past--such as sacred stones, old and
rude images of the gods, magic nature-symbols, like that half-disclosed
ear of corn above-mentioned (Ch. V.). "In the Temple of Isis at Philae,"
says Dr. Cheetham, "the dead body of Osiris is represented with stalks
of corn springing from it, which a priest waters from a vessel. An
inscription says: 'This is the form of him whom we may not name, Osiris
of the Mysteries who sprang from the returning waters' (the Nile)."
Above all, no doubt, there were images of the phallus and the vulva, the
great symbols of human fertility. We have seen (Ch. XII) that the lingam
and the yoni are, even down to to-day, commonly retained and honored as
holy objects in the S. Indian Temples, and anointed with oil (some
of them) for a very practical reason. Sir J. G. Frazer, in his lately
published volumes on The Folk-lore of the Old Testament, has a chapter
(in vol. ii) on the very numerous sacred stones of various shapes and
sizes found or spoken of in Palestine and other parts of the world.
Though uncertain as to the meaning of these stones he mentions that they
are "frequently, though not always, UPRIGHT." Anointing them with oil,
he assures us, "is a widespread practice, sometimes by women who wish
to obtain children." And he concludes the chapter by saying: "The holy
stone at Bethel was probably one of those massive standing stones or
rough pillars which the Hebrews called masseboth, and which, as we
have seen, were regular adjuncts of Canaanite and early Israelitish
sanctuaries." We have already mentioned the pillars Jachin and Boaz
which stood before the Temple of Solomon, and which had an acknowledged
sexual significance; and so it seems probable that a great number of
these holy stones had a similar meaning. (1) Following this clue it
would appear likely that the lingam thus anointed and worshipped in the
Temples of India and elsewhere IS the original [gr cristos] (2) adored
by the human race from the very beginning, and that at a later time,
when the Priest and the King, as objects of worship, took the place of
the Lingam, THEY also were anointed with the chrism of fertility.
That the exhibition of these emblems should be part of the original
'Mystery'-rituals was perfectly natural--especially because, as we have
explained already (3) old customs often continued on in a quite naive
fashion in the rituals, when they had come to be thought indecent or
improper by a later public opinion; and (we may say) was perfectly
in order, because there is plenty of evidence to show that in SAVAGE
initiations, of which the Mysteries were the linear descendants, all
these things WERE explained to the novices, and their use actually
taught. (4) No doubt also there were some representations or dramatic
incidents of a fairly coarse character, as deriving from these ancient
sources. (5) It is, however, quaint to observe how the mere mention of
such things has caused an almost hysterical commotion among the critics
of the Mysteries--from the day of the early Christians who (in order
to belaud their own religion) were never tired of abusing the Pagans,
onward to the present day when modern scholars either on the one hand
follow the early Christians in representing the Mysteries as sinks of
iniquity or on the other (knowing this charge could not be substantiated
except in the period of their final decadence) take the line of ignoring
the sexual interest attaching to them as non-existent or at any rate
unworthy of attention. The good Archdeacon Cheetham, for instance, while
writing an interesting book on the Mysteries passes by this side of the
subject ALMOST as if it did not exist; while the learned Dr. Farnell,
overcome apparently by the weight of his learning, and unable to
confront the alarming obstacle presented by these sexual rites and
aspects, hides himself behind the rather non-committal remark (speaking
of the Eleusinian rites) "we have no right to imagine any part of this
solemn ceremony as coarse or obscene." (6) As Nature, however, has been
known (quite frequently) to be coarse or obscene, and as the initiators
of the Mysteries were probably neither 'good' nor 'learned,' but were
simply anxious to interpret Nature as best they could, we cannot find
fault with the latter for the way they handled the problem, nor indeed
well see how they could have handled it better.

 (1) F. Nork, Der Mystagog, mentions that the Roman Penates were
commonly anointed with oil. J. Stuart Hay, in his Life of Elagabalus
(1911), says that "Elagabal was worshipped under the symbol of a great
black stone or meteorite, in the shape of a Phallus, which having fallen
from the heavens represented a true portion of the Godhead, much after
the style of those black stone images popularly venerated in Norway and
other parts of Europe."

 (2) J. E. Hewitt, in his Ruling Races of Pre-historic Times (p.
64), gives a long list of pre-historic races who worshipped the lingam.

 (3) See Ch. XI.

 (4) See Ernest Crawley's Mystic Rose, ch. xiii, pp. 310 and 313:
"In certain tribes of Central Africa both boys and girls after
initiation must as soon as possible have intercourse." Initiation being
not merely preliminary to, but often ACTUALLY marriage. The same
among Kaffirs, Congo tribes, Senegalese, etc. Also among the Arunta of

 (5) Professor Diederichs has said that "in much ancient ritual it
was thought that mystic communion with the deity could be obtained
through the semblance of sex-intercourse--as in the Attis-Cybele
worship, and the Isis-ritual." (Farnell.) Reitzenstein says (op. cit.,
p. 20.) that the Initiates, like some of the Christian Nuns at a later
time, believed in union with God through receiving the seed.

 (6) Farnell, op. cit., iii. 176. Messrs. Gardner and Jevons, in
their Manual of Greek Antiquities, above-quoted, compare the Eleusinian
Mysteries favorably with some of the others, like the Arcadian, the
Troezenian, the Aeginaean, and the very primitive Samothracian:
saying (p. 278) that of the last-mentioned "we know little, but safely
conjecture that in them the ideas of sex and procreation dominated EVEN
MORE than in those of Eleusis."

After all it is pretty clear that the early peoples saw in Sex the great
cohesive force which kept (we will not say Humanity but at any rate)
the Tribe together, and sustained the race. In the stage of simple
Consciousness this must have been one of the first things that the
budding intellect perceived. Sex became one of the earliest divinities,
and there is abundant evidence that its organs and processes generally
were invested with a religious sense of awe and sanctity. It was in fact
the symbol (or rather the actuality) of the permanent undying life
of the race, and as such was sacred to the uses of the race. Whatever
taboos may have, among different peoples, guarded its operations, it
was not essentially a thing to be concealed, or ashamed of. Rather the
contrary. For instance the early Christian writer, Hippolytus, Bishop of
Pontus (A.D. 200), in his Refutation of all Heresies, Book V, says that
the Samothracian Mysteries, just mentioned, celebrate Adam as the
primal or archetypal Man eternal in the heavens; and he then continues:
"Habitually there stand in the temple of the Samothracians two images
of naked men having both hands stretched aloft towards heaven, and their
pudenda turned upwards, as is also the case with the statue of Mercury
on Mt. Cyllene. And the aforesaid images are figures of the primal man,
and of that spiritual one that is born again, in every respect of the
same substance with that (first) man."

This extract from Hippolytus occurs in the long discourse in which he
'exposes' the heresy of the so-called Naassene doctrines and mysteries.
But the whole discourse should be read by those who wish to understand
the Gnostic philosophy of the period contemporary with and anterior to
the birth of Christianity. A translation of the discourse, carefully
analyzed and annotated, is given in G. R. S. Mead's Thrice-greatest
Hermes (1) (vol. i); and Mead himself, speaking of it, says (p. 141):
"The claim of these Gnostics was practically that the good news of the
Christ (the Christos) was the consummation of the inner doctrine of the
Mystery-institutions of all the nations; the end of them all being the
revelation of the Mystery of Man." Further, he explains that the Soul,
in these doctrines, was regarded as synonymous with the Cause of All;
and that its loves were twain--of Aphrodite (or Life), and of Persephone
(or Death and the other world). Also that Attis, abandoning his sex in
the worship of the Mother-Goddess (Dea Syria), ascends to Heaven--a new
man, Male-female, and the origin of all things: the hidden Mystery being
the Phallus itself, erected as Hermes in all roads and boundaries and
temples, the Conductor and Reconductor of Souls.

 (1) Reitzenstein, op. cit., quotes the discourse largely. The
Thrice-greatest Hermes may also be consulted for a translation of
Plutarch's Isis and Osiris.

All this may sound strange, but one may fairly say that it represented
in its degree, and in that first 'unfallen' stage of human thought
and psychology, a true conception of the cosmic Life, and indeed a
conception quite sensible and admirable, until, of course, the Second
Stage brought corruption. No sooner was this great force of the cosmic
life diverted from its true uses of Generation and Regeneration (1) and
appropriated by the individual to his own private pleasure--no sooner
was its religious character as a tribal service (2), (often rendered
within the Temple precincts) lost sight of or degraded into a commercial
transaction--than every kind of evil fell upon mankind. Corruptio optimi
pessima. It must be remembered too that simultaneous with this sexual
disruption occurred the disruption of other human relations; and
we cease to be surprised that disease and selfish passions, greed,
jealousy, slander, cruelty, and wholesale murder, raged--and have raged
ever since.

 (1) For the special meaning of these two terms, see The Drama of
Love and Death, by E. Carpenter, pp. 59-61.

 (2) Ernest Crawley in The Mystic Rose challenges this
identification of Religion with tribal interests; yet his arguments
are not very convincing. On p. 5 he admits that "there is a religious
meaning inherent in the primitive conception and practice of ALL human
relations"; and a large part of his ch. xii is taken up in showing that
even such institutions as the Saturnalia were religious in confirming
the sense of social union and leading to 'extended identity.'

But for the human soul--whatever its fate, and whatever the dangers and
disasters that threaten it--there is always redemption waiting. As we
saw in the last chapter, this corruption of Sex led (quite naturally) to
its denial and rejection; and its denial led to the differentiation from
it of Love. Humanity gained by the enthronement And deification of Love,
pure and undefiled, and (for the time being) exalted beyond this mortal
world, and free from all earthly contracts. But again in the end, the
divorce thus introduced between the physical and the spiritual led
to the crippling of both. Love relegated, so to speak, to heaven as a
purely philanthropical, pious and 'spiritual' affair, became exceedingly
DULL; and sex, remaining on earth, but deserted by the redeeming
presence, fell into mere "carnal curiosity and wretchedness of unclean
living." Obviously for the human race there remains nothing, in the
final event, but the reconciliation of the physical and the spiritual,
and after many sufferings, the reunion of Eros and Psyche.

There is still, however, much to be said about the Third State of
Consciousness. Let us examine into it a little more closely. Clearly,
since it is a new state, and not merely an extension of a former one,
one cannot arrive at it by argument derived from the Second state, for
all conscious Thought such as we habitually use simply keeps us IN the
Second state. No animal or quite primitive man could possibly understand
what we mean by Self-consciousness till he had experienced it. Mere
argument would not enlighten him. And so no one in the Second state
can quite realize the Third state till he has experienced it. Still,
explanations may help us to perceive in what direction to look, and
to recognize in some of our experiences an approach to the condition

Evidently it is a mental condition in some respects more similar to the
first than to the second stage. The second stage of human psychologic
evolution is an aberration, a divorce, a parenthesis. With its
culmination and dismissal the mind passes back into the simple state of
union with the Whole. (The state of Ekagrata in the Hindu philosophy:
one-pointedness, singleness of mind.) And the consciousness of
the Whole, and of things past and things to come and things far
around--which consciousness had been shut out by the concentration on
the local self--begins to return again. This is not to say, of course,
that the excursus in the second stage has been a loss and a defect. On
the contrary, it means that the Return is a bringing of all that
has been gained during the period of exile (all sorts of mental and
technical knowledge and skill, emotional developments, finesse and
adaptability of mind) BACK into harmony with the Whole. It means
ultimately a great gain. The Man, perfected, comes back to a vastly
extended harmony. He enters again into a real understanding and
confidential relationship with his physical body and with the body of
the society in which he dwells--from both of which he has been sadly
divorced; and he takes up again the broken thread of the Cosmic Life.

Everyone has noticed the extraordinary consent sometimes observable
among the members of an animal community--how a flock of 500 birds (e.
g. starlings) will suddenly change its direction of flight--the light
on the wings shifting INSTANTANEOUSLY, as if the impulse to veer came
to all at the same identical moment; or how bees will swarm or otherwise
act with one accord, or migrating creatures (lemmings, deer, gossamer
spiders, winged ants) the same. Whatever explanation of these facts we
favor--whether the possession of swifter and finer means of external
communication than we can perceive, or whether a common and inner
sensitivity to the genius of the Tribe (the "Spirit of the Hive") or to
the promptings of great Nature around--in any case these facts of animal
life appear to throw light on the possibilities of an accord and consent
among the members of emaciated humanity, such as we dream of now, and
seem to bid us have good hope for the future.

It is here, perhaps, that the ancient worship of the Lingam comes in.
The word itself is apparently connected with our word 'link,' and has
originally the same meaning. (1) It is the link between the generations.
Beginning with the worship of the physical Race-life, the course of
psychologic evolution has been first to the worship of the Tribe (or
of the Totem which represents the tribe); then to the worship of
the human-formed God of the tribe--the God who dies and rises
again eternally, as the tribe passes on eternal--though its members
perpetually perish; then to the conception of an undying Savior, and the
realization and distinct experience of some kind of Super-consciousness
which does certainly reside, more or less hidden, in the deeps of the
mind, and has been waiting through the ages for its disclosure and
recognition. Then again to the recognition that in the sacrifices,
the Slayer and the Slain are one--the strange and profoundly mystic
perception that the God and the Victim are in essence the same--the
dedication of 'Himself to Himself' (2) and simultaneously with this the
interpretation of the Eucharist as meaning, even for the individual,
the participation in Eternal Life--the continuing life of the Tribe,
or ultimately of Humanity. (3) The Tribal order rises to Humanity; love
ascends from the lingam to yogam, from physical union alone to the union
with the Whole--which of course includes physical and all other kinds of
union. No wonder that the good St. Paul, witnessing that extraordinary
whirlpool of beliefs and practices, new and old, there in the first
century A.D.--the unabashed adoration of sex side by side with the
transcendental devotions of the Vedic sages and the Gnostics--became
somewhat confused himself and even a little violent, scolding his
disciples (I Cor. x. 21) for their undiscriminating acceptance, as it
seemed to him, of things utterly alien and antagonistic. "Ye cannot
drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers
of the Lord's table and the table of devils."

 (1) See Sanskrit Dictionary.

 (2) See Ch. VIII.

 (3) There are many indications in literature--in prophetic or
poetic form--of this awareness and distinct conviction of an eternal
life, reached through love and an inner sense of union with others and
with humanity at large; indications which bear the mark of absolute
genuineness and sincerity of feeling. See, for instance, Whitman's poem,
"To the Garden the World" (Leaves of Grass, complete edition, p. 79).
But an eternal life of the third order; not, thank heaven! an eternity
of the meddling and muddling self-conscious Intellect!

Every careful reader has noticed the confusedness of Paul's mind and
arguments. Even taking only those Epistles (Galatians, Romans and
Corinthians) which the critics assign to his pen, the thing is
observable--and some learned Germans even speak of TWO Pauls. (1) But
also the thing is quite natural. There can be little doubt that Paul of
Tarsus, a Jew brought up in the strictest sect of the Pharisees, did at
some time fall deeply under the influence of Greek thought, and quite
possibly became an initiate in the Mysteries. It would be difficult
otherwise to account for his constant use of the Mystery-language.
Reitzenstein says (p. 59): "The hellenistic religious literature MUST
have been read by him; he uses its terms, and is saturated with its
thoughts (see Rom. vi. 1-14." And this conjoined with his Jewish
experience gave him creative power. "A great deal in his sentiment and
thought may have REMAINED Jewish, but to his Hellenism he was indebted
for his love of freedom and his firm belief in his apostleship." He
adopts terms (like [gr sarkikos], [gr yucikos] and [gr pneumatikos])
(2) which were in use among the hellenistic sects of the time; and
he writes, as in Romans vi. 4, 5, about being "buried" with Christ or
"planted" in the likeness of his death, in words which might well have
been used (with change of the name) by a follower of Attis or Osiris
after witnessing the corresponding 'mysteries'; certainly the allusion
to these ancient deities would have been understood by every religionist
of that day. These few points are sufficient to acentuate{sic} the two
elements in Paul, the Jewish and the Greek, and to explain (so far)
the seeming confusion in his utterances. Further it is interesting to
note--as showing the pagan influences in the N. T. writings--the degree
to which the Epistle to Philemon (ascribed to Paul) is FULL--short as it
is--of expressions like PRISONER of the Lord, FELLOW SOLDIER, CAPTIVE or
BONDMAN, (3) which were so common at the time as to be almost a cant in
Mithraism and the allied cults. In I Peter ii. 2 (4), we have the verse
"As newborn babes, desire ye the sincere MILK of the word, that ye
may grow thereby." And again we may say that no one in that day could
mistake the reference herein contained to old initiation ceremonies and
the new birth (as described in Chapter VIII above), for indeed milk was
the well-known diet of the novice in the Isis mysteries, as well as On
some savage tribes) of the Medicine-man when practising his calling.

 (1) "Die Mysterien-anschauungen, die bei Paulus im Hintergrunde
stehen, drangen sich in dem sogenarmten Deuteropaulinismus machtig vor"

 (2) Remindful of our Three Stages: the Animal, the
Self-conscious, and the Cosmic.

 (3) [gr desmios, stratiwths, doulos].

 (4) See also I Cor. iii. 2.

And here too Democracy comes in--strangely foreboded from the first in
all this matter. (1) Not only does the Third Stage bring illumination,
intuitive understanding of processes in Nature and Humanity, sympathy
with the animals, artistic capacity, and so forth, but it necessarily
brings a new Order of Society. A preposterous--one may almost say a
hideous--social Age is surely drawing to its end, The debacle we are
witnessing to-day all over Europe (including the British Islands), the
break-up of old institutions, the generally materialistic outlook on
life, the coming to the surface of huge masses of diseased and fatuous
populations, the scum and dregs created by the past order, all point to
the End of a Dispensation. Protestantism and Commercialism, in the two
fields of religion and daily life have, as I have indicated before,
been occupied in concentrating the mind of each man solely on his OWN
welfare, the salvation of his OWN soul or body. These two forces have
therefore been disruptive to the last degree; they mark the culmination
of the Self-conscious Age--a culmination in War, Greed, Materialism, and
the general principle of Devil-take-the-hindmost--and the clearing of
the ground for the new order which is to come. So there is hope for the
human race. Its evolution is not all a mere formless craze and jumble.
There is an inner necessity by which Humanity unfolds from one degree or
plane of consciousness to another. And if there has been a great 'Fall'
or Lapse into conflict and disease and 'sin' and misery, occupying the
major part of the Historical period hitherto, we see that this period
is only brief, so to speak, in comparison with the whole curve of growth
and expansion. We see also that, as I have said before, the belief in a
state of salvation or deliverance has in the past ages never left
itself quite without a witness in the creeds and rituals and poems and
prophecies of mankind. Art, in some form or other, as an activity or
inspiration dating not from the conscious Intellect, but from deeper
regions of sub-conscious feeling and intuition, has continually come to
us as a message from and an evidence of the Third stage or state, and as
a promise of its more complete realization under other conditions.

 Through the long night-time where the Nations wander
     From Eden past to Paradise to be,
 Art's sacred flowers, like fair stars shining yonder,
     Alone illumine Life's obscurity.

 O gracious Artists, out of your deep hearts
     'Tis some great Sun, I doubt, by men unguessed,
 Whose rays come struggling thus, in slender darts,
     To shadow what Is, till Time shall manifest.

 (1) See the germs of Democracy in the yoga teaching of the
Hindus, and in the Upanishads, the Bhagavat Gita, and other books.

With the Cosmic stage comes also necessarily the rehabilitation of the
WHOLE of Society in one fellowship (the true Democracy). Not the rule or
domination of one class or caste--as of the Intellectual, the Pious,
the Commercial or the Military--but the fusion or at least consentaneous
organization of ALL (as in the corresponding functions of the human
Body). Class rule has been the mark of that second period of human
evolution, and has inevitably given birth during that period to wars and
self-agrandizements of classes and sections, and their consequent greeds
and tyrannies over other classes and sections. It is not found in the
primitive human tribes and societies, and will not be found in the final
forms of human association. The liberated and emancipated Man passes
unconstrained and unconstraining through all grades and planes of human
fellowship, equal and undisturbed, and never leaving his true home
and abiding place in the heart of all. Equally necessarily with the
rehabilitation of Society as an entirety will follow the rehabilitation
of the entire physical body IN each member of Society. We have spoken
already of Nakedness: its meaning and likely extent of adoption (Ch.
XII). The idea that the head and the hands are the only seemly and
presentable members of the organism, and that the other members are
unworthy and indecent, is obviously as onesided and lopsided as that
which honors certain classes in the commonwealth and despises others.
Why should the head brag of its ascendancy and domination, and the heart
be smothered up and hidden? It will only be a life far more in the open
air than that which we lead at present, which will restore the balance
and ultimately bring us back to sanity and health.


We have dealt with the Genesis of Christianity; we now come to the
Exodus. For that Christianity can CONTINUE to hold the field of Religion
in the Western World is neither probable nor desirable. It is true, as
I have remarked already, that there is a certain trouble about
defining what we mean by "Christianity" similar to that about the word
"Civilization." If we select out of the great mass of doctrines and
rites favored by the various Christian Churches just those which commend
themselves to the most modern and humane and rational human mind and
choose to call that resulting (but rather small) body of belief and
practice 'Christianity' we are, of course, entitled to do so, and to
hope (as we do hope) that this residuum will survive and go forward into
the future. But this sort of proceeding is hardly fair and certainly not
logical. It enables Christianity to pose as an angel of light while at
the same time keeping discreetly out of sight all its own abominations
and deeds of darkness. The Church--which began its career by destroying,
distorting and denying the pagan sources from which it sprang; whose
bishops and other ecclesiastics assassinated each other in their
theological rancour "of wild beasts," which encouraged the wicked folly
of the Crusades--especially the Children's Crusades--and the shameful
murders of the Manicheans, the Albigenses, and the Huguenots; which
burned at the stake thousands and thousands of poor 'witches' and
'heretics'; which has hardly ever spoken a generous word in favor or
defence of the animals; which in modern times has supported vivisection
as against the latter, Capitalism and Commercialism as against the
poorer classes of mankind; and whose priests in the forms of its various
sects, Greek or Catholic, Lutheran or Protestant, have in these last
days rushed forth to urge the nations to slaughter each other with every
diabolical device of Science, and to glorify the war-cry of Patriotism
in defiance of the principle of universal Brotherhood--such a Church can
hardly claim to have established the angelic character of its mission
among mankind! And if it be said--as it often IS SAID: "Oh! but you must
go back to the genuine article, and the Church's real origin and one
foundation in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ," then indeed you
come back to the point which this book, as above, enforces: namely, that
as to the person of Jesus, there is no CERTAINTY at all that he ever
existed; and as to the teaching credited to him, it is certain that that
comes down from a period long anterior to 'Christianity' and is part of
what may justly be called a very ancient World-religion. So, as in the
case of 'Civilization,' we are compelled to see that it is useless to
apply the word to some ideal state of affairs or doctrine (an ideal
by no means the same in all people's minds, or in all localities and
times), but that the only reasonable thing to do is to apply it in each
case to a HISTORICAL PERIOD. In the case of Christianity the historical
period has lasted nearly 2,000 years, and, as I say, we can hardly
expect or wish that it should last much longer.

The very thorough and careful investigation of religious origins which
has been made during late years by a great number of students and
observers undoubtedly tends to show that there has been something like
a great World-religion coming down the centuries from the remotest times
and gradually expanding and branching as it has come--that is to say
that the similarity (in ESSENCE though not always in external detail)
between the creeds and rituals of widely sundered tribes and peoples is
so great as to justify the view--advanced in the present volume--that
these creeds and rituals are the necessary outgrowths of human
psychology, slowly evolving, and that consequently they have a common
origin and in their various forms a common expression. Of this great
World-religion, so coming down, Christianity is undoubtedly a branch,
and an important branch. But there have been important branches before;
and while it may be true that Christianity emphasizes some points which
may have been overlooked or neglected in the Vedic teachings or in
Buddhism, or in the Persian and Egyptian and Syrian cults, or in
Mahommedanism, and so forth, it is also equally true that Christianity
has itself overlooked or neglected valuable points in these religions.
It has, in fact, the defects of its qualities. If the World-religion
is like a great tree, one cannot expect or desire that all its branches
should be directed towards the same point of the compass.

Reinach, whose studies of religious origins are always interesting
and characterized by a certain Gallic grace and nettete, though with a
somewhat Jewish non-perception of the mystic element in life, defines
Religion as a combination of animism and scruples. This is good in
a way, because it gives the two aspects of the subject: the inner,
animism, consisting of the sense of contact with more or less
intelligent beings moving in Nature; and the outer, consisting in
scruples or taboos. The one aspect shows the feeling which INSPIRES
religion, the other, the checks and limitations which DEFINE it and give
birth to ritual. But like most anthropologists he (Reinach) is a little
TOO patronizing towards the "poor Indian with untutored mind." He is
sorry for people so foolish as to be animistic in their outlook, and he
is always careful to point out that the scruples and taboos were quite
senseless in their origin, though occasionally (by accident) they turned
out useful. Yet--as I have said before--Animism is a perfectly sensible,
logical and NECESSARY attitude of the human mind. It is a necessary
attribute of man's psychical nature, by which he projects into the great
World around him the image of his own mind. When that mind is in a very
primitive, inchoate, and fragmentary condition, the images so projected
are those of fragmentary intelligences ('spirits,' gnomes, etc.--the age
of magic); when the mind rises to distinct consciousness of itself the
reflections of it are anthropomorphic 'gods'; when finally it reaches
the universal or cosmic state it perceives the presence of a universal
Being behind all phenomena--which Being is indeed itself--"Himself to
Himself." If you like you may call the whole process by the name of
Animism. It is perfectly sensible throughout. The only proviso is that
you should also be sensible, and distinguish the different stages in the

Jane Harrison makes considerable efforts to show that Religion is
primarily a reflection of the SOCIAL Conscience (see Themis, pp.
482-92)--that is, that the sense in Man of a "Power that makes for
righteousness" outside (and also inside) him is derived from his feeling
of continuity with the Tribe and his instinctive obedience to its
behests, confirmed by ages of collective habit and experience. He
cannot in fact sever the navel-string which connects him with his tribal
Mother, even though he desires to do so. And no doubt this view of the
origin of Religion is perfectly correct. But it must be pointed out that
it does not by any means exclude the view that religion derives
also from an Animism by which man recognizes in general Nature his
foster-mother and feels himself in closest touch with HER. Which may
have come first, the Social affiliation or the Nature affiliation, I
leave to the professors to determine. The term Animism may, as far as I
can see, be quite well applied to the social affiliation, for the latter
is evidently only a case in which the individual projects his own degree
of consciousness into the human group around him instead of into the
animals or the trees, but it is a case of which the justice is so
obvious that the modern man can intellectually seize and understand it,
and consequently he does not tar it with the 'animistic' brush.

And Miss Harrison, it must be noticed, does, in other passages of the
same book (see Themis, pp. 68, 69), admit that Religion has its origin
not only from unity with the Tribe but from the sense of affiliation to
Nature--the sense of "a world of unseen power lying behind the visible
universe, a world which is the sphere, as will be seen, of magical
activity and the medium of mysticism. The mystical element, the oneness
and continuousness comes out very clearly in the notion of Wakonda among
the Sioux Indians.... The Omahas regarded all animate and inanimate
forms, all phenomena, as pervaded by a common life, which was continuous
and similar to the will-power they were conscious of in themselves. This
mysterious power in all things they called Wakonda, and through it
all things were related to man, and to each other. In the idea of the
continuity of life, a relation was maintained between the seen and
the unseen, the dead and the living, and also between the fragment of
anything and its entirety." Thus our general position is confirmed,
that Religion in its origin has been INSPIRED by a deep instinctive
conviction or actual sense of continuity with a being or beings in the
world around, while it has derived its FORM and ritual by slow degrees
from a vast number of taboos, generated in the first instance chiefly
by superstitious fears, but gradually with the growth of reason and
observation becoming simplified and rationalized into forms of use. On
the one side there has been the positive impulse--of mere animal Desire
and the animal urge of self-expression; on the other there has been
the negative force of Fear based on ignorance--the latter continually
carving, moulding and shaping the former. According to this an organized
study and classification of taboos might yield some interesting results;
because indeed it would throw light on the earliest forms of both
religion and science. It would be seen that some taboos, like those
of CONTACT (say with a menstruous woman, or a mother-in-law, or a
lightning-struck tree) had an obvious basis of observation, justifiable
but very crude; while others, like the taboo against harming an enemy
who had contracted blood-friendship with one of your own tribe, or
against giving decent burial to a murderer, were equally rough and rude
expressions or indications of the growing moral sentiment of mankind.
All the same there would be left, in any case, a large residuum of
taboos which could only be judged as senseless, and the mere rubbish of
the savage mind.

So much for the first origins of the World-religion; and I think enough
has been said in the various chapters of this book to show that the same
general process has obtained throughout. Man, like the animals, began
with this deep, subconscious sense of unity with surrounding Nature.
When this became (in Man) fairly conscious, it led to Magic and
Totemism. More conscious, and it branched, on the one hand, into figures
of Gods and definite forms of Creeds, on the other into elaborate
Scientific Theories--the latter based on a strong INTELLECTUAL belief in
Unity, but fervently denying any 'anthropomorphic' or 'animistic'
SENSE of that unity. Finally, it seems that we are now on the edge of
a further stage when the theories and the creeds, scientific and
religious, are on the verge of collapsing, but in such a way as to leave
the sense and the perception of Unity--the real content of the whole
process--not only undestroyed, but immensely heightened and illuminated.
Meanwhile the taboos--of which there remain some still, both religious
and scientific--have been gradually breaking up and merging themselves
into a reasonable and humane order of life and philosophy.

I have said that out of this World-religion Christianity really sprang.
It is evident that the time has arrived when it must either acknowledge
its source and frankly endeavor to affiliate itself to the same, or
failing that must perish. In the first case it will probably have to
change its name; in the second the question of its name 'will interest
it no more.'

With regard to the first of these alternatives, I might venture--though
with indifference--to make a few suggestions. Why should we
not have--instead of a Holy Roman Church--a Holy HUMAN Church,
rehabilitating the ancient symbols and rituals, a Christianity (if you
still desire to call it so) frankly and gladly acknowledging its own
sources? This seems a reasonable and even feasible proposition. If such
a church wished to celebrate a Mass or Communion or Eucharist it would
have a great variety of rites and customs of that kind to select from;
those that were not appropriate for use in our times or were connected
with the worship of strange gods need not be rejected or condemned,
but could still be commented on and explained as approaches to the same
idea--the idea of dedication to the Common Life, and of reinvigoration
in the partaking of it. If the Church wished to celebrate the
Crucifixion or betrayal of its Founder, a hundred instances of such
celebrations would be to hand, and still the thought that has underlain
such celebrations since the beginning of the world could easily be
disentangled and presented in concrete form anew. In the light of such
teaching expressions like "I know that my Redeemer liveth" would be
traced to their origin, and men would understand that notwithstanding
the mass of rubbish, cant and humbug which has collected round them they
really do mean something and represent the age-long instinct of Humanity
feeling its way towards a more extended revelation, a new order of
being, a third stage of consciousness and illumination. In such a Church
or religious organization EVERY quality of human nature would have to
be represented, every practice and custom allowed for and its place
accorded--the magical and astronomical meanings, the rites connected
with sun-worship, or with sex, or with the worship of animals; the
consecration of corn and wine and other products of the ground,
initiations, sacrifices, and so forth--all (if indeed it claimed to be
a World-religion) would have to be represented and recognized. For they
all have their long human origin and descent in and through the pagan
creeds, and they all have penetrated into and become embodied to some
degree in Christianity. Christianity therefore, as I say, must either
now come frankly forward and, acknowledging its parentage from the great
Order of the past, seek to rehabilitate THAT and carry mankind one step
forward in the path of evolution--or else it must perish. There is no
other alternative. (1)

 (1) Comte in founding his philosophy of Positivism seems to have
had in view some such Holy Human Church, but he succeeded in making it
all so profoundly dull that it never flourished, The seed of Life was
not in it.

Let me give an instance of how a fragment of ancient ritual which has
survived from the far Past and is still celebrated, but with little
intelligence or understanding, in the Catholic Church of to-day, might
be adopted in such a Church as I have spoken of, interpreted, and made
eloquent of meaning to modern humanity. When I was in Ceylon nearly 30
years ago I was fortunate enough to witness a night-festival in a Hindu
Temple--the great festival of Taipusam, which takes place every year in
January. Of course, it was full moon, and great was the blowing up of
trumpets in the huge courtyard of the Temple. The moon shone down above
from among the fronds of tall coco-palms, on a dense crowd of native
worshipers--men and a few women--the men for the most part clad in
little more than a loin-cloth, the women picturesque in their colored
saris and jewelled ear and nose rings. The images of Siva and two other
gods were carried in procession round and round the temple--three or
four times; nautch girls danced before the images, musicians, blowing
horns and huge shells, or piping on flageolets or beating tom-toms,
accompanied them. The crowd carrying torches or high crates with flaming
coco-nuts, walked or rather danced along on each side, elated and
excited with the sense of the present divinity, yet pleasantly free from
any abject awe. The whole thing indeed reminded one of some bas-relief
of a Bacchanalian procession carved on a Greek sarcophagus--and
especially so in its hilarity and suggestion of friendly intimacy with
the god. There were singing of hymns and the floating of the chief
actors on a raft round a sacred lake. And then came the final Act. Siva,
or his image, very weighty and borne on the shoulders of strong men, was
carried into the first chamber or hall of the Temple and placed on an
altar with a curtain hanging in front. The crowd followed with a rush;
and then there was more music, recital of hymns, and reading from sacred
books. From where we stood we could see the rite which was performed
behind the curtain. Two five-branched candlesticks were lighted; and the
manner of their lighting was as follows. Each branch ended in a
little cup, and in the cups five pieces of camphor were placed, all
approximately equal in size. After offerings had been made, of fruit,
flowers and sandalwood, the five camphors in each candlestick were
lighted. As the camphor flames burned out the music became more wild and
exciting, and then at the moment of their extinction the curtains
were drawn aside and the congregation outside suddenly beheld the god
revealed and in a blaze of light. This burning of camphor was, like
other things in the service, emblematic. The five lights represent
the five senses. Just as camphor consumes itself and leaves no residue
behind, so should the five senses, being offered to the god, consume
themselves and disappear. When this is done, that happens in the soul
which was now figured in the ritual--the God is revealed in the inner
light. (1)

 (1) For a more detailed account of this Temple-festival, see
Adam's Peak to Elephanta by E. Carpenter, ch. vii.

We are familiar with this parting or rending of the veil. We hear of it
in the Jewish Temple, and in the Greek and Egyptian Mysteries. It had
a mystically religious, and also obviously sexual, signification. It
occurs here and there in the Roman Catholic ritual. In Spain, some
ancient Catholic ceremonials are kept up with a brilliance and splendor
hardly found elsewhere in Europe. In the Cathedral, at Seville the
service of the Passion, carried out on Good Friday with great
solemnity and accompanied with fine music, culminates on the Saturday
morning--i.e. in the interval between the Crucifixion and the
Resurrection--in a spectacle similar to that described in Ceylon. A rich
velvet-black curtain hangs before the High Altar. At the appropriate
moment and as the very emotional strains of voices and instruments reach
their climax in the "Gloria in Excelsis," the curtain with a sudden
burst of sound (thunder and the ringing of all the bells) is rent
asunder, and the crucified Jesus is seen hanging there revealed in a
halo of glory.

There is also held at Seville Cathedral and before the High Altar every
year, the very curious Dance of the Seises (sixes), performed now by 16
instead of (as of old) by 12 boys, quaintly dressed. It seems to be a
survival of some very ancient ritual, probably astronomical, in which
the two sets of six represent the signs of the Zodiac, and is celebrated
during the festivals of Corpus Christi, the Immaculate Conception, and
the Carnival.

Numerous instances might of course be adduced of how a Church aspiring
to be a real Church of Humanity might adopt and re-create the rituals
of the past in the light of a modern inspiration. Indeed the difficulty
would be to limit the process, for EVERY ancient ritual, we can now
see, has had a meaning and a message, and it would be a real joy to
disentangle these and to expose the profound solidarity of humanity and
aspiration from the very dawn of civilization down to the present day.
Nor would it be necessary to imagine any Act of Uniformity or dead
level of ceremonial in the matter. Different groups might concentrate on
different phases of religious thought and practice. The only necessity
would be that they should approach the subject with a real love of
Humanity in their hearts and a real desire to come into touch with the
deep inner life and mystic growing-pains of the souls of men and women
in all ages. In this direction M. Loisy has done noble and excellent
work; but the dead weight and selfish blinkerdom of the Catholic
organization has hampered him to that degree that he has been unable
to get justice done to his liberalizing designs--or, perhaps, even to
reveal the full extent of them. And the same difficulty will remain. On
the one hand no spiritual movement which does not take up the attitude
of a World-religion has now in this age, any chance of success; on the
other, all the existing Churches--whether Roman Catholic, or Greek,
or Protestant or Secularist--whether Christian or Jewish or Persian or
Hindu--will in all probability adopt the same blind and blinkered and
selfish attitude as that described above, and so disqualify themselves
for the great role of world-wide emancipation, which some religion at
some time will certainly have to play. It is the same difficulty which
is looming large in modern World-politics, where the local selfishness
and vainglorious "patriotisms" of the Nations are sadly impeding and
obstructing the development of that sense of Internationalism and
Brotherhood which is the clearly indicated form of the future, and
which alone can give each nation deliverance from fear, and a promise of
growth, and the confident assurance of power.

I say that Christianity must either frankly adopt this generous attitude
and confess itself a branch of the great World-religion, anxious only to
do honor to its source--or else it must perish and pass away. There is
no other alternative. The hour of its Exodus has come. It may be, of
course, that neither the Christian Church nor any branch of it, nor any
other religious organization, will step into the gap. It may be--but I
do not think this is likely--that the time of rites and ceremonies and
formal creeds is PAST, and churches of any kind will be no more needed
in the world: not likely, I say, because of the still far backwardness
of the human masses, and their considerable dependence yet on laws and
forms and rituals. Still, if it should prove that that age of dependence
IS really approaching its end, that would surely be a matter for
congratulation. It would mean that mankind was moving into a knowledge
of the REALITY which has underlain these outer shows--that it was coming
into the Third stage of its Consciousness. Having found this there would
be no need for it to dwell any longer in the land of superstitions and
formulae. It would have come to the place of which these latter are only
the outlying indications.

It may, therefore, happen--and this quite independently of the growth of
a World-cult such as I have described, though by no means in antagonism
to it--that a religious philosophy or Theosophy might develop and
spread, similar to the Gnonam of the Hindus or the Gnomsis of the
pre-Christian sects, which would become, first among individuals and
afterwards among large bodies over the world, the religion of--or
perhaps one should say the religious approach to the Third State. Books
like the Upanishads of the Vedic seers, and the Bhagavat Gita, though
garbled and obscured by priestly interferences and mystifications, do
undoubtedly represent and give expression to the highest utterance of
religious experience to be found anywhere in the world. They are indeed
the manuals of human entrance into the cosmic state. But as I say,
and as has happened in the case of other sacred books, a vast deal of
rubbish has accreted round their essential teachings, and has to be
cleared away. To go into a serious explication of the meaning of these
books would be far too large an affair, and would be foreign to the
purpose of the present volume; but I have in the Appendix below inserted
two papers, (on "Rest" and "The Nature of the Self") containing the
substance of lectures given on the above books. These papers or lectures
are couched in the very simplest language, free from Sanskrit terms and
the usual 'jargon of the Schools,' and may, I hope, even on that account
be of use in familiarizing readers who are not specially STUDENTS with
the ideas and mental attitudes of the cosmic state. Non-differentiation
(Advaita (1)) is the root attitude of the mind inculcated.

 (1) The word means "not-two-ness." Here we see a great subtlety
of definition. It is not to be "one" with others that is urged, but to
be "not two."

We have seen that there has been an age of non-differentiation in the
Past-non-differentiation from other members of the Tribe, from the
Animals, from Nature and the Spirit or Spirits of nature; why
should there not arise a similar sense of non-differentiation in the
FUTURE--similar but more extended more intelligent? Certainly this WILL
arrive, in its own appointed time. There will be a surpassing of the
bounds of separation and division. There will be a surpassing of all
Taboos. We have seen the use and function of Taboos in the early stages
of Evolution and how progress and growth have been very much a matter
of their gradual extinction and assimilation into the general body
of rational thought and feeling. Unreasoning and idiotic taboos still
linger, but they grow weaker. A new Morality will come which will shake
itself free from them. The sense of kinship with the animals (as in the
old rituals) (1) will be restored; the sense of kinship with all the
races of mankind will grow and become consolidated; the sense of the
defilement and impurity of the human body will (with the adoption of a
generally clean and wholesome life) pass away; and the body itself will
come to be regarded more as a collection of shrines in which the
gods may be worshiped and less as a mere organ of trivial
self-gratifications; (2) there will be no form of Nature, or of human
life or of the lesser creatures, which will be barred from the approach
of Man or from the intimate and penetrating invasion of his spirit; and
as in certain ceremonies and after honorable toils and labors a citizen
is sometimes received into the community of his own city, so the
emancipated human being on the completion of his long long pilgrimage on
Earth will be presented with the Freedom of the Universe.

 (1) The record of the Roman Catholic Church has been sadly
Callous and inhuman in this matter of the animals.

 (2) See The Art of Creation, by E. Carpenter.


In conclusion there does not seem much to say, except to accentuate
certain points which may still appear doubtful or capable of being

The fact that the main argument of this volume is along the lines of
psychological evolution will no doubt commend it to some, while on the
other hand it will discredit the book to others whose eyes, being fixed
on purely MATERIAL causes, can see no impetus in History except through
these. But it must be remembered that there is not the least reason
for SEPARATING the two factors. The fact that psychologically man has
evolved from simple consciousness to self-consciousness, and is now
in process of evolution towards another and more extended kind of
consciousness, does not in the least bar the simultaneous appearance and
influence of material evolution. It is clear indeed that the two must
largely go together, acting and reacting on each other. Whatever the
physical conditions of the animal brain may be which connect themselves
with simple (unreflected and unreflecting) consciousness, it is evident
that these conditions--in animals and primitive man--lasted for an
enormous period, before the distinct consciousness of the individual and
separate SELF arose. This second order of consciousness seems to have
germinated at or about the same period as the discovery of the use
of Tools (tools of stone, copper, bronze, &c.), the adoption of
picture-writing and the use of reflective words (like "I" and "Thou");
and it led on to the appreciation of gold and of iron with their
ornamental and practical values, the accumulation of Property, the
establishment of slavery of various kinds, the subjection of Women,
the encouragement of luxury and self-indulgence, the growth of crowded
cities and the endless conflicts and wars so resulting. We can see
plainly that the incoming of the self-motive exercised a direct stimulus
on the pursuit of these material objects and adaptations; and that
the material adaptations in their turn did largely accentuate the
self-motive; but to insist that the real explanation of the whole
process is only to be found along one channel--the material OR the
psychical--is clearly quite unnecessary. Those who understand that all
matter is conscious in some degree, and that all consciousness has a
material form of some kind, will be the first to admit this.

The same remarks apply to the Third Stage. We can see that in modern
times the huge and unlimited powers of production by machinery, united
with a growing tendency towards intelligent Birth-control, are
preparing the way for an age of Communism and communal Plenty which will
inevitably be associated (partly as cause and partly as effect) with
a new general phase of consciousness, involving the mitigation of
the struggle for existence, the growth of intuitional and psychical
perception, the spread of amity and solidarity, the disappearance of
War, and the realization (in degree) of the Cosmic life.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty or stumbling-block to the general
acceptance of the belief in a third (or 'Golden-Age') phase of human
evolution is the obstinate and obdurate pre-judgment that the passing of
Humanity out of the Second stage can only mean the entire ABANDONMENT
OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS; and this people say--and quite rightly--is both
impossible and undesirable. Throughout the preceding chapters I have
striven, wherever feasible, to counter this misunderstanding--but I have
little hope of success. The DETERMINATION of the world to misunderstand
or misinterpret anything a little new or unfamiliar is a thing which
perhaps only an author can duly appreciate. But while it is clear that
self-consciousness originally came into being through a process of
alienation and exile and fear which marked it with the Cain-like brand
of loneliness and apartness, it is equally clear that to think of that
apartness as an absolute and permanent separation is an illusion, since
no being can really continue to live divorced from the source of its
life. For a period in evolution the SELF took on this illusive form in
consciousness, as of an ignis fatuus--the form of a being sundered from
all other beings, atomic, lonely, without refuge, surrounded by dangers
and struggling, for itself alone and for its own salvation in the midst
of a hostile environment. Perhaps some such terrible imagination was
necessary at first, as it were to start Humanity on its new path. But
it had its compensation, for the sufferings and tortures, mental and
bodily, the privations, persecutions, accusations, hatreds, the wars and
conflicts--so endured by millions of individuals and whole races--have
at length stamped upon the human mind a sense of individual
responsibility which otherwise perhaps would never have emerged, and
whose mark can now be effaced; ultimately, too, these things have
searched our inner nature to its very depths and exposed its bed-rock
foundation. They have convinced us that this idea of ultimate
separation is an illusion, and that in truth we are all indefeasible and
indestructible parts of one great Unity in which "we live and move and
have our being." That being so, it is clear that there remains in the
end a self-consciousness which need by no means be abandoned, which
indeed only comes to its true fruition and understanding when
it recognizes its affiliation with the Whole, and glories in an
individuality which is an expression both of itself AND of the whole.
The human child at its mother's knee probably comes first to know it
HAS a 'self' on some fateful day when having wandered afar it goes
lost among alien houses and streets or in the trackless fields. That
appalling experience--the sense of danger, of fear, of loneliness--is
never forgotten; it stamps some new sense of Being upon the childish
mind, but that sense, instead of being destroyed, becomes all the
prouder and more radiant in the hour of return to the mother's arms. The
return, the salvation, for which humanity looks, is the return of the
little individual self to harmony and union with the great Self of the
universe, but by no means its extinction or abandonment--rather the
finding of its own true nature as never before.

There is another thing which may be said here: namely, that the
disentanglement, as above, of three main stages of psychological
evolution as great formative influences in the history of mankind, does
not by any means preclude the establishment of lesser stages within the
boundaries of these. In all probability subdivisions of all the three
will come in time to be recognized and allowed for. To take the
Second stage only, it MAY appear that Self-consciousness in its first
development is characterized by an accentuation of Timidity; in its
second development by a more deliberate pursuit of sensual Pleasure
(lust, food, drink, &c.); in its third by the pursuit of mental
gratifications (vanities, ambitions, enslavement of others); in its
fourth by the pursuit of Property, as a means of attaining these
objects; in its fifth by the access of enmities, jealousies, wars and so
forth, consequent on all these things; and so on. I have no intention at
present of following out this line of thought, but only wish to suggest
its feasibility and the degree to which it may throw light on the social
evolutions of the Past. (1)

 (1) For an analysis of the nature of Self-consciousness see vol.
iii, p. 375 sq. of the three ponderous tomes by Wilhelm
Wundt--Grund-zuge der Physiologischen Psychologie--in which amid an
enormous mass of verbiage occasional gleams of useful suggestion are to
be found.

As a kind of rude general philosophy we may say that there are only two
main factors in life, namely, Love and Ignorance. And of these we may
also say that the two are not in the same plane: one is positive and
substantial, the other is negative and merely illusory. It may be
thought at first that Fear and Hatred and Cruelty, and the like, are
very positive things, but in the end we see that they are due merely to
ABSENCE of perception, to dulness of understanding. Or we may put the
statement in a rather less crude form, and say that there are only
two factors in life: (1) the sense of Unity with others (and with
Nature)--which covers Love, Faith, Courage, Truth, and so forth, and
(2) Non-perception of the same--which covers Enmity, Fear, Hatred,
Self-pity, Cruelty, Jealousy, Meanness and an endless similar list.
The present world which we see around us, with its idiotic wars, its
senseless jealousies of nations and classes, its fears and greeds
and vanities and its futile endeavors--as of people struggling in a
swamp--to find one's own salvation by treading others underfoot, is a
negative phenomenon. Ignorance, non-perception, are at the root of it.
But it is the blessed virtue of Ignorance and of non-perception that
they inevitably-if only slowly and painfully--DESTROY THEMSELVES. All
experience serves to dissipate them. The world, as it is, carries' the
doom of its own transformation in its bosom; and in proportion as that
which is negative disappears the positive element must establish itself
more and more.

So we come back to that with which we began, (1) to Fear bred by
Ignorance. From that source has sprung the long catalogue of follies,
cruelties and sufferings which mark the records of the human race since
the dawn of history; and to the overcoming of this Fear we perforce
must look for our future deliverance, and for the discovery, even in
the midst of this world, of our true Home. The time is coming when the
positive constructive element must dominate. It is inevitable that Man
must ever build a state of society around him after the pattern and
image of his own interior state. The whole futile and idiotic structure
of commerce and industry in which we are now imprisoned springs from
that falsehood of individualistic self-seeking which marks the second
stage of human evolution. That stage is already tottering to its fall,
destroyed by the very flood of egotistic passions and interests, of
vanities, greeds, and cruelties, all warring with each other, which are
the sure outcome and culmination of its operation. With the restoration
of the sentiment of the Common Life, and the gradual growth of a mental
attitude corresponding, there will emerge from the flood something like
a solid earth--something on which it will be possible to build with good
hope for the future. Schemes of reconstruction are well enough in their
way, but if there is no ground of REAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY beneath, of what
avail are they?

 (1) See Introduction, Ch. I.

An industrial system which is no real industrial order, but only (on
the part of the employers) a devil's device for securing private profit
under the guise of public utility, and (on the part of the employed) a
dismal and poor-spirited renunciation--for the sake of a bare living--of
all real interest in life and work: such a 'system' must infallibly
pass away. It cannot in the nature of things be permanent. The first
condition of social happiness and prosperity must be the sense of the
Common Life. This sense, which instinctively underlay the whole Tribal
order of the far past--which first came to consciousness in the
worship of a thousand pagan divinities, and in the rituals of countless
sacrifices, initiations, redemptions, love-feasts and communions, which
inspired the dreams of the Golden Age, and flashed out for a time in the
Communism of the early Christians and in their adorations of the risen
Savior--must in the end be the creative condition of a new order: it
must provide the material of which the Golden City waits to be built.
The long travail of the World-religion will not have been in vain, which
assures this consummation. What the signs and conditions of any general
advance into this new order of life and consciousness will be, we know
not. It may be that as to individuals the revelation of a new vision
often comes quite suddenly, and GENERALLY perhaps after a period of
great suffering, so to society at large a similar revelation will
arrive--like "the lightning which cometh out of the East and shineth
even unto the West"--with unexpected swiftness. On the other hand
it would perhaps be wise not to count too much on any such sudden
transformation. When we look abroad (and at home) in this year of grace
and hoped-for peace, 1919, and see the spirits of rancour and revenge,
the fears, the selfish blindness and the ignorance, which still hold in
their paralyzing grasp huge classes and coteries in every country in the
world, we see that the second stage of human development is by no means
yet at its full term, and that, as in some vast chrysalis, for the
liberation of the creature within still more and more terrible struggles
MAY be necessary. We can only pray that such may not be the case.
Anyhow, if we have followed the argument of this book we can hardly
doubt that the destruction (which is going on everywhere) of the
outer form of the present society marks the first stage of man's final
liberation; and that, sooner or later, and in its own good time, that
further 'divine event' will surely be realized.

Nor need we fear that Humanity, when it has once entered into the great
Deliverance, will be again overpowered by evil. From Knowledge back to
Ignorance there is no complete return. The nations that have come to
enlightenment need entertain no dread of those others (however hostile
they appear) who are still plunging darkly in the troubled waters
of self-greed. The dastardly Fears which inspire all brutishness and
cruelty of warfare--whether of White against White or it may be of White
against Yellow or Black--may be dismissed for good and all by that blest
race which once shall have gained the shore--since from the very nature
of the case those who are on dry land can fear nothing and need fear
nothing from the unfortunates who are yet tossing in the welter and
turmoil of the waves.

Dr. Frazer, in the conclusion of his great work The Golden Bough, (1)
bids farewell to his readers with the following words: "The laws of
Nature are merely hypotheses devised to explain that ever-shifting
phantasmagoria of thought which we dignify with the high-sounding names
of the World and the Universe. In the last analysis magic, religion
and science are nothing but theories (of thought); and as Science has
supplanted its predecessors so it may hereafter itself be superseded by
some more perfect hypothesis, perhaps by some perfectly different way of
looking at phenomena--of registering the shadows on the screen--of which
we in this generation can form no idea." I imagine Dr. Frazer is right
in thinking that "a way of looking at phenomena" different from the way
of Science, may some day prevail. But I think this change will come,
not so much by the growth of Science itself or the extension of its
'hypotheses,' as by a growth and expansion of the human HEART and a
change in its psychology and powers of perception. Perhaps some of the
preceding chapters will help to show how much the outlook of humanity on
the world has been guided through the centuries by the slow evolution of
its inner consciousness. Gradually, out of an infinite mass of folly and
delusion, the human soul has in this way disentangled itself, and will
in the future disentangle itself, to emerge at length in the light of
true FREEDOM. All the taboos, the insane terrors, the fatuous forbiddals
of this and that (with their consequent heart-searchings and distress)
may perhaps have been in their way necessary, in order to rivet and
define the meaning and the understanding of that word. To-day
these taboos and terrors still linger, many of them, in the form of
conventions of morality, uneasy strivings of conscience, doubts and
desperations of religion; but ultimately Man will emerge from all these
things, FREE--familiar, that is, with them all, making use of all,
allowing generously for the values of all, but hampered and bound by
NONE. He will realize the inner meaning of the creeds and rituals of the
ancient religions, and will hail with joy the fulfilment of their far
prophecy down the ages--finding after all the long-expected Saviour of
the world within his own breast, and Paradise in the disclosure there of
the everlasting peace of the soul.

 (1) See "Balder," vol. ii, pp. 306, 307. ("Farewell to Nemi.")







To some, in the present whirlpool of life and affairs it may seem almost
an absurdity to talk about Rest. For long enough now rest has seemed a
thing far off and unattainable. With the posts knocking at our doors
ten or twelve times a day, with telegrams arriving every hour, and the
telephone bell constantly ringing; with motors rushing wildly about the
streets, and aeroplanes whizzing overhead, with work speeded up in every
direction, and the drive in the workshops becoming more intolerable
every day; with the pace of the walkers and the pace of the talkers from
hour to hour insanely increasing--what room, it may well be asked, is
there for Rest? And now the issues of war, redoubling the urgency of all
questions, are on us.

The problem is obviously a serious one. So urgent is it that I think one
may safely say the amount of insanity due to the pressure of daily life
is increasing; nursing-homes have sprung up for the special purpose of
treating such cases; and doctors are starting special courses of
tuition in the art--now becoming very important--of systematically doing
nothing! And yet it is difficult to see the outcome of it all. The clock
of what is called Progress is not easily turned backward. We should
not very readily agree nowadays to the abolition of telegrams or to a
regulation compelling express trains to stop at every station! We can't
ALL go to Nursing Homes, or afford to enjoy a winter's rest-cure in
Egypt. And, if not, is the speeding-up process to go on indefinitely,
incapable of being checked, and destined ultimately to land civilization
in the mad-house?

It is, I say, a serious and an urgent problem. And it is, I think,
forcing a certain answer on us--which I will now endeavor to explain.

If we cannot turn back and reverse this fatal onrush of modern life (and
it is evident that we cannot do so in any very brief time--though of
course ultimately we might succeed) then I think there are clearly only
two alternatives left--either to go forward to general dislocation and
madness, or--to learn to rest even in the very midst of the hurry and
the scurry.

To explain what I mean, let me use an illustration. The typhoons and
cyclones of the China Seas are some of the most formidable storms that
ships can encounter. Their paths in the past have been strewn with
wrecks and disaster. But now with increased knowledge much of their
danger has been averted. It is known that they are CIRCULAR in
character, and that though the wind on their outskirts often reaches a
speed of 100 miles an hour, in the centre of the storm there is a
space of complete calm--not a calm of the SEA certainly, but a complete
absence of wind. The skilled navigator, if he cannot escape the storm,
steers right into the heart of it, and rests there. Even in the midst
of the clatter he finds a place of quiet where he can trim his sails
and adjust his future course. He knows too from his position in what
direction at every point around him the wind is moving and where it will
strike him when at last his ship emerges from the charmed circle.

Is it not possible, we may ask, that in the very midst of the cyclone of
daily life we may find a similar resting-place? If we can, our case is
by no means hopeless. If we cannot, then indeed there is danger.

Looking back in History we seem to see that in old times people took
life much more leisurely than they do now. The elder generations gave
more scope in their customs and their religions for contentment and
peace of mind. We associate a certain quietism and passivity with the
thought of the Eastern peoples. But as civilization traveled Westward
external activity and the pace of life increased--less and less time was
left for meditation and repose--till with the rise of Western Europe and
America, the dominant note of life seems to have simply become one of
feverish and ceaseless activity--of activity merely for the sake of
activity, without any clear idea of its own purpose or object.

Such a prospect does not at first seem very hopeful; but on second
thoughts we see that we are not forced to draw any very pessimistic
conclusion from it. The direction of human evolution need not remain
always the same. The movement, in fact, of civilization from East to
West has now clearly completed itself. The globe has been circled, and
we cannot go any FARTHER to the West without coming round to the East
again. It is a commonplace to say that our psychology, our philosophy
and our religious sense are already taking on an Eastern color; nor is
it difficult to imagine that with the end of the present dispensation a
new era may perfectly naturally arrive in which the St. Vitus' dance of
money-making and ambition will cease to be the chief end of existence.

In the history of nations as in the history of individuals there
are periods when the formative ideals of life (through some hidden
influence) change; and the mode of life and evolution in consequence
changes also. I remember when I was a boy wishing--like many other
boys--to go to sea. I wanted to join the Navy. It was not, I am sure,
that I was so very anxious to defend my country. No, there was a much
simpler and more prosaic motive than that. The ships of those days with
their complex rigging suggested a perfect paradise of CLIMBING, and I
know that it was the thought of THAT which influenced me. To be able
to climb indefinitely among those ropes and spars! How delightful! Of
course I knew perfectly well that I should not always have free access
to the rigging; but then--some day, no doubt, I should be an Admiral,
and who then could prevent me? I remember seeing myself in my mind's
eye, with cocked hat on my head and spy-glass under my arm, roaming at
my own sweet will up aloft, regardless of the remonstrances which
might reach me from below! Such was my childish ideal. But a time
came--needless to say--when I conceived a different idea of the object
of life.

It is said that John Tyndall, whose lectures on Science were so much
sought after in their time, being on one occasion in New York was
accosted after his discourse by a very successful American business
man, who urged him to devote his scientific knowledge and ability to
commercial pursuits, promising that if he did so, he, Tyndall, would
easily make "a big pile." Tyndall very calmly replied, "Well, I myself
thought of that once, but I soon abandoned the idea, having come to
the conclusion that I had NO TIME TO WASTE IN MAKING MONEY." The man of
dollars nearly sank into the ground. Such a conception of life had never
entered his head before. But to Tyndall no doubt it was obvious that if
he chained himself to the commercial ideal all the joy and glory of his
days would be gone.

We sometimes hear of the awful doom of some of the Russian convicts in
the quarries and mines of Siberia, who are (or were) chained permanently
to their wheelbarrows. It is difficult to imagine a more dreadful fate:
the despair, the disgust, the deadly loathing of the accursed thing from
which there is no escape day or night--which is the companion not only
of the prisoner's work but of his hours of rest--with which he has to
sleep, to feed, to take his recreation if he has any, and to fulfil all
the offices of nature. Could anything be more crushing? And yet, and
yet... is it not true that we, most of us, in our various ways are
chained to our wheelbarrows--is it not too often true that to these
beggarly things we have for the most part chained OURSELVES?

Let me be understood. Of course we all have (or ought to have) our work
to do. We have our living to get, our families to support, our trade,
our art, our profession to pursue. In that sense no doubt we are tied;
but I take it that these things are like the wheelbarrow which a man
uses while he is at work. It may irk him at times, but he sticks to it
with a good heart, and with a certain joy because it is the instrument
of a noble purpose. That is all right. But to be chained to it, not to
be able to leave it when the work of the day is done--that is indeed
an ignoble slavery. I would say, then, take care that even with these
things, these necessary arts of life, you preserve your independence,
that even if to some degree they may confine your body they do not
enslave your mind.

For it is the freedom of the mind which counts. We are all no doubt
caught in the toils of the earth-life. One man is largely dominated
by sensual indulgence, another by ambition, another by the pursuit
of money. Well, these things are all right in themselves. Without the
pleasures of the senses we should be dull mokes indeed; without ambition
much of the zest and enterprise of life would be gone; gold, in the
present order of affairs, is a very useful servant. These things are
right enough--but to be CHAINED to them, to be unable to think of
anything else--what a fate! The subject reminds one of a not uncommon
spectacle. It is a glorious day; the sun is bright, small white clouds
float in the transparent blue--a day when you linger perforce on the
road to enjoy the scene. But suddenly here comes a man painfully running
all hot and dusty and mopping his head, and with no eye, clearly, for
anything around him. What is the matter? He is absorbed by one idea.
He is running to catch a train! And one cannot help wondering what
EXCEEDINGLY important business it must be for which all this glory and
beauty is sacrificed, and passed by as if it did not exist.

Further we must remember that in our foolishness we very commonly chain
ourselves, not only to things like sense-pleasures and ambitions which
are on the edge, so to speak, of being vices; but also to other things
which are accounted virtues, and which as far as I can see are just as
bad, if we once become enslaved to them. I have known people who were so
exceedingly 'spiritual' and 'good' that one really felt quite depressed
in their company; I have known others whose sense of duty, dear things,
was so strong that they seemed quite unable to REST, or even to allow
their friends to rest; and I have wondered whether, after all, worriting
about one's duty might not be as bad--as deteriorating to oneself, as
distressing to one's friends--as sinning a good solid sin. No, in this
respect virtues MAY be no better than vices; and to be chained to a
wheelbarrow made of alabaster is no way preferable to being chained to
one of wood. To sacrifice the immortal freedom of the mind in order to
become a prey to self-regarding cares and anxieties, self-estimating
virtues and vices, self-chaining duties and indulgences, is a mistake.
And I warn you, it is quite useless. For the destiny of Freedom is
ultimately upon every one, and if refusing it for a time you heap your
life persistently upon one object--however blameless in itself that
object may be--Beware! For one day--and when you least expect it--the
gods will send a thunderbolt upon you. One day the thing for which
you have toiled and spent laborious days and sleepless nights will lie
broken before you--your reputation will be ruined, your ambition will be
dashed, your savings of years will be lost--and for the moment you will
be inclined to think that your life has been in vain. But presently you
will wake up and find that something quite different has happened. You
will find that the thunderbolt which you thought was your ruin has been
your salvation--that it has broken the chain which bound you to your
wheelbarrow, and that you are free! --------

I think you will now see what I mean by Rest. Rest is the loosing of the
chains which bind us to the whirligig of the world, it is the passing
into the centre of the Cyclone; it is the Stilling of Thought. For (with
regard to this last) it is Thought, it is the Attachment of the Mind,
which binds us to outer things. The outer things themselves are all
right. It is only through our thoughts that they make slaves of us.
Obtain power over your thoughts and you are free. You can then use the
outer things or dismiss them at your pleasure.

There is nothing new of course in all this. It has been known for ages;
and is part of the ancient philosophy of the world.

In the Katha Upanishad you will find these words (Max Muller's
translation): "As rainwater that has fallen on a mountain ridge runs
down on all sides, thus does he who sees a difference between qualities
run after them on all sides." This is the figure of the man who does NOT
rest. And it is a powerful likeness. The thunder shower descends on the
mountain top; torrents of water pour down the crags in every direction.
Imagine the state of mind of a man--however thirsty he may be--who
endeavors to pursue and intercept all these streams!

But then the Upanishad goes on: "As pure water poured into pure water
remains the same, thus, O Gautama, is the Self of a thinker who
knows." What a perfect image of rest! Imagine a cistern before you with
transparent glass sides and filled with pure water. And then imagine
some one comes with a phial, also of pure water, and pours the contents
gently into the cistern. What will happen? Almost nothing. The pure
water will glide into the pure water--"remaining the same." There will
be no dislocation, no discoloration (as might happen if MUDDY water were
poured in); there will be only perfect harmony.

I imagine here that the meaning is something like this. The cistern is
the great Reservoir of the Universe which contains the pure and
perfect Spirit of all life. Each one of us, and every mortal creature,
represents a drop from that reservoir--a drop indeed which is also pure
and perfect (though the phial in which it is contained may not always
be so). When we, each of us, descend into the world and meet the great
Ocean of Life which dwells there behind all mortal forms, it is like the
little phial being poured into the great reservoir. If the tiny canful
which is our selves is pure and unsoiled, then when it meets the
world it will blend with the Spirit which informs the world perfectly
harmoniously, without distress or dislocation. It will pass through and
be at one with it. How can one describe such a state of affairs? You
will have the key to every person that you meet, because indeed you are
conscious that the real essence of that person is the same as your own.
You will have the solution of every event which happens. For every event
is (and is felt to be) the touch of the great Spirit on yours. Can any
description of Rest be more perfect than that? Pure water poured into
pure water.... There is no need to hurry, for everything will come in
its good time. There is no need to leave your place, for all you desire
is close at hand.

Here is another verse (from the Vagasaneyi-Samhita Upanishad) embodying
the same idea: "And he who beholds all beings in the Self, and the
Self in all beings, he never turns away from It. When, to a man who
understands, the Self has become all things, what sorrow, what trouble,
can there be to him--having once beheld that Unity?"--What trouble,
what sorrow, indeed, when the universe has become transparent with the
presences of all we love, held firm in the One enfolding Presence?

But it will be said: "Our minds are NOT pure and transparent. More often
they are muddy and soiled--soiled, if not in their real essence, yet by
reason of the mortal phial in which they are contained." And that alas!
is true. If you pour a phial of muddy water into that reservoir which
we described--what will you see? You will see a queer and ugly cloud
formed. And to how many of us, in our dealings with the world, does life
take on just such a form--of a queer and ugly cloud?

Now not so very long after those Upanishads were written there lived
in China that great Teacher, Lao-tze; and he too had considered these
things. And he wrote--in the Tao-Teh-King--"Who is there who can make
muddy water clear?" The question sounds like a conundrum. For a moment
one hesitates to answer it. Lao-tze, however, has an answer ready. He
says: "But if you LEAVE IT ALONE it will become clear of itself." That
muddy water of the mind, muddied by all the foolish little thoughts
which like a sediment infest it--but if you leave it alone it will
become clear of itself. Sometimes walking along the common road after
a shower you have seen pools of water lying here and there, dirty and
unsightly with the mud stirred up by the hoofs of men and animals. And
then returning some hours afterwards along the same road--in the evening
and after the cessation of traffic--you have looked again, and lo!
each pool has cleared itself to a perfect calm, and has become a lovely
mirror reflecting the trees and the clouds and the sunset and the stars.

So this mirror of the mind. Leave it alone. Let the ugly sediment
of tiresome thoughts and anxieties, and of fussing over one's
self-importances and duties, settle down--and presently you will look
on it, and see something there which you never knew or imagined
before--something more beautiful than you ever yet beheld--a reflection
of the real and eternal world such is only given to the mind that rests.

Do not recklessly spill the waters of your mind in this direction and in
that, lest you become like a spring lost and dissipated in the desert.

But draw them together into a little compass, and hold them still, so

And let them become clear, so clear--so limpid, so mirror-like;

At last the mountains and the sky shall glass themselves in peaceful

And the antelope shall descend to drink, and the lion to quench his

And Love himself shall come and bend over, and catch his own likeness in
you. (1)

 (1) Towards Democracy, p. 373.

Yes, there is this priceless thing within us, but hoofing along the
roads in the mud we fail to find it; there is this region of calm,
but the cyclone of the world raging around guards us from entering it.
Perhaps it is best so--best that the access to it should not be made
too easy. One day, some time ago, in the course of conversation with
Rabindranath Tagore in London, I asked him what impressed him most in
visiting the great city. He said, "The restless incessant movement of
everybody." I said, "Yes, they seem as if they were all rushing about
looking for something." He replied, "It is because each person does not
know of the great treasure he has within himself." --------

How then are we to reach this treasure and make it our own? How are we
to attain to this Stilling of the Mind, which is the secret of all power
and possession? The thing is difficult, no doubt; yet as I tried to show
at the outset of this discourse, we Moderns MUST reach it; we have got
to attain to it--for the penalty of failure is and must be widespread

The power to still the mind--to be ABLE, mark you, when you want,
to enter into the region of Rest, and to dismiss or command your
Thoughts--is a condition of Health; it is a condition of all Power
and Energy. For all health, whether of mind or body, resides in one's
relation to the central Life within. If one cannot get into touch with
THAT, then the life-forces cannot flow down into the organism. Most,
perhaps all, disease arises from the disturbance of this connection. All
mere hurry, all mere running after external things (as of the man after
the water-streams on the mountain-top), inevitably breaks it. Let a pond
be allowed calmly under the influence of frost to crystallize, and most
beautiful flowers and spears of ice will be formed, but keep stirring
the water all the time with a stick or a pole and nothing will result
but an ugly brash of half-frozen stuff. The condition of the exercise of
power and energy is that it should proceed from a center of Rest within
one. So convinced am I of this, that whenever I find myself hurrying
over my work, I pause and say, "Now you are not producing anything
good!" and I generally find that that is true. It is curious, but I
think very noticeable, that the places where people hurry most--as
for instance the City of London or Wall Street, New York--are just the
places where the work being done is of LEAST importance (being
mostly money-gambling); whereas if you go and look at a ploughman
ploughing--doing perhaps the most important of human work--you find
all his movements most deliberate and leisurely, as if indeed he had
infinite time at command; the truth being that in dealing (like a
ploughman) with the earth and the horses and the weather and the things
of Nature generally you can no more hurry than Nature herself hurries.

Following this line of thought it might seem that one would arrive at a
hopeless paradox. If it be true that the less one hurries the better
the work resulting, then it might seem that by sitting still and merely
twirling one's thumbs one would arrive at the very greatest activity and
efficiency! And indeed (if understood aright) there is a truth even in
this, which--like the other points I have mentioned--has been known and
taught long ages ago. Says that humorous old sage, Lao-tze, whom I have
already quoted: "By non-action there is nothing that cannot be done." At
first this sounds like mere foolery or worse; but afterwards thinking on
it one sees there is a meaning hidden. There is a secret by which Nature
and the powers of the universal life will do all for you. The Bhagavat
Gita also says, "He who discovers inaction in action and action in
inaction is wise among mortals."

It is worth while dwelling for a moment on these texts. We are all--as I
said earlier on--involved in work belonging to our place and station; we
are tied to some degree in the bonds of action. But that fact need not
imprison our inner minds. While acting even with keenness and energy
along the external and necessary path before us, it is perfectly
possible to hold the mind free and untied--so that the RESULT of our
action (which of course is not ours to command) shall remain indifferent
and incapable of unduly affecting us. Similarly, when it is our part
to remain externally INACTIVE, we may discover that underneath this
apparent inaction we may be taking part in the currents of a deeper life
which are moving on to a definite end, to an end or object which in a
sense is ours and in a sense is NOT ours.

The lighthouse beam flies over land and sea with incredible velocity,
and you think the light itself must be in swiftest movement; but when
you climb up thither you find the lamp absolutely stationary. It is only
the reflection that is moving. The rider on horseback may gallop to and
fro wherever he will, but it is hard to say that HE is acting. The horse
guided by the slightest indication of the man's will performs an the
action that is needed. If we can get into right touch with the immense,
the incalculable powers of Nature, is there anything which we may not be
able to do? If a man worship the Self only as his true state," says
the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, "his work cannot fail, for whatever he
desires, that he obtains from the Self." What a wonderful saying, and
how infallibly true! For obviously if you succeed in identifying your
true being with the great Self of the universe, then whatever you desire
the great Self will also desire, and therefore every power of Nature
will be at your service and will conspire to fulfil your need.

There are marvelous things here "well wrapped up"--difficult to
describe, yet not impossible to experience. And they all depend upon
that power of stilling Thought, that ability to pass unharmed and
undismayed through the grinning legions of the lower mind into the very
heart of Paradise.

The question inevitably arises, How can this power be obtained? And
there is only one answer--the same answer which has to be given for the
attainment of ANY power or faculty. There is no royal road. The only way
is (however imperfectly) to DO the thing in question, to practice it. If
you would learn to play cricket, the only way is to play cricket; if you
would be able to speak a language, the only way is to speak it. If you
would learn to swim, the only way is to practice swimming. Or would you
wish to be like the man who when his companions were bathing and bidding
him come and join them, said: "Yes, I am longing to join you, but I am
not going to be such a fool as to go into the water TILL I KNOW HOW TO

There is nothing but practice. If you want to obtain that priceless
power of commanding Thought--of using it or dismissing it (for the
two things go together) at will--there is no way but practice. And
the practice consists in two exercises: (a) that of concentration--in
holding the thought steadily for a time on one subject, or point of a
subject; and (b) that of effacement--in effacing any given thought from
the mind, and determining NOT to entertain it for such and such a
time. Both these exercises are difficult. Failure in practicing them is
certain--and may even extend over years. But the power equally certainly
grows WITH practice. And ultimately there may come a time when the
learner is not only able to efface from his mind any given thought
(however importunate), but may even succeed in effacing, during short
periods, ALL thought of any kind. When this stage is reached, the
veil of illusion which surrounds all mortal things is pierced, and the
entrance to the Paradise of Rest (and of universal power and knowledge)
is found.

Of indirect or auxiliary methods of reaching this great conclusion,
there are more than one. I think of life in the open air, if not
absolutely necessary, at least most important. The gods--though
sometimes out of compassion they visit the interiors of houses--are not
fond of such places and the evil effluvium they find there, and avoid
them as much as they can. It is not merely a question of breathing
oxygen instead of carbonic acid. There is a presence and an influence in
Nature and the Open which expands the mind and causes brigand cares
and worries to drop off--whereas in confined places foolish and futile
thoughts of all kinds swarm like microbes and cloud and conceal the
soul. Experto Crede. It is only necessary to try this experiment in
order to prove its truth.

Another thing which corresponds in some degree to living physically in
the open air, is the living mentally and emotionally in the atmosphere
of love. A large charity of mind, which refuses absolutely to shut
itself in little secluded places of prejudice, bigotry and contempt for
others, and which attains to a great and universal sympathy, helps, most
obviously, to open the way to that region of calm and freedom of which
we have spoken, while conversely all petty enmity, meanness and spite,
conspire to imprison the soul and make its deliverance more difficult.

It is not necessary to labor these points. As we said, the way to attain
is to sincerely TRY to attain, to consistently PRACTICE attainment.
Whoever does this will find that the way will open out by degrees, as
of one emerging from a vast and gloomy forest, till out of darkness the
path becomes clear. For whomsoever really TRIES there is no failure; for
every effort in that region is success, and every onward push, however
small, and however little result it may show, is really a move forward,
and one step nearer the light.


The true nature of the Self is a matter by no means easy to compass. We
have all probably at some time or other attempted to fathom the deeps of
personality, and been baffled. Some people say they can quite distinctly
remember a moment in early childhood, about the age of THREE (though the
exact period is of course only approximate) when self-consciousness--the
awareness of being a little separate Self--first dawned in the mind.
It was generally at some moment of childish tension--alone perhaps in a
garden, or lost from the mother's protecting hand--that this happened;
and it was the beginning of a whole range of new experience. Before
some such period there is in childhood strictly speaking no distinct
self-consciousness. As Tennyson says (In Memoriam xliv):

      The baby new to earth and sky,
          What time his tender palm is prest
          Against the circle of the breast,
      Hath never thought that "This is I."

It has consciousness truly, but no distinctive self-consciousness. It
is this absence or deficiency which explains many things which at first
sight seem obscure in the psychology of children and of animals. The
baby (it has often been noticed) experiences little or no sense of FEAR.
It does not know enough to be afraid; it has never formed any image of
itself, as of a thing which might be injured. It may shrink from actual
pain or discomfort, but it does not LOOK FORWARD--which is of the
essence of fear--to pain in the future. Fear and self-consciousness are
closely interlinked. Similarly with animals, we often wonder how a horse
or a cow can endure to stand out in a field all night, exposed to cold
and rain, in the lethargic patient way that they exhibit. It is not that
they do not FEEL the discomfort, but it is that they do not envisage
THEMSELVES as enduring this pain and suffering for all those coming
hours; and as we know with ourselves that nine-tenths of our miseries
really consist in looking forward to future miseries, so we understand
that the absence or at any rate slight prevalence of self-consciousness
in animals enables them to endure forms of distress which would drive us

In time then the babe arrives at self-consciousness; and, as one might
expect, the growing boy or girl often becomes intensely aware of Self.
His or her self-consciousness is crude, no doubt, but it has very little
misgiving. If the question of the nature of the Self is propounded to
the boy as a problem he has no difficulty in solving it. He says "I know
well enough who I am: I am the boy with red hair what gave Jimmy Brown
such a jolly good licking last Monday week." He knows well enough--or
thinks he knows--who he is. And at a later age, though his definition
may change and he may describe himself chiefly as a good cricketer or
successful in certain examinations, his method is practically the same.
He fixes his mind on a certain bundle of qualities and capacities which
he is supposed to possess, and calls that bundle Himself. And in a more
elaborate way we most of us, I imagine, do the same.

Presently, however, with more careful thought, we begin to see
difficulties in this view. I see that directly I think of myself as a
certain bundle of qualities--and for that matter it is of no account
whether the qualities are good or bad, or in what sort of charming
confusion they are mixed--I see at once that I am merely looking at
a bundle of qualities: and that the real "I," the Self, is not that
bundle, but is the being INSPECTING the same--something beyond and
behind, as it were. So I now concentrate my thoughts upon that inner
Something, in order to find out what it really is. I imagine perhaps an
inner being, of 'astral' or ethereal nature, and possessing a new
range of much finer and more subtle qualities than the body--a being
inhabiting the body and perceiving through its senses, but quite capable
of surviving the tenement in which it dwells and I think of that as the
Self. But no sooner have I taken this step than I perceive that I am
committing the same mistake as before. I am only contemplating a new
image or picture, and "I" still remain beyond and behind that which I
contemplate. No sooner do I turn my attention on the subjective being
than it becomes OBJECTIVE, and the real subject retires into the
background. And so on indefinitely. I am baffled; and unable to say
positively what the Self is.

Meanwhile there are people who look upon the foregoing speculations
about an interior Self as merely unpractical. Being perhaps of a more
materialistic type of mind they fix their attention on the body. Frankly
they try to define the Self by the body and all that is connected
therewith--that is by the mental as well as corporeal qualities which
exhibit themselves in that connection; and they say, "At any rate the
Self--whatever it may be--is in some way limited by the body; each
person studies the interest of his body and of the feelings, emotions
and mentality directly associated with it, and you cannot get beyond
that; it isn't in human nature to do so. The Self is limited by this
corporeal phenomenon and doubtless it perishes when the body perishes."
But here again the conclusion, though specious at first, soon appears to
be quite inadequate. For though it is possibly true that a man, if left
alone in a Robinson Crusoe life on a desert island, might ultimately
subside into a mere gratification of his corporeal needs and of those
mental needs which were directly concerned with the body, yet we know
that such a case would by no means be representative. On the contrary we
know that vast numbers of people spend their lives in considering other
people, and often so far as to sacrifice their own bodily and mental
comfort and well-being. The mother spends her life thinking almost
day and night about her babe and the other children--spending all her
thoughts and efforts on them. You may call her selfish if you will, but
her selfishness clearly extends beyond her personal body and mind, and
extends to the personalities of her children around her; her "body"--if
you insist on your definition--must be held to include the bodies of all
her children. And again, the husband who is toiling for the support of
the family, he is thinking and working and toiling and suffering for a
'self' which includes his wife and children. Do you mean that the whole
family is his "body"? Or a man belongs to some society, to a church or
to a social league of some kind, and his activities are largely ruled by
the interests of this larger group. Or he sacrifices his life--as many
have been doing of late--with extraordinary bravery and heroism for the
sake of the nation to which he belongs. Must we say then that the whole
nation is really a part of the man's body? Or again, he gives his life
and goes to the stake for his religion. Whether his religion is right or
wrong does not matter, the point is that there is that in him which can
carry him far beyond his local self and the ordinary instincts of his
physical organism, to dedicate his life and powers to a something of far
wider circumference and scope.

Thus in the FIRST of these two examples of a search for the nature of
the Self we are led INWARDS from point to point, into interior and ever
subtler regions of our being, and still in the end are baffled; while
in the SECOND we are carried outwards into an ever wider and wider
circumference in our quest of the Ego, and still feel that we have
failed to reach its ultimate nature. We are driven in fact by these two
arguments to the conclusion that that which we are seeking is indeed
something very vast--something far extending around, yet also buried
deep in the hidden recesses of our minds. How far, how deep, we do not
know. We can only say that as far as the indications point the true self
is profounder and more far-reaching than anything we have yet fathomed.

In the ordinary commonplace life we shrink to ordinary commonplace
selves, but it is one of the blessings of great experiences, even though
they are tragic or painful, that they throw us out into that enormously
greater self to which we belong. Sometimes, in moments of inspiration,
of intense enthusiasm, of revelation, such as a man feels in the midst
of a battle, in moments of love and dedication to another person, and
in moments of religious ecstasy, an immense world is opened up to the
astonished gaze of the inner man, who sees disclosed a self stretched
far beyond anything he had ever imagined. We have all had experiences
more or less of that kind. I have known quite a few people, and most of
you have known some, who at some time, even if only once in their lives,
have experienced such an extraordinary lifting of the veil, an opening
out of the back of their minds as it were, and have had such a vision of
the world, that they have never afterwards forgotten it. They have seen
into the heart of creation, and have perceived their union with the rest
of mankind. They have had glimpses of a strange immortality belonging to
them, a glimpse of their belonging to a far greater being than they have
ever imagined. Just once--and a man has never forgotten it, and even if
it has not recurred it has colored all the rest of his life.

Now, this subject has been thought about--since the beginning of the
world, I was going to say--but it has been thought about since the
beginnings of history. Some three thousand years ago certain groups
of--I hardly like to call them philosophers--but, let us say, people who
were meditating and thinking upon these problems, were in the habit of
locating themselves in the forests of Northern India; and schools arose
there. In the case of each school some teacher went into the woods and
collected groups of disciples around him, who lived there in his company
and listened to his words. Such schools were formed in very considerable
numbers, and the doctrines of these teachers were gathered together,
generally by their disciples, in notes, which notes were brought
together into little pamphlets or tracts, forming the books which
are called the 'Upanishads' of the Indian sages. They contain some
extraordinary words of wisdom, some of which I want to bring before
you. The conclusions arrived at were not so much what we should call
philosophy in the modern sense. They were not so much the result of the
analysis of the mind and the following out of concatenations of strict
argument; but they were flashes of intuition and experience, and all
through the 'Upanishads' you find these extraordinary flashes embedded
in the midst of a great deal of what we should call a rather rubbishy
kind of argument, and a good deal of merely conventional Brahmanical
talk of those days. But the people who wrote and spoke thus had an
intuition into the heart of things which I make bold to say very few
people in modern life have. These 'Upanisihads,' however various their
subject, practically agree on one point--in the definition of the
"self." They agree in saying: that the self of each man is continuous
with and in a sense identical with the Self of the universe. Now that
seems an extraordinary conclusion, and one which almost staggers the
modern mind to conceive of. But that is the conclusion, that is the
thread which runs all through the 'Upanishads'--the identity of the self
of each individual with the self of every other individual throughout
mankind, and even with the selves of the animals and other creatures.

Those who have read the Khandogya Upanishad remember how in that
treatise the father instructs his son Svetakeitu on this very
subject--pointing him out in succession the objects of Nature and
on each occasion exhorting him to realize his identity with the
very essence of the object--"Tat twam asi, THAT thou art." He calls
Svetaketu's attention to a tree. What is the ESSENCE of the tree?
When they have rejected the external characteristics--the leaves, the
branches, etc.--and agreed that the SAP is the essence, then the father
says, "TAT TWAM ASI--THAT thou art." He gives his son a crystal of salt,
and asks him what is the essence of that. The son is puzzled. Clearly
neither the form nor the transparent quality are essential. The father
says, "Put the crystal in water." Then when it is melted he says, "Where
is the crystal?" The son replies, "I do not know." "Dip your finger in
the bowl," says the father, "and taste." Then Svetaketu dips here and
there, and everywhere there is a salt flavor. They agree that THAT is
the essence of salt; and the father says again, "TAt twam asi." I am of
course neither defending nor criticizing the scientific attitude here
adopted. I am only pointing out that this psychological identification
of the observer with the object observed runs through the Upanishads,
and is I think worthy of the deepest consideration.

In the 'Bhagavat Gita,' which is a later book, the author speaks of
"him whose soul is purified, whose self is the Self of all creatures." A
phrase like that challenges opposition. It is so bold, so sweeping, and
so immense, that we hesitate to give our adhesion to what it implies.
But what does it mean--"whose soul is purified"? I believe that it means
this, that with most of us our souls are anything but clean or
purified, they are by no means transparent, so that all the time we are
continually deceiving ourselves and making clouds between us and others.
We are all the time grasping things from other people, and, if not in
words, are mentally boasting ourselves against others, trying to think
of our own superiority to the rest of the people around us. Sometimes we
try to run our neighbors down a little, just to show that they are not
quite equal to our level. We try to snatch from others some things which
belong to them, or take credit to ourselves for things to which we are
not fairly entitled. But all the time we are acting so it is perfectly
obvious that we are weaving veils between ourselves and others. You
cannot have dealings with another person in a purely truthful way, and
be continually trying to cheat that person out of money, or out of his
good name and reputation. If you are doing that, however much in the
background you may be doing it, you are not looking the person fairly
in the face--there is a cloud between you all the time. So long as your
soul is not purified from all these really absurd and ridiculous little
desires and superiorities and self-satisfactions, which make up so much
of our lives, just so long as that happens you do not and you cannot see
the truth. But when it happens to a person, as it does happen in times
of great and deep and bitter experience; when it happens that all these
trumpery little objects of life are swept away; then occasionally, with
astonishment, the soul sees that. It is also the soul of the others
around. Even if it does not become aware of an absolute identity, it
perceives that there is a deep relationship and communion between itself
and others, and it comes to understand how it may really be true that
to him whose soul is purified the self is literally the Self of all

Ordinary men and those who go on more intellectual and less intuitional
lines will say that these ideas are really contrary to human nature and
to nature generally. Yet I think that those people who say this in the
name of Science are extremely unscientific, because a very superficial
glance at nature reveals that the very same thing is taking place
throughout nature. Consider the madrepores, corallines, or sponges. You
find, for instance, that constantly the little self of the coralline
or sponge is functioning at the end of a stem and casting forth its
tentacles into the water to gain food and to breathe the air out of
the water. That little animalcule there, which is living in that way,
imagines no doubt that it is working all for itself, and yet it is
united down the stem at whose extremity it stands, with the life of the
whole madrepore or sponge to which it belongs. There is the common
life of the whole and the individual life of each, and while the little
creature at the end of the stem is thinking (if it is conscious at all)
that its whole energies are absorbed in its own maintenance, it really
is feeding the common life through the stem to which it belongs, and in
its turn it is being fed by that common life.

You have only to look at an ordinary tree to see the same thing going
on. Each little leaf on a tree may very naturally have sufficient
consciousness to believe that it is an entirely separate being
maintaining itself in the sunlight and the air, withering away and dying
when the winter comes on--and there is an end of it. It probably does
not realize that all the time it is being supported by the sap which
flows from the trunk of the tree, and that in its turn it is feeding
the tree, too--that its self is the self of the whole tree. If the leaf
could really understand itself, it would see that its self was deeply,
intimately connected, practically one with the life of the whole tree.
Therefore, I say that this Indian view is not unscientific. On the
contrary, I am sure that it is thoroughly scientific.

Let us take another passage, out of the 'Svetasvatara Upanishad,' which,
speaking of the self says: "He is the one God, hidden in all creatures,
all pervading, the self within all, watching over all works, shadowing
all creatures, the witness, the perceiver, the only one free from

And now we can return to the point where we left the argument at the
beginning of this discourse. We said, you remember, that the Self is
certainly no mere bundle of qualities--that the very nature of the mind
forbids us thinking that. For however fine and subtle any quality or
group of qualities may be, we are irresistibly compelled by the
nature of the mind itself to look for the Self, not in any quality or
qualities, but in the being that PERCEIVES those qualities. The passage
I have just quoted says that being is "The one God, hidden in all
creatures, all pervading, the self within all... the witness, the
perceiver, the only one free from qualities." And the more you
think about it the clearer I think you will see that this passage is
correct--that there can be only ONE witness, ONE perceiver, and that
is the one God hidden in all creatures, "Sarva Sakshi," the Universal

Have you ever had that curious feeling, not uncommon, especially in
moments of vivid experience and emotion, that there was at the back of
your mind a witness, watching everything that was going on, yet too deep
for your ordinary thought to grasp? Has it not occurred to you--in a
moment say of great danger when the mind was agitated to the last degree
by fears and anxieties--suddenly to become perfectly calm and collected,
to realize that NOTHING can harm you, that you are identified with
some great and universal being lifted far over this mortal world and
unaffected by its storms? Is it not obvious that the real Self MUST be
something of this nature, a being perceiving all, but itself remaining
unperceived? For indeed if it were perceived it would fall under the
head of some definable quality, and so becoming the object of thought
would cease to be the subject, would cease to be the Self.

The witness is and must be "free from qualities." For since it is
capable of perceiving ALL qualities it must obviously not be itself
imprisoned or tied in any quality--it must either be entirely without
quality, or if it have the potentiality of quality in it, it must have
the potentiality of EVERY quality; but in either case it cannot be in
bondage to any quality, and in either case it would appear that there
can be only ONE such ultimate Witness in the universe. For if there were
two or more such Witnesses, then we should be compelled to suppose them
distinguished from one another by something, and that something could
only be a difference of qualities, which would be contrary to our
conclusion that such a Witness cannot be in bondage to any quality.

There is then I take it--as the text in question says--only one Witness,
one Self, throughout the universe. It is hidden in all living things,
men and animals and plants; it pervades all creation. In every thing
that has consciousness it is the Self; it watches over all operations,
it overshadows all creatures, it moves in the depths of our hearts, the
perceiver, the only being that is cognizant of all and yet free from

Once you really appropriate this truth, and assimilate it in the depths
of your mind, a vast change (you can easily imagine) will take place
within you. The whole world will be transformed, and every thought
and act of which you are capable will take on a different color and
complexion. Indeed the revolution will be so vast that it would be quite
impossible for me within the limits of this discourse to describe it.
I will, however, occupy the rest of my time in dealing with some points
and conclusions, and some mental changes which will flow perfectly
naturally from this axiomatic change taking place at the very root of

"Free from qualities." We generally pride ourselves a little on our
qualities. Some of us think a great deal of our good qualities, and some
of us are rather ashamed of our bad ones! I would say: "Do not trouble
very much about all that. What good qualities you have--well you may be
quite sure they do not really amount to much; and what bad qualities,
you may be sure they are not very important! Do not make too much fuss
about either. Do you see? The thing is that you, you yourself, are not
ANY of your qualities--you are the being that perceives them. The thing
to see to is that they should not confuse you, bamboozle you, and hide
you from the knowledge of yourself--that they should not be erected into
a screen, to hide you from others, or the others from you. If you cease
from running after qualities, then after a little time your soul will
become purified, and you will KNOW that your self is the Self of all
creatures; and when you can feel that you will know that the other
things do not much matter.

Sometimes people are so awfully good that their very goodness hides them
from other people. They really cannot be on a level with others,
and they feel that the others are far below them. Consequently their
'selves' are blinded or hidden by their 'goodness.' It is a sad end to
come to! And sometimes it happens that very 'bad' people--just because
they are so bad--do not erect any screens or veils between themselves
and others. Indeed they are only too glad if others will recognize them,
or if they may be allowed to recognize others. And so, after all, they
come nearer the truth than the very good people.

"The Self is free from qualities." That thing which is so deep, which
belongs to all, it either--as I have already said--has ALL qualities,
or it has none. You, to whom I am speaking now, your qualities, good and
bad, are all mine. I am perfectly willing to accept them. They are all
right enough and in place--if one can only find the places for them. But
I know that in most cases they have got so confused and mixed up that
they cause great conflict and pain in the souls that harbor them. If
you attain to knowing yourself to be other than and separate from the
qualities, then you will pass below and beyond them all. You will be
able to accept ALL your qualities and harmonize them, and your soul
will be at peace. You will be free from the domination of qualities then
because you will know that among all the multitudes of them there are
none of any importance!

If you should happen some day to reach that state of mind in connection
with which this revelation comes, then you will find the experience
a most extraordinary one. You will become conscious that there is no
barrier in your path; that the way is open in all directions; that all
men and women belong to you, are part of you. You will feel that there
is a great open immense world around, which you had never suspected
before, which belongs to you, and the riches of which are all yours,
waiting for you. It may, of course, take centuries and thousands of
years to realize this thoroughly, but there it is. You are just at the
threshold, peeping in at the door. What did Shakespeare say? "To thine
own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou can'st
not then be false to any man." What a profound bit of philosophy in
three lines! I doubt if anywhere the basis of all human life has been
expressed more perfectly and tersely.

One of the Upanishads (the Maitrayana-Brahmana) says: "The
happiness belonging to a mind, which through deep inwardness (1) (or
understanding) has been washed clean and has entered into the Self, is a
thing beyond the power of words to describe: it can only be perceived by
an inner faculty." Observe the conviction, the intensity with which this
joy, this happiness is described, which comes to those whose minds have
been washed clean (from all the silly trumpery sediment of self-thought)
and have become transparent, so that the great universal Being residing
there in the depths can be perceived. What sorrow indeed, what, grief,
can come to such an one who has seen this vision? It is truly a thing
beyond the power of words to describe: it can only be PERCEIVED--and
that by an inner faculty. The external apparatus of thought is of no
use. Argument is of no use. But experience and direct perception are
possible; and probably all the experiences of life and of mankind
through the ages are gradually deepening our powers of perception to
that point where the vision will at last rise upon the inward eye.

 (1) The word in the Max Muller translation is "meditation." But
that is, I think, a somewhat misleading word. It suggests to most people
the turning inward of the THINKING faculty to grope and delve in the
interior of the mind. This is just what should NOT be done. Meditation
in the proper sense should mean the inward deepening of FEELING and
consciousness till the region of the universal self is reached; but
THOUGHT should not interfere there. That should be turned on outward
things to mould them into expression of the inner consciousness.

Another text, from the Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad (which I have already
quoted in the paper on "Rest"), says: "If a man worship the Self only as
his true state, his work cannot fail, for whatever he desires, that he
obtains from the Self." Is that not magnificent? If you truly realize
your identity and union with the great Self who inspires and informs the
world, then obviously whatever you desire the great Self win desire, and
the whole world will conspire to bring it to you. "He maketh the winds
his angels, and the flaming fires his ministers." (I need not say that
I am not asking you to try and identify yourself with the great Self
universal IN ORDER to get riches, "opulence," and other things of that
kind which you desire; because in that quest you will probably not
succeed. The Great Self is not such a fool as to be taken in in that
way. It may be true--and it is true--that if ye seek FIRST the Kingdom
of Heaven all these things shall be added unto you; but you must seek it
first, not second.)

Here is a passage from Towards Democracy: "As space spreads everywhere,
and all things move and change within it, but it moves not nor changes,

"So I am the space within the soul, of which the space without is but
the similitude and mental image;

"Comest thou to inhabit me, thou hast the entrance to all life--death
shall no longer divide thee from whom thou lovest.

"I am the Sun that shines upon all creatures from within--gazest thou
upon me, thou shalt be filled with joy eternal."

Yes, this great sun is there, always shining, but most of the time it is
hidden from us by the clouds of which I have spoken, and we fail to see
it. We complain of being out in the cold; and in the cold, for the time
being, no doubt we are; but our return to the warmth and the light has
now become possible.

Thus at last the Ego, the mortal immortal self--disclosed at first in
darkness and fear and ignorance in the growing babe--FINDS ITS TRUE
IDENTITY. For a long period it is baffled in trying to understand what
it is. It goes through a vast experience. It is tormented by the
sense of separation and alienation--alienation from other people, and
persecution by all the great powers and forces of the universe; and it
is pursued by a sense of its own doom. Its doom truly is irrevocable.
The hour of fulfilment approaches, the veil lifts, and the soul beholds

We are accustomed to think of the external world around us as a nasty
tiresome old thing of which all we can say for certain is that it works
by a "law of cussedness"--so that, whichever way we want to go, that way
seems always barred, and we only bump against blind walls without
making any progress. But that uncomfortable state of affairs arises from
ourselves. Once we have passed a certain barrier, which at present looks
so frowning and impossible, but which fades into nothing immediately we
have passed it--once we have found the open secret of identity--then the
way is indeed open in every direction.

The world in which we live--the world into which we are tumbled as
children at the first onset of self-consciousness--denies this great
fact of unity. It is a world in which the principle of separation
rules. Instead of a common life and union with each other, the contrary
principle (especially in the later civilizations) has been the one
recognized--and to such an extent that always there prevails the
obsession of separation, and the conviction that each person is an
isolated unit. The whole of our modern society has been founded on this
delusive idea, WHICH IS FALSE. You go into the markets, and every man's
hand is against the others--that is the ruling principle. You go into
the Law Courts where justice is, or should be, administered, and you
find that the principle which denies unity is the one that prevails.
The criminal (whose actions have really been determined by the society
around him) is cast out, disacknowledged, and condemned to further
isolation in a prison cell. 'Property' again is the principle which
rules and determines our modern civilization--namely that which is
proper to, or can be appropriated by, each person, as AGAINST the

In the moral world the doom of separation comes to us in the shape of
the sense of sin. For sin is separation. Sin is actually (and that
is its only real meaning) the separation from others, and the
non-acknowledgment of unity. And so it has come about that during all
this civilization-period the sense of sin has ruled and ranged to such
an extraordinary degree. Society has been built on a false base, not
true to fact or life--and has had a dim uneasy consciousness of its
falseness. Meanwhile at the heart of it all--and within all the frantic
external strife and warfare--there is all the time this real great life
brooding. The kingdom of Heaven, as we said before, is still within.

The word Democracy indicates something of the kind--the rule of the
Demos, that is of the common life. The coming of that will transform,
not only our Markets and our Law Courts and our sense of Property, and
other institutions, into something really great and glorious instead
of the dismal masses of rubbish which they at present are; but it will
transform our sense of Morality.

Our Morality at present consists in the idea of self-goodness--one of
the most pernicious and disgusting ideas which has ever infested the
human brain. If any one should follow and assimilate what I have just
said about the true nature of the Self he will realize that it will
never again be possible for him to congratulate himself on his own
goodness or morality or superiority; for the moment he does so he will
separate himself from the universal life, and proclaim the sin of his
own separation. I agree that this conclusion is for some people a most
sad and disheartening one--but it cannot be helped! A man may truly be
'good' and 'moral' in some real sense; but only on the condition that
he is not aware of it. He can only BE good when not thinking about the
matter; to be conscious of one's own goodness is already to have fallen!

We began by thinking of the self as just a little local self; then we
extended it to the family, the cause, the nation--ever to a larger and
vaster being. At last there comes a time when we recognize--or see that
we SHALL have to recognize--an inner Equality between ourselves and all
others; not of course an external equality--for that would be absurd and
impossible--but an inner and profound and universal Equality. And so we
come again to the mystic root-conception of Democracy.

And now it will be said: "But after all this talk you have not defined
the Self, or given us any intellectual outline of what you mean by the
word." No--and I do not intend to. If I could, by any sort of copybook
definition, describe and show the boundaries of myself, I should
obviously lose all interest in the subject. Nothing more dull could be
imagined. I may be able to define and describe fairly exhaustively
this inkpot on the table; but for you or for me to give the limits and
boundaries of ourselves is, I am glad to say, impossible. That does not,
however, mean that we cannot FEEL and be CONSCIOUS of ourselves, and of
our relations to other selves, and to the great Whole. On the contrary
I think it is clear that the more vividly we feel our organic unity with
the whole, the less shall we be able to separate off the local self and
enclose it within any definition. I take it that we can and do become
ever more vividly conscious of our true Self, but that the mental
statement of it always does and probably always will lie beyond us.
All life and all our action and experience consist in the gradual
manifestation of that which is within us--of our inner being. In that
sense--and reading its handwriting on the outer world--we come to know
the soul's true nature more and more intimately; we enter into the mind
of that great artist who beholds himself in his own creation.

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