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Title: Chips From A German Workshop - Volume I - Essays on the Science of Religion
Author: Müller, F. Max (Friedrich Max), 1823-1900
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Chips From A German Workshop - Volume I - Essays on the Science of Religion" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

This book had a number of typesetting errors such as missing text,
pages, duplicate pages, and text. The text has been verified with the
etext available with the Internet Archives
(http://www.archive.org/details/germanwork01mulluoft) and corrected
with the addition of missing text and removal of duplicate text. The
Internet archive edition is a 1872 edition whereas this is a 1867

Details of corrections and additions are given at the end of the book.


                       FROM A GERMAN WORKSHOP.


                           MAX MÜLLER, M.A.


                              VOLUME I.

                  Essays on the Science of Religion.


                       LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.


       *       *       *       *       *

_To the Memory_




                      _et quanto diutius
    Abes, magis cupio tanto et magis desidero._

       *       *       *       *       *


More than twenty years have passed since my revered friend Bunsen
called me one day into his library at Carlton House Terrace, and
announced to me with beaming eyes that the publication of the Rig-veda
was secure. He had spent many days in seeing the Directors of the
East-India Company, and explaining to them the importance of this
work, and the necessity of having it published in England. At last his
efforts had been successful, the funds for printing my edition of the
text and commentary of the Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans had been
granted, and Bunsen was the first to announce to me the happy result
of his literary diplomacy. 'Now,' he said, 'you have got a work for
life--a large block that will take years to plane and polish.' 'But
mind,' he added, 'let us have from time to time some chips from your

I have tried to follow the advice of my departed friend, and I have
published almost every year a few articles on such subjects as had
engaged my attention, while prosecuting at the same time, as far as
altered circumstances would allow, my edition of the Rig-veda, and of
other Sanskrit works connected with it. These articles were chiefly
published in the 'Edinburgh' and 'Quarterly Reviews,' in the 'Oxford
Essays,' in 'Macmillan's' and 'Fraser's Magazines,' in the 'Saturday
Review,' and in the 'Times.' In writing them my principal endeavour
has been to bring out even in the most abstruse subjects the points of
real interest that ought to engage the attention of the public at
large, and never to leave a dark nook or corner without attempting to
sweep away the cobwebs of false learning, and let in the light of real
knowledge. Here, too, I owe much to Bunsen's advice, and when last
year I saw in Cornwall the large heaps of copper ore piled up around
the mines, like so many heaps of rubbish, while the poor people were
asking for coppers to buy bread, I frequently thought of Bunsen's
words, 'Your work is not finished when you have brought the ore from
the mine: it must be sifted, smelted, refined, and coined before it
can be of real use, and contribute towards the intellectual food of
mankind.' I can hardly hope that in this my endeavour to be clear and
plain, to follow the threads of every thought to the very ends, and to
place the web of every argument clearly and fully before my readers, I
have always been successful. Several of the subjects treated in these
essays are, no doubt, obscure and difficult: but there is no subject,
I believe, in the whole realm of human knowledge, that cannot be
rendered clear and intelligible, if we ourselves have perfectly
mastered it. And now while the two last volumes of my edition of the
Rig-veda are passing through the press, I thought the time had come
for gathering up a few armfulls of these chips and splinters, throwing
away what seemed worthless, and putting the rest into some kind of
shape, in order to clear my workshop for other work.

The first and second volumes which I am now publishing contain essays
on the early thoughts of mankind, whether religious or mythological,
and on early traditions and customs. There is to my mind no subject
more absorbing than the tracing the origin and first growth of human
thought;--not theoretically, or in accordance with the Hegelian laws
of thought, or the Comtian epochs; but historically, and like an
Indian trapper, spying for every footprint, every layer, every broken
blade that might tell and testify of the former presence of man in his
early wanderings and searchings after light and truth.

In the languages of mankind, in which everything new is old and
everything old is new, an inexhaustible mine has been discovered for
researches of this kind. Language still bears the impress of the
earliest thoughts of man, obliterated, it may be, buried under new
thoughts, yet here and there still recoverable in their sharp original
outline. The growth of language is continuous, and by continuing our
researches backward from the most modern to the most ancient strata,
the very elements and roots of human speech have been reached, and
with them the elements and roots of human thought. What lies beyond
the beginnings of language, however interesting it may be to the
physiologist, does not yet belong to the history of man, in the true
and original sense of that word. Man means the thinker, and the first
manifestation of thought is speech.

But more surprising than the continuity in the growth of language, is
the continuity in the growth of religion. Of religion, too, as of
language, it may be said that in it everything new is old, and
everything old is new, and that there has been no entirely new
religion since the beginning of the world. The elements and roots of
religion were there, as far back as we can trace the history of man;
and the history of religion, like the history of language, shows us
throughout a succession of new combinations of the same radical
elements. An intuition of God, a sense of human weakness and
dependence, a belief in a Divine government of the world, a
distinction between good and evil, and a hope of a better life, these
are some of the radical elements of all religions. Though sometimes
hidden, they rise again and again to the surface. Though frequently
distorted, they tend again and again to their perfect form. Unless
they had formed part of the original dowry of the human soul, religion
itself would have remained an impossibility, and the tongues of
angels would have been to human ears but as sounding brass or a
tinkling cymbal. If we once understand this clearly, the words of St.
Augustine which have seemed startling to many of his admirers, become
perfectly clear and intelligible, when he says:[1] 'What is now called
the Christian religion, has existed among the ancients, and was not
absent from the beginning of the human race, until Christ came in the
flesh: from which time the true religion, which existed already, began
to be called Christian.' From this point of view the words of Christ
too, which startled the Jews, assume their true meaning, when He said
to the centurion of Capernaum: 'Many shall come from the east and the
west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven.'

[Footnote 1: August. Retr. 1, 13. 'Res ipsa, quæ nunc religio
Christiana nuncupatur, erat apud antiquos, nec defuit ab initio
generis humani, quousque Christus veniret in carnem, unde vera
religio, quæ jam erat, cœpit appellari Christiana.']

During the last fifty years the accumulation of new and authentic
materials for the study of the religions of the world, has been most
extraordinary; but such are the difficulties in mastering these
materials that I doubt whether the time has yet come for attempting to
trace, after the model of the Science of Language, the definite
outlines of the Science of Religion. By a succession of the most
fortunate circumstances, the canonical books of three of the
principal religions of the ancient world have lately been recovered,
the Veda, the Zend-Avesta, and the Tripi_t_aka. But not only have we
thus gained access to the most authentic documents from which to study
the ancient religion of the Brahmans, the Zoroastrians, and the
Buddhists, but by discovering the real origin of Greek, Roman, and
likewise of Teutonic, Slavonic, and Celtic mythology, it has become
possible to separate the truly religious elements in the sacred
traditions of these nations from the mythological crust by which they
are surrounded, and thus to gain a clearer insight into the real faith
of the ancient Aryan world.

If we turn to the Semitic world, we find that although no new
materials have been discovered from which to study the ancient
religion of the Jews, yet a new spirit of inquiry has brought new life
into the study of the sacred records of Abraham, Moses, and the
Prophets; and the recent researches of Biblical scholars, though
starting from the most opposite points, have all helped to bring out
the historical interest of the Old Testament, in a manner not dreamt
of by former theologians. The same may be said of another Semitic
religion, the religion of Mohammed, since the Koran and the literature
connected with it were submitted to the searching criticism of real
scholars and historians. Some new materials for the study of the
Semitic religions have come from the monuments of Babylon and
Nineveh. The very images of Bel and Nisroch now stand before our
eyes, and the inscriptions on the tablets may hereafter tell us even
more of the thoughts of those who bowed their knees before them. The
religious worship of the Phenicians and Carthaginians has been
illustrated by Movers from the ruins of their ancient temples, and
from scattered notices in classical writers; nay, even the religious
ideas of the Nomads of the Arabian peninsula, previous to the rise of
Mohammedanism, have been brought to light by the patient researches of
Oriental scholars.

There is no lack of idols among the ruined and buried temples of Egypt
with which to reconstruct the pantheon of that primeval country: nor
need we despair of recovering more and more of the thoughts buried
under the hieroglyphics of the inscriptions, or preserved in hieratic
and demotic MSS., if we watch the brilliant discoveries that have
rewarded the patient researches of the disciples of Champollion.

Besides the Aryan and Semitic families of religion, we have in China
three recognised forms of public worship, the religion of Confucius,
that of Lao-tse, and that of Fo (Buddha); and here, too, recent
publications have shed new light, and have rendered an access to the
canonical works of these religions, and an understanding of their
various purports, more easy, even to those who have not mastered the
intricacies of the Chinese language.

Among the Turanian nations, a few only, such as the Finns, and the
Mongolians, have preserved some remnants of their ancient worship and
mythology, and these too have lately been more carefully collected and
explained by d'Ohson, Castrèn, and others.

In America the religions of Mexico and Peru had long attracted the
attention of theologians; and of late years the impulse imparted to
ethnological researches has induced travellers and missionaries to
record any traces of religious life that could be discovered among the
savage inhabitants of Africa, America, and the Polynesian islands.

It will be seen from these few indications, that there is no lack of
materials for the student of religion; but we shall also perceive how
difficult it is to master such vast materials. To gain a full
knowledge of the Veda, or the Zend-Avesta, or the Tripi_t_aka, of the
Old Testament, the Koran, or the sacred books of China, is the work of
a whole life. How then is one man to survey the whole field of
religious thought, to classify the religions of the world according to
definite and permanent criteria, and to describe their characteristic
features with a sure and discriminating hand?

Nothing is more difficult to seize than the salient features, the
traits that constitute the permanent expression and real character of
a religion. Religion seems to be the common property of a large
community, and yet it not only varies in numerous sects, as language
does in its dialects, but it really escapes our firm grasp till we can
trace it to its real habitat, the heart of one true believer. We speak
glibly of Buddhism and Brahmanism, forgetting that we are generalizing
on the most intimate convictions of millions and millions of human
souls, divided by half the world and by thousands of years.

It may be said that at all events where a religion possesses canonical
books, or a definite number of articles, the task of the student of
religion becomes easier, and this, no doubt, is true to a certain
extent. But even then we know that the interpretation of these
canonical books varies, so much so that sects appealing to the same
revealed authorities, as, for instance, the founders of the Vedânta
and the Sânkhya systems, accuse each other of error, if not of wilful
error or heresy. Articles too, though drawn up with a view to define
the principal doctrines of a religion, lose much of their historical
value by the treatment they receive from subsequent schools; and they
are frequently silent on the very points which make religion what it

A few instances may serve to show what difficulties the student of
religion has to contend with, before he can hope firmly to grasp the
facts on which his theories are to be based.

Roman Catholic missionaries who had spent their lives in China, who
had every opportunity, while staying at the court of Pekin, of
studying in the original the canonical works of Confucius and their
commentaries, who could consult the greatest theologians then living,
and converse with the crowds that thronged the temples of the capital,
differed diametrically in their opinions as to the most vital points
in the state religion of China. Lecomte, Fouquet, Prémare, and Bouvet
thought it undeniable that Confucius, his predecessors and his
disciples, had entertained the noblest ideas on the constitution of
the universe, and had sacrificed to the true God in the most ancient
temple of the earth. According to Maigrot, Navarette, on the contrary,
and even according to the Jesuit Longobardi, the adoration of the
Chinese was addressed to inanimate tablets, meaningless inscriptions,
or, in the best case, to coarse ancestral spirits and beings without
intelligence.[2] If we believe the former, the ancient deism of China
approached the purity of the Christian religion; if we listen to the
latter, the absurd fetichism of the multitude degenerated amongst the
educated, into systematic materialism and atheism. In answer to the
peremptory texts quoted by one party, the other adduced the glosses of
accredited interpreters, and the dispute of the missionaries who had
lived in China and knew Chinese, had to be settled in the last
instance by a decision of the see of Rome.

[Footnote 2: Abel Rémusat, 'Mélanges,' p. 162.]

There is hardly any religion that has been studied in its sacred
literature, and watched in its external worship with greater care
than the modern religion of the Hindus, and yet it would be extremely
hard to give a faithful and intelligible description of it. Most
people who have lived in India would maintain that the Indian
religion, as believed in and practised at present by the mass of the
people, is idol worship and nothing else. But let us hear one of the
mass of the people, a Hindu of Benares, who in a lecture delivered
before an English and native audience defends his faith and the faith
of his forefathers against such sweeping accusations. 'If by
idolatry,' he says, "is meant a system of worship which confines our
ideas of the Deity to a mere image of clay or stone, which prevents
our hearts from being expanded and elevated with lofty notions of the
attributes of God, if this is what is meant by idolatry, we disclaim
idolatry, we abhor idolatry, and deplore the ignorance or
uncharitableness of those that charge us with this grovelling system
of worship.... But if, firmly believing, as we do, in the omnipresence
of God, we behold, by the aid of our imagination, in the form of an
image any of his glorious manifestations, ought we to be charged with
identifying them with the matter of the image, whilst during those
moments of sincere and fervent devotion, we do not even think of
matter? If at the sight of a portrait of a beloved and venerated
friend no longer existing in this world, our heart is filled with
sentiments of love and reverence; if we fancy him present in the
picture, still looking upon us with his wonted tenderness and
affection, and then indulge our feelings of love and gratitude, should
we be charged with offering the grossest insult to him--that of
fancying him to be no other than a piece of painted paper?... We
really lament the ignorance or uncharitableness of those who confound
our representative worship with the Phenician, Grecian, or Roman
idolatry as represented by European writers, and then charge us with
polytheism in the teeth of thousands of texts in the Purâ_n_as,
declaring in clear and unmistakable terms that there is but one God
who manifests Himself as Brahma, Vish_n_u, and Rudra (Siva), in His
functions of creation, preservation, and destruction."[3]

[Footnote 3: The modern pandit's reply to the missionary who accuses
him of polytheism is: "O, these are only various manifestations of the
one God; the same as, though the sun be one in the heavens, yet he
appears in multi-form reflections upon the lake. The various sects are
only different entrances to the one city." See W. W. Hunter, _Annals
of Rural Bengal_, p. 116.]

In support of these statements, this eloquent advocate quotes numerous
passages from the sacred literature of the Brahmans, and he sums up
his view of the three manifestations of the Deity in the words of
their great poet Kalidâsa, as translated by Mr. Griffith:--

    "In those Three Persons the One God was shown:
    Each First in place, each Last,--not one alone;
    Of Siva, Vish_n_u, Brahma, each may be
    First, second, third, among the Blessed Three."

If such contradictory views can be held and defended with regard to
religious systems still prevalent amongst us, where we can
cross-examine living witnesses, and appeal to chapter and verse in
their sacred writings, what must the difficulty be when we have to
deal with the religions of the past? I do not wish to disguise these
difficulties which are inherent in a comparative study of the
religions of the world. I rather dwell on them strongly, in order to
show how much care and caution is required in so difficult a subject,
and how much indulgence should be shown in judging of the shortcomings
and errors that are unavoidable in so comprehensive a study. It was
supposed at one time that a comparative analysis of the languages of
mankind must transcend the powers of man: and yet by the combined and
well directed efforts of many scholars, great results have here been
obtained, and the principles that must guide the student of the
Science of Language are now firmly established. It will be the same
with the Science of Religion. By a proper division of labor, the
materials that are still wanting will be collected and published and
translated, and when that is done, surely man will never rest till he
has discovered the purpose that runs through the religions of mankind,
and till he has reconstructed the true _Civitas Dei_ on foundations as
wide as the ends of the world. The Science of Religion may be the last
of the sciences which man is destined to elaborate; but when it is
elaborated, it will change the aspect of the world, and give a new
life to Christianity itself.

The Fathers of the Church, though living in much more dangerous
proximity to the ancient religions of the Gentiles, admitted freely
that a comparison of Christianity and other religions was useful. "If
there is any agreement," Basilius remarked, "between their (the
Greeks') doctrines and our own, it may benefit us to know them: if
not, then to compare them and to learn how they differ, will help not
a little towards confirming that which is the better of the two."[4]

[Footnote 4: Basilius, _De legendis Græc._ libris, c. v. Εἰ μἑν οὓν ἐστἱ
τις οἰκειὁτης πρὀς ἀλλἡλους τοῖς λὁγοις, προὔργου ἄν ἡμῖν αὐτῶν ἡ γνῶσις
γἑνοιτο. εἰ δὲ μὴ, ἀλλἀ το γε παρἁαλληλα θἐντας καταμαθεῖν τὀ διἁφορον, οὐ
μικρὀν εἰς βεβαἱωσις βελτἱονος.]

But this is not the only advantage of a comparative study of
religions. The Science of Religion will for the first time assign to
Christianity its right place among the religions of the world; it will
show for the first time fully what was meant by the fulness of time;
it will restore to the whole history of the world, in its unconscious
progress towards Christianity, its true and sacred character.

Not many years ago great offence was given by an eminent writer who
remarked that the time had come when the history of Christianity
should be treated in a truly historical spirit, in the same spirit in
which we treat the history of other religions, such as Brahmanism,
Buddhism, or Mohammedanism. And yet what can be truer? He must be a
man of little faith, who would fear to subject his own religion to the
same critical tests to which the historian subjects all other
religions. We need not surely crave a tender or merciful treatment
for that faith which we hold to be the only true one. We should rather
challenge for it the severest tests and trials, as the sailor would
for the good ship to which he entrusts his own life, and the lives of
those who are most dear to him. In the Science of Religion, we can
decline no comparisons, nor claim any immunities for Christianity, as
little as the missionary can, when wrestling with the subtle Brahman,
or the fanatical Mussulman, or the plain speaking Zulu. And if we send
out our missionaries to every part of the world to face every kind of
religion, to shrink from no contest, to be appalled by no objections,
we must not give way at home or within our own hearts to any
misgivings, that a comparative study of the religions of the world
could shake the firm foundations on which we must stand or fall.

To the missionary more particularly a comparative study of the
religions of mankind will be, I believe, of the greatest assistance.
Missionaries are apt to look upon all other religions as something
totally distinct from their own, as formerly they used to describe the
languages of barbarous nations as something more like the twittering
of birds than the articulate speech of men. The Science of Language
has taught us that there is order and wisdom in all languages, and
that even the most degraded jargons contain the ruins of former
greatness and beauty. The Science of Religion, I hope, will produce a
similar change in our views of barbarous forms of faith and worship;
and missionaries, instead of looking only for points of difference,
will look out more anxiously for any common ground, any spark of the
true light that may still be revived, any altar that may be dedicated
afresh to the true God.

And even to us at home, a wider view of the religious life of the
world may teach many a useful lesson. Immense as is the difference
between our own and all other religions of the world--and few can know
that difference who have not honestly examined the foundations of
their own as well as of other religions--the position which believers
and unbelievers occupy with regard to their various forms of faith is
very much the same all over the world. The difficulties which trouble
us, have troubled the hearts and minds of men as far back as we can
trace the beginnings of religious life. The great problems touching
the relation of the Finite to the Infinite, of the human mind as the
recipient, and of the Divine Spirit as the source of truth, are old
problems indeed; and while watching their appearance in different
countries, and their treatment under varying circumstances, we shall
be able, I believe, to profit ourselves, both by the errors which
others committed before us, and by the truth which they discovered. We
shall know the rocks that threaten every religion in this changing and
shifting world of ours, and having watched many a storm of religious
controversy and many a shipwreck in distant seas, we shall face with
greater calmness and prudence the troubled waters at home.

If there is one thing which a comparative study of religions places in
the clearest light, it is the inevitable decay to which every religion
is exposed. It may seem almost like a truism, that no religion can
continue to be what it was during the lifetime of its founder and its
first apostles. Yet it is but seldom borne in mind that without
constant reformation, i. e. without a constant return to its
fountain-head, every religion, even the most perfect, nay the most
perfect on account of its very perfection, more even than others,
suffers from its contact with the world, as the purest air suffers
from the mere fact of its being breathed.

Whenever we can trace back a religion to its first beginnings, we find
it free from many of the blemishes that offend us in its later phases.
The founders of the ancient religions of the world, as far as we can
judge, were minds of a high stamp, full of noble aspirations, yearning
for truth, devoted to the welfare of their neighbours, examples of
purity and unselfishness. What they desired to found upon earth was
but seldom realised, and their sayings, if preserved in their original
form, offer often a strange contrast to the practice of those who
profess to be their disciples. As soon as a religion is established,
and more particularly when it has become the religion of a powerful
state, the foreign and worldly elements encroach more and more on the
original foundation, and human interests mar the simplicity and purity
of the plan which the founder had conceived in his own heart, and
matured in his communings with his God. Even those who lived with
Buddha, misunderstood his words, and at the Great Council which had to
settle the Buddhist canon, Asoka, the Indian Constantine, had to
remind the assembled priests that 'what had been said by Buddha, that
alone was well said;' and that certain works ascribed to Buddha, as,
for instance, the instruction given to his son, Râhula, were
apocryphal, if not heretical.[5] With every century, Buddhism, when it
was accepted by nations, differing as widely as Mongols and Hindus,
when its sacred writings were translated into languages as wide apart
as Sanskrit and Chinese, assumed widely different aspects, till at
last the Buddhism of the Shamans in the steppes of Tatary is as
different from the teaching of the original _S_ama_n_a, as the
Christianity of the leader of the Chinese rebels is from the teaching
of Christ. If missionaries could show to the Brahmans, the Buddhists,
the Zoroastrians, nay, even to the Mohammedans, how much their present
faith differs from the faith of their forefathers and founders, if
they could place into their hands and read with them in a kindly
spirit the original documents in which these various religions
profess to be founded, and enable them to distinguish between the
doctrines of their own sacred books and the additions of later ages,
an important advantage would be gained, and the choice between Christ
and other Masters would be rendered far more easy to many a
truth-seeking soul. But for that purpose it is necessary that we too
should see the beam in our own eyes, and learn to distinguish between
the Christianity of the nineteenth century and the religion of Christ.
If we find that the Christianity of the nineteenth century does not
win as many hearts in India and China as it ought, let us remember
that it was the Christianity of the first century in all its dogmatic
simplicity, but with its overpowering love of God and man, that
conquered the world and superseded religions and philosophies, more
difficult to conquer than the religious and philosophical systems of
Hindus and Buddhists. If we can teach something to the Brahmans in
reading with them their sacred hymns, they too can teach us something
when reading with us the Gospel of Christ. Never shall I forget the
deep despondency of a Hindu convert, a real martyr to his faith, who
had pictured to himself from the pages of the New Testament what a
Christian country must be, and who when he came to Europe found
everything so different from what he had imagined in his lonely
meditations at Benares! It was the Bible only that saved him from
returning to his old religion, and helped him to discern beneath
theological futilities, accumulated during nearly two thousand years,
beneath pharisaical hypocrisy, infidelity, and want of charity, the
buried, but still living seed, committed to the earth by Christ and
his Apostles. How can a missionary in such circumstances meet the
surprise and questions of his pupils, unless he may point to that
seed, and tell them what Christianity was meant to be; unless he may
show that like all other religions, Christianity, too, has had its
history; that the Christianity of the nineteenth century is not the
Christianity of the Middle Ages, that the Christianity of the Middle
Ages was not that of the early Councils, that the Christianity of the
early Councils was not that of the Apostles, and 'that what has been
said by Christ that alone was well said?'

[Footnote 5: See Burnouf, 'Lotus de la bonne Loi,' Appendice, No. x. §

The advantages, however, which missionaries and other defenders of the
faith will gain from a comparative study of religions, though
important hereafter, are not at present the chief object of these
researches. In order to maintain their scientific character, they must
be independent of all extraneous considerations: they must aim at
truth, trusting that even unpalatable truths, like unpalatable
medicine, will reinvigorate the system into which they enter. To
those, no doubt, who value the tenets of their religion as the miser
values his pearls and precious stones, thinking their value lessened
if pearls and stones of the same kind are found in other parts of the
world, the Science of Religion will bring many a rude shock; but to
the true believer, truth, wherever it appears, is welcome, nor will
any doctrine seem to be less true or less precious, because it was
seen, not only by Moses or Christ, but likewise by Buddha or Lao-tse.
Nor should it be forgotten that while a comparison of ancient
religions will certainly show that some of the most vital articles of
faith are the common property of the whole of mankind, at least of all
who seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him,
the same comparison alone can possibly teach us what is peculiar to
Christianity, and what has secured to it that pre-eminent position
which now it holds in spite of all obloquy. The gain will be greater
than the loss, if loss there be, which I, at least, shall never admit.

There is a strong feeling, I know, in the minds of all people against
any attempt to treat their own religion as a member of a class, and,
in one sense, that feeling is perfectly justified. To each individual,
his own religion, if he really believes in it, is something quite
inseparable from himself, something unique, that cannot be compared to
anything else, or replaced by anything else. Our own religion is, in
that respect, something like our own language. In its form it may be
like other languages; in its essence and in its relation to ourselves,
it stands alone and admits of no peer or rival.

But in the history of the world, our religion, like our own language,
is but one out of many; and in order to understand fully the position
of Christianity in the history of the world, and its true place among
the religions of mankind, we must compare it, not with Judæism only,
but with the religious aspirations of the whole world, with all, in
fact, that Christianity came either to destroy or to fulfil. From this
point of view Christianity forms part, no doubt, of what people call
profane history, but by that very fact, profane history ceases to be
profane, and regains throughout that sacred character of which it had
been deprived by a false distinction. The ancient Fathers of the
Church spoke on these subjects with far greater freedom than we
venture to use in these days. Justin Martyr, in his 'Apology' (A.D
139), has this memorable passage ('Apol.' i. 46): 'One article of our
faith then is, that Christ is the first begotten of God, and we have
already proved Him to be the very Logos (or universal Reason), of
which mankind are all partakers; and therefore those who live
according to the Logos are Christians, notwithstanding they may pass
with you for Atheists; such among the Greeks were Sokrates and
Herakleitos and the like; and such among the Barbarians were Abraham,
and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others,
whose actions, nay whose very names, I know, would be tedious to
relate, and therefore shall pass them over. So, on the other side,
those who have lived in former times in defiance of the Logos or
Reason, were evil, and enemies to Christ and murderers of such as
lived according to the Logos; but _they who have made or make the
Logos or Reason the rule of their actions are Christians_, and men
without fear and trembling.'[5_1]

[Footnote 5_1: Τὀν χριστὀν πρωτὁτοκον τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι ἐδιδἁχθημεν, καἰ
προεμηνὑσαμεν Λὁγον ὂντα, οὗ πᾶν γἑνος ἀνθρὡπων μετἑσχε καἰ οἱ μετἀ
Λὁγου βιὡσαντες χριστιανοἱ εἰσι, κἄν ἄθεοι ἐνομἱσθησαν, οἱον ἐν Ἓλλησι
μἐν Σωκρἁτης καἰ Ηρἁκλεῖτος καἰ οἱ ὁμοῖοι αὐτοῖς, ἐν βαρβἁροις δἐ
Ἃβραἀμ καἰ Ανανἱας καἰ ΑϚαρἱας καἰ Μισαὴλ καἰ Ἤλἱας καἰ ἄλλοι πολλοἰ,
ὤν τἀς πρἁξετς ἣ τἀ ὀνὁματα καταλἑγειν μακρὀν εἲναι ἒπιστἁμενοι, τανῦν
παραιτοὑμεθα. ὤστε καἰ οἱ προγενὁμενοι ἄνευ Λδγου βιὡσαντες, ἄχρηστοι

'God,' says Clement,[6] 'is the cause of all that is good: only of
some good gifts He is the primary cause, as of the Old and New
Testaments, of others the secondary, as of (Greek) philosophy. But
even philosophy may have been given primarily by Him to the Greeks,
before the Lord had called the Greeks also. For that philosophy, like
a teacher, has guided the Greeks also, as the Law did the Hebrews,
towards Christ. Philosophy, therefore, prepares and opens the way to
those who are made perfect by Christ.'

[Footnote 6: Clem. Alex. Strom, lib. I, cap. v, § 28. Πἁντων μἐν γἀρ αἲτιος
τῶν καλῶν ὁ θεὀς, ἀλλἀ τῶν μἐν κατἀ προηγοὑμενον, ὡς τῆς τε διαθήκης τῆς
παλαιᾶς καἰ τῆς νἑας, τῶν δἐ κατ ἐπακολοὑθημα, ὡς τῆς φιλοσοφἰας τἁχα δἐ
καἰ προηγουμἑνως τοῖς Ἒλλησιν ἐδὁθη τὁτε πρἰν ἣ τὀν κὑριον καλἑσαι καἰ τοὐς
Ἒλληυας. Ἐπαιδαγὡγει γἀρ καἰ αὐτὴ τὀ Ἑλληνικὀν ὡς ὁ νὁμος τοὐς Ἑβραἱους εἰς
Χριστὁν. προπαρασκευἁξει τοἱνυν ἡ φιλοσοφἱα προοδοποιοῦσα τὀν ὑπὀ Χριστοῦ

And again: 'It is clear that the same God to whom we owe the Old and
New Testaments, gave also to the Greeks their Greek philosophy by
which the Almighty is glorified among the Greeks.'[7]

[Footnote 7: Strom, lib. VI, cap. V, § 42. Πρὀς δἐ καἰ ὂτι ὁ αὐτὀς θεὀς
ἀμφοῖν ταῖν διαθἡκαιν χορηγὀς, ὁ καἰ τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς φιλοσοφἱας δοτὴρ τοῖς
Ἓλλησιν, δἰ ἦς ὁ παντοκρἁτωρ παρ Ἓλλησι δοξἁζεται, παρἑστησεν, δῆλον δἐ

And Clement was by no means the only one who spoke thus freely and
fearlessly, though, no doubt, his knowledge of Greek philosophy
qualified him better than many of his contemporaries to speak with
authority on such subjects.

St. Augustine writes: 'If the Gentiles also had possibly something
divine and true in their doctrines, our Saints did not find fault with
it, although for their superstition, idolatry, and pride, and other
evil habits, they had to be detested, and, unless they improved, to be
punished by divine judgment. For the apostle Paul, when he said
something about God among the Athenians, quoted the testimony of some
of the Greeks who had said something of the same kind: and this, if
they came to Christ, would be acknowledged in them, and not blamed.
Saint Cyprian, too, uses such witnesses against the Gentiles. For when
he speaks of the Magians, he says that the chief among them, Hostanes,
maintains that the true God is invisible, and that true angels sit at
His throne; and that Plato agrees with this, and believes in One God,
considering the others to be angels or demons; and that Hermes
Trismegistus also speaks of One God, and confesses that He is
incomprehensible.' (Augustinus, 'De Baptismo contra Donatistas,' lib.
VI, cap. xliv.)

Every religion, even the most imperfect and degraded, has something
that ought to be sacred to us, for there is in all religions a secret
yearning after the true, though unknown, God. Whether we see the Papua
squatting in dumb meditation before his fetish, or whether we listen
to Firdusi exclaiming: 'The heighth and the depth of the whole world
have their centre in Thee, O my God! I do not know Thee what Thou art:
but I know that Thou art what Thou alone canst be,'--we ought to feel
that the place whereon we stand is holy ground. There are
philosophers, no doubt, to whom both Christianity and all other
religions are exploded errors, things belonging to the past, and to be
replaced by more positive knowledge. To them the study of the
religions of the world could only have a pathological interest, and
their hearts could never warm at the sparks of truth that light up,
like stars, the dark yet glorious night of the ancient world. They
tell us that the world has passed through the phases of religious and
metaphysical errors, in order to arrive at the safe haven of positive
knowledge of facts. But if they would but study positive facts, if
they would but read, patiently and thoughtfully, the history of the
world, as it is, not as it might have been: they would see that, as in
geology, so in the history of human thought, theoretic uniformity does
not exist, and that the past is never altogether lost. The oldest
formations of thought crop out everywhere, and if we dig but deep
enough, we shall find that even the sandy desert in which we are asked
to live, rests everywhere on the firm foundation of that primeval, yet
indestructible granite of the human soul,--religious faith.

There are other philosophers again who would fain narrow the limits of
the Divine government of the world to the history of the Jewish and of
the Christian nations, who would grudge the very name of religion to
the ancient creeds of the world, and to whom the name of natural
religion has almost become a term of reproach. To them, too, I should
like to say that if they would but study positive facts, if they would
but read their own Bible, they would find that the greatness of Divine
Love cannot be measured by human standards, and that God has never
forsaken a single human soul that has not first forsaken Him. 'He hath
made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of
the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation: that they should seek the Lord, if haply
they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from
every one of us,' If they would but dig deep enough, they too would
find that what they contemptuously call natural religion, is in
reality the greatest gift that God has bestowed on the children of
man, and that without it, revealed religion itself would have no firm
foundation, no living roots in the heart of man.

If by the essays here collected I should succeed in attracting more
general attention towards an independent, yet reverent study of the
ancient religions of the world, and in dispelling some of the
prejudices with which so many have regarded the yearnings after truth
embodied in the sacred writings of the Brahmans, the Zoroastrians, and
the Buddhists, in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, nay, even in
the wild traditions and degraded customs of Polynesian savages, I
shall consider myself amply rewarded for the labour which they have
cost me. That they are not free from errors, in spite of a careful
revision to which they have been submitted before I published them in
this collection, I am fully aware, and I shall be grateful to any one
who will point them out, little concerned whether it is done in a
seemly or unseemly manner, as long as some new truth is elicited, or
some old error effectually exploded. Though I have thought it right in
preparing these essays for publication, to alter what I could no
longer defend as true, and also, though rarely, to add some new facts
that seemed essential for the purpose of establishing what I wished to
prove, yet in the main they have been left as they were originally
published. I have added to each the dates when they were written,
these dates ranging over the last fifteen years, and I must beg my
readers to bear these dates in mind when judging both of the form and
the matter of these contributions towards a better knowledge of the
creeds and prayers, the legends and customs of the ancient world.

M. M.


_October_, 1867.


          DELIVERED AT LEEDS, 1865








IX.     BUDDHISM, 1862





XIV.    POPOL VUH, 1862


       *       *       *       *       *







I have brought with me one volume of my edition of the Veda, and I
should not wonder if it were the first copy of the work which has ever
reached this busy town of Leeds. Nay, I confess I have some misgivings
whether I have not undertaken a hopeless task, and I begin to doubt
whether I shall succeed in explaining to you the interest which I feel
for this ancient collection of sacred hymns, an interest which has
never failed me while devoting to the publication of this voluminous
work the best twenty years of my life. Many times have I been asked,
But what is the Veda? Why should it be published? What are we likely
to learn from a book composed nearly four thousand years ago, and
intended from the beginning for an uncultivated race of mere heathens
and savages,--a book which the natives of India have never published
themselves, although, to the present day, they profess to regard it as
the highest authority for their religion, morals, and philosophy? Are
we, the people of England or of Europe, in the nineteenth century,
likely to gain any new light on religious, moral, or philosophical
questions from the old songs of the Brahmans? And is it so very
certain that the whole book is not a modern forgery, without any
substantial claims to that high antiquity which is ascribed to it by
the Hindus, so that all the labour bestowed upon it would not only be
labour lost, but throw discredit on our powers of discrimination, and
make us a laughing-stock among the shrewd natives of India? These and
similar questions I have had to answer many times when asked by
others, and some of them when asked by myself, before embarking on so
hazardous an undertaking as the publication of the Rig-veda and its
ancient commentary. And, I believe, I am not mistaken in supposing
that many of those who to-night have honoured me with their presence
may have entertained similar doubts and misgivings when invited to
listen to a Lecture 'On the Vedas or the Sacred Books of the

[Footnote 8: Some of the points touched upon in this Lecture have been
more fully treated in my 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature.' As
the second edition of this work has been out of print for several
years, I have here quoted a few passages from it in full.]

I shall endeavour, therefore, as far as this is possible within the
limits of one Lecture, to answer some of these questions, and to
remove some of these doubts, by explaining to you, first, what the
Veda really is, and, secondly, what importance it possesses, not only
to the people of India, but to ourselves in Europe,--and here again,
not only to the student of Oriental languages, but to every student of
history, religion, or philosophy; to every man who has once felt the
charm of tracing that mighty stream of human thought on which we
ourselves are floating onward, back to its distant mountain-sources;
to every one who has a heart for whatever has once filled the hearts
of millions of human beings with their noblest hopes, and fears, and
aspirations;--to every student of mankind in the fullest sense of that
full and weighty word. Whoever claims that noble title must not
forget, whether he examines the highest achievements of mankind in our
own age, or the miserable failures of former ages, what man is, and in
whose image and after whose likeness man was made. Whether listening
to the shrieks of the Shaman sorcerers of Tatary, or to the odes of
Pindar, or to the sacred songs of Paul Gerhard: whether looking at the
pagodas of China, or the Parthenon of Athens, or the cathedral of
Cologne: whether reading the sacred books of the Buddhists, of the
Jews, or of those who worship God in spirit and in truth, we ought to
be able to say, like the Emperor Maximilian, 'Homo sum, humani nihil a
me alienum puto,' or, translating his words somewhat freely, 'I am a
man, nothing pertaining to man I deem foreign to myself.' Yes, we must
learn to read in the history of the whole human race something of our
own history; and as in looking back on the story of our own life, we
all dwell with a peculiar delight on the earliest chapters of our
childhood, and try to find there the key to many of the riddles of our
later life, it is but natural that the historian, too, should ponder
with most intense interest over the few relics that have been
preserved to him of the childhood of the human race. These relics are
few indeed, and therefore very precious, and this I may venture to
say, at the outset and without fear of contradiction, that there
exists no literary relic that carries us back to a more primitive, or,
if you like, more child-like state in the history of man[9] than the
Veda. As the language of the Veda, the Sanskrit, is the most ancient
type of the English of the present day, (Sanskrit and English are but
varieties of one and the same language,) so its thoughts and feelings
contain in reality the first roots and germs of that intellectual
growth which by an unbroken chain connects our own generation with the
ancestors of the Aryan race,--with those very people who at the rising
and setting of the sun listened with trembling hearts to the songs of
the Veda, that told them of bright powers above, and of a life to come
after the sun of their own lives had set in the clouds of the evening.
Those men were the true ancestors of our race; and the Veda is the
oldest book we have in which to study the first beginnings of our
language, and of all that is embodied in language. We are by nature
Aryan, Indo-European, not Semitic: our spiritual kith and kin are to
be found in India, Persia, Greece, Italy, Germany; not in Mesopotamia,
Egypt, or Palestine. This is a fact that ought to be clearly
perceived, and constantly kept in view, in order to understand the
importance which the Veda has for us, after the lapse of more than
three thousand years, and after ever so many changes in our language,
thought, and religion.

[Footnote 9: 'In the sciences of law and society, old means not old in
chronology, but in structure: that is most archaic which lies nearest
to the beginning of human progress considered as a development, and
that is most modern which is farthest removed from that
beginning.'--J. F. McLennan, 'Primitive Marriage,' p. 8.]

Whatever the intrinsic value of the Veda, if it simply contained the
names of kings, the description of battles, the dates of famines, it
would still be, by its age alone, the most venerable of books. Do we
ever find much beyond such matters in Egyptian hieroglyphics, or in
Cuneiform inscriptions? In fact, what does the ancient history of the
world before Cyrus, before 500 B.C., consist of, but meagre lists of
Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian dynasties? What do the tablets of
Karnak, the palaces of Nineveh, and the cylinders of Babylon tell us
about the thoughts of men? All is dead and barren, nowhere a sigh,
nowhere a jest, nowhere a glimpse of humanity. There has been but one
oasis in that vast desert of ancient Asiatic history, the history of
the Jews. Another such oasis is the Veda. Here, too, we come to a
stratum of ancient thought, of ancient feelings, hopes, joys, and
fears,--of ancient religion. There is perhaps too little of kings and
battles in the Veda, and scarcely anything of the chronological
framework of history. But poets surely are better than kings, hymns
and prayers are more worth listening to than the agonies of butchered
armies, and guesses at truth more valuable than unmeaning titles of
Egyptian or Babylonian despots. It will be difficult to settle whether
the Veda is 'the oldest of books,' and whether some of the portions of
the Old Testament may not be traced back to the same or even an
earlier date than the oldest hymns of the Veda. But, in the Aryan
world, the Veda is certainly the oldest book, and its preservation
amounts almost to a marvel.

It is nearly twenty years ago that my attention was first drawn to
the Veda, while attending, in the years 1846 and 1847, the lectures of
Eugène Burnouf at the Collège de France. I was then looking out, like
most young men at that time of life, for some great work, and without
weighing long the difficulties which had hitherto prevented the
publication of the Veda, I determined to devote all my time to the
collection of the materials necessary for such an undertaking. I had
read the principal works of the later Sanskrit literature, but had
found little there that seemed to be more than curious. But to publish
the Veda, a work that had never before been published in India or in
Europe, that occupied in the history of Sanskrit literature the same
position which the Old Testament occupies in the history of the Jews,
the New Testament in the history of modern Europe, the Koran in the
history of Mohammedanism,--a work which fills a gap in the history of
the human mind, and promises to bring us nearer than any other work to
the first beginnings of Aryan language and Aryan thought,--this seemed
to me an undertaking not altogether unworthy a man's life. What added
to the charm of it was that it had once before been undertaken by
Frederick Rosen, a young German scholar, who died in England before he
had finished the first book, and that after his death no one seemed
willing to carry on his work. What I had to do, first of all, was to
copy not only the text, but the commentary of the Rig-veda, a work
which when finished will fill six of these large volumes. The author
or rather the compiler of this commentary, Sâya_n_a Â_k_ârya, lived
about 1400 after Christ, that is to say, about as many centuries
after, as the poets of the Veda lived before, the beginning of our
era. Yet through the 3000 years which separate the original poetry of
the Veda from the latest commentary, there runs an almost continuous
stream of tradition, and it is from it, rather than from his own
brain, that Sâya_n_a draws his explanations of the sacred texts.
Numerous MSS., more or less complete, more or less inaccurate, of
Sâya_n_a's classical work, existed in the then Royal Library at Paris,
in the Library of the East-India House, then in Leadenhall Street, and
in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. But to copy and collate these MSS.
was by no means all. A number of other works were constantly quoted in
Sâya_n_a's commentary, and these quotations had all to be verified. It
was necessary first to copy these works, and to make indexes to all of
them, in order to be able to find any passage that might be referred
to in the larger commentary. Many of these works have since been
published in Germany and France, but they were not to be procured
twenty years ago. The work, of course, proceeded but slowly, and many
times I doubted whether I should be able to carry it through. Lastly
came the difficulty,--and by no means the smallest,--who was to
publish a work that would occupy about six thousand pages in quarto,
all in Sanskrit, and of which probably not a hundred copies would ever
be sold. Well, I came to England in order to collect more materials at
the East-India House and at the Bodleian Library, and thanks to the
exertions of my generous friend Baron Bunsen, and of the late
Professor Wilson, the Board of Directors of the East-India Company
decided to defray the expenses of a work which, as they stated in
their letter, 'is in a peculiar manner deserving of the patronage of
the East-India Company, connected as it is with the early religion,
history, and language of the great body of their Indian subjects.' It
thus became necessary for me to take up my abode in England, which has
since become my second home. The first volume was published in 1849,
the second in 1853, the third in 1856, the fourth in 1862. The
materials for the remaining volumes are ready, so that, if I can but
make leisure, there is little doubt that before long the whole work
will be complete.

Now, first, as to the name. Veda means originally knowing or
knowledge, and this name is given by the Brahmans not to one work, but
to the whole body of their most ancient sacred literature. Veda is the
same word which appears in the Greek οἶδα, I know, and in the
English wise, wisdom, to wit.[10] The name of Veda is commonly given
to four collections of hymns, which are respectively known by the
names of Rig-veda, Ya_g_ur-veda, Sâma-veda, and Atharva-veda; but for
our own purposes, namely for tracing the earliest growth of religious
ideas in India, the only important, the only real Veda, is the

[Footnote 10:

Sanskrit      Greek  Gothic    Anglo-Saxon   German

véda           οἶδα     vait       wât        ich weiss
véttha         οἶσθα    vaist      wâst       du weisst
véda           οἶδε     vait       wât        er weiss
vidvá          --     vitu       --            --
vidáthu_h_     ἴστον    vituts      --            --
vidátu_h_      ἴστον     --        --            --
vidmá          ἴσμεν    vitum      witon      wir wissen
vidá           ἴστε     vituth     wite       ihr wisset
vidú_h_        ἴσασι    vitun      witan      sie wissen.

The other so-called Vedas, which deserve the name of Veda no more than
the Talmud deserves the name of Bible, contain chiefly extracts from
the Rig-veda, together with sacrificial formulas, charms, and
incantations, many of them, no doubt, extremely curious, but never
likely to interest any one except the Sanskrit scholar by profession.

The Ya_g_ur-veda and Sâma-veda may be described as prayer-books,
arranged according to the order of certain sacrifices, and intended to
be used by certain classes of priests.

Four classes of priests were required in India at the most solemn

     1. The officiating priests, manual labourers, and acolytes;
     who have chiefly to prepare the sacrificial ground, to dress
     the altar, slay the victims, and pour out the libations.

     2. The choristers, who chant the sacred hymns.

     3. The reciters or readers, who repeat certain hymns.

     4. The overseers or bishops, who watch and superintend the
     proceedings of the other priests, and ought to be familiar
     with all the Vedas.

The formulas and verses to be muttered by the first class are
contained in the Ya_g_ur-veda-sanhitâ. The hymns to be sung by the
second class are in the Sâma-veda-sanhitâ.

The Atharva-veda is said to be intended for the Brahman or overseer,
who is to watch the proceedings of the sacrifice, and to remedy any
mistake that may occur.[11]

[Footnote 11: 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' p. 449.]

Fortunately, the hymns to be recited by the third class were not
arranged in a sacrificial prayer-book, but were preserved in an old
collection of hymns, containing all that had been saved of ancient,
sacred, and popular poetry, more like the Psalms than like a ritual; a
collection made for its own sake, and not for the sake of any
sacrificial performances.

I shall, therefore, confine my remarks to the Rig-veda, which in the
eyes of the historical student is the Veda _par excellence_. Now
Rig-veda means the Veda of hymns of praise, for _R_ich, which before
the initial soft letter of Veda is changed to _R_ig, is derived from a
root which in Sanskrit means to celebrate.

In the Rig-veda we must distinguish again between the original collection
of the hymns or Mantras, called the Sanhitâ or the collection, being
entirely metrical and poetical, and a number of prose works, called
Brâhma_n_as and Sûtras, written in prose, and giving information on the
proper use of the hymns at sacrifices, on their sacred meaning, on their
supposed authors, and similar topics. These works, too, go by the name of
Rig-veda: but though very curious in themselves, they are evidently of a
much later period, and of little help to us in tracing the beginnings of
religious life in India. For that purpose we must depend entirely on the
hymns, such as we find them in the Sanhitâ or the collection of the

Now this collection consists of ten books, and contains altogether
1028 hymns. As early as about 600 B.C. we find that in the theological
schools of India every verse, every word, every syllable of the Veda
had been carefully counted. The number of verses as computed in
treatises of that date, varies from 10,402 to 10,622; that of the
words is 153,826, that of the syllables 432,000.[12] With these
numbers, and with the description given in these early treatises of
each hymn, of its metre, its deity, its number of verses, our modern
MSS. of the Veda correspond as closely as could be expected.

[Footnote 12: 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' second
edition, p. 219 seq.]

I say, our modern MSS., for all our MSS. are modern, and very modern.
Few Sanskrit MSS. are more than four or five hundred years old, the
fact being that in the damp climate of India no paper will last for
more than a few centuries. How then, you will naturally ask, can it be
proved that the original hymns were composed between 1200 and 1500
before the Christian era, if our MSS. only carry us back to about the
same date after the Christian era? It is not very easy to bridge over
this gulf of nearly three thousand years, but all I can say is that,
after carefully examining every possible objection that can be made
against the date of the Vedic hymns, their claim to that high
antiquity which is ascribed to them, has not, as far as I can judge,
been shaken. I shall try to explain on what kind of evidence these
claims rest.

You know that we possess no MS. of the Old Testament in Hebrew older
than about the tenth century after the Christian era; yet the
Septuagint translation by itself would be sufficient to prove that the
Old Testament, such as we now read it, existed in MS. previous, at
least, to the third century before our era. By a similar train of
argument, the works to which I referred before, in which we find every
hymn, every verse, every word and syllable of the Veda accurately
counted by native scholars about five or six hundred years before
Christ, guarantee the existence of the Veda, such as we now read it,
as far back at least as five or six hundred years before Christ. Now
in the works of that period, the Veda is already considered, not only
as an ancient, but as a sacred book; and, more than this, its language
had ceased to be generally intelligible. The language of India had
changed since the Veda was composed, and learned commentaries were
necessary in order to explain to the people, then living, the true
purport, nay, the proper pronunciation, of their sacred hymns. But
more than this. In certain exegetical compositions, which are
generally comprised under the name of Sûtras, and which are
contemporary with, or even anterior to, the treatises on the
theological statistics just mentioned, not only are the ancient hymns
represented as invested with sacred authority, but that other class of
writings, the Brâhma_n_as, standing half-way between the hymns and the
Sûtras, have likewise been raised to the dignity of a revealed
literature. These Brâhma_n_as, you will remember, are prose treatises,
written in illustration of the ancient sacrifices and of the hymns
employed at them. Such treatises would only spring up when some kind
of explanation began to be wanted both for the ceremonial and for the
hymns to be recited at certain sacrifices, and we find, in
consequence, that in many cases the authors of the Brâhma_n_as had
already lost the power of understanding the text of the ancient hymns
in its natural and grammatical meaning, and that they suggested the
most absurd explanations of the various sacrificial acts, most of
which, we may charitably suppose, had originally some rational
purpose. Thus it becomes evident that the period during which the
hymns were composed must have been separated by some centuries, at
least, from the period that gave birth to the Brâhma_n_as, in order to
allow time for the hymns growing unintelligible and becoming invested
with a sacred character. Secondly, the period during which the
Brâhma_n_as were composed must be separated by some centuries from the
authors of the Sûtras, in order to allow time for further changes in
the language, and more particularly for the growth of a new theology,
which ascribed to the Brâhma_n_as the same exceptional and revealed
character which the Brâhma_n_as themselves ascribed to the hymns. So
that we want previously to 600 B.C., when every syllable of the Veda
was counted, at least two strata of intellectual and literary growth,
of two or three centuries each; and are thus brought to 1100 or 1200
B.C. as the earliest time when we may suppose the collection of the
Vedic hymns to have been finished. This collection of hymns again
contains, by its own showing, ancient and modern hymns, the hymns of
the sons together with the hymns of their fathers and earlier
ancestors; so that we cannot well assign a date more recent than 1200
to 1500 before our era, for the original composition of those simple
hymns which up to the present day are regarded by the Brahmans with
the same feelings with which a Mohammedan regards the Koran, a Jew the
Old Testament, a Christian his Gospel.

That the Veda is not quite a modern forgery can be proved, however, by more
tangible evidence. Hiouen-thsang, a Buddhist pilgrim, who travelled from
China to India in the years 629-645, and who, in his diary translated from
Chinese into French by M. Stanislas Julien, gives the names of the four
Vedas, mentions some grammatical forms peculiar to the Vedic Sanskrit, and
states that at his time young Brahmans spent all their time, from the
seventh to the thirtieth year of their age, in learning these sacred texts.
At the time when Hiouen-thsang was travelling in India, Buddhism was
clearly on the decline. But Buddhism was originally a reaction against
Brahmanism, and chiefly against the exclusive privileges which the Brahmans
claimed, and which from the beginning were represented by them as based on
their revealed writings, the Vedas, and hence beyond the reach of human
attacks. Buddhism, whatever the date of its founder, became the state
religion of India under A_s_oka, the Constantine of India, in the middle of
the third century B.C. This A_s_oka was the third king of a new dynasty
founded by _K_andragupta, the well-known contemporary of Alexander and
Seleucus, about 315 B.C. The preceding dynasty was that of the Nandas, and
it is under this dynasty that the traditions of the Brahmans place a number
of distinguished scholars whose treatises on the Veda we still possess,
such as _S_aunaka, Kâtyâyana, Â_s_valâyana, and others. Their works, and
others written with a similar object and in the same style, carry us back
to about 600 B.C. This period of literature, which is called the Sûtra
period, was preceded, as we saw, by another class of writings, the
Brâhma_n_as, composed in a very prolix and tedious style, and containing
lengthy lucubrations on the sacrifices and on the duties of the different
classes of priests. Each of the three or four Vedas, or each of the three
or four classes of priests, has its own Brâhma_n_as and its own Sûtras;
and as the Brâhma_n_as are presupposed by the Sûtras, while no Sûtra is
ever quoted by the Brâhma_n_as, it is clear that the period of the
Brâhma_n_a literature must have preceded the period of the Sûtra
literature. There are, however, old and new Brâhma_n_as, and there are in
the Brâhma_n_as themselves long lists of teachers who handed down old
Brâhma_n_as or composed new ones, so that it seems impossible to
accommodate the whole of that literature in less than two centuries, from
about 800 to 600 B.C. Before, however, a single Brâhma_n_a could have been
composed, it was not only necessary that there should have been one
collection of ancient hymns, like that contained in the ten books of the
Rig-veda, but the three or four classes of priests must have been
established, the officiating priests and the choristers must have had their
special prayer-books, nay, these prayer-books must have undergone certain
changes, because the Brâhma_n_as presuppose different texts, called sâkhâs,
of each of these prayer-books, which are called the Ya_g_ur-veda-sanhitâ,
the Sâma-veda-sanhitâ, and the Atharva-veda-sanhitâ. The work of collecting
the prayers for the different classes of priests, and of adding new hymns
and formulas for purely sacrificial purposes, belonged probably to the
tenth century B.C., and three generations more would, at least, be required
to account for the various readings adopted in the prayer-books by
different sects, and invested with a kind of sacred authority, long before
the composition of even the earliest among the Brâhma_n_as. If, therefore,
the years from about 1000 to 800 B.C. are assigned to this collecting age,
the time before 1000 B.C. must be set apart for the free and natural
growth of what was then national and religious, but not yet sacred and
sacrificial poetry. How far back this period extends it is impossible to
tell; it is enough if the hymns of the Rig-veda can be traced to a period
anterior to 1000 B.C.

Much in the chronological arrangement of the three periods of Vedic
literature that are supposed to have followed the period of the
original growth of the hymns, must of necessity be hypothetical, and
has been put forward rather to invite than to silence criticism. In
order to discover truth, we must be truthful ourselves, and must
welcome those who point out our errors as heartily as those who
approve and confirm our discoveries. What seems, however, to speak
strongly in favour of the historical character of the three periods of
Vedic literature is the uniformity of style which marks the
productions of each. In modern literature we find, at one and the same
time, different styles of prose and poetry cultivated by one and the
same author. A Goethe writes tragedy, comedy, satire, lyrical poetry,
and scientific prose; but we find nothing like this in primitive
literature. The individual is there much less prominent, and the
poet's character disappears in the general character of the layer of
literature to which he belongs. It is the discovery of such large
layers of literature following each other in regular succession which
inspires the critical historian with confidence in the truly
historical character of the successive literary productions of ancient
India. As in Greece there is an epic age of literature, where we
should look in vain for prose or dramatic poetry; as in that country
we never meet with real elegiac poetry before the end of the eighth
century, nor with iambics before the same date; as even in more
modern times rhymed heroic poetry appears in England with the Norman
conquest, and in Germany the Minnesänger rise and set with the Swabian
dynasty--so, only in a much more decided manner, we see in the ancient
and spontaneous literature of India, an age of poets followed by an
age of collectors and imitators, that age to be succeeded by an age of
theological prose writers, and this last by an age of writers of
scientific manuals. New wants produced new supplies, and nothing
sprang up or was allowed to live, in prose or poetry, except what was
really wanted. If the works of poets, collectors, imitators,
theologians, and teachers were all mixed up together--if the
Brâhma_n_as quoted the Sûtras, and the hymns alluded to the
Brâhma_n_as--an historical restoration of the Vedic literature of
India would be almost an impossibility. We should suspect artificial
influences, and look with small confidence on the historical character
of such a literary agglomerate. But he who would question the
antiquity of the Veda must explain how the layers of literature were
formed that are super-imposed over the original stratum of the poetry
of the Rishis; he who would suspect a literary forgery must show how,
when, and for what purpose the 1000 hymns of the Rig-veda could have
been forged, and have become the basis of the religious, moral,
political, and literary life of the ancient inhabitants of India.

The idea of revelation, and I mean more particularly book-revelation,
is not a modern idea, nor is it an idea peculiar to Christianity.
Though we look for it in vain in the literature of Greece and Rome, we
find the literature of India saturated with this idea from beginning
to end. In no country, I believe, has the theory of revelation been
so minutely elaborated as in India. The name for revelation in
Sanskrit is _S_ruti, which means hearing; and this title distinguishes
the Vedic hymns and, at a later time, the Brâhma_n_as also, from all
other works, which, however sacred, and authoritative to the Hindu
mind, are admitted to have been composed by human authors. The Laws of
Manu, for instance, according to the Brahmanic theology, are not
revelation; they are not _S_ruti, but only Sm_r_iti, which means
recollection or tradition. If these laws or any other work of
authority can be proved on any point to be at variance with a single
passage of the Veda, their authority is at once overruled. According
to the orthodox views of Indian theologians, not a single line of the
Veda was the work of human authors. The whole Veda is in some way or
other the work of the Deity; and even those who received the
revelation, or, as they express it, those who saw it, were not
supposed to be ordinary mortals, but beings raised above the level of
common humanity, and less liable therefore to error in the reception
of revealed truth. The views entertained of revelation by the orthodox
theologians of India are far more minute and elaborate than those of
the most extreme advocates of verbal inspiration in Europe. The human
element, called paurusheyatva in Sanskrit, is driven out of every
corner or hiding-place, and as the Veda is held to have existed in the
mind of the Deity before the beginning of time, every allusion to
historical events, of which there are not a few, is explained away
with a zeal and ingenuity worthy of a better cause.

But let me state at once that there is nothing in the hymns themselves
to warrant such extravagant theories. In many a hymn the author says
plainly that he or his friends made it to please the gods; that he
made it, as a carpenter makes a chariot (Rv. I. 130, 6; V. 2, 11), or
like a beautiful vesture (Rv. V. 29, 15); that he fashioned it in his
heart and kept it in his mind (Rv. I. 171, 2); that he expects, as his
reward, the favour of the god whom he celebrates (Rv. IV. 6, 21). But
though the poets of the Veda know nothing of the artificial theories
of verbal inspiration, they were not altogether unconscious of higher
influences: nay, they speak of their hymns as god-given ('devattam,'
Rv. III. 37, 4). One poets says (Rv. VI. 47, 10): 'O god (Indra) have
mercy, give me my daily bread! Sharpen my mind, like the edge of iron.
Whatever I now may utter, longing for thee, do thou accept it; make me
possessed of God!' Another utters for the first time the famous hymn,
the Gâyatrî, which now for more than three thousand years has been the
daily prayer of every Brahman, and is still repeated every morning by
millions of pious worshippers: 'Let us meditate on the adorable light
of the divine Creator: may he rouse our minds.'[13] This consciousness
of higher influences, or of divine help in those who uttered for the
first time the simple words of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, is
very different, however, from the artificial theories of verbal
inspiration which we find in the later theological writings; it is
indeed but another expression of that deepfelt dependence on the
Deity, of that surrender and denial of all that seems to be self,
which was felt more or less by every nation, but by none, I believe,
more strongly, more constantly, than by the Indian. "It is He that has
made it,"--namely, the prayer in which the soul of the poet has thrown
off her burden,--is but a variation of, "It is He that has made us,"
which is the key-note of all religion, whether ancient or modern,
whether natural or revealed.

I must say no more to-night of what the Veda is, for I am very anxious
to explain to you, as far as it is possible, what I consider to be the
real importance of the Veda to the student of history, to the student
of religion, to the student of mankind.

[Footnote 13: 'Tat Savitur vare_n_yam bhargo devasya dhîmahi, dhiyo yo
na_h_ pra_k_odayât.'--Colebrooke, 'Miscellaneous Essays,' i. 30. Many
passages bearing on this subject have been collected by Dr. Muir in
the third volume of his 'Sanskrit Texts,' p. 114 seq.]

In the study of mankind there can hardly be a subject more deeply
interesting than the study of the different forms of religion; and
much as I value the Science of Language for the aid which it lends us
in unraveling some of the most complicated tissues of the human
intellect, I confess that to my mind there is no study more absorbing
than that of the Religions of the World,--the study, if I may so call
it, of the various languages in which man has spoken to his Maker, and
of that language in which his Maker "at sundry times and in divers
manners" spake to man.

To my mind the great epochs in the world's history are marked not by
the foundation or the destruction of empires, by the migrations of
races, or by French revolutions. All this is outward history, made up
of events that seem gigantic and overpowering to those only who cannot
see beyond and beneath. The real history of man is the history of
religion--the wonderful ways by which the different families of the
human race advanced towards a truer knowledge and a deeper love of
God. This is the foundation that underlies all profane history: it is
the light, the soul, and life of history, and without it all history
would indeed be profane.

On this subject there are some excellent works in English, such as Mr.
Maurice's "Lectures on the Religions of the World," or Mr. Hardwick's
"Christ and other Masters;" in German, I need only mention Hegel's
"Philosophy of Religion," out of many other learned treatises on the
different systems of religion in the East and the West. But in all
these works religions are treated very much as languages were treated
during the last century. They are rudely classed, either according to
the different localities in which they prevailed, just as in Adelung's
"Mithridates" you find the languages of the world classified as
European, African, American, Asiatic, etc.; or according to their age,
as formerly languages used to be divided into ancient and modern; or
according to their respective dignity, as languages used to be treated
as sacred or profane, as classical or illiterate. Now you know that
the Science of Language has sanctioned a totally different system of
classification; and that the Comparative Philologist ignores
altogether the division of languages according to their locality, or
according to their age, or according to their classical or illiterate
character. Languages are now classified genealogically, _i. e._
according to their real relationship; and the most important languages
of Asia, Europe, and Africa,--that is to say, of that part of the
world on which what we call the history of man has been acted,--have
been grouped together into three great divisions, the Aryan or
Indo-European Family, the Semitic Family, and the Turanian Class.
According to that division you are aware that English, together with
all the Teutonic languages of the Continent, Celtic, Slavonic, Greek,
Latin with its modern offshoots, such as French and Italian, Persian,
and Sanskrit, are so many varieties of one common type of speech: that
Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Veda, is no more distinct from
the Greek of Homer, or from the Gothic of Ulfilas, or from the
Anglo-Saxon of Alfred, than French is from Italian. All these
languages together form one family, one whole, in which every member
shares certain features in common with all the rest, and is at the
same time distinguished from the rest by certain features peculiarly
its own. The the world on which what we call the history of man has
been acted, have been grouped together into three great divisions, the
Aryan or Indo-European Family, the Semitic Family, and the Turanian
Class. According to that division you are aware that English together
with all the Teutonic languages of the Continent, Celtic, Slavonic,
Greek, Latin with its modern offshoots, such as French and Italian,
Persian, and Sanskrit, are so many varieties of one common type of
speech: that Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Veda, is no more
distinct from the Greek of Homer, or from the Gothic of Ulfilas, or
from the Anglo-Saxon of Alfred, than French is from Italian. All these
languages together form one family, one whole, in which every member
shares certain features in common with all the rest, and is at the
same time distinguished from the rest by certain features peculiarly
its own. The same applies to the Semitic Family, which comprises, as
its most important members, the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the
Arabic of the Koran, and the ancient languages on the monuments of
Phenicia and Carthage, of Babylon and Assyria. These languages, again,
form a compact family, and differ entirely from the other family,
which we called Aryan or Indo-European. The third group of languages,
for we can hardly call it a family, comprises most of the remaining
languages of Asia, and counts among its principal members the
Tungusic, Mongolic, Turkic, Samoyedic, and Finnic, together with the
languages of Siam, the Malay islands, Tibet, and Southern India.
Lastly, the Chinese language stands by itself, as monosyllabic, the
only remnant of the earliest formation of human speech.

Now I believe that the same division which has introduced a new and
natural order into the history of languages, and has enabled us to
understand the growth of human speech in a manner never dreamt of in
former days, will be found applicable to a scientific study of
religions. I shall say nothing to-night of the Semitic or Turanian or
Chinese religions, but confine my remarks to the religions of the
Aryan family. These religions, though more important in the ancient
history of the world, as the religions of the Greeks and Romans, of
our own Teutonic ancestors, and of the Celtic and Slavonic races, are
nevertheless of great importance even at the present day. For although
there are no longer any worshippers of Zeus, or Jupiter, of Wodan,
Esus,[14] or Perkunas,[15] the two religions of Aryan origin which
still survive, Brahmanism and Buddhism, claim together a decided
majority among the inhabitants of the globe. Out of the whole
population of the world,

31.2 per cent are Buddhists,
13.4 per cent are Brahmanists,

which together gives us 44 per cent for what may be called living
Aryan religions. Of the remaining 56 per cent, 15.7 are Mohammedans,
8.7 per cent non-descript Heathens, 30.7 per cent Christians, and only
O.3 per cent Jews.

[Footnote 14: Mommsen, 'Inscriptiones Helveticae,' 40. Becker, 'Die
inschriftlichen Überreste der Keltischen Sprache,' in 'Beiträge zur
Vergleichenden Sprachforschung,' vol. iii. p. 341. Lucau, Phars. 1,
445, 'horrensque feris altaribus Hesus.']

[Footnote 15: Cf. G. Bühler, 'Über Parjanya,' in Benfey's 'Orient und
Occident,' vol. i. p. 214.]

Now, as a scientific study of the Aryan languages became possible only
after the discovery of Sanskrit, a scientific study of the Aryan
religion dates really from the discovery of the Veda. The study of
Sanskrit brought to light the original documents of three religions,
the Sacred Books of the Brahmans, the Sacred Books of the Magians, the
followers of Zoroaster, and the Sacred Books of the Buddhists. Fifty
years ago, these three collections of sacred writings were all but
unknown, their very existence was doubted, and there was not a single
scholar who could have translated a line of the Veda, a line of the
Zend-Avesta, or a line of the Buddhist Tripi_t_aka. At present large
portions of these, the canonical writings of the most ancient and most
important religions of the Aryan race, are published and deciphered,
and we begin to see a natural progress, and almost a logical
necessity, in the growth of these three systems of worship. The
oldest, most primitive, most simple form of Aryan faith finds its
expression in the Veda. The Zend-Avesta represents in its language, as
well as in its thoughts, a branching off from that more primitive
stem; a more or less conscious opposition to the worship of the gods
of nature, as adored in the Veda, and a striving after a more
spiritual, supreme, moral deity, such as Zoroaster proclaimed under
the name of Ahura mazda, or Ormuzd. Buddhism, lastly, marks a decided
schism, a decided antagonism against the established religion of the
Brahmans, a denial of the true divinity of the Vedic gods, and a
proclamation of new philosophical and social doctrines.

Without the Veda, therefore, neither the reforms of Zoroaster nor the
new teaching of Buddha would have been intelligible: we should not
know what was behind them, or what forces impelled Zoroaster and
Buddha to the founding of new religions; how much they received, how
much they destroyed, how much they created. Take but one word in the
religious phraseology of these three systems. In the Veda the gods are
called Deva. This word in Sanskrit means bright,--brightness or light
being one of the most general attributes shared by the various
manifestations of the Deity, invoked in the Veda, as Sun, or Sky, or
Fire, or Dawn, or Storm. We can see, in fact, how in the minds of the
poets of the Veda, deva from meaning bright, came gradually to mean
divine. In the Zend-Avesta the same word daêva means evil spirit. Many
of the Vedic gods, with Indra at their head, have been degraded to the
position of daêvas, in order to make room for Ahura mazda, the Wise
Spirit, as the supreme deity of the Zoroastrians. In his confession of
faith the follower of Zoroaster declares: 'I cease to be a worshipper
of the daêvas.' In Buddhism, again, we find these ancient Devas, Indra
and the rest, as merely legendary beings, carried about at shows, as
servants of Buddha, as goblins or fabulous heroes; but no longer
either worshipped or even feared by those with whom the name of Deva
had lost every trace of its original meaning. Thus this one word Deva
marks the mutual relations of these three religions. But more than
this. The same word deva is the Latin deus, thus pointing to that
common source of language and religion, far beyond the heights of the
Vedic Olympus, from which the Romans, as well as the Hindus, draw the
names of their deities, and the elements of their language as well as
of their religion.

The Veda, by its language and its thoughts, supplies that distant
background in the history of all the religions of the Aryan race,
which was missed indeed by every careful observer, but which formerly
could be supplied by guess-work only. How the Persians came to worship
Ormuzd, how the Buddhists came to protest against temples and
sacrifices, how Zeus and the Olympian gods came to be what they are in
the mind of Homer, or how such beings as Jupiter and Mars came to be
worshipped by the Italian peasant:--all these questions, which used to
yield material for endless and baseless speculations, can now be
answered by a simple reference to the hymns of the Veda. The religion
of the Veda is not the source of all the other religions of the Aryan
world, nor is Sanskrit the mother of all the Aryan languages.
Sanskrit, as compared to Greek and Latin, is an elder sister, not a
parent: Sanskrit is the earliest deposit of Aryan speech, as the Veda
is the earliest deposit of Aryan faith. But the religion and incipient
mythology of the Veda possess the same simplicity and transparency
which distinguish the grammar of Sanskrit from Greek, Latin, or German
grammar. We can watch in the Veda ideas and their names growing, which
in Persia, Greece, and Rome we meet with only as full-grown or as fast
decaying. We get one step nearer to that distant source of religious
thought and language which has fed the different national streams of
Persia, Greece, Rome, and Germany; and we begin to see clearly, what
ought never to have been doubted, that there is no religion without
God, or, as St. Augustine expressed, that 'there is no false religion
which does not contain some elements of truth.'

I do not wish by what I have said to raise any exaggerated
expectations as to the worth of these ancient hymns of the Veda, and
the character of that religion which they indicate rather than fully
describe. The historical importance of the Veda can hardly be
exaggerated, but its intrinsic merit, and particularly the beauty or
elevation of its sentiments, have by many been rated far too high.
Large numbers of the Vedic hymns are childish in the extreme: tedious,
low, common-place. The gods are constantly invoked to protect their
worshippers, to grant them food, large flocks, large families, and a
long life; for all which benefits they are to be rewarded by the
praises and sacrifices offered day after day, or at certain seasons of
the year. But hidden in this rubbish there are precious stones. Only
in order to appreciate them justly, we must try to divest ourselves of
the common notions about Polytheism, so repugnant not only to our
feelings, but to our understanding. No doubt, if we must employ
technical terms, the religion of the Veda is Polytheism, not
Monotheism. Deities are invoked by different names, some clear and
intelligible, such as Agni, fire; Sûrya, the sun; Ushas, dawn; Maruts,
the storms; P_r_ithivî, the earth; Âp, the waters; Nadî, the rivers;
others such as Varu_n_a, Mitra, Indra, which have become proper names,
and disclose but dimly their original application to the great aspects
of nature, the sky, the sun, the day. But whenever one of these
individual gods is invoked, they are not conceived as limited by the
powers of others, as superior or inferior in rank. Each god is to the
mind of the supplicant as good as all gods. He is felt, at the time,
as a real divinity,--as supreme and absolute,--without a suspicion of
those limitations which, to our mind, a plurality of gods _must_
entail on every single god. All the rest disappear for a moment from
the vision of the poet, and he only who is to fulfill their desires
stands in full light before the eyes of the worshippers. In one hymn,
ascribed to Manu, the poet says: "Among you, O gods, there is none
that is small, none that is young; you are all great indeed." And this
is indeed the key-note of the ancient Aryan worship. Yet it would be
easy to find in the numerous hymns of the Veda, passages in which
almost every important deity is represented as supreme and absolute.
Thus in one hymn, Agni (fire) is called "the ruler of the universe,"
"the lord of men," "the wise king, the father, the brother, the son,
the friend of man;" nay, all the powers and names of the other gods
are distinctly ascribed to Agni. But though Agni is thus highly
exalted, nothing is said to disparage the divine character of the
other gods. In another hymn another god, Indra, is said to be greater
than all: "The gods," it is said, "do not reach thee, Indra, nor men;
thou overcomest all creatures in strength." Another god, Soma, is
called the king of the world, the king of heaven and earth, the
conqueror of all. And what more could human language achieve, in
trying to express the idea of a divine and supreme power, than what
another poet says of another god, Varu_n_a: "Thou art lord of all, of
heaven and earth; thou art the king of all, of those who are gods, and
of those who are men!"

This surely is not what is commonly understood by Polytheism. Yet it
would be equally wrong to call it Monotheism. If we must have a name
for it, I should call it Kathenotheism. The consciousness that all the
deities are but different names of one and the same godhead, breaks
forth indeed here and there in the Veda. But it is far from being
general. One poet, for instance, says (Rv. I. 164, 46): "They call him
Indra, Mitra, Varu_n_a, Agni; then he is the beautiful-winged heavenly
Garutmat: that which is One the wise call it in divers manners: they
call it Agni, Yama, Mâtari_s_van." And again (Rv. X. 114, 5): "Wise
poets make the beautiful-winged, though he is one, manifold by words."

       *       *       *       *       *

I shall read you a few Vedic verses, in which the religious sentiment
predominates, and in which we perceive a yearning after truth, and
after the true God, untrammeled as yet by any names or any
traditions[16] (Rv. X. 121):--

[Footnote 16: _History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature_, p. 569.]

     1. In the beginning there arose the golden Child--He was the
     one born lord of all that is. He stablished the earth, and
     this sky;--Who is the God to whom we shall offer our

     2. He who gives life, He who gives strength; whose command
     all the bright gods revere; whose shadow is immortality,
     whose shadow is death;--Who is the God to whom we shall
     offer our sacrifice?

     3. He who through His power is the one king of the breathing
     and awakening world--He who governs all, man and beast;--Who
     is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

     4. He whose greatness these snowy mountains, whose greatness
     the sea proclaims, with the distant river--He whose these
     regions are, as it were His two arms;--Who is the God to
     whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

     5. He through whom the sky is bright and the earth firm--He
     through whom the heaven was stablished,--nay, the highest
     heaven,--He who measured out the light in the air;--Who is
     the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

     6. He to whom heaven and earth, standing firm by His will,
     look up, trembling inwardly--He over whom the rising sun
     shines forth;--Who is the God to whom we shall offer our

     7. Wherever the mighty water-clouds went, where they placed
     the seed and lit the fire, thence arose He who is the sole
     life of the bright gods;--Who is the God to whom we shall
     offer our sacrifice?

     8. He who by His might looked even over the water-clouds,
     the clouds which gave strength and lit the sacrifice; He who
     alone is God above all gods;--

     9. May He not destroy us--He the creator of the earth; or
     He, the righteous, who created the heaven; He also created
     the bright and mighty waters;--Who is the God to whom we
     shall offer our sacrifice?[17]

The following may serve as specimens of hymns addressed to individual
deities whose names have become the centres of religious thought and
legendary traditions; deities, in fact, like Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, or
Minerva, no longer mere germs, but fully developed forms of early
thought and language:

[Footnote 17: A last verse is added, which entirely spoils the
poetical beauty and the whole character of the hymn. Its later origin
seems to have struck even native critics, for the author of the Pada
text did not receive it. 'O Pra_g_âpati, no other than thou hast
embraced all these created things; may what we desired when we called
on thee, be granted to us, may we be lords of riches.']

     HYMN TO INDRA (Rv. I. 53).[18]

     1. Keep silence well![19] we offer praises to the great
     Indra in the house of the sacrificer. Does he find treasure
     for those who are like sleepers? Mean praise is not valued
     among the munificent.

     2. Thou art the giver of horses, Indra, thou art the giver
     of cows, the giver of corn, the strong lord of wealth: the
     old guide of man, disappointing no desires, a friend to
     friends:--to him we address this song.

     3. O powerful Indra, achiever of many works, most brilliant
     god--all this wealth around here is known to be thine alone:
     take from it, conqueror! bring it hither! Do not stint the
     desire of the worshipper who longs for thee!

     4. On these days thou art gracious, and on these
     nights,[20] keeping off the enemy from our cows and from
     our stud. Tearing[21] the fiend night after night with the
     help of Indra, let us rejoice in food, freed from haters.

     5. Let us rejoice, Indra, in treasure and food, in wealth of
     manifold delight and splendour. Let us rejoice in the
     blessing of the gods, which gives us the strength of
     offspring, gives us cows first and horses.

     6. These draughts inspired thee, O lord of the brave! these
     were vigour, these libations, in battles, when for the sake
     of the poet, the sacrificer, thou struckest down
     irresistibly ten thousands of enemies.

     7. From battle to battle thou advancest bravely, from town
     to town thou destroyest all this with might, when thou,
     Indra, with Nâmî as thy friend, struckest down from afar the
     deceiver Namu_k_i.

     8. Thou hast slain Karaṅga and Par_n_aya with the
     brightest spear of Atithigva. Without a helper thou didst
     demolish the hundred cities of Vaṅg_r_ida, which were
     besieged by _R_i_g_i_s_van.

     9. Thou hast felled down with the chariot-wheel these twenty
     kings of men, who had attacked the friendless
     Su_s_ravas,[22] and gloriously the sixty thousand and
     ninety-nine forts.

     10. Thou, Indra, hast succoured Su_s_ravas with thy
     succours, Tûrvayâ_n_a with thy protections. Thou hast made
     Kutsa, Atithigva, and Âyu subject to this mighty youthful

     11. We who in future, protected by the gods, wish to be thy
     most blessed friends, we shall praise thee, blessed by thee
     with offspring, and enjoying henceforth a longer life.

[Footnote 18: I subjoin for some of the hymns here translated, the
translation of the late Professor Wilson, in order to show what kind
of difference there is between the traditional rendering of the Vedic
hymns, as adopted by him, and their interpretation according to the
rules of modern scholarship:

1. We ever offer fitting praise to the mighty Indra, in the dwelling
of the worshipper, by which he (the deity) has quickly acquired
riches, as (a thief) hastily carries (off the property) of the
sleeping. Praise ill expressed is not valued among the munificent.

2. Thou, Indra, art the giver of horses, of cattle, of barley, the
master and protector of wealth, the foremost in liberality, (the
being) of many days; thou disappointest not desires (addressed to
thee); thou art a friend to our friends: such an Indra we praise.

3. Wise and resplendent Indra, the achiever of great deeds, the riches
that are spread around are known to be thine: having collected them,
victor (over thy enemies), bring them to us: disappoint not the
expectation of the worshipper who trusts in thee.

4. Propitiated by these offerings, by these libations, dispel poverty
with cattle and horses: may we, subduing our adversary, and relieved
from enemies by Indra, (pleased) by our libations, enjoy together
abundant food.

5. Indra, may we become possessed of riches, and of food; and with
energies agreeable to many, and shining around, may we prosper through
thy divine favour, the source of prowess, of cattle, and of horses.

6. Those who were thy allies, (the Maruts,) brought thee joy:
protector of the pious, those libations and oblations (that were
offered thee on slaying V_r_itra), yielded thee delight, when thou,
unimpeded by foes, didst destroy the ten thousand obstacles opposed to
him who praised thee and offered thee libations.

7. Humiliator (of adversaries), thou goest from battle to battle, and
destroyest by thy might city after city: with thy foe-prostrating
associate, (the thunderbolt,) thou, Indra, didst slay afar off the
deceiver named Namu_k_i.

8. Thou hast slain Karaṅga and Par_n_aya with thy bright gleaming
spear, in the cause of Atithigva: unaided, thou didst demolish the
hundred cities of Vaṅg_r_ida, when besieged by _R_i_g_i_s_van.

9. Thou, renowned Indra, overthrewest by thy not-to-be-overtaken
chariot-wheel, the twenty kings of men, who had come against
Su_s_ravas, unaided, and their sixty thousand and ninety and nine

10. Thou, Indra, hast preserved Su_s_ravas by thy succour,
Tûrvayâ_n_a, by thy assistance: thou hast made Kutsa, Atithigva, and
Âyu subject to the mighty though youthful Su_s_ravas.

11. Protected by the gods, we remain, Indra, at the close of the
sacrifice, thy most fortunate friends: we praise thee, as enjoying
through thee excellent offspring, and a long and prosperous life.]

[Footnote 19: Favete linguis.]

[Footnote 20: Cf. Rv. I. 112, 25, 'dyúbhir aktúbhi_h_,' by day and by
night; also Rv. III. 31, 16. M. M., 'Todtenbestattung,' p. v.]

[Footnote 21: Professor Benfey reads durayanta_h_, but all MSS. that I
know, without exception, read darayanta_h_.]

The next hymn is one of many addressed to Agni as the god of fire, not
only the fire as a powerful element, but likewise the fire of the
hearth and the altar, the guardian of the house, the minister of the
sacrifice, the messenger between gods and men:

[Footnote 22: See Spiegel, 'Erân,' p. 269, on Khai Khosru =

     HYMN TO AGNI (Rv. II. 6).

     1. Agni, accept this log which I offer to thee, accept this
     my service; listen well to these my songs.

     2. With this log, O Agni, may we worship thee, thou son of
     strength, conqueror of horses! and with this hymn, thou

     3. May we thy servants serve thee with songs, O granter of
     riches, thou who lovest songs and delightest in riches.

     4. Thou lord of wealth and giver of wealth, be thou wise and
     powerful; drive away from us the enemies!

     5. He gives us rain from heaven, he gives us inviolable
     strength, he gives us food a thousandfold.

     6. Youngest of the gods, their messenger, their invoker,
     most deserving of worship, come, at our praise, to him who
     worships thee and longs for thy help.

     7. For thou, O sage, goest wisely between these two
     creations (heaven and earth, gods and men), like a friendly
     messenger between two hamlets.

     8. Thou art wise, and thou hast been pleased; perform thou,
     intelligent Agni, the sacrifice without interruption, sit
     down on this sacred grass!

The following hymn, partly laudatory, partly deprecatory, is addressed
to the Maruts or Rudras, the Storm-gods:

     HYMN TO THE MARUTS (Rv. I. 39).[23]

     1. When you thus from afar cast forward your measure, like a
     blast of fire, through whose wisdom is it, through whose
     design? To whom do you go, to whom, ye shakers (of the

     2. May your weapons be firm to attack, strong also to
     withstand! May yours be the more glorious strength, not that
     of the deceitful mortal!

     3. When you overthrow what is firm, O ye men, and whirl
     about what is heavy, ye pass through the trees of the earth,
     through the clefts of the rocks.

     4. No real foe of yours is known in heaven, nor in earth, ye
     devourers of enemies! May strength be yours, together with
     your race, O Rudras, to defy even now.

     5. They make the rocks to tremble, they tear asunder the
     kings of the forest. Come on, Maruts, like madmen, ye gods,
     with your whole tribe.

     6. You have harnessed the spotted deer to your chariots, a
     red deer draws as leader. Even the earth listened at your
     approach, and men were frightened.

     7. O Rudras, we quickly desire your help for our race. Come
     now to us with help, as of yore, thus for the sake of the
     frightened Ka_n_va.

     8. Whatever fiend, roused by you or roused by mortals,
     attacks us, tear him from us by your power, by your
     strength, by your aid.

     9. For you, worshipful and wise, have wholly protected
     Ka_n_va. Come to us, Maruts, with your whole help, as
     quickly as lightnings come after the rain.

     10. Bounteous givers, ye possess whole strength, whole
     power, ye shakers (of the earth). Send, O Maruts, against
     the proud enemy of the poets, an enemy, like an arrow.

[Footnote 23: Professor Wilson translates as follows:

     1. When, Maruts, who make (all things) tremble, you direct
     your awful (vigour) downwards from afar, as light (descends
     from heaven), by whose worship, by whose praise (are you
     attracted)? To what (place of sacrifice), to whom, indeed,
     do you repair?

     2. Strong be your weapons for driving away (your) foes, firm
     in resisting them: yours be the strength that merits praise,
     not (the strength) of a treacherous mortal.

     3. Directing Maruts, when you demolish what is stable, when
     you scatter what is ponderous, then you make your way
     through the forest (trees) of earth and the defiles of the

     4. Destroyers of foes, no adversary of yours is known above
     the heavens, nor (is any) upon earth: may your collective
     strength be quickly exerted, sons of Rudra, to humble (your

     5. They make the mountains tremble, they drive apart the
     forest trees. Go, divine Maruts, whither you will, with all
     your progeny, like those intoxicated.

     6. You have harnessed the spotted deer to your chariot; the
     red deer yoked between them, (aids to) drag the car: the
     firmament listens for your coming, and men are alarmed.

     7. Rudras, we have recourse to your assistance for the sake
     of our progeny: come quickly to the timid Ka_n_va, as you
     formerly came, for our protection.

     8. Should any adversary, instigated by you, or by man,
     assail us, withhold from him food and strength and your

     9. Pra_k_etasas, who are to be unreservedly worshipped,
     uphold (the sacrificer) Ka_n_va: come to us, Maruts, with
     undivided protective assistances, as the lightnings (bring)
     the rain.

     10. Bounteous givers, you enjoy unimpaired vigour: shakers
     (of the earth), you possess undiminished strength: Maruts,
     let loose your anger, like an arrow, upon the wrathful enemy
     of the Rishis.

The following is a simple prayer addressed to the Dawn:

     HYMN TO USHAS (Rv. VII. 77).

     1. She shines upon us, like a young wife, rousing every
     living being to go to his work. When the fire had to be
     kindled by men, she made the light by striking down

     2. She rose up, spreading far and wide, and moving
     everywhere. She grew in brightness, wearing her brilliant
     garment. The mother of the cows, (the mornings) the leader
     of the days, she shone gold-coloured, lovely to behold.

     3. She, the fortunate, who brings the eye of the gods, who
     leads the white and lovely steed (of the sun), the Dawn was
     seen revealed by her rays, with brilliant treasures,
     following every one.

     4. Thou who art a blessing where thou art near, drive far
     away the unfriendly; make the pasture wide, give us safety!
     Scatter the enemy, bring riches! Raise up wealth to the
     worshipper, thou mighty Dawn.

     5. Shine for us with thy best rays, thou bright Dawn, thou
     who lengthenest our life, thou the love of all, who givest
     us food, who givest us wealth in cows, horses, and chariots.

     6. Thou, daughter of the sky, thou high-born Dawn, whom the
     Vasish_t_has magnify with songs, give us riches high and
     wide: all ye gods, protect us always with your blessings.

I must confine myself to shorter extracts, in order to be able to show
to you that all the principal elements of real religion are present in
the Veda. I remind you again that the Veda contains a great deal of
what is childish and foolish, though very little of what is bad and
objectionable. Some of its poets ascribe to the gods sentiments and
passions unworthy of the deity, such as anger, revenge, delight in
material sacrifices; they likewise represent human nature on a low
level of selfishness and worldliness. Many hymns are utterly unmeaning
and insipid, and we must search patiently before we meet, here and
there, with sentiments that come from the depth of the soul, and with
prayers in which we could join ourselves. Yet there are such
passages, and they are the really important passages, as marking the
highest points to which the religious life of the ancient poets of
India had reached; and it is to these that I shall now call your

First of all, the religion of the Veda knows of no idols. The worship
of idols in India is a secondary formation, a later degradation of the
more primitive worship of ideal gods.

The gods of the Veda are conceived as immortal: passages in which the
birth of certain gods is mentioned have a physical meaning: they refer
to the birth of the day, the rising of the sun, the return of the

The gods are supposed to dwell in heaven, though several of them, as,
for instance, Agni, the god of fire, are represented as living among
men, or as approaching the sacrifice, and listening to the praises of
their worshippers.

Heaven and earth are believed to have been made or to have been
established by certain gods. Elaborate theories of creation, which
abound in the later works, the Brâhma_n_as, are not to be found in the
hymns. What we find are such passages as:

'Agni held the earth, he stablished the heaven by truthful words' (Rv.
I. 67, 3).

'Varu_n_a stemmed asunder the wide firmaments; he lifted on high the
bright and glorious heaven; he stretched out apart the starry sky and
the earth' (Rv. VII. 86, 1).

More frequently, however, the poets confess their ignorance of the
beginning of all things, and one of them exclaims:

'Who has seen the first-born? Where was the life, the blood, the soul
of the world? Who went to ask this from any that knew it? (Rv. I. 164,

Or again, Rv. X. 81, 4: 'What was the forest, what was the tree out of
which they shaped heaven and earth? Wise men, ask this indeed in your
mind, on what he stood when he held the worlds?'

I now come to a more important subject. We find in the Veda, what few
would have expected to find there, the two ideas, so contradictory to
the human understanding, and yet so easily reconciled in every human
heart: God has established the eternal laws of right and wrong, he
punishes sin and rewards virtue, and yet the same God is willing to
forgive; just, yet merciful; a judge, and yet a father. Consider, for
instance, the following lines, Rv. I. 41, 4: 'His path is easy and
without thorns, who does what is right.'

And again, Rv. I. 41, 9: 'Let man fear Him who holds the four (dice),
before he throws them down (i. e. God who holds the destinies of men
in his hand); let no man delight in evil words!'

And then consider the following hymns, and imagine the feelings which
alone could have prompted them:

     HYMN TO VARU_N_A (Rv. VII. 89).

     1. Let me not yet, O Varu_n_a, enter into the house of clay;
     have mercy, almighty, have mercy!

     2. If I go along trembling, like a cloud driven by the wind;
     have mercy, almighty, have mercy!

     3. Through want of strength, thou strong and bright god,
     have I gone wrong; have mercy, almighty, have mercy!

     4. Thirst came upon the worshipper, though he stood in the
     midst of the waters; have mercy, almighty, have mercy!

     5. Whenever we men, O Varu_n_a, commit an offence before the
     heavenly host, whenever we break the law through
     thoughtlessness; have mercy, almighty, have mercy!

[Footnote 24: 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' p. 20 note.]

And again, Rv. VII. 86:

     1. Wise and mighty are the works of him who stemmed asunder
     the wide firmaments (heaven and earth). He lifted on high
     the bright and glorious heaven; he stretched out apart the
     starry sky and the earth.

     2. Do I say this to my own self? How can I get unto
     Varu_n_a? Will he accept my offering without displeasure?
     When shall I, with a quiet mind, see him propitiated?

     3. I ask, O Varu_n_a, wishing to know this my sin. I go to
     ask the wise. The sages all tell me the same: Varu_n_a it is
     who is angry with thee.

     4. Was it an old sin, O Varu_n_a, that thou wishest to
     destroy thy friend, who always praises thee? Tell me, thou
     unconquerable lord, and I will quickly turn to thee with
     praise, freed from sin.

     5. Absolve us from the sins of our fathers, and from those
     which we committed with our own bodies. Release Vasish_t_ha,
     O king, like a thief who has feasted on stolen oxen; release
     him like a calf from the rope.

     6. It was not our own doing, O Varu_n_a, it was necessity
     (or temptation), an intoxicating draught, passion, dice,
     thoughtlessness. The old is there to mislead the young; even
     sleep brings unrighteousness.

     7. Let me without sin give satisfaction to the angry god,
     like a slave to the bounteous lord. The lord god enlightened
     the foolish; he, the wisest, leads his worshipper to wealth.

     8. O lord Varu_n_a, may this song go well to thy heart! May
     we prosper in keeping and acquiring! Protect us, O gods,
     always with your blessings!

The consciousness of sin is a prominent feature in the religion of the
Veda, so is likewise the belief that the gods are able to take away
from man the heavy burden of his sins. And when we read such passages
as 'Varu_n_a is merciful even to him who has committed sin' (Rv. VII.
87, 7), we should surely not allow the strange name of Varu_n_a to jar
on our ears, but should remember that it is but one of the many names
which men invented in their helplessness to express their ideas of the
Deity, however partial and imperfect.

The next hymn, which is taken from the Atharva-veda (IV. 16), will
show how near the language of the ancient poets of India may approach
to the language of the Bible:[25]

     1. The great lord of these worlds sees as if he were near.
     If a man thinks he is walking by stealth, the gods know it

     2. If a man stands or walks or hides, if he goes to lie down
     or to get up, what two people sitting together whisper, king
     Varu_n_a knows it, he is there as the third.

     3. This earth, too, belongs to Varu_n_a, the king, and this
     wide sky with its ends far apart. The two seas (the sky and
     the ocean) are Varu_n_a's loins; he is also contained in
     this small drop of water.

     4. He who should flee far beyond the sky, even he would not
     be rid of Varu_n_a, the king. His spies proceed from heaven
     towards this world; with thousand eyes they overlook this

     5. King Varu_n_a sees all this, what is between heaven and
     earth, and what is beyond. He has counted the twinklings of
     the eyes of men. As a player throws the dice, he settles all

     6. May all thy fatal nooses, which stand spread out seven by
     seven and threefold, catch the man who tells a lie, may they
     pass by him who tells the truth.

[Footnote 25: This hymn was first pointed out by Professor Roth in a
dissertation on the Atharva-veda (Tübingen, 1856), and it has since
been translated and annotated by Dr. Muir, in his article on the
'Vedic Theogony and Cosmogony,' p. 31.]

Another idea which we find in the Veda is that of faith: not only in
the sense of trust in the gods, in their power, their protection,
their kindness, but in that of belief in their existence. The Latin
word credo, I believe, is the same as the Sanskrit _s_raddhâ, and this
_s_raddhâ occurs in the Veda:

Rv. I. 102, 2. 'Sun and moon go on in regular succession, that we may
see, Indra, and believe.'

Rv. I. 104, 6. 'Destroy not our future offspring, O Indra, for we have
believed in thy great power.'

Rv. I. 55, 5. 'When Indra hurls again and again his thunderbolt, then
they believe in the brilliant god.'[26]

[Footnote 26: During violent thunderstorms the natives of New Holland
are so afraid of War-ru-gu-ra, the evil spirit, that they seek shelter
even in caves haunted by Ingnas, subordinate demons, which at other
times they would enter on no account. There, in silent terror, they
prostrate themselves with their faces to the ground, waiting until the
spirit, having expended his fury, shall retire to Uta (hell) without
having discovered their hiding-place.--'Transactions of Ethnological
Society,' vol. iii. p. 229. Oldfield, 'The Aborigines of Australia.']

A similar sentiment, namely, that men only believe in the gods when
they see their signs and wonders in the sky, is expressed by another
poet (Rv. VIII. 21, 14):

     'Thou, Indra, never findest a rich man to be thy friend;
     wine-swillers despise thee. But when thou thunderest, when
     thou gatherest (the clouds), then thou art called, like a

And with this belief in god, there is also coupled that doubt, that
true scepticism, if we may so call it, which is meant to give to faith
its real strength. We find passages even in these early hymns where
the poet asks himself, whether there is really such a god as Indra,--a
question immediately succeeded by an answer, as if given to the poet
by Indra himself. Thus we read Rv. VIII. 89, 3:

     'If you wish for strength, offer to Indra a hymn of praise:
     a true hymn, if Indra truly exist; for some one says, Indra
     does not exist! Who has seen him? Whom shall we praise?'

Then Indra answers through the poet:

     'Here I am, O worshipper, behold me here! in might I surpass
     all things.'

Similar visions occur elsewhere, where the poet, after inviting a god
to a sacrifice, or imploring his pardon for his offences, suddenly
exclaims that he has seen the god, and that he feels that his prayer
is granted. For instance:

     HYMN TO VARU_N_A (Rv. I. 25).

     1. However we break thy laws from day to day, men as we are,
     O god, Varu_n_a,

     2. Do not deliver us unto death, nor to the blow of the
     furious; nor to the wrath of the spiteful!

     3. To propitiate thee, O Varu_n_a, we unbend thy mind with
     songs, as the charioteer a weary steed.

     4. Away from me they flee dispirited, intent only on gaining
     wealth; as birds to their nests.

     5. When shall we bring hither the man, who is victory to the
     warriors; when shall we bring Varu_n_a, the wide-seeing, to
     be propitiated?

     [6. This they (Mitra and Varu_n_a) take in common; gracious,
     they never fail the faithful giver.]

     7. He who knows the place of the birds that fly through the
     sky, who on the waters knows the ships;--

     8. He, the upholder of order, who knows the twelve months
     with the offspring of each, and knows the month that is
     engendered afterwards;--

     9. He who knows the track of the wind, of the wide, the
     bright, the mighty; and knows those who reside on high;--

     10. He, the upholder of order, Varu_n_a, sits down among his
     people; he, the wise, sits there to govern.

     11. From thence perceiving all wondrous things, he sees what
     has been and what will be done.

     12. May he, the wise Âditya, make our paths straight all our
     days; may he prolong our lives!

     13. Varu_n_a, wearing golden mail, has put on his shining
     cloak; the spies sat down around him.

     14. The god whom the scoffers do not provoke, nor the
     tormentors of men, nor the plotters of mischief;--

     15. He, who gives to men glory, and not half glory, who
     gives it even to our own selves;--

     16. Yearning for him, the far-seeing, my thoughts move
     onwards, as kine move to their pastures.

     17. Let us speak together again, because my honey has been
     brought: that thou mayst eat what thou likest, like a

     18. Did I see the god who is to be seen by all, did I see
     the chariot above the earth? He must have accepted my

     19. O hear this my calling, Varu_n_a, be gracious now;
     longing for help, I have called upon thee.

     20. Thou, O wise god, art lord of all, of heaven and earth:
     listen on thy way.

     21. That I may live, take from me the upper rope, loose the
     middle, and remove the lowest!

In conclusion, let me tell you that there is in the Veda no trace of
metempsychosis or that transmigration of souls from human to animal
bodies which is generally supposed to be a distinguishing feature of
Indian religion. Instead of this, we find what is really the sine quâ
non of all real religion, a belief in immortality, and in personal
immortality. Without a belief in personal immortality, religion surely
is like an arch resting on one pillar, like a bridge ending in an
abyss. We cannot wonder at the great difficulties felt and expressed
by bishop Warburton and other eminent divines, with regard to the
supposed total absence of the doctrine of immortality or personal
immortality in the Old Testament; and it is equally startling that the
Sadducees who sat in the same council with the high-priest, openly
denied the resurrection.[27] However, though not expressly asserted
anywhere, a belief in personal immortality is taken for granted in
several passages of the Old Testament, and we can hardly think of
Abraham or Moses as without a belief in life and immortality. But
while this difficulty, so keenly felt with regard to the Jewish
religion, ought to make us careful in the judgments which we form of
other religions, and teach us the wisdom of charitable interpretation,
it is all the more important to mark that in the Veda passages occur
where immortality of the soul, personal immortality and personal
responsibility after death, are clearly proclaimed. Thus we read:

[Footnote 27: Acts xxii. 30, xxiii. 6.]

     'He who gives alms goes to the highest place in heaven; he
     goes to the gods' (Rv. I. 125, 56).

Another poet, after rebuking those who are rich and do not
communicate, says:

     'The kind mortal is greater than the great in heaven!'

Even the idea, so frequent in the later literature of the Brahmans,
that immortality is secured by a son, seems implied, unless our
translation deceives us, in one passage of the Veda (VII. 56, 24):
'Asmé (íti) vira_h_ maruta_h_ sushmî astu _g_ánânâm yá_h_ ásura_h_ vi
dhartâ, apá_h_ yéna su-kshitáye tárema, ádha svám óka_h_ abhí vah
syáma.' 'O Maruts, may there be to us a strong son, who is a living
ruler of men: through whom we may cross the waters on our way to the
happy abode; then may we come to your own house!'

One poet prays that he may see again his father and mother after death
(Rv. I. 24, 1); and the fathers (Pit_r_is) are invoked almost like
gods, oblations are offered to them, and they are believed to enjoy,
in company with the gods, a life of never ending felicity (Rv. X. 15,

We find this prayer addressed to Soma (Rv. IX. 113, 7):

     'Where there is eternal light, in the world where the sun is
     placed, in that immortal imperishable world place me, O

     'Where king Vaivasvata reigns, where the secret place of
     heaven is, where these mighty waters are, there make me

     'Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens, where
     the worlds are radiant, there make me immortal!'

     'Where wishes and desires are, where the place of the bright
     sun is, where there is freedom and delight, there make me

     'Where there is happiness and delight, where joy and
     pleasure reside, where the desires of our desire are
     attained, there make me immortal!'[28]

Whether the old Rishis believed likewise in a place of punishment for
the wicked, is more doubtful, though vague allusions to it occur in
the Rig-veda, and more distinct descriptions are found in the
Atharva-veda. In one verse it is said that the dead is rewarded for
his good deeds, that he leaves or casts off all evil, and glorified
takes his body (Rv. X. 14, 8).[29] The dogs of Yama, the king of the
departed, present some terrible aspects, and Yama is asked to protect
the departed from them (Rv. X. 14, 11). Again, a pit (karta) is
mentioned into which the lawless are said to be hurled down (Rv. IX.
73, 8), and into which Indra casts those who offer no sacrifices (Rv.
I. 121, 13). One poet prays that the Âdityas may preserve him from the
destroying wolf, and from falling into the pit (Rv. II. 29, 6). In one
passage we read that 'those who break the commandments of Varu_n_a and
who speak lies are born for that deep place' (Rv. IV. 5, 5).[30]

[Footnote 28: Professor Roth, after quoting several passages from the
Veda in which a belief in immortality is expressed, remarks with great
truth: 'We here find, not without astonishment, beautiful conceptions
on immortality expressed in unadorned language with child-like
conviction. If it were necessary, we might here find the most powerful
weapons against the view which has lately been revived, and proclaimed
as new, that Persia was the only birthplace of the idea of
immortality, and that even the nations of Europe had derived it from
that quarter. As if the religious spirit of every gifted race was not
able to arrive at it by its own strength.'--('Journal of the German
Oriental Society,' vol. iv. p. 427.) See Dr. Muir's article on Yama,
in the 'Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,' p. 10.]

[Footnote 29: M. M., Die Todtenbestattung bei den Brahmanen
'Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft,' vol. ix. p.

[Footnote 30: Dr. Muir, article on Yama, p. 18.]

Surely the discovery of a religion like this, as unexpected as the
discovery of the jaw-bone of Abbeville, deserves to arrest our
thoughts for a moment, even in the haste and hurry of this busy life.
No doubt for the daily wants of life, the old division of religions
into true and false is quite sufficient; as for practical purposes we
distinguish only between our own mother-tongue on the one side, and
all other foreign languages on the other. But, from a higher point of
view, it would not be right to ignore the new evidence that has come
to light; and as the study of geology has given us a truer insight
into the stratification of the earth, it is but natural to expect that
a thoughtful study of the original works of three of the most
important religions of the world, Brahmanism, Magism, and Buddhism,
will modify our views as to the growth or history of religion, as to
the hidden layers of religious thought beneath the soil on which we
stand. Such inquires should be undertaken without prejudice and
without fear: the evidence is placed before us; our duty is to sift it
critically, to weigh it honestly, and to wait for the results.

Three of these results, to which, I believe, a comparative study of
religions is sure to lead, I may state before I conclude this Lecture:

     1. We shall learn that religions in their most ancient form,
     or in the minds of their authors, are generally free from
     many of the blemishes that attach to them in later times.

     2. We shall learn that there is hardly one religion which
     does not contain some truth, some important truth; truth
     sufficient to enable those who seek the Lord and feel after
     Him, to find Him in their hour of need.

     3. We shall learn to appreciate better than ever what we
     have in our own religion. No one who has not examined
     patiently and honestly the other religions of the world, can
     know what Christianity really is, or can join with such
     truth and sincerity in the words of St. Paul: 'I am not
     ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.'



In so comprehensive a work as Mr. Hardwick's 'Christ and other
Masters,' the number of facts stated, of topics discussed, of
questions raised, is so considerable that in reviewing it we can
select only one or two points for special consideration. Mr. Hardwick
intends to give in his work, of which the third volume has just been
published, a complete panorama of ancient religion. After having
discussed in the first volume what he calls the religious tendencies
of our age, he enters upon an examination of the difficult problem of
the unity of the human race, and proceeds to draw, in a separate
chapter, the characteristic features of religion under the Old
Testament. Having thus cleared his way, and established some of the
principles according to which the religions of the world should be
judged, Mr. Hardwick devotes the whole of the second volume to the
religions of India. We find there, first of all, a short but very
clear account of the religion of the Veda, as far as it is known at
present. We then come to a more matter-of-fact representation of
Brahmanism, or the religion of the Hindus, as represented in the
so-called Laws of Manu, and in the ancient portions of the two epic
poems, the Râmâya_n_a and Mahâbhârata. The next chapter is devoted to
the various systems of Indian philosophy, which all partake more or
less of a religious character, and form a natural transition to the
first subjective system of faith in India, the religion of Buddha. Mr.
Hardwick afterwards discusses, in two separate chapters, the apparent
and the real correspondences between Hinduism and revealed religion,
and throws out some hints how we may best account for the partial
glimpses of truth which exist in the Vedas, the canonical books of
Buddhism, and the later Purâ_n_as. All these questions are handled
with such ability, and discussed with so much elegance and eloquence,
that the reader becomes hardly aware of the great difficulties of the
subject, and carries away, if not quite a complete and correct, at
least a very lucid, picture of the religious life of ancient India.
The third volume, which was published in the beginning of this year,
is again extremely interesting, and full of the most varied
descriptions. The religions of China are given first, beginning with
an account of the national traditions, as collected and fixed by
Confucius. Then follows the religious system of Lao-tse, or the
Tao-ism of China, and lastly Buddhism again, only under that modified
form which it assumed when introduced from India into China. After
this sketch of the religious life of China, the most ancient centre of
Eastern civilisation, Mr. Hardwick suddenly transports us to the New
World, and introduces us to the worship of the wild tribes of America,
and to the ruins of the ancient temples in which the civilised races
of that continent, especially the Mexicans, once bowed themselves down
before their god or gods. Lastly, we have to embark on the South Sea,
and to visit the various islands which form a chain between the west
coast of America and the east coast of Africa, stretching over half of
the globe, and inhabited by the descendants of the once united race of
the Malayo-Polynesians.

[Footnote 31: 'Christ and other Masters.' An Historical Inquiry into
some of the chief Parallelisms and Contrasts between Christianity and
the Religious Systems of the Ancient World, with special reference to
prevailing Difficulties and Objections. By Charles Hardwick, M.A.,
Christian Advocate in the University of Cambridge. Parts I, II, III.
Cambridge, 1858.]

The account which Mr. Hardwick can afford to give of the various
systems of religion in so short a compass as he has fixed for himself,
must necessarily be very general; and his remarks on the merits and
defects peculiar to each, which were more ample in the second volume,
have dwindled down to much smaller dimensions in the third. He
declares distinctly that he does not write for missionaries. 'It is
not my leading object,' he says, 'to conciliate the more thoughtful
minds of heathendom in favour of the Christian faith. However laudable
that task may be, however fitly it may occupy the highest and the
keenest intellect of persons who desire to further the advance of
truth and holiness among our heathen fellow-subjects, there are
difficulties nearer home which may in fairness be regarded as
possessing prior claims on the attention of a Christian Advocate.'

We confess that we regret that Mr. Hardwick should have taken this
line. If, in writing his criticism on the ancient or modern systems of
Pagan religion, he had placed himself face to face with a poor
helpless creature, such as the missionaries have to deal with--a man
brought up in the faith of his fathers, accustomed to call his god or
gods by names sacred to him from his first childhood--a man who had
derived much real help and consolation from his belief in these
gods--who had abstained from committing crime, because he was afraid
of the anger of a Divine Being--who had performed severe penance,
because he hoped to appease the anger of the gods--who had given, not
only the tenth part of all he valued most, but the half, nay, the
whole of his property, as a free offering to his priests, that they
might pray for him or absolve him from his sin--if, in discussing any
of the ancient or modern systems of Pagan religion, Mr. Hardwick had
tried to address his arguments to such a person, we believe he would
himself have felt a more human, real, and hearty interest in his
subject. He would more earnestly have endeavoured to find out the good
elements in every form of religious belief. No sensible missionary
could bring himself to tell a man who has done all that he could do,
and more than many who have received the true light of the Gospel,
that he was excluded from all hope of salvation, and by his very birth
and colour handed over irretrievably to eternal damnation. It is
possible to put a charitable interpretation on many doctrines of
ancient heathenism, and the practical missionary is constantly obliged
to do so. Let us only consider what these doctrines are. They are not
theories devised by men who wish to keep out the truth of
Christianity, but sacred traditions which millions of human beings are
born and brought up to believe in, as we are born and brought up to
believe in Christianity. It is the only spiritual food which God in
his wisdom has placed within their reach. But if we once begin to
think of modern heathenism, and how certain tenets of Lao-tse resemble
the doctrines of Comte or Spinoza, our equanimity, our historical
justice, our Christian charity, are gone. We become advocates
wrangling for victory--we are no longer tranquil observers,
compassionate friends and teachers. Mr. Hardwick sometimes addresses
himself to men like Lao-tse or Buddha, who are now dead and gone more
than two thousand years, in a tone of offended orthodoxy, which may or
may not be right in modern controversy, but which entirely disregards
the fact that it has pleased God to let these men and millions of
human beings be born on earth without a chance of ever hearing of the
existence of the Gospel. We cannot penetrate into the secrets of the
Divine wisdom, but we are bound to believe that God has His purpose in
all things, and that He will know how to judge those to whom so little
has been given. Christianity does not require of us that we should
criticise, with our own small wisdom, that Divine policy which has
governed the whole world from the very beginning. We pity a man who is
born blind--we are not angry with him; and Mr. Hardwick, in his
arguments against the tenets of Buddha or Lao-tse, seems to us to
treat these men too much in the spirit of a policeman who tells a poor
blind beggar that he is only shamming blindness. However, if, as a
Christian Advocate, Mr. Hardwick found it impossible to entertain, or
at least express, any sympathy with the Pagan world, even the cold
judgment of the historian would have been better than the excited
pleading of a partisan. Surely it is not necessary, in order to prove
that our religion is the only true religion, that we should insist on
the utter falseness of all other forms of belief. We need not be
frightened if we discover traces of truth, traces even of Christian
truth, among the sages and lawgivers of other nations. St. Augustine
was not frightened by this discovery, and every thoughtful Christian
will feel cheered by the words of that pious philosopher, when he
boldly declares, that there is no religion which, among its many
errors, does not contain some real and divine truth. It shows a want
of faith in God, and in His inscrutable wisdom in the government of
the world, if we think we ought to condemn all ancient forms of faith,
except the religion of the Jews. A true spirit of Christianity will
rather lead us to shut our eyes against many things which are
revolting to us in the religion of the Chinese, or the wild Americans,
or the civilised Hindus, and to try to discover, as well as we can,
how even in these degraded forms of worship a spark of light lies
hidden somewhere--a spark which may lighten and warm the heart of the
Gentiles, 'who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory,
and honour, and immortality.' There is an undercurrent of thought in
Mr. Hardwick's book which breaks out again and again, and which has
certainly prevented him from discovering many a deep lesson which may
be learnt in the study of ancient religions. He uses harsh language,
because he is thinking, not of the helpless Chinese, or the dreaming
Hindu whose tenets he controverts, but of modern philosophers; and he
is evidently glad of every opportunity where he can show to the latter
that their systems are mere _rechauffés_ of ancient heathenism. Thus
he says, in his introduction to the third volume:

     'I may also be allowed to add, that, in the present
     chapters, the more thoughtful reader will not fail to
     recognise the proper tendency of certain current
     speculations, which are recommended to us on the ground that
     they accord entirely with the last discoveries of science,
     and embody the deliberate verdicts of the oracle within us.
     Notwithstanding all that has been urged in their behalf,
     those theories are little more than a return to
     long-exploded errors, a resuscitation of extinct volcanoes;
     or at best, they merely offer to introduce among us an array
     of civilising agencies, which, after trial in other
     countries, have been all found wanting. The governing class
     of China, for example, have long been familiar with the
     metaphysics of Spinoza. They have also carried out the
     social principles of M. Comte upon the largest possible
     scale. For ages they have been what people of the present
     day are wishing to become in Europe, with this difference
     only, that the heathen legislator who had lost all faith in
     God attempted to redress the wrongs and elevate the moral
     status of his subjects by the study of political science, or
     devising some new scheme of general sociology; while the
     positive philosopher of the present day, who has relapsed
     into the same positions, is in every case rejecting a
     religious system which has proved itself the mightiest of
     all civilisers, and the constant champion of the rights and
     dignity of men. He offers in the stead of Christianity a
     specious phase of paganism, by which the nineteenth century
     after Christ may be assimilated to the golden age of Mencius
     and Confucius; or, in other words, may consummate its
     religious freedom, and attain the highest pinnacle of human
     progress, by reverting to a state of childhood and of moral

Few serious-minded persons will like the temper of this paragraph. The
history of ancient religion is too important, too sacred a subject to
be used as a masked battery against modern infidelity. Nor should a
Christian Advocate ever condescend to defend his cause by arguments
such as a pleader who is somewhat sceptical as to the merits of his
case, may be allowed to use, but which produce on the mind of the
Judge the very opposite effect of that which they are intended to
produce. If we want to understand the religions of antiquity, we must
try, as well as we can, to enter into the religious, moral, and
political atmosphere of the ancient world. We must do what the
historian does. We must become ancients ourselves, otherwise we shall
never understand the motives and meaning of their faith. Take one
instance. There are some nations who have always regarded death with
the utmost horror. Their whole religion may be said to be a fight
against death, and the chief object of their prayers seems to be a
long life on earth. The Persian clings to life with intense tenacity,
and the same feeling exists among the Jews. Other nations, on the
contrary, regard death in a different light. Death is to them a
passage from one life to another. No misgiving has ever entered their
minds as to a possible extinction of existence, and at the first call
of the priest--nay, sometimes from a mere selfish yearning after a
better life--they are ready to put an end to their existence on earth.
Feelings of this kind can hardly be called convictions arrived at by
the individual. They are national peculiarities, and they exercise an
irresistible sway over all who belong to the same nation. The loyal
devotion which the Slavonic nations feel for their sovereign will
make the most brutalized Russian peasant step into the place where
his comrade has just been struck down, without a thought of his wife,
or his mother, or his children, whom he is never to see again. He does
not do this because, by his own reflection, he has arrived at the
conclusion that he is bound to sacrifice himself for his emperor or
for his country--he does it because he knows that every one would do
the same; and the only feeling of satisfaction in which he would allow
himself to indulge is, that he was doing his duty. If, then, we wish
to understand the religions of the ancient nations of the world, we
must take into account their national character. Nations who value
life so little as the Hindus, and some of the American and Malay
nations, could not feel the same horror of human sacrifices, for
instance, which would be felt by a Jew; and the voluntary death of the
widow would inspire her nearest relations with no other feeling but
that of compassion and regret at seeing a young bride follow her
husband into a distant land. She herself would feel that, in following
her husband into death, she was only doing what every other widow
would do--she was only doing her duty. In India, where men in the
prime of life throw themselves under the car of Jaggernâth, to be
crushed to death by the idol they believe in--where the plaintiff who
cannot get redress starves himself to death at the door of his
judge--where the philosopher who thinks he has learnt all which this
world can teach him, and who longs for absorption into the Deity,
quietly steps into the Ganges, in order to arrive at the other shore
of existence--in such a country, however much we may condemn these
practices, we must be on our guard and not judge the strange religions
of such strange creatures according to our own more sober code of
morality. Let a man once be impressed with a belief that this life is
but a prison, and that he has but to break through its walls in order
to breathe the fresh and pure air of a higher life--let him once
consider it cowardice to shrink from this act, and a proof of courage
and of a firm faith in God to rush back to that eternal source from
whence he came--and let these views be countenanced by a whole nation,
sanctioned by priests, and hallowed by poets, and however we may blame
and loathe the custom of human sacrifices and religious suicides, we
shall be bound to confess that to such a man, and to a whole nation of
such men, the most cruel rites will have a very different meaning from
what they would have to us. They are not mere cruelty and brutality.
They contain a religious element, and presuppose a belief in
immortality, and an indifference with regard to worldly pleasures,
which, if directed in a different channel, might produce martyrs and
heroes. Here, at least, there is no danger of modern heresy aping
ancient paganism; and we feel at liberty to express our sympathy and
compassion, even with the most degraded of our brethren. The Fijians,
for instance, commit almost every species of atrocity; but we can
still discover, as Wilkes remarked in his 'Exploring Expedition,' that
the source of many of their abhorrent practices is a belief in a
future state, guided by no just notions of religious or moral
obligations. They immolate themselves; they think it right to destroy
their best friends, to free them from the miseries of this life; they
actually consider it a duty, and perhaps a painful duty, that the son
should strangle his parents, if requested to do so. Some of the
Fijians, when interrupted by Europeans in the act of strangling their
mother, simply replied that she was their mother, and they were her
children, and they ought to put her to death. On reaching the grave
the mother sat down, when they all, including children, grandchildren,
relations, and friends, took an affectionate leave of her. A rope,
made of twisted tapa, was then passed twice around her neck by her
sons, who took hold of it and strangled her--after which she was put
into her grave, with the usual ceremonies. They returned to feast and
mourn, after which she was entirely forgotten, as though she had not
existed. No doubt these are revolting rites; but the phase of human
thought which they disclose is far from being simply revolting. There
is in these immolations, even in their most degraded form, a grain of
that superhuman faith which we admire in the temptation of Abraham;
and we feel that the time will come, nay, that it is coming, when the
voice of the Angel of the Lord will reach those distant islands, and
give a higher and better purpose to the wild ravings of their

It is among these tribes that the missionary, if he can speak a
language which they understand, gains the most rapid influence. But he
must first learn himself to understand the nature of these savages,
and to translate the wild yells of their devotion into articulate
language. There is, perhaps, no race of men so low and degraded as the
Papuas. It has frequently been asserted they had no religion at all.
And yet these same Papuas, if they want to know whether what they are
going to undertake is right or wrong, squat before their karwar, clasp
the hands over the forehead, and bow repeatedly, at the same time
stating their intentions. If they are seized with any nervous feeling
during this process, it is considered as a bad sign, and the project
is abandoned for a time--if otherwise, the idol is supposed to
approve. Here we have but to translate what they in their helpless
language call 'nervous feeling' by our word 'conscience,' and we shall
not only understand what they really mean, but confess, perhaps, that
it would be well for us if in our own hearts the karwar occupied the
same prominent place which it occupies in the cottage of every Papua.

_March, 1858._




The main stream of the Aryan nations has always flowed towards the
north-west. No historian can tell us by what impulse these adventurous
Nomads were driven on through Asia towards the isles and shores of
Europe. The first start of this world-wide migration belongs to a
period far beyond the reach of documentary history; to times when the
soil of Europe had not been trodden by either Celts, Germans,
Slavonians, Romans, or Greeks. But whatever it was, the impulse was as
irresistible as the spell which, in our own times, sends the Celtic
tribes towards the prairies or the regions of gold across the
Atlantic. It requires a strong will, or a great amount of inertness,
to be able to withstand the impetus of such national, or rather
ethnical, movements. Few will stay behind when all are going. But to
let one's friends depart, and then to set out ourselves--to take a
road which, lead where it may, can never lead us to join those again
who speak our language and worship our gods--is a course which only
men of strong individuality and great self-dependence are capable of
pursuing. It was the course adopted by the southern branch of the
Aryan family, the Brahmanic Aryas of India and the Zoroastrians of

At the first dawn of traditional history we see these Aryan tribes
migrating across the snow of the Himâlaya southward towards the 'Seven
Rivers' (the Indus, the five rivers of the Penjâb, and the Sarasvatî),
and ever since India has been called their home. That before this time
they had been living in more northern regions, within the same
precincts with the ancestors of the Greeks, the Italians, Slavonians,
Germans, and Celts, is a fact as firmly established as that the
Normans of William the Conqueror were the Northmen of Scandinavia. The
evidence of language is irrefragable, and it is the only evidence
worth listening to with regard to ante-historical periods. It would
have been next to impossible to discover any traces of relationship
between the swarthy natives of India and their conquerors whether
Alexander or Clive, but for the testimony borne by language. What
other evidence could have reached back to times when Greece was not
yet peopled by Greeks, nor India by Hindus? Yet these are the times of
which we are speaking. What authority would have been strong enough to
persuade the Grecian army, that their gods and their hero ancestors
were the same as those of king Porus, or to convince the English
soldier that the same blood might be running in his veins and in the
veins of the dark Bengalese? And yet there is not an English jury
now-a-days, which, after examining the hoary documents of language,
would reject the claim of a common descent and a spiritual
relationship between Hindu, Greek, and Teuton. Many words still live
in India and in England that have witnessed the first separation of
the northern and southern Aryans, and these are witnesses not to be
shaken by any cross-examination. The terms for God, for house, for
father, mother, son, daughter, for dog and cow, for heart and tears,
for axe and tree, identical in all the Indo-European idioms, are like
the watchwords of soldiers. We challenge the seeming stranger; and
whether he answer with the lips of a Greek, a German, or an Indian, we
recognise him as one of ourselves. Though the historian may shake his
head, though the physiologist may doubt, and the poet scorn the idea,
all must yield before the facts furnished by language. There was a
time when the ancestors of the Celts, the Germans, the Slavonians, the
Greeks and Italians, the Persians and Hindus, were living together
beneath the same roof, separate from the ancestors of the Semitic and
Turanian races.

It is more difficult to prove that the Hindu was the last to leave
this common home, that he saw his brothers all depart towards the
setting sun, and that then, turning towards the south and the east, he
started alone in search of a new world. But as in his language and in
his grammar he has preserved something of what seems peculiar to each
of the northern dialects singly, as he agrees with the Greek and the
German where the Greek and the German differ from all the rest, and as
no other language has carried off so large a share of the common Aryan
heirloom--whether roots, grammar, words, mythes, or legends--it is
natural to suppose that, though perhaps the eldest brother, the Hindu
was the last to leave the central home of the Aryan family.

The Aryan nations who pursued a north-westerly direction, stand before
us in history as the principal nations of north-western Asia and
Europe. They have been the prominent actors in the great drama of
history, and have carried to their fullest growth all the elements of
active life with which our nature is endowed. They have perfected
society and morals, and we learn from their literature and works of
art the elements of science, the laws of art, and the principles of
philosophy. In continual struggle with each other and with Semitic and
Turanian races, these Aryan nations have become the rulers of history,
and it seems to be their mission to link all parts of the world
together by the chains of civilisation, commerce, and religion. In a
word, they represent the Aryan man in his historical character.

But while most of the members of the Aryan family followed this
glorious path, the southern tribes were slowly migrating towards the
mountains which gird the north of India. After crossing the narrow
passes of the Hindukush or the Himâlaya, they conquered or drove
before them, as it seems without much effort, the aboriginal
inhabitants of the Trans-Himalayan countries. They took for their
guides the principal rivers of Northern India, and were led by them to
new homes in their beautiful and fertile valleys. It seems as if the
great mountains in the north had afterwards closed for centuries their
Cyclopean gates against new immigrations, while, at the same time, the
waves of the Indian Ocean kept watch over the southern borders of the
peninsula. None of the great conquerors of antiquity,--Sesostris,
Semiramis, Nebuchadnezzar, or Cyrus,--disturbed the peaceful seats of
these Aryan settlers. Left to themselves in a world of their own,
without a past, and without a future before them, they had nothing but
themselves to ponder on. Struggles there must have been in India also.
Old dynasties were destroyed, whole families annihilated, and new
empires founded. Yet the inward life of the Hindu was not changed by
these convulsions. His mind was like the lotus leaf after a shower of
rain has passed over it; his character remained the same, passive,
meditative, quiet, and thoughtful. A people of this peculiar stamp was
never destined to act a prominent part in the history of the world;
nay, the exhausting atmosphere of transcendental ideas in which they
lived could not but exercise a detrimental influence on the active and
moral character of the Indians. Social and political virtues were
little cultivated, and the ideas of the useful and the beautiful
hardly known to them. With all this, however, they had, what the Greek
was as little capable of imagining, as they were of realising the
elements of Grecian life. They shut their eyes to this world of
outward seeming and activity, to open them full on the world of
thought and rest. The ancient Hindus were a nation of philosophers,
such as could nowhere have existed except in India, and even there in
early times alone. It is with the Hindu mind as if a seed were placed
in a hothouse. It will grow rapidly, its colours will be gorgeous, its
perfume rich, its fruits precocious and abundant. But never will it be
like the oak growing in wind and weather, and striking its roots into
real earth, and stretching its branches into real air beneath the
stars and the sun of heaven. Both are experiments, the hothouse flower
and the Hindu mind; and as experiments, whether physiological or
psychological, both deserve to be studied.

We may divide the whole Aryan family into two branches, the northern
and the southern. The northern nations, Celts, Greeks, Romans,
Germans, and Slavonians, have each one act allotted to them on the
stage of history. They have each a national character to support. Not
so the southern tribes. They are absorbed in the struggles of thought,
their past is the problem of creation, their future the problem of
existence; and the present, which ought to be the solution of both,
seems never to have attracted their attention, or called forth their
energies. There never was a nation believing so firmly in another
world, and so little concerned about this. Their condition on earth is
to them a problem; their real and eternal life a simple fact. Though
this is said chiefly with reference to them before they were brought
in contact with foreign conquerors, traces of this character are still
visible in the Hindus, as described by the companions of Alexander,
nay, even in the Hindus of the present day. The only sphere in which
the Indian mind finds itself at liberty to act, to create, and to
worship, is the sphere of religion and philosophy; and nowhere have
religious and metaphysical ideas struck root so deep in the mind of a
nation as in India. The shape which these ideas took amongst the
different classes of society, and at different periods of
civilisation, naturally varies from coarse superstition to sublime
spiritualism. But, taken as a whole, history supplies no second
instance where the inward life of the soul has so completely absorbed
all the other faculties of a people.

It was natural, therefore, that the literary works of such a nation,
when first discovered in Sanskrit MSS. by Wilkins, Sir W. Jones, and
others, should have attracted the attention of all interested in the
history of the human race. A new page in man's biography was laid
open, and a literature as large as that of Greece or Rome was to be
studied. The Laws of Manu, the two epic poems, the Râmâya_n_a and
Mahâbhârata, the six complete systems of philosophy, works on
astronomy and medicine, plays, stories, fables, elegies, and lyrical
effusions, were read with intense interest, on account of their age
not less than their novelty.

Still this interest was confined to a small number of students, and in
a few cases only could Indian literature attract the eyes of men who,
from the summit of universal history, survey the highest peaks of
human excellence. Herder, Schlegel, Humboldt, and Goethe, discovered
what was really important in Sanskrit literature. They saw what was
genuine and original, in spite of much that seemed artificial. For the
artificial, no doubt, has a wide place in Sanskrit literature.
Everywhere we find systems, rules and models, castes and schools, but
nowhere individuality, no natural growth, and but few signs of strong
originality and genius.

There is, however, one period of Sanskrit literature which forms an
exception, and which will maintain its place in the history of
mankind, when the name of Kalidâsa and _S_akuntalâ will have been long
forgotten. It is the most ancient period, the period of the Veda.
There is, perhaps, a higher degree of interest attaching to works of
higher antiquity; but in the Veda we have more than mere antiquity. We
have ancient thought expressed in ancient language. Without insisting
on the fact that even chronologically the Veda is the first book of
the Aryan nations, we have in it, at all events, a period in the
intellectual life of man to which there is no parallel in any other
part of the world. In the hymns of the Veda we see man left to himself
to solve the riddle of this world. We see him crawling on like a
creature of the earth with all the desires and weaknesses of his
animal nature. Food, wealth, and power, a large family and a long
life, are the theme of his daily prayers. But he begins to lift up his
eyes. He stares at the tent of heaven, and asks who supports it? He
opens his ears to the winds, and asks them whence and whither? He is
awakened from darkness and slumber by the light of the sun, and him
whom his eyes cannot behold, and who seems to grant him the daily
pittance of his existence, he calls 'his life, his breath, his
brilliant Lord and Protector.' He gives names to all the powers of
nature, and after he has called the fire Agni, the sun-light Indra,
the storms Maruts, and the dawn Ushas, they all seem to grow naturally
into beings like himself, nay, greater than himself. He invokes them,
he praises them, he worships them. But still with all these gods
around him, beneath him, and above him, the early poet seems ill at
rest within himself. There too, in his own breast, he has discovered a
power that wants a name, a power nearer to him than all the gods of
nature, a power that is never mute when he prays, never absent when he
fears and trembles. It seems to inspire his prayers, and yet to
listen to them; it seems to live in him, and yet to support him and
all around him. The only name he can find for this mysterious power is
Bráhman; for bráhman meant originally force, will, wish, and the
propulsive power of creation. But this impersonal bráhman, too, as
soon as it is named, grows into something strange and divine. It ends
by being one of many gods, one of the great triad, worshipped to the
present day. And still the thought within him has no real name; that
power which is nothing but itself, which supports the gods, the
heavens, and every living being, floats before his mind, conceived but
not expressed. At last he calls it Âtman; for âtman, originally breath
or spirit, comes to mean Self and Self alone--Self whether divine or
human, Self whether creating or suffering, Self whether one or all,
but always Self, independent and free. 'Who has seen the first-born,'
says the poet, 'when he who has no bones (i. e. form) bore him that
had bones? Where was the life, the blood, the Self of the world? Who
went to ask this from any that knew it?' (Rv.I. 164, 4). This idea of
a divine Self once expressed, everything else must acknowledge its
supremacy, 'Self is the Lord of all things, Self is the King of all
things. As all the spokes of a wheel are contained in the nave and the
circumference, all things are contained in this Self; all selves are
contained in this Self.[32] Bráhman itself is but Self.'[33]

[Footnote 32: B_r_ihad-âra_n_yaka, IV. 5, 15 ed. Roer, p. 487.]

[Footnote 33: Ibid. p. 478. _K_hândogya-upanishad, VIII. 3, 3-4.]

This Âtman also grew; but it grew, as it were, without attributes. The
sun is called the Self of all that moves and rests (Rv. I. 115, 1),
and still more frequently self becomes a mere pronoun. But Âtman
remained always free from mythe and worship, differing in this from
the Bráhman (neuter), who has his temples in India even now, and is
worshipped as Bráhman (masculine), together with Vish_n_u and _S_iva,
and other popular gods. The idea of the Âtman or Self, like a pure
crystal, was too transparent for poetry, and therefore was handed over
to philosophy, which afterwards polished, and turned, and watched it
as the medium through which all is seen, and in which all is reflected
and known. But philosophy is later than the Veda, and it is of the
Vaidik period only I have here to speak.[34]

[Footnote 34: In writing the above, I was thinking rather of the
mental process that was necessary for the production of such words as
bráhman, âtman, and others, than of their idiomatic use in the ancient
literature of India. It might be objected, for instance, that bráhman,
neut. in the sense of creative power or the principal cause of all
things, does not occur in the Rig-veda. This is true. But it occurs in
that sense in the Atharva-veda, and in several of the Brâhma_n_as.
There we read of 'the oldest or greatest Bráhman which rules
everything that has been or will be.' Heaven is said to belong to
Bráhman alone (Atharva-veda X. 8, 1). In the Brâhma_n_as, this Bráhman
is called the first-born, the self-existing, the best of the gods, and
heaven and earth are said to have been established by it. Even the
vital spirits are identified with it (_S_atapatha-brâhma_n_a VIII. 4,
9, 3).

In other passages, again, this same Brahman is represented as existing
in man (Atharva-veda X. 7, 17), and in this very passage we can watch
the transition from the neutral Bráhman into Bráhman, conceived of as
a masculine:

    Ye purushe bráhma vidus te vidu_h_ paramesh_t_hina_m_,
    Yo veda paramesh_t_hina_m_, ya_s_ _k_a veda pra_g_âpatim,
    _G_yesh_t_ha_m_ ye brãhma_n_a_m_ vidus, te skambham anu sa_m_vidu_h_.

    'They who know Bráhman in man, they know the Highest,
    He who knows the Highest, and he who knows Pra_g_âpati (the lord
        of creatures),
    And they who know the oldest Brãhma_n_a, they know the Ground.'

The word Brãhma_n_a which is here used, is a derivative form of
Bráhman; but what is most important in these lines is the mixing of
neuter and masculine words, of impersonal and personal deities. This
process is brought to perfection by changing Bráhman, the neuter, even
grammatically into Bráhman, a masculine,--a change which has taken
place in the Âra_n_yakas, where we find Bráhman used as the name of a
male deity. It is this Bráhman, with the accent on the first, not, as
has been supposed, brahmán, the priest, that appears again in the
later literature as one of the divine triad, Bráhman, Vish_n_u,

The word bráhman, as a neuter, is used in the Rig-veda in the sense of
prayer also, originally what bursts forth from the soul, and, in one
sense, what is revealed. Hence in later times bráhman is used
collectively for the Veda, the sacred word.

Another word, with the accent on the last syllable, is brahmán, the
man who prays, who utters prayers, the priest, and gradually the
Brahman by profession. In this sense it is frequently used in the
Rig-veda (I. 108, 7), but not yet in the sense of Brahman by birth or

In the Veda, then, we can study a theogony of which that of Hesiod is
but the last chapter. We can study man's natural growth, and the
results to which it may lead under the most favourable conditions. All
was given him that nature can bestow. We see him blest with the
choicest gifts of the earth, under a glowing and transparent sky,
surrounded by all the grandeur and all the riches of nature, with a
language 'capable of giving soul to the objects of sense, and body to
the abstractions of metaphysics.' We have a right to expect much from
him, only we must not expect in his youthful poems the philosophy of
the nineteenth century, or the beauties of Pindar, or, with some
again, the truths of Christianity. Few understand children, still
fewer understand antiquity. If we look in the Veda for high poetical
diction, for striking comparisons, for bold combinations, we shall be
disappointed. These early poets thought more for themselves than for
others. They sought rather, in their language, to be true to their own
thought than to please the imagination of their hearers. With them it
was a great work achieved for the first time to bind thoughts and
words together, to find expressions or to form new names. As to
similes, we must look to the words themselves, which, if we compare
their radical and their nominal meaning, will be found full of bold
metaphors. No translation in any modern language can do them justice.
As to beauty, we must discover it in the absence of all effort, and in
the simplicity of their hearts. Prose was, at that time, unknown, as
well as the distinction between prose and poetry. It was the attempted
imitation of those ancient natural strains of thought which in later
times gave rise to poetry in our sense of the word, that is to say, to
poetry as an art, with its counted syllables, its numerous epithets,
its rhyme and rhythm, and all the conventional attributes of 'measured

In the Veda itself, however--even if by Veda we mean the Rig-veda only
(the other three, the Sâman, Ya_g_ush, and Âtharva_n_a, having solely
a liturgical interest, and belonging to an entirely different
sphere)--in the Rig-veda also, we find much that is artificial,
imitated, and therefore modern, if compared with other hymns. It is
true that all the 1017 hymns of the Rig-veda were comprised in a
collection which existed as such before one of those elaborate
theological commentaries, known under the name of Brâhma_n_a, was
written, that is to say, about 800 B.C. But before the date of their
collection these must have existed for centuries. In different songs
the names of different kings occur, and we see several generations of
royal families pass away before us with different generations of
poets. Old songs are mentioned, and new songs. Poets whose
compositions we possess are spoken of as the seers of olden times;
their names in other hymns are surrounded by a legendary halo. In some
cases, whole books or chapters may be pointed out as more modern and
secondary, in thought and language. But on the whole the Rig-veda is a
genuine document, even in its most modern portions not later than the
time of Lycurgus; and it exhibits one of the earliest and rudest
phases in the history of mankind; disclosing in its full reality a
period of which in Greece we have but traditions and names, such as
Orpheus and Linus, and bringing us as near the beginnings in language,
thought, and mythology as literary documents can ever bring us in the
Aryan world.

Though much time and labour have been spent on the Veda, in England
and in Germany, the time is not yet come for translating it as a
whole. It is possible and interesting to translate it literally, or in
accordance with scholastic commentaries, such as we find in India from
Yâska in the fifth century B.C. down to Sâya_n_a in the fourteenth
century of the Christian era. This is what Professor Wilson has done
in his translation of the first book of the Rig-veda; and by strictly
adhering to this principle and excluding conjectural renderings even
where they offered themselves most naturally, he has imparted to his
work a definite character and a lasting value. The grammar of the
Veda, though irregular, and still in a rather floating state, has
almost been mastered; the etymology and the meaning of many words,
unknown in the later Sanskrit, have been discovered. Many hymns, which
are mere prayers for food, for cattle, or for a long life, have been
translated, and can leave no doubt as to their real intention. But
with the exception of these simple petitions, the whole world of Vedic
ideas is so entirely beyond our own intellectual horizon, that instead
of translating we can as yet only guess and combine. Here it is no
longer a mere question of skilful deciphering. We may collect all the
passages where an obscure word occurs, we may compare them and look
for a meaning which would be appropriate to all; but the difficulty
lies in finding a sense which we can appropriate, and transfer by
analogy into our own language and thought. We must be able to
translate our feelings and ideas into their language at the same time
that we translate their poems and prayers into our language. We must
not despair even where their words seem meaningless and their ideas
barren or wild. What seems at first childish may at a happier moment
disclose a sublime simplicity, and even in helpless expressions we may
recognise aspirations after some high and noble idea. When the scholar
has done his work, the poet and philosopher must take it up and finish
it. Let the scholar collect, collate, sift, and reject--let him say
what is possible or not according to the laws of the Vaidik
language--let him study the commentaries, the Sûtras, the Brâhma_n_as,
and even later works, in order to exhaust all the sources from which
information can be derived. He must not despise the tradition of the
Brahmans, even where their misconceptions and the causes of their
misconceptions are palpable. To know what a passage cannot mean is
frequently the key to its real meaning; and whatever reasons may be
pleaded for declining a careful perusal of the traditional
interpretations of Yâska or Sâya_n_a, they can all be traced back to
an ill-concealed argumentum paupertatis. Not a corner in the
Brâhma_n_as, the Sûtras, Yâska, and Sâya_n_a should be left unexplored
before we venture to propose a rendering of our own. Sâya_n_a, though
the most modern, is on the whole the most sober interpreter. Most of
his etymological absurdities must be placed to Yâska's account, and
the optional renderings which he allows for metaphysical, theological,
or ceremonial purposes, are mostly due to his regard for the
Brâhma_n_as. The Brâhma_n_as, though nearest in time to the hymns of
the Rig-veda, indulge in the most frivolous and ill-judged
interpretations. When the ancient Rishi exclaims with a troubled
heart, 'Who is the greatest of the gods? Who shall first be praised by
our songs?'--the author of the Brahma_n_a sees in the interrogative
pronoun 'Who' some divine name, a place is allotted in the sacrificial
invocations to a god 'Who,' and hymns addressed to him are called
'Whoish' hymns. To make such misunderstandings possible, we must
assume a considerable interval between the composition of the hymns
and the Brâhma_n_as. As the authors of the Brâhma_n_as were blinded by
theology, the authors of the still later Niruktas were deceived by
etymological fictions, and both conspired to mislead by their
authority later and more sensible commentators, such as Sâya_n_a.
Where Sâya_n_a has no authority to mislead him, his commentary is at
all events rational; but still his scholastic notions would never
allow him to accept the free interpretation which a comparative study
of these venerable documents forces upon the unprejudiced scholar. We
must therefore discover ourselves the real vestiges of these ancient
poets; and if we follow them cautiously, we shall find that with some
effort we are still able to walk in their footsteps. We shall feel
that we are brought face to face and mind to mind with men yet
intelligible to us, after we have freed ourselves from our modern
conceits. We shall not succeed always: words, verses, nay, whole hymns
in the Rig-veda, will and must remain to us a dead letter. But where
we can inspire those early relics of thought and devotion with new
life, we shall have before us more real antiquity than in all the
inscriptions of Egypt or Nineveh; not only old names and dates, and
kingdoms and battles, but old thoughts, old hopes, old faith, and old
errors, the old Man altogether--old now, but then young and fresh, and
simple and real in his prayers and in his praises.

The thoughtful bent of the Hindu mind is visible in the Veda also, but
his mystic tendencies are not yet so fully developed. Of philosophy we
find but little, and what we find is still in its germ. The active
side of life is more prominent, and we meet occasionally with wars of
kings, with rivalries of ministers, with triumphs and defeats, with
war-songs and imprecations. Moral sentiments and worldly wisdom are
not yet absorbed by phantastic intuitions. Still the child betrays the
passions of the man, and there are hymns, though few in number, in the
Veda, so full of thought and speculation that at this early period no
poet in any other nation could have conceived them. I give but one
specimen, the 129th hymn of the tenth book of the Rig-veda. It is a
hymn which long ago attracted the attention of that eminent scholar H.
T. Colebrooke, and of which, by the kind assistance of a friend, I am
enabled to offer a metrical translation. In judging it we should bear
in mind that it was not written by a gnostic or by a pantheistic
philosopher, but by a poet who felt all these doubts and problems as
his own, without any wish to convince or to startle, only uttering
what had been weighing on his mind, just as later poets would sing the
doubts and sorrows of their heart.

    Nor Aught nor Nought existed; yon bright sky
    Was not, nor heaven's broad woof outstretched above.
    What covered all? what sheltered? what concealed?
    Was it the water's fathomless abyss?
    There was not death--yet was there nought immortal,
    There was no confine betwixt day and night;
    The only One breathed breathless by itself,
    Other than It there nothing since has been.
    Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled
    In gloom profound--an ocean without light--
    The germ that still lay covered in the husk
    Burst forth, one nature, from the fervent heat.
    Then first came love upon it, the new spring
    Of mind--yea, poets in their hearts discerned,
    Pondering, this bond between created things
    And uncreated. Comes this spark from earth
    Piercing and all-pervading, or from heaven?
    Then seeds were sown, and mighty powers arose--
    Nature below, and power and will above--
    Who knows the secret? who proclaimed it here,
    Whence, whence this manifold creation sprang?
    The Gods themselves came later into being--
    Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?
    He from whom all this great creation came,
    Whether his will created or was mute,
    The Most High Seer that is in highest heaven,
    He knows it--or perchance even He knows not.

The grammar of the Veda (to turn from the contents to the structure of
the work) is important in many respects. The difference between it and
the grammar of the epic poems would be sufficient of itself to fix the
distance between these two periods of language and literature. Many
words have preserved in these early hymns a more primitive form, and
therefore agree more closely with cognate words in Greek or Latin.
Night, for instance, in the later Sanskrit is ni_s_â, which is a form
peculiarly Sanskritic, and agrees in its derivation neither with nox
nor with νὑξ. The Vaidik na_s_ or nak, night, is as near to
Latin as can be. Thus mouse in the common Sanskrit is mûshas or
mûshikâ, both derivative forms if compared with the Latin mus, muris.
The Vaidik Sanskrit has preserved the same primitive noun in the
plural mûsh-as = Lat. mures. There are other words in the Veda which
were lost altogether in the later Sanskrit, while they were preserved
in Greek and Latin. Dyaus, sky, does not occur as a masculine in the
ordinary Sanskrit; it occurs in the Veda, and thus bears witness to
the early Aryan worship of Dyaus, the Greek Zeús. Ushas, dawn, again
in the later Sanskrit is neuter. In the Veda it is feminine; and even
the secondary Vaidik form Ushâsâ is proved to be of high antiquity by
the nearly corresponding Latin form Aurora. Declension and conjugation
are richer in forms and more unsettled in their usage. It was a
curious fact, for instance, that no subjunctive mood existed in the
common Sanskrit. The Greeks and Romans had it, and even the language
of the Avesta showed clear traces of it. There could be no doubt that
the Sanskrit also once possessed this mood, and at last it was
discovered in the hymns of the Rig-veda. Discoveries of this kind may
seem trifling, but they are as delightful to the grammarian as the
appearance of a star, long expected and calculated, is to the
astronomer. They prove that there is natural order in language, and
that by a careful induction laws can be established which enable us to
guess with great probability either at the form or meaning of words
where but scanty fragments of the tongue itself have come down to us.

_October, 1853._


By means of laws like that of the Correspondence of Letters,
discovered by Rask and Grimm, it has been possible to determine the
exact form of words in Gothic, in cases where no trace of them
occurred in the literary documents of the Gothic nation. Single words
which were not to be found in Ulfilas have been recovered by applying
certain laws to their corresponding forms in Latin or Old High-German,
and thus retranslating them into Gothic. But a much greater conquest
was achieved in Persia. Here comparative philology has actually had to
create and reanimate all the materials of language on which it was
afterwards to work. Little was known of the language of Persia and
Media previous to the Shahnameh of Firdusi, composed about 1000 A.D.,
and it is due entirely to the inductive method of comparative
philology that we have now before us contemporaneous documents of
three periods of Persian language, deciphered, translated, and
explained. We have the language of the Zoroastrians, the language of
the Achæmenians, and the language of the Sassanians, which represent
the history of the Persian tongue in three successive periods--all now
rendered intelligible by the aid of comparative philology, while but
fifty years ago their very name and existence were questioned.

The labours of Anquetil Duperron, who first translated the
Zend-Avesta, were those of a bold adventurer--not of a scholar. Rask
was the first who, with the materials collected by Duperron and
himself, analysed the language of the Avesta scientifically. He

     1. That Zend was not a corrupted Sanskrit, as supposed by W.
     Erskine, but that it differed from it as Greek, Latin, or
     Lithuanian differed from one another and from Sanskrit.

     2. That the modern Persian was really derived from Zend as
     Italian was from Latin; and

     3. That the Avesta, or the works of Zoroaster, must have
     been reduced to writing at least previously to Alexander's
     conquest. The opinion that Zend was an artificial language
     (an opinion held by men of great eminence in Oriental
     philology, beginning with Sir W. Jones) is passed over by
     Rask as not deserving of refutation.

The first edition of the Zend texts, the critical restitution of the
MSS., the outlines of a Zend grammar, with the translation and
philological anatomy of considerable portions of the Zoroastrian
writings, were the work of the late Eugène Burnouf. He was the real
founder of Zend philology. It is clear from his works, and from Bopp's
valuable remarks in his 'Comparative Grammar,' that Zend in its
grammar and dictionary is nearer to Sanskrit than any other
Indo-European language. Many Zend words can be retranslated into
Sanskrit simply by changing the Zend letters into their corresponding
forms in Sanskrit. With regard to the Correspondence of Letters in
Grimm's sense of the word, Zend ranges with Sanskrit and the classical
languages. It differs from Sanskrit principally in its sibilants,
nasals, and aspirates. The Sanskrit s, for instance, is represented by
the Zend h, a change analogous to that of an original s into the
Greek aspirate, only that in Greek this change is not general. Thus
the geographical name hapta hendu, which occurs in the Avesta, becomes
intelligible if we retranslate the Zend h into the Sanskrit s. For
sapta sindhu, or the Seven Rivers, is the old Vaidik name of India
itself, derived from the five rivers of the Penjâb, together with the
Indus, and the Sarasvatî.

Where Sanskrit differs in words or grammatical peculiarities from the
northern members of the Aryan family, it frequently coincides with
Zend. The numerals are the same in all these languages up to 100. The
name for thousand, however, sahasra, is peculiar to Sanskrit, and does
not occur in any of the Indo-European dialects except in Zend, where
it becomes haza_n_ra. In the same manner the German and Slavonic
languages have a word for thousand peculiar to themselves; as also in
Greek and Latin we find many common words which we look for in vain in
any of the other Indo-European dialects. These facts are full of
historical meaning; and with regard to Zend and Sanskrit, they prove
that these two languages continued together long after they were
separated from the common Indo-European stock.

Still more striking is the similarity between Persia and India in
religion and mythology. Gods unknown to any Indo-European nation are
worshipped under the same names in Sanskrit and Zend; and the change
of some of the most sacred expressions in Sanskrit into names of evil
spirits in Zend, only serves to strengthen the conviction that we have
here the usual traces of a schism which separated a community that had
once been united.

Burnouf, who compared the language and religion of the Avesta
principally with the later classical Sanskrit, inclined at first to
the opinion that this schism took place in Persia, and that the
dissenting Brahmans immigrated afterwards into India. This is still
the prevailing opinion, but it requires to be modified in accordance
with new facts elicited from the Veda. Zend, if compared with
classical Sanskrit, exhibits in many points of grammar, features of a
more primitive character than Sanskrit. But it can now be shown, and
Burnouf himself admitted it, that when this is the case, the Vaidik
differs on the very same points from the later Sanskrit, and has
preserved the same primitive and irregular form as the Zend. I still
hold, that the name of Zend was originally a corruption of the
Sanskrit word _k_handas (i. e. metrical language, cf. scandere),[35]
which is the name given to the language of the Veda by Pâ_n_ini and
others. When we read in Pâ_n_ini's grammar that certain forms occur in
_k_handas, but not in the classical language, we may almost always
translate the word _k_handas by Zend, for nearly all these rules apply
equally to the language of the Avesta.

[Footnote 35: The derivation of _k_handas, metre, from the same root
which yielded the Latin scandere, seems to me still the most
plausible. An account of the various explanations of this word,
proposed by Eastern and Western scholars, is to be found in Spiegel's
'Grammar of the Parsi Language' (preface, and p. 205), and in his
translation of the Vendidad (pp. 44 and 293). That initial _k_h in
Sanskrit may represent an original sk, has never, as far as I am
aware, been denied. (Curtius, 'Grundzüge,' p. 60.) The fact that the
root _k_hand, in the sense of stepping or striding, has not been fixed
in Sanskrit as a verbal, but only as a nominal base, is no real
objection either. The same thing has happened over and over again, and
has been remarked as the necessary result of the dialectic growth of
language by so ancient a scholar as Yâska. ('Zeitschrift der Deutschen
Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. viii. p. 373 seq.) That scandere
in Latin, in the sense of scanning is a late word, does not affect the
question at all. What is of real importance is simply this, that the
principal Aryan nations agree in representing metre as a kind of
stepping or striding. Whether this arose from the fact that ancient
poetry was accompanied by dancing or rhythmic choral movements, is a
question which does not concern us here. (Carmen descindentes
tripodaverunt in verba hæc: Enos Lases, etc. Orelli, 'Inscript.' No.
2271.) The fact remains that the people of India, Greece, and Italy
agree in calling the component elements of their verses feet or steps
(ποὑς, pes, Sanskrit pad or pâda; padapaṅkti, a row of
feet, and _g_agatî, i. e. andante, are names of Sanskrit metres). It
is not too much, therefore, to say that they may have considered metre
as a kind of stepping or striding, and that they may accordingly have
called it 'stride.' If then we find the name for metre in Sanskrit
_k_handas, i. e. skandas, and if we find that scando in Latin (from
which sca(d)la), as we may gather from ascendo and descendo, meant
originally striding, and that skand in Sanskrit means the same as
scando in Latin, surely there can be little doubt as to the original
intention of the Sanskrit name for metre, viz. _k_handas. Hindu
grammarians derive _k_handas either from _k_had, to cover, or from
_k_had, to please. Both derivations are possible, as far as the
letters are concerned. But are we to accept the dogmatic
interpretation of the theologians of the _K_handogas, who tell us that
the metres were called _k_handas because the gods, when afraid of
death, covered themselves with the metres? Or of the Vâ_g_asaneyins,
who tell us that the _k_handas were so called because they pleased
Pra_g_âpati? Such artificial interpretations only show that the
Brahmans had no traditional feeling as to the etymological meaning of
that word, and that we are at liberty to discover by the ordinary
means its original intention. I shall only mention from among much
that has been written on the etymology of _k_handas, a most happy
remark of Professor Kuhn, who traces the Northern skald, poet, back to
the same root as the Sanskrit _k_handas, metre. (Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,'
vol. iii. p. 428.)]

In mythology also, the 'nomina and numina' of the Avesta appear at
first sight more primitive than in Manu or the Mahâbhârata. But if
regarded from a Vaidik point of view, this relation shifts at once,
and many of the gods of the Zoroastrians come out once more as mere
reflections and deflections of the primitive and authentic gods of the
Veda. It can now be proved, even by geographical evidence, that the
Zoroastrians had been settled in India before they immigrated into
Persia. I say the Zoroastrians, for we have no evidence to bear us out
in making the same assertion of the nations of Persia and Media in
general. That the Zoroastrians and their ancestors started from India
during the Vaidik period can be proved as distinctly as that the
inhabitants of Massilia started from Greece. The geographical
traditions in the first Fargard of the Vendidad do not interfere with
this opinion. If ancient and genuine, they would embody a remembrance
preserved by the Zoroastrians, but forgotten by the Vaidik poets--a
remembrance of times previous to their first common descent into the
country of the Seven Rivers. If of later origin, and this is more
likely, they may represent a geographical conception of the
Zoroastrians after they had become acquainted with a larger sphere of
countries and nations, subsequent to their emigration from the land of
the Seven Rivers.[36]

[Footnote 36: The purely mythological character of this geographical
chapter has been proved by M. Michel Bréal, 'Journal Asiatique,'

These and similar questions of the highest importance for the early
history of the Aryan language and mythology, however, must await their
final decision, until the whole of the Veda and the Avesta shall have
been published. Of this Burnouf was fully aware, and this was the
reason why he postponed the publication of his researches into the
antiquities of the Iranian nation. The same conviction is shared by
Westergaard and Spiegel, who are each engaged in an edition of the
Avesta, and who, though they differ on many points, agree in
considering the Veda as the safest key to an understanding of the
Avesta. Professor Roth, of Tübingen, has well expressed the mutual
relation of the Veda and Zend-Avesta under the following simile: 'The
Veda,' he writes, 'and the Zend-Avesta are two rivers flowing from one
fountain-head: the stream of the Veda is the fuller and purer, and has
remained truer to its original character; that of the Zend-Avesta has
been in various ways polluted, has altered its course, and cannot,
with certainty, be traced back to its source.'

As to the language of the Achæmenians, presented to us in the Persian
text of the cuneiform inscriptions, there was no room for doubt, as
soon as it became legible at all, that it was the same tongue as that
of the Avesta, only in a second stage of its continuous growth. The
process of deciphering these bundles of arrows by means of Zend and
Sanskrit has been very much like deciphering an Italian inscription
without a knowledge of Italian, simply by means of classical and
mediæval Latin. It would have been impossible, even with the quick
perception and patient combination of a Grotefend, to read more than
the proper names and a few titles on the walls of the Persian palaces,
without the aid of Zend and Sanskrit; and it seems almost
providential, as Lassen remarked, that these inscriptions, which at
any previous period would have been, in the eyes of either classical
or oriental scholars, nothing but a quaint conglomerate of nails,
wedges, or arrows, should have been rescued from the dust of centuries
at the very moment when the discovery and study of Sanskrit and Zend
had enabled the scholars of Europe to grapple successfully with their

Upon a closer inspection of the language and grammar of these mountain
records of the Achæmenian dynasty, a curious fact came to light which
seemed to disturb the historical relation between the language of
Zoroaster and the language of Darius. At first, historians were
satisfied with knowing that the edicts of Darius could be explained by
the language of the Avesta, and that the difference between the two,
which could be proved to imply a considerable interval of time, was
such as to exclude for ever the supposed historical identity of Darius
Hystaspes and Gushtasp, the mythical pupil of Zoroaster. The language
of the Avesta, though certainly not the language of Zarathustra,[37]
displayed a grammar so much more luxuriant, and forms so much more
primitive than the inscriptions, that centuries must have elapsed
between the two periods represented by these two strata of language.
When, however, the forms of these languages were subjected to a more
searching analysis, it became evident that the phonetic system of the
cuneiform inscriptions was more primitive and regular than even that
of the earlier portions of the Avesta. This difficulty, however,
admits of a solution; and, like many difficulties of the kind, it
tends to confirm, if rightly explained, the very facts and views which
at first it seemed to overthrow. The confusion in the phonetic system
of the Zend grammar is no doubt owing to the influence of oral
tradition. Oral tradition, particularly if confided to the safeguard
of a learned priesthood, is able to preserve, during centuries of
growth and change, the sacred accents of a dead language; but it is
liable at least to the slow and imperceptible influences of a corrupt
pronunciation. Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the Veda,
where grammatical forms that had ceased to be intelligible, were
carefully preserved, while the original pronunciation of vowels was
lost, and the simple structure of the ancient metres destroyed by the
adoption of a more modern pronunciation. The loss of the Digamma in
Homer is another case in point. There are no facts to prove that the
text of the Avesta, in the shape in which the Parsis of Bombay and
Yezd now possess it, was committed to writing previous to the
Sassanian dynasty (226 A.D.). After that time it can indeed be traced,
and to a great extent be controlled and checked by the Huzvaresh
translations made under that dynasty. Additions to it were made, as it
seems, even after these Huzvaresh translations; but their number is
small, and we have no reason to doubt that the text of the Avesta, in
the days of Arda Viraf, was on the whole exactly the same as at
present. At the time when these translations were made, it is clear
from their own evidence that the language of Zarathustra had already
suffered, and that the ideas of the Avesta were no longer fully
understood even by the learned. Before that time we may infer, indeed,
that the doctrine of Zoroaster had been committed to writing, for
Alexander is said to have destroyed the books of the Zoroastrians,
Hermippus of Alexandria is said to have read them.[38] But whether on
the revival of the Persian religion and literature, that is to say 500
years after Alexander, the works of Zoroaster were collected and
restored from extant MSS., or from oral tradition, must remain
uncertain, and the disturbed state of the phonetic system would rather
lead us to suppose a long-continued influence of oral tradition. What
the Zend language might become, if entrusted to the guardianship of
memory alone, unassisted by grammatical study and archæological
research, may be seen at the present day, when some of the Parsis, who
are unable either to read or write, still mutter hymns and prayers in
their temples, which, though to them mere sound, disclose to the
experienced ear of an European scholar the time-hallowed accents of
Zarathustra's speech.

[Footnote 37: Spiegel states the results of his last researches into
the language of the different parts of the Avesta in the following

'We are now prepared to attempt an arrangement of the different
portions of the Zend-Avesta in the order of their antiquity. First, we
place the second part of the Ya_s_na, as separated in respect to the
language of the Zend-Avesta, yet not composed by Zoroaster himself,
since he is named in the third person; and indeed everything intimates
that neither he nor his disciple Gushtasp was alive. The second place
must unquestionably be assigned to the Vendidad. I do not believe that
the book was originally composed as it now stands: it has suffered
both earlier and later interpolations; still, its present form may be
traced to a considerable antiquity. The antiquity of the work is
proved by its contents, which distinctly show that the sacred
literature was not yet completed.

'The case is different with the writings of the last period, among
which I reckon the first part of the Ya_s_na, and the whole of the
Yeshts. Among these a theological character is unmistakeable, the
separate divinities having their attributes and titles dogmatically

'Altogether, it is interesting to trace the progress of religion in
Parsi writings. It is a significant fact, that in the oldest, that is
to say, the second part of the Ya_s_na, nothing is fixed in the
doctrine regarding God. In the writings of the second period, that is
in the Vendidad, we trace the advance to a theological, and, in its
way, mild and scientific system. Out of this, in the last place, there
springs the stern and intolerant religion of the Sassanian
epoch.'--From the Rev. J. Murray Mitchell's Translation.]

[Footnote 38: 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' First Series, p.

Thus far the history of the Persian language had been reconstructed by
the genius and perseverance of Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, and last,
not least, by the comprehensive labours of Rawlinson, from the
ante-historical epoch of Zoroaster down to the age of Darius and
Artaxerxes II. It might have been expected that, after that time, the
contemporaneous historians of Greece would have supplied the sequel.
Unfortunately the Greeks cared nothing for any language except their
own; and little for any other history except as bearing on themselves.
The history of the Persian language after the Macedonian conquest and
during the Parthian occupation is indeed but a blank page. The next
glimpse of an authentic contemporaneous document is the inscription of
Ardeshir, the founder of the new national dynasty of the Sassanians.
It is written, though, it may be, with dialectic difference, in what
was once called 'Pehlevi,' and is now more commonly known as
'Huzvaresh,' this being the proper title of the language of the
translations of the Avesta. The legends of Sassanian coins, the
bilingual inscriptions of Sassanian emperors, and the translation of
the Avesta by Sassanian reformers, represent the Persian language in
its third phase. To judge from the specimens given by Anquetil
Duperron, it was not to be wondered at that this dialect, then called
Pehlevi, should have been pronounced an artificial jargon. Even when
more genuine specimens of it became known, the language seemed so
overgrown with Semitic and barbarous words, that it was expelled from
the Iranian family. Sir W. Jones pronounced it to be a dialect of
Chaldaic. Spiegel, however, who is now publishing the text of these
translations, has established the fact that the language is truly
Aryan, neither Semitic nor barbarous, but Persian in roots and
grammar. He accounts for the large infusion of foreign terms by
pointing to the mixed elements in the intellectual and religious life
of Persia during and before that period. There was the Semitic
influence of Babylonia, clearly discernible even in the characters of
the Achæmenian inscriptions; there was the slow infiltration of Jewish
ideas, customs, and expressions, working sometimes in the palaces of
Persian kings, and always in the bazars of Persian cities, on high
roads and in villages; there was the irresistible power of the Greek
genius, which even under its rude Macedonian garb emboldened oriental
thinkers to a flight into regions undreamed of in their philosophy;
there were the academies, the libraries, the works of art of the
Seleucidæ; there was Edessa on the Euphrates, a city where Plato and
Aristotle were studied, where Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist tenets
were discussed, where Ephraem Syrus taught, and Syriac translations
were circulated which have preserved to us the lost originals of Greek
and Christian writers. The title of the Avesta under its Semitic form
Apestako, was known in Syria as well as in Persia, and the true name
of its author, Zarathustra, is not yet changed in Syriac into the
modern Zerdusht. While this intellectual stream, principally flowing
through Semitic channels, was irrigating and inundating the west of
Asia, the Persian language had been left without literary cultivation.
Need we wonder, then, that the men, who at the rising of a new
national dynasty (226) became the reformers, teachers, and prophets of
Persia, should have formed their language and the whole train of
their ideas on a Semitic model. Motley as their language may appear to
a Persian scholar fresh from the Avesta or from Firdusi, there is
hardly a language of modern Europe which, if closely sifted, would not
produce the same impression on a scholar accustomed only to the pure
idiom of Homer, Cicero, Ulfilas, or Cædmon. Moreover; the soul of the
Sassanian language--I mean its grammar--is Persian and nothing but
Persian; and though meagre when compared with the grammar of the
Avesta, it is richer in forms than the later Parsi, the Deri, or the
language of Firdusi. The supposition (once maintained) that Pehlevi
was the dialect of the western provinces of Persia is no longer
necessary. As well might we imagine, (it is Spiegel's apposite
remark,) that a Turkish work, because it is full of Arabic words,
could only have been written on the frontiers of Arabia. We may safely
consider the Huzvaresh of the translations of the Avesta as the
language of the Sassanian court and hierarchy. Works also like the
Bundehesh and Minokhired belong by language and thought to the same
period of mystic incubation, when India and Egypt, Babylonia and
Greece, were sitting together and gossiping like crazy old women,
chattering with toothless gums and silly brains about the dreams and
joys of their youth, yet unable to recall one single thought or
feeling with that vigour which once gave it life and truth. It was a
period of religious and metaphysical delirium, when everything became
everything, when Mâyâ and Sophia, Mitra and Christ, Viraf and Isaiah,
Belus, Zarvan, and Kronos were mixed up in one jumbled system of inane
speculation, from which at last the East was delivered by the
positive doctrines of Mohammed, the West by the pure Christianity of
the Teutonic nations.

In order to judge fairly of the merits of the Huzvaresh as a language,
it must be remembered that we know it only from these speculative
works, and from translations made by men whose very language had
become technical and artificial in the schools. The idiom spoken by
the nation was probably much less infected by this Semitic fashion.
Even the translators sometimes give the Semitic terms only as a
paraphrase or more distinct expression side by side with the Persian.
And, if Spiegel's opinion be right that Parsi, and not Huzvaresh, was
the language of the later Sassanian empire, it furnishes a clear proof
that Persian had recovered itself, had thrown off the Semitic
ingredients, and again become a pure and national speech. This dialect
(the Parsi) also, exists in translations only; and we owe our
knowledge of it to Spiegel, the author of the first Parsi grammar.

This third period in the history of the Persian language,
comprehending the Huzvaresh and Parsi, ends with the downfall of the
Sassanians. The Arab conquest quenched the last sparks of Persian
nationality; and the fire-altars of the Zoroastrians were never to be
lighted again, except in the oasis of Yezd and on the soil of that
country which the Zoroastrians had quitted as the disinherited sons of
Manu. Still the change did not take place at once. Mohl, in his
magnificent edition of the Shahnameh, has treated this period
admirably, and it is from him that I derive the following facts. For a
time, Persian religion, customs, traditions, and songs survived in the
hands of the Persian nobility and landed gentry (the Dihkans) who
lived among the people, particularly in, the eastern provinces, remote
from the capital and the seats of foreign dominion, Baghdad, Kufah,
and Mosul. Where should Firdusi have collected the national strains of
ancient epic poetry which he revived in the Shahnameh (1000 A.D.), if
the Persian peasant and the Persian knight had not preserved the
memory of their old heathen heroes, even under the vigilant oppression
of Mohammedan zealots? True, the first collection of epic traditions
was made under the Sassanians. But this work, commenced under
Nushirvan, and finished under Yezdegird, the last of the Sassanians,
was destroyed by Omar's command. Firdusi himself tells us how this
first collection was made by the Dihkan Danishver. 'There was a
Pehlevan,' he says, 'of the family of the Dihkans, brave and powerful,
wise and illustrious, who loved to study the ancient times, and to
collect the stories of past ages. He summoned from all the provinces
old men who possessed portions of (i. e. who knew) an ancient work in
which many stories were written. He asked them about the origin of
kings and illustrious heroes, and how they governed the world which
they left to us in this wretched state. These old men recited before
him, one after the other, the traditions of the kings and the changes
in the empire. The Dihkan listened, and composed a book worthy of his
fame. This is the monument he left to mankind, and great and small
have celebrated his name.'

The collector of this first epic poem, under Yezdegird, is called a Dihkan
by Firdusi. Dihkan, according to the Persian dictionaries, means (1)
farmer, (2) historian; and the reason commonly assigned for this double
meaning is, that the Persian farmers happened to be well read in history.
Quatremère, however, has proved that the Dihkans were the landed nobility
of Persia; that they kept up a certain independence, even under the sway of
the Mohammedan Khalifs, and exercised in the country a sort of jurisdiction
in spite of the commissioners sent from Baghdad, the seat of the
government. Thus Danishver even is called a Dihkan, although he lived
previous to the Arab conquest. With him, the title was only intended to
show that it was in the country and among the peasants that he picked up
the traditions and songs about Jemshid, Feridun, and Rustem. Of his work,
however, we know nothing. It was destroyed by Omar; and, though it survived
in an Arabic translation, even this was lost in later times. The work,
therefore, had to be recommenced when in the eastern provinces of Persia a
national, though no longer a Zoroastrian, feeling began to revive. The
governors of these provinces became independent as soon as the power of the
Khalifs, after its rapid rise, began to show signs of weakness. Though the
Mohammedan religion had taken root, even among the national party, yet
Arabic was no longer countenanced by the governors of the eastern
provinces. Persian was spoken again at their courts, Persian poets were
encouraged, and ancient national traditions, stripped of their religious
garb, began to be collected anew. It is said that Jacob, the son of Leis
(870), the first prince of Persian blood who declared himself independent
of the Khalifs, procured fragments of Danishver's epic, and had it
rearranged and continued. Then followed the dynasty of the Samanians, who
claimed descent from the Sassanian kings. They, as well as the later
dynasty of the Gaznevides, pursued the same popular policy. They were
strong because they rested on the support of a national Persian spirit. The
national epic poet of the Samanians was Dakiki, by birth a Zoroastrian.
Firdusi possessed fragments of his work, and has given a specimen of it in
the story of Gushtasp. The final accomplishment, however, of an idea, first
cherished by Nushirvan, was reserved for Mahmud the Great, the second king
of the Gaznevide dynasty. By his command collections of old books were made
all over the empire. Men who knew ancient poems were summoned to the court.
One of them was Ader Berzin, who had spent his whole life in collecting
popular accounts of the ancient kings of Persia. Another was Serv Azad,
from Merv, who claimed descent from Neriman, and knew all the tales
concerning Sam, Zal, and Rustem, which had been preserved in his family. It
was from these materials that Firdusi composed his great epic, the
Shahnameh. He himself declares, in many passages of his poem, that he
always followed tradition. 'Traditions,' he says, 'have been given by me;
nothing of what is worth knowing has been forgotten. All that I shall say,
others have said before me: they plucked before me the fruits in the garden
of knowledge.' He speaks in detail of his predecessors: he even indicates
the sources from which he derives different episodes, and it is his
constant endeavour to convince his readers that what he relates are not
poetical inventions of his own. Thus only can we account for the fact,
first pointed out by Burnouf, that many of the heroes in the Shahnameh
still exhibit the traits, sadly distorted, it is true, but still
unmistakeable, of Vaidik deities, which had passed through the Zoroastrian
schism, the Achæmenian reign, the Macedonian occupation, the Parthian wars,
the Sassanian revival, and the Mohammedan conquest, and of which the
Dihkans could still sing and tell, when Firdusi's poem impressed the last
stamp on the language of Zarathustra. Bopp had discovered already, in his
edition of Nalas (1832), that the Zend Viva_n_hvat was the same as the
Sanskrit Vivasvat; and Burnouf, in his 'Observations sur la Grammaire
Comparée de M. Bopp,' had identified a second personage, the Zend
Kere_s_â_s_pa with the Sanskrit K_r_i_s_â_s_va. But the similarity between
the Zend Kere_s_â_s_pa and the Garshasp of the Shahnameh opened a new and
wide prospect to Burnouf, and afterwards led him on to the most striking
and valuable results. Some of these were published in his last work on
Zend, 'Études sur la Langue et les Textes Zends.' This is a collection of
articles published originally in the 'Journal Asiatique' between 1840 and
1846; and it is particularly the fourth essay, 'Le Dieu Homa,' which has
opened an entirely new mine for researches into the ancient state of
religion and tradition common to the Aryans before their schism. Burnouf
showed that three of the most famous names in the Shahnameh, Jemshid,
Feridun, and Garshasp, can be traced back to three heroes mentioned in the
Zend-Avesta as the representatives of the three earliest generations of
mankind, Yima Kshaêta, Thraêtaona, and Kere_s_â_s_pa; and that the
prototypes of these Zoroastrian heroes could be found again in the Yama,
Trita, and K_r_i_s_â_s_va of the Veda. He went even beyond this. He showed
that, as in Sanskrit, the father of Yama is Vivasvat, the father of Yima in
the Avesta is Viva_n_hvat. He showed that as Thraêtaona in Persia is the
son of Âthwya, the patronymic of Trita in the Veda is Âptya. He explained
the transition of Thraêtaona into Feridun by pointing to the Pehlevi form
of the name, as given by Neriosengh, Fredun. This change of an aspirated
dental into an aspirated labial, which by many is considered a flaw in this
argument, is of frequent occurrence. We have only to think of φήρ and θήρ,
of dhûma and fumus, of modern Greek φἑλω and θἑλω--nay, Menenius's 'first
complaint' would suffice to explain it. Burnouf again identified Zohâk, the
king of Persia, slain by Feridun, whom even Firdusi still knows by the name
of Ash dahâk, with the Azhi dahâka, the biting serpent, as he translates
it, destroyed by Thraêtaona in the Avesta; and with regard to the changes
which these names, and the ideas originally expressed by them, had to
undergo on the intellectual stage of the Aryan nation, he says: 'Il est
sans contredit fort curieux de voir une des Divinités indiennes les plus
vénérées, donner son nom au premier souverain de la dynastie ariopersanne;
c'est un des faits qui attestent le plus évidemment l'intime union des deux
branches de la grande famille qui s'est étendue, bien de siècles avant
notre ère, depuis le Gange jusqu'à l'Euphrate.'

The great achievements of Burnouf in this field of research have been
so often ignored, and what by right belongs to him has been so
confidently ascribed to others, that a faithful representation of the
real state of the case, as here given, will not appear superfluous.
There is no intention, while giving his due to Burnouf, to detract
from the merits of other scholars. Some more minute coincidences,
particularly in the story of Feridun, have subsequently been added by
Roth, Benfey, and Weber. The first, particularly, has devoted two most
interesting articles to the identification of Yama-Yima-Jemshid and
Trita-Thraêtaona-Feridun. Trita, who has generally been fixed upon as
the Vaidik original of Feridun, because Traitana, whose name
corresponds more accurately, occurs but once in the Rig-veda, is
represented in India as one of the many divine powers ruling the
firmament, destroying darkness, and sending rain, or, as the poets of
the Veda are fond of expressing it, rescuing the cows and slaying the
demons that had carried them off. These cows always move along the
sky, some dark, some bright-coloured. They low over their pasture;
they are gathered by the winds; and milked by the bright rays of the
sun, they drop from their heavy udders a fertilising milk upon the
parched and thirsty earth. But sometimes, the poet says, they are
carried off by robbers and kept in dark caves near the uttermost ends
of the sky. Then the earth is without rain; the pious worshipper
offers up his prayer to Indra, and Indra rises to conquer the cows for
him. He sends his dog to find the scent of the cattle, and after she
has heard their lowing, she returns, and the battle commences. Indra
hurls his thunderbolt; the Maruts ride at his side; the Rudras roar;
till at last the rock is cleft asunder, the demon destroyed, and the
cows brought back to their pasture. This is one of the oldest mythes
or sayings current among the Aryan nations. It appears again in the
mythology of Italy, in Greece, in Germany. In the Avesta, the battle
is fought between Thraêtaona and Azhi dahâka, the destroying serpent.
Traitana takes the place of Indra in this battle in one song of the
Veda; more frequently it is Trita, but other gods also share in the
same honour. The demon, again, who fights against the gods is
likewise called Ahi, or the serpent, in the Veda. But the
characteristic change that has taken place between the Veda and Avesta
is that the battle is no longer a conflict of gods and demons for
cows, nor of light and darkness for rain. It is the battle of a pious
man against the power of evil. 'Le Zoroastrisme,' as Burnouf says, 'en
se détachant plus franchement de Dieu et de la nature, a certainement
tenu plus de compte de l'homme que n'a fait le Brahmanisme, et on peut
dire qu'il a regagné en profondeur ce qu'il perdait en étendue. Il ne
m'appartient pas d'indiquer ici ce qu'un système qui tend à développer
les instincts les plus nobles de notre nature, et qui impose à
l'homme, comme le plus important de ses devoirs, celui de lutter
constamment contre le principe du mal, a pu exercer d'influence sur
les destinées des peuples de l'Asie, chez lesquels il a été adopté à
diverses époques. On peut cependant déjà dire que le caractère
religieux et martial tout à la fois, qui paraît avec des traits si
héroïques dans la plupart des Jeshts, n'a pas dû être sans action sur
la mâle discipline sous laquelle ont grandi les commencements de la
monarchie de Cyrus.'

A thousand years after Cyrus (for Zohâk is mentioned by Moses of
Khorene in the fifth century) we find all this forgotten once more,
and the vague rumours about Thraêtaona and Azhi Dahâka are gathered at
last, and arranged and interpreted into something intelligible to
later ages. Zohâk is a three-headed tyrant on the throne of
Persia--three-headed, because the Vaidik Ahi was three-headed, only
that one of Zohâk's heads has now become human. Zohâk has killed
Jemshid of the Peshdadian dynasty: Feridun now conquers Zohâk on the
banks of the Tigris. He then strikes him down with his cow-headed
mace, and is on the point of killing him, when, as Firdusi says, a
supernatural voice whispered in his ear--[39]

    Slay him not now, his time is not yet come,
    His punishment must be prolonged awhile;
    And as he cannot now survive the wound,
    Bind him with heavy chains--convey him straight
    Upon the mountain, there within a cave,
    Deep, dark, and horrible--with none to soothe
    His sufferings, let the murderer lingering die.
    The work of heaven performing, Feridun
    First purified the world from sin and crime.
    Yet Feridun was not an angel, nor
    Composed of musk and ambergris. By justice
    And generosity he gained his fame.
    Do thou but exercise these princely virtues,
    And thou wilt be renowned as Feridun.

[Footnote 39: Cf. Atkinson's Shahnameh, p. 48.]

As a last stage in the mythe of the Vaidik Traitana we may mention
versions like those given by Sir John Malcolm and others, who see in
Zohâk the representative of an Assyrian invasion lasting during the
thousand years of Zohâk's reign, and who change Feridun into Arbaces
the Mede, the conqueror of Sardanapalus. We may then look at the whole
with the new light which Burnouf's genius has shed over it, and watch
the retrograde changes of Arbaces into Feridun, of Feridun into
Phredûn, of Phredûn into Thraêtaona, of Thraêtaona into
Traitana,--each a separate phase in the dissolving view of mythology.

As to the language of Persia, its biography is at an end with the
Shahnameh. What follows exhibits hardly any signs of either growth or
decay. The language becomes more and more encumbered with foreign
words; but the grammar seems to have arrived at its lowest ebb, and
withstands further change. From this state of grammatical numbness,
languages recover by a secondary formation, which grows up slowly and
imperceptibly at first in the speech of the people; till at last the
reviving spirit rises upwards, and sweeps away, like the waters in
spring, the frozen surface of an effete government, priesthood,
literature, and grammar.

_October, 1853._



The Sanskrit text, with an English translation of the
Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, just published at Bombay by Dr. Martin Haug, the
Superintendent of Sanskrit Studies in the Poona College, constitutes
one of the most important additions lately made to our knowledge of
the ancient literature of India. The work is published by the Director
of Public Instruction, in behalf of Government, and furnishes a new
instance of the liberal and judicious spirit in which Mr. Howard
bestows his patronage on works of real and permanent utility. The
Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, containing the earliest speculations of the
Brahmans on the meaning of their sacrificial prayers, and the purport
of their ancient religious rites, is a work which could be properly
edited nowhere but in India. It is only a small work of about two
hundred pages, but it presupposes so thorough a familiarity with all
the externals of the religion of the Brahmans, the various offices of
their priests, the times and seasons of their sacred rites, the form
of their innumerable sacrificial utensils, and the preparation of
their offerings, that no amount of Sanskrit scholarship, such as can
be gained in England, would have been sufficient to unravel the
intricate speculations concerning the matters which form the bulk of
the Aitareya-brâhma_n_a. The difficulty was not to translate the text
word for word, but to gain a clear, accurate, and living conception of
the subjects there treated. The work was composed by persons, and for
persons, who, in a general way, knew the performance of the Vedic
sacrifices as well as we know the performance of our own sacred rites.
If we placed the English Prayer-book in the hands of a stranger who
had never assisted at an English service, we should find that, in
spite of the simplicity and plainness of its language, it failed to
convey to the uninitiated a clear idea of what he ought and what he
ought not to do in church. The ancient Indian ceremonial, however, is
one of the most artificial and complicated forms of worship that can
well be imagined; and though its details are, no doubt, most minutely
described in the Brâhma_n_as and the Sûtras, yet, without having seen
the actual site on which the sacrifices are offered, the altars
constructed for the occasion, the instruments employed by different
priests--the _tout-ensemble_, in fact, of the sacred rites--the reader
seems to deal with words, but with words only, and is unable to
reproduce in his imagination the acts and facts which were intended to
be conveyed by them. Various attempts were made to induce some of the
more learned Brahmans to edit and translate some of their own rituals,
and thus enable European scholars to gain an idea of the actual
performance of their ancient sacrifices, and to enter more easily into
the spirit of the speculations on the mysterious meaning of these
rituals, which are embodied in the so-called Brâhma_n_as, or 'the
sayings of the Brahmans.' But although, thanks to the enlightened
exertions of Dr. Ballantyne and his associates in the Sanskrit College
of Benares, Brahmans might have been found knowing English quite
sufficiently for the purpose of a rough and ready translation from
Sanskrit into English, such was their prejudice against divulging the
secrets of their craft that none could be persuaded to undertake the
ungrateful task. Dr. Haug tells us of another difficulty, which we had
hardly suspected,--the great scarcity of Brahmans familiar with the
ancient Vedic ritual:

     'Seeing the great difficulties, nay, impossibility of
     attaining to anything like a real understanding of the
     sacrificial art from all the numerous books I had collected,
     I made the greatest efforts to obtain oral information from
     some of those few Brahmans who are known by the name of
     _S_rotriyas or _S_rautis, and who alone are the possessors
     of the sacrificial mysteries as they descended from the
     remotest times. The task was no easy one, and no European
     scholar in this country before me ever succeeded in it. This
     is not to be wondered at; for the proper knowledge of the
     ritual is everywhere in India now rapidly dying out, and in
     many parts, chiefly in those under British rule, it has
     already died out.'

[Footnote 40: 'The Aitareya-brâhma_n_am of the Rig-veda,' edited and
translated by Martin Haug, Ph.D., Superintendent of Sanskrit Studies
in the Poona College. Bombay, 1863. London: Trübner & Co.]

Dr. Haug succeeded, however, at last in procuring the assistance of a
real Doctor of Divinity, who had not only performed the minor Vedic
sacrifices, such as the full and new-moon offerings, but had
officiated at some of the great Soma sacrifices, now very rarely to be
seen in any part of India. He was induced, we are sorry to say by very
mercenary considerations, to perform the principal ceremonies in a
secluded part of Dr. Haug's premises. This lasted five days, and the
same assistance was afterwards rendered by the same worthy and some of
his brethren whenever Dr. Haug was in any doubt as to the proper
meaning of the ceremonial treatises which give the outlines of the
Vedic sacrifices. Dr. Haug was actually allowed to taste that sacred
beverage, the Soma, which gives health, wealth, wisdom, inspiration,
nay immortality, to those who receive it from the hands of a
twice-born priest. Yet, after describing its preparation, all that Dr.
Haug has to say of it is:

     'The sap of the plant now used at Poona appears whitish, has
     a very stringent taste, is bitter, but not sour; it is a
     very nasty drink, and has some intoxicating effect. I tasted
     it several times, but it was impossible for me to drink more
     than some teaspoonfuls.'

After having gone through all these ordeals, Dr. Haug may well say
that his explanations of sacrificial terms, as given in the notes, can
be relied upon as certain; that they proceed from what he himself
witnessed, and what he was able to learn from men who had inherited
the knowledge from the most ancient times. He speaks with some
severity of those scholars in Europe who have attempted to explain the
technical terms of the Vedic sacrifices without the assistance of
native priests, and without even availing themselves carefully of the
information they might have gained from native commentaries.

In the preface to his edition of the Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, Dr. Haug has
thrown out some new ideas on the chronology of Vedic literature which
deserve careful consideration. Beginning with the hymns of the
Rig-veda, he admits, indeed, that there are in that collection ancient
and modern hymns, but he doubts whether it will be possible to draw a
sharp line between what has been called the _K_handas period,
representing the free growth of sacred poetry, and the Mantra period,
during which the ancient hymns were supposed to have been collected
and new ones added, chiefly intended for sacrificial purposes. Dr.
Haug maintains that some hymns of a decidedly sacrificial character
should be ascribed to the earliest period of Vedic poetry. He takes,
for instance, the hymn describing the horse sacrifice, and he
concludes from the fact that seven priests only are mentioned in it by
name, and that none of them belongs to the class of the Udgâtars
(singers) and Brahmans (superintendents), that this hymn was written
before the establishment of these two classes of priests. As these
priests are mentioned in other Vedic hymns, he concludes that the hymn
describing the horse sacrifice is of a very early date. Dr. Haug
strengthens his case by a reference to the Zoroastrian ceremonial, in
which, as he says, the chanters and superintendents are entirely
unknown, whereas the other two classes, the Hotars (reciters) and
Adhvaryus (assistants) are mentioned by the same names as Zaotar and
Rathwiskare. The establishment of the two new classes of priests
would, therefore, seem to have taken place in India after the
Zoroastrians had separated from the Brahmans; and Dr. Haug would
ascribe the Vedic hymns in which no more than two classes of priests
are mentioned to a period preceding, others in which the other two
classes of priests are mentioned to a period succeeding, that ancient
schism. We must confess, though doing full justice to Dr. Haug's
argument, that he seems to us to stretch what is merely negative
evidence beyond its proper limits. Surely a poet, though acquainted
with all the details of a sacrifice and the titles of all the priests
employed in it, might speak of it in a more general manner than the
author of a manual, and it would be most dangerous to conclude that
whatever was passed over by him in silence did not exist at the time
when he wrote. Secondly, if there were more ancient titles of priests,
the poet would most likely use them in preference to others that had
been but lately introduced. Thirdly, even the ancient priestly titles
had originally a more general meaning before they were restricted to
their technical significance, just as in Europe bishop meant
originally an overseer, priest an elder, deacon a minister. In several
hymns, some of these titles--for instance, that of hotar, invoker--are
clearly used as appellatives, and not as titles. Lastly, one of the
priests mentioned in the hymn on the horse sacrifice, the Agnimindha,
is admitted by Dr. Haug himself to be the same as the Âgnîdhra; and if
we take this name, like all the others, in its technical sense, we
have to recognise in him one of the four Brahman priests.[41] We
should thus lose the ground on which Dr. Haug's argument is chiefly
based, and should have to admit the existence of Brahman priests as
early at least as the time in which the hymn on the horse sacrifice
was composed. But, even admitting that allusions to a more or less
complete ceremonial[42] could be pointed out in certain hymns, this
might help us no doubt in subdividing and arranging the poetry of the
second or Mantra period, but it would leave the question, whether
allusions to ceremonial technicalities are to be considered as
characteristics of later hymns, entirely unaffected. Dr. Haug, who
holds that, in the development of the human race, sacrifice comes
earlier than religious poetry, formulas earlier than prayers,
Leviticus earlier than the Psalms, applies this view to the
chronological arrangement of Vedic literature; and he is, therefore,
naturally inclined to look upon hymns composed for sacrificial
purposes, more particularly upon the invocations and formulas of the
Ya_g_ur-veda, and upon the Nivids preserved in the Brâhma_n_as and
Sûtras, as relics of greater antiquity than the free poetical
effusions of the Rishis, which defy ceremonial rules, ignore the
settled rank of priests and deities, and occasionally allude to
subjects more appropriate for profane than for sacred poetry:

     'The first sacrifices [he writes] were no doubt simple
     offerings performed without much ceremonial. A few
     appropriate solemn words, indicating the giver, the nature
     of the offering, the deity to which, as well as the purpose
     for which it was offered, were sufficient. All this would be
     embodied in the sacrificial formulas known in later times
     principally by the name of Ya_g_ush, whilst the older one
     appears to have been Yâ_g_yâ. The invocation of the deity by
     different names, and its invitation to enjoy the meal
     prepared, may be equally old. It was justly regarded as a
     kind of Ya_g_ush, and called Nigada or Nivid.'

[Footnote 41: By an accident two lines containing the names of the
sixteen priests in my 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature' (p.
469) have been misplaced. Âgnîdhra and Pot_r_i ought to range with the
Brahmans, Pratihart_r_i and Subrahma_n_ya with the Udgât_r_is. See
Â_s_val. Sûtras IV. 1 (p. 286, 'Bibliotheca Indica'); and M. M.,
Todtenbestattung, p. xlvi. It might be said, however, that the
Agnimindha was meant as one of the Hotrâ_s_a_m_sins, or one of the
Seven Priests, the Sapta Hotars. See Haug, Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, vol.
i. p. 58.]

[Footnote 42: Many such allusions were collected in my 'History of
Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' p. 486 seq.; some of them have lately
been independently discovered by others.]

In comparing these sacrificial formulas with the bulk of the Rig-veda
hymns, Dr. Haug comes to the conclusion that the former are more
ancient. He shows that certain of these formulas and Nivids were known
to the poets of the hymns, as they undoubtedly were; but this would
only prove that these poets were acquainted with these as well as with
other portions of the ceremonial. It would only confirm the view
advocated by others, that certain hymns were clearly written for
ceremonial purposes, though the ceremonial presupposed by these hymns
may in many cases prove more simple and primitive than the ceremonial
laid down in the Brâhma_n_as and Sûtras. But if Dr. Haug tells us that
the Rishis tried their poetical talent first in the composition of
Yâ_g_yâs, or verses to be recited while an offering was thrown into
the fire, and that the Yâ_g_yâs were afterwards extended into little
songs, we must ask, is this fact or theory? And if we are told that
'there can be hardly any doubt that the hymns which we possess are
purely sacrificial, and made only for sacrificial purposes, and that
those which express more general ideas, or philosophical thoughts, or
confessions of sins, are comparatively late,' we can only repeat our
former question. Dr. Haug, when proceeding to give his proofs, that
the purely sacrificial poetry is more ancient than either profane
songs or hymns of a more general religious character, only produces
such collateral evidence as may be found in the literary history of
the Jews and the Chinese--evidence which is curious, but not
convincing. Among the Aryan nations, it has hitherto been considered
as a general rule that poetry precedes prose. Now the Yâ_g_yâs and
Nivids are prose, and though Dr. Haug calls it rhythmical prose, yet,
as compared with the hymns, they are prose; and though such an
argument by itself could by no means be considered as sufficient to
upset any solid evidence to the contrary, yet it is stronger than the
argument derived from the literature of nations who are neither of
them Aryan in language or thought.

But though we have tried to show the insufficiency of the arguments
advanced by Dr. Haug in support of his theory, we are by no means
prepared to deny the great antiquity of some of the sacrificial
formulas and invocations, and more particularly of the Nivids to which
he for the first time has called attention. There probably existed
very ancient Nivids or invocations, but are the Nivids which we
possess the identical Nivids alluded to in the hymns? If so, why have
they no accents, why do they not form part of the Sanhitâs, why were
they not preserved, discussed, and analysed with the same religious
care as the metrical hymns? The Nivids which we now possess may, as
Dr. Haug supposes, have inspired the Rishis with the burden of their
hymns; but they may equally well have been put together by later
compilers from the very hymns of the Rishis. There is many a hymn in
the Sanhitâ of the Rig-veda which may be called a Nivid, i. e. an
invitation addressed to the gods to come to the sacrifices, and an
enumeration of the principal names of each deity. Those who believe,
on more general grounds, that all religion began with sacrifice and
sacrificial formulas will naturally look on such hymns and on the
Nivids as relics of a more primitive age; while others who look upon
prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and the unfettered expression of
devotion and wonderment as the first germs of a religious worship,
will treat the same Nivids as productions of a later age. We doubt
whether this problem can be argued on general grounds. Admitting that
the Jews began with sacrifice and ended with psalms, it would by no
means follow that the Aryan nations did the same, nor would the
chronological arrangement of the ancient literature of China help us
much in forming an opinion of the growth of the Indian mind. We must
take each nation by itself, and try to find out what they themselves
hold as to the relative antiquity of their literary documents. On
general grounds, the problem whether sacrifice or prayer comes first,
may be argued ad infinitum, just like the problem whether the hen
comes first or the egg. In the special case of the sacred literature
of the Brahmans, we must be guided by their own tradition, which
invariably places the poetical hymns of the Rig-veda before the
ceremonial hymns and formulas of the Ya_g_ur-veda and Sâma-veda. The
strongest argument that has as yet been brought forward against this
view is, that the formulas of the Ya_g_ur-veda and the sacrificial
texts of the Sâma-veda contain occasionally more archaic forms of
language than the hymns of the Rig-veda. It was supposed, therefore,
that, although the hymns of the Rig-veda might have been composed at
an earlier time, the sacrificial hymns and formulas were the first to
be collected and to be preserved in the schools by means of a strict
mnemonic discipline. The hymns of the Rig-veda, some of which have no
reference whatever to the Vedic ceremonial, being collected at a later
time, might have been stripped, while being handed down by oral
tradition, of those grammatical forms which in the course of time had
become obsolete, but which, if once recognised and sanctioned in
theological seminaries, would have been preserved there with the most
religious care.

According to Dr. Haug, the period during which the Vedic hymns were
composed extends from 1400 to 2000 B.C. The oldest hymns, however, and
the sacrificial formulas he would place between 2000 and 2400 B.C.
This period, corresponding to what has been called the _K_handas and
Mantra periods, would be succeeded by the Brâhma_n_a period, and Dr.
Haug would place the bulk of the Brâhma_n_as, all written in prose,
between 1400 and 1200 B.C. He does not attribute much weight to the
distinction made by the Brahmans themselves between revealed and
profane literature, and would place the Sûtras almost contemporaneous
with the Brâhma_n_as. The only fixed point from which he starts in his
chronological arrangement is the date implied by the position of the
solstitial points mentioned in a little treatise, the _G_yotisha, a
date which has been accurately fixed by the Rev. E. Main at 1186
B.C.[43] Dr. Haug fully admits that such an observation was an
absolute necessity for the Brahmans in regulating their calendar:

     'The proper time [he writes] of commencing and ending their
     sacrifices, principally the so-called Sattras or sacrificial
     sessions, could not be known without an accurate knowledge
     of the time of the sun's northern and southern progress. The
     knowledge of the calendar forms such an essential part of
     the ritual, that many important conditions of the latter
     cannot be carried out without the former. The sacrifices are
     allowed to commence only at certain lucky constellations,
     and in certain months. So, for instance, as a rule, no great
     sacrifice can commence during the sun's southern progress;
     for this is regarded up to the present day as an unlucky
     period by the Brahmans, in which even to die is believed to
     be a misfortune. The great sacrifices generally take place
     in spring in the months of _K_aitra and Vai_s_âkha (April
     and May). The Sattras, which lasted for one year, were, as
     one may learn from a careful perusal of the fourth book of
     the Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, nothing but an imitation of the
     sun's yearly course. They were divided into two distinct
     parts, each consisting of six months of thirty days each; in
     the midst of both was the Vishuvat, i. e. equator or central
     day, cutting the whole Sattra into two halves. The
     ceremonies were in both halves exactly the same, but they
     were in the latter half performed in an inverted order.'

[Footnote 43: See preface to the fourth volume of my edition of the

This argument of Dr. Haug's seems correct as far as the date of the
establishment of the ceremonial is concerned, and it is curious that
several scholars who have lately written on the origin of the Vedic
calendar, and the possibility of its foreign origin, should not have
perceived the intimate relation between that calendar and the whole
ceremonial system of the Brahmans. Dr. Haug is, no doubt, perfectly
right when he claims the invention of the Nakshatras, or the Lunar
Zodiac of the Brahmans, if we may so call it, for India; he may be
right also when he assigns the twelfth century as the earliest date
for the origin of that simple astronomical system on which the
calendar of the Vedic festivals is founded. He calls the theories of
others, who have lately tried to claim the first discovery of the
Nakshatras for China, Babylon, or some other Asiatic country, absurd,
and takes no notice of the sanguine expectations of certain scholars,
who imagine they will soon have discovered the very names of the
Indian Nakshatras in Babylonian inscriptions. But does it follow that,
because the ceremonial presupposes an observation of the solstitial
points in about the twelfth century, therefore the theological works
in which that ceremonial is explained, commented upon, and furnished
with all kinds of mysterious meanings, were composed at that early
date? We see no stringency whatever in this argument of Dr. Haug's,
and we think it will be necessary to look for other anchors by which
to fix the drifting wrecks of Vedic literature.

Dr. Haug's two volumes, containing the text of the
Aitareya-brâhma_n_a, translation, and notes, would probably never have
been published, if they had not received the patronage of the Bombay
Government. However interesting the Brâhma_n_as may be to students of
Indian literature, they are of small interest to the general reader.
The greater portion of them is simply twaddle, and what is worse,
theological twaddle. No person who is not acquainted beforehand with
the place which the Brâhma_n_as fill in the history of the Indian
mind, could read more than ten pages without being disgusted. To the
historian, however, and to the philosopher they are of infinite
importance--to the former as a real link between the ancient and
modern literature of India; to the latter as a most important phase
in the growth of the human mind, in its passage from health to
disease. Such books, which no circulating library would touch, are
just the books which Governments, if possible, or Universities and
learned societies, should patronise; and if we congratulate Dr. Haug
on having secured the enlightened patronage of the Bombay Government,
we may congratulate Mr. Howard and the Bombay Government on having, in
this instance, secured the services of a bonâ fide scholar like Dr.

_March, 1864._

[Footnote 44: A few paragraphs in this review, in which allusion was
made to certain charges of what might be called 'literary rattening,'
brought by Dr. Haug against some Sanskrit scholars, and more
particularly against the editor of the 'Indische Studien' at Berlin,
have here been omitted, as no longer of any interest. They may be
seen, however, in the ninth volume of that periodical, where my review
has been reprinted, though, as usual, very incorrectly. It was not I
who first brought these accusations, nor should I have felt justified
in alluding to them, if the evidence placed before me had not
convinced me that there was some foundation for them. I am willing to
admit that the language of Dr. Haug and others may have been too
severe, but few will think that a very loud and boisterous denial is
the best way to show that the strictures were quite undeserved. If, by
alluding to these matters and frankly expressing my disapproval of
them, I have given unnecessary pain, I sincerely regret it. So much
for the past. As to the future, care, I trust, will be taken,--for the
sake of the good fame of German scholarship, which, though living in
England, I have quite as much at heart as if living in Germany,--not
to give even the faintest countenance to similar suspicions. If my
remarks should help in producing that result, I shall be glad to bow
my head in silence under the vials of wrath that have been poured upon





Sanskrit scholars resident in India enjoy considerable advantages over
those who devote themselves to the study of the ancient literature of
the Brahmans in this country, or in France and Germany. Although
Sanskrit is no longer spoken by the great mass of the people, there
are few large towns in which we do not meet with some more or less
learned natives--the pandits, or, as they used to be called,
pundits--men who have passed through a regular apprenticeship in
Sanskrit grammar, and who generally devote themselves to the study of
some special branch of Sanskrit literature, whether law, or logic, or
rhetoric, or astronomy, or anything else. These men, who formerly
lived on the liberality of the Rajahs and on the superstition of the
people, find it more and more difficult to make a living among their
own countrymen, and are glad to be employed by any civilian or
officer who takes an interest in their ancient lore. Though not
scholars in our sense of the word, and therefore of little use as
teachers of the language, they are extremely useful to more advanced
students, who are able to set them to do that kind of work for which
they are fit, and to check their labours by judicious supervision. All
our great Sanskrit scholars, from Sir William Jones to H.H. Wilson,
have fully acknowledged their obligations to their native assistants.
They used to work in Calcutta, Benares, and Bombay with a pandit at
each elbow, instead of the grammar and the dictionary which European
scholars have to consult at every difficult passage. Whenever an
English Sahib undertook to edit or translate a Sanskrit text, these
pandits had to copy and to collate MSS., to make a verbal index, to
produce parallel passages from other writers, and, in many cases, to
supply a translation into Hindustani, Bengali, or into their own
peculiar English. In fact, if it had not been for the assistance thus
fully and freely rendered by native scholars, Sanskrit scholarship
would never have made the rapid progress which, during less than a
century, it has made, not only in India, but in almost every country
of Europe.

[Footnote 45: 'Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion
of the Parsees.' By Martin Haug, Dr. Phil. Bombay, 1862.]

With this example to follow, it is curious that hardly any attempt
should have been made by English residents, particularly in the Bombay
Presidency, to avail themselves of the assistance of the Parsis for
the purpose of mastering the ancient language and literature of the
worshippers of Ormuzd. If it is remembered that, next to Sanskrit,
there is no more ancient language than Zend--and that, next to the
Veda, there is, among the Aryan nations, no more primitive religious
code than the Zend-Avesta, it is surprising that so little should have
been done by the members of the Indian Civil Service in this important
branch of study. It is well known that such was the enthusiasm kindled
in the heart of Anquetil Duperron by the sight of a facsimile of a
page of the Zend-Avesta, that in order to secure a passage to India,
he enlisted as a private soldier, and spent six years (1754-1761) in
different parts of Western India, trying to collect MSS. of the sacred
writings of Zoroaster, and to acquire from the Dustoors a knowledge of
their contents. His example was followed, though in a less adventurous
spirit, by Rask, a learned Dane, who after collecting at Bombay many
valuable MSS. for the Danish Government, wrote in 1826 his essay 'On
the Age and Genuineness of the Zend Language.' Another Dane, at
present one of the most learned Zend scholars in Europe, Westergaard,
likewise proceeded to India (1841-1843), before he undertook to
publish his edition of the religious books of the Zoroastrians.
(Copenhagen, 1852.) During all this time, while French and German
scholars, such as Burnouf, Bopp, and Spiegel, were hard at work in
deciphering the curious remains of the Magian religion, hardly
anything was contributed by English students living in the very heart
of Parsiism at Bombay and Poona.

We are all the more pleased, therefore, that a young German scholar,
Dr. Haug--who through the judicious recommendation of Mr. Howard,
Director of Public Instruction in the Bombay Presidency, was appointed
to a Professorship of Sanskrit in the Poona College--should have
grasped the opportunity, and devoted himself to a thorough study of
the sacred literature of the Parsis. He went to India well prepared
for his task, and he has not disappointed the hopes which those who
knew him entertained of him on his departure from Germany. Unless he
had been master of his subject before he went to Poona, the assistance
of the Dustoors would have been of little avail to him. But knowing
all that could be known in Europe of the Zend language and literature,
he knew what questions to ask, he could check every answer, and he
could learn with his eyes what it is almost impossible to learn from
books--namely, the religious ceremonial and the ritual observances
which form so considerable an element in the Vendidad and Vispered.
The result of his studies is now before us in a volume of 'Essays on
the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsees,' published
at Bombay, 1862. It is a volume of only three hundred and sixty-eight
pages, and sells in England for one guinea. Nevertheless, to the
student of Zend it is one of the cheapest books ever published. It
contains four Essays: 1. History of the Researches into the Sacred
Writings and Religion of the Parsees from the earliest times down to
the present; 2. Outline of a Grammar of the Zend Language; 3. The
Zend-Avesta, or the Scripture of the Parsees; 4. Origin and
Development of the Zoroastrian Religion. The most important portion is
the Outline of the Zend Grammar; for, though a mere outline, it is the
first systematic grammatical analysis of that curious language. In
other languages, we generally begin by learning the grammar, and then
make our way gradually through the literature. In Zend, the
grammatical terminations had first to be discovered by a careful
anatomy of the literature. The Parsis themselves possessed no such
work. Even their most learned priests are satisfied with learning the
Zend-Avesta by heart, and with acquiring some idea of its import by
means of a Pehlevi translation, which dates from the Sassanian period,
or of a Sanskrit translation of still later date. Hence the
translation of the Zend-Avesta published by Anquetil Duperron, with
the assistance of Dustoor Dârâb, was by no means trustworthy. It was,
in fact, a French translation of a Persian rendering of a Pehlevi
version of the Zend original. It was Burnouf who, aided by his
knowledge of Sanskrit, and his familiarity with the principles of
comparative grammar, approached, for the first time, the very words of
the Zend original. He had to conquer every inch of ground for himself,
and his 'Commentaire sur le Yasna' is, in fact, like the deciphering
of one long inscription, only surpassed in difficulty by his later
decipherments of the cuneiform inscriptions of the Achæmenian monarchs
of Persia. Aided by the labours of Burnouf and others, Dr. Haug has at
last succeeded in putting together the disjecta membra poetæ, and we
have now in his Outline, not indeed a grammar like that of Pâ_n_ini
for Sanskrit, yet a sufficient skeleton of what was once a living
language, not inferior, in richness and delicacy, even to the idiom of
the Vedas.

There are, at present, five editions, more or less complete, of the
Zend-Avesta. The first was lithographed under Burnouf's direction, and
published at Paris 1829-1843. The second edition of the text,
transcribed into Roman characters, appeared at Leipzig 1850, published
by Professor Brockhaus. The third edition, in Zend characters, was
given to the world by Professor Spiegel, 1851; and about the same
time a fourth edition was undertaken by Professor Westergaard, at
Copenhagen, 1852 to 1854. There are one or two editions of the
Zend-Avesta, published in India, with Guzerati translations, which we
have not seen, but which are frequently quoted by native scholars. A
German translation of the Zend-Avesta was undertaken by Professor
Spiegel, far superior in accuracy to that of Anquetil Duperron, yet in
the main based on the Pehlevi version. Portions of the ancient text
had been minutely analysed and translated by Dr. Haug, even before his
departure for the East.

The Zend-Avesta is not a voluminous work. We still call it the
Zend-Avesta, though we are told that its proper title is Avesta Zend,
nor does it seem at all likely that the now familiar name will ever be
surrendered for the more correct one. Who speaks of Cassius Dio,
though we are told that Dio Cassius is wrong? Nor do we feel at all
convinced that the name of Avesta Zend is the original and only
correct name. According to the Parsis, Avesta means sacred text, Zend
its Pehlevi translation. But in the Pehlevi translations themselves,
the original work of Zoroaster is spoken of as Avesta Zend. Why it is
so called by the Pehlevi translators, we are nowhere told by
themselves, and many conjectures have, in consequence, been started by
almost every Zend scholar. Dr. Haug supposes that the earliest
portions of the Zend-Avesta ought to be called Avesta, the later
portions Zend--Zend meaning, according to him, commentary,
explanation, gloss. Neither the word Avesta nor Zend, however, occurs
in the original Zend texts, and though Avesta seems to be the Sanskrit
avasthâ, the Pehlevi apestak, in the sense of 'authorised text,' the
etymology of Zend, as derived from a supposed zanti, Sanskrit _gn_âti,
knowledge, is not free from serious objections. Avesta Zend was most
likely a traditional name, hardly understood even at the time of the
Pehlevi translators, who retained it in their writings. It was
possibly misinterpreted by them, as many other Zend words have been at
their hands, and may have been originally the Sanskrit word
_k_handas,[46] which is applied by the Brahmans to the sacred hymns of
the Veda. Certainty on such a point is impossible; but as it is but
fair to give a preference to the conjectures of those who are most
familiar with the subject, we quote the following explanation of Dr.

     'The meaning of the term "Zend" varied at different periods.
     Originally it meant the interpretation of the sacred texts
     descended from Zarathustra and his disciples by the
     successors of the prophet. In the course of time, these
     interpretations being regarded as equally sacred with the
     original texts, both were then called Avesta. Both having
     become unintelligible to the majority of the Zoroastrians,
     in consequence of their language having died out, they
     required a Zend or explanation again. This new Zend was
     furnished by the most learned priests of the Sassanian
     period in the shape of a translation into the vernacular
     language of Persia (Pehlevi) in those days, which
     translation being the only source to the priests of the
     present time whence to derive any knowledge of the old
     texts, is therefore the only Zend or explanation they know
     of.... The name Pazend, to be met with frequently in
     connection with Avesta and Zend, denotes the further
     explanation of the Zend doctrine..... The Pazend language is
     the same as the so-called Parsi, i. e. the ancient Persian,
     as written till about the time of Firdusi, 1000 A.D.'

[Footnote 46: See page 84.]

Whatever we may think of the nomenclature thus advocated by Dr. Haug,
we must acknowledge in the fullest manner his great merit in
separating for the first time the more ancient from the more modern
parts of the Zend-Avesta. Though the existence of different dialects
in the ancient texts was pointed out by Spiegel, and although the
metrical portions of the Ya_s_na had been clearly marked by
Westergaard, it is nevertheless Haug's great achievement to have
extracted these early relics, to have collected them, and to have
attempted a complete translation of them, as far as such an attempt
could be carried out at the present moment. His edition of the
Gâthâs--for this is the name of the ancient metrical portions--marks
an epoch in the history of Zend scholarship, and the importance of the
recovery of these genuine relics of Zoroaster's religion has been well
brought out by Bunsen in the least known of his books, 'Gott in der
Geschichte.' We by no means think that the translations here offered
by Dr. Haug are final. We hope, on the contrary, that he will go on
with the work he has so well begun, and that he will not rest till he
has removed every dark speck that still covers the image of
Zoroaster's primitive faith. Many of the passages as translated by him
are as clear as daylight, and carry conviction by their very
clearness. Others, however, are obscure, hazy, meaningless. We feel
that they must have been intended for something else, something more
definite and forcible, though we cannot tell what to do with the
words as they stand. Sense, after all, is the great test of
translation. We must feel convinced that there was good sense in these
ancient poems, otherwise mankind would not have taken the trouble to
preserve them; and if we cannot discover good sense in them, it must
be either our fault, or the words as we now read them were not the
words uttered by the ancient prophets of the world. The following are
a few specimens of Dr. Haug's translations, in which the reader will
easily discover the different hues of certainty and uncertainty, of
sense and mere verbiage:

     1. That I will ask Thee, tell me it right, thou living God!
     whether your friend (Sraosha) be willing to recite his own
     hymn as prayer to my friend (Frashaostra or Vistâspa), thou
     Wise! and whether he should come to us with the good mind,
     to perform for us true actions of friendship.

     2. That I will ask Thee, tell me it right, thou living God!
     How arose the best present life (this world)? By what means
     are the present things (the world) to be supported? That
     spirit, the holy (Vohu mano), O true wise spirit! is the
     guardian of the beings to ward off from them every evil; He
     is the promoter of all life.

     3. That I will ask Thee, tell me it right, thou living God!
     Who was in the beginning the Father and Creator of truth?
     Who made the sun and stars? Who causes the moon to increase
     and wane if not Thou? This I wish to know, except what I
     already know.

     4. That I will ask Thee, tell me it right, thou living God!
     Who is holding the earth and the skies above it? Who made
     the waters and the trees of the field? Who is in the winds
     and storms that they so quickly run? Who is the Creator of
     the good-minded beings, thou Wise?

This is a short specimen of the earliest portion of the Zend-Avesta.
The following is an account of one of the latest, the so-called Ormuzd

     'Zarathustra asked Ahuramazda after the most effectual spell
     to guard against the influence of evil spirits. He was
     answered by the Supreme Spirit, that the utterance of the
     different names of Ahuramazda protects best from evil.
     Thereupon Zarathustra begged Ahuramazda to communicate to
     him these names. He then enumerates twenty. The first is
     Ahmi, i. e. "I am;" the fourth, Asha-vahista, i. e. "the
     best purity;" the sixth, "I am wisdom;" the eighth, "I am
     knowledge;" the twelfth, Ahura, i. e. "living;" the
     twentieth, "I am who I am, Mazdao."'

Ahuramazda says then further:

     '"If you call me at day or at night by these names, I shall
     come to assist and help you; the angel Serosh will then
     come, the genii of the waters and the trees." For the utter
     defeat of the evil spirits, bad men, witches, Peris, a
     series of other names are suggested to Zarathustra, such as
     protector, guardian, spirit, the holiest, the best
     fire-priest, etc.'

Whether the striking coincidence between one of the suggested names of
Ahuramazda, namely, 'I am who I am,' and the explanation of the name
Jehova, Exodus iii. 14, 'I am that I am,' is accidental or not, must
depend on the age that can be assigned to the Ormuzd Yasht. The
chronological arrangement, however, of the various portions of the
Zend-Avesta is as yet merely tentative, and these questions must
remain for future consideration. Dr. Haug points out other
similarities between the doctrines of Zoroaster and the Old and New
Testaments. 'The Zoroastrian religion,' he writes, 'exhibits a very
close affinity to, or rather identity with, several important
doctrines of the Mosaic religion and Christianity, such as the
personality and attributes of the devil, and the resurrection of the
dead.' Neither of these doctrines, however, would seem to be
characteristic of the Old or New Testament, and the resurrection of
the dead is certainly to be found by implication only, and is nowhere
distinctly asserted, in the religious books of Moses.

There are other points on which we should join issue with Dr.
Haug--as, for instance, when, on page 17, he calls the Zend the elder
sister of Sanskrit. This seems to us in the very teeth of the evidence
so carefully brought together by himself in his Zend grammar. If he
means the modern Sanskrit, as distinguished from the Vedic, his
statement would be right to some extent; but even thus, it would be
easy to show many grammatical forms in the later Sanskrit more
primitive than their corresponding forms in Zend. These, however, are
minor points compared with the great results of his labours which Dr.
Haug has brought together in these four Essays; and we feel certain
that all who are interested in the study of ancient language and
ancient religion will look forward with the greatest expectations to
Dr. Haug's continued investigations of the language, the literature,
the ceremonial, and the religion of the descendants of Zoroaster.

_December, 1862._



There are certain branches of philological research which seem to be
constantly changing, shifting, and, we hope, progressing. After the
key to the interpretation of ancient inscriptions has been found, it
by no means follows that every word can at once be definitely
explained, or every sentence correctly construed. Thus it happens that
the same hieroglyphic or cuneiform text is rendered differently by
different scholars; nay, that the same scholar proposes a new
rendering not many years after his first attempt at a translation has
been published. And what applies to the decipherment of inscriptions
applies with equal force to the translation of ancient texts. A
translation of the hymns of the Veda, or of the Zend-Avesta, and, we
may add, of the Old Testament too, requires exactly the same process
as the deciphering of an inscription. The only safe way of finding the
real meaning of words in the sacred texts of the Brahmans, the
Zoroastrians, or the Jews, is to compare every passage in which the
same word occurs, and to look for a meaning that is equally applicable
to all, and can at the same time be defended on grammatical and
etymological grounds. This is no doubt a tedious process, nor can it
be free from uncertainty; but it is an uncertainty inherent in the
subject itself, for which it would be unfair to blame those by whose
genius and perseverance so much light has been shed on the darkest
pages of ancient history. To those who are not acquainted with the
efforts by which Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, and Rawlinson unravelled
the inscriptions of Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, it may seem
inexplicable, for instance, how an inscription which at one time was
supposed to confirm the statement, known from Herodotus, that Darius
obtained the sovereignty of Persia by the neighing of his horse,
should now yield so very different a meaning. Herodotus relates that
after the assassination of Smerdis the six conspirators agreed to
confer the royal dignity on him whose horse should neigh first at
sunrise. The horse of Darius neighed first, and he was accordingly
elected king of Persia. After his election, Herodotus states that
Darius erected a stone monument containing the figure of a horseman,
with the following inscription: 'Darius, the son of Hystaspes,
obtained the kingdom of the Persians by the virtue of his horse
(giving its name), and of Oibareus, his groom.' Lassen translated one
of the cuneiform inscriptions, copied originally by Niebuhr from a
huge slab built in the southern wall of the great platform at
Persepolis, in the following manner: 'Auramazdis magnus est. Is
maximus est deorum. Ipse Darium regem constituit, benevolens imperium
obtulit. Ex voluntate Auramazdis Darius rex sum. Generosus sum Darius
rex hujus regionis Persicæ; hanc mihi Auramazdis obtulit "hoc
pomœrio ope equi (Choaspis) claræ virtutis."' This translation was
published in 1844, and the arguments by which Lassen supported it, in
the sixth volume of the 'Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes,'
may be read with interest and advantage even now when we know that
this eminent scholar was mistaken in his analysis. The first step
towards a more correct translation was made by Professor Holtzmann,
who in 1845 pointed out that Smerdis was murdered at Susa, not at
Persepolis; and that only six days later Darius was elected king of
Persia, which happened again at Susa, and not at Persepolis. The
monument, therefore, which Darius erected in the προἁστειον,
or suburb, in the place where the fortunate event which led to his
elevation occurred, and the inscription recording the event in loco,
could not well be looked for at Persepolis. But far more important was
the evidence derived from a more careful analysis of the words of the
inscription itself. Niba, which Lassen translated as pomœrium,
occurs in three other places, where it certainly cannot mean suburb.
It seems to be an adjective meaning splendid, beautiful. Besides, nibâ
is a nominative singular in the feminine, and so is the pronoun hyâ
which precedes, and the two words which follow it--uva_s_pâ and
umartiyâ. Professor Holtzmann translated therefore the same sentence
which Professor Lassen had rendered by 'hoc pomœrio ope equi
(Choaspis) claræ virtutis,' by 'quæ nitida, herbosa, celebris est,' a
translation which is in the main correct, and has been adopted
afterwards both by Sir H. Rawlinson and M. Oppert. Sir H. Rawlinson
translates the whole passage as follows: 'This province of Persia
which Ormazd has granted to me, which is illustrious, abounding in
good horses, producing good men.' Thus vanished the horse of Darius,
and the curious confirmation which the cuneiform inscription was at
one time supposed to lend to the Persian legend recorded by Herodotus.

[Footnote 47: 'A Lecture on the Original Language of Zoroaster.' By
Martin Haug. Bombay, 1865.]

It would be easy to point out many passages of this kind, and to use
them in order to throw discredit on the whole method by which these
and other inscriptions have lately been deciphered. It would not
require any great display of forensic or parliamentary eloquence, to
convince the public at large, by means of such evidence, that all the
labours of Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, and Rawlinson had been in vain,
and to lay down once for all the general principle that the original
meaning of inscriptions written in a dead language, of which the
tradition is once lost, can never be recovered. Fortunately, questions
of this kind are not settled by eloquent pleading or by the votes of
majorities, but, on the contrary, by the independent judgment of the
few who are competent to judge. The fact that different scholars
should differ in their interpretations, or that the same scholars
should reject his former translation, and adopt a new one that
possibly may have to be surrendered again as soon as new light can be
thrown on points hitherto doubtful and obscure--all this, which in the
hands of those who argue for victory and not for truth, constitutes so
formidable a weapon, and appeals so strongly to the prejudices of the
many, produces very little effect on the minds of those who understand
the reason of these changes, and to whom each new change represents
but a new step in advance in the discovery of truth.

Nor should the fact be overlooked that, if there seems to be less
change in the translation of the books of the Old Testament for
instance, or of Homer, it is due in a great measure to the absence of
that critical exactness at which the decipherers of ancient
inscriptions and the translators of the Veda and Zend-Avesta aim in
rendering each word that comes before them. If we compared the
translation of the Septuagint with the authorised version of the Old
Testament, we should occasionally find discrepancies nearly as
startling as any that can be found in the different translations of
the cuneiform inscriptions, or of the Veda and Zend-Avesta. In the
Book of Job, the Vulgate translates the exhortation of Job's wife by
'Bless God and die;' the English version by 'Curse God and die;' the
Septuagint by 'Say some word to the Lord and die.' Though, at the time
when the Seventy translated the Old Testament, Hebrew could hardly be
called a dead language, yet there were then many of its words the
original meaning of which even the most learned rabbi would have had
great difficulty in defining with real accuracy. The meaning of words
changes imperceptibly and irresistibly. Even where there is a
literature, and a printed literature like that of modern Europe, four
or five centuries work such a change that few even of the most learned
divines in England would find it easy to read and to understand
accurately a theological treatise written in English four hundred
years ago. The same happened, and happened to a far greater extent, in
ancient languages. Nor was the sacred character attributed to certain
writings any safeguard. On the contrary, greater violence is done by
successive interpreters to sacred writings than to any other relics
of ancient literature. Ideas grow and change, yet each generation
tries to find its own ideas reflected in the sacred pages of their
early prophets, and, in addition to the ordinary influences which blur
and obscure the sharp features of old words, artificial influences are
here at work distorting the natural expression of words which have
been invested with a sacred authority. Passages in the Veda or
Zend-Avesta which do not bear on religious or philosophical doctrines
are generally explained simply and naturally, even by the latest of
native commentators. But as soon as any word or sentence can be so
turned as to support a doctrine, however modern, or a precept, however
irrational, the simplest phrases are tortured and mangled till at last
they are made to yield their assent to ideas the most foreign to the
minds of the authors of the Veda and Zend-Avesta.

To those who take an interest in these matters we may recommend a
small Essay lately published by the Rev. R. G. S. Browne--the 'Mosaic
Cosmogony'--in which the author endeavours to establish a literal
translation of the first chapter of Genesis. Touching the first verb
that occurs in the Bible, he writes: 'What is the meaning or scope of
the Hebrew verb, in our authorised version, rendered by "created?" To
English ears and understandings the sound comes naturally, and by long
use irresistibly, as the representation of an ex nihilo creation. But,
in the teeth of all the Rabbinical and Cabbalistic fancies of Jewish
commentators, and with reverential deference to modern criticism on
the Hebrew Bible, it is not so. R. D. Kimchi, in his endeavour to
ascertain the shades of difference existing between the terms used in
the Mosaic cosmogony, has assumed that our Hebrew verb barâ has the
full signification of ex nihilo creavit. Our own Castell, a profound
and self-denying scholar has entertained the same groundless notion.
And even our illustrious Bryan Walton was not inaccessible to this
oblique ray of Rabbinical or ignis fatuus.'

Mr. Browne then proceeds to quote Gesenius, who gives as the primary
meaning of barâ, he cut, cut out, carved, planed down, polished; and
he refers to Lee, who characterizes it as a silly theory that barâ
meant to create ex nihilo. In Joshua xvii. 15 and 18, the same verb is
used in the sense of cutting down trees; in Psalm civ. 30 it is
translated by 'Thou renewest the face of the earth.' In Arabic, too,
according to Lane, barâ means properly, though not always, to create
out of pre-existing matter. All this shows that in the verb barâ, as
in the Sanskrit tvaksh or taksh, there is no trace of the meaning
assigned to it by later scholars, of a creation out of nothing. That
idea in its definiteness was a modern idea, most likely called forth
by the contact between Jews and Greeks at Alexandria. It was probably
in contradistinction to the Greek notion of matter as co-eternal with
the Creator, that the Jews, to whom Jehovah was all in all, asserted,
for the first time deliberately, that God had made all things out of
nothing. This became afterwards the received and orthodox view of
Jewish and Christian divines, though the verb barâ, so far from
lending any support to this theory, would rather show that, in the
minds of those whom Moses addressed and whose language he spoke, it
could only have called forth the simple conception of fashioning or
arranging--if, indeed, it called forth any more definite conception
than the general and vague one conveyed by the ποιεῖν of the
Septuagint. To find out how the words of the Old Testament were
understood by those to whom they were originally addressed is a task
attempted by very few interpreters of the Bible. The great majority of
readers transfer without hesitation the ideas which they connect with
words as used in the nineteenth century to the mind of Moses or his
contemporaries, forgetting altogether the distance which divides their
language and their thoughts from the thoughts and language of the
wandering tribes of Israel.

How many words, again, there are in Homer which have indeed a traditional
interpretation, as given by our dictionaries and commentaries, but the
exact purport of which is completely lost, is best known to Greek scholars.
It is easy enough to translate πολἑμοιο γἑφυραι by the bridges of war, but
what Homer really meant by these γἑφυραι has never been explained. It is
extremely doubtful whether bridges, in our sense of the word, were known at
all at the time of Homer; and even if it could be proved that Homer used
γἑφυραι in the sense of a dam, the etymology, i. e., the earliest history
of the word, would still remain obscure and doubtful. It is easy, again, to
see that ἱερὁς in Greek means something like the English sacred. But how,
if it did so, the same adjective could likewise be applied to a fish or to
a chariot, is a question which, if it is to be answered at all, can only be
answered by an etymological analysis of the word.[48] To say that sacred
may mean marvellous, and therefore big, is saying nothing, particularly as
Homer does not speak of catching big fish, but of catching fish in general.

[Footnote 48: On ἱερὁς, the Sanskrit ishira, lively, see
Kuhn's 'Zeitschrift,' vol. ii. p. 275, vol. iii. p. 134.]

These considerations--which might be carried much further, but which,
we are afraid, have carried us away too far from our original
subject--were suggested to us while reading a lecture lately published
by Dr. Haug, and originally delivered by him at Bombay, in 1864,
before an almost exclusively Parsi audience. In that lecture Dr. Haug
gives a new translation of ten short paragraphs of the Zend-Avesta,
which he had explained and translated in his 'Essays on the Sacred
Language of the Parsees,' published in 1862. To an ordinary reader the
difference between the two translations, published within the space of
two years, might certainly be perplexing, and calculated to shake his
faith in the soundness of a method that can lead to such varying
results. Nor can it be denied that, if scholars who are engaged in
these researches are bent on representing their last translation as
final and as admitting of no further improvement, the public has a
right to remind them that 'finality' is as dangerous a thing in
scholarship as in politics. Considering the difficulty of translating
the pages of the Zend-Avesta, we can never hope to have every sentence
of it rendered into clear and intelligible English. Those who for the
first time reduced the sacred traditions of the Zoroastrians to
writing were separated by more than a thousand years from the time of
their original composition. After that came all the vicissitudes to
which manuscripts are exposed during the process of being copied by
more or less ignorant scribes. The most ancient MSS. of the
Zend-Avesta date from the beginning of the fourteenth century. It is
true there is an early translation of the Zend-Avesta, the Pehlevi
translation, and a later one in Sanskrit by Neriosengh. But the
Pehlevi translation, which was made under the auspices of the
Sassanian kings of Persia, served only to show how completely the
literal and grammatical meaning of the Zend-Avesta was lost even at
that time, in the third century after Christ; while the Sanskrit
translation was clearly made, not from the original, but from the
Pehlevi. It is true, also, that even in more modern times the Parsis
of Bombay were able to give to Anquetil Duperron and other Europeans
what they considered as a translation of the Zend-Avesta in modern
Persian. But a scholar like Burnouf, who endeavoured for the first
time to give an account of every word in the Zend text, to explain
each grammatical termination, to parse every sentence, and to
establish the true meaning of each term by an etymological analysis
and by a comparison of cognate words in Sanskrit, was able to derive
but scant assistance from these traditional translations. Professor
Spiegel, to whom we owe a complete edition and translation of the
Zend-Avesta, and who has devoted the whole of his life to the
elucidation of the Zoroastrian religion, attributes a higher value to
the tradition of the Parsis than Dr. Haug. But he also is obliged to
admit that he could ascribe no greater authority to these traditional
translations and glosses than a Biblical scholar might allow to
Rabbinical commentaries. All scholars are agreed in fact on this, that
whether the tradition be right or wrong, it requires in either case to
be confirmed by an independent grammatical and etymological analysis
of the original text. Such an analysis is no doubt as liable to error
as the traditional translation itself, but it possesses this
advantage, that it gives reasons for every word that has to be
translated, and for every sentence that has to be construed. It is an
excellent discipline to the mind even where the results at which we
arrive are doubtful or erroneous, and it has imparted to these studies
a scientific value and general interest which they could not otherwise
have acquired.

We shall give a few specimens of the translations proposed by
different scholars of one or two verses of the Zend-Avesta. We cannot
here enter into the grammatical arguments by which each of these
translations is supported. We only wish to show what is the present
state of Zend scholarship, and though we would by no means disguise
the fact of its somewhat chaotic character, yet we do not hesitate to
affirm that, in spite of the conflict of the opinions of different
scholars, and in spite of the fluctuation of systems apparently
opposed to each other, progress may be reported, and a firm hope
expressed that the essential doctrines of one of the earliest forms of
religion may in time be recovered and placed before us in their
original purity and simplicity. We begin with the Pehlevi translation
of a passage in Ya_s_na, 45:

     'Thus the religion is to be proclaimed; now give an
     attentive hearing, and now listen, that is, keep your ear in
     readiness, make your works and speeches gentle. Those who
     have wished from nigh and far to study the religion, may now
     do so. For now all is manifest, that Anhuma (Ormazd)
     created, that Anhuma created all these beings; that at the
     second time, at the (time of the) future body, Aharman does
     not destroy (the life of) the worlds. Aharman made evil
     desire and wickedness to spread through his tongue.'

Professor Spiegel, in 1859, translated the same passage, of which the
Pehlevi is a running commentary rather than a literal rendering, as

     'Now I will tell you, lend me your ear, now hear what you
     desired, you that came from near and from afar! It is clear,
     the wise (spirits) have created all things; evil doctrine
     shall not for a second time destroy the world. The Evil One
     has made a bad choice with his tongue.'

Next follows the translation of the passage as published by Dr. Haug
in 1862:

     'All ye, who have come from nigh and far, listen now and
     hearken to my speech. Now I will tell you all about that
     pair of spirits how it is known to the wise. Neither the
     ill-speaker (the devil) shall destroy the second (spiritual)
     life, nor that man who, being a liar with his tongue,
     professes the false (idolatrous) belief.'

The same scholar, in 1865, translates the same passage somewhat

     'All you that have come from near and far should now listen
     and hearken to what I shall proclaim. Now the wise have
     manifested this universe as a duality. Let not the
     mischief-maker destroy the second life, since he, the
     wicked, chose with his tongue the pernicious doctrine.'

The principal difficulty in this paragraph consists in the word which
Dr. Haug translated by duality, viz. dûm, and which he identifies with
Sanskrit dvam, i. e. dvandvam, pair. Such a word, as far as we are
aware, does not occur again in the Zend-Avesta, and hence it is not
likely that the uncertainty attaching to its meaning will ever be
removed. Other interpreters take it as a verb in the second person
plural, and hence the decided difference of interpretation.

The sixth paragraph of the same passage is explained by the Pehlevi
translator as follows:

     'Thus I proclaimed that among all things the greatest is to
     worship God. The praise of purity is (due) to him who has a
     good knowledge, (to those) who depend on Ormazd. I hear
     Spentô-mainyu (who is) Ormazd; listen to me, to what I shall
     speak (unto you). Whose worship is intercourse with the Good
     Mind; one can know (experience) the divine command to do
     good through inquiry after what is good. That which is in
     the intellect they teach me as the best, viz. the inborn
     (heavenly) wisdom, (that is, that the divine wisdom is
     superior to the human).'

Professor Spiegel translates:

     'Now I will tell you of all things the greatest. It is
     praise with purity of Him who is wise from those who exist.
     The holiest heavenly being, Ahuramazda, may hear it, He for
     whose praise inquiry is made from the holy spirit, may He
     teach me the best by his intelligence.'

Dr. Haug in 1862:

     'Thus I will tell you of the greatest of all (Sraosha), who
     is praising the truth, and doing good, and of all who are
     gathered round him (to assist him), by order of the holy
     spirit (Ahuramazda). The living Wise may hear me; by means
     of His goodness the good mind increases (in the world). He
     may lead me with the best of his wisdom.'

Dr. Haug in 1865:

     'I will proclaim as the greatest of all things that one
     should be good, praising only truth. Ahuramazda will hear
     those who are bent on furthering (all that is good). May he
     whose goodness is communicated by the Good Mind instruct me
     in his best wisdom.'

To those who are interested in the study of Zend, and wish to judge
for themselves of the trustworthiness of these various translations,
we can recommend a most useful work lately published in Germany by Dr.
F. Justi, 'Handbuch der Zendsprache,' containing a complete
dictionary, a grammar, and selections from the Zend-Avesta.

_September, 1865._



O that scholars could have the benefit of a little legal training, and
learn at least the difference between what is probable and what is
proven! What an advantage also, if they had occasionally to address a
jury of respectable tradespeople, and were forced to acquire the art,
or rather not to shrink from the effort, of putting the most intricate
and delicate points in the simplest and clearest form of which they
admit! What a lesson again it would be to men of independent research,
if, after having amassed ever so many bags full of evidence, they had
always before their eyes the fear of an impatient judge who wants to
hear nothing but what is important and essential, and hates to listen
to anything that is not to the point, however carefully it may have
been worked out, and however eloquently it may be laid before him!
There is hardly one book published now-a-days which, if everything in
it that is not to the purpose were left out, could not be reduced to
half its size. If authors could make up their minds to omit everything
that is only meant to display their learning, to exhibit the
difficulties they had to overcome, or to call attention to the
ignorance of their predecessors, many a volume of thirty sheets would
collapse into a pamphlet of fifty pages, though in that form it would
probably produce a much greater effect than in its more inflated

[Footnote 49: 'Erân, das Land zwischen dem Indus und Tigris, Beiträge
zur Kenntniss des Landes und seiner Geschichte.' Von Dr. Friedrich
Spiegel. Berlin, 1863.]

Did the writers of the Old Testament borrow anything from the
Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, or the Indians, is a simple
enough question. It is a question that may be treated quite apart from
any theological theories; for the Old Testament, whatever view the
Jews may take of its origin, may surely be regarded by the historian
as a really historical book, written at a certain time in the history
of the world, in a language then spoken and understood, and
proclaiming certain facts and doctrines meant to be acceptable and
intelligible to the Jews, such as they were at that time, an
historical nation, holding a definite place by the side of their more
or less distant neighbours, whether Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, or
Indians. It is well known that we have in the language of the New
Testament the clear vestiges of Greek and Roman influences, and if we
knew nothing of the historical intercourse between those two nations
and the writers of the New Testament, the very expressions used by
them--not only their language, but their thoughts, their allusions,
illustrations, and similes--would enable us to say that some
historical contact had taken place between the philosophers of Greece,
the lawgivers of Rome, and the people of Judea. Why then should not
the same question be asked with regard to more ancient times? Why
should there be any hesitation in pointing out in the Old Testament an
Egyptian custom, or a Greek word, or a Persian conception? If Moses
was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, nothing surely would
stamp his writings as more truly historical than traces of Egyptian
influences that might be discovered in his laws. If Daniel prospered
in the reign of Cyrus the Persian, every Persian word that could be
discovered in Daniel would be most valuable in the eyes of a critical
historian. The only thing which we may fairly require in
investigations of this kind is that the facts should be clearly
established. The subject is surely an important one--important
historically, quite apart from any theological consequences that may
be supposed to follow. It is as important to find out whether the
authors of the Old Testament had come in contact with the language and
ideas of Babylon, Persia, or Egypt, as it is to know that the Jews, at
the time of our Lord's appearance, had been reached by the rays of
Greek and Roman civilisation--that in fact our Lord, his disciples,
and many of his followers, spoke Greek as well as Hebrew (i. e.
Chaldee), and were no strangers to that sphere of thought in which the
world of the Gentiles, the Greeks, and Romans had been moving for

Hints have been thrown out from time to time by various writers that
certain ideas in the Old Testament might be ascribed to Persian
influences, and be traced back to the Zend-Avesta, the sacred writings
of Zoroaster. Much progress has been made in the deciphering of these
ancient documents, since Anquetil Duperron brought the first
instalment of MSS. from Bombay, and since the late Eugène Burnouf, in
his 'Commentaire sur le Yasna,' succeeded in establishing the grammar
and dictionary of the Zend language upon a safe basis. Several
editions of the works of Zoroaster have been published in France,
Denmark, and Germany; and after the labours of Spiegel, Westergaard,
Haug, and others, it might be supposed that such a question as the
influence of Persian ideas on the writers of the Old Testament might
at last be answered either in the affirmative or in the negative. We
were much pleased, therefore, on finding that Professor Spiegel, the
learned editor and translator of the Avesta, had devoted a chapter of
his last work, 'Erân, das Land zwischen dem Indus und Tigris,' to the
problem in question. We read his chapter, 'Avesta und die Genesis,
oder die Beziehungen der Eranier zu den Semiten,' with the warmest
interest, and when we had finished it, we put down the book with the
very exclamation with which we began our article.

We do not mean to say anything disrespectful to Professor Spiegel, a
scholar brimfull of learning, and one of the two or three men who know
the Avesta by heart. He is likewise a good Semitic scholar, and knows
enough of Hebrew to form an independent opinion on the language,
style, and general character of the different books of the Old
Testament. He brings together in his Essay a great deal of interesting
information, and altogether would seem to be one of the most valuable
witnesses to give evidence on the point in question. Yet suppose him
for a moment in a court of justice where, as in a patent case, some
great issue depends on the question whether certain ideas had first
been enunciated by the author of Genesis or the author of the Avesta;
suppose him subjected to a cross-examination by a brow-beating lawyer,
whose business it is to disbelieve and make others disbelieve every
assertion that the witness makes, and we are afraid the learned
Professor would break down completely. Now it may be said that this is
not the spirit in which learned inquiries should be conducted, that
authors have a right to a certain respect, and may reckon on a certain
amount of willingness on the part of their readers. Such a plea may,
perhaps, be urged when all preliminary questions in a contest have
been disposed of, when all the evidence has been proved to lie in one
direction, and when even the most obstinate among the gentlemen of the
jury feel that the verdict is as good as settled. But in a question
like this, where everything is doubtful, or, we should rather say,
where all the prepossessions are against the view which Dr. Spiegel
upholds, it is absolutely necessary for a new witness to be armed from
top to toe, to lay himself open to no attack, to measure his words,
and advance step by step in a straight line to the point that has to
be reached. A writer like Dr. Spiegel should know that he can expect
no mercy; nay, he should himself wish for no mercy, but invite the
heaviest artillery against the floating battery which he has launched
into the troubled waters of Biblical criticism. If he feels that his
case is not strong enough, the wisest plan surely is to wait, to
accumulate new strength if possible, or, if no new evidence is
forthcoming, to acknowledge openly that there is no case.

M. Bréal--who, in his interesting Essay 'Hercule et Cacus,' has lately
treated the same problem, the influence of Persian ideas on the
writers of the Old Testament--gives an excellent example of how a case
of this kind should be argued. He begins with the apocryphal books,
and he shows that the name of an evil spirit like Asmodeus, which
occurs in Tobit, could be borrowed from Persia only. It is a name
inexplicable in Hebrew, and it represents very closely the Parsi
Eshem-dev, the Zend Aêshma daêva, the spirit of concupiscence,
mentioned several times in the Avesta (Vendidad, c. 10), as one of the
devs, or evil spirits. Now this is the kind of evidence we want for
the Old Testament. We can easily discover a French word in English,
nor is it difficult to tell a Persian word in Hebrew. Are there any
Persian words in Genesis, words of the same kind as Asmodeus in Tobit?
No such evidence has been brought forward, and the only words we can
think of which, if not Persian, may be considered of Aryan origin, are
the names of such rivers as Tigris and Euphrates; and of countries
such as Ophir and Havilah among the descendants of Shem, Javan,
Meshech, and others among the descendants of Japhet. These names are
probably foreign names, and as such naturally mentioned by the author
of Genesis in their foreign form. If there are other words of Aryan or
Iranian origin in Genesis, they ought to have occupied the most
prominent place in Dr. Spiegel's pleading.

We now proceed, and we are again quite willing to admit that, even
without the presence of Persian words, the presence of Persian ideas
might be detected by careful analysis. No doubt this is a much more
delicate process, yet, as we can discover Jewish and Christian ideas
in the Koran, there ought to be no insurmountable difficulty in
pointing out any Persian ingredients in Genesis, however disguised and
assimilated. Only, before we look for such ideas, it is necessary to
show the channel through which they could possibly have flowed either
from the Avesta into Genesis, or from Genesis into the Avesta. History
shows us clearly how Persian words and ideas could have found their
way into such late works as Tobit, or even into the book of Daniel,
whether he prospered in the reign of Darius, or in the reign of Cyrus
the Persian. But how did Persians and Jews come in contact, previously
to the age of Cyrus? Dr. Spiegel says that Zoroaster was born in
Arran. This name is given by mediæval Mohammedan writers to the plain
washed by the Araxes, and was identified by Anquetil Duperron with the
name Airyana vaê_g_a, which the Zend-Avesta gives to the first created
land of Ormuzd. The Parsis place this sacred country in the vicinity
of Atropatene, and it is clearly meant as the northernmost country
known to the author or authors of the Zend-Avesta. We think that Dr.
Spiegel is right in defending the geographical position assigned by
tradition to Airyana vaê_g_a, against modern theories that would place
it more eastward in the plain of Pamer, nor do we hesitate to admit
that the name (Airyana vaê_g_a, i. e. the seed of the Aryan) might
have been changed into Arran. We likewise acknowledge the force of the
arguments by which he shows that the books now called Zend-Avesta were
composed in the Eastern, and not in the Western, provinces of the
Persian monarchy, though we are hardly prepared to subscribe at once
to his conclusion (p. 270) that, because Zoroaster is placed by the
Avesta and by later traditions in Arran, or the Western provinces, he
could not possibly be the author of the Avesta, a literary production
which would appear to belong exclusively to the Eastern provinces.
The very tradition to which Dr. Spiegel appeals represents Zoroaster
as migrating from Arran to Balkh, to the court of Gustasp, the son of
Lohrasp; and, as one tradition has as much value as another, we might
well admit that the work of Zoroaster, as a religious teacher, began
in Balkh, and from thence extended still further East. But admitting
that Arran, the country washed by the Araxes, was the birthplace of
Zoroaster, can we possibly follow Dr. Spiegel when he says, Arran
seems to be identical with Haran, the birthplace of Abraham? Does he
mean the names to be identical? Then how are the aspirate and the
double r to be explained? how is it to be accounted for that the
mediæval corruption of Airyana vaê_g_a, namely Arran, should appear in
Genesis? And if the dissimilarity of the two names is waived, is it
possible in two lines to settle the much contested situation of Haran,
and thus to determine the ancient watershed between the Semitic and
Aryan nations? The Abbé Banier, more than a hundred years ago, pointed
out that Haran, whither Abraham repaired, was the metropolis of
Sabism, and that Magism was practised in Ur of the Chaldees
('Mythology, explained by History,' vol. i. book iii. cap. 3). Dr.
Spiegel having, as he believes, established the most ancient
meeting-point between Abraham and Zoroaster, proceeds to argue that
whatever ideas are shared in common by Genesis and the Avesta must be
referred to that very ancient period when personal intercourse was
still possible between Abraham and Zoroaster, the prophets of the Jews
and the Iranians. Now, here the counsel for the defence would remind
Dr. Spiegel that Genesis was not the work of Abraham, nor, according
to Dr. Spiegel's view, was Zoroaster the author of the Zend-Avesta;
and that therefore the neighbourly intercourse between Zoroaster and
Abraham in the country of Arran had nothing to do with the ideas
shared in common by Genesis and the Avesta. But even if we admitted,
for argument's sake, that as Dr. Spiegel puts it, the Avesta contains
Zoroastrian and Genesis Abrahamitic ideas, surely there was ample
opportunity for Jewish ideas to find admission into what we call the
Avesta, or for Iranian ideas to find admission into Genesis, after the
date of Abraham and Zoroaster, and before the time when we find the
first MSS. of Genesis and the Avesta. The Zend MSS. of the Avesta are
very modern, so are the Hebrew MSS. of Genesis, which do not carry us
beyond the tenth century after Christ. The text of the Avesta,
however, can be checked by the Pehlevi translation, which was made
under the Sassanian dynasty (226-651 A.D.), just as the text of
Genesis can be checked by the Septuagint translation, which was made
in the third century before Christ. Now, it is known that about the
same time and in the same place--namely at Alexandria--where the Old
Testament was rendered into Greek, the Avesta also was translated into
the same language, so that we have at Alexandria in the third century
B.C. a well established historical contact between the believers in
Genesis and the believers in the Avesta, and an easy opening for that
exchange of ideas which, according to Dr. Spiegel, could have taken
place nowhere but in Arran, and at the time of Abraham and Zoroaster.
It might be objected that this was wrangling for victory, and not
arguing for truth, and that no real scholar would admit that the
Avesta, in its original form, did not go back to a much earlier date
than the third century before Christ. Yet, when such a general
principle is to be laid down, that all that Genesis and Avesta share
in common must belong to a time before Abraham had started for Canaan,
and Zoroaster for Balkh, other possible means of later intercourse
should surely not be entirely lost sight of.

For what happens? The very first tradition that is brought forward as
one common to both these ancient works--namely, that of the Four Ages
of the World--is confessedly found in the later writings only of the
Parsis, and cannot be traced back in its definite shape beyond the
time of the Sassanians (Erân, p. 275). Indications of it are said to
be found in the earlier writings, but these indications are extremely
vague. But we must advance a step further, and, after reading very
carefully the three pages devoted to this subject by Dr. Spiegel, we
must confess we see no similarity whatever on that point between
Genesis and the Avesta. In Genesis, the Four Ages have never assumed
the form of a theory, as in India, Persia, or perhaps in Greece. If we
say that the period from Adam to Noah is the first, that from Noah to
Abraham the second, that from Abraham to the death of Jacob the third,
that beginning with the exile in Egypt the fourth, we are transferring
our ideas to Genesis, but we cannot say that the writer of Genesis
himself laid a peculiar stress on this fourfold division. The Parsis,
on the contrary, have a definite system. According to them the world
is to last 12,000 years. During the first period of 3,000 years the
world was created. During the second period Gayo-maratan, the first
man lived by himself, without suffering from the attacks of evil.
During the third period of 3,000 years the war between good and evil,
between Ormuzd and Ahriman, began with the utmost fierceness; and it
will gradually abate during the fourth period of 3,000 years, which is
still to elapse before the final victory of good. Where here is the
similarity between Genesis and the Avesta? We are referred by Dr.
Spiegel to Dr. Windischmann's 'Zoroastrian Studies,' and to his
discovery that there are ten generations between Adam and Noah, as
there are ten generations between Yima and Thraêtaona; that there are
twelve generations between Shem and Isaac, as there are twelve between
Thraêtaona and Manus_k_itra; and that there are thirteen generations
between Isaac and David, as there are thirteen between Manus_k_itra
and Zarathustra. What has the learned counsel for the defence to say
to this? First, that the name of Shem is put by mistake for that of
Noah. Secondly, that Yima, who is here identified with Adam, is never
represented in the Avesta as the first man, but is preceded there by
numerous ancestors, and surrounded by numerous subjects, who are not
his offspring. Thirdly, that in order to establish in Genesis three
periods of ten, twelve, and thirteen generations, it is necessary to
count Isaac, who clearly belongs to the third, as a member of the
second, so that in reality the number of generations is the same in
one only out of the three periods, which surely proves nothing. As to
any similarity between the Four Yugas of the Brahmans and the Four
Ages of the Parsis, we can only say that, if it exists, no one has as
yet brought it out. The Greeks, again, who are likewise said to share
the primitive doctrine of the Four Ages, believe really in five, and
not in four, and separate them in a manner which does not in the
least remind us of Hindu Yugas, Hebrew patriarchs, or the battle
between Ormuzd and Ahriman.

We proceed to a second point--the Creation as related in Genesis and
the Avesta. Here we certainly find some curious coincidences. The
world is created in six days in Genesis, and in six periods in the
Avesta, which six periods together form one year. In Genesis the
creation ends with the creation of man, so it does in the Avesta. On
all other points Dr. Spiegel admits the two accounts differ, but they
are said to agree again in the temptation and the fall. As Dr. Spiegel
has not given the details of the temptation and the fall from the
Avesta, we cannot judge of the points which he considers to be
borrowed by the Jews from the Persians; but if we consult M. Bréal,
who has treated the same subject more fully in his 'Hercule et Cacus,'
we find there no more than this, that the Dualism of the Avesta, the
struggle between Ormuzd and Ahriman, or the principles of light and
darkness, is to be considered as the distant reflex of the grand
struggle between Indra, the god of the sky, and V_r_itra, the demon of
night and darkness, which forms the constant burden of the hymns of
the Rig-veda. In this view there is some truth, but we doubt whether
it fully exhibits the vital principle of the Zoroastrian religion,
which is founded on a solemn protest against the whole worship of the
powers of nature invoked in the Vedas, and on the recognition of one
supreme power, the God of Light, in every sense of the word--the
spirit Ahura, who created the world and rules it, and defends it
against the power of evil. That power of evil which in the most
ancient portions of the Avesta has not yet received the name of
Ahriman (i. e. angro mainyus), may afterwards have assumed some of the
epithets which in an earlier period were bestowed on V_r_itra and
other enemies of the bright gods, and among them, it may have assumed
the name of serpent. But does it follow, because the principle of evil
in the Avesta is called serpent, or azhi dahâka, that therefore the
serpent mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis must be borrowed
from Persia? Neither in the Veda nor in the Avesta does the serpent
ever assume that subtil and insinuating form as in Genesis; and the
curse pronounced on it, 'to be cursed above all cattle, and above
every beast of the field,' is not in keeping with the relation of
V_r_itra to Indra, or Ahriman to Ormuzd, who face each other almost as
equals. In later books, such as 1 Chronicles xxi. 1, where Satan is
mentioned as provoking David to number Israel (the very same
provocation which in 2 Samuel xxiv. 1 is ascribed to the anger of the
Lord moving David to number Israel and Judah), and in all the passages
of the New Testament where the power of evil is spoken of as a person,
we may admit the influence of Persian ideas and Persian expressions,
though even here strict proof is by no means easy. As to the serpent
in Paradise, it is a conception that might have sprung up among the
Jews as well as among the Brahmans; and the serpent that beguiled Eve
seems hardly to invite comparison with the much grander conceptions of
the terrible power of V_r_itra and Ahriman in the Veda and Avesta.

Dr. Spiegel next discusses the similarity between the Garden of Eden
and the Paradise of the Zoroastrians, and though he admits that here
again he relies chiefly on the Bundehesh, a work of the Sassanian
period, he maintains that that work may well be compared to Genesis,
because it contains none but really ancient traditions. We do not for
a moment deny that this may be so, but in a case like the present,
where everything depends on exact dates, we decline to listen to such
a plea. We value Dr. Spiegel's translations from the Bundehesh most
highly, and we believe with him (p. 283) that there is little doubt as
to the Pishon being the Indus, and the Gihon the Jaxartes. The
identification, too, of the Persian river-name Ranha (the Vedic Rasâ)
with the Araxes, the name given by Herodotus (i. 202) to the Jaxartes,
seems very ingenious and well established. But we should still like to
know why and in what language the Indus was first called Pishon, and
the Jaxartes, or, it may be, the Oxus, Gihon.

We next come to the two trees in the garden of Eden, the tree of
knowledge and the tree of life. Dr. Windischmann has shown that the
Iranians, too, were acquainted with two trees, one called Gaokerena,
bearing the white Haoma, the other called the Painless tree. We are
told first that these two trees are the same as the one fig tree out
of which the Indians believe the world to have been created. Now,
first of all, the Indians believed no such thing, and secondly, there
is the same difference between one and two trees as there is between
North and South. But we confess that until we know a good deal more
about these two trees of the Iranians, we feel no inclination whatever
to compare the Painless tree and the tree of knowledge of good and
evil, though perhaps the white Haoma tree might remind us of the tree
of life, considering that Haoma, as well as the Indian Soma, was
supposed to give immortality to those who drank its juice. We
likewise consider the comparison of the Cherubim who keep the way of
the tree of life and the guardians of the Soma in the Veda and Avesta,
as deserving attention, and we should like to see the etymological
derivation of Cherubim from γρὑφες, Greifen, and of Seraphim
from the Sanskrit sarpa, serpents, either confirmed or refuted.

The Deluge is not mentioned in the sacred writings of the
Zoroastrians, nor in the hymns of the Rig-veda. It is mentioned,
however, in one of the latest Brâhma_n_as, and the carefully balanced
arguments of Burnouf, who considered the tradition of the Deluge as
borrowed by the Indians from Semitic neighbours, seem to us to be
strengthened, rather than weakened, by the isolated appearance of the
story of the Deluge in this one passage out of the whole of the Vedic
literature. Nothing, however, has yet been pointed out to force us to
admit a Semitic origin for the story of the Flood, as told in the
_S_atapatha-brâhma_n_a, and afterwards repeated in the Mahâbhârata and
the Purâ_n_as: the number of days being really the only point on which
the two accounts startle us by their agreement.

That Noah's ark rested upon the mountain of Ararat, and that Ararat
may admit of a Persian etymology, is nothing to the point. The
etymology itself is ingenious, but no more. The same remark applies to
all the rest of Dr. Spiegel's arguments. Thraêtaona, who has before
been compared to Noah, divided his land among his three sons, and gave
Iran to the youngest, an injustice which exasperated his brothers, who
murdered him. Now it is true that Noah, too, had three sons, but here
the similarity ends; for that Terach had three sons, and that one of
them only, Abram, took possession of the land of promise, and that of
the two sons of Isaac, the youngest became the heir, is again of no
consequence for our immediate purpose, though it may remind Dr.
Spiegel and others of the history of Thraêtaona. We agree with Dr.
Spiegel, that Zoroaster's character resembles most closely the true
Semitic notion of a prophet. He is considered worthy of personal
intercourse with Ormuzd; he receives from Ormuzd every word, though
not, as Dr. Spiegel says, every letter of the law. But if Zoroaster
was a real character, so was Abraham, and their being like each other
proves in no way that they lived in the same place, or at the same
time, or that they borrowed aught one from the other. What Dr. Spiegel
says of the Persian name of the Deity, Ahura, is very doubtful. Ahura,
he says, as well as ahu, means lord, and must be traced back to the
root ah, the Sanskrit as, which means to be, so that Ahura would
signify the same as Jahve, he who is. The root 'as' no doubt means to
be, but it has that meaning because it originally meant to breathe.
From it, in its original sense of breathing, the Hindus formed asu,
breath, and asura, the name of God, whether it meant the breathing
one, or the giver of breath. This asura became in Zend ahura, and if
it assumed the general meaning of Lord, this is as much a secondary
meaning as the meaning of demon or evil spirit, which asura assumed in
the later Sanskrit of the Brâhma_n_as.

After this, Dr. Spiegel proceeds to sum up his evidence. He has no
more to say, but he believes that he has proved the following points:
a very early intercourse between Semitic and Aryan nations; a common
belief shared by both in a paradise situated near the sources of the
Oxus and Jaxartes; the dwelling together of Abraham and Zoroaster in
Haran, Arran, or Airyana vaê_g_a. Semitic and Aryan nations, he tells
us, still live together in those parts of the world, and so it was
from the beginning. As the form of the Jewish traditions comes nearer
to the Persian than to the Indian traditions, we are asked to believe
that these two races lived in the closest contact before, from this
ancient hearth of civilisation, they started towards the West and the
East--that is to say, before Abraham migrated to Canaan, and before
India was peopled by the Brahmans.

We have given a fair account of Dr. Spiegel's arguments, and we need
not say that we should have hailed with equal pleasure any solid facts
by which to establish either the dependence of Genesis on the
Zend-Avesta, or the dependence of the Zend-Avesta on Genesis. It would
be absurd to resist facts where facts exist; nor can we imagine any
reason why, if Abraham came into personal contact with Zoroaster, the
Jewish patriarch should have learnt nothing from the Iranian prophet,
or vice versâ. If such an intercourse could be established, it would
but serve to strengthen the historical character of the books of the
Old Testament, and would be worth more than all the elaborate theories
that have been started on the purely miraculous origin of these books.
But though we by no means deny that some more tangible points of
resemblance may yet be discovered between the Old Testament and the
Zend-Avesta, we must protest against having so interesting and so
important a matter handled in such an unbusinesslike manner.

_April, 1864._




It is not fair to speak of any religious sect by a name to which its
members object. Yet the fashion of speaking of the followers of
Zoroaster as Fire-worshippers is so firmly established that it will
probably continue long after the last believers in Ormuzd have
disappeared from the face of the earth. At the present moment, the
number of the Zoroastrians has dwindled down so much that they hardly
find a place in the religious statistics of the world. Berghaus in his
'Physical Atlas' gives the following division of the human race
according to religion:

Buddhists          31.2 per cent.
Christians         30.7    "
Mohammedans        15.7    "
Brahmanists        13.4    "
Heathens            8.7    "
Jews                0.3    "

[Footnote 50: 'The Manners and Customs of the Parsees.' By Dadabhai
Naoroji, Esq. Liverpool, 1861.

'The Parsee Religion,' By Dadabhai Naoroji, Esq. Liverpool, 1861.]

He nowhere states the number of the Fire-worshippers, nor does he tell
us under what head they are comprised in his general computation. The
difficulties of a religious census are very great, particularly when
we have to deal with Eastern nations. About two hundred years ago,
travellers estimated the Gabars (as they are called in Persia) at
eighty thousand families, or about 400,000 souls. At present the
Parsis in Western India amount to about 100,000, to which, if we add
5,500 in Yazd and Kirman, we get a total of 105,500. The number of the
Jews is commonly estimated at 3,600,000; and if they represent 0.3 per
cent of mankind, the Fire-worshippers could not claim at present more
than about 0.01 per cent of the whole population of the earth. Yet
there were periods in the history of the world when the worship of
Ormuzd threatened to rise triumphant on the ruins of the temples of
all other gods. If the battles of Marathon and Salamis had been lost,
and Greece had succumbed to Persia, the state religion of the empire
of Cyrus, which was the worship of Ormuzd, might have become the
religion of the whole civilised world. Persia had absorbed the
Assyrian and Babylonian empires; the Jews were either in Persian
captivity or under Persian sway at home; the sacred monuments of Egypt
had been mutilated by the hands of Persian soldiers. The edicts of the
great king, the king of kings, were sent to India, to Greece, to
Scythia, and to Egypt; and if 'by the grace of Auramazda' Darius had
crushed the liberty of Greece, the purer faith of Zoroaster might
easily have superseded the Olympian fables. Again, under the Sassanian
dynasty (226-651 A.D.) the revived national faith of the Zoroastrians
assumed such vigour that Shapur II, like another Diocletian, could
aim at the extirpation of the Christian faith. The sufferings of the
persecuted Christians in the East were as terrible as they had ever
been in the West; nor was it by the weapons of Roman emperors or by
the arguments of Christian divines that the fatal blow was dealt to
the throne of Cyrus and the altars of Ormuzd. The power of Persia was
broken at last by the Arabs; and it is due to them that the religion
of Ormuzd, once the terror of the world, is now, and has been for the
last thousand years, a mere curiosity in the eyes of the historian.

The sacred writings of the Zoroastrians, commonly called the
Zend-Avesta, have for about a century occupied the attention of
European scholars, and, thanks to the adventurous devotion of Anquetil
Duperron, and the careful researches of Rask, Burnouf, Westergaard,
Spiegel, and Haug, we have gradually been enabled to read and
interpret what remains of the ancient language of the Persian
religion. The problem was not an easy one, and had it not been for the
new light which the science of language has shed on the laws of human
speech, it would have been as impossible to Burnouf as it was to Hyde,
the celebrated Professor of Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford, to interpret
with grammatical accuracy the ancient remnants of Zoroaster's
doctrine. How that problem was solved is well known to all who take an
interest in the advancement of modern scholarship. It was as great an
achievement as the deciphering of the cuneiform edicts of Darius; and
no greater compliment could have been paid to Burnouf and his
fellow-labourers than that scholars, without inclination to test their
method, and without leisure to follow these indefatigable pioneers
through all the intricate paths of their researches, should have
pronounced the deciphering of the ancient Zend as well as of the
ancient Persian of the Achæmenian period to be impossible, incredible,
and next to miraculous.

While the scholars of Europe are thus engaged in disinterring the
ancient records of the religion of Zoroaster, it is of interest to
learn what has become of that religion in those few settlements where
it is still professed by small communities. Though every religion is
of real and vital interest in its earliest state only, yet its later
development too, with all its misunderstandings, faults, and
corruptions, offers many an instructive lesson to the thoughtful
student of history. Here is a religion, one of the most ancient of the
world, once the state religion of the most powerful empire, driven
away from its native soil, deprived of political influence, without
even the prestige of a powerful or enlightened priesthood, and yet
professed by a handful of exiles--men of wealth, intelligence, and
moral worth in Western India--with an unhesitating fervour such as is
seldom to be found in larger religious communities. It is well worth
the serious consideration of the philosopher and the divine to
discover, if possible, the spell by which this apparently effete
religion continues to command the attachment of the enlightened Parsis
of India, and makes them turn a deaf ear to the allurements of the
Brahmanic worship and the earnest appeals of Christian missionaries.
We believe that to many of our readers the two pamphlets, lately
published by a distinguished member of the Parsi community, Mr.
Dadabhai Naoroji, Professor of Guzerati at University College,
London, will open many problems of a more than passing interest. One
is a Paper read before the Liverpool Philomathic Society, 'On the
Manners and Customs of the Parsees;' the other is a Lecture delivered
before the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Society, 'On the
Parsee Religion.'

In the first of these pamphlets, we are told that the small community
of Parsis in Western India is at the present moment divided into two
parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals. Both are equally attached
to the faith of their ancestors, but they differ from each other in
their modes of life--the Conservatives clinging to all that is
established and customary, however absurd and mischievous, the
Liberals desiring to throw off the abuses of former ages, and to avail
themselves, as much as is consistent with their religion and their
Oriental character, of the advantages of European civilisation. 'If I
say,' writes our informant, 'that the Parsees use tables, knives and
forks, &c., for taking their dinners, it would be true with regard to
one portion, and entirely untrue with regard to another. In one house
you see in the dining-room the dinner table furnished with all the
English apparatus for its agreeable purposes; next door, perhaps, you
see the gentleman perfectly satisfied with his primitive good old mode
of squatting on a piece of mat, with a large brass or copper plate
(round, and of the size of an ordinary tray) before him, containing
all the dishes of his dinner, spread on it in small heaps, and placed
upon a stool about two or three inches high, with a small tinned
copper cup at his side for his drinks, and his fingers for his knives
and forks. He does this, not because he cannot afford to have a
table, &c., but because he would not have them in preference to his
ancestral mode of life, or, perhaps, the thought has not occurred to
him that he need have anything of the kind.'

Instead, therefore, of giving a general description of Parsi life at
present, Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji gives us two distinct accounts--first of
the old, secondly of the new school. He describes the incidents in the
daily life of a Parsi of the old school, from the moment he gets out
of bed to the time of his going to rest, and the principal ceremonies
from the hour of his birth to the hour of his burial. Although we can
gather from the tenour of his writings that the author himself belongs
to the Liberals, we must give him credit for the fairness with which
he describes the party to which he is opposed. There is no sneer, no
expression of contempt anywhere, even when, as in the case of the
Nirang, the temptation must have been considerable. What this Nirang
is we may best state in the words of the writer:

     'The Nirang is the urine of cow, ox, or she-goat, and the
     rubbing of it over the face and hands is the second thing a
     Parsee does after getting out of bed. Either before applying
     the Nirang to the face and hands, or while it remains on the
     hands after being applied, he should not touch anything
     directly with his hands; but, in order to wash out the
     Nirang, he either asks somebody else to pour water on his
     hands, or resorts to the device of taking hold of the pot
     through the intervention of a piece of cloth, such as a
     handkerchief or his Sudrâ, i. e. his blouse. He first pours
     water on one hand, then takes the pot in that hand and
     washes his other hand, face and feet.'

Strange as this process of purification may appear, it becomes
perfectly disgusting when we are told that women, after childbirth,
have not only to undergo this sacred ablution, but have actually to
drink a little of the Nirang, and that the same rite is imposed on
children at the time of their investiture with the Sudrâ and Kusti,
the badges of the Zoroastrian faith. The Liberal party have completely
surrendered this objectionable custom, but the old school still keep
it up, though their faith, as Dadabhai Naoroji says, in the efficacy
of Nirang to drive away Satan may be shaken. 'The Reformers,' our
author writes, 'maintain that there is no authority whatever in the
original books of Zurthosht for the observance of this dirty practice,
but that it is altogether a later introduction. The old adduce the
authority of the works of some of the priests of former days, and say
the practice ought to be observed. They quote one passage from the
Zend-Avesta corroborative of their opinion, which their opponents deny
as at all bearing upon the point.' Here, whatever our own feelings may
be about the Nirang, truth obliges us to side with the old school, and
if our author had consulted the ninth Fasgard of the Vendidad (page
120, line 21, in Brockhaus's edition), he would have seen that both
the drinking and the rubbing in of the so-called Gaomaezo--i. e.
Nirang--are clearly enjoined by Zoroaster in certain purificatory
rights. The custom rests, therefore, not only on the authority of a
few priests of former days, but on the ipsissima verba of the
Zend-Avesta, the revealed word of Ormuzd; and if, as Dadabhai Naoroji
writes, the Reformers of the day will not go beyond abolishing and
disavowing the ceremonies and notions that have no authority in the
original Zend-Avesta, we are afraid that the washing with Nirang, and
even the drinking of it, will have to be maintained. A pious Parsi has
to say his prayers sixteen times at least every day--first on getting
out of bed, then during the Nirang operation, again when he takes his
bath, again when he cleanses his teeth, and when he has finished his
morning ablutions. The same prayers are repeated whenever, during the
day, a Parsi has to wash his hands. Every meal--and there are
three--begins and ends with prayer, besides the grace, and before
going to bed the work of the day is closed by a prayer. The most
extraordinary thing is that none of the Parsis--not even their
priests--understand the ancient language in which these prayers are
composed. We must quote the words of our author, who is himself of the
priestly caste, and who says:

     'All prayers, on every occasion, are said, or rather
     recited, in the old original Zend language, neither the
     reciter nor the people around intended to be edified,
     understanding a word of it. There is no pulpit among the
     Parsees. On several occasions, as on the occasion of the
     Ghumbars, the bimestral holidays, the third day's ceremonies
     for the dead, and other religious or special holidays, there
     are assemblages in the temple; prayers are repeated, in
     which more or less join, but there is no discourse in the
     vernacular of the people. Ordinarily, every one goes to the
     fire-temple whenever he likes, or, if it is convenient to
     him, recites his prayers himself, and as long as he likes,
     and gives, if so inclined, something to the priests to pray
     for him.'

In another passage our author says:

     'Far from being the teachers of the true doctrines and
     duties of their religion, the priests are generally the most
     bigoted and superstitious, and exercise much injurious
     influence over the women especially, who, until lately,
     received no education at all. The priests have, however, now
     begun to feel their degraded position. Many of them, if they
     can do so, bring up their sons in any other profession but
     their own. There are, perhaps, a dozen among the whole body
     of professional priests who lay claim to a knowledge of the
     Zend-Avesta: but the only respect in which they are superior
     to their brethren is, that they have learnt the meanings of
     the words of the books as they are taught, without knowing
     the language, either philosophically or grammatically.'

Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji proceeds to give a clear and graphic description
of the ceremonies to be observed at the birth and the investiture of
children, at the betrothal of children, at marriages and at funerals,
and he finally dismisses some of the distinguishing features of the
national character of the Parsis. The Parsis are monogamists. They do
not eat anything cooked by a person of another religion; they object
to beef, pork, or ham. Their priesthood is hereditary. None but the
son of a priest can be a priest, but it is not obligatory for the son
of a priest to take orders. The high-priest is called Dustoor, the
others are called Mobed.

The principal points for which the Liberals among the Parsis are, at
the present moment, contending, are the abolition of the filthy
purifications by means of Nirang; the reduction of the large number of
obligatory prayers; the prohibition of early betrothal and marriage;
the suppression of extravagance at weddings and funerals; the
education of women, and their admission into general society. A
society has been formed, called 'the Rahanumaee Mazdiashna,' i. e. the
Guide of the Worshippers of God. Meetings are held, speeches made,
tracts distributed. A counter society, too, has been started, called
'the True Guides;' and we readily believe what Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji
tells us--that, as in Europe, so in India, the Reformers have found
themselves strengthened by the intolerant bigotry and the weakness of
the arguments of their opponents. The Liberals have made considerable
progress, but their work is as yet but half done, and they will never
be able to carry out their religious and social reforms successfully,
without first entering on a critical study of the Zend-Avesta, to
which, as yet, they profess to appeal as the highest authority in
matters of faith, law, and morality.

We propose, in another article, to consider the state of religion
among the Parsis of the present day.

_August, 1862._


The so-called Fire-worshippers certainly do not worship the fire, and
they naturally object to a name which seems to place them on a level
with mere idolaters. All they admit is, that in their youth they are
taught to face some luminous object while worshipping God (p. 7), and
that they regard the fire, like other great natural phenomena, as an
emblem of the Divine power (p. 26). But they assure us that they
never ask assistance or blessings from an unintelligent material
object, nor is it even considered necessary to turn the face to any
emblem whatever in praying to Ormuzd. The most honest, however, among
the Parsis, and those who would most emphatically protest against the
idea of their ever paying divine honours to the sun or the fire, admit
the existence of some kind of national instinct--an indescribable awe
felt by every Parsi with regard to light and fire. The fact that the
Parsis are the only Eastern people who entirely abstain from smoking
is very significant; and we know that most of them would rather not
blow out a candle, if they could help it. It is difficult to analyse
such a feeling, but it seems, in some respects, similar to that which
many Christians have about the cross. They do not worship the cross,
but they have peculiar feelings of reverence for it, and it is
intimately connected with some of their most sacred rites.

But although most Parsis would be very ready to tell us what they do
not worship, there are but few who could give a straightforward answer
if asked what they do worship and believe. Their priests, no doubt,
would say that they worship Ormuzd and believe in Zoroaster, his
prophet; and they would appeal to the Zend-Avesta, as containing the
Word of God, revealed by Ormuzd to Zoroaster. If more closely pressed,
however, they would have to admit that they cannot understand one word
of the sacred writings in which they profess to believe, nor could
they give any reason why they believe Zoroaster to have been a true
prophet, and not an impostor. 'As a body,' says Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji,
'the priests are not only ignorant of the duties and objects of their
own profession, but are entirely uneducated, except that they are able
to read and write, and that, also, often very imperfectly. They do not
understand a single word of their prayers and recitations, which are
all in the old Zend language.'

What, then, do the laity know about religion? What makes the old
teaching of Zoroaster so dear to them that, in spite of all
differences of opinion among themselves, young and old seem equally
determined never to join any other religious community? Incredible as
it may sound, we are told by the best authority, by an enlightened yet
strictly orthodox Parsi, that there is hardly a man or a woman who
could give an account of the faith that is in them. 'The whole
religious education of a Parsi child consists in preparing by rote a
certain number of prayers in Zend, without understanding a word of
them; the knowledge of the doctrines of their religion being left to
be picked up from casual conversation.' A Parsi, in fact, hardly knows
what his faith is. The Zend-Avesta is to him a sealed book; and though
there is a Guzerati translation of it, that translation is not made
from the original, but from a Pehlevi paraphrase, nor is it recognised
by the priests as an authorised version. Till about five and twenty
years ago, there was no book from which a Parsi of an inquiring mind
could gather the principles of his religion. At that time, and, as it
would seem, chiefly in order to counteract the influence of Christian
missionaries, a small Dialogue was written in Guzerati--a kind of
Catechism, giving, in the form of questions and answers, the most
important tenets of Parsiism. We shall quote some passages from this
Dialogue, as translated by Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji. The subject of it is
thus described:

     _A few Questions and Answers to acquaint the Children of the
     holy Zarthosti Community with the Subject of the Mazdiashna
     Religion, _i. e._ the Worship of God._

     _Question._ Whom do we, of the Zarthosti community, believe

     _Answer._ We believe in only one God, and do not believe in
     any besides Him.

     _Q._ Who is that one God?

     _A._ The God who created the heavens, the earth, the angels,
     the stars, the sun, the moon, the fire, the water, or all
     the four elements, and all things of the two worlds; that
     God we believe in. Him we worship, him we invoke, him we

     _Q._ Do we not believe in any other God?

     _A._ Whoever believes in any other God but this, is an
     infidel, and shall suffer the punishment of hell.

     _Q._ What is the form of our God?

     _A._ Our God has neither face nor form, colour nor shape,
     nor fixed place. There is no other like him. He is himself
     singly such a glory that we cannot, praise or describe him;
     nor our mind comprehend him.

So far, no one could object to this Catechism, and it must be clear
that the Dualism, which is generally mentioned as the distinguishing
feature of the Persian religion--the belief in two Gods, Ormuzd, the
principle of good, and Ahriman, the principle of evil--is not
countenanced by the modern Parsis. Whether it exists in the
Zend-Avesta is another question, which, however, cannot be discussed
at present.[51]

     The Catechism continues:

     _Q._ What is our religion?

     _A._ Our religion is 'Worship of God.'

     _Q._ Whence did we receive our religion?

     _A._ God's true prophet--the true Zurthost (Zoroaster)
     Asphantamân Anoshirwân--brought the religion to us from God.

Here it is curious to observe that not a single question is asked as
to the claim of Zoroaster to be considered a true prophet. He is not
treated as a divine being, nor even as the son of Ormuzd. Plato,
indeed, speaks of Zoroaster as the son of Oromazes (Alc. i. p. 122 a),
but this is a mistake, not countenanced, as far as we are aware, by
any of the Parsi writings, whether ancient or modern. With the Parsis,
Zoroaster is simply a wise man, a prophet favoured by God, and
admitted into God's immediate presence; but all this, on his own
showing only, and without any supernatural credentials, except some
few miracles recorded of him in books of doubtful authority. This
shows, at all events, how little the Parsis have been exposed to
controversial discussions; for, as this is so weak a point in their
system that it would have invited the attacks of every opponent, we
may be sure that the Dustoors would have framed some argument in
defence, if such defence had ever been needed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next extract from the Catechism treats of the canonical books:

[Footnote 51: See page 140.]

     _Q._ What religion has our prophet brought us from God?

     _A._ The disciples of our prophet have recorded in several
     books that religion. Many of these books were destroyed
     during Alexander's conquest; the remainder of the books were
     preserved with great care and respect by the Sassanian
     kings. Of these again, the greater portion were destroyed at
     the Mohammedan conquest by Khalif Omar, so that we have now
     very few books remaining; viz. the Vandidad, the Yazashné,
     the Visparad, the Khordeh Avesta, the Vistasp Nusk, and a
     few Pehlevi books. Resting our faith upon these few books,
     we now remain devoted to our good Mazdiashna religion. We
     consider these books as heavenly books, because God sent the
     tidings of these books to us through the holy Zurthost.

Here, again, we see theological science in its infancy. 'We consider
these books as heavenly books because God sent the tidings of these
books to us through the holy Zurthost,' is not very powerful logic. It
would have been more simple to say, 'We consider them heavenly books
because we consider them heavenly books.' However, whether heavenly or
not, these few books exist. They form the only basis of the
Zoroastrian religion, and the principal source from which it is
possible to derive any authentic information as to its origin, its
history, and its real character.

       *       *       *       *       *

That the Parsis are of a tolerant character with regard to such of
their doctrines as are not of vital importance, may be seen from the
following extract:

     _Q._ Whose descendants are we?

     _A._ Of Gayomars. By his progeny was Persia populated.

     _Q._ Was Gayomars the first man?

     _A._ According to our religion he was so, but the wise men
     of our community, of the Chinese, the Hindus, and several
     other nations, dispute the assertion, and say that there was
     human population on the earth before Gayomars.

The moral precepts which are embodied in this Catechism do the highest
credit to the Parsis:

     _Q._ What commands has God sent us through his prophet, the
     exalted Zurthost?

     _A._ To know God as one; to know the prophet, the exalted
     Zurthost, as the true prophet; to believe the religion and
     the Avesta brought by him as true beyond all manner of
     doubt; to believe in the goodness of God; not to disobey any
     of the commands of the Mazdiashna religion; to avoid evil
     deeds; to exert for good deeds; to pray five times in the
     day; to believe on the reckoning and justice on the fourth
     morning after death; to hope for heaven and to fear hell; to
     consider doubtless the day of general destruction and
     resurrection; to remember always that God has done what he
     willed, and shall do what he wills; to face some luminous
     object while worshipping God.

Then follow several paragraphs which are clearly directed against
Christian missionaries, and more particularly against the doctrine of
vicarious sacrifice and prayer:

     'Some deceivers, [the Catechism says,] with the view of
     acquiring exaltation in this world, have set themselves up
     as prophets, and, going among the labouring and ignorant
     people, have persuaded them that, "if you commit sin, I
     shall intercede for you, I shall plead for you, I shall save
     you," and thus deceive them; but the wise among the people
     know the deceit.'

This clearly refers to Christian missionaries, but whether Roman
Catholic or Protestant is difficult to say. The answer given by the
Parsis is curious and significant:

     'If any one commit sin,' they reply, 'under the belief that
     he shall be saved by somebody, both the deceiver as well as
     the deceived shall be damned to the day of Rastâ Khez....
     There is no saviour. In the other world you shall receive
     the return according to your actions.... Your saviour is
     your deeds, and God himself. He is the pardoner and the
     giver. If you repent your sins and reform, and if the Great
     Judge consider you worthy of pardon, or would be merciful to
     you, He alone can and will save you.'

It would be a mistake to suppose that the whole doctrine of the Parsis
is contained in the short Guzerati Catechism, translated by Mr.
Dadabhai Naoroji, still less in the fragmentary extracts here given.
Their sacred writings, the Ya_s_na, Vispered, and Vendidad, the
productions of much earlier ages, contain many ideas, both religious
and mythological, which belong to the past, to the childhood of our
race, and which no educated Parsi could honestly profess to believe in
now. This difficulty of reconciling the more enlightened faith of the
present generation with the mythological phraseology of their old
sacred writings is solved by the Parsis in a very simple manner. They
do not, like Roman Catholics, prohibit the reading of the Zend-Avesta;
nor do they, like Protestants, encourage a critical study of their
sacred texts. They simply ignore the originals of their sacred
writings. They repeat them in their prayers without attempting to
understand them, and they acknowledge the insufficiency of every
translation of the Zend-Avesta that has yet been made, either in
Pehlevi, Sanskrit, Guzerati, French, or German. Each Parsi has to pick
up his religion as best he may. Till lately, even the Catechism did
not form a necessary part of a child's religious education. Thus the
religious belief of the present Parsi communities is reduced to two or
three fundamental doctrines; and these, though professedly resting on
the teaching of Zoroaster, receive their real sanction from a much
higher authority. A Parsi believes in one God, to whom he addresses
his prayers. His morality is comprised in these words--pure thoughts,
pure words, pure deeds. Believing in the punishment of vice and the
reward of virtue, he trusts for pardon to the mercy of God. There is a
charm, no doubt, in so short a creed; and if the whole of Zoroaster's
teaching were confined to this, there would be some truth in what his
followers say of their religion--namely, that 'it is for all, and not
for any particular nation.'

If now we ask again, how it is that neither Christians, nor Hindus,
nor Mohammedans have had any considerable success in converting the
Parsis, and why even the more enlightened members of that small
community, though fully aware of the many weak points of their own
theology, and deeply impressed with the excellence of the Christian
religion, morals, and general civilisation, scorn the idea of ever
migrating from the sacred ruins of their ancient faith, we are able to
discover some reasons; though they are hardly sufficient to account
for so extraordinary a fact?

First, the very compactness of the modern Parsi creed accounts for the
tenacity with which the exiles of Western India cling to it. A Parsi
is not troubled with many theological problems or difficulties. Though
he professes a general belief in the sacred writings of Zoroaster, he
is not asked to profess any belief in the stories incidentally
mentioned in the Zend-Avesta. If it is said in the Yasna that
Zoroaster was once visited by Homa, who appeared before him in a
brilliant supernatural body, no doctrine is laid down as to the exact
nature of Homa. It is said that Homa was worshipped by certain ancient
sages, Viva_n_hvat, Âthwya, and Thrita, and that, as a reward for
their worship, great heroes were born as their sons. The fourth who
worshipped Homa was Pourusha_s_pa, and he was rewarded by the birth of
his son Zoroaster. Now the truth is, that Homa is the same as the
Sanskrit Soma, well known from the Veda as an intoxicating beverage
used at the great sacrifices, and afterwards raised to the rank of a
deity. The Parsis are fully aware of this, but they do not seem in the
least disturbed by the occurrence of such 'fables and endless
genealogies.' They would not be shocked if they were told, what is a
fact, that most of these old wives' fables have their origin in the
religion which they most detest, the religion of the Veda, and that
the heroes of the Zend-Avesta are the same who, with slightly changed
names, appear again as Jemshid, Feridun, Gershâsp, &c., in the epic
poetry of Firdusi.

Another fact which accounts for the attachment of the Parsis to their
religion is its remote antiquity and its former glory. Though age has
little to do with truth, the length of time for which any system has
lasted seems to offer a vague argument in favour of its strength. It
is a feeling which the Parsi shares in common with the Jew and the
Brahman, and which even the Christian missionary appeals to when
confronting the systems of later prophets.

Thirdly, it is felt by the Parsis that in changing their religion,
they would not only relinquish the heirloom of their remote
forefathers, but of their own fathers; and it is felt as a dereliction
of filial piety to give up what was most precious to those whose
memory is most precious and almost sacred to themselves.

If in spite of all this, many people, most competent to judge, look
forward with confidence to the conversion of the Parsis, it is
because, in the most essential points, they have already, though
unconsciously, approached as near as possible to the pure doctrines of
Christianity. Let them but read the Zend-Avesta, in which they profess
to believe, and they will find that their faith is no longer the faith
of the Ya_s_na, the Vendidad, and the Vispered. As historical relics,
these works, if critically interpreted, will always retain a prominent
place in the great library of the ancient world. As oracles of
religious faith, they are defunct, and a mere anachronism in the age
in which we live.

On the other hand, let missionaries read their Bible, and let them
preach that Christianity which once conquered the world--the genuine
and unshackled Gospel of Christ and the Apostles. Let them respect
native prejudices, and be tolerant with regard to all that can be
tolerated in a Christian community. Let them consider that
Christianity is not a gift to be pressed on unwilling minds, but the
highest of all privileges which natives can receive at the hands of
their present rulers. Natives of independent and honest character
cannot afford at present to join the ranks of converts without losing
that true caste which no man ought to lose--namely, self-respect. They
are driven to prop up their tottering religions, rather than profess a
faith which seems dictated to them by their conquerors. Such feelings
ought to be respected. Finally, let missionaries study the sacred
writings on which the faith of the Parsis is professedly founded. Let
them examine the bulwarks which they mean to overthrow. They will find
them less formidable from within than from without. But they will also
discover that they rest on a foundation which ought never to be
touched--a faith in one God, the Creator, the Ruler, and the Judge of
the world.

_August, 1862._



If the command of St. Paul, 'Prove all things, hold fast that which is
good,' may be supposed to refer to spiritual things, and, more
especially, to religious doctrines, it must be confessed that few
only, whether theologians or laymen, have ever taken to heart the
apostle's command. How many candidates for holy orders are there who
could give a straightforward answer if asked to enumerate the
principal religions of the world, or to state the names of their
founders, and the titles of the works which are still considered by
millions of human beings as the sacred authorities for their religious
belief? To study such books as the Koran of the Mohammedans, the
Zend-Avesta of the Parsis, the King's of the Confucians, the
Tao-te-King of the Taoists, the Vedas of the Brahmans, the Tripi_t_aka
of the Buddhists, the Sûtras of the Jains, or the Granth of the Sikhs,
would be considered by many mere waste of time. Yet St. Paul's command
is very clear and simple; and to maintain that it referred to the
heresies of his own time only, or to the philosophical systems of the
Greeks and Romans, would be to narrow the horizon of the apostle's
mind, and to destroy the general applicability of his teaching to all
times and to all countries. Many will ask what possible good could be
derived from the works of men who must have been either deceived or
deceivers, nor would it be difficult to quote some passages in order
to show the utter absurdity and worthlessness of the religious books
of the Hindus and Chinese. But this was not the spirit in which the
apostle of the Gentiles addressed himself to the Epicureans and
Stoics, nor is this the feeling with which a thoughtful Christian and
a sincere believer in the divine government of the world is likely to
rise from a perusal of any of the books which he knows to be or to
have been the only source of spiritual light and comfort to thousands
and thousands among the dwellers on earth.

[Footnote 52: 'Le Bouddha et sa Religion.' Par J. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire, Membre de l'Institut. Paris, 1860.]

Many are the advantages to be derived from a careful study of other
religions, but the greatest of all is that it teaches us to appreciate
more truly what we possess in our own. When do we feel the blessings
of our own country more warmly and truly than when we return from
abroad? It is the same with regard to religion. Let us see what other
nations have had and still have in the place of religion; let us
examine the prayers, the worship, the theology even of the most highly
civilised races,--the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus, the
Persians,--and we shall then understand more thoroughly what blessings
are vouchsafed to us in being allowed to breathe from the first breath
of life the pure air of a land of Christian light and knowledge. We
are too apt to take the greatest blessings as matters of course, and
even religion forms no exception. We have done so little to gain our
religion, we have suffered so little in the cause of truth, that
however highly we prize our own Christianity, we never prize it highly
enough until we have compared it with the religions of the rest of the

This, however, is not the only advantage; and we think that M.
Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire has formed too low an estimate of the
benefits to be derived from a thoughtful study of the religions of
mankind when he writes of Buddhism: 'Le seul, mais immense service que
le Bouddhisme puisse nous rendre, c'est par son triste contraste de
nous faire apprécier mieux encore la valeur inestimable de nos
croyances, en nous montrant tout ce qu'il en coûte à l'humanité qui ne
les partage point.' This is not all. If a knowledge of other countries
and a study of the manners and customs of foreign nations teach us to
appreciate what we have at home, they likewise form the best cure of
that national conceit and want of sympathy with which we are too apt
to look on all that is strange and foreign. The feeling which led the
Hellenic races to divide the whole world into Greeks and Barbarians is
so deeply engrained in human nature that not even Christianity has
been able altogether to remove it. Thus when we cast our first glance
into the labyrinth of the religions of the world, all seems to us
darkness, self-deceit, and vanity. It sounds like a degradation of the
very name of religion to apply it to the wild ravings of Hindu Yogins
or the blank blasphemies of Chinese Buddhists. But as we slowly and
patiently wend our way through the dreary prisons, our own eyes seem
to expand, and we perceive a glimmer of light where all was darkness
at first. We learn to understand the saying of one who more than
anybody had a right to speak with authority on this subject, that
'there is no religion which does not contain a spark of truth.' Those
who would limit the riches of God's goodness and forbearance and long
suffering, and would hand over the largest portion of the human race
to inevitable perdition, have never adduced a tittle of evidence from
the Gospel or from any other trustworthy source in support of so
unhallowed a belief. They have generally appealed to the devilries and
orgies of heathen worship; they have quoted the blasphemies of
Oriental Sufis and the immoralities sanctioned by the successors of
Mohammed; but they have seldom, if ever, endeavoured to discover the
true and original character of the strange forms of faith and worship
which they call the work of the devil. If the Indians had formed their
notions of Christianity from the soldiers of Cortez and Pizarro, or if
the Hindus had studied the principles of Christian morality in the
lives of Clive and Warren Hastings; or, to take a less extreme case,
if a Mohammedan, settled in England, were to test the practical
working of Christian charity by the spirit displayed in the journals
of our religious parties, their notions of Christianity would be about
as correct as the ideas which thousands of educated Christians
entertain of the diabolical character of heathen religion. Even
Christianity has been depraved into Jesuitism and Mormonism, and if
we, as Protestants, claim the right to appeal to the Gospel as the
only test by which our faith is to be judged, we must grant a similar
privilege to Mohammedans and Buddhists, and to all who possess a
written, and, as they believe, revealed authority for the articles of
their faith.

But though no one is likely to deny the necessity of studying each
religion in its most ancient form and from its original documents,
before we venture to pronounce our verdict, the difficulties of this
task are such that in them more than in anything else, must be sought
the cause why so few of our best thinkers and writers have devoted
themselves to a critical and historical study of the religions of the
world. All important religions have sprung up in the East. Their
sacred books are written in Eastern tongues, and some of them are of
such ancient date that those even who profess to believe in them,
admit that they are unable to understand them without the help of
translations and commentaries. Until very lately the sacred books of
three of the most important religions, those of the Brahmans, the
Buddhists, and the Parsis, were totally unknown in Europe. It was one
of the most important results of the study of Sanskrit, or the ancient
language of India, that through it the key, not only to the sacred
books of the Brahmans, the Vedas, but likewise to those of the
Buddhists and Zoroastrians, was recovered. And nothing shows more
strikingly the rapid progress of Sanskrit scholarship than that even
Sir William Jones, whose name has still, with many, a more familiar
sound than the names of Colebrooke, Burnouf, and Lassen, should have
known nothing of the Vedas; that he should never have read a line of
the canonical books of the Buddhists, and that he actually expressed
his belief that Buddha was the same as the Teutonic deity Wodan or
Odin, and _S_âkya, another name of Buddha, the same as Shishac, king
of Egypt. The same distinguished scholar never perceived the intimate
relationship between the language of the Zend-Avesta and Sanskrit, and
he declared the whole of the Zoroastrian writings to be modern

Even at present we are not yet in possession of a complete edition,
much less of any trustworthy translation, of the Vedas; we only
possess the originals of a few books of the Buddhist canon; and though
the text of the Zend-Avesta has been edited in its entirety, its
interpretation is beset with greater difficulties than that of the
Vedas or the Tripi_t_aka. A study of the ancient religions of China,
those of Confucius and Lao-tse, presupposes an acquaintance with
Chinese, a language which it takes a life to learn thoroughly; and
even the religion of Mohammed, though more accessible than any other
Eastern religion, cannot be fully examined except by a master of
Arabic. It is less surprising, therefore, than it might at first
appear, that a comprehensive and scholarlike treatment of the
religions of the world should still be a desideratum. Scholars who
have gained a knowledge of the language, and thereby free access to
original documents, find so much work at hand which none but
themselves can do, that they grudge the time for collecting and
arranging, for the benefit of the public at large, the results which
they have obtained. Nor need we wonder that critical historians should
rather abstain from the study of the religions of antiquity than trust
to mere translations and second-hand authorities.

Under these circumstances we feel all the more thankful if we meet
with a writer like M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, who has acquired a
knowledge of Eastern languages sufficient to enable him to consult
original texts and to control the researches of other scholars, and
who at the same time commands that wide view of the history of human
thought which enables him to assign to each system its proper place,
to perceive its most salient features, and to distinguish between what
is really important and what is not, in the lengthy lucubrations of
ancient poets and prophets. M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire is one of the
most accomplished scholars of France; and his reputation as the
translator of Aristotle has made us almost forget that the Professor
of Greek Philosophy at the Collège de France[53] is the same as the
active writer in the 'Globe' of 1827, and the 'National' of 1830; the
same who signed the protest against the July ordinances, and who in
1848 was Chief Secretary of the Provisional Government. If such a man
takes the trouble to acquire a knowledge of Sanskrit, and to attend in
the same College where he was professor, the lectures of his own
colleague, the late Eugène Burnouf, his publications on Hindu
philosophy and religion will naturally attract a large amount of
public interest. The Sanskrit scholar by profession works and
publishes chiefly for the benefit of other Sanskrit scholars. He is
satisfied with bringing to light the ore which he has extracted by
patient labour from among the dusty MSS. of the East-India House. He
seldom takes the trouble to separate the metal from the ore, to purify
or to strike it into current coin. He is but too often apt to forget
that no lasting addition is ever made to the treasury of human
knowledge unless the results of special research are translated into
the universal language of science, and rendered available to every
person of intellect and education. A division of labour seems most
conducive to this end. We want a class of interpreters, men such as M.
Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, who are fully competent to follow and to
control the researches of professional students, and who at the same
time have not forgotten the language of the world.

[Footnote 53: M. de St. Hilaire resigned the chair of Greek literature
at the Collège de France after the _coup d'état_ of 1851, declining to
take the oath of allegiance to the existing government.]

In his work on Buddhism, of which a second edition has just appeared,
M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire has undertaken to give to the world at
large the really trustworthy and important results which have been
obtained by the laborious researches of Oriental scholars, from the
original documents of that interesting and still mysterious religion.
It was a task of no ordinary difficulty, for although these researches
are of very recent date, and belong to a period of Sanskrit
scholarship posterior to Sir W. Jones and Colebrooke, yet such is the
amount of evidence brought together by the combined industry of
Hodgson, Turnour, Csoma de Körös, Stanislas Julien, Foucaux, Fausböll,
Spence Hardy, but above all, of the late Eugène Burnouf, that it
required no common patience and discrimination in order to compose
from such materials so accurate, and at the same time so lucid and
readable a book on Buddhism as that which we owe to M. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire. The greater part of it appeared originally in the
'Journal des Savants,' the time-honoured organ of the French Academy,
which counts on its staff the names of Cousin, Flourens, Villemain,
Biot, Mignet, Littré, &c, and admits as contributors sixteen only of
the most illustrious members of that illustrious body, _la crême de la

Though much had been said and written about Buddhism,--enough to
frighten priests by seeing themselves anticipated in auricular
confession, beads, and tonsure by the Lamas of Tibet,[54] and to
disconcert philosophers by finding themselves outbid in positivism and
nihilism by the inmates of Chinese monasteries,--the real beginning of
an historical and critical study of the doctrines of Buddha dates from
the year 1824. In that year Mr. Hodgson announced the fact that the
original documents of the Buddhist canon had been preserved in
Sanskrit in the monasteries of Nepal. Before that time our information
on Buddhism had been derived at random from China, Japan, Burmah,
Tibet, Mongolia, and Tartary; and though it was known that the
Buddhist literature in all these countries professed itself to be
derived, directly or indirectly, from India, and that the technical
terms of that religion, not excepting the very name of Buddha, had
their etymology in Sanskrit only, no hope was entertained that the
originals of these various translations could ever be recovered. Mr.
Hodgson, who settled in Nepal in 1821, as political resident of the
East-India Company, and whose eyes were always open, not only to the
natural history of that little-explored country, but likewise to its
antiquities, its languages, and traditions, was not long before he
discovered that his friends, the priests of Nepal, possessed a
complete literature of their own. That literature was not written in
the spoken dialects of the country, but in Sanskrit. Mr. Hodgson
procured a catalogue of all the works, still in existence, which
formed the Buddhist canon. He afterwards succeeded in procuring copies
of these works, and he was able in 1824 to send about sixty volumes to
the Asiatic Society of Bengal. As no member of that society seemed
inclined to devote himself to the study of these MSS., Mr. Hodgson
sent two complete collections of the same MSS. to the Asiatic Society
of London and the Société Asiatique of Paris. Before alluding to the
brilliant results which the last-named collection produced in the
hands of Eugène Burnouf, we must mention the labours of other
students, which preceded the publication of Burnouf's researches.

[Footnote 54: The late Abbé Huc pointed out the similarities between
the Buddhist and Roman Catholic ceremonials with such _naïveté_, that,
to his surprise, he found his delightful 'Travels in Tibet' placed on
the 'Index.' 'On ne peut s'empêcher d'être frappé,' he writes, 'de
leur rapport avec le Catholicisme. La crosse, la mitre, la dalmatique,
la chape ou pluvial, que les grands Lamas portent en voyage, ou
lorsqu'ils font quelque cérémonie hors du temple; l'office à deux
choeurs, la psalmodie, les exorcismes, l'encensoir soutenu par cinq
chaines, et pouvant s'ouvrir et se fermer à volonté; les bénédictions
données par les Lamas en étendant la main droite sur la tête des
fidèles; le chapelet, le célibat ecclésiastique, les retraites
spirituelles, le culte des saints, les jeûnes, les processions, les
litanies, l'eau bénite; voilà autant de rapports que les Bouddhistes
ont avec nous.' He might have added tonsure, relics, and the

Mr. Hodgson himself gave to the world a number of valuable essays written
on the spot, and afterwards collected under the title of 'Illustrations of
the Literature and Religion of the Buddhists,' Serampore, 1841. He
established the important fact, in accordance with the traditions of the
priests of Nepal, that some of the Sanskrit documents which he recovered
had existed in the monasteries of Nepal ever since the second century of
our era, and that the whole of that collection had, five or six hundred
years later, when Buddhism became definitely established in Tibet, been
translated into the language of that country. As the art of printing had
been introduced from China into Tibet, there was less difficulty in
procuring complete copies of the Tibetan translation of the Buddhist canon.
The real difficulty was to find a person acquainted with the language. By a
fortunate concurrence of circumstances, however, it so happened that about
the same time when Mr. Hodgson's discoveries began to attract the attention
of Oriental scholars at Calcutta, a Hungarian, of the name of Alexander
Csoma de Körös, arrived there. He had made his way from Hungary to Tibet on
foot, without any means of his own, and with the sole object of discovering
somewhere in Central Asia the native home of the Hungarians. Arrived in
Tibet, his enthusiasm found a new vent in acquiring a language which no
European before his time had mastered, and in exploring the vast collection
of the canonical books of the Buddhists, preserved in that language. Though
he arrived at Calcutta almost without a penny, he met with a hearty welcome
from the members of the Asiatic Society, and was enabled with their
assistance to publish the results of his extraordinary researches. People
have complained of the length of the sacred books of other nations, but
there are none that approach in bulk to the sacred canon of the Tibetans.
It consists of two collections, commonly called the Kanjur and Tanjur. The
proper spelling of their names is Bkah-hgyur, pronounced Kah-gyur, and
Bstan-hgyur, pronounced Tan-gyur. The Kanjur consists, in its different
editions, of 100, 102, or 108 volumes folio. It comprises 1083 distinct
works. The Tanjur consists of 225 volumes folio, each weighing from four to
five pounds in the edition of Peking. Editions of this colossal code were
printed at Peking, Lhassa, and other places. The edition of the Kanjur
published at Peking, by command of the Emperor Khian-Lung, sold for £600. A
copy of the Kanjur was bartered for 7000 oxen by the Buriates, and the same
tribe paid 1200 silver roubles for a complete copy of the Kanjur and Tanjur
together.[55] Such a jungle of religious literature--the most excellent
hiding-place, we should think, for Lamas and Dalai-Lamas--was too much even
for a man who could travel on foot from Hungary to Tibet. The Hungarian
enthusiast, however, though he did not translate the whole, gave a most
valuable analysis of this immense bible, in the twentieth volume of the
'Asiatic Researches,' sufficient to establish the fact that the principal
portion of it was a translation from the same Sanskrit originals which had
been discovered in Nepal by Mr. Hodgson. Csoma de Körös died soon after he
had given to the world the first fruits of his labours,--a victim to his
heroic devotion to the study of ancient languages and religions.

[Footnote 55: 'Die Religion des Buddha,' von Köppen, vol. ii. p.

It was another fortunate coincidence that, contemporaneously with the
discoveries of Hodgson and Csoma de Körös, another scholar, Schmidt of St.
Petersburg, had so far advanced in the study of the Mongolian language, as
to be able to translate portions of the Mongolian version of the Buddhist
canon, and thus forward the elucidation of some of the problems connected
with the religion of Buddha.

It never rains but it pours. Whereas for years, nay, for centuries,
not a single original document of the Buddhist religion had been
accessible to the scholars of Europe, we witness, in the small space
of ten years, the recovery of four complete Buddhist literatures. In
addition to the discoveries of Hodgson in Nepal, of Csoma de Körös in
Tibet, and of Schmidt in Mongolia, the Honourable George Turnour
suddenly presented to the world the Buddhist literature of Ceylon,
composed in the sacred language of that island, the ancient Pâli. The
existence of that literature had been known before. Since 1826 Sir
Alexander Johnston had been engaged in collecting authentic copies of
the Mahâvansa, the Râ_g_âvalî, and the Râ_g_aratnâkarî. These copies
were translated at his suggestion from Pâli into modern Singhalese and
thence into English. The publication was entrusted to Mr. Edward
Upham, and the work appeared in 1833, under the title of 'Sacred and
Historical Works of Ceylon,' dedicated to William IV. Unfortunately,
whether through fraud or through misunderstanding, the priests who
were to have procured an authentic copy of the Pâli originals and
translated them into the vernacular language, appear to have formed a
compilation of their own from various sources. The official
translators by whom this mutilated Singhalese abridgment was to have
been rendered into English, took still greater liberties; and the
'Sacred and Historical Books of Ceylon' had hardly been published
before Burnouf, then a mere beginner in the study of Pâli, was able to
prove the utter uselessness of that translation. Mr. Turnour, however,
soon made up for this disappointment. He set to work in a more
scholarlike spirit, and after acquiring himself a knowledge of the
Pâli language, he published several important essays on the Buddhist
canon, as preserved in Ceylon. These were followed by an edition and
translation of the Mahâvansa, or the history of Ceylon, written in the
fifth century after Christ, and giving an account of the island from
the earliest times to the beginning of the fourth century A.D. Several
continuations of that history are in existence, but Mr. Turnour was
prevented by an early death from continuing his edition beyond the
original portion of that chronicle. The exploration of the Ceylonese
literature has since been taken up again by the Rev. D. J. Gogerly
(Clough), whose essays are unfortunately scattered about in Singhalese
periodicals and little known in Europe; and by the Rev. Spence Hardy,
for twenty years Wesleyan Missionary in Ceylon. His two works,
'Eastern Monachism' and 'Manual of Buddhism,' are full of interesting
matter, but as they are chiefly derived from Singhalese, and even more
modern sources, they require to be used with caution.[56]

[Footnote 56: The same author has lately published another valuable
work, 'The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists.' London, 1866.]

In the same manner as the Sanskrit originals of Nepal were translated
by Buddhist missionaries into Tibetan, Mongolian, and, as we shall
soon see, into Chinese and Mandshu,[57] the Pâli originals of Ceylon
were carried to Burmah and Siam, and translated there into the
languages of those countries. Hardly anything has as yet been done for
exploring the literature of these two countries, which open a
promising field for any one ambitious to follow in the footsteps of
Hodgson, Csoma, and Turnour.

[Footnote 57: 'Mélanges Asiatiques,' vol. ii. p. 373.]

A very important collection of Buddhist MSS. has lately been brought
from Ceylon to Europe by M. Grimblot, and is now deposited in the
Imperial Library at Paris. This collection, to judge from a report
published in 1866 in the 'Journal des Savants' by M. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire, consists of no less than eighty-seven works; and, as
some of them are represented by more than one copy, the total number
of MSS. amounts to one hundred and twenty-one. They fill altogether
14,000 palm leaves, and are written partly in Singhalese, partly in
Burmese characters. Next to Ceylon, Burmah and Siam would seem to be
the two countries most likely to yield large collections of Pâli MSS.,
and the MSS. which now exist in Ceylon may, to a considerable extent,
be traced back to these two countries. At the beginning of the
sixteenth century, the Tamil conquerors of Ceylon are reported to have
burnt every Buddhist book they could discover, in the hope of thus
destroying the vitality of that detested religion. Buddhism, however,
though persecuted--or, more probably, because persecuted--remained
the national religion of the island, and in the eighteenth century it
had recovered its former ascendency. Missions were then sent to Siam
to procure authentic copies of the sacred documents; priests properly
ordained were imported from Burmah; and several libraries, which
contain both the canonical and the profane literature of Buddhism,
were founded at Dadala, Ambagapitya, and other places.

The sacred canon of the Buddhists is called the Tripi_t_aka, i. e. the
three baskets. The first basket contains all that has reference to
morality, or Vinaya; the second contains the Sûtras, i. e. the
discourses of Buddha; the third includes all works treating of
dogmatic philosophy or metaphysics. The second and third baskets are
sometimes comprehended under the general name of Dharma, or law, and
it has become usual to apply to the third basket the name of
Abhidharma, or by-law. The first and second pi_t_akas contain each
five separate works; the third contains seven. M. Grimblot has secured
MSS. of nearly every one of these works, and he has likewise brought
home copies of the famous commentaries of Buddhaghosha. These
commentaries are of great importance; for although Buddhaghosha lived
as late as 430 A.D., he is supposed to have been the translator of
more ancient commentaries, brought in 316 B.C. to Ceylon from Magadha
by Mahinda, the son of A_s_oka, translated by him from Pâli into
Singhalese, and retranslated by Buddhaghosha into Pâli, the original
language both of the canonical books and of their commentaries.
Whether historical criticism will allow to the commentaries of
Buddhaghosha the authority due to documents of the fourth century
before Christ, is a question that has yet to be settled. But even as a
collector of earlier traditions and as a writer of the fifth century
after Christ, his authority would be considerable with regard to the
solution of some of the most important problems of Indian history and
chronology. Some scholars who have written on the history of Buddhism
have clearly shown too strong an inclination to treat the statements
contained in the commentaries of Buddhaghosha as purely historical,
forgetting the great interval of time by which he is separated from
the events which he relates. No doubt if it could be proved that
Buddhaghosha's works were literal translations of the so-called
Attakathâs or commentaries brought by Mahinda to Ceylon, this would
considerably enhance their historical value. But the whole account of
these translations rests on tradition, and if we consider the
extraordinary precautions taken, according to tradition, by the LXX
translators of the Old Testament, and then observe the discrepancies
between the chronology of the Septuagint and that of the Hebrew text,
we shall be better able to appreciate the risk of trusting to Oriental
translations, even to those that pretend to be literal. The idea of a
faithful literal translation seems altogether foreign to Oriental
minds. Granted that Mahinda translated the original Pâli commentaries
into Singhalese, there was nothing to restrain him from inserting
anything that he thought likely to be useful to his new converts.
Granted that Buddhaghosha translated these translations back into
Pâli, why should he not have incorporated any facts that were then
believed in and had been handed down by tradition from generation to
generation? Was he not at liberty--nay, would he not have felt it his
duty, to explain apparent difficulties, to remove contradictions, and
to correct palpable mistakes? In our time, when even the
contemporaneous evidence of Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, or Jornandes
is sifted by the most uncompromising scepticism, we must not expect a
more merciful treatment for the annals of Buddhism. Scholars engaged
in special researches are too willing to acquiesce in evidence,
particularly if that evidence has been discovered by their own efforts
and comes before them with all the charms of novelty. But, in the
broad daylight of historical criticism, the prestige of such a witness
as Buddhaghosha soon dwindles away, and his statements as to kings and
councils eight hundred years before his time are in truth worth no
more than the stories told of Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth, or the
accounts we read in Livy of the early history of Rome.

One of the most important works of M. Grimblot's collection, and one
that we hope will soon be published, is a history of Buddhism in
Ceylon, called the Dîpavansa. The only work of the same character
which has hitherto been known is the Mahâvansa, published by the
Honourable George Turnour. But this is professedly based on the
Dîpavansa, and is probably of a much later date. Mahânâma, the
compiler of the Mahâvansa, lived about 500 A. D. His work was
continued by later chroniclers to the middle of the eighteenth
century. Though Mahânâma wrote towards the end of the fifth century
after Christ, his own share of the chronicle seems to have ended with
the year 302 A.D., and a commentary which he wrote on his own
chronicle likewise breaks off at that period. The exact date of the
Dîpavansa is not yet known; but as it also breaks off with the death
of Mahâsena in 302 A.D., we cannot ascribe to it, for the present, any
higher authority than could be commanded by a writer of the fourth
century after Christ.

We now return to Mr. Hodgson. His collections of Sanskrit MSS. had
been sent, as we saw, to the Asiatic Society of Calcutta from 1824 to
1839, to the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1835, and to the
Société Asiatique of Paris in 1837. They remained dormant at Calcutta
and in London. At Paris, however, these Buddhist MSS. fell into the
hands of Burnouf. Unappalled by their size and tediousness, he set to
work, and was not long before he discovered their extreme importance.
After seven years of careful study, Burnouf published, in 1844, his
'Introduction à l'Histoire du Buddhisme.' It is this work which laid
the foundation for a systematic study of the religion of Buddha.
Though acknowledging the great value of the researches made in the
Buddhist literatures of Tibet, Mongolia, China, and Ceylon, Burnouf
showed that Buddhism, being of Indian origin, ought to be studied
first of all in the original Sanskrit documents, preserved in Nepal.
Though he modestly called his work an Introduction to the History of
Buddhism, there are few points of importance on which his industry has
not brought together the most valuable evidence, and his genius shed a
novel and brilliant light. The death of Burnouf in 1851, put an end to
a work which, if finished according to the plan sketched out by the
author in the preface, would have been the most perfect monument of
Oriental scholarship. A volume published after his death, in 1852,
contains a translation of one of the canonical books of Nepal, with
notes and appendices, the latter full of the most valuable information
on some of the more intricate questions of Buddhism. Though much
remained to be done, and though a very small breach only had been made
in the vast pile of Sanskrit MSS. presented by Mr. Hodgson to the
Asiatic Societies of Paris and London, no one has been bold enough to
continue what Burnouf left unfinished. The only important additions to
our knowledge of Buddhism since his death are an edition of the
Lalita-Vistara or the life of Buddha, prepared by a native, the
learned Babu Rajendralal Mittra; an edition of the Pâli original of
the Dhammapadam, by Dr. Fausböll, a Dane; and last, not least, the
excellent translation by M. Stanislas Julien, of the life and travels
of Hiouen-Thsang. This Chinese pilgrim had visited India from 629 to
645 A.D., for the purpose of learning Sanskrit, and translating from
Sanskrit into Chinese some important works on the religion and
philosophy of the Buddhists; and his account of the geography, the
social, religious, and political state of India at the beginning of
the seventh century, is invaluable for studying the practical working
of that religion at a time when its influence began to decline, and
when it was soon to be supplanted by modern Brahmanism and

It was no easy task for M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire to make himself
acquainted with all these works. The study of Buddhism would almost
seem to be beyond the power of any single individual, if it required a
practical acquaintance with all the languages in which the doctrines
of Buddha have been written down. Burnouf was probably the only man
who, in addition to his knowledge of Sanskrit, did not shrink from
acquiring a practical knowledge of Tibetan, Pâli, Singhalese, and
Burmese, in order to prepare himself for such a task. The same scholar
had shown, however, that though it was impossible for a Tibetan,
Mongolian, or Chinese scholar to arrive, without a knowledge of
Sanskrit, at a correct understanding of the doctrines of Buddha, a
knowledge of Sanskrit was sufficient for entering into their spirit,
for comprehending their origin and growth in India, and their
modification in the different countries where they took root in later
times. Assisted by his familiarity with Sanskrit, and bringing into
the field, as a new and valuable auxiliary, his intimate acquaintance
with nearly all the systems of philosophy and religion of both the
ancient and modern worlds, M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire has succeeded
in drawing a picture, both lively and correct, of the origin, the
character, the strong as well as weak points, of the religion of
Buddha. He has become the first historian of Buddhism. He has not been
carried away by a temptation which must have been great for one who is
able to read in the past the lessons for the present or the future. He
has not used Buddhism either as a bugbear or as a _beau idéal_. He is
satisfied with stating in his preface that many lessons might be
learned by modern philosophers from a study of Buddhism, but in the
body of the work he never perverts the chair of the historian into the
pulpit of the preacher.

'This book may offer one other advantage,' he writes, 'and I regret to
say that at present it may seem to come opportunely. It is the
misfortune of our times that the same doctrines which form the
foundation of Buddhism meet at the hands of some of our philosophers
with a favour which they ill deserve. For some years we have seen
systems arising in which metempsychosis and transmigration are highly
spoken of, and attempts are made to explain the world and man without
either a God or a Providence, exactly as Buddha did. A future life is
refused to the yearnings of mankind, and the immortality of the soul
is replaced by the immortality of works. God is dethroned, and in His
place they substitute man, the only being, we are told, in which the
Infinite becomes conscious of itself. These theories are recommended
to us sometimes in the name of science, or of history, or philology,
or even of metaphysics; and though they are neither new nor very
original, yet they can do much injury to feeble hearts. This is not
the place to examine these theories, and their authors are both too
learned and too sincere to deserve to be condemned summarily and
without discussion. But it is well that they should know by the
example, too little known, of Buddhism, what becomes of man if he
depends on himself alone, and if his meditations, misled by a pride of
which he is hardly conscious, bring him to the precipice where Buddha
was lost. Besides, I am well aware of all the differences, and I am
not going to insult our contemporary philosophers by confounding them
indiscriminately with Buddha, although addressing to both the same
reproof. I acknowledge willingly all their additional merits, which
are considerable. But systems of philosophy must always be judged by
the conclusions to which they lead, whatever road they may follow in
reaching them; and their conclusions, though obtained by different
means, are not therefore less objectionable. Buddha arrived at his
conclusions 2400 years ago. He proclaimed and practised them with an
energy which is not likely to be surpassed, even if it be equalled. He
displayed a child-like intrepidity which no one can exceed, nor can it
be supposed that any system in our days could again acquire so
powerful an ascendency over the souls of men. It would be useful,
however, if the authors of these modern systems would just cast a
glance at the theories and destinies of Buddhism. It is not philosophy
in the sense in which we understand this great name, nor is it
religion in the sense of ancient paganism, of Christianity, or of
Mohammedanism; but it contains elements of all worked up into a
perfectly independent doctrine which acknowledges nothing in the
universe but man, and obstinately refuses to recognise anything else,
though confounding man with nature in the midst of which he lives.
Hence all those aberrations of Buddhism which ought to be a warning to
others. Unfortunately, if people rarely profit by their own faults,
they profit yet more rarely by the faults of others. (Introduction, p.

But though M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire does not write history merely
for the sake of those masked batteries which French writers have used
with so much skill at all times, but more particularly during the late
years of Imperial sway, it is clear, from the remarks just quoted,
that our author is not satisfied with simply chronicling the dry facts
of Buddhism, or turning into French the tedious discourses of its
founder. His work is an animated sketch, giving too little rather than
too much. It is just the book which was wanted to dispel the erroneous
notions about Buddhism, which are still current among educated men,
and to excite an interest which may lead those who are naturally
frightened by the appalling proportions of Buddhist literature, and
the uncouth sounds of Buddhist terminology, to a study of the quartos
of Burnouf, Turnour, and others. To those who may wish for more
detailed information on Buddhism, than could be given by M. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire, consistently with the plan of his work, we can strongly
recommend the work of a German writer, 'Die Religion des Buddha,' von
Köppen, Berlin, 1857. It is founded on the same materials as the
French work, but being written by a scholar and for scholars, it
enters on a more minute examination of all that has been said or
written on Buddha and Buddhism. In a second volume the same learned
and industrious student has lately published a history of Buddhism in

M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire's work is divided into three portions. The
first contains an account of the origin of Buddhism, a life of Buddha,
and an examination of Buddhist ethics and metaphysics. In the second,
he describes the state of Buddhism in India in the seventh century of
our era, from the materials supplied by the travels of Hiouen-Thsang.
The third gives a description of Buddhism as actually existing in
Ceylon, and as lately described by an eye-witness, the Rev. Spence
Hardy. We shall confine ourselves chiefly to the first part, which
treats of the life and teaching of Buddha.

M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, following the example of Burnouf, Lassen,
and Wilson, accepts the date of the Ceylonese era 543 B.C. as the date
of Buddha's death. Though we cannot enter here into long chronological
discussions, we must remark, that this date was clearly obtained by
the Buddhists of Ceylon by calculation, not by historical tradition,
and that it is easy to point out in that calculation a mistake of
about seventy years. The more plausible date of Buddha's death is 477
B.C. For the purposes, however, which M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire had
in view, this difference is of small importance. We know so little of
the history of India during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., that
the stage on which he represents Buddha as preaching and teaching
would have had very much the same background, the same costume and
accessories, for the sixth as for the fifth century B.C.

In the life of Buddha, which extends from p. 1 to 79, M. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire follows almost exclusively the Lalita-Vistara. This is
one of the most popular works of the Buddhists. It forms part of the
Buddhist canon; and as we know of a translation into Chinese, which M.
Stanislas Julien ascribes to the year 76 A.D., we may safely refer its
original composition to an ante-Christian date. It has been published
in Sanskrit by Babu Rajendralal Mittra, and we owe to M. Foucaux an
edition of the same work in its Tibetan translation, the first Tibetan
text printed in Europe. From specimens that we have seen, we should
think it would be highly desirable to have an accurate translation of
the Chinese text, such as M. Stanislas Julien alone is able to give
us.[58] Few people, however, except scholars, would have the patience
to read this work either in its English or French translation, as may
be seen from the following specimen, containing the beginning of Babu
Rajendralal Mittra's version:

     'Om! Salutation to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Âryas,
     _S_râvakas, and Pratyeka Buddhas of all times, past,
     present, and future; who are adored throughout the farthest
     limits of the ten quarters of the globe. Thus hath it been
     heard by me, that once on a time Bhagavat sojourned in the
     garden of Anâthapi_nd_ada, at _G_etavana, in _S_râvastî,
     accompanied by a venerable body of 12,000 Bhikshukas. There
     likewise accompanied him 32,000 Bodhisattvas, all linked
     together by unity of caste, and perfect in the virtues of
     pâramitâ; who had made their command over Bodhisattva
     knowledge a pastime, were illumined with the light of
     Bodhisattva dhâra_n_îs, and were masters of the dhâra_n_îs
     themselves; who were profound in their meditations, all
     submissive to the lord of Bodhisattvas, and possessed
     absolute control over samâdhi; great in self-command,
     refulgent in Bodhisattva forbearance, and replete with the
     Bodhisattva element of perfection. Now then, Bhagavat
     arriving in the great city of _S_râvastî, sojourned therein,
     respected, venerated, revered, and adored, by the fourfold
     congregation; by kings, princes, their counsellors, prime
     ministers, and followers; by retinues of kshatriyas,
     brâhma_n_as, householders, and ministers; by citizens,
     foreigners, _s_râma_n_as, brâhma_n_as, recluses, and
     ascetics; and although regaled with all sorts of edibles and
     sauces, the best that could be prepared by purveyors, and
     supplied with cleanly mendicant apparel, begging pots,
     couches, and pain-assuaging medicaments, the benevolent
     lord, on whom had been showered the prime of gifts and
     applauses, remained unattached to them all, like water on a
     lotus leaf; and the report of his greatness as the
     venerable, the absolute Buddha, the learned and
     well-behaved, the god of happy exit, the great knower of
     worlds, the valiant, the all-controlling charioteer, the
     teacher of gods and men, the quinocular lord Buddha fully
     manifest, spread far and wide in the world. And Bhagavat,
     having by his own power acquired all knowledge regarding
     this world and the next, comprising devas, mâras, brâhmyas
     (followers of Brahmâ), _s_râma_n_as, and brâhma_n_as, as
     subjects, that is both gods and men, sojourned here,
     imparting instructions in the true religion, and expounding
     the principles of a brahma_k_arya, full and complete in its
     nature, holy in its import, pure and immaculate in its
     character, auspicious is its beginning, auspicious its
     middle, auspicious its end.'

[Footnote 58: The advantages to be derived from these Chinese
translations have been pointed out by M. Stanislas Julien. The
analytical structure of that language imparts to Chinese translations
the character almost of a gloss; and though we need not follow
implicitly the interpretations of the Sanskrit originals, adopted by
the Chinese translators, still their antiquity would naturally impart
to them a considerable value and interest. The following specimens
were kindly communicated to me by M. Stanislas Julien:

     'Je ne sais si je vous ai communiqué autrefois les curieux
     passages qui suivent: On lit dans le Lotus français, p. 271,
     l. 14, C'est que c'est une chose difficile à rencontrer que
     la naissance d'un bouddha, aussi difficile à rencontrer que
     la fleur de l'Udumbara, que l'introduction du col d'une
     tortue dans l'ouverture d'un joug formé par le grand océan.

     'Il y a en chinois: un bouddha est difficile à rencontrer,
     comme les fleurs Udumbara et Palâça; et en outre comme si
     une tortue borgne voulait rencontrer un trou dans un bois
     flottant (litt. le trou d'un bois flottant).

     'Lotus français, p. 39, l. 110 (les créatures), enchaînées
     par la concupiscence comme par la queue du Yak,
     perpétuellement aveuglées en ce monde par les désirs, elles
     ne cherchent pas le Buddha.

     'Il y a en chinois: Profondément attachées aux cinq
     désirs--Elles les aiment comme le Yak aime sa queue. Par la
     concupiscence et l'amour, elles s'aveuglent elles-mêmes,

The whole work is written in a similar style, and where fact and
legend, prose and poetry, sense and nonsense, are so mixed together,
the plan adopted by M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, of making two lives
out of one, the one containing all that seems possible, the other what
seems impossible, would naturally recommend itself. It is not a safe
process, however, to distil history out of legend by simply straining
the legendary through the sieve of physical possibility. Many things
are possible, and may yet be the mere inventions of later writers, and
many things which sound impossible have been reclaimed as historical,
after removing from them the thin film of mythological phraseology. We
believe that the only use which the historian can safely make of the
Lalita-Vistara, is to employ it, not as evidence of facts which
actually happened, but in illustration of the popular belief prevalent
at the time when it was committed to writing. Without therefore
adopting the division of fact and fiction in the life of Buddha, as
attempted by M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, we yet believe that in order
to avoid a repetition of childish absurdities, we shall best consult
the interest of our readers if we follow his example, and give a short
and rational abstract of the life of Buddha as handed down by
tradition, and committed to writing not later than the first century

Buddha, or more correctly, the Buddha,--for Buddha is an appellative
meaning Enlightened,--was born at Kapilavastu, the capital of a kingdom of
the same name, situated at the foot of the mountains of Nepal, north of the
present Oude. His father, the king of Kapilavastu, was of the family of the
_S_âkyas, and belonged to the clan of the Gautamas. His mother was
Mâyâdêvî, daughter of king Suprabuddha, and need we say that she was as
beautiful as he was powerful and just? Buddha was therefore by birth of the
Kshatriya or warrior caste, and he took the name of _S_âkya from his
family, and that of Gautama from his clan, claiming a kind of spiritual
relationship with the honoured race of Gautama. The name of Buddha, or the
Buddha, dates from a later period of his life, and so probably does the
name Siddhârtha (he whose objects have been accomplished), though we are
told that it was given him in his childhood. His mother died seven days
after his birth, and the father confided the child to the care of his
deceased wife's sister, who, however, had been his wife even before the
mother's death. The child grew up a most beautiful and most accomplished
boy, who soon knew more than his masters could teach him. He refused to
take part in the games of his playmates, and never felt so happy as when he
could sit alone, lost in meditation in the deep shadows of the forest. It
was there that his father found him, when he had thought him lost, and in
order to prevent the young prince from becoming a dreamer, the king
determined to marry him at once. When the subject was mentioned by the aged
ministers to the future heir to the throne, he demanded seven days for
reflection, and convinced at last that not even marriage could disturb the
calm of his mind, he allowed the ministers to look out for a princess. The
princess selected was the beautiful Gopâ, the daughter of Da_nd_apâ_n_i.
Though her father objected at first to her marrying a young prince who was
represented to him as deficient in manliness and intellect, he gladly gave
his consent when he saw the royal suitor distancing all his rivals both in
feats of arms and power of mind. Their marriage proved one of the happiest,
but the prince remained, as he had been before, absorbed in meditation on
the problems of life and death. 'Nothing is stable on earth,' he used to
say, 'nothing is real. Life is like the spark produced by the friction of
wood. It is lighted and is extinguished--we know not whence it came or
whither it goes. It is like the sound of a lyre, and the wise man asks in
vain from whence it came and whither it goes. There must be some supreme
intelligence where we could find rest. If I attained it, I could bring
light to man; if I were free myself, I could deliver the world.' The king,
who perceived the melancholy mood of the young prince, tried every thing to
divert him from his speculations: but all was in vain. Three of the most
ordinary events that could happen to any man, proved of the utmost
importance in the career of Buddha. We quote the description of these
occurrences from M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire:

     'One day when the prince with a large retinue drove through
     the eastern gate of the city on the way to one of his parks,
     he met on the road an old man, broken and decrepit. One
     could see the veins and muscles over the whole of his body,
     his teeth chattered, he was covered with wrinkles, bald, and
     hardly able to utter hollow and unmelodious sounds. He was
     bent on his stick, and all his limbs and joints trembled.
     "Who is that man?" said the prince to his coachman. "He is
     small and weak, his flesh and his blood are dried up, his
     muscles stick to his skin, his head is white, his teeth
     chatter, his body is wasted away; leaning on his stick he is
     hardly able to walk, stumbling at every step. Is there
     something peculiar in his family, or is this the common lot
     of all created beings?"

     '"Sir," replied the coachman, "that man is sinking under old
     age, his senses have become obtuse, suffering has destroyed
     his strength, and he is despised by his relations. He is
     without support and useless, and people have abandoned him,
     like a dead tree in a forest. But this is not peculiar to
     his family. In every creature youth is defeated by old age.
     Your father, your mother, all your relations, all your
     friends, will come to the same state; this is the appointed
     end of all creatures."

     '"Alas!" replied the prince, "are creatures so ignorant, so
     weak and foolish, as to be proud of the youth by which they
     are intoxicated, not seeing the old age which awaits them!
     As for me, I go away. Coachman, turn my chariot quickly.
     What have I, the future prey of old age,--what have I to do
     with pleasure?" And the young prince returned to the city
     without going to his park.

     'Another time the prince drove through the southern gate to
     his pleasure garden, when he perceived on the road a man
     suffering from illness, parched with fever, his body wasted,
     covered with mud, without a friend, without a home, hardly
     able to breathe, and frightened at the sight of himself and
     the approach of death. Having questioned his coachman, and
     received from him the answer which he expected, the young
     prince said, "Alas! health is but the sport of a dream, and
     the fear of suffering must take this frightful form. Where
     is the wise man who, after having seen what he is, could any
     longer think of joy and pleasure?" The prince turned his
     chariot and returned to the city.

     'A third time he drove to his pleasure garden through the
     western gate, when he saw a dead body on the road, lying on
     a bier, and covered with a cloth. The friends stood about
     crying, sobbing, tearing their hair, covering their heads
     with dust, striking their breasts, and uttering wild cries.
     The prince, again calling his coachman to witness this
     painful scene, exclaimed, "Oh! woe to youth, which must be
     destroyed by old age! Woe to health, which must be destroyed
     by so many diseases! Woe to this life, where a man remains
     so short a time! If there were no old age, no disease, no
     death; if these could be made captive for ever!" Then
     betraying for the first time his intentions, the young
     prince said, "Let us turn back, I must think how to
     accomplish deliverance."

     'A last meeting put an end to his hesitation. He drove
     through the northern gate on the way to his pleasure
     gardens, when he saw a mendicant who appeared outwardly
     calm, subdued, looking downwards, wearing with an air of
     dignity his religious vestment, and carrying an alms-bowl.

     '"Who is this man?" asked the prince.

     '"Sir," replied the coachman, "this man is one of those who
     are called bhikshus, or mendicants. He has renounced all
     pleasures, all desires, and leads a life of austerity. He
     tries to conquer himself. He has become a devotee. Without
     passion, without envy, he walks about asking for alms."

     '"This is good and well said," replied the prince. "The life
     of a devotee has always been praised by the wise. It will be
     my refuge, and the refuge of other creatures; it will lead
     us to a real life, to happiness and immortality."

     'With these words the young prince turned his chariot and
     returned to the city.'

       *       *       *       *       *

After having declared to his father and his wife his intention of
retiring from the world, Buddha left his palace one night when all the
guards that were to have watched him, were asleep. After travelling
the whole night, he gave his horse and his ornaments to his groom, and
sent him back to Kapilavastu. 'A monument,' remarks the author of the
Lalita-Vistara (p. 270), 'is still to be seen on the spot where the
coachman turned back,' Hiouen-Thsang (II. 330) saw the same monument
at the edge of a large forest, on his road to Ku_s_inâgara, a city now
in ruins, and situated about fifty miles E.S.E. from Gorakpur.[59]

[Footnote 59: The geography of India at the time of Buddha, and later
at the time of Fahian and Hiouen-Thsang, has been admirably treated by
M. L. Vivien de Saint-Martin, in his 'Mémoire Analytique sur la Carte
de l'Asie Centrale et de l'Inde,' in the third volume of M. Stanislas
Julien's 'Pèlerins Bouddhistes.']

Buddha first went to Vai_s_âlî, and became the pupil of a famous
Brahman, who had gathered round him 300 disciples. Having learnt all
that the Brahman could teach him, Buddha went away disappointed. He
had not found the road to salvation. He then tried another Brahman at
Râ_g_ag_r_iha, the capital of Magadha or Behar, who had 700
disciples, and there too he looked in vain for the means of
deliverance. He left him, followed by five of his fellow-students, and
for six years retired into solitude, near a village named Uruvilva,
subjecting himself to the most severe penances, previous to his
appearing in the world as a teacher. At the end of this period,
however, he arrived at the conviction that asceticism, far from giving
peace of mind and preparing the way to salvation, was a snare and a
stumbling-block in the way of truth. He gave up his exercises, and was
at once deserted as an apostate by his five disciples. Left to himself
he now began to elaborate his own system. He had learnt that neither
the doctrines nor the austerities of the Brahmans were of any avail
for accomplishing the deliverance of man, and freeing him from the
fear of old age, disease, and death. After long meditations, and
ecstatic visions, he at last imagined that he had arrived at that true
knowledge which discloses the cause, and thereby destroys the fear, of
all the changes inherent in life. It was from the moment when he
arrived at this knowledge, that he claimed the name of Buddha, the
Enlightened. At that moment we may truly say that the fate of millions
of millions of human beings trembled in the balance. Buddha hesitated
for a time whether he should keep his knowledge to himself, or
communicate it to the world. Compassion for the sufferings of man
prevailed, and the young prince became the founder of a religion
which, after more than 2000 years, is still professed by 455,000,000
of human beings.[60]

[Footnote 60: Though truth is not settled by majorities, it would be
interesting to know which religion, counts at the present moment the
largest numbers of believers. Berghaus, in his 'Physical Atlas,' gives
the following division of the human race according to religion:

Buddhists            31.2 per cent.
Christians           30.7    "
Mohammedans          15.7    "
Brahmanists          13.4    "
Heathens              8.7    "
Jews                  0.3    "

As Berghaus does not distinguish the Buddhists in China from the
followers of Confucius and Lao-tse, the first place on the scale
belongs really to Christianity. It is difficult in China to say to
what religion a man belongs, as the same person may profess two or
three. The emperor himself, after sacrificing according to the ritual
of Confucius, visits a Tao-ssé temple, and afterwards bows before an
image of Fo in a Buddhist chapel. ('Mélanges Asiatiques de St.
Pétersbourg,' vol. ii. p. 374.)]

The further history of the new teacher is very simple. He proceeded to
Benares, which at all times was the principal seat of learning in
India, and the first converts he made were the five fellow-students
who had left him when he threw off the yoke of the Brahmanical
observances. Many others followed; but as the Lalita-Vistara breaks
off at Buddha's arrival at Benares, we have no further consecutive
account of the rapid progress of his doctrine. From what we can gather
from scattered notices in the Buddhist canon, he was invited by the
king of Magadha, Bimbisâra, to his capital, Râ_g_ag_r_iha. Many of his
lectures are represented as having been delivered at the monastery of
Kalantaka, with which the king or some rich merchant had presented
him; others on the Vulture Peak, one of the five hills that surrounded
the ancient capital.

Three of his most famous disciples, _S_âriputra, Kâtyâyana, and
Maudgalyâyana, joined him during his stay in Magadha, where he
enjoyed for many years the friendship of the king. That king was
afterwards assassinated by his son, A_g_âta_s_atru, and then we hear
of Buddha as settled for a time at _S_râvastî, north of the Ganges,
where Anâthapi_nd_ada, a rich merchant, had offered him and his
disciples a magnificent building for their residence. Most of Buddha's
lectures or sermons were delivered at _S_râvastî, the capital of
Ko_s_ala; and the king of Ko_s_ala himself, Prasêna_g_it, became a
convert to his doctrine. After an absence of twelve years we are told
that Buddha visited his father at Kapilavastu, on which occasion he
performed several miracles, and converted all the _S_âkyas to his
faith. His own wife became one of his followers, and, with his aunt,
offers the first instance of female Buddhist devotees in India. We
have fuller particulars again of the last days of Buddha's life. He
had attained the good age of three score and ten, and had been on a
visit to Râ_g_ag_r_iha, where the king, A_g_âta_s_atru, the former
enemy of Buddha, and the assassin of his own father, had joined the
congregation, after making a public confession of his crimes. On his
return he was followed by a large number of disciples, and when on the
point of crossing the Ganges, he stood on a square stone, and turning
his eyes back towards Râ_g_ag_r_iha, he said, full of emotion, 'This
is the last time that I see that city.' He likewise visited Vai_s_âlî,
and after taking leave of it, he had nearly reached the city of
Ku_s_inâgara, when his vital strength began to fail. He halted in a
forest, and while sitting under a sâl tree, he gave up the ghost, or,
as a Buddhist would say, entered into Nirvâ_n_a.

This is the simple story of Buddha's life. It reads much better in
the eloquent pages of M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, than in the turgid
language of the Buddhists. If a critical historian, with the materials
we possess, entered at all on the process of separating truth from
falsehood, he would probably cut off much of what our biographer has
left. Professor Wilson, in his Essay on Buddha and Buddhism, considers
it doubtful whether any such person as Buddha ever actually existed.
He dwells on the fact that there are at least twenty different dates
assigned to his birth, varying from 2420 to 453 B.C. He points out
that the clan of the _S_âkyas is never mentioned by early Hindu
writers, and he lays much stress on the fact that most of the proper
names of the persons connected with Buddha suggest an allegorical
signification. The name of his father means, he whose food is pure;
that of his mother signifies illusion; his own secular appellation,
Siddhârtha, he by whom the end is accomplished. Buddha itself means,
the Enlightened, or, as Professor Wilson translates it less
accurately, he by whom all is known. The same distinguished scholar
goes even further, and maintaining that Kapilavastu, the birthplace of
Buddha, has no place in the geography of the Hindus, suggests that it
may be rendered, the substance of Kapila; intimating, in fact, the
Sânkhya philosophy, the doctrine of Kapila Muni, upon which the
fundamental elements of Buddhism, the eternity of matter, the
principles of things, and the final extinction, are supposed to be
planned. 'It seems not impossible,' he continues, 'that _S_âkya Muni
is an unreal being, and that all that is related of him is as much a
fiction, as is that of his preceding migrations, and the miracles that
attended his birth, his life, and his departure.' This is going far
beyond Niebuhr, far even beyond Strauss. If an allegorical name had
been invented for the father of Buddha, one more appropriate than
'Clean-food' might surely have been found. His wife is not the only
queen known by the name of Mâyâ, Mâyâdêvî, or Mâyâvatî. Why, if these
names were invented, should his wife have been allowed to keep the
prosaic name of Gopâ (cowherdess), and his father-in-law, that of
Da_nd_apâ_n_i, 'Stick-hand?' As to his own name, Siddhârtha, the
Tibetans maintain that it was given him by his parent, whose wish
(artha) had been fulfilled (siddha), as we hear of Désirés and
Dieu-donnés in French. One of the ministers of Da_s_aratha had the
same name. It is possible also that Buddha himself assumed it in after
life, as was the case with many of the Roman surnames. As to the name
of Buddha, no one ever maintained that it was more than a title, the
Enlightened, changed from an appellative into a proper name, just like
the name of Christos, the Anointed, or Mohammed, the Expected.[61]
Kapilavastu would be a most extraordinary compound to express 'the
substance of the Sânkhya philosophy.' But all doubt on the subject is
removed by the fact that both Fahian in the fifth, and Hiouen-Thsang
in the seventh centuries, visited the real ruins of that city.

[Footnote 61: See Sprenger, 'Das Leben des Mohammed,' 1861, vol. i. p.

Making every possible allowance for the accumulation of fiction which
is sure to gather round the life of the founder of every great
religion, we may be satisfied that Buddhism, which changed the aspect
not only of India, but of nearly the whole of Asia, had a real
founder; that he was not a Brahman by birth, but belonged to the
second or royal caste; that being of a meditative turn of mind, and
deeply impressed with the frailty of all created things, he became a
recluse, and sought for light and comfort in the different systems of
Brâhman philosophy and theology. Dissatisfied with the artificial
systems of their priests and philosophers, convinced of the
uselessness, nay of the pernicious influence, of their ceremonial
practices and bodily penances, shocked, too, by their worldliness and
pharisaical conceit, which made the priesthood the exclusive property
of one caste and rendered every sincere approach of man to his Creator
impossible without their intervention, Buddha must have produced at
once a powerful impression on the people at large, when breaking
through all the established rules of caste, he assumed the privileges
of a Brahman, and throwing away the splendour of his royal position,
travelled about as a beggar, not shrinking from the defiling contact
of sinners and publicans. Though when we now speak of Buddhism, we
think chiefly of its doctrines, the reform of Buddha had originally
much more of a social than of a religious character. Buddha swept away
the web with which the Brahmans had encircled the whole of India.
Beginning as the destroyer of an old, he became the founder of a new
religion. We can hardly understand how any nation could have lived
under a system like that of the Brahmanic hierarchy, which coiled
itself round every public and private act, and would have rendered
life intolerable to any who had forfeited the favour of the priests.
That system was attacked by Buddha. Buddha might have taught whatever
philosophy he pleased, and we should hardly have heard his name. The
people would not have minded him, and his system would only have been
a drop in the ocean of philosophical speculation, by which India was
deluged at all times. But when a young prince assembled round him
people of all castes, of all ranks, when he defeated the Brahmans in
public disputations, when he declared the sacrifices by which they
made their living not only useless but sinful, when instead of severe
penance or excommunications inflicted by the Brahmans sometimes for
the most trifling offences, he only required public confession of sin
and a promise to sin no more: when the charitable gifts hitherto
monopolised by the Brahmans, began to flow into new channels,
supporting hundreds and thousands of Buddhist mendicants, more had
been achieved than probably Buddha himself had ever dreamt of; and he
whose meditations had been how to deliver the soul of man from misery
and the fear of death, had delivered the people of India from a
degrading thraldom and from priestly tyranny.

The most important element of the Buddhist reform has always been its
social and moral code, not its metaphysical theories. That moral code,
taken by itself, is one of the most perfect which the world has ever
known. On this point all testimonies from hostile and from friendly
quarters agree. Spence Hardy, a Wesleyan Missionary, speaking of the
Dhamma Padam, or the 'Footsteps of the Law,' admits that a collection
might be made from the precepts of this work, which in the purity of
its ethics could hardly be equalled from any other heathen author. M.
Laboulaye, one of the most distinguished members of the French
Academy, remarks in the 'Débats' of the 4th of April, 1853: 'It is
difficult to comprehend how men not assisted by revelation could have
soared so high, and approached so near to the truth.' Besides the five
great commandments not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery,
not to lie, not to get drunk, every shade of vice, hypocrisy, anger,
pride, suspicion, greediness, gossiping, cruelty to animals, is
guarded against by special precepts. Among the virtues recommended, we
find not only reverence of parents, care for children, submission to
authority, gratitude, moderation in time of prosperity, submission in
time of trial, equanimity at all times, but virtues unknown in any
heathen system of morality, such as the duty of forgiving insults and
not rewarding evil with evil. All virtues, we are told, spring from
Maitrî, and this Maitrî can only be translated by charity and love. 'I
do not hesitate,' says Burnouf,[62] 'to translate by charity the word
Maitrî; it does not express friendship or the feeling of particular
affection which a man has for one or more of his fellow-creatures, but
that universal feeling which inspires us with good-will towards all
men and constant willingness to help them.' We add one more testimony
from the work of M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire:

     'Je n'hésite pas à ajouter,' he writes, 'que, sauf le Christ
     tout seul, il n'est point, parmi les fondateurs de religion,
     de figure plus pure ni plus touchante que celle du Bouddha.
     Sa vie n'a point de tâche. Son constant héroisme égale sa
     conviction; et si la théorie qu'il préconise est fausse, les
     exemples personnels qu'il donne sont irréprochables. Il est
     le modèle achevé de toutes les vertus qu'il prêche; son
     abnégation, sa charité son inaltérable douceur, ne se
     démentent point un seul instant; il abandonne à vingt-neuf
     ans la cour du roi son père pour se faire religieux et
     mendiant; il prépare silencieusement sa doctrine par six
     années de retraite et de méditation; il la propage par la
     seule puissance de la parole et de la persuasion, pendant
     plus d'un demi-siècle; et quand il meurt entre les bras de
     ses disciples, c'est avec la sérénité d'un sage qui a
     pratiqué le bien toute sa vie, et qui est assuré d'avoir
     trouvé le vrai.' (Page v.)

[Footnote 62: Burnouf, 'Lotus de la bonne Loi,' p. 300.]

       *       *       *       *       *

There still remain, no doubt, some blurred and doubtful pages in the
history of the prince of Kapilavastu; but we have only to look at the
works on ancient philosophy and religion published some thirty years
ago, in order to perceive the immense progress that has been made in
establishing the true historical character of the founder of Buddhism.
There was a time when Buddha was identified with Christ. The
Manichæans were actually forced to abjure their belief that Buddha,
Christ, and Mani were one and the same person.[63] But we are thinking
rather of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when elaborate
books were written, in order to prove that Buddha had been in reality
the Thoth of the Egyptians, that he was Mercury, or Wodan, or
Zoroaster, or Pythagoras. Even Sir W. Jones, as we saw, identified
Buddha, first with Odin, and afterwards with Shishak, 'who either in
person or by a colony from Egypt imported into India the mild heresy
of the ancient Bauddhas.' At present we know that neither Egypt nor
the Walhalla of Germany, neither Greece nor Persia, could have
produced either the man himself or his doctrine. He is the offspring
of India in mind and soul. His doctrine, by the very antagonism in
which it stands to the old system of Brahmanism, shows that it could
not have sprung up in any country except India. The ancient history of
Brahmanism leads on to Buddhism, with the same necessity with which
mediæval Romanism led to Protestantism. Though the date of Buddha is
still liable to small chronological oscillations, his place in the
intellectual annals of India is henceforth definitely marked: Buddhism
became the state religion of India at the time of A_s_oka; and
A_s_oka, the Buddhist Constantine, was the grandson of _K_andragupta,
the contemporary of Seleucus Nicator. The system of the Brahmans had
run its course. Their ascendency, at first purely intellectual and
religious, had gradually assumed a political character. By means of
the system of caste this influence pervaded the whole social fabric,
not as a vivifying leaven, but as a deadly poison. Their increasing
power and self-confidence are clearly exhibited in the successive
periods of their ancient literature. It begins with the simple hymns
of the Veda. These are followed by the tracts, known by the name of
Brâhma_n_as, in which a complete system of theology is elaborated, and
claims advanced in favour of the Brahmans, such as were seldom
conceded to any hierarchy. The third period in the history of their
ancient literature is marked by their Sûtras or Aphorisms, curt and
dry formularies, showing the Brahmans in secure possession of all
their claims. Such privileges as they then enjoyed are never enjoyed
for any length of time. It was impossible for anybody to move or to
assert his freedom of thought and action without finding himself
impeded on all sides by the web of the Brahmanic law; nor was there
anything in their religion to satisfy the natural yearnings of the
human heart after spiritual comfort. What was felt by Buddha, had been
felt more or less intensely by thousands; and this was the secret of
his success. That success was accelerated, however, by political
events. _K_andragupta had conquered the throne of Magadha, and
acquired his supremacy in India in defiance of the Brahmanic law. He
was of low origin, a mere adventurer, and by his accession to the
throne an important mesh had been broken in the intricate system of
caste. Neither he nor his successors could count on the support of the
Brahmans, and it is but natural that his grandson, A_s_oka, should
have been driven to seek support from the sect founded by Buddha.
Buddha, by giving up his royal station, had broken the law of caste as
much as _K_andragupta by usurping it. His school, though it had
probably escaped open persecution until it rose to political
importance, could never have been on friendly terms with the Brahmans
of the old school. The _parvenu_ on the throne saw his natural allies
in the followers of Buddha, and the mendicants, who by their
unostentatious behaviour had won golden opinions among the lower and
middle classes, were suddenly raised to an importance little dreamt of
by their founder. Those who see in Buddhism, not a social but chiefly
a religious and philosophical reform, have been deceived by the later
Buddhist literature, and particularly by the controversies between
Buddhists and Brahmans, which in later times led to the total
expulsion of the former from India, and to the political
re-establishment of Brahmanism. These, no doubt, turn chiefly on
philosophical problems, and are of the most abstruse and intricate
character. But such was not the teaching of Buddha. If we may judge
from 'the four verities,' which Buddha inculcated from the first day
that he entered on his career as a teacher, his philosophy of life was
very simple. He proclaims that there was nothing but sorrow in life;
that sorrow is produced by our affections, that our affections must be
destroyed in order to destroy the root of sorrow, and that he could
teach mankind how to eradicate all the affections, all passions, all
desires. Such doctrines were intelligible; and considering that Buddha
received people of all castes, who after renouncing the world and
assuming their yellow robes, were sure of finding a livelihood from
the charitable gifts of the people, it is not surprising that the
number of his followers should have grown so rapidly. If Buddha really
taught the metaphysical doctrines which are ascribed to him by
subsequent writers--and this is a point which it is impossible to
settle--not one in a thousand among his followers would have been
capable of appreciating those speculations. They must have been
reserved for a few of his disciples, and they would never have formed
the nucleus for a popular religion.

[Footnote 63: Neander, 'History of the Church,' vol. i. p. 817: Τὀν Ζαραδἀν
καἰ Βουδἀν καἰ τὀν Χριστὀν καἰ τὀν Μανιχαιὀν ἓνα καἰ τὀν αὐτὀν εἶναι.]

Nearly all who have written on Buddhism, and M. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire
among the rest, have endeavoured to show that these metaphysical doctrines
of Buddha were borrowed from the earlier systems of Brahmanic philosophy,
and more particularly from the Sânkhya system. The reputed founder of that
system is Kapila, and we saw before how Professor Wilson actually changed
the name of Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Buddha, into a mere
allegory:--Kapilavastu meaning, according to him, the substance of Kapila
or of the Sânkhya philosophy. This is not all. Mr. Spence Hardy (p. 132)
quotes a legend in which it is said that Buddha was in a former existence
the ascetic Kapila, that the _S_âkya princes came to his hermitage, and
that he pointed out to them the proper place for founding a new city, which
city was named after him Kapilavastu. But we have looked in vain for any
definite similarities between the system of Kapila, as known to us in the
Sânkhya-sûtras, and the Abhidharma, or the metaphysics of the Buddhists.
Such similarities would be invaluable. They would probably enable us to
decide whether Buddha borrowed from Kapila or Kapila from Buddha, and thus
determine the real chronology of the philosophical literature of India, as
either prior or subsequent to the Buddhist era. There are certain notions
which Buddha shares in common not only with Kapila, but with every Hindu
philosopher. The idea of transmigration, the belief in the continuing
effects of our good and bad actions, extending from our former to our
present and from our present to our future lives, the sense that life is a
dream or a burden, the admission of the uselessness of religious
observances after the attainment of the highest knowledge, all these
belong, so to say, to the national philosophy of India. We meet with these
ideas everywhere, in the poetry, the philosophy, the religion of the
Hindus. They cannot be claimed as the exclusive property of any system in
particular. But if we look for more special coincidences between Buddha's
doctrines and those of Kapila or other Indian philosophers, we look in
vain. At first it might seem as if the very first aphorism of Kapila,
namely, 'the complete cessation of pain, which is of three kinds, is the
highest aim of man,' was merely a philosophical paraphrase of the events
which, as we saw, determined Buddha to renounce the world in search of the
true road to salvation. But though the starting-point of Kapila and Buddha
is the same, a keen sense of human misery and a yearning after a better
state, their roads diverge so completely and their goals are so far apart,
that it is difficult to understand how, almost by common consent, Buddha is
supposed either to have followed in the footsteps of Kapila, or to have
changed Kapila's philosophy into a religion. Some scholars imagine that
there was a more simple and primitive philosophy which was taught by
Kapila, and that the Sûtras which are now ascribed to him, are of later
date. It is impossible either to prove or to disprove such a view. At
present we know Kapila's philosophy from his Sûtras only,[64] and these
Sûtras seem to us posterior, not anterior, to Buddha. Though the name of
Buddha is not mentioned in the Sûtras, his doctrines are clearly alluded to
and controverted in several parts of them.

[Footnote 64: Of Kapila's Sûtras, together with the commentary of
Vi_g_ñâna Bhikshu, a new edition was published in 1856, by Dr.
Fitz-Edward Hall, in the 'Bibliotheca Indica.' An excellent
translation of the Aphorisms, with illustrative extracts from the
commentaries, was printed for the use of the Benares College, by Dr.

It has been said that Buddha and Kapila were both atheists, and that
Buddha borrowed his atheism from Kapila. But atheism is an indefinite
term, and may mean very different things. In one sense every Indian
philosopher was an atheist, for they all perceived that the gods of
the populace could not claim the attributes that belong to a Supreme
Being. But all the important philosophical systems of the Brahmans
admit, in some form or other, the existence of an Absolute and Supreme
Being, the source of all that exists, or seems to exist. Kapila, when
accused of atheism, is not accused of denying the existence of an
Absolute Being. He is accused of denying the existence of Î_s_vara,
which in general means the Lord, but which in the passage where it
occurs, refers to the Î_s_vara of the Yogins, or mystic philosophers.
They maintained that in an ecstatic state man possesses the power of
seeing God face to face, and they wished to have this ecstatic
intuition included under the head of sensuous perceptions. To this
Kapila demurred. You have not proved the existence of your Lord, he
says, and therefore I see no reason why I should alter my definition
of sensuous perception in order to accommodate your ecstatic visions.
The commentator narrates that this strong language was used by Kapila
in order to silence the wild talk of the Mystics, and that, though he
taunted his adversaries with having failed to prove the existence of
their Lord, he himself did not deny the existence of a Supreme Being.
Kapila, however, went further. He endeavoured to show that all the
attributes which the Mystics ascribed to their Lord are inappropriate.
He used arguments very similar to those which have lately been used
with such ability by a distinguished Bampton Lecturer. The supreme
lord of the Mystics, Kapila argued, is either absolute and
unconditioned (mukta), or he is bound and conditioned (baddha). If he
is absolute and unconditioned, he cannot enter into the condition of a
Creator; he would have no desires which could instigate him to create.
If, on the contrary, he is represented as active, and entering on the
work of creation, he would no longer be the absolute and unchangeable
Being which we are asked to believe in. Kapila, like the preacher of
our own days, was accused of paving the road to atheism, but his
philosophy was nevertheless admitted as orthodox, because, in addition
to sensuous perception and inductive reasoning, Kapila professed
emphatically his belief in revelation, i. e. in the Veda, and allowed
to it a place among the recognised instruments of knowledge. Buddha
refused to allow to the Vedas any independent authority whatever, and
this constituted the fundamental difference between the two

Whether Kapila's philosophy was really in accordance with the spirit
of the Veda, is quite a different question. No philosophy, at least
nothing like a definite system, is to be found in the sacred hymns of
the Brahmans; and though the Vedânta philosophy does less violence to
the passages which it quotes from the Veda, the authors of the Veda
would have been as much surprised at the consequences deduced from
their words by the Vedântin, as by the strange meaning attributed to
them by Kapila. The Vedânta philosopher, like Kapila, would deny the
existence of a Creator in the usual sense of the word. He explained
the universe as an emanation from Brahman, which is all in all. Kapila
admitted two principles, an absolute Spirit and Nature, and he looked
upon the universe as produced by a reflection of Nature thrown on the
mirror of the absolute Spirit. Both systems seem to regard creation,
or the created world, as a misfortune, as an unfortunate accident. But
they maintain that its effects can be neutralised, and that
emancipation from the bonds of earthly existence is possible by means
of philosophy. The Vedânta philosopher imagines he is free when he has
arrived at the knowledge that nothing exists but Brahman; that all
phenomena are merely the result of ignorance; that after the
destruction of that ignorance, and of its effects, all is merged again
in Brahman, the true source of being, thought, and happiness. Kapila
taught that the spirit became free from all mundane fetters as soon as
it perceived that all phenomena were only passing reflections produced
by nature upon the spirit, and as soon as it was able to shut its eyes
to those illusory visions. Both systems therefore, and the same
applies to all the other philosophical systems of the Brahmans,
admitted an absolute or self-existing Being as the cause of all that
exists or seems to exist. And here lies the specific difference
between Kapila and Buddha. Buddha, like Kapila, maintained that this
world had no absolute reality, that it was a snare and an illusion.
The words, 'All is perishable, all is miserable, all is void,' must
frequently have passed his lips. But we cannot call things unreal
unless we have a conception of something that is real. Where, then,
did Buddha find a reality in comparison with which this world might be
called unreal? What remedy did he propose as an emancipation from the
sufferings of this life? Difficult as it seems to us to conceive it,
Buddha admits of no real cause of this unreal world. He denies the
existence not only of a Creator, but of any Absolute Being. According
to the metaphysical tenets, if not of Buddha himself, at least of his
sect, there is no reality anywhere, neither in the past nor in the
future. True wisdom consists in perceiving the nothingness of all
things, and in a desire to become nothing, to be blown out, to enter
into Nirvâ_n_a. Emancipation is obtained by total extinction, not by
absorption in Brahman, or by a recovery of the soul's true estate. If
to be is misery, not to be must be felicity, and this felicity is the
highest reward which Buddha promised to his disciples. In reading the
Aphorisms of Kapila, it is difficult not to see in his remarks on
those who maintain that all is void, covert attacks on Buddha and his
followers. In one place (I. 43) Kapila argues that if people believed
in the reality of thought only, and denied the reality of external
objects, they would soon be driven to admit that nothing at all
exists, because we perceive our thoughts in the same manner as we
perceive external objects. This naturally leads him to an examination
of that extreme doctrine, according to which all that we perceive is
void, and all is supposed to perish, because it is the nature of
things that they should perish. Kapila remarks in reference to this
view (I. 45), that it is a mere assertion of persons who are 'not
enlightened,' in Sanskrit a-buddha, a sarcastic expression in which it
is very difficult not to see an allusion to Buddha, or to those who
claimed for him the title of the Enlightened. Kapila then proceeds to
give the best answer that could be given to those who taught that
complete annihilation must be the highest aim of man, as the only
means of a complete cessation of suffering. 'It is not so,' he says,
'for if people wish to be free from suffering, it is they themselves
who wish to be free, just as in this life it is they themselves who
wish to enjoy happiness. There must be a permanent soul in order to
satisfy the yearnings of the human heart, and if you deny that soul,
you have no right to speak of the highest aim--of man.'

Whether the belief in this kind of Nirvâ_n_a, i. e. in a total
extinction of being, personality, and consciousness, was at any time
shared by the large masses of the people, is difficult either to
assert or deny. We know nothing in ancient times of the religious
convictions of the millions. We only know what a few leading spirits
believed, or professed to believe. That certain individuals should
have spoken and written of total extinction as the highest aim of man,
is intelligible. Job cursed the day on which he was born, and Solomon
praised the 'dead which are already dead, more than the living which
are yet alive,' 'Yea, better is he than both they,' he said, 'which
hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under
the sun,' Voltaire said in his own flippant way, 'On aime la vie, mais
le néant ne laisse pas d'avoir du bon;' and a modern German
philosopher, who has found much favour with those who profess to
despise Kant, Schelling, and Hegel, writes, 'Considered in its
objective value, it is more than doubtful that life is preferable to
the Nothing. I should say even, that if experience and reflection
could lift up their voices they would recommend to us the Nothing. We
are what ought not to be, and we shall therefore cease to be.' Under
peculiar circumstances, in the agonies of despair, or under the
gathering clouds of madness, such language is intelligible; but to
believe, as we are asked to believe, that one half of mankind had
yearned for total annihilation, would be tantamount to a belief that
there is a difference in kind between man and man. Buddhist
philosophers, no doubt, held this doctrine, and it cannot be denied
that it found a place in the Buddhist canon. But even among the
different schools of Buddhist philosophers, very different views are
adopted as to the true meaning of Nirvâ_n_a, and with the modern
Buddhists of Burmah, Nigban, as they call it, is defined simply as
freedom from old age, disease, and death. We do not find fault with M.
Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire for having so emphatically pressed the charge
of nihilism against Buddha himself. In one portion of the Buddhist
canon the most extreme views of nihilism are put into his mouth. All
we can say is that that canon is later than Buddha, and that in the
same canon[65] the founder of Buddhism, after having entered into
Nirvâ_n_a, is still spoken of as living, nay, as showing himself to
those who believe in him. Buddha, who denied the existence, or at
least the divine nature, of the gods worshipped by the Brahmans, was
raised himself to the rank of a deity by some of his followers (the
Ai_s_varikas), and we need not wonder therefore if his Nirvâ_n_a too
was gradually changed into an Elysian field. And finally, if we may
argue from human nature, such as we find it at all times and in all
countries, we confess that we cannot bring ourselves to believe that
the reformer of India, the teacher of so perfect a code of morality,
the young prince who gave up all he had in order to help those whom
he saw afflicted in mind, body, or estate, should have cared much
about speculations which he knew would either be misunderstood, or not
understood at all, by those whom he wished to benefit; that he should
have thrown away one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of
every religious teacher, the belief in a future life, and should not
have seen, that if this life was sooner or later to end in nothing, it
was hardly worth the trouble which he took himself, or the sacrifices
which he imposed on his disciples.

_April, 1862._

[Footnote 65: 'L'enfant égaré,' par Ph. Ed. Foucaux, p. 19.]



M. Stanislas Julien has commenced the publication of a work entitled,
'Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes.' The first volume, published in the
year 1853, contains the biography of Hiouen-thsang, who, in the middle
of the seventh century A.D., travelled from China through Central Asia
to India. The second, which has just reached us, gives us the first
portion of Hiouen-thsang's own diary.

[Footnote 66: 'Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes.' Vol. I. Histoire de
la Vie de Hiouen-thsang, et de ses Voyages dans l'Inde, depuis l'an
629 jusqu'en 645, par Hoeili et Yen-thsong; traduite du Chinois par
Stanislas Julien.

Vol. II. Mémoires sur les Contrées Occidentales, traduits du Sanscrit
en Chinois, en l'an 648, par Hiouen-thsang, et du Chinois en Français,
pas Stanislas Julien. Paris, 1853-1857: B. Duprat. London and
Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate.]

There are not many books of travel which can be compared to these
volumes. Hiouen-thsang passed through countries which few had visited
before him. He describes parts of the world which no one has explored
since, and where even our modern maps contain hardly more than the
ingenious conjectures of Alexander von Humboldt. His observations are
minute; his geographical, statistical, and historical remarks most
accurate and trustworthy. The chief object of his travels was to study
the religion of Buddha, the great reformer of India. Some Chinese
pilgrims visited India before, several after, his time. Hiouen-thsang,
however, is considered by the Chinese themselves as the most
distinguished of these pilgrims, and M. Stanislas Julien has rightly
assigned to him the first place in his collection.

In order to understand what Hiouen-thsang was, and to appreciate his
life and his labours, we must first cast a glance at the history of a
religion which, however unattractive and even mischievous it may
appear to ourselves, inspired her votary with the true spirit of
devotion and self-sacrifice. That religion has now existed for exactly
2,400 years. To millions and millions of human beings it has been the
only preparation for a higher life placed within their reach. And even
at the present day it counts among the hordes of Asia a more numerous
array of believers than any other faith, not excluding Mohammedanism
or Christianity. The religion of Buddha took its origin in India about
the middle of the sixth century B.C., but it did not assume its
political importance till about the time of Alexander's invasion. We
know little, therefore, of its first origin and spreading, because the
canonical works on which we must chiefly rely for information belong
to a much later period, and are strongly tinged with a legendary
character. The very existence of such a being as Buddha, the son of
_S_uddhodana, king of Kapilavastu, has been doubted. But what can
never be doubted is this, that Buddhism, such as we find it in
Russia[67] and Sweden[68] on the very threshold of European
civilisation, in the north of Asia, in Mongolia, Tatary, China, Tibet,
Nepal, Siam, Burmah, and Ceylon, had its origin in India. Doctrines
similar to those of Buddha existed in that country long before his
time. We can trace them like meandering roots below the surface long
before we reach the point where the roots strike up into a stem, and
the stem branches off again into fruit-bearing branches. What was
original and new in Buddha was his changing a philosophical system
into a practical doctrine; his taking the wisdom of the few, and
coining as much of it as he thought genuine for the benefit of the
many; his breaking with the traditional formalities of the past, and
proclaiming for the first time, in spite of castes and creeds, the
equality of the rich and the poor, the foolish and the wise, the
'twice-born' and the outcast. Buddhism, as a religion and as a
political fact, was a reaction against Brahmanism, though it retained
much of that more primitive form of faith and worship. Buddhism, in
its historical growth, presupposes Brahmanism, and, however hostile
the mutual relation of these two religions may have been at different
periods of Indian history, it can be shown, without much difficulty,
that the latter was but a natural consequence of the former.

The ancient religion of the Aryan inhabitants of India had started, like
the religion of the Greeks, the Romans, the Germans, Slaves, and Celts,
with a simple and intelligible mythological phraseology. In the Veda--for
there is but one real Veda--the names of all the so-called gods or Devas
betray their original physical character and meaning without disguise. The
fire was praised and invoked by the name of "Agni" (_ignis_); the earth by
the name of "P_r_ithvî" (the broad); the sky by the name of "Dyu"
(Jupiter), and afterwards of "Indra;" the firmament and the waters by the
name of "Varu_n_a," or Οὐραvὁς. The sun was invoked by many names, such as
"Sûrya," "Savit_r_i," "Vish_n_u," or "Mitra;" and the dawn rejoiced in such
titles as "Ushas," "Urva_s_i," "Ahanâ," and "Sûryâ." Nor was the moon
forgotten. For though it is mentioned but rarely under its usual name of
"_K_andra," it is alluded to under the more sacred appellation of "Soma;"
and each of its four phases had received its own denomination. There is
hardly any part of nature, if it could impress the human mind in any way
with the ideas of a higher power, of order, eternity, or
beneficence,--whether the winds, or the rivers, or the trees, or the
mountains,--without a name and representative in the early Hindu Pantheon.
No doubt there existed in the human mind, from the very beginning,
something, whether we call it a suspicion, an innate idea, an intuition, or
a sense of the Divine. What distinguishes man from the rest of the animal
creation is chiefly that ineradicable feeling of dependence and reliance
upon some higher power, a consciousness of bondage, from which the very
name of "religion" was derived. "It is He that hath made us, and not we
ourselves." The presence of that power was felt everywhere, and nowhere
more clearly and strongly than in the rising and setting of the sun, in the
change of day and night, of spring and winter, of birth and death. But,
although the Divine presence was felt everywhere, it was impossible in that
early period of thought, and with a language incapable as yet of expressing
anything but material objects, to conceive the idea of God in its purity
and fullness, or to assign to it an adequate and worthy expression.
Children cannot think the thoughts of men, and the poets of the Veda could
not speak the language of Aristotle. It was by a slow process that the
human mind elaborated the idea of one absolute and supreme Godhead; and by
a still slower process that the human language matured a word to express
that idea. A period of growth was inevitable, and those who, from a mere
guess of their own, do not hesitate to speak authoritatively of a primeval
revelation, which imparted to the Pagan world the idea of the Godhead in
all its purity, forget that, however pure and sublime and spiritual that
revelation might have been, there was no language capable as yet of
expressing the high and immaterial conceptions of that Heaven-sent message.
The real history of religion, during the earliest mythological period,
represents to us a slow process of fermentation in thought and language,
with its various interruptions, its overflowings, its coolings, its
deposits, and its gradual clearing from all extraneous and foreign
admixture. This is not only the case among the Indo-European or Aryan races
in India, in Greece, and in Germany. In Peru, and wherever the primitive
formations of the intellectual world crop out, the process is exactly the
same. "The religion of the sun," as it has been boldly said by the author
of the "Spanish Conquest in America," "was inevitable." It was like a deep
furrow which that heavenly luminary drew, in its silent procession from
east to west, over the virgin mind of the gazing multitude; and in the
impression left there by the first rising and setting of the sun, there lay
the dark seed of a faith in a more than human being, the first intimation
of a life without beginning, of a world without end. Manifold seed fell
afterwards into the soil once broken. Something divine was discovered in
everything that moved and lived. Names were stammered forth in anxious
haste, and no single name could fully express what lay hidden in the human
mind and wanted expression--the idea of an absolute, and perfect, and
supreme, and immortal Essence. Thus a countless host of nominal gods was
called into being, and for a time seemed to satisfy the wants of a
thoughtless multitude. But there were thoughtful men at all times, and
their reason protested against the contradictions of a mythological
phraseology, though it had been hallowed by sacred customs and traditions.
That rebellious reason had been at work from the very first, always ready
to break the yoke of names and formulas which no longer expressed what they
were intended to express. The idea which had yearned for utterance was the
idea of a supreme and absolute Power, and that yearning was not satisfied
by such names as "Kronos," "Zeus," and "Apollon." The very sound of such a
word as "God," used in the plural, jarred on the ear, as if we were to
speak of two universes, or of a single twin. There are many words, as Greek
and Latin grammarians tell us, which, if used in the plural, have a
different meaning from what they have in the singular. The Latin "æedes"
means a temple; if used in the plural it means a house. "Deus" and Θεὁς
ought to be added to the same class of words. The idea of supreme
perfection excluded limitation, and the idea of God excluded the
possibility of many gods. This may seem language too abstract and
metaphysical for the early times of which we are speaking. But the ancient
poets of the Vedic hymns have expressed the same thought with perfect
clearness and simplicity. In the Rig-veda (I. 164, 46) we read:--

"That which is one the sages speak of in many ways--they call it
'Agni,' 'Yama,' 'Mâtari_s_van.'"

[Footnote 67: See W. Spottiswoode's 'Tarantasse Journey,' p. 220,
Visit to the Buddhist Temple.]

[Footnote 68: The only trace of the influence of Buddhism among the
_K_udic races, the Fins, Laps, &c., is found in the name of their
priests and sorcerers, the Shamans. Shaman is supposed to be a
corruption of _S_rama_n_a, a name applied to Buddha, and to Buddhist
priests in general. The ancient mythological religion of the _K_udic
races has nothing in common with Buddhism. See Castren's 'Lectures on
Finnish Mythology,' 1853. Finland was ceded by Sweden to Russia in
1809, See the Author's 'Survey of Languages,' second edition, p. 116.
Shamanism found its way from India to Siberia viâ Tibet, China, and
Mongolia. Rules on the formation of magic figures, on the treatment of
diseases by charms, on the worship of evil spirits, on the acquisition
of supernatural powers, on charms, incantations, and other branches of
Shaman witchcraft, are found in the Stan-gyour, or the second part of
the Tibetan canon, and in some of the late Tantras of the Nepalese

Besides the plurality of gods, which was sure to lead to their
destruction, there was a taint of mortality which they could not throw
off. They all derived their being from the life of nature. The god who
represented the sun was liable, in the mythological language of
antiquity, to all the accidents which threatened the solar luminary.
Though he might rise in immortal youth in the morning, he was
conquered by the shadows of the night, and the powers of winter seemed
to overthrow his heavenly throne. There is nothing in nature free from
change, and the gods of nature fell under the thralldom of nature's
laws. The sun must set, and the solar gods and heroes must die. There
must be one God, there must be one unchanging Deity; this was the
silent conviction of the human mind. There are many gods, liable to
all the vicissitudes of life; this was everywhere the answer of
mythological religion.

It is curious to observe in how many various ways these two opposite
principles were kept for a time from open conflict, and how long the
heathen temples resisted the enemy which was slowly and imperceptibly
undermining their very foundations. In Greece this mortal element,
inherent in all gods, was eliminated to a great extent by the
conception of heroes. Whatever was too human in the ancient legends
told of Zeus and Apollon was transfered to so-called half-gods or
heroes, who were represented as the sons or favorites of the gods, and
who bore their fate under a slightly altered name. The twofold
character of Herakles as a god and as a hero is acknowledged even by
Herodotus, and some of his epithets would have been sufficient to
indicate his solar and originally divine character. But, in order to
make some of the legends told of the solar deity possible or
conceivable, it was necessary to represent Herakles as a more human
being, and to make him rise to the seat of the Immortals only after he
had endured toils and sufferings incompatible with the dignity of an
Olympian god. We find the same idea in Peru, only that there it led to
different results. A thinking, or, as he was called, a freethinking
Inca[69] remarked that this perpetual travelling of the sun was a sign
of servitude,[70] and he threw doubts upon the divine nature of such
an unquiet thing as that great luminary appeared to him to be. And
this misgiving led to a tradition which, even should it be unfounded
in history, had some truth in itself, that there was in Peru an
earlier worship, that of an invisible Deity, the Creator of the world,
Pachacamac. In Greece, also, there are signs of a similar craving
after the "Unknown God." A supreme God was wanted, and Zeus, the
stripling of Creta, was raised to that rank. He became God above all
gods--ἁπἁντων κὑριος as Pindar calls him. Yet more was
wanted than a mere Zeus; and thus a supreme Fate or Spell was imagined
before which all the gods, and even Zeus, had to bow. And even this
Fate was not allowed to remain supreme, and there was something in the
destinies of man which was called ὑπἑρμορον, or "beyond
Fate." The most awful solution, however, of the problem belongs to
Teutonic mythology. Here, also, some heroes were introduced; but their
death was only the beginning of the final catastrophe. "All gods must
die." Such is the last word of that religion which had grown up in the
forests of Germany, and found a last refuge among the glaciers and
volcanoes of Iceland. The death of Sigurd, the descendant of Odin,
could not avert the death of Balder, the son of Odin; and the death of
Balder was soon to be followed by the death of Odin himself, and of
all the immortal gods.

All this was inevitable, and Prometheus, the man of forethought, could
safely predict the fall of Zeus. The struggles by which reason and
faith overthrow tradition and superstition vary in different countries
and at different times; but the final victory is always on their side.
In India the same antagonism manifested itself, but what there seemed
a victory of reason threatened to become the destruction of all
religious faith. At first there was hardly a struggle. On the
primitive mythological stratum of thought two new formations
arose,--the Brahmanical philosophy and the Brahmanical ceremonial; the
one opening the widest avenues of philosophical thought, the other
fencing all religious feeling within the narrowest barriers. Both
derived their authority from the same source. Both professed to carry
out the meaning and purpose of the Veda. Thus we see on the one side,
the growth of a numerous and powerful priesthood, and the
establishment of a ceremonial which embraced every moment of a man's
life from his birth to his death. There was no event which might have
moved the heart to a spontaneous outpouring of praise or thanksgiving,
which was not regulated by priestly formulas. Every prayer was
prescribed, every sacrifice determined. Every god had his share, and
the claims of each deity on the adoration of the faithful were set
down with such punctiliousness, the danger of offending their pride
was represented in such vivid colors, that no one would venture to
approach their presence without the assistance of a well-paid staff of
masters of divine ceremonies. It was impossible to avoid sin without
the help of the Brahmans. They alone knew the food that might properly
be eaten, the air which might properly be breathed, the dress which
might properly be worn. They alone could tell what god should be
invoked, what sacrifice be offered; and the slightest mistake of
pronunciation, the slightest neglect about clarified butter, or the
length of the ladle in which it was to be offered, might bring
destruction upon the head of the unassisted worshipper. No nation was
ever so completely priest-ridden as the Hindus under the sway of the
Brahmanic law. Yet, on the other side, the same people were allowed to
indulge in the most unrestrained freedom of thought, and in the
schools of their philosophy the very names of their gods were never
mentioned. Their existence was neither denied nor asserted; they were
of no greater importance in the system of the world of thought than
trees or mountains, men or animals; and to offer sacrifices to them
with a hope of rewards, so far from being meritorious, was considered
as dangerous to that emancipation to which a clear perception of
philosophical truth was to lead the patient student. There was one
system which taught that there existed but one Being, without a
second; that everything else which seemed to exist was but a dream and
illusion, and that this illusion might be removed by a true knowledge
of the one Being. There was another system which admitted two
principles,--one a subjective and self-existent mind, the other
matter, endowed with qualities. Here the world, with its joys and
sorrows, was explained as the result of the subjective Self,
reflecting itself in the mirror of matter; and final emancipation was
obtained by turning away the eyes from the play of nature, and being
absorbed in the knowledge of the time and absolute Self. A third
system started with the admission of atoms, and explained every
effect, including the elements and the mind, animals, men, and gods,
from the concurrence of these atoms. In fact, as M. Cousin remarked
many years ago, the history of the philosophy of India is "un abrégé
de l'histoire de la philosophie." The germs of all these systems are
traced back to the Vedas, Brâhma_n_as, and the Upanishads, and the man
who believed in any of them was considered as orthodox as the devout
worshipper of the gods; the one was saved by knowledge and faith, the
other by works and faith.

Such was the state of the Hindu mind when Buddhism arose; or, rather,
such was the state of the Hindu mind which gave rise to Buddhism.
Buddha himself went through the school of the Brahmans. He performed
their penances, he studied their philosophy, and he at last claimed
the name of "the Buddha," or "the Enlightened," when he threw away the
whole ceremonial, with its sacrifices, superstitions, penances, and
castes, as worthless, and changed the complicated systems of
philosophy into a short doctrine of salvation. This doctrine of
salvation has been called pure Atheism and Nihilism, and it no doubt
was liable to both charges in its metaphysical character, and in that
form in which we chiefly know it. It was Atheistic, not because it
denied the existence of such gods as Indra and Brahma. Buddha did not
even condescend to deny their existence. But it was called Atheistic,
like the Sankhya philosophy, which admitted but one subjective Self,
and considered creation as an illusion of that Self, imaging itself
for a while in the mirror of nature. As there was no reality in
creation, there could be no real Creator. All that seemed to exist was
the result of ignorance. To remove that ignorance was to remove the
cause of all that seemed to exist. How a religion which taught the
annihilation of all existence, of all thought, of all individuality
and personality, as the highest object of all endeavors, could have
laid hold of the minds of millions of human beings, and how at the
same time, by enforcing the duties of morality, justice, kindness, and
self-sacrifice, it could have exercised a decided beneficial
influence, not only on the natives of India, but on the lowest
barbarians of Central Asia, is a riddle which no one has been able to
solve. We must distinguish, it seems, between Buddhism as a religion,
and Buddhism as a a religion, and Buddhism as a philosophy.
The former addressed itself to millions, the latter to a few isolated
thinkers. It is from these isolated thinkers, however, and from their
literary compositions, that we are apt to form our notions of what
Buddhism was, while, as a matter of fact, not one in a thousand would
have been capable of following these metaphysical speculations. To the
people at large Buddhism was a moral and religious, not a
philosophical reform. Yet even its morality has a metaphysical tinge.
The morality which it teaches is not a morality of expediency and
rewards. Virtue is not enjoined because it necessarily leads to
happiness. No; virtue is to be practised, but happiness is to be
shunned, and the only reward for virtue is that it subdues the
passions, and thus prepares the human mind for that knowledge which is
to end in complete annihilation. There are ten commandments which
Buddha imposes on his disciples.[71] They are--

1. Not to kill.
2. Not to steal.
3. Not to commit adultery.
4. Not to lie.
5. Not to get intoxicated.
6. To abstain from unseasonable meals.
7. To abstain from public spectacles.

[Footnote 69: Helps, _The Spanish Conquest_, vol. iii. p. 503: "Que
cosa tam inquieta non le parescia ser Dios."]

[Footnote 70: On the servitude of the gods, see the "Essay on
Comparative Mythology," _Oxford Essays_, 1856, p. 69.]

[Footnote 71: See Burnouf, 'Lotus de la bonne Loi,' p. 444. Barthélemy
Saint-Hilaire, 'Du Bouddhisme,' p. 132. Ch.F.Neumann, 'Catechism of
the Shamans.']

8. To abstain from expensive dresses.
9. Not to have a large bed.
10. Not to receive silver or gold.

The duties of those who embraced a religious life were more severe. They
were not allowed to wear any dress except rags collected in cemeteries, and
these rags they had to sew together with their own hands. A yellow cloak
was to be thrown over these rags. Their food was to be extremely simple,
and they were not to possess anything, except what they could get by
collecting alms from door to door in their wooden bowls. They had but one
meal in the morning, and were not allowed to touch any food after midday.
They were to live in forests, not in cities, and their only shelter was to
be the shadow of a tree. There they were to sit, to spread their carpet,
but not to lie down, even during sleep. They were allowed to enter the
nearest city or village in order to beg, but they had to return to their
forest before night, and the only change which was allowed, or rather
prescribed, was when they had to spend some nights in the cemeteries, there
to meditate on the vanity of all things. And what was the object of all
this asceticism? Simply to guide each individual towards that path which
would finally bring him to Nirvâ_n_a, to utter extinction or annihilation.
The very definition of virtue was that it helped man to cross over to the
other shore, and that other shore was not death, but cessation of all
being. Thus charity was considered a virtue; modesty, patience, courage,
contemplation, and science, all were virtues, but they were practised only
as a means of arriving at deliverance. Buddha himself exhibited the
perfection of all these virtues. His charity knew no bounds. When he saw a
tigress starved, and unable to feed her cubs, he is said to have made a
charitable oblation of his body to be devoured by them. Hiouen-thsang
visited the place on the banks of the Indus where this miracle was supposed
to have happened, and he remarks that the soil is still red there from the
blood of Buddha, and that the trees and flowers have the same colour.[72]
As to the modesty of Buddha, nothing could exceed it. One day, king
Prasena_g_it, the protector of Buddha, called on him to perform miracles,
in order to silence his adversaries, the Brahmans. Buddha consented. He
performed the required miracles; but he exclaimed, 'Great king, I do not
teach the law to my pupils, telling them, Go, ye saints, and before the
eyes of the Brahmans and householders perform, by means of your
supernatural powers, miracles greater than any man can perform. I tell
them, when I teach them the law, Live, ye saints, hiding your good works
and showing your sins.' And yet, all this self-sacrificing charity, all
this self-sacrificing humility, by which the life of Buddha was
distinguished throughout, and which he preached to the multitudes that came
to listen to him, had, we are told, but one object, and that object was
final annihilation. It is impossible almost to believe it, and yet when we
turn away our eyes from the pleasing picture of that high morality which
Buddha preached for the first time to all classes of men, and look into the
dark pages of his code of religious metaphysics, we can hardly find another
explanation. Fortunately, the millions who embraced the doctrines of
Buddha, and were saved by it from the depths of barbarism, brutality, and
selfishness, were unable to fathom the meaning of his metaphysical
doctrines. With them the Nirvâ_n_a to which they aspired, became only a
relative deliverance from the miseries of human life; nay, it took the
bright colours of a paradise, to be regained by the pious worshipper of
Buddha. But was this the meaning of Buddha himself? In his 'Four Verities'
he does not, indeed, define Nirvâ_n_a, except by cessation of all pain; but
when he traces the cause of pain, and teaches the means of destroying not
only pain itself, but the cause of pain, we shall see that his Nirvâ_n_a
assumes a very different meaning. His 'Four Verities' are very simple. The
first asserts the existence of pain; the second asserts that the cause of
pain lies in sin; the third asserts that pain may cease by Nirvâ_n_a; the
fourth shows the way that leads to Nirvâ_n_a. This way to Nirvâ_n_a
consists in eight things--right faith (orthodoxy), right judgment (logic),
right language (veracity), right purpose (honesty), right practice
(religious life), right obedience (lawful life), right memory, and right
meditation. All these precepts might be understood as part of a simply
moral code, closing with a kind of mystic meditation on the highest object
of thought, and with a yearning after deliverance from all worldly ties.
Similar systems have prevailed in many parts of the world, without denying
the existence of an absolute Being, or of a something towards which the
human mind tends, in which it is absorbed or even annihilated. Awful as
such a mysticism may appear, yet it leaves still something that exists, it
acknowledges a feeling of dependence in man. It knows of a first cause,
though it may have nothing to predicate of it except that it is τὀ κινοῦν
ἀκινητὁν. A return is possible from that desert. The first cause may be
called to life again. It may take the names of Creator, Preserver, Ruler;
and when the simplicity and helplessness of the child have re-entered the
heart of man, the name of father will come back to the lips which had
uttered in vain all the names of a philosophical despair. But from the
Nirvâ_n_a of the Buddhist metaphysician there is no return. He starts from
the idea that the highest object is to escape pain. Life in his eyes is
nothing but misery; birth the cause of all evil, from which even death
cannot deliver him, because he believes in an eternal cycle of existence,
or in transmigration. There is no deliverance from evil, except by breaking
through the prison walls, not only of life, but of existence, and by
extirpating the last cause of existence. What, then, is the cause of
existence? The cause of existence, says the Buddhist metaphysician, is
attachment--an inclination towards something; and this attachment arises
from thirst or desire. Desire presupposes perception of the object desired;
perception presupposes contact; contact, at least a sentient contact,
presupposes the senses; and, as the senses can only perceive what has form
and name, or what is distinct, distinction is the real cause of all the
effects which end in existence, birth, and pain. Now, this distinction is
itself the result of conceptions or ideas; but these ideas, so far from
being, as in Greek philosophy, the true and everlasting forms of the
Absolute, are here represented as mere illusions, the effects of ignorance
(avidyâ). Ignorance, therefore, is really the primary cause of all that
seems to exist. To know that ignorance, as the root of all evil, is the
same as to destroy it, and with it all effects that flowed from it. In
order to see how this doctrine affects the individual, let us watch the
last moments of Buddha as described by his disciples. He enters into the
first stage of meditation when he feels freedom from sin, acquires a
knowledge of the nature of all things, and has no desire except that of
Nirvâ_n_a. But he still feels pleasure; he even uses his reasoning and
discriminating powers. The use of these powers ceases in the second stage
of meditation, when nothing remains but a desire after Nirvâ_n_a, and a
general feeling of satisfaction, arising from his intellectual perfection.
That satisfaction, also, is extinguished in the third stage. Indifference
succeeds; yet there is still self-consciousness, and a certain amount of
physical pleasure. These last remnants are destroyed in the fourth stage;
memory fades away, all pleasure and pain are gone, and the doors of
Nirvâ_n_a now open before him. After having passed these four stages once,
Buddha went through them a second time, but he died before he attained
again to the fourth stage. We must soar still higher, and though we may
feel giddy and disgusted, we must sit out this tragedy till the curtain
falls. After the four stages of meditation[73] are passed, the Buddha (and
every being is to become a Buddha) enters into the infinity of space; then
into the infinity of intelligence; and thence he passes into the region of
nothing. But even here there is no rest. There is still something left--the
idea of the nothing in which he rejoices. That also must be destroyed, and
it is destroyed in the fourth and last region, where there is not even the
idea of a nothing left, and where there is complete rest, undisturbed by
nothing, or what is not nothing.[74] There are few persons who will take
the trouble of reasoning out such hallucinations; least of all, persons who
are accustomed to the sober language of Greek philosophy; and it is the
more interesting to hear the opinion which one of the best Aristotelean
scholars of the present day, after a patient examination of the authentic
documents of Buddhism, has formed of its system of metaphysics. M.
Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, in a review on Buddhism, published in the
'Journal des Savants,' says:

     'Buddhism has no God; it has not even the confused and vague
     notion of a Universal Spirit in which the human soul,
     according to the orthodox doctrine of Brahmanism, and the
     Sânkhya philosophy, may be absorbed. Nor does it admit
     nature, in the proper sense of the word, and it ignores that
     profound division between spirit and matter which forms the
     system and the glory of Kapila. It confounds man with all
     that surrounds him, all the while preaching to him the laws
     of virtue. Buddhism, therefore, cannot unite the human soul,
     which it does not even mention, with a God, whom it ignores;
     nor with nature, which it does not know better. Nothing
     remained but to annihilate the soul; and in order to be
     quite sure that the soul may not re-appear under some new
     form in this world, which has been cursed as the abode of
     illusion and misery, Buddhism destroys its very elements,
     and never gets tired of glorying in this achievement. What
     more is wanted?

[Footnote 72: Vol. i. p. 89, vol. ii. p. 167.]

[Footnote 73: These 'four stages' are described in the same manner in
the canonical books of Ceylon and Nepal, and may therefore safely be
ascribed to that original form of Buddhism from which the Southern and
the Northern schools branched off at a later period. See Burnouf,
'Lotus de la bonne Loi,' p. 800.]

[Footnote 74: See Burnouf, 'Lotus de la bonne Loi,' p. 814.]

If this is not the absolute nothing, what is Nirvâ_n_a?'

Such religion, we should say, was made for a mad-house. But Buddhism
was an advance, if compared with Brahmanism; it has stood its ground
for centuries, and if truth could be decided by majorities, the show
of hands, even at the present day, would be in favour of Buddha. The
metaphysics of Buddhism, like the metaphysics of most religions, not
excluding our own Gnosticism and Mysticism, were beyond the reach of
all except a few hardened philosophers or ecstatic dreamers. Human
nature could not be changed. Out of the very nothing it made a new
paradise; and he who had left no place in the whole universe for a
Divine Being, was deified himself by the multitudes who wanted a
person whom they could worship, a king whose help they might invoke, a
friend before whom they could pour out their most secret griefs. And
there remained the code of a pure morality, proclaimed by Buddha.
There remained the spirit of charity, kindness, and universal pity
with which he had inspired his disciples.[75] There remained the
simplicity of the ceremonial he had taught, the equality of all men
which he had declared, the religious toleration which he had preached
from the beginning. There remained much, therefore, to account for the
rapid strides which his doctrine made from the mountain peaks of
Ceylon to the Tundras of the Samoyedes, and we shall see in the simple
story of the life of Hiouen-thsang that Buddhism, with all its
defects, has had its heroes, its martyrs, and its saints.

[Footnote 75: See the 'Dhammapadam,' a Pâli work on Buddhist ethics,
lately edited by V. Fausböll, a distinguished pupil of Professor
Westergaard, at Copenhagen. The Rev. Spence Hardy ('Eastern
Monachism,' p. 169) writes: 'A collection might be made from the
precepts of this work, that in the purity of its ethics could scarcely
be equalled from any other heathen author.' Mr. Knighton, when
speaking of the same work in his 'History of Ceylon' (p. 77), remarks:
'In it we have exemplified a code of morality, and a list of precepts,
which, for pureness, excellence, and wisdom, is only second to that of
the Divine Lawgiver himself.']

Hiouen-thsang, born in China more than a thousand years after the
death of Buddha, was a believer in Buddhism. He dedicated his whole
life to the study of that religion; travelling from his native country
to India, visiting every place mentioned in Buddhist history or
tradition, acquiring the ancient language in which the canonical books
of the Buddhists were written, studying commentaries, discussing
points of difficulty, and defending the orthodox faith at public
councils against disbelievers and schismatics. Buddhism had grown and
changed since the death of its founder, but it had lost nothing of its
vitality. At a very early period a proselytizing spirit awoke among
the disciples of the Indian reformer, an element entirely new in the
history of ancient religions. No Jew, no Greek, no Roman, no Brahman
ever thought of converting people to his own national form of worship.
Religion was looked upon as private or national property. It was to be
guarded against strangers. The most sacred names of the gods, the
prayers by which their favour could be gained, were kept secret. No
religion, however, was more exclusive than that of the Brahmans. A
Brahman was born, nay, twice-born. He could not be made. Not even the
lowest caste, that of the _S_ûdras, would open its ranks to a
stranger. Here lay the secret of Buddha's success. He addressed
himself to castes and outcasts. He promised salvation to all; and he
commanded his disciples to preach his doctrine in all places and to
all men. A sense of duty, extending from the narrow limits of the
house, the village, and the country to the widest circle of mankind, a
feeling of sympathy and brotherhood towards all men, the idea, in
fact, of humanity, were in India first pronounced by Buddha. In the
third Buddhist Council, the acts of which have been preserved to us in
the 'Mahavansa,'[76] we hear of missionaries being sent to the chief
countries beyond India. This Council, we are told, took place 308
B.C., 235 years after the death of Buddha, in the 17th year of the
reign of the famous king A_s_oka, whose edicts have been preserved to
us on rock inscriptions in various parts of India. There are sentences
in these inscriptions of A_s_oka which might be read with advantage by
our own missionaries, though they are now more than 2000 years old.
Thus it is written on the rocks of Girnar, Dhauli, and Kapurdigiri--

     'Piyadasi, the king beloved of the gods, desires that the
     ascetics of all creeds might reside in all places. All these
     ascetics profess alike the command which people should
     exercise over themselves, and the purity of the soul. But
     people have different opinions, and different inclinations.'

And again:

     'A man ought to honour his own faith only; but he should
     never abuse the faith of others. It is thus that he will do
     no harm to anybody. There are even circumstances where the
     religion of others ought to be honoured. And in acting
     thus, a man fortifies his own faith, and assists the faith
     of others. He who acts otherwise, diminishes his own faith,
     and hurts the faith of others.'

[Footnote 76: 'Mahavanso,' ed. G. Turnour, Ceylon, 1837, p. 71.]

Those who have no time to read the voluminous works of the late E.
Burnouf on Buddhism, his 'Introduction à l'Histoire du Buddhisme,' and
his translation of 'Le Lotus de la bonne Loi,' will find a very
interesting and lucid account of these councils, and edicts, and
missions, and the history of Buddhism in general, in a work lately
published by Mrs. Speir, 'Life in Ancient India.' Buddhism spread in
the south to Ceylon, in the north to Kashmir, the Himalayan countries,
Tibet, and China. One Buddhist missionary is mentioned in the Chinese
annals as early as 217 B.C.;[77] and about the year 120 B.C. a Chinese
General, after defeating the barbarous tribes north of the Desert of
Gobi, brought back as a trophy a golden statue, the statue of
Buddha.[78] It was not, however, till the year 65 A.D. that Buddhism
was officially recognised by the Emperor Ming-ti[79] as a third state
religion in China. Ever since, it has shared equal honours with the
doctrines of Confucius and Lao-tse, in the Celestial Empire, and it is
but lately that these three established religions have had to fear the
encroachments of a new rival in the creed of the Chief of the rebels.

[Footnote 77: See 'Foe Koue Ki,' p. 41, and xxxviii. preface.]

[Footnote 78: See 'Foe Koue Ki,' p. 41.]

[Footnote 79: 'Lalita-Vistara,' ed. Foucaux, p. xvii. n.]

After Buddhism had been introduced into China, the first care of its
teachers was to translate the sacred works from Sanskrit, in which
they were originally written, into Chinese. We read of the Emperor
Ming-ti,[80] of the dynasty of Han, sending Tsaï-in and other high
officials to India, in order to study there the doctrine of Buddha.
They engaged the services of two learned Buddhists, Matânga and
Tchou-fa-lan, and some of the most important Buddhist works were
translated by them into Chinese. 'The Life of Buddha,' the
'Lalita-Vistara,'[81] a Sanskrit work which, on account of its style
and language, had been referred by Oriental scholars to a much more
modern period of Indian literature, can now safely be ascribed to an
ante-Christian era, if, as we are told by Chinese scholars, it was
translated from Sanskrit into Chinese, as one of the canonical books
of Buddhism, as early as the year 76 A.D. The same work was translated
also into Tibetan; and an edition of it--the first Tibetan work
printed in Europe--published in Paris by M.E. Foucaux, reflects high
credit on that distinguished scholar, and on the Government which
supports these studies in the most liberal and enlightened spirit. The
intellectual intercourse between the Indian peninsula and the northern
continent of Asia remained uninterrupted for many centuries. Missions
were sent from China to India, to report on the political and
geographical state of the country, but the chief object of interest
which attracted public embassies and private pilgrims across the
Himalayan mountains was the religion of Buddha. About three hundred
years after the public recognition of Buddhism by the Emperor Ming-ti,
the great stream of Buddhist pilgrims began to flow from China to
India. The first account which we possess of these pilgrimages refers
to the travels of Fahian, who visited India towards the end of the
fourth century. His travels have been translated by Rémusat, but M.
Julien promises a new and more correct translation. After Fahian, we
have the travels of Hoei-seng and Song-yun, who were sent to India, in
518, by command of the Empress, with a view of collecting sacred books
and relics. Of Hiouen-thsang, who follows next in time, we possess, at
present, eight out of twelve books; and there is reason to hope that
the last four books of his Journal will soon follow in M. Julien's
translation.[82] After Hiouen-thsang, the chief works of Chinese
pilgrims are the 'Itineraries' of the fifty-six monks, published in
730, and the travels of Khi-nie, who visited India in 964, at the head
of three hundred pilgrims. India was for a time the Holy Land of
China. There lay the scene of the life and death of the great teacher;
there were the monuments commemorating the chief events of his life;
there the shrines where his relics might be worshipped; there the
monasteries where tradition had preserved his sayings and his doings;
there the books where his doctrine might be studied in its original
purity; there the schools where the tenets of different sects which
had sprung up in the course of time might best be acquired.

[Footnote 80: 'Lalita-Vistara,' p. 17.]

[Footnote 81: Two parts of the Sanskrit text have been published in
the 'Bibliotheca Indica.']

[Footnote 82: They have since been published.]

Some of the pilgrims and envoys have left us accounts of their
travels, and, in the absence of anything like an historical literature
in India itself, these Chinese works are of the utmost importance for
gaining an insight into the social, political, and religious history
of that country from the beginning of our era to the time of the
Mohammedan conquest. The importance of Mohammedan writers, so far as
they treat on the history of India during the Middle Ages, was soon
recognised, and in a memoir lately published by the most eminent
Arabic scholar of France, M. Reinaud, new and valuable historical
materials have been collected--materials doubly valuable in India,
where no native historian has ever noted down the passing events of
the day. But, although the existence of similar documents in Chinese
was known, and although men of the highest literary eminence--such as
Humboldt, Biot, and others--had repeatedly urged the necessity of
having a translation of the early travels of the Chinese Pilgrims, it
seemed almost as if our curiosity was never to be satisfied. France
has been the only country where Chinese scholarship has ever
flourished, and it was a French scholar, Abel Rémusat, who undertook
at last the translation of one of the Chinese Pilgrims. Rémusat died
before his work was published, and his translation of the travels of
Fahian, edited by M. Landresse, remained for a long time without being
followed up by any other. Nor did the work of that eminent scholar
answer all expectations. Most of the proper names, the names of
countries, towns, mountains, and rivers, the titles of books, and the
whole Buddhistic phraseology, were so disguised in their Chinese dress
that it was frequently impossible to discover their original form.

The Chinese alphabet was never intended to represent the sound of
words. It was in its origin a hieroglyphic system, each word having
its own graphic representative. Nor would it have been possible to
write Chinese in any other way. Chinese is a monosyllabic language. No
word is allowed more than one consonant and one vowel,--the vowels
including diphthongs and nasal vowels. Hence the possible number of
words is extremely small, and the number of significative sounds in
the Chinese language is said to be no more than 450. No language,
however, could be satisfied with so small a vocabulary, and in
Chinese, as in other monosyllabic dialects, each word, as it was
pronounced with various accents and intonations, was made to convey a
large number of meanings; so that the total number of words, or rather
of ideas, expressed in Chinese, is said to amount to 43,496. Hence a
graphic representation of the mere sound of words would have been
perfectly useless, and it was absolutely necessary to resort to
hieroglyphical writing, enlarged by the introduction of determinative
signs. Nearly the whole immense dictionary of Chinese--at least
twenty-nine thirtieths--consists of combined signs, one part
indicating the general sound, the other determining its special
meaning. With such a system of writing it was possible to represent
Chinese, but impossible to convey either the sound or the meaning of
any other language. Besides, some of the most common sounds--such as
r, b, d, and the short a--are unknown in Chinese.

How, then, were the translators to render Sanskrit names in Chinese?
The most rational plan would have been to select as many Chinese signs
as there were Sanskrit letters, and to express one and the same letter
in Sanskrit always by one and the same sign in Chinese; or, if the
conception of a consonant without a vowel, and of a vowel without a
consonant, was too much for a Chinese understanding, to express at
least the same syllabic sound in Sanskrit, by one and the same
syllabic sign in Chinese. A similar system is adopted at the present
day, when the Chinese find themselves under the necessity of writing
the names of Lord Palmerston or Sir John Bowring; but, instead of
adopting any definite system of transcribing, each translator seems to
have chosen his own signs for rendering the sounds of Sanskrit words,
and to have chosen them at random. The result is that every Sanskrit
word as transcribed by the Chinese Buddhists is a riddle which no
ingenuity is able to solve. Who could have guessed that 'Fo-to,' or
more frequently 'Fo,' was meant for Buddha? 'Ko-lo-keou-lo' for
Râhula, the son of Buddha? 'Po-lo-naï' for Benares? 'Heng-ho' for
Ganges? 'Niepan' for Nirv_âna_? 'Chamen' for _S_rama_n_a? 'Feïto' for
Veda? 'Tcha-li' for Kshattriya? 'Siu-to-lo' for _S_ûdra? 'Fan' or
'Fan-lon-mo' for Brahma? Sometimes, it is true, the Chinese
endeavoured to give, besides the sounds, a translation of the meaning
of the Sanskrit words. But the translation of proper names is always
very precarious, and it required an intimate knowledge of Sanskrit and
Buddhist literature to recognise from these awkward translations the
exact form of the proper names for which they were intended. If, in a
Chinese translation of 'Thukydides,' we read of a person called
'Leader of the people,' we might guess his name to have been
Demagogos, or Laoegos, as well as Agesilaos. And when the name of the
town of _S_ravasti was written Che-wei, which means in Chinese 'where
one hears,' it required no ordinary power of combination to find that
the name of _S_ravasti was derived from a Sanskrit noun, _s_ravas
(Greek κλἑος, Lat. cluo), which means 'hearing' or 'fame,'
and that the etymological meaning of the name of _S_ravasti was
intended by the Chinese 'Che-wei.' Besides these names of places and
rivers, of kings and saints, there was the whole strange phraseology
of Buddhism, of which no dictionary gives any satisfactory
explanation. How was even the best Chinese scholar to know that the
words which usually mean 'dark shadow' must be taken in the technical
sense of Nirvâ_n_a, or becoming absorbed in the Absolute, that
'return-purity' had the same sense, and that a third synonymous
expression was to be recognised in a phrase which, in ordinary
Chinese, would have the sense of 'transport-figure-crossing-age?' A
monastery is called 'origin-door,' instead of 'black-door.' The voice
of Buddha is called 'the voice of the dragon;' and his doctrine goes
by the name of 'the door of expedients.'

Tedious as these details may seem, it was almost a duty to state them,
in order to give an idea of the difficulties which M. Stanislas Julien
had to grapple with. Oriental scholars labour under great
disadvantages. Few people take an interest in their works, or, if they
do, they simply accept the results, but they are unable to appreciate
the difficulty with which these results were obtained. Many persons
who have read the translation of the cuneiform inscriptions are glad,
no doubt, to have the authentic and contemporaneous records of Darius
and Xerxes. But if they followed the process by which scholars such as
Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, and Rawlinson arrived at their results,
they would see that the discovery of the alphabet, the language, the
grammar, and the meaning of the inscriptions of the Achæmenian dynasty
deserves to be classed with the discoveries of a Kepler, a Newton, or
a Faraday. In a similar manner, the mere translation of a Chinese work
into French seems a very ordinary performance; but M. Stanislas
Julien, who has long been acknowledged as the first Chinese scholar in
Europe, had to spend twenty years of incessant labour in order to
prepare himself for the task of translating the 'Travels of
Hiouen-thsang.' He had to learn Sanskrit, no very easy language; he
had to study the Buddhist literature written in Sanskrit, Pâli,
Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese. He had to make vast indices of every
proper name connected with Buddhism. Thus only could he shape his own
tools, and accomplish what at last he did accomplish. Most persons
will remember the interest with which the travels of M.M. Huc and
Gabet were read a few years ago, though these two adventurous
missionaries were obliged to renounce their original intention of
entering India by way of China and Tibet, and were not allowed to
proceed beyond the famous capital of Lhassa. If, then, it be
considered that there was a traveller who had made a similar journey
twelve hundred years earlier--who had succeeded in crossing the
deserts and mountain passes which separate China from India--who had
visited the principal cities of the Indian Peninsula, at a time of
which we have no information, from native or foreign sources, as to
the state of that country--who had learned Sanskrit, and made a large
collection of Buddhist works--who had carried on public disputations
with the most eminent philosophers and theologians of the day--who had
translated the most important works on Buddhism from Sanskrit into
Chinese, and left an account of his travels, which still existed in
the libraries of China--nay, which had been actually printed and
published--we may well imagine the impatience with which all scholars
interested in the ancient history of India, and in the subject of
Buddhism, looked forward to the publication of so important a work.
Hiouen-thsang's name had first been mentioned in Europe by Abel
Rémusat and Klaproth. They had discovered some fragments of his
travels in a Chinese work on foreign countries and foreign nations.
Rémusat wrote to China to procure, if possible, a complete copy of
Hiouen-thsang's works. He was informed by Morrison that they were out
of print. Still, the few specimens which he had given at the end of
his translation of the 'Foe Koue Ki' had whetted the appetite of
Oriental scholars. M. Stanislas Julien succeeded in procuring a copy
of Hiouen-thsang in 1838; and after nearly twenty years spent in
preparing a translation of the Chinese traveller, his version is now
before us. If there are but few who know the difficulty of a work like
that of M. Stanislas Julien, it becomes their duty to speak out,
though, after all, perhaps the most intelligible eulogium would be,
that in a branch of study where there are no monopolies and no
patents, M. Stanislas Julien is acknowledged to be the only man in
Europe who could produce the article which he has produced in the work
before us.

We shall devote the rest of our space to a short account of the life and
travels of Hiouen-thsang. Hiouen-thsang was born in a provincial town of
China, at a time when the empire was in a chronic state of revolution. His
father had left the public service, and had given most of his time to the
education of his four children. Two of them distinguished themselves at a
very early age--one of them was Hiouen-thsang, the future traveller and
theologian. The boy was sent to school at a Buddhist monastery, and, after
receiving there the necessary instruction, partly from his elder brother,
he was himself admitted as a monk at the early age of thirteen. During the
next seven years, the young monk travelled about with his brother from
place to place, in order to follow the lectures of some of the most
distinguished professors. The horrors of war frequently broke in upon his
quiet studies, and forced him to seek refuge in the more distant provinces
of the empire. At the age of twenty he took priest's orders, and had then
already become famous by his vast knowledge. He had studied the chief
canonical books of the Buddhist faith, the records of Buddha's life and
teaching, the system of ethics and metaphysics; and he was versed in the
works of Confucius and Lao-tse. But still his own mind was agitated by
doubts. Six years he continued his studies in the chief places of learning
in China, and where he came to learn he was frequently asked to teach. At
last, when he saw that none, even the most eminent theologians, were able
to give him the information he wanted, he formed his resolve of travelling
to India. The works of earlier pilgrims, such as Fahian and others, were
known to him. He knew that in India he should find the originals of the
works which in their Chinese translation left so many things doubtful in
his mind; and though he knew from the same sources the dangers of his
journey, yet 'the glory,' as he says, 'of recovering the Law, which was to
be a guide to all men and the means of their salvation, seemed to him
worthy of imitation.' In common with several other priests, he addressed a
memorial to the Emperor to ask leave for their journey. Leave was refused,
and the courage of his companions failed. Not that of Hiouen-thsang. His
own mother had told him that, soon before she gave birth to him, she had
seen her child travelling to the Far West in search of the Law. He was
himself haunted by similar visions, and having long surrendered worldly
desires, he resolved to brave all dangers, and to risk his life for the
only object for which he thought it worth while to live. He proceeded to
the Yellow River, the Hoang-ho, and to the place where the caravans bound
for India used to meet, and, though the Governor had sent strict orders not
to allow any one to cross the frontier, the young priest, with the
assistance of his co-religionists, succeeded in escaping the vigilance of
the Chinese 'douaniers.' Spies were sent after him. But so frank was his
avowal, and so firm his resolution, which he expressed in the presence of
the authorities, that the Governor himself tore his hue and cry to pieces,
and allowed him to proceed. Hitherto he had been accompanied by two
friends. They now left him, and Hiouen-thsang found himself alone, without
a friend and without a guide. He sought for strength in fervent prayer. The
next morning a person presented himself, offering his services as a guide.
This guide conducted him safely for some distance, but left him when they
approached the desert. There were still five watch-towers to be passed, and
there was nothing to indicate the road through the desert, except the
hoof-marks of horses, and skeletons. The traveller followed this melancholy
track, and, though misled by the 'mirage' of the desert, he reached the
first tower. Here the arrows of the watchmen would have put an end to his
existence and his cherished expedition. But the officer in command, himself
a zealous Buddhist, allowed the courageous pilgrim to proceed, and gave him
letters of recommendation to the officers of the next towers. The last
tower, however, was guarded by men inaccessible to bribes, and deaf to
reasoning. In order to escape their notice, Hiouen-thsang had to make a
long détour. He passed through another desert, and lost his way. The bag in
which he carried his water burst, and then even the courage of
Hiouen-thsang failed. He began to retrace his steps. But suddenly he
stopped. 'I took an oath,' he said, 'never to make a step backward till I
had reached India. Why, then, have I come here? It is better I should die
proceeding to the West than return to the East and live.' Four nights and
five days he travelled through the desert without a drop of water. He had
nothing to refresh himself except his prayers--and what were they? Texts
from a work which taught that there was no God, no Creator, no
creation,--nothing but mind, minding itself. It is incredible in how
exhausted an atmosphere the divine spark within us will glimmer on, and
even warm the dark chambers of the human heart. Comforted by his prayers,
Hiouen-thsang proceeded, and arrived after some time at a large lake. He
was in the country of the Oïgour Tatars. They received him well, nay, too
well. One of the Tatar Khans, himself a Buddhist, sent for the Buddhist
pilgrim, and insisted on his staying with him to instruct his people.
Remonstrances proved of no avail. But Hiouen-thsang was not to be
conquered. 'I know,' he said, 'that the king, in spite of his power, has no
power over my mind and my will;' and he refused all nourishment, in order
to put an end to his life. Θανοῦμαι καἰ ἐλευθερήσομαι. Three days he
persevered, and at last the Khan, afraid of the consequences, was obliged
to yield to the poor monk. He made him promise to visit him on his return
to China, and then to stay three years with him. At last, after a delay of
one month, during which the Khan and his Court came daily to hear the
lessons of their pious guest, the traveller continued his journey with a
numerous escort, and with letters of introduction from the Khan to
twenty-four Princes whose territories the little caravan had to pass. Their
way lay through what is now called Dsungary, across the Musur-dabaghan
mountains, the northern portion of the Belur-tag, the Yaxartes valley,
Bactria, and Kabulistân. We cannot follow them through all the places they
passed, though the accounts which he gives of their adventures are most
interesting, and the description of the people most important. Here is a
description of the Musur-dabaghan mountains:

     'The top of the mountain rises to the sky. Since the
     beginning of the world the snow has been accumulating, and
     is now transformed into vast masses of ice, which never
     melt, either in spring or summer. Hard and brilliant sheets
     of snow are spread out till they are lost in the infinite,
     and mingle with the clouds. If one looks at them, the eyes
     are dazzled by the splendour. Frozen peaks hang down over
     both sides of the road, some hundred feet high, and twenty
     feet or thirty feet thick. It is not without difficulty and
     danger that the traveller can clear them or climb over them.
     Besides, there are squalls of wind, and tornadoes of snow
     which attack the pilgrims. Even with double shoes, and in
     thick furs, one cannot help trembling and shivering.'

During the seven days that Hiouen-thsang crossed these Alpine passes
he lost fourteen of his companions.

What is most important, however, in this early portion of the Chinese
traveller is the account which he gives of the high degree of
civilisation among the tribes of Central Asia. We had gradually
accustomed ourselves to believe in an early civilisation of Egypt, of
Babylon, of China, of India; but now that we find the hordes of Tatary
possessing in the seventh century the chief arts and institutions of
an advanced society, we shall soon have to drop the name of barbarians
altogether. The theory of M. Oppert, who ascribes the original
invention of the cuneiform letters and a civilisation anterior to that
of Babylon and Nineveh to a Turanian or Scythian race, will lose much
of its apparent improbability; for no new wave of civilisation had
reached these countries between the cuneiform period of their
literature and history and the time of Hiouen-thsang's visit. In the
kingdom of Okini, on the western frontier of China, Hiouen-thsang
found an active commerce, gold, silver, and copper coinage;
monasteries, where the chief works of Buddhism were studied, and an
alphabet, derived from Sanskrit. As he travelled on he met with mines,
with agriculture, including pears, plums, peaches, almonds, grapes,
pomegranates, rice, and wheat. The inhabitants were dressed in silk
and woollen materials. There were musicians in the chief cities who
played on the flute and the guitar. Buddhism was the prevailing
religion, but there were traces of an earlier worship, the Bactrian
fire-worship. The country was everywhere studded with halls,
monasteries, monuments, and statues. Samarkand formed at that early
time a kind of Athens, and its manners were copied by all the tribes
in the neighbourhood. Balkh, the old capital of Bactria, was still an
important place on the Oxus, well fortified, and full of sacred
buildings. And the details which our traveller gives of the exact
circumference of the cities, the number of their inhabitants, the
products of the soil, the articles of trade, can leave no doubt in our
minds that he relates what he had seen and heard himself. A new page
in the history of the world is here opened, and new ruins pointed out,
which would reward the pickaxe of a Layard.

But we must not linger. Our traveller, as we said, had entered India
by way of Kabul. Shortly before he arrived at Pou-lou-cha-pou-lo, i.
e. the Sanskrit Purushapura, the modern Peshawer, Hiouen-thsang heard
of an extraordinary cave, where Buddha had formerly converted a
dragon, and had promised his new pupil to leave him his shadow, in
order that, whenever the evil passions of his dragon-nature should
revive, the aspect of his master's shadowy features might remind him
of his former vows. This promise was fulfilled, and the dragon-cave
became a famous place of pilgrimage. Our traveller was told that the
roads leading to the cave were extremely dangerous, and infested by
robbers--that for three years none of the pilgrims had ever returned
from the cave. But he replied, 'It would be difficult during a hundred
thousand Kalpas to meet one single time with the true shadow of
Buddha; how could I, having come so near, pass on without going to
adore it?' He left his companions behind, and after asking in vain
for a guide, he met at last with a boy who showed him to a farm
belonging to a convent. Here he found an old man who undertook to act
as his guide. They had hardly proceeded a few miles when they were
attacked by five robbers. The monk took off his cap and displayed his
ecclesiastical robes. 'Master,' said one of the robbers, 'where are
you going?' Hiouen-thsang replied, 'I desire to adore the shadow of
Buddha.' 'Master,' said the robber, 'have you not heard that these
roads are full of bandits?' 'Robbers are men,' Hiouen-thsang
exclaimed, 'and at present, when I am going to adore the shadow of
Buddha, even though the roads were full of wild beasts, I should walk
on without fear. Surely, then, I ought not to fear you, as you are men
whose heart is possessed of pity.' The robbers were moved by these
words, and opened their hearts to the true faith. After this little
incident, Hiouen-thsang proceeded with his guide. He passed a stream
rushing down between two precipitous walls of rock. In the rock itself
there was a door which opened. All was dark. But Hiouen-thsang
entered, advanced towards the east, then moved fifty steps backwards,
and began his devotions. He made one hundred salutations, but he saw
nothing. He reproached himself bitterly with his former sins, he
cried, and abandoned himself to utter despair, because the shadow of
Buddha would not appear before him. At last, after many prayers and
invocations, he saw on the eastern wall a dim light, of the size of a
saucepan, such as the Buddhist monks carry in their hands. But it
disappeared. He continued praying full of joy and pain, and again he
saw a light, which vanished like lightning. Then he vowed, full of
devotion and love, that he would never leave the place till he had
seen the shadow of the 'Venerable of the age.' After two hundred
prayers, the cave was suddenly bathed in light, and the shadow of
Buddha, of a brilliant white colour, rose majestically on the wall, as
when the clouds suddenly open and, all at once, display the marvellous
image of the 'Mountain of Light.' A dazzling splendour lighted up the
features of the divine countenance. Hiouen-thsang was lost in
contemplation and wonder, and would not turn his eyes away from the
sublime and incomparable object.... After he awoke from his trance, he
called in six men, and commanded them to light a fire in the cave, in
order to burn incense; but, as the approach of the light made the
shadow of Buddha disappear, the fire was extinguished. Then five of
the men saw the shadow, but the sixth saw nothing. The old man who had
acted as guide was astounded when Hiouen-thsang told him the vision.
'Master,' he said, 'without the sincerity of your faith, and the
energy of your vows, you could not have seen such a miracle.'

This is the account given by Hiouen-thsang's biographers. But we must
say, to the credit of Hiouen-thsang himself, that in the 'Si-yu-ki,'
which contains his own diary, the story is told in a different way.
The cave is described with almost the same words. But afterwards, the
writer continues: 'Formerly, the shadow of Buddha was seen in the
cave, bright, like his natural appearance, and with all the marks of
his divine beauty. One might have said, it was Buddha himself. For
some centuries, however, it can no longer be seen completely. Though
one does see something, it is only a feeble and doubtful resemblance.
If a man prays with sincere faith, and if he has received from above
a hidden impression, he sees the shadow clearly, but he cannot enjoy
the sight for any length of time.'

From Peshawer, the scene of this extraordinary miracle, Hiouen-thsang
proceeded to Kashmir, visited the chief towns of Central India, and
arrived at last in Magadha, the Holy Land of the Buddhists. Here he
remained five years, devoting all his time to the study of Sanskrit
and Buddhist literature, and inspecting every place hallowed by the
recollections of the past. He then passed through Bengal, and
proceeded to the south, with a view of visiting Ceylon, the chief seat
of Buddhism. Baffled in that wish, he crossed the peninsula from east
to west, ascended the Malabar coast, reached the Indus, and, after
numerous excursions to the chief places of North-Western India,
returned to Magadha, to spend there, with his old friends, some of the
happiest years of his life. The route of his journeyings is laid down
in a map drawn with exquisite skill by M. Vivien de Saint-Martin. At
last he was obliged to return to China, and, passing through the
Penjab, Kabulistan, and Bactria, he reached the Oxus, followed its
course nearly to its sources on the plateau of Pamir, and, after
staying some time in the three chief towns of Turkistan, Khasgar,
Yarkand, and Khoten, he found himself again, after sixteen years of
travels, dangers, and studies, in his own native country. His fame had
spread far and wide, and the poor pilgrim, who had once been hunted by
imperial spies and armed policemen, was now received with public
honours by the Emperor himself. His entry into the capital was like a
triumph. The streets were covered with carpets, flowers were
scattered, and banners flying. Soldiers were drawn up, the
magistrates went out to meet him, and all the monks of the
neighbourhood marched along in solemn procession. The trophies that
adorned this triumph, carried by a large number of horses, were of a
peculiar kind. First, 150 grains of the dust of Buddha; secondly, a
golden statue of the great Teacher; thirdly, a similar statue of
sandal-wood; fourthly, a statue of sandal-wood, representing Buddha as
descending from heaven; fifthly, a statue of silver; sixthly, a golden
statue of Buddha conquering the dragons; seventhly, a statue of
sandal-wood, representing Buddha as a preacher; lastly, a collection
of 657 works in 520 volumes. The Emperor received the traveller in the
Phoenix Palace, and, full of admiration for his talents and wisdom,
invited him to accept a high office in the Government. This
Hiouen-thsang declined. 'The soul of the administration,' he said, 'is
still the doctrine of Confucius;' and he would dedicate the rest of
his life to the Law of Buddha. The Emperor thereupon asked him to
write an account of his travels, and assigned him a monastery where he
might employ his leisure in translating the works he had brought back
from India. His travels were soon written and published, but the
translation of the Sanskrit MSS. occupied he whole rest of his life.
It is said that the number of works translated by him, with the
assistance of a large staff of monks, amounted to 740, in 1,335
volumes. Frequently he might be seen meditating on a difficult
passage, when suddenly it seemed as if a higher spirit had enlightened
his mind. His soul was cheered, as when a man walking in darkness sees
all at once the sun piercing the clouds and shining in its full
brightness; and, unwilling to trust to his own understanding, he used
to attribute his knowledge to a secret inspiration of Buddha and the
Bodhisattvas. When he found that the hour of death approached, he had
all his property divided among the poor. He invited his friends to
come and see him, and to take a cheerful leave of that impure body of
Hiouen-thsang. 'I desire,' he said, 'that whatever merits I may have
gained by good works may fall upon other people. May I be born again
with them in the heaven of the blessed, be admitted to the family of
Mi-le, and serve the Buddha of the future, who is full of kindness and
affection. When I descend again upon earth to pass through other forms
of existence, I desire at every new birth to fulfil my duties towards
Buddha, and arrive at the last at the highest and most perfect
intelligence. He died in the year 664--about the same time that
Mohammedanism was pursuing its bloody conquests in the East, and
Christianity began to shed its pure light over the dark forests of

It is impossible to do justice to the character of so extraordinary a
man as Hiouen-thsang in so short a sketch as we have been able to
give. If we knew only his own account of his life and travels--the
volume which has just been published at Paris--we should be ignorant
of the motives which guided him and of the sufferings which he
underwent. Happily, two of his friends and pupils had left an account
of their teacher, and M. Stanislas Julien has acted wisely in
beginning his collection of the Buddhist Pilgrims with the translation
of that biography. There we learn something of the man himself and of
that silent enthusiasm which supported him in his arduous work. There
we see him braving the dangers of the desert, scrambling along
glaciers, crossing over torrents, and quietly submitting to the
brutal violence of Indian Thugs. There we see him rejecting the
tempting invitations of Khans, Kings, and Emperors, and quietly
pursuing among strangers, within the bleak walls of the cell of a
Buddhist college, the study of a foreign language, the key to the
sacred literature of his faith. There we see him rising to eminence,
acknowledged as an equal by his former teachers, as a superior by the
most distinguished scholars of India; the champion of the orthodox
faith, an arbiter at councils, the favourite of Indian kings. In his
own work there is hardly a word about all this. We do not wish to
disguise his weaknesses, such as they appear in the same biography. He
was a credulous man, easily imposed upon by crafty priests, still more
easily carried away by his own superstitions; but he deserved to have
lived in better times, and we almost grudge so high and noble a
character to a country not our own, and to a religion unworthy of such
a man. Of selfishness we find no trace in him. His whole life belonged
to the faith in which he was born, and the objects of his labour was
not so much to perfect himself as to benefit others. He was an honest
man. And strange, and stiff, and absurd, and outlandish as his outward
appearance may seem, there is something in the face of that poor
Chinese monk, with his yellow skin and his small oblique eyes, that
appeals to our sympathy--something in his life, and the work of his
life, that places him by right among the heroes of Greece, the martyrs
of Rome, the knights of the crusades, the explorers of the Arctic
regions--something that makes us feel it a duty to inscribe his name
on the roll of the 'forgotten worthies' of the human race. There is a
higher consanguinity than that of the blood which runs through our
veins--that of the blood which makes our hearts beat with the same
indignation and the same joy. And there is a higher nationality than
that of being governed by the same imperial dynasty--that of our
common allegiance to the Father and Ruler of all mankind.

It is but right to state that we owe the publication, at least of the
second volume of M. Julien's work, to the liberality of the Court of
Directors of the East-India Company. We have had several opportunities
of pointing out the creditable manner in which that body has
patronized literary and scientific works connected with the East, and
we congratulate the Chairman, Colonel Sykes, and the President of the
Board of Control, Mr. Vernon Smith, on the excellent choice they have
made in this instance. Nothing can be more satisfactory than that
nearly the whole edition of a work which would have remained
unpublished without their liberal assistance, has been sold in little
more than a month.

_April, 1857._



_To the Editor of_ THE TIMES.

Sir,--Mr. Francis Barham, of Bath, has protested in a letter, printed
in 'The Times' of the 24th of April, against my interpretations of
Nirvâ_n_a, or the summum bonum of the Buddhists. He maintains that the
Nirvâ_n_a in which the Buddhists believe, and which they represent as
the highest goal of their religion and philosophy, means union and
communion with God, or absorption of the individual soul by the divine
essence, and not, as I tried to show in my articles on the 'Buddhist
Pilgrims,' utter annihilation.

I must not take up much more of your space with so abstruse a subject
as Buddhist metaphysics; but at the same time I cannot allow Mr.
Barham's protest to pass unnoticed. The authorities which he brings
forward against my account of Buddhism, and particularly against my
interpretation of Nirvâ_n_a, seem formidable enough. There is Neander,
the great church historian, Creuzer, the famous scholar, and Hue, the
well-known traveller and missionary,--all interpreting, as Mr. Barham
says, the Nirvâ_n_a of the Buddhists in the sense of an apotheosis of
the human soul, as it was taught in the Vedânta philosophy of the
Brahmans, the Sufiism of the Persians, and the Christian mysticism of
Eckhart and Tauler, and not in the sense of absolute annihilation.

Now, with regard to Neander and Creuzer, I must observe that their
works were written before the canonical books of the Buddhists,
composed in Sanskrit, had been discovered, or at least before they had
been sent to Europe, and been analysed by European scholars. Besides,
neither Neander nor Creuzer was an Oriental scholar, and their
knowledge of the subject could only be second-hand. It was in 1824
that Mr. Brian Houghton Hodgson, then resident at the Court of Nepal,
gave the first intimation of the existence of a large religious
literature written in Sanskrit, and preserved by the Buddhists of
Nepal as the canonical books of their faith. It was in 1830 and 1835
that the same eminent scholar and naturalist presented the first set
of these books to the Royal Asiatic Society in London. In 1837 he made
a similar gift to the Société Asiatique of Paris, and some of the most
important works were transmitted by him to the Bodleian Library at
Oxford. It was in 1844 that the late Eugène Burnouf published, after a
careful study of these documents, his classical work, 'Introduction à
l'Histoire du Buddhisme Indien,' and it is from this book that our
knowledge of Buddhism may be said to date. Several works have since
been published, which have added considerably to the stock of
authentic information on the doctrine of the great Indian reformer.
There is Burnouf's translation of 'Le Lotus de la bonne Loi,'
published after the death of that lamented scholar, together with
numerous essays, in 1852. There are two interesting works by the Rev.
Spence Hardy--'Eastern Monachism,' London, 1850, and 'A Manual of
Buddhism,' London, 1853; and there are the publications of M.
Stanislas Julien, E. Foucaux, the Honourable George Turnour, Professor
H. H. Wilson, and others, alluded to in my article on the 'Buddhist
Pilgrims.' It is from these works alone that we can derive correct and
authentic information on Buddhism, and not from Neander's 'History of
the Christian Church' or from Creuzer's 'Symbolik.'

If any one will consult these works, he will find that the discussions
on the true meaning of Nirvâ_n_a are not of modern date, and that, at
a very early period, different philosophical schools among the
Buddhists of India, and different teachers who spread the doctrine of
Buddhism abroad, propounded every conceivable opinion as to the
orthodox explanation of this term. Even in one and the same school we
find different parties maintaining different views on the meaning of
Nirvâ_n_a. There is the school of the Svâbhâvikas, which still exists
in Nepal. The Svâbhâvikas maintain that nothing exists but nature, or
rather substance, and that this substance exists by itself
(svabhâvât), without a Creator or a Ruler. It exists, however, under
two forms: in the state of Prav_r_itti, as active, or in the state of
Nirv_r_itti, as passive. Human beings, who, like everything else,
exist svabhâvât, 'by themselves,' are supposed to be capable of
arriving at Nirv_r_itti, or passiveness, which is nearly synonymous
with Nirvâ_n_a. But here the Svâbhâvikas branch off into two sects.
Some believe that Nirv_r_itti is repose, others that it is
annihilation; and the former add, 'were it even annihilation
(sûnyatâ), it would still be good, man being otherwise doomed to an
eternal migration through all the forms of nature; the more desirable
of which are little to be wished for; and the less so, at any price to
be shunned.'[83]

What was the original meaning of Nirvâ_n_a may perhaps best be seen
from the etymology of this technical term. Every Sanskrit scholar
knows that Nirvâ_n_a means originally the blowing out, the extinction
of light, and not absorption. The human soul, when it arrives at its
perfection, is blown out,[84] if we use the phraseology of the
Buddhists, like a lamp; it is not absorbed, as the Brahmans say, like
a drop in the ocean. Neither in the system of Buddhist philosophy, nor
in the philosophy from which Buddha is supposed to have borrowed, was
there any place left for a Divine Being by which the human soul could
be absorbed. Sânkhya philosophy, in its original form, claims the name
of an-î_s_vara, 'lordless' or 'atheistic' as its distinctive title.
Its final object is not absorption in God, whether personal or
impersonal, but Moksha, deliverance of the soul from all pain and
illusion, and recovery by the soul of its true nature. It is doubtful
whether the term Nirvâ_n_a was coined by Buddha. It occurs in the
literature of the Brahmans as a synonyme of Moksha, deliverance;
Nirv_r_itti, cessation; Apavarga, release; Ni_hs_reyas, summum bonum.
It is used in this sense in the Mahâbhârata, and it is explained in
the Amara-Kosha as having the meaning of 'blowing out, applied to a
fire and to a sage.'[85] Unless, however, we succeed in tracing this
term in works anterior to Buddha, we may suppose that it was invented
by him in order to express that meaning of the summum bonum which he
was the first to preach, and which some of his disciples explained in
the sense of absolute annihilation.

[Footnote 83: See Burnouf, 'Introduction,' p. 441; Hodgson, 'Asiatic
Researches,' vol. xvi.]

[Footnote 84: 'Calm,' 'without wind,' as Nirvâ_n_a is sometimes
explained, is expressed in Sanskrit by Nirvâta. See Amara-Kosha, sub

[Footnote 85: Different views of the Nirvâ_n_a, as conceived by the
Tîrthakas or the Brahmans, may be seen in an extract from the
Lankâvatâra, translated by Burnouf, p. 514.]

The earliest authority to which we can go back, if we want to know the
original character of Buddhism, is the Buddhist Canon, as settled
after the death of Buddha at the first Council. It is called
Tripi_t_aka, or the Three Baskets, the first containing the Sûtras, or
the discourses of Buddha; the second, the Vinaya, or his code of
morality; the third, the Abhidharma, or the system of metaphysics. The
first was compiled by Ânanda, the second by Upâli, the third by
Kâ_s_yapa--all of them the pupils and friends of Buddha. It may be
that these collections, as we now possess them, were finally arranged,
not at the first, but at the third Council. Yet, even then, we have no
earlier, no more authentic, documents from which we could form an
opinion as to the original teaching of Buddha; and the Nirvâ_n_a, as
taught in the metaphysics of Kâ_s_yapa, and particularly in the
Pra_gn_â-pâramitâ, is annihilation, not absorption. Buddhism,
therefore, if tested by its own canonical books, cannot be freed from
the charge of Nihilism, whatever may have been its character in the
mind of its founder, and whatever changes it may have undergone in
later times, and among races less inured to metaphysical discussions
than the Hindus.

The ineradicable feeling of dependence on something else, which is the
life-spring of all religion, was completely numbed in the early Buddhist
metaphysicians, and it was only after several generations had passed away,
and after Buddhism had become the creed of millions, that this feeling
returned with increased warmth, changing, as I said in my article, the very
Nothing into a paradise, and deifying the very Buddha who had denied the
existence of a Deity. That this has been the case in China we know from the
interesting works of the Abbé Huc, and from other sources, such as the
'Catechism of the Shamans, or the Laws and Regulations of the Priesthood of
Buddha in China,' translated by Ch. F. Neumann, London, 1831. In India,
also, Buddhism, as soon as it became a popular religion, had to speak a
more human language than that of metaphysical Pyrrhonism. But, if it did
so, it was because it was shamed into it. This we may see from the very
nicknames which the Brahmans apply to their opponents, the Bauddhas. They
call them Nâstikas--those who maintain that there is nothing;
_S_ûnyavadins-those who maintain that there is a universal void.

The only ground, therefore, on which we may stand, if we wish to
defend the founder of Buddhism against the charges of Nihilism and
Atheism, is this, that, as some of the Buddhists admit, the 'Basket of
Metaphysics' was rather the work of his pupils, not of Buddha
himself.[86] This distinction between the authentic words of Buddha
and the canonical books in general, is mentioned more than once. The
priesthood of Ceylon, when the manifest errors with which their
canonical commentaries abound, were brought to their notice, retreated
from their former position, and now assert that it is only the express
words of Buddha that they receive as undoubted truth.[87] There is a
passage in a Buddhist work which reminds us somewhat of the last page
of Dean Milman's 'History of Christianity,' and where we read:

     'The words of the priesthood are good; those of the Rahats
     (saints) are better; but those of the All-knowing are the
     best of all.'

[Footnote 86: See Burnouf, 'Introduction,' p. 41. 'Abuddhoktam
abhidharma-_s_âstram.' Ibid. p. 454. According to the Tibetan
Buddhists, however, Buddha propounded the Abhidharma when he was
fifty-one years old. 'Asiatic Researches,' vol. xx. p. 339.]

[Footnote 87: 'Eastern Monachism,' p. 171.]

This is an argument which Mr. Francis Barham might have used with more
success, and by which he might have justified, if not the first
disciples, at least the original founder of Buddhism. Nay, there is a
saying of Buddha's which tends to show that all metaphysical
discussion was regarded by him as vain and useless. It is a saying
mentioned in one of the MSS. belonging to the Bodleian Library. As it
has never been published before, I may be allowed to quote it in the
original: Sadasad vi_k_âram na sahate,--'The ideas of being and not
being do not admit of discussion,'--a tenet which, if we consider that
it was enunciated before the time of the Eleatic philosophers of
Greece, and long before Hegel's Logic, might certainly have saved us
many an intricate and indigestible argument.

A few passages from the Buddhist writings of Nepal and Ceylon will
best show that the horror nihili was not felt by the metaphysicians
of former ages in the same degree as it is felt by ourselves. The
famous hymn which resounds in heaven when the luminous rays of the
smile of Buddha penetrate through the clouds, is 'All is transitory,
all is misery, all is void, all is without substance.' Again, it is
said in the Pra_gn_â-pâramitâ,[88] that Buddha began to think that he
ought to conduct all creatures to perfect Nirvâ_n_a. But he reflected
that there are really no creatures which ought to be conducted, nor
creatures that conduct; and, nevertheless, he did conduct all
creatures to perfect Nirvâ_n_a. Then, continues the text, why is it
said that there are neither creatures which arrive at complete
Nirvâ_n_a, nor creatures which conduct there? Because it is illusion
which makes creatures what they are. It is as if a clever juggler, or
his pupil, made an immense number of people to appear on the high
road, and after having made them to appear, made them to disappear
again. Would there be anybody who had killed, or murdered, or
annihilated, or caused them to vanish? No. And it is the same with
Buddha. He conducts an immense, innumerable, infinite number of
creatures to complete Nirvâ_n_a, and yet there are neither creatures
which are conducted, nor creatures that conduct. If a Bodhisattva, on
hearing this explanation of the Law, is not frightened, then it may be
said that he has put on the great armour.[89]

[Footnote 88: Burnouf, 'Introduction,' p. 462.]

[Footnote 89: Ibid. p. 478.]

Soon after, we read: 'The name of Buddha is nothing but a word. The
name of Bodhisattva is nothing but a word. The name of Perfect Wisdom
(Pra_gn_â-pâramitâ) is nothing but a word. The name is indefinite, as
if one says "I," for "I" is something indefinite, because it has no

Burnouf gives the gist of the whole Pra_gn_â-pâramitâ in the following
words: 'The highest Wisdom, or what is to be known, has no more real
existence than he who has to know, or the Bodhisattva; no more than he
who does know, or the Buddha.' But Burnouf remarks that nothing of
this kind is to be found in the Sûtras, and that Gautama _S_âkya-muni,
the son of _S_uddhodana, would never have become the founder of a
popular religion if he had started with similar absurdities. In the
Sûtras the reality of the objective world is denied; the reality of
form is denied; the reality of the individual, or the 'I,' is equally
denied. But the existence of a subject, of something like the Purusha,
the thinking substance of the Sânkhya philosophy, is spared. Something
at least exists with respect to which everything else may be said not
to exist. The germs of the ideas, developed in the Pra_gn_â-pâramitâ,
may indeed be discovered here and there in the Sûtras.[90] But they
had not yet ripened into that poisonous plant which soon became an
indispensable narcotic in the schools of the later Buddhists. Buddha
himself, however, though, perhaps, not a Nihilist, was certainly an
Atheist. He does not deny distinctly either the existence of gods, or
that of God; but he ignores the former, and he is ignorant of the
latter. Therefore, if Nirvâ_n_a in his mind was not yet complete
annihilation, still less could it have been absorption into a Divine
essence. It was nothing but selfishness, in the metaphysical sense of
the word--a relapse into that being which is nothing but itself. This
is the most charitable view which we can take of the Nirvâ_n_a, even
as conceived by Buddha himself, and it is the view which Burnouf
derived from the canonical books of the Northern Buddhists. On the
other hand, Mr. Spence Hardy, who in his works follows exclusively the
authority of the Southern Buddhists, the Pâli and Singhalese works of
Ceylon, arrives at the same result. We read in his work: 'The Rahat
(Arhat), who has reached Nirvâ_n_a, but is not yet a Pratyeka-buddha,
or a Supreme Buddha, says: "I await the appointed time for the
cessation of existence. I have no wish to live; I have no wish to die.
Desire is extinct."'

[Footnote 90: Burnouf, 'Introduction,' p. 520.]

       *       *       *       *       *

In a very interesting dialogue between Milinda and Nâgasena,
communicated by Mr. Spence Hardy, Nirvâ_n_a is represented as
something which has no antecedent cause, no qualities, no locality. It
is something of which the utmost we may assert is, that it is:

     _Nâgasena._ Can a man, by his natural strength, go from the
     city of Sâgal to the forest of Himâla?

     _Milinda._ Yes.

     _Nâgasena._ But could any man, by his natural strength,
     bring the forest of Himâla to this city of Sâgal?

     _Milinda._ No.

     _Nâgasena._ In like manner, though the fruition of the paths
     may cause the accomplishment of Nirvâ_n_a, no cause by which
     Nirvâ_n_a is produced can be declared. The path that leads
     to Nirvâ_n_a may be pointed out, but not any cause for its
     production. Why? because that which constitutes Nirvâ_n_a is
     beyond all computation,--a mystery, not to be
     understood.... It cannot be said that it is produced, nor
     that it is not produced; that it is past or future or
     present. Nor can it be said that it is the seeing of the
     eye, or the hearing of the ear, or the smelling of the nose,
     or the tasting of the tongue, or the feeling of the body.

     _Milinda._ Then you speak of a thing that is not; you merely
     say that Nirvâ_n_a is Nirvâ_n_a;--therefore there is no

     _Nâgasena._ Great king, Nirvâ_n_a is.

Another question also, whether Nirvâ_n_a is something different from
the beings that enter into it, has been asked by the Buddhists

     _Milinda._ Does the being who acquires it, attain something
     that has previously existed?--or is it his own product, a
     formation peculiar to himself?

     _Nâgasena._ Nirvâ_n_a does not exist previously to its
     reception; nor is it that which was brought into existence.
     Still to the being who attains it, there is Nirvâ_n_a.

In opposition, therefore, to the more advanced views of the Nihilistic
philosophers of the North, Nâgasena maintains the existence of
Nirvâ_n_a, and of the being that has entered Nirvâ_n_a. He does not
say that Buddha is a mere word. When asked by king Milinda, whether
the all-wise Buddha exists, he replies:

     _Nâgasena._ He who is the most meritorious (Bhagavat) does

     _Milinda._ Then can you point out to me the place in which
     he exists?

     _Nâgasena._ Our Bhagavat has attained Nirvâ_n_a, where there
     is no repetition of birth. We cannot say that he is here,
     or that he is there. When a fire is extinguished, can it be
     said that it is here, or that it is there? Even so, our
     Buddha has attained extinction (Nirvâ_n_a). He is like the
     sun that has set behind the Astagiri mountain. It cannot be
     said that he is here, or that he is there: but we can point
     him out by the discourses he delivered. In them he lives.

At the present moment, the great majority of Buddhists would probably
be quite incapable of understanding the abstract speculation of their
ancient masters. The view taken of Nirvâ_n_a in China, Mongolia, and
Tatary may probably be as gross as that which most of the Mohammedans
form of their paradise. But, in the history of religion, the historian
must go back to the earliest and most original documents that are to
be obtained. Thus only may he hope to understand the later
developments which, whether for good or evil, every form of faith has
had to undergo.

_April, 1857._





Well might M. Stanislas Julien put εὕρηκα on the title-page
of his last work, in which he explains his method of deciphering the
Sanskrit words which occur in the Chinese translations of the Buddhist
literature of India. We endeavoured to explain the laborious character
and the important results of his researches on this subject on a
former occasion, when reviewing his translation of the 'Life and
Travels of the Buddhist Pilgrim Hiouen-thsang.' At that time, however,
M. Julien kept the key of his discoveries to himself. He gave us the
results of his labours without giving us more than a general idea of
the process by which those results had been obtained. He has now
published his 'Méthode pour déchiffrer et transcrire les noms
sanscrits qui se rencontrent dans les livres chinois,' and he has
given to the public his Chinese-Sanskrit dictionary, the work of
sixteen years of arduous labour, containing all the Chinese characters
which are used for representing phonetically the technical terms and
proper names of the Buddhist literature of India.

[Footnote 91: 'Méthode pour déchiffrer et transcrire les noms
sanscrits qui se rencontrent dans les livres chinois.' Par M.
Stanislas Julien, Membre de l'Institut. Paris, 1861.]

In order fully to appreciate the labours and discoveries of M. Julien
in this remote field of Oriental literature, we must bear in mind that
the doctrine of Buddha arose in India about two centuries before
Alexander's invasion. It became the state religion of India soon after
Alexander's conquest, and it produced a vast literature, which was
collected into a canon at a council held about 246 B.C. Very soon
after that council, Buddhism assumed a proselytizing character. It
spread in the south to Ceylon, in the north to Kashmir, the Himalayan
countries, Tibet, and China. In the historical annals of China, on
which, in the absence of anything like historical literature in
Sanskrit, we must mainly depend for information on the spreading of
Buddhism, one Buddhist missionary is mentioned as early as 217 B.C.;
and about the year 120 B.C. a Chinese general, after defeating the
barbarous tribes north of the desert of Gobi, brought back as a trophy
a golden statue--the statue of Buddha. It was not, however, till the
year 65 A.D. that Buddhism was officially recognised by the Chinese
Emperor as a third state religion. Ever since, it has shared equal
honours with the doctrines of Confucius and Lao-tse in the Celestial
Empire; and it is but lately that these three established religions
have had to fear the encroachments of a new rival in the creed of the
Chief of the rebels.

Once established in China, and well provided with monasteries and
benefices, the Buddhist priesthood seems to have been most active in
its literary labours. Immense as was the Buddhist literature of India,
the Chinese swelled it to still more appalling proportions. The first
thing to be done was to translate the canonical books. This seems to
have been the joint work of Chinese who had acquired a knowledge of
Sanskrit during their travels in India, and of Hindus who settled in
Chinese monasteries in order to assist the native translators. The
translation of books which profess to contain a new religious doctrine
is under all circumstances a task of great difficulty. It was so
particularly when the subtle abstractions of the Buddhist religion had
to be clothed in the solid, matter-of-fact idiom of the Chinese. But
there was another difficulty which it seemed almost impossible to
overcome. Many words, not only proper names, but the technical terms
also of the Buddhist creed, had to be preserved in Chinese. They were
not to be translated, but to be transliterated. But how was this to be
effected with a language which, like Chinese, had no phonetic
alphabet? Every Chinese character is a word; it has both sound and
meaning; and it is unfit, therefore, for the representation of the
sound of foreign words. In modern times, certain characters have been
set apart for the purpose of writing the proper names and titles of
foreigners; but such is the peculiar nature of the Chinese system of
writing, that even with this alphabet it is only possible to represent
approximatively the pronunciation of foreign words. In the absence,
however, of even such an alphabet, the translators of the Buddhist
literature seem to have used their own discretion--or rather
indiscretion--in appropriating, without any system, whatever Chinese
characters seemed to them to come nearest to the sound of Sanskrit
words. Now the whole Chinese language consists in reality of about
four hundred words, or significative sounds, all monosyllabic. Each of
these monosyllabic sounds embraces a large number of various meanings,
and each of these various meanings is represented by its own sign.
Thus it has happened that the Chinese Dictionary contains 43,496
signs, whereas the Chinese language commands only four hundred
distinct utterances. Instead of being restricted, therefore, to one
character which always expresses the same sound, the Buddhist
translators were at liberty to express one and the same sound in a
hundred different ways. Of this freedom they availed themselves to the
fullest extent. Each translator, each monastery, fixed on its own
characters for representing the pronunciation of Sanskrit words. There
are more than twelve hundred Chinese characters employed by various
writers in order to represent the forty-two simple letters of the
Sanskrit alphabet. The result has been that even the Chinese were
after a time unable to read--i. e. to pronounce--these random
transliterations. What, then, was to be expected from Chinese scholars
in Europe? Fortunately, the Chinese, to save themselves from their own
perplexities, had some lists drawn up, exhibiting the principles
followed by the various translators in representing the proper names,
the names of places, and the technical terms of philosophy and
religion which they had borrowed from the Sanskrit. With the help of
these lists, and after sixteen years consecrated to the study of the
Chinese translations of Sanskrit works and of other original
compositions of Buddhist authors, M. Julien at last caught up the
thread that was to lead him through this labyrinth; and by means of
his knowledge of Sanskrit, which he acquired solely for that purpose,
he is now able to do what not even the most learned among the
Buddhists in China could accomplish--he is able to restore the exact
form and meaning of every word transferred from Sanskrit into the
Buddhist literature of China.

Without this laborious process, which would have tired out the
patience and deadened the enthusiasm of most scholars, the treasures
of the Buddhist literature preserved in Chinese were really useless.
Abel Rémusat, who during his lifetime was considered the first Chinese
scholar in Europe, attempted indeed a translation of the travels of
Fahian, a Buddhist pilgrim, who visited India about the end of the
fourth century after Christ. It was in many respects a most valuable
work, but the hopelessness of reducing the uncouth Chinese terms to
their Sanskrit originals made it most tantalising to look through its
pages. Who was to guess that Ho-kia-lo was meant for the Sanskrit
Vyâkara_n_a, in the sense of sermons; Po-to for the Sanskrit Avadâna,
parables; Kia-ye-i for the Sanskrit Kâ_s_yapîyas, the followers of
Kâ_s_yapa? In some instances, Abel Rémusat, assisted by Chézy, guessed
rightly; and later Sanskrit scholars, such as Burnouf, Lassen, and
Wilson, succeeded in re-establishing, with more or less certainty, the
original form of a number of Sanskrit words, in spite of their Chinese
disguises. Still there was no system, and therefore no certainty, in
these guesses, and many erroneous conclusions were drawn from
fragmentary translations of Chinese writers on Buddhism, which even
now are not yet entirely eliminated from the works of Oriental
scholars. With M. Julien's method, mathematical certainty seems to
have taken the place of learned conjectures; and whatever is to be
learnt from the Chinese on the origin, the history, and the true
character of Buddha's doctrine may now be had in an authentic and
unambiguous form.

But even after the principal difficulties have been cleared away
through the perseverance of M. Stanislas Julien, and after we have
been allowed to reap the fruits of his labours in his masterly
translation of the 'Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes,' there still
remains one point that requires some elucidation. How was it that the
Chinese, whose ears no doubt are of the same construction as our own,
should have made such sad work of the Sanskrit names which they
transcribed with their own alphabet? Much may be explained by the
defects of their language. Such common sounds as v, g, r, b, d, and
short a, are unknown in Chinese as initials; no compound consonants
are allowed, every consonant being followed by a vowel; and the final
letters are limited to a very small number. This, no doubt, explains,
to a great extent, the distorted appearance of many Sanskrit words
when written in Chinese. Thus, Buddha could only be written Fo to.
There was no sign for an initial b, nor was it possible to represent a
double consonant, such as ddh. Fo to was the nearest approach to
Buddha of which Chinese, when written, was capable. But was it so in
speaking? Was it really impossible for Fahian and Hiouen-thsang, who
had spent so many years in India, and who were acquainted with all the
intricacies of Sanskrit grammar, to distinguish between the sounds of
Buddha and Fo to? We cannot believe this. We are convinced that
Hiouen-thsang, though he wrote, and could not but write, Fo to with
the Chinese characters, pronounced Buddha just as we pronounce it, and
that it was only among the unlearned that Fo to became at last the
recognised name of the founder of Buddhism, abbreviated even to the
monosyllabic Fo, which is now the most current appellation of 'the
Enlightened.' In the same manner the Chinese pilgrims wrote Niepan,
but they pronounced Nirvâ_n_a; they wrote Fan-lon-mo, and pronounced

Nor is it necessary that we should throw all the blame of these
distortions on the Chinese. On the contrary, it is almost certain that
some of the discrepancies between the Sanskrit of their translations
and the classical Sanskrit of Pâ_n_ini were due to the corruption
which, at the time when Buddhism arose, and still more at the time
when Buddhism spread to China, had crept into the spoken language of
India. Sanskrit had ceased to be the spoken language of the people
previous to the time of A_s_oka. The edicts which are still preserved
on the rocks of Dhauli, Girnar, and Kapurdigiri are written in a
dialect which stands to Sanskrit in the same relation as Italian to
Latin. Now it is true, no doubt, that the canonical books of the
Buddhists are written in a tolerably correct Sanskrit, very different
from the Italianized dialect of A_s_oka. But that Sanskrit was, like
the Greek of Alexandria, like the Latin of Hungary, a learned idiom,
written by the learned for the learned; it was no longer the living
speech of India. Now it is curious that in many of the canonical
Buddhist works which we still possess, the text which is written in
Sanskrit prose is from time to time interrupted by poetical portions,
called Gâthâs or ballads, in which the same things are told in verse
which had before been related in prose. The dialect of these songs or
ballads is full of what grammarians would call irregularities, that is
to say, full of those changes which every language undergoes in the
mouths of the people. In character these corruptions are the same as
those which have been observed in the inscriptions of A_s_oka, and
which afterwards appear in Pâli and the modern Prâkrit dialects of
India. Various conjectures have been started to explain the
amalgamation of the correct prose text and the free and easy poetical
version of the same events, as embodied in the sacred literature of
the Buddhists. Burnouf, the first who instituted a critical inquiry
into the history and literature of Buddhism, supposed that there was,
besides the canon fixed by the three convocations, another digest of
Buddhist doctrines composed in the popular style, which may have
developed itself, as he says, subsequently to the preaching of
_S_âkya, and which would thus be intermediate between the regular
Sanskrit and the Pâli. He afterwards, however, inclines to another
view--namely, that these Gâthâs were written out of India by men to
whom Sanskrit was no longer familiar, and who endeavoured to write in
the learned language, which they ill understood, with the freedom
which is imparted by the habitual use of a popular but imperfectly
determined dialect. Other Sanskrit scholars have proposed other
solutions of this strange mixture of correct prose and incorrect
poetry in the Buddhist literature; but none of them was satisfactory.
The problem seems to have been solved at last by a native scholar,
Babu Rajendralal, a curious instance of the reaction of European
antiquarian research on the native mind of India. Babu Rajendralal
reads Sanskrit of course with the greatest ease. He is a pandit by
profession, but he is at the same time a scholar and critic in our
sense of the word. He has edited Sanskrit texts after a careful
collation of MSS., and in his various contributions to the 'Journal of
the Asiatic Society of Bengal,' he has proved himself completely above
the prejudices of his class, freed from the erroneous views on the
history and literature of India in which every Brahman is brought up,
and thoroughly imbued with those principles of criticism which men
like Colebrooke, Lassen, and Burnouf have followed in their researches
into the literary treasures of his country. His English is remarkably
clear and simple, and his arguments would do credit to any Sanskrit
scholar in England. We quote from his remarks on Burnouf's account of
the Gâthâs, as given in that scholar's 'Histoire du Buddhisme Indien:'

     'Burnouf's opinion on the origin of the Gâthâs, we venture
     to think, is founded on a mistaken estimate of Sanskrit
     style. The poetry of the Gâthâ has much artistic elegance
     which at once indicates that it is not the composition of
     men who were ignorant of the first principles of grammar.
     The authors display a great deal of learning, and discuss
     the subtlest questions of logic and metaphysics with much
     tact and ability, and it is difficult to conceive that men
     who were perfectly familiar with the most intricate forms of
     Sanskrit logic, who have expressed the most abstruse
     metaphysical ideas in precise and often in beautiful
     language, who composed with ease and elegance in Ârya,
     To_t_aka, and other difficult measures, were unacquainted
     with the rudiments of the language in which they wrote, and
     were unable to conjugate the verb to be in all its forms....
     The more reasonable conjecture appears to be that the Gâthâ
     is the production of bards who were contemporaries or
     immediate successors of _S_âkya, who recounted to the devout
     congregations of the prophet of Magadha, the sayings and
     doings of their great teacher in popular and easy-flowing
     verses, which in course of time came to be regarded as the
     most authentic source of all information connected with the
     founder of Buddhism. The high estimation in which the
     ballads and improvisations of bards are held in India and
     particularly in the Buddhist writings, favours this
     supposition; and the circumstance that the poetical portions
     are generally introduced in corroboration of the narration
     of the prose, with the words "Thereof this may be said,"
     affords a strong presumptive evidence.'

Now this, from the pen of a native scholar, is truly remarkable. The
spirit of Niebuhr seems to have reached the shores of India, and this
ballad theory comes out more successfully in the history of Buddha
than in the history of Romulus. The absence of anything like cant in
the mouth of a Brahman speaking of Buddhism, the _bête noire_ of all
orthodox Brahmans, is highly satisfactory, and our Sanskrit scholars
in Europe will have to pull hard if, with such men as Babu Rajendralal
in the field, they are not to be distanced in the race of scholarship.

We believe, then, that Babu Rajendralal is right, and we look upon the
dialect of the Gâthâs as a specimen of the Sanskrit spoken by the
followers of Buddha about the time of A_s_oka and later. And this will
help us to understand some of the peculiar changes which the Sanskrit
of the Chinese Buddhists must have undergone, even before it was
disguised in the strange dress of the Chinese alphabet. The Chinese
pilgrims did not hear the Sanskrit pronounced as it was pronounced in
the Parishads according to the strict rules of their _S_ikshâ or
phonetics. They heard it as it was spoken in Buddhist monasteries, as
it was sung in the Gâthâs of Buddhist minstrels, as it was preached in
the Vyâkara_n_as or sermons of Buddhist friars. For instance. In the
Gâthâs a short a is frequently lengthened. We find nâ instead of na,
'no.' The same occurs in the Sanskrit of the Chinese Buddhists. (See
Julien, 'Méthode,' p. 18; p. 21.) We find there also vistâra instead
of vistara, &c. In the dialect of the Gâthâs nouns ending in
consonants, and therefore irregular, are transferred to the easier
declension in a. The same process takes place in modern Greek and in
the transition of Latin into Italian; it is, in fact, a general
tendency of all languages which are carried on by the stream of living
speech. Now this transition from one declension to another had taken
place before the Chinese had appropriated the Sanskrit of the Buddhist
books. The Sanskrit nabhas becomes nabha in the Gâthâs; locative
nabhe, instead of nabhasi. If, therefore, we find in Chinese lo-che
for the Sanskrit ra_g_as, dust, we may ascribe the change of r into l
to the inability of the Chinese to pronounce or to write an r. We may
admit that the Chinese alphabet offered nothing nearer to the sound of
_g_a than tche; but the dropping of the final s has no excuse in
Chinese, and finds its real explanation in the nature of the Gâthâ
dialect. Thus the Chinese Fan-lan-mo does not represent the correct
Sanskrit Brahman, but the vulgar form Brahma. The Chinese so-po for
sarva, all, thomo for dharma, law, find no explanation in the dialect
of the Gâthâs, but the suppression of the r before v and m, is of
frequent occurrence in the inscriptions of A_s_oka. The omission of
the initial s in words like sthâna, place, sthavira, an elder, is
likewise founded on the rules of Pâli and Prâkrit, and need not be
placed to the account of the Chinese translators. In the inscription
of Girnar sthavira is even reduced to thaira. The s of the nominative
is frequently dropped in the dialect of the Gâthâs, or changed into o.
Hence we might venture to doubt whether it is necessary to give to the
character 1780 of M. Julien's list, which generally has the value of
ta, a second value sta. This s is only wanted to supply the final s of
kas, the interrogative pronoun, in such a sentence as kas
tadgu_n_a_h_? what is the use of this? Now here we are inclined to
believe that the final s of kas had long disappeared in the popular
language of India, before the Chinese came to listen to the strange
sounds and doctrines of the disciples of Buddha. They probably heard
ka tadgu_n_a, or ka taggu_n_a, and this they represented as best they
could by the Chinese kia-to-kieou-na.

With these few suggestions we leave the work of M. Stanislas Julien.
It is in reality a work done once for all--one huge stone and
stumbling-block effectually rolled away which for years had barred the
approach to some most valuable documents of the history of the East.
Now that the way is clear, let us hope that others will follow, and
that we shall soon have complete and correct translations of the
travels of Fahian and other Buddhist pilgrims whose works are like so
many Murray's 'Handbooks of India,' giving us an insight into the
social, political, and religious state of that country at a time when
we look in vain for any other historical documents.

_March, 1861._



In reviewing the works of missionaries, we have repeatedly dwelt on
the opportunities of scientific usefulness which are open to the
messengers of the Gospel in every part of the world. We are not afraid
of the common objection that missionaries ought to devote their whole
time and powers to the one purpose for which they are sent out and
paid by our societies. Missionaries cannot always be engaged in
teaching, preaching, converting, and baptising the heathen. A
missionary, like every other human creature, ought to have his leisure
hours; and if those leisure hours are devoted to scientific pursuits,
to the study of the languages or the literature of the people among
whom he lives, to a careful description of the scenery and antiquities
of the country, the manners, laws, and customs of its inhabitants,
their legends, their national poetry, or popular stories, or, again,
to the cultivation of any branch of natural science, he may rest
assured that he is not neglecting the sacred trust which he accepted,
but is only bracing and invigorating his mind, and keeping it from
that stagnation which is the inevitable result of a too monotonous
employment. The staff of missionaries which is spread over the whole
globe supplies the most perfect machinery that could be devised for
the collection of all kinds of scientific knowledge. They ought to be
the pioneers of science. They should not only take out--they should
also bring something home; and there is nothing more likely to
increase and strengthen the support on which our missionary societies
depend, nothing more sure to raise the intellectual standard of the
men selected for missionary labour, than a formal recognition of this
additional duty. There may be exceptional cases where missionaries are
wanted for constant toil among natives ready to be instructed, and
anxious to be received as members of a Christian community. But, as a
general rule, the missionary abroad has more leisure than a clergyman
at home, and time sits heavy on the hands of many whose congregations
consist of no more than ten or twenty souls. It is hardly necessary to
argue this point, when we can appeal to so many facts. The most
successful missionaries have been exactly those whose names are
remembered with gratitude, not only by the natives among whom they
laboured, but also by the savants of Europe; and the labours of the
Jesuit missionaries in India and China, of the Baptist missionaries at
Serampore, of Gogerly and Spence Hardy in Ceylon, of Caldwell in
Tinnevelly, of Wilson in Bombay, of Moffat, Krapf, and last, but not
least, of Livingstone, will live not only in the journals of our
academies, but likewise in the annals of the missionary Church.

[Footnote 92: 'The Chinese Classics;' with a Translation, Critical and
Exegetical Notes. By James Legge, D.D., of the London Missionary
Society. Hong Kong, 1861.]

The first volume of an edition of the Chinese Classics, which we have
just received from the Rev. Dr. J. Legge, of the London Missionary
Society, is a new proof of what can be achieved by missionaries, if
encouraged to devote part of their time and attention to scientific
and literary pursuits. We do not care to inquire whether Dr. Legge has
been successful as a missionary. Even if he had not converted a single
Chinese, he would, after completing the work which he has just begun,
have rendered most important aid to the introduction of Christianity
into China. He arrived in the East towards the end of 1839, having
received only a few months' instruction in Chinese from Professor Kidd
in London. Being stationed at Malacca, it seemed to him then--and he
adds 'that the experience of twenty-one years has given its sanction
to the correctness of the judgment'--that he could not consider
himself qualified for the duties of his position until he had
thoroughly mastered the classical books of the Chinese, and
investigated for himself the whole field of thought through which the
sages of China had ranged, and in which were to be found the
foundations of the moral, social, and political life of the people. He
was not able to pursue his studies without interruption, and it was
only after some years, when the charge of the Anglo-Chinese College
had devolved upon him, that he could procure the books necessary to
facilitate his progress. After sixteen years of assiduous study, Dr.
Legge had explored the principal works of Chinese literature; and he
then felt that he could render the course of reading through which he
had passed more easy to those who were to follow after him, by
publishing, on the model of our editions of the Greek and Roman
Classics, a critical text of the Classics of China, together with a
translation and explanatory notes. His materials were ready, but
there was the difficulty of finding the funds necessary for so costly
an undertaking. Scarcely, however, had Dr. Legge's wants become known
among the British and other foreign merchants in China, than one of
them, Mr. Joseph Jardine, sent for the Doctor, and said to him, 'I
know the liberality of the merchants in China, and that many of them
would readily give their help to such an undertaking; but you need not
have the trouble of canvassing the community. If you are prepared to
undertake the toil of the publication, I will bear the expense of it.
We make our money in China, and we should be glad to assist in
whatever promises to be a benefit to it.' The result of this
combination of disinterested devotion on the part of the author, and
enlightened liberality on the part of his patron, lies now before us
in a splendid volume of text, translation, and commentary, which, if
the life of the editor is spared (and the sudden death of Mr. Jardine
from the effects of the climate is a warning how busily death is at
work among the European settlers in those regions), will be followed
by at least six other volumes.

The edition is to comprise the books now recognised as of highest
authority by the Chinese themselves. These are the five King's and the
four Shoo's. King means the warp threads of a web, and its application
to literary compositions rests on the same metaphor as the Latin word
textus, and the Sanskrit Sûtra, meaning a yarn, and a book. Shoo
simply means writings. The five King's are, 1. the Yih, or the Book of
Changes; 2. the Shoo, or the Book of History; 3. the She, or the Book
of Poetry; 4. the Le Ke, or Record of Rites; and 5. the Chun Tsew, or
Spring and Autumn; a chronicle extending from 721 to 480 B.C. The four
Shoo's consist of, 1. the Lun Yu, or Digested Conversations between
Confucius and his disciples; 2. Ta Hëo, or Great Learning, commonly
attributed to one of his disciples; 3. the Chung Yung, or Doctrine of
the Mean, ascribed to the grandson of Confucius; 4. of the works of
Mencius, who died 288 B.C.

The authorship of the five King's is loosely attributed to Confucius;
but it is only the fifth, or 'the Spring and Autumn,' which can be
claimed as the work of the philosopher. The Yih, the Shoo, and the She
King were not composed, but only compiled by him, and much of the Le
Ke is clearly from later hands. Confucius, though the founder of a
religion and a reformer, was thoroughly conservative in his
tendencies, and devotedly attached to the past. He calls himself a
transmitter, not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients (p.
59). 'I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge,' he
says, 'I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it
there' (p. 65). The most frequent themes of his discourses were the
ancient songs, the history, and the rules of propriety established by
ancient sages (p. 64). When one of his contemporaries wished to do
away with the offering of a lamb as a meaningless formality, Confucius
reproved him with the pithy sentence, 'You love the sheep, I love the
ceremony.' There were four things, we are told, which Confucius
taught--letters, ethics, devotion of soul, and truthfulness (p. 66).
When speaking of himself, he said, 'At fifteen, I had my mind bent on
learning. At thirty, I stood firm. At forty, I had no doubt. At fifty,
I knew the decrees of heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ
for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart
desired, without transgressing what was right' (p. 10). Though this
may sound like boasting, it is remarkable how seldom Confucius himself
claims any superiority above his fellow-creatures. He offers his
advice to those who are willing to listen, but he never speaks
dogmatically; he never attempts to tyrannize over the minds or hearts
of his friends. If we read his biography, we can hardly understand how
a man whose life was devoted to such tranquil pursuits, and whose
death scarcely produced a ripple on the smooth and silent surface of
the Eastern world, could have left the impress of his mind on millions
and millions of human beings--an impress which even now, after 2339
years, is clearly discernible in the national character of the largest
empire of the world. Confucius died in 478 B.C., complaining that of
all the princes of the empire there was not one who would adopt his
principles and obey his lessons. After two generations, however, his
name had risen to be a power--the rallying point of a vast movement of
national and religious regeneration. His grandson speaks of him as the
ideal of a sage, as the sage is the ideal of humanity at large. Though
Tze-tze claims no divine honour for his grandsire, he exalts his
wisdom and virtue beyond the limits of human nature. This is a
specimen of the language which he applies to Confucius:

     'He may be compared to heaven and earth in their supporting
     and containing, their overshadowing and curtaining all
     things; he may be compared to the four seasons in their
     alternating progress, and to the sun and moon in their
     successive shining.... Quick in apprehension, clear in
     discernment, of far-reaching intellect and all-embracing
     knowledge, he was fitted to exercise rule; magnanimous,
     generous, benign, and mild, he was fitted to exercise
     forbearance; impulsive, energetic, firm, and enduring, he
     was fitted to maintain a firm hold; self-adjusted, grave,
     never swerving from the Mean, and correct, he was fitted to
     command reverence; accomplished, distinctive, concentrative,
     and searching, he was fitted to exercise discrimination....
     All-embracing and vast, he was like heaven; deep and active
     as a fountain, he was like the abyss.... Therefore his fame
     overspreads the Middle Kingdom and extends to all barbarous
     tribes. Wherever ships and carriages reach, wherever the
     strength of man penetrates, wherever the heavens overshadow
     and the earth sustains, wherever the sun and moon shine,
     wherever frost and dews fall, all who have blood and breath
     unfeignedly honour and love him. Hence it is said--He is the
     equal of Heaven' (p. 53).

This is certainly very magnificent phraseology, but it will hardly
convey any definite impression to the minds of those who are not
acquainted with the life and teaching of the great Chinese sage. These
may be studied now by all who can care for the history of human
thought, in the excellent work of Dr. Legge. The first volume, just
published, contains the Confucian Analects, the Great Learning, and
the Doctrine of the Mean, or the First, Second, and Third Shoo's, and
will, we hope, soon be followed by the other Chinese Classics.[93] We
must here confine ourselves to giving a few of the sage's sayings,
selected from thousands that are to be found in the Confucian
Analects. Their interest is chiefly historical, as throwing light on
the character of one of the most remarkable men in the history of the
human race. But there is besides this a charm in the simple
enunciation of simple truths; and such is the fear of truism in our
modern writers that we must go to distant times and distant countries
if we wish to listen to that simple Solomonic wisdom which is better
than the merchandize of silver and the gain thereof than fine gold.

[Footnote 93: Dr. Legge has since published: vol. ii. containing the
works of Mencius; vol. iii. part 1. containing the first part of the
Shoo King; vol. iii. part 2. containing the fifth part of the Shoo

Confucius shows his tolerant spirit when he says, 'The superior man is
catholic, and no partisan. The mean man is a partisan, and not
catholic' (p. 14).

There is honest manliness in his saying, 'To see what is right, and
not to do it, is want of courage' (p. 18).

His definition of knowledge, though less profound than that of
Socrates, is nevertheless full of good sense:

     'The Master said, "Shall I teach you what knowledge is? When
     you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do
     not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it--this is
     knowledge"' (p. 15).

Nor was Confucius unacquainted with the secrets of the heart: 'It is
only the truly virtuous man,' he says in one place, 'who can love or
who can hate others' (p. 30). In another place he expresses his belief
in the irresistible charm of virtue: 'Virtue is not left to stand
alone,' he says; 'he who practises it will have neighbours.' He bears
witness to the hidden connection between intellectual and moral
excellence: 'It is not easy,' he remarks, 'to find a man who has
learned for three years without coming to be good' (p. 76). In his
ethics, the golden rule of the Gospel, 'Do ye unto others as ye would
that others should do to you,' is represented as almost unattainable.
Thus we read, 'Tsze-Kung said, "What I do not wish men to do to me, I
also wish not to do to men." The Master said, "Tsze, you have not
attained to that,"' The Brahmans, too, had a distant perception of the
same truth, which is expressed, for instance, in the Hitopadesa in the
following words: 'Good people show mercy unto all beings, considering
how like they are to themselves.' On subjects which transcend the
limits of human understanding, Confucius is less explicit; but his
very reticence is remarkable, when we consider the recklessness with
which Oriental philosophers launch into the depths of religious
metaphysics. Thus we read (p. 107):

     'Ke Loo asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The
     Master said, "While you are not able to serve men, how can
     you serve their spirits?"

     Ke Loo added, "I venture to ask about death." He was
     answered, "While you do not know life, how can you know
     about death?"'

And again (p. 190):

     'The Master said, "I would prefer not speaking."

     Tsze-Kung said, "If you, Master, do not speak, what shall
     we, your disciples, have to record?"

     The Master said, "Does Heaven speak? The four seasons pursue
     their courses, and all things are continually being
     produced; but does Heaven say anything?"'

_November, 1861._



A book called 'Popol Vuh,'[94] and pretending to be the original text
of the sacred writings of the Indians of Central America, will be
received by most people with a sceptical smile. The Aztec children who
were shown all over Europe as descendants of a race to whom, before
the Spanish conquest, divine honours were paid by the natives of
Mexico, and who turned out to be unfortunate creatures that had been
tampered with by heartless speculators, are still fresh in the memory
of most people; and the 'Livre des Sauvages,'[95] lately published by
the Abbé Domenech, under the auspices of Count Walewsky, has somewhat
lowered the dignity of American studies in general. Still, those who
laugh at the 'Manuscrit Pictographique Américain' discovered by the
French Abbé in the library of the French Arsénal, and edited by him
with so much care as a precious relic of the old Red-skins of North
America, ought not to forget that there would be nothing at all
surprising in the existence of such a MS., containing genuine
pictographic writing of the Red Indians. The German critic of Abbé
Domenech, M. Petzholdt,[96] assumes much too triumphant an air in
announcing his discovery that the 'Manuscrit Pictographique' was the
work of a German boy in the backwoods of America. He ought to have
acknowledged that the Abbé himself had pointed out the German scrawls
on some of the pages of his MS.; that he had read the names of Anna
and Maria; and that he never claimed any great antiquity for the book
in question. Indeed, though M. Petzholdt tells us very confidently
that the whole book is the work of a naughty, nasty, and profane
little boy, the son of German settlers in the backwoods of America, we
doubt whether anybody who takes the trouble to look through all the
pages will consider this view as at all satisfactory, or even as more
probable than that of the French Abbé. We know what boys are capable
of in pictographic art from the occasional defacements of our walls
and railings; but we still feel a little sceptical when M. Petzholdt
assures us that there is nothing extraordinary in a boy filling a
whole volume with these elaborate scrawls. If M. Petzholdt had taken
the trouble to look at some of the barbarous hieroglyphics that have
been collected in North America, he would have understood more readily
how the Abbé Domenech, who had spent many years among the Red Indians,
and had himself copied several of their inscriptions, should have
taken the pages preserved in the library of the Arsénal at Paris as
genuine specimens of American pictography. There is a certain
similarity between these scrawls and the figures scratched on rocks,
tombstones, and trees by the wandering tribes of North America; and
though we should be very sorry to endorse the opinion of the
enthusiastic Abbé, or to start any conjecture of our own as to the
real authorship of the 'Livre des Sauvages,' we cannot but think that
M. Petzholdt would have written less confidently, and certainly less
scornfully, if he had been more familiar than he seems to be with the
little that is known of the picture-writing of the Indian tribes. As a
preliminary to the question of the authenticity of the 'Popol Vuh,' a
few words on the pictorial literature of the Red Indians of North
America will not be considered out of place. The 'Popol Vuh' is not
indeed a 'Livre des Sauvages,' but a literary composition in the true
sense of the word. It contains the mythology and history of the
civilised races of Central America, and comes before us with
credentials that will bear the test of critical inquiry. But we shall
be better able to appreciate the higher achievements of the South
after we have examined, however cursorily, the rude beginnings in
literature among the savage races of the North.

[Footnote 94: 'Popol Vuh:' le Livre Sacré et les Mythes de l'Antiquité
Américaine, avec les Livres Héroïques et Historiques des Quichés. Par
l'Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. Paris: Durand, 1861.]

[Footnote 95: 'Manuscrit Pictographique Américain,' précédé d'une
Notice sur l'Idéographie des Peaux-Rouges. Par l'Abbé Em. Domenech.
Ouvrage publié sous les auspices de M. le Ministre d'Etat et de la
Maison de l'Empereur. Paris, 1860.]

[Footnote 96: 'Das Buch der Wilden im Lichte Französischer
Civilisation.' Mit Proben aus dem in Paris als 'Manuscrit
Pictographique Américain,' veröffentlichten Schmierbuche eines
Deutsch-Amerikanischen Hinterwälder Jungen. Von J. Petzholdt. Dresden,

Colden, in his 'History of the Five Nations,' informs us that when, in
1696, the Count de Frontenac marched a well-appointed army into the
Iroquois country, with artillery and all other means of regular
military offence, he found, on the banks of the Onondaga, now called
Oswego River, a tree, on the trunk of which the Indians had depicted
the French army, and deposited two bundles of cut rushes at its foot,
consisting of 1434 pieces; an act of symbolical defiance on their
part, which was intended to warn their Gallic invaders that they would
have to encounter this number of warriors.

This warlike message is a specimen of Indian picture-writing. It
belongs to the lowest stage of graphic representation, and hardly
differs from the primitive way in which the Persian ambassadors
communicated with the Greeks, or the Romans with the Carthaginians.
Instead of the lance and the staff of peace between which the
Carthaginians were asked to choose, the Red Indians would have sent an
arrow and a pipe, and the message would have been equally understood.
This, though not yet _peindre la parole_, is nevertheless a first
attempt at _parler aux yeux_. It is a first beginning which may lead
to something more perfect in the end. We find similar attempts at
pictorial communication among other savage tribes, and they seem to
answer every purpose. In Freycinet and Arago's 'Voyage to the Eastern
Ocean' we are told of a native of the Carolina Islands, a Tamor of
Sathoual, who wished to avail himself of the presence of a ship to
send to a trader at Botta, M. Martinez, some shells which he had
promised to collect in exchange for a few axes and some other
articles. This he expressed to the captain, who gave him a piece of
paper to make the drawing, and satisfactorily executed the commission.
The figure of a man at the top denoted the ship's captain, who by his
outstretched hands represented his office as a messenger between the
parties. The rays or ornaments on his head denote rank or authority.
The vine beneath him is a type of friendship. In the left column are
depicted the number and kinds of shells sent; in the right column the
things wished for in exchange--namely, seven fish-hooks, three large
and four small, two axes, and two pieces of iron.

The inscriptions which are found on the Indian graveboards mark a step
in advance. Every warrior has his crest, which is called his totem,
and is painted on his tombstone. A celebrated war-chief, the Adjetatig
of Wabojeeg, died on Lake Superior, about 1793. He was of the clan of
the Addik, or American reindeer. This fact is symbolized by the figure
of the deer. The reversed position denotes death. His own personal
name, which was White Fisher, is not noticed. But there are seven
transverse strokes on the left, and these have a meaning--namely, that
he had led seven war parties. Then there are three perpendicular lines
below his crest, and these again are readily understood by every
Indian. They represent the wounds received in battle. The figure of a
moose's head is said to relate to a desperate conflict with an enraged
animal of this kind; and the symbols of the arrow and the pipe are
drawn to indicate the chief's influence in war and peace.

There is another graveboard of the ruling chief of Sandy Lake on the
Upper Mississippi. Here the reversed bird denotes his family name or
clan, the Crane. Four transverse lines above it denote that he had
killed four of his enemies in battle. An analogous custom is mentioned
by Aristotle ('Politica,' vii. 2, p. 220, ed. Göttling). Speaking of
the Iberians, he states that they placed as many obelisks round the
grave of a warrior as he had killed enemies in battle.

But the Indians went further; and though they never arrived at the
perfection of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, they had a number of
symbolic emblems which were perfectly understood by all their tribes.
Eating is represented by a man's hand lifted to his mouth. Power over
man is symbolized by a line drawn in the figure from the mouth to the
heart; power in general by a head with two horns. A circle drawn
around the body at the abdomen denotes full means of subsistence. A
boy drawn with waved lines from each ear and lines leading to the
heart represents a pupil. A figure with a plant as head, and two
wings, denotes a doctor skilled in medicine, and endowed with the
power of ubiquity. A tree with human legs, a herbalist or professor of
botany. Night is represented by a finely crossed or barred sun, or a
circle with human legs. Rain is figured by a dot or semicircle filled
with water and placed on the head. The heaven with three disks of the
sun is understood to mean three days' journey, and a landing after a
voyage is represented by a tortoise. Short sentences, too, can be
pictured in this manner. A prescription ordering abstinence from food
for two, and rest for four, days is written by drawing a man with two
bars on the stomach and four across the legs. We are told even of
war-songs and love-songs composed in this primitive alphabet; but it
would seem as if, in these cases, the reader required even greater
poetical imagination than the writer. There is one war-song consisting
of four pictures--

     1. The sun rising.

     2. A figure pointing with one hand to the earth and the
     other extended to the sky.

     3. The moon with two human legs.

     4. A figure personifying the Eastern woman, i. e. the
     evening star.

These four symbols are said to convey to the Indian the following

    I am rising to seek the war path;
    The earth and the sky are before me;
    I walk by day and by night;
    And the evening star is my guide.

The following is a specimen of a love-song:

     1. Figure representing a god (monedo) endowed with magic

     2. Figure beating the drum and singing; lines from his

     3. Figure surrounded by a secret lodge.

     4. Two bodies joined with one continuous arm.

     5. A woman on an island.

     6. A woman asleep; lines from his ear towards her.

     7. A red heart in a circle.

This poem is intended to express these sentiments:

     1. It is my form and person that make me great--

     2. Hear the voice of my song, it is my voice.

     3. I shield myself with secret coverings.

     4. All your thoughts are known to me, blush!

     5. I could draw you hence were you ever so far--

     6. Though you were on the other hemisphere--

     7. I speak to your naked heart.

All we can say is, that if the Indians can read this writing, they are
greater adepts in the mysteries of love than the judges of the old
_Cours d'amour_. But it is much more likely that these war-songs and
love-songs are known to the people beforehand, and that their writings
are only meant to revive what exists in the memory of the reader. It
is a kind of mnemonic writing, and it has been used by missionaries
for similar purposes, and with considerable success. Thus, in a
translation of the Bible in the Massachusetts language by Eliot, the
verses from 25 to 32 in the thirtieth chapter of Proverbs, are
expressed by 'an ant, a coney, a locust, a spider, a river (symbol of
motion), a lion, a greyhound, a he-goat and king, a man foolishly
lifting himself to take hold of the heavens.' No doubt these symbols
would help the reader to remember the proper order of the verses, but
they would be perfectly useless without a commentary or without a
previous knowledge of the text.

We are told that the famous Testéra, brother of the chamberlain of
François I, who came to America eight or nine years after the taking
of Mexico, finding it impossible to learn the language of the natives,
taught them the Bible history and the principal doctrines of the
Christian religion, by means of pictures, and that these diagrams
produced a greater effect on the minds of the people, who were
accustomed to this style of representation, than all other means
employed by the missionaries. But here again, unless these pictures
were explained by interpreters, they could by themselves convey no
meaning to the gazing crowds of the natives. The fullest information
on this subject is to be found in a work by T. Baptiste, 'Hiéroglyphes
de la conversion, où par des estampes et des figures on apprend aux
naturels à desirer le ciel.'

There is no evidence to show that the Indians of the North ever
advanced beyond the rude attempts which we have thus described, and of
which numerous specimens may be found in the voluminous work of
Schoolcraft, published by authority of Congress, 'Historical and
Statistical Information respecting the History, Condition, and
Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States,' Philadelphia,
1851-1855. There is no trace of anything like literature among the
wandering tribes of the North, and until a real 'Livre des Sauvages'
turns up to fill this gap, they must continue to be classed among the
illiterate races.[97]

[Footnote 97: 'Manuscrit Pictographique,' pp. 26, 29.]

It is very different if we turn our eyes to the people of Central and
South America, to the races who formed the population of Mexico,
Guatemala, and Peru, when conquered by the Spaniards. The Mexican
hieroglyphics published by Lord Kingsborough are not to be placed in
the same category with the totems and the pictorial scratches of the
Red-skins. They are, first of all, of a much more artistic character,
more conventional in their structure, and hence more definite in their
meaning. They are coloured, written on paper, and in many respects
quite on a level with the hieroglyphic inscriptions and hieratic
papyri of Egypt. Even the conception of speaking to the ear through
the eye, of expressing sound by means of outlines, was familiar to the
Mexicans, though they seem to have applied their phonetic signs to the
writing of the names of places and persons only. The principal object,
indeed, of the Mexican hieroglyphic manuscripts was not to convey new
information, but rather to remind the reader by means of mnemonic
artifices of what he had learnt beforehand. This is acknowledged by
the best authorities, by men who knew the Indians shortly after their
first intercourse with Europeans, and whom we may safely trust in what
they tell us of the oral literature and hieroglyphic writings of the
natives. Acosta, in his 'Historia natural y moral,' vi. 7, tells us
that the Indians were still in the habit of reciting from memory the
addresses and speeches of their ancient orators, and numerous songs
composed by their national poets. As it was impossible to acquire
these by means of hieroglyphics or written characters such as were
used by the Mexicans, care was taken that those speeches and poems
should be learnt by heart. There were colleges and schools for that
purpose, where these and other things were taught to the young by the
aged in whose memory they seemed to be engraved. The young men who
were brought up to be orators themselves had to learn the ancient
compositions word by word; and when the Spaniards came and taught them
to read and write the Spanish language, the Indians soon began to
write for themselves, a fact attested by many eye-witnesses.

Las Casas, the devoted friend of the Indians, writes as follows:

     'It ought to be known that in all the republics of this
     country, in the kingdoms of New Spain and elsewhere, there
     was amongst other professions, that of the chroniclers and
     historians. They possessed a knowledge of the earliest
     times, and of all things concerning religion, the gods, and
     their worship. They knew the founders of cities, and the
     early history of their kings and kingdoms. They knew the
     modes of election and the right of succession; they could
     tell the number and characters of their ancient kings, their
     works, and memorable achievements whether good or bad, and
     whether they had governed well or ill. They knew the men
     renowned for virtue and heroism in former days, what wars
     they had waged, and how they had distinguished themselves;
     who had been the earliest settlers, what had been their
     ancient customs, their triumphs and defeats. They knew, in
     fact, whatever belonged to history; and were able to give an
     account of all the events of the past.... These chroniclers
     had likewise to calculate the days, months, and years; and
     though they had no writing like our own, they had their
     symbols and characters through which they understood
     everything; they had their great books, which were composed
     with such ingenuity and art that our alphabet was really of
     no great assistance to them.... Our priests have seen those
     books, and I myself have seen them likewise, though many
     were burnt at the instigation of the monks, who were afraid
     that they might impede the work of conversion. Sometimes
     when the Indians who had been converted had forgotten
     certain words, or particular points of the Christian
     doctrine, they began--as they were unable to read our
     books--to write very ingeniously with their own symbols and
     characters, drawing the figures which corresponded either to
     the ideas or to the sounds of our words. I have myself seen
     a large portion of the Christian doctrine written in figures
     and images, which they read as we read the characters of a
     letter; and this is a very extraordinary proof of their
     genius.... There never was a lack of those chroniclers. It
     was a profession which passed from father to son, highly
     respected in the whole republic; each historian instructed
     two or three of his relatives. He made them practise
     constantly, and they had recourse to him whenever a doubt
     arose on a point of history.... But not these young
     historians only went to consult him; kings, princes, and
     priests came to ask his advice. Whenever there was a doubt
     as to ceremonies, precepts of religion, religious festivals,
     or anything of importance in the history of the ancient
     kingdoms, every one went to the chroniclers to ask for

In spite of the religious zeal of Dominican and Franciscan friars, a
few of these hieroglyphic MSS. escaped the flames, and may now be seen
in some of our public libraries, as curious relics of a nearly extinct
and forgotten literature. The first collection of these MSS. and other
American antiquities was due to the zeal of the Milanese antiquarian,
Boturini, who had been sent by the Pope in 1736 to regulate some
ecclesiastical matters, and who devoted the eight years of his stay in
the New World to rescuing whatever could be rescued from the scattered
ruins of ancient America. Before, however, he could bring these
treasures safe to Europe, he was despoiled of his valuables by the
Spanish Viceroy; and when at last he made his escape with the remnants
of his collection, he was taken prisoner by an English cruiser, and
lost everything. The collection, which remained at Mexico, became the
subject of several lawsuits, and after passing through the hands of
Veytia and Gama, who both added to it considerably, it was sold at
last by public auction. Humboldt, who was at that time passing through
Mexico, acquired some of the MSS., which he gave to the Royal Museum
at Berlin. Others found their way into private hands, and after many
vicissitudes they have mostly been secured by the public libraries or
private collectors of Europe. The most valuable part of that
unfortunate shipwreck is now in the hands of M. Aubin, who was sent to
Mexico in 1830 by the French Government, and who devoted nearly
twenty years to the same work which Boturini had commenced a hundred
years before. He either bought the dispersed fragments of the
collections of Boturini, Gama, and Pichardo, or procured accurate
copies; and he has brought to Europe, what is, if not the most
complete, at least the most valuable and most judiciously arranged
collection of American antiquities. We likewise owe to M. Aubin the
first accurate knowledge of the real nature of the ancient Mexican
writing; and we look forward with confident hope to his still
achieving in his own field as great a triumph as that of Champollion,
the decipherer of the hieroglyphics of Egypt.

One of the most important helps towards the deciphering of the
hieroglyphic MSS. of the Americans is to be found in certain books
which, soon after the conquest of Mexico, were written down by natives
who had learnt the art of alphabetic writing from their conquerors,
the Spaniards. Ixtlilxochitl, descended from the royal family of
Tetzcuco, and employed as interpreter by the Spanish Government, wrote
the history of his own country from the earliest time to the arrival
of Cortez. In writing this history he followed the hieroglyphic
paintings as they had been explained to him by the old chroniclers.
Some of these very paintings, which formed the text-book of the
Mexican historian, have been recovered by M. Aubin; and as they helped
the historian in writing his history, that history now helps the
scholar in deciphering their meaning. It is with the study of works
like that of Ixtlilxochitl that American philology ought to begin.
They are to the student of American antiquities what Manetho is to
the student of Egyptian hieroglyphics, or Berosus to the decipherer of
the cuneiform inscriptions. They are written in dialects not more than
three hundred years old, and still spoken by large numbers of natives,
with such modifications as three centuries are certain to produce.
They give us whatever was known of history, mythology, and religion
among the people whom the Spaniards found in Central and South America
in the possession of most of the advantages of a long-established
civilisation. Though we must not expect to find in them what we are
accustomed to call history, they are nevertheless of great historical
interest, as supplying the vague outlines of a distant past, filled
with migrations, wars, dynasties, and revolutions, such as were
cherished in the memory of the Greeks at the time of Solon, and
believed in by the Romans at the time of Cato. They teach us that the
New World which was opened to Europe a few centuries ago, was in its
own eyes an old world, not so different in character and feelings from
ourselves as we are apt to imagine when we speak of the Red-skins of
America, or when we read the accounts of the Spanish conquerors, who
denied that the natives of America possessed human souls, in order to
establish their own right of treating them like wild beasts.

The 'Popol Vuh,' or the sacred book of the people of Guatemala, of
which the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg has just published the original
text, together with a literal French translation, holds a very
prominent rank among the works composed by natives in their own native
dialects, and written down by them with the letters of the Roman
alphabet. There are but two works that can be compared to it in their
importance to the student of American antiquities and American
languages, namely, the 'Codex Chimalpopoca' in Nahuatl, the ancient
written language of Mexico, and the 'Codex Cakchiquel' in the dialect
of Guatemala. These, together with the work published by the Abbé
Brasseur de Bourbourg under the title of 'Popol Vuh,' must form the
starting-point of all critical inquiries into the antiquities of the
American people.

The first point which has to be determined with regard to books of
this kind is whether they are genuine or not: whether they are what
they pretend to be--compositions about three centuries old, founded on
the oral traditions and the pictographic documents of the ancient
inhabitants of America, and written in the dialects as spoken at the
time of Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. What the Abbé Brasseur de
Bourbourg has to say on this point amounts to this:--The manuscript
was first discovered by Father Francisco Ximenes towards the end of
the seventeenth century. He was curé of Santo-Tomas Chichicastenango,
situated about three leagues south of Santa-Cruz del Quiché, and
twenty-two leagues north-east of Guatemala. He was well acquainted
with the languages of the natives of Guatemala, and has left a
dictionary of their three principal dialects, his 'Tesoro de las
Lenguas Quiché, Cakchiquel y Tzutohil.' This work, which has never
been printed, fills two volumes, the second of which contains the copy
of the MS. discovered by Ximenes. Ximenes likewise wrote a history of
the province of the preachers of San-Vincente de Chiapas y Guatemala,
in four volumes. Of this he left two copies. But three volumes only
were still in existence when the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg visited
Guatemala, and they are said to contain valuable information on the
history and traditions of the country. The first volume contains the
Spanish translation of the manuscript which occupies us at present.
The Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg copied that translation in 1855. About
the same time a German traveller, Dr. Scherzer, happened to be at
Guatemala, and had copies made of the works of Ximenes. These were
published at Vienna, in 1856.[98] The French Abbé, however, was not
satisfied with a mere reprint of the text and its Spanish translation
by Ximenes, a translation which he qualifies as untrustworthy and
frequently unintelligible. During his travels in America he acquired a
practical knowledge of several of the native dialects, particularly of
the Quiché, which is still spoken in various dialects by about six
hundred thousand people. As a priest he was in daily intercourse with
these people; and it was while residing among them and able to consult
them like living dictionaries, that, with the help of the MSS. of
Ximenes, he undertook his own translation of the ancient chronicles of
the Quichés. From the time of the discovery of Ximenes, therefore, to
the time of the publication of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, all
seems clear and satisfactory. But there is still a century to be
accounted for, from the end of the sixteenth century, when the
original is supposed to have been written, to the end of the
seventeenth, when it was first discovered by Ximenes at

[Footnote 98: Mr. A. Helps was the first to point out the importance
of this work in his excellent 'History of the Spanish Conquest in

These years are not bridged over. We may appeal, however, to the
authority of the MS. itself, which carries the royal dynasties down to
the Spanish Conquest, and ends with the names of the two princes, Don
Juan de Rojas and Don Juan Cortes, the sons of Tecum and Tepepul.
These princes, though entirely subject to the Spaniards, were allowed
to retain the insignia of royalty to the year 1558, and it is shortly
after their time that the MS. is supposed to have been written. The
author himself says in the beginning that he wrote 'after the word of
God (chabal Dios) had been preached, in the midst of Christianity; and
that he did so because people could no longer see the 'Popol Vuh,'
wherein it was clearly shown that they came from the other side of the
sea, the account of our living in the land of shadow, and how we saw
light and life.' There is no attempt at claiming for his work any
extravagant age or mysterious authority. It is acknowledged to have
been written when the Castilians were the rulers of the land; when
bishops were preaching the word of Dios, the new God; when the ancient
traditions of the people were gradually dying out. Even the title of
'Popol Vuh,' which the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg has given to this
work, is not claimed for it by its author. He says that he wrote when
the 'Popol Vuh' was no longer to be seen. Now 'Popol Vuh' means the
book of the people, and referred to the traditional literature in
which all that was known about the early history of the nation, their
religion and ceremonies, was handed down from age to age.

It is to be regretted that the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg should have
sanctioned the application of this name to the Quiché MS. discovered
by Father Ximenes, and that he should apparently have translated it by
'Livre sacré' instead of 'Livre national,' or 'Libro del comun,' as
proposed by Ximenes. Such small inaccuracies are sure to produce great
confusion. Nothing but a desire to have a fine sounding title could
have led the editor to commit this mistake, for he himself confesses
that the work published by him has no right to the title 'Popol Vuh,'
and that 'Popol Vuh' does not mean 'Livre sacré.' Nor is there any
more reason to suppose, with the learned Abbé, that the first two
books of the Quiché MS. contain an almost literal transcript of the
'Popol Vuh,' or that the 'Popol Vuh; was the original of the
'Teo-Amoxtli,' or the sacred book of the Toltecs. All we know is, that
the author wrote his anonymous work because the 'Popol Vuh'--the
national book, or the national tradition--was dying out, and that he
comprehended in the first two sections the ancient traditions common
to the whole race, while he devoted the last two to the historical
annals of the Quichés, the ruling nation at the time of the Conquest
in what is now the republic of Guatemala. If we look at the MS. in
this light, there is nothing at all suspicious in its character and
its contents. The author wished to save from destruction the stories
which he had heard as a child of his gods and his ancestors. Though
the general outline of these stories may have been preserved partly in
the schools, partly in the pictographic MSS., the Spanish Conquest had
thrown everything into confusion, and the writer had probably to
depend chiefly on his own recollections. To extract consecutive
history from these recollections, is simply impossible. All is vague,
contradictory, miraculous, absurd. Consecutive history is altogether
a modern idea, of which few only of the ancient nations had any
conception. If we had the exact words of the 'Popol Vuh,' we should
probably find no more history there than we find in the Quiché MS. as
it now stands. Now and then, it is true, one imagines one sees certain
periods and landmarks, but in the next page all is chaos again. It may
be difficult to confess that with all the traditions of the early
migrations of Cecrops and Danaus into Greece, with the Homeric poems
of the Trojan war, and the genealogies of the ancient dynasties of
Greece, we know nothing of Greek history before the Olympiads, and
very little even then. Yet the true historian does not allow himself
to indulge in any illusions on this subject, and he shuts his eyes
even to the most plausible reconstructions.

The same applies with a force increased a hundredfold to the ancient
history of the aboriginal races of America, and the sooner this is
acknowledged, the better for the credit of American scholars. Even the
traditions of the migrations of the Chichimecs, Colhuas, and Nahuas,
which form the staple of all American antiquarians, are no better than
the Greek traditions about Pelasgians, Æolians, and Ionians; and it
would be a mere waste of time to construct out of such elements a
systematic history, only to be destroyed again sooner or later by some
Niebuhr, Grote, or Lewis.

But if we do not find history in the stories of the ancient races of
Guatemala, we do find materials for studying their character, for
analysing their religion and mythology, for comparing their principles
of morality, their views of virtue, beauty, and heroism, to those of
other races of mankind. This is the charm, the real and lasting charm,
of such works as that presented to us for the first time in a
trustworthy translation by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg.
Unfortunately there is one circumstance which may destroy even this
charm. It is just possible that the writers of this and other American
MSS. may have felt more or less consciously the influence of European
and Christian ideas, and if so, we have no sufficient guarantee that
the stories they tell represent to us the American mind in its
pristine and genuine form. There are some coincidences between the Old
Testament and the Quiché MS. which are certainly startling. Yet even
if a Christian influence has to be admitted, much remains in these
American traditions which is so different from anything else in the
national literatures of other countries, that we may safely treat it
as the genuine growth of the intellectual soil of America. We shall
give, in conclusion, some extracts to bear out our remarks; but we
ought not to part with Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg without expressing
to him our gratitude for his excellent work, and without adding a hope
that he may be able to realise his plan of publishing a 'Collection of
documents written in the indigenous languages, to assist the student
of the history and philology of ancient America,' a collection of
which the work now published is to form the first volume.

_Extracts from the 'Popol Vuh.'_

The Quiché MS. begins with an account of the creation. If we read it
in the literal translation of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, with all
the uncouth names of divine and other beings that have to act their
parts in it, it does not leave any very clear impression on our minds.
Yet after reading it again and again, some salient features stand out
more distinctly, and make us feel that there was a groundwork of noble
conceptions which has been covered and distorted by an aftergrowth of
fantastic nonsense. We shall do best for the present to leave out all
proper names, which only bewilder the memory and which convey no
distinct meaning even to the scholar. It will require long-continued
research before it can be determined whether the names so profusely
applied to the Deity were intended as the names of so many distinct
personalities, or as the names of the various manifestations of one
and the same Power. At all events, they are of no importance to us
till we can connect more distinct ideas than it is possible to gather
from the materials now at hand, with such inharmonious sounds as
Tzakol, Bitol, Alom, Qaholom, Hun-Ahpu-Vuch, Gucumatz, Quax-Cho, &c.
Their supposed meanings are in some cases very appropriate, such as
the Creator, the Fashioner, the Begetter, the Vivifier, the Ruler, the
Lord of the green planisphere, the Lord of the azure surface, the
Heart of heaven; in other cases we cannot fathom the original
intention of names such as the feathered serpent, the white boar, _le
tireur de sarbacane au sarigue_, and others; and they therefore sound
to our ears simply absurd. Well, the Quichés believed that there was a
time when all that exists in heaven and earth was made. All was then
in suspense, all was calm and silent; all was immovable, all peaceful,
and the vast space of the heavens was empty. There was no man, no
animal, no shore, no trees; heaven alone existed. The face of the
earth was not to be seen; there was only the still expanse of the sea
and the heaven above. Divine Beings were on the waters like a growing
light. Their voice was heard as they meditated and consulted, and when
the dawn rose, man appeared. Then the waters were commanded to retire,
the earth was established that she might bear fruit and that the light
of day might shine on heaven and earth.

'For, they said, we shall receive neither glory nor honour from all we
have created until there is a human being--a being endowed with
reason. "Earth," they said, and in a moment the earth was formed. Like
a vapour it rose into being, mountains appeared from the waters like
lobsters, and the great mountains were made. Thus was the creation of
the earth, when it was fashioned by those who are the Heart of heaven,
the Heart of the earth; for thus were they called who first gave
fertility to them, heaven and earth being still inert and suspended in
the midst of the waters.'

Then follows the creation of the brute world, and the disappointment
of the gods when they command the animals to tell their names and to
honour those who had created them. Then the gods said to the animals:

'You will be changed, because you cannot speak. We have changed your
speech. You shall have your food and your dens in the woods and crags;
for our glory is not perfect, and you do not invoke us. There will be
beings still that can salute us; we shall make them capable of
obeying. Do your task; as to your flesh, it will be broken by the

Then follows the creation of man. His flesh was made of earth (_terre
glaise_). But man was without cohesion or power, inert and aqueous;
he could not turn his head, his sight was dim, and though he had the
gift of speech, he had no intellect. He was soon consumed again in the

And the gods consulted a second time how to create beings that should
adore them, and after some magic ceremonies, men were made of wood,
and they multiplied. But they had no heart, no intellect, no
recollection of their Creator; they did not lift up their heads to
their Maker, and they withered away and were swallowed up by the

Then follows a third creation, man being made of a tree called tzité,
woman of the marrow of a reed called sibac. They, too, did neither
think nor speak before him who had made them, and they were likewise
swept away by the waters and destroyed. The whole nature--animals,
trees, and stones--turned against men to revenge the wrongs they had
suffered at their hands, and the only remnant of that early race is to
be found in small monkeys which still live in the forests.

Then follows a story of a very different character, and which
completely interrupts the progress of events. It has nothing to do
with the creation, though it ends with two of its heroes being changed
into sun and moon. It is a story very much like the fables of the
Brahmans or the German Mährchen. Some of the principal actors in it
are clearly divine beings who have been brought down to the level of
human nature, and who perform feats and tricks so strange and
incredible that in reading them we imagine ourselves in the midst of
the Arabian Nights. In the struggles of the two favourite heroes
against the cruel princes of Xibalba, there may be reminiscences of
historical events; but it would be perfectly hopeless to attempt to
extricate these from the mass of fable by which they are surrounded.
The chief interest of the American tale consists in the points of
similarity which it exhibits with the tales of the Old World. We shall
mention two only--the repeated resuscitation of the chief heroes, who,
even when burnt and ground to powder and scattered on the water, are
born again as fish and changed into men; and the introduction of
animals endowed with reason and speech. As in the German tales,
certain peculiarities in the appearance and natural habits of animals
are frequently accounted for by events that happened 'once upon a
time'--for instance, the stumpy tail of the bear, by his misfortune
when he went out fishing on the ice--so we find in the American tales,
'that it was when the two principal heroes (Hun-Ahpu and Xbalanqué)
had caught the rat and were going to strangle it over the fire, that
_le rat commença à porter une queue sans poil_. Thus, because a
certain serpent swallowed a frog who was sent as a messenger,
therefore _aujourd'hui encore les serpents engloutissent les

The story, which well deserves the attention of those who are
interested in the origin and spreading of popular tales, is carried on
to the end of the second book, and it is only in the third that we
hear once more of the creation of man.

Three attempts, as we saw, had been made and had failed. We now hear
again that before the beginning of dawn, and before the sun and moon
had risen, man had been made, and that nourishment was provided for
him which was to supply his blood, namely, yellow and white maize.
Four men are mentioned as the real ancestors of the human race, or
rather of the race of the Quichés. They were neither begotten by the
gods nor born of woman, but their creation was a wonder wrought by the
Creator. They could reason and speak, their sight was unlimited, and
they knew all things at once. When they had rendered thanks to their
Creator for their existence, the gods were frightened and they
breathed a cloud over the eyes of men that they might see a certain
distance only, and not be like the gods themselves. Then while the
four men were asleep, the gods gave them beautiful wives, and these
became the mothers of all tribes, great and small. These tribes, both
black and white, lived and spread in the East. They did not yet
worship the gods, but only turned their faces up to heaven, hardly
knowing what they were meant to do here below. Their features were
sweet, so was their language, and their intellect was strong.

We now come to a most interesting passage, which is intended to
explain the confusion of tongues. No nation, except the Jews, has
dwelt much on the problem why there should be many languages instead
of one. Grimm, in his 'Essay on the Origin of Language,' remarks: 'It
may seem surprising that neither the ancient Greeks nor the ancient
Indians attempted to propose or to solve the question as to the origin
and the multiplicity of human speech. Holy Writ strove to solve at
least one of these riddles, that of the multiplicity of languages, by
means of the tower of Babel. I know only one other poor Esthonian
legend which might be placed by the side of this biblical solution.
"The old god," they say, "when men found their first seats too narrow,
resolved to spread them over the whole earth, and to give to each
nation its own language. For this purpose he placed a caldron of water
on the fire, and commanded the different races to approach it in
order, and to select for themselves the sounds which were uttered by
the singing of the water in its confinement and torture.'"

Grimm might have added another legend which is current among the
Thlinkithians, and was clearly framed in order to account for the
existence of different languages. The Thlinkithians are one of the
four principal races inhabiting Russian America. They are called
Kaljush, Koljush, or Kolosh by the Russians, and inhabit the coast
from about 60° to 45° N.L., reaching therefore across the Russian
frontier as far as the Columbia River, and they likewise hold many of
the neighbouring islands. Weniaminow estimates their number, both in
the Russian and English colonies, at 20 to 25,000. They are evidently
a decreasing race, and their legends, which seem to be numerous and
full of original ideas, would well deserve the careful attention of
American ethnologists. Wrangel suspected a relationship between them
and the Aztecs of Mexico. These Thlinkithians believe in a general
flood or deluge, and that men saved themselves in a large floating
building. When the waters fell, the building was wrecked on a rock,
and by its own weight burst into two pieces. Hence arose the
difference of languages. The Thlinkithians with their language
remained on one side; on the other side were all the other races of
the earth.[99]

[Footnote 99: Holmberg, 'Ethnographische Skizzen über die Völker des
Russischen Amerika,' Helsingfors, 1855.]

Neither the Esthonian nor the Thlinkithian legend, however, offers any
striking points of coincidence with the Mosaic accounts. The
analogies, therefore, as well as the discrepancies, between the ninth
chapter of Genesis and the chapter here translated from the Quiché MS.
require special attention:

     'All had but one language, and they did not invoke as yet
     either wood or stones; they only remembered the word of the
     Creator, the Heart of heaven and earth.

     'And they spoke while meditating on what was hidden by the
     spring of day; and full of the sacred word, full of love,
     obedience, and fear, they made their prayers, and lifting
     their eyes up to heaven, they asked for sons and daughters:

     '"Hail! O Creator and Fashioner, thou who seest and hearest
     us! do not forsake us, O God, who art in heaven and earth,
     Heart of the sky, Heart of the earth! Give us offspring and
     descendants as long as the sun and dawn shall advance. Let
     there be seed and light. Let us always walk on open paths,
     on roads where there is no ambush. Let us always be quiet
     and in peace with those who are ours. May our lives run on
     happily. Give us a life secure from reproach. Let there be
     seed for harvest, and let there be light."

     'They then proceeded to the town of Tulan, where they
     received their gods.

     'And when all the tribes were there gathered together, their
     speech was changed, and they did not understand each other
     after they arrived at Tulan. It was there that they
     separated, and some went to the East, others came here. Even
     the language of the four ancestors of the human race became
     different. "Alas," they said, "we have left our language.
     How has this happened? We are ruined! How could we have been
     led into error? We had but one language when we came to
     Tulan; our form of worship was but one. What we have done is
     not good," replied all the tribes in the woods and under the

The rest of the work, which consists altogether of four books, is
taken up with an account of the migrations of the tribes from the
East, and their various settlements. The four ancestors of the race
seem to have had a long life, and when at last they came to die, they
disappeared in a mysterious manner, and left to their sons what is
called the Hidden Majesty, which was never to be opened by human
hands. What it was we do not know. There are many subjects of interest
in the chapters which follow, only we must not look there for history,
although the author evidently accepts as truly historical what he
tells us about the successive generations of kings. But when he brings
us down at last, after sundry migrations, wars, and rebellions, to the
arrival of the Castilians, we find that between the first four
ancestors of the human or of the Quiché race and the last of their
royal dynasties, there intervene only fourteen generations, and the
author, whoever he was, ends with the confession:

'This is all that remains of the existence of Quiché; for it is
impossible to see the book in which formerly the kings could read
everything, as it has disappeared. It is over with all those of
Quiché! It is now called Santa-Cruz!'

_March, 1862._



A work such as M. Renan's 'Histoire Générale et Système Comparé des
Langues Sémitiques' can only be reviewed chapter by chapter. It
contains a survey not only, as its title would lead us to suppose, of
the Semitic languages, but of the Semitic languages and nations; and,
considering that the whole history of the civilised world has hitherto
been acted by two races only, the Semitic and the Aryan, with
occasional interruptions produced by the inroads of the Turanian race,
M. Renan's work comprehends in reality half of the history of the
ancient world. We have received as yet the first volume only of this
important work, and before the author had time to finish the second,
he was called upon to publish a second edition of the first, which
appeared in 1858, with important additions and alterations.

[Footnote 100: 'Histoire Générale et Système Comparé des Langues
Sémitiques.' Par Ernest Renan, Membre de l'Institut. Seconde édition,
Paris, 1858.

'Nouvelles Considérations sur le Caractère Général des Peuples
Sémitiques, et en particulier sur leur Tendance au Monothéisme,' Par
Ernest Renan. Paris, 1859.]

In writing the history of the Semitic race it is necessary to lay down
certain general characteristics common to all the members of that
race, before we can speak of nations so widely separated from each
other as the Jews, the Babylonians, Phenicians, Carthaginians, and
Arabs, as one race or family. The most important bond which binds
these scattered tribes together into one ideal whole is to be found in
their language. There can be as little doubt that the dialects of all
the Semitic nations are derived from one common type as there is about
the derivation of French, Spanish, and Italian from Latin, or of
Latin, Greek, German, Celtic, Slavonic, and Sanskrit from the
primitive idiom of the ancestors of the Aryan race. The evidence of
language would by itself be quite sufficient to establish the fact
that the Semitic nations descended from common ancestors, and
constitute what, in the science of language, may be called a distinct
race. But M. Renan was not satisfied with this single criterion of the
relationship of the Semitic tribes, and he has endeavoured to draw,
partly from his own observations, partly from the suggestions of other
scholars, such as Ewald and Lassen, a more complete portrait of the
Semitic man. This was no easy task. It was like drawing the portrait
of a whole family, omitting all that is peculiar to each individual
member, and yet preserving the features which, constitute the general
family likeness. The result has been what might be expected. Critics
most familiar with one or the other branch of the Semitic family have
each and all protested that they can see no likeness in the portrait.
It seems to some to contain features which it ought not to contain,
whereas others miss the very expression which appears to them most

The following is a short abstract of what M. Renan considers the
salient points in the Semitic character:

'Their character,' he says, 'is religious rather than political, and
the mainspring of their religion is the conception of the unity of
God. Their religious phraseology is simple, and free from mythological
elements. Their religious feelings are strong, exclusive, intolerant,
and sustained by a fervour which finds its peculiar expression in
prophetic visions. Compared to the Aryan nations, they are found
deficient in scientific and philosophical originality. Their poetry is
chiefly subjective or lyrical, and we look in vain among their poets
for excellence in epic and dramatic compositions. Painting and the
plastic arts have never arrived at a higher than the decorative stage.
Their political life has remained patriarchal and despotic, and their
inability to organise on a large scale has deprived them of the means
of military success. Perhaps the most general feature of their
character is a negative one,--their inability to perceive the general
and the abstract, whether in thought, language, religion, poetry, or
politics; and, on the other hand, a strong attraction towards the
individual and personal, which makes them monotheistic in religion,
lyrical in poetry, monarchical in politics, abrupt in style, and
impractical for speculation.'

One cannot look at this bold and rapid outline of the Semitic
character without perceiving how many points it contains which are
open to doubt and discussion. We shall confine our remarks to one
point, which, in our mind, and, as far as we can see, in M. Renan's
mind likewise, is the most important of all--namely, the supposed
monotheistic tendency of the Semitic race. M. Renan asserts that this
tendency belongs to the race by instinct,--that it forms the rule, not
the exception; and he seems to imply that without it the human race
would never have arrived at the knowledge or worship of the One God.

If such a remark had been made fifty years ago, it would have roused
little or no opposition. 'Semitic' was then used in a more restricted
sense, and hardly comprehended more than the Jews and Arabs. Of this
small group of people it might well have been said, with such
limitations as are tacitly implied in every general proposition on the
character of individuals or nations, that the work set apart for them
by a Divine Providence in the history of the world was the preaching
of a belief in one God. Three religions have been founded by members
of that more circumscribed Semitic family--the Jewish, the Christian,
the Mohammedan; and all three proclaim, with the strongest accent, the
doctrine that there is but one God.

Of late, however, not only have the limits of the Semitic family been
considerably extended, so as to embrace several nations notorious for
their idolatrous worship, but the history of the Jewish and Arab
tribes has been explored so much more fully, that even there traces of
a wide-spread tendency to polytheism have come to light.

The Semitic family is divided by M. Renan into two great branches,
differing from each other in the form of their monotheistic belief,
yet both, according to their historian, imbued from the beginning with
the instinctive faith in one God:

1. The nomad branch, consisting of Arabs, Hebrews, and the
neighbouring tribes of Palestine, commonly called the descendants of
Terah; and

2. The political branch, including the nations of Phenicia, of Syria,
Mesopotamia, and Yemen.

Can it be said that all these nations, comprising the worshippers of
Elohim, Jehovah, Sabaoth, Moloch, Nisroch, Rimmon, Nebo, Dagon,
Ashtaroth, Baal or Bel, Baal-peor, Baal-zebub, Chemosh, Milcom,
Adrammelech, Annamelech, Nibhaz and Tartak, Ashima, Nergal,
Succoth-benoth, the Sun, Moon, planets, and all the host of heaven,
were endowed with a monotheistic instinct? M. Renan admits that
monotheism has always had its principal bulwark in the nomadic branch,
but he maintains that it has by no means been so unknown among the
members of the political branch as is commonly supposed. But where are
the criteria by which, in the same manner as their dialects, the
religions of the Semitic races could be distinguished from the
religions of the Aryan and Turanian races? We can recognise any
Semitic dialect by the triliteral character of its roots. Is it
possible to discover similar radical elements in all the forms of
faith, primary or secondary, primitive or derivative, of the Semitic
tribes? M. Renan thinks that it is. He imagines that he hears the
key-note of a pure monotheism through all the wild shoutings of the
priests of Baal and other Semitic idols, and he denies the presence of
that key-note in any of the religious systems of the Aryan nations,
whether Greeks or Romans, Germans or Celts, Hindus or Persians. Such
an assertion could not but rouse considerable opposition, and so
strong seems to have been the remonstrances addressed to M. Renan by
several of his colleagues in the French Institute that, without
awaiting the publication of the second volume of his great work, he
has thought it right to publish part of it as a separate pamphlet. In
his 'Nouvelles Considérations sur le Caractère Général des Peuples
Sémitiques, et en particulier sur leur Tendance au Monothéisme,' he
endeavours to silence the objections raised against the leading idea
of his history of the Semitic race. It is an essay which exhibits not
only the comprehensive knowledge of the scholar, but the warmth and
alacrity of the advocate. With M. Renan the monotheistic character of
the descendants of Shem is not only a scientific tenet, but a moral
conviction. He wishes that his whole work should stand or fall with
this thesis, and it becomes, therefore, all the more the duty of the
critic, to inquire whether the arguments which he brings forward in
support of his favourite idea are valid or not.

It is but fair to M. Renan that, in examining his statements, we
should pay particular attention to any slight modifications which he
may himself have adopted in his last memoir. In his history he asserts
with great confidence, and somewhat broadly, that 'le monothéisme
résume et explique tous les caractères de la race Sémitique.' In his
later pamphlet he is more captious. As an experienced pleader he is
ready to make many concessions in order to gain all the more readily
our assent to his general proposition. He points out himself with
great candour the weaker points of his argument, though, of course,
only in order to return with unabated courage to his first
position,--that of all the races of mankind the Semitic race alone was
endowed with the instinct of monotheism. As it is impossible to deny
the fact that the Semitic nations, in spite of this supposed
monotheistic instinct, were frequently addicted to the most degraded
forms of a polytheistic idolatry, and that even the Jews, the most
monotheistic of all, frequently provoked the anger of the Lord by
burning incense to other gods, M. Renan remarks that when he speaks of
a nation in general he only speaks of the intellectual aristocracy of
that nation. He appeals in self-defence to the manner in which
historians lay down the character of modern nations. 'The French,' he
says, 'are repeatedly called "_une nation spirituelle_," and yet no
one would wish to assert either that every Frenchman is _spirituel_,
or that no one could be _spirituel_ who is not a Frenchman.' Now, here
we may grant to M. Renan that if we speak of '_esprit_' we naturally
think of the intellectual minority only, and not of the whole bulk of
a nation; but if we speak of religion, the case is different. If we
say that the French believe in one God only, or that they are
Christians, we speak not only of the intellectual aristocracy of
France but of every man, woman, and child born and bred in France.
Even if we say that the French are Roman Catholics, we do so only
because we know that there is a decided majority in France in favour
of the unreformed system of Christianity. But if, because some of the
most distinguished writers of France have paraded their contempt for
all religious dogmas, we were to say broadly that the French are a
nation without religion, we should justly be called to order for
abusing the legitimate privileges of generalization. The fact that
Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah were firm believers in one God
could not be considered sufficient to support the general proposition
that the Jewish nation was monotheistic by instinct. And if we
remember that among the other Semitic races we should look in vain for
even four such names, the case would seem to be desperate to any one
but M. Renan.

We cannot believe that M. Renan would be satisfied with the admission
that there had been among the Jews a few leading men who believed in
one God, or that the existence of but one God was an article of faith
not quite unknown among the other Semitic races; yet he has hardly
proved more. He has collected, with great learning and ingenuity, all
traces of monotheism in the annals of the Semitic nations; but he has
taken no pains to discover the traces of polytheism, whether faint or
distinct, which are disclosed in the same annals. In acting the part
of an advocate he has for a time divested himself of the nobler
character of the historian.

If M. Renan had looked with equal zeal for the scattered vestiges both
of a monotheistic and of a polytheistic worship, he would have drawn,
perhaps, a less striking, but we believe a more faithful, portrait of
the Semitic man. We may accept all the facts of M. Renan, for his
facts are almost always to be trusted; but we cannot accept his
conclusions, because they would be in contradiction to other facts
which M. Renan places too much in the background, or ignores
altogether. Besides, there is something in the very conclusions to
which he is driven by his too partial evidence which jars on our ears,
and betrays a want of harmony in the premises on which he builds.
Taking his stand on the fact that the Jewish race was the first of all
the nations of the world to arrive at the knowledge of one God, M.
Renan proceeds to argue that, if their monotheism had been the result
of a persevering mental effort--if it had been a discovery like the
philosophical or scientific discoveries of the Greeks, it would be
necessary to admit that the Jews surpassed all other nations of the
world in intellect and vigour of speculation. This, he admits, is
contrary to fact:

     'Apart la supériorité de son culte, le peuple juif n'en a
     aucune autre; c'est un des peuples les moins doués pour la
     science et la philosophie parmi les peuples de l'antiquité;
     il n'a une grande position ni politique ni militaire. Ses
     institutions sont purement conservatrices; les prophètes,
     qui représentent excellemment son génie, sont des hommes
     essentiellement réactionnaires, se reportant toujours vers
     un idéal antérieur. Comment expliquer, au sein d'une société
     aussi étroite et aussi peu développée, une révolution
     d'idées qu'Athènes et Alexandrie n'ont pas réussi à

M. Renan then defines the monotheism of the Jews, and of the Semitic
nations in general, as the result of a low, rather than of a high
state of intellectual cultivation: 'Il s'en faut,' he writes (p. 40),
'que le monothéisme soit le produit d'une race qui a des idées
exaltées en fait de religion; c'est en réalité le fruit d'une race qui
a peu de besoins religieux. C'est comme _minimum_ de religion, en fait
de dogmes et en fait de pratiques extérieures, que le monothéisme est
surtout accommodé aux besoins des populations nomades.'

But even this _minimum_ of religious reflection which is required,
according to M. Renan, for the perception of the unity of God, he
grudges to the Semitic nations, and he is driven in the end (p. 73)
to explain the Semitic Monotheism as the result of a religious
instinct, analogous to the instinct which led each race to the
formation of its own language.

Here we miss the usual clearness and precision which distinguish most
of M. Renan's works. It is always dangerous to transfer expressions
from one branch of knowledge to another. The word 'instinct' has its
legitimate application in natural history, where it is used of the
unconscious acts of unconscious beings. We say that birds build their
nests by instinct, that fishes swim by instinct, that cats catch mice
by instinct; and, though no natural philosopher has yet explained what
instinct is, yet we accept the term as a conventional expression for
an unknown power working in the animal world.

If we transfer this word to the unconscious acts of conscious beings,
we must necessarily alter its definition. We may speak of an
instinctive motion of the arm, but we only mean a motion which has
become so habitual as to require no longer any special effort of the

If, however, we transfer the word to the conscious thoughts of
conscious beings, we strain the word beyond its natural capacities, we
use it in order to avoid other terms which would commit us to the
admission either of innate ideas or inspired truths. We use a word in
order to avoid a definition. It may sound more scientific to speak of
a monotheistic instinct rather than of the inborn image or the
revealed truth of the One living God; but is instinct less mysterious
than revelation? Can there be an instinct without an instigation or an
instigator? And whose hand was it that instigated the Semitic mind to
the worship of one God? Could the same hand have instigated the Aryan
mind to the worship of many gods? Could the monotheistic instinct of
the Semitic race, if an instinct, have been so frequently obscured, or
the polytheistic instinct of the Aryan race, if an instinct, so
completely annihilated, as to allow the Jews to worship on all the
high places round Jerusalem, and the Greeks and Romans to become
believers in Christ? Fishes never fly, and cats never catch frogs.
These are the difficulties into which we are led; and they arise
simply and solely from our using words for their sound rather than for
their meaning. We begin by playing with words, but in the end the
words will play with us.

There are, in fact, various kinds of monotheism, and it becomes our
duty to examine more carefully what they mean and how they arise.
There is one kind of monotheism, though it would more properly be
called theism, or henotheism, which forms the birthright of every
human being. What distinguishes man from all other creatures, and not
only raises him above the animal world, but removes him altogether
from the confines of a merely natural existence, is the feeling of
sonship inherent in and inseparable from human nature. That feeling
may find expression in a thousand ways, but there breathes through all
of them the inextinguishable conviction, 'It is He that hath made us,
and not we ourselves.' That feeling of sonship may with some races
manifest itself in fear and trembling, and it may drive whole
generations into religious madness and devil worship. In other
countries it may tempt the creature into a fatal familiarity with the
Creator, and end in an apotheosis of man, or a headlong plunging of
the human into the divine. It may take, as with the Jews, the form of
a simple assertion that 'Adam was the son of God,' or it may be
clothed in the mythological phraseology of the Hindus, that Manu, or
man, was the descendant of Svayambhu, the Self-existing. But, in some
form or other, the feeling of dependence on a higher Power breaks
through in all the religions of the world, and explains to us the
meaning of St. Paul, 'that God, though in times past He suffered all
nations to walk in their own ways, nevertheless He left not Himself
without witness, in that He did good and gave us rain from heaven, and
fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.'

This primitive intuition of God and the ineradicable feeling of
dependence on God, could only have been the result of a primitive
revelation, in the truest sense of that word. Man, who owed his
existence to God, and whose being centred and rested in God, saw and
felt God as the only source of his own and of all other existence. By
the very act of the creation, God had revealed Himself. There He was,
manifested in His works, in all His majesty and power, before the face
of those to whom He had given eyes to see and ears to hear, and into
whose nostrils He had breathed the breath of life, even the Spirit of

This primitive intuition of God, however, was in itself neither
monotheistic nor polytheistic, though it might become either,
according to the expression which it took in the languages of man. It
was this primitive intuition which supplied either the subject or the
predicate in all the religions of the world, and without it no
religion, whether true or false, whether revealed or natural, could
have had even its first beginning. It is too often forgotten by those
who believe that a polytheistic worship was the most natural
unfolding of religious life, that polytheism must everywhere have been
preceded by a more or less conscious theism. In no language does the
plural exist before the singular. No human mind could have conceived
the idea of gods without having previously conceived the idea of a
god. It would be, however, quite as great a mistake to imagine,
because the idea of a god must exist previously to that of gods, that
therefore a belief in One God preceded everywhere the belief in many
gods. A belief in God as exclusively One, involves a distinct negation
of more than one God, and that negation is possible only after the
conception, whether real or imaginary, of many gods.

The primitive intuition of the Godhead is neither monotheistic nor
polytheistic, and it finds its most natural expression in the simplest
and yet the most important article of faith--that God is God. This
must have been the faith of the ancestors of mankind previously to any
division of race or confusion of tongues. It might seem, indeed, as if
in such a faith the oneness of God, though not expressly asserted, was
implied, and that it existed, though latent, in the first revelation
of God. History, however, proves that the question of oneness was yet
undecided in that primitive faith, and that the intuition of God was
not yet secured against the illusions of a double vision. There are,
in reality, two kinds of oneness which, when we enter into
metaphysical discussions, must be carefully distinguished, and which
for practical purposes are well kept separate by the definite and
indefinite articles. There is one kind of oneness which does not
exclude the idea of plurality; there is another which does. When we
say that Cromwell was a Protector of England, we do not assert that he
was the only protector. But if we say that he was the Protector of
England, it is understood that he was the only man who enjoyed that
title. If, therefore, an expression had been given to that primitive
intuition of the Deity, which is the mainspring of all later religion,
it would have been--'There is a God,' but not yet 'There is but "One
God."' The latter form of faith, the belief in One God, is properly
called monotheism, whereas the term of henotheism would best express
the faith in a single god.

We must bear in mind that we are here speaking of a period in the
history of mankind when, together with the awakening of ideas, the
first attempts only were being made at expressing the simplest
conceptions by means of a language most simple, most sensuous, and
most unwieldy. There was as yet no word sufficiently reduced by the
wear and tear of thought to serve as an adequate expression for the
abstract idea of an immaterial and supernatural Being. There were
words for walking and shouting, for cutting and burning, for dog and
cow, for house and wall, for sun and moon, for day and night. Every
object was called by some quality which had struck the eye as most
peculiar and characteristic. But what quality should be predicated of
that Being of which man knew as yet nothing but its existence?
Language possessed as yet no auxiliary verbs. The very idea of being
without the attributes of quality or action, had never entered into
the human mind. How then was that Being to be called which had
revealed its existence, and continued to make itself felt by
everything that most powerfully impressed the awakening mind, but
which as yet was known only like a subterraneous spring by the waters
which it poured forth with inexhaustible strength? When storm and
lightning drove a father with his helpless family to seek refuge in
the forests, and the fall of mighty trees crushed at his side those
who were most dear to him, there were, no doubt, feelings of terror
and awe, of helplessness and dependence, in the human heart which
burst forth in a shriek for pity or help from the only Being that
could command the storm. But there was no name by which He could be
called. There might be names for the storm-wind and the thunderbolt,
but these were not the names applicable to Him that rideth upon the
heavens of heavens, which were of old. Again, when after a wild and
tearful night the sun dawned in the morning, smiling on man--when
after a dreary and deathlike winter spring came again with its
sunshine and flowers, there were feelings of joy and gratitude, of
love and adoration in the heart of every human being; but though there
were names for the sun and the spring, for the bright sky and the
brilliant dawn, there was no word by which to call the source of all
this gladness, the giver of light and life.

At the time when we may suppose that the first attempts at finding a
name for God were made, the divergence of the languages of mankind had
commenced. We cannot dwell here on the causes which led to the
multiplicity of human speech; but whether we look on the confusion of
tongues as a natural or supernatural event, it was an event which the
science of language has proved to have been inevitable. The ancestors
of the Semitic and the Aryan nations had long become unintelligible to
each other in their conversations on the most ordinary topics, when
they each in their own way began to look for a proper name for God.
Now one of the most striking differences between the Aryan and the
Semitic forms of speech was this:--In the Semitic languages the roots
expressive of the predicates which were to serve as the proper names
of any subjects, remained so distinct within the body of a word, that
those who used the word were unable to forget its predicative meaning,
and retained in most cases a distinct consciousness of its appellative
power. In the Aryan languages, on the contrary, the significative
element, or the root of a word, was apt to become so completely
absorbed by the derivative elements, whether prefixes or suffixes,
that most substantives ceased almost immediately to be appellative,
and were changed into mere names or proper names. What we mean can
best be illustrated by the fact that the dictionaries of Semitic
languages are mostly arranged according to their roots. When we wish
to find the meaning of a word in Hebrew or Arabic we first look for
its root, whether triliteral or biliteral, and then look in the
dictionary for that root and its derivatives. In the Aryan languages,
on the contrary, such an arrangement would be extremely inconvenient.
In many words it is impossible to detect the radical element. In
others, after the root is discovered, we find that it has not given
birth to any other derivatives which would throw their converging rays
of light on its radical meaning. In other cases, again, such seems to
have been the boldness of the original name-giver that we can hardly
enter into the idiosyncrasy which assigned such a name to such an

This peculiarity of the Semitic and Aryan languages must have had the
greatest influence on the formation of their religious phraseology. The
Semitic man would call on God in adjectives only, or in words which always
conveyed a predicative meaning. Every one of his words was more or less
predicative, and he was therefore restricted in his choice to such words as
expressed some one or other of the abstract qualities of the Deity. The
Aryan man was less fettered in his choice. Let us take an instance. Being
startled by the sound of thunder, he would at first express his impression
by the single phrase, It thunders,--βρουτᾶ. Here the idea of God is
understood rather than expressed, very much in the same manner as the
Semitic proper names Zabd (present), Abd (servant), Aus (present), are
habitually used for Zabd-allah, Abd-allah, Aus-allah,--the servant of God,
the gift of God. It would be more in accordance with the feelings and
thoughts of those who first used these so-called impersonal verbs to
translate them by He thunders, He rains, He snows. Afterwards, instead of
the simple impersonal verb He thunders, another expression naturally
suggested itself. The thunder came from the sky, the sky was frequently
called Dyaus (the bright one), in Greek Ζεὑς; and though it was not the
bright sky which thundered, but the dark, yet Dyaus had already ceased to
be an expressive predicate, it had become a traditional name, and hence
there was nothing to prevent an Aryan man from saying Dyaus, or the sky
thunders, in Greek Ζεὑς βρουτᾶ. Let us here mark the almost irresistible
influence of language on the mind. The word Dyaus, which at first meant
bright, had lost its radical meaning, and now meant simply sky. It then
entered into a new stage. The idea which had first been expressed by the
pronoun or the termination of the third person, He thunders, was taken up
into the word Dyaus, or sky. He thunders, and Dyaus thunders, became
synonymous expressions, and by the mere habit of speech He became Dyaus,
and Dyaus became He. Henceforth Dyaus remained as an appellative of that
unseen though ever present Power, which had revealed its existence to man
from the beginning, but which remained without a name long after every
beast of the field and every fowl of the air had been named by Adam.

Now, what happened in this instance with the name of Dyaus, happened
again and again with other names. When men felt the presence of God in
the great and strong wind, in the earthquake, or the fire, they said
at first, He storms, He shakes, He burns. But they likewise said, the
storm (Marut) blows, the fire (Agni) burns, the subterraneous fire
(Vulcanus) upheaves the earth. And after a time the result was the
same as before, and the words meaning originally wind or fire were
used, under certain restrictions, as names of the unknown God. As long
as all these names were remembered as mere names or attributes of one
and the same Divine Power, there was as yet no polytheism, though, no
doubt, every new name threatened to obscure more and more the
primitive intuition of God. At first, the names of God, like fetishes
or statues, were honest attempts at expressing or representing an idea
which could never find an adequate expression or representation. But
the eidolon, or likeness, became an idol; the nomen, or name, lapsed
into a numen, or demon, as soon as they were drawn away from their
original intention. If the Greeks had remembered that Zeus was but a
name or symbol of the Deity, there would have been no more harm in
calling God by that name than by any other. If they had remembered
that Kronos, and Uranos, and Apollon were all but so many attempts at
naming the various sides, or manifestations, or aspects, or persons of
the Deity, they might have used these names in the hours of their
various needs, just as the Jews called on Jehovah, Elohim, and
Sabaoth, or as Roman Catholics implore the help of Nunziata, Dolores,
and Notre-Dame-de-Grace.

What, then, is the difference between the Aryan and Semitic
nomenclature for the Deity? Why are we told that the pious invocations
of the Aryan world turned into a blasphemous mocking of the Deity,
whereas the Semitic nations are supposed to have found from the first
the true name of God? Before we look anywhere else for an answer to
the question, we must look to language itself, and here we see that
the Semitic dialects could never, by any possibility, have produced
such names as the Sanskrit Dyaus (Zeus), Varu_n_a (Uranos), Marut
(Storm, Mars), or Ushas (Eos). They had no doubt names for the bright
sky, for the tent of heaven, and for the dawn. But these names were so
distinctly felt as appellatives, that they could never be thought of
as proper names, whether as names of the Deity, or as names of
deities. This peculiarity has been illustrated with great skill by M.
Renan. We differ from him when he tries to explain the difference
between the mythological phraseology of the Aryan and the theological
phraseology of the Semitic races, by assigning to each a peculiar
theological instinct. We cannot, in fact, see how the admission of
such an instinct, i. e. of an unknown and incomprehensible power,
helps us in any way whatsoever to comprehend this curious mental
process. His problem, however, is exactly the same as ours, and it
would be impossible to state that problem in a more telling manner
than he has done.

'The rain,' he says (p. 79), 'is represented, in all the primitive
mythologies of the Aryan race, as the fruit of the embraces of Heaven
and Earth.' 'The bright sky,' says Æschylus, in a passage which one
might suppose was taken from the Vedas, 'loves to penetrate the earth;
the earth on her part aspires to the heavenly marriage. Rain falling
from the loving sky impregnates the earth, and she produces for
mortals pastures of the flocks and the gifts of Ceres.' In the Book of
Job,[101] on the contrary, it is God who tears open the waterskins of
Heaven (xxxviii. 37), who opens the courses for the floods (ibid. 25),
who engenders the drops of dew (ibid. 28):

    'He draws towards Him the mists from the waters,
    Which pour down as rain, and form their vapours.
    Afterwards the clouds spread them out,
    They fall as drops on the crowds of men.' (Job xxxvi. 27, 28.)

[Footnote 101: We give the extracts according to M. Renan's
translation of the Book of Job (Paris, 1859, Michel Lévy).]

    'He charges the night with damp vapours,
    He drives before Him the thunder-bearing cloud.
    It is driven to one side or the other by His command.
    To execute all that He ordains
    On the face of the universe,
    Whether it be to punish His creatures
    Or to make thereof a proof of His mercy,' (Job xxxvii. 11-13.)

Or, again, Proverbs xxx. 4:

     'Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the
     waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of
     the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if
     thou canst tell?'

It has been shown by ample evidence from the Rig-veda how many mythes
were suggested to the Aryan world by various names of the dawn, the
day-spring of life. The language of the ancient Aryans of India had
thrown out many names for that heavenly apparition, and every name, as
it ceased to be understood, became, like a decaying seed, the germ of
an abundant growth of mythe and legend. Why should not the same have
happened to the Semitic names for the dawn? Simply and solely because
the Semitic words had no tendency to phonetic corruption; simply and
solely because they continued to be felt as appellatives, and would
inevitably have defeated every attempt at mythological phraseology
such as we find in India and Greece. When the dawn is mentioned in the
Book of Job (ix. 11), it is God 'who commandeth the sun and it riseth
not, and sealeth up the stars.' It is His power which causeth the
day-spring to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of
the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it (Job xxxviii. 12,
13; Renan, 'Livre de Job,' pref. 71). Shahar, the dawn, never becomes
an independent agent; she is never spoken of as Eos rising from the
bed of her husband Tithonos (the setting sun), solely and simply
because the word retained its power as an appellative, and thus could
not enter into any mythological metamorphosis.

Even in Greece there are certain words which have remained so pellucid
as to prove unfit for mythological refraction. Selene in Greek is so
clearly the moon that her name would pierce through the darkest clouds
of mythe and fable. Call her Hecate, and she will bear any disguise,
however fanciful. It is the same with the Latin Luna. She is too
clearly the moon to be mistaken for anything else, but call her
Lucina, and she will readily enter into various mythological phases.
If, then, the names of sun and moon, of thunder and lightning, of
light and day, of night and dawn could not yield to the Semitic races
fit appellatives for the Deity, where were they to be found? If the
names of Heaven or Earth jarred on their ears as names unfit for the
Creator, where could they find more appropriate terms? They would not
have objected to real names such as Jupiter Optimus Maximus, or
Ζεὐς κὑδιστος μἑγιστος, if such words could have been framed
in their dialects, and the names of Jupiter and Zeus could have been
so ground down as to become synonymous with the general term for
'God.' Not even the Jews could have given a more exalted definition of
the Deity than that of Optimus Maximus--the Best and the Greatest;
and their very name of God, Jehovah, is generally supposed to mean no
more than what the Peleiades of Dodona said of Zeus, Ζεὐς ἦν, Ζεὐς ἐστἱν,
Ζεὐς ἓσσεται ὦ μεγἁλε Ζεῦ, 'He was, He is, He will be, Oh
great Zeus!' Not being able to form such substantives as Dyaus, or
Varu_n_a, or Indra, the descendants of Shem fixed on the predicates
which in the Aryan prayers follow the name of the Deity, and called
Him the Best and the Greatest, the Lord and King. If we examine the
numerous names of the Deity in the Semitic dialects we find that they
are all adjectives, expressive of moral qualities. There is El,
strong; Bel or Baal, Lord; Beel-samin, Lord of Heaven; Adonis (in
Phenicia), Lord; Marnas (at Gaza), our Lord; Shet, Master, afterwards
a demon; Moloch, Milcom, Malika, King; Eliun, the Highest (the God of
Melchisedek); Ram and Rimmon, the Exalted; and many more names, all
originally adjectives and expressive of certain general qualities of
the Deity, but all raised by one or the other of the Semitic tribes to
be the names of God or of that idea which the first breath of life,
the first sight of this world, the first consciousness of existence,
had for ever impressed and implanted in the human mind.

But do these names prove that the people who invented them had a clear
and settled idea of the unity of the Deity? Do we not find among the
Aryan nations that the same superlatives, the same names of Lord and
King, of Master and Father, are used when the human mind is brought
face to face with the Divine, and the human heart pours out in prayer
and thanksgiving the feelings inspired by the presence of God?
Brahman, in Sanskrit, meant originally Power, the same as El. It
resisted for a long time the mythological contagion, but at last it
yielded like all other names of God, and became the name of one God.
By the first man who formed or fixed these names, Brahman, like El,
and like every name of God, was meant, no doubt, as the best
expression that could be found for the image reflected from the
Creator upon the mind of the creature. But in none of these words can
we see any decided proof that those who framed them had arrived at the
clear perception of One God, and were thus secured against the danger
of polytheism. Like Dyaus, like Indra, like Brahman, Baal and El and
Moloch were names of God, but not yet of the One God.

And we have only to follow the history of these Semitic names in order
to see that, in spite of their superlative meaning, they proved no
stronger bulwark against polytheism than the Latin Optimus Maximus.
The very names which we saw explained before as meaning the Highest,
the Lord, the Master, are represented in the Phenician mythology as
standing to each other in the relation of Father and Son. (Renan, p.
60.) There is hardly one single Semitic tribe which did not at times
forget the original meaning of the names by which they called on God.
If the Jews had remembered the meaning of El, the Omnipotent, they
could not have worshipped Baal, the Lord, as different from El. But as
the Aryan tribes bartered the names of their gods, and were glad to
add the worship of Zeus to that of Uranos, the worship of Apollon to
that of Zeus, the worship of Hermes to that of Apollon, the Semitic
nations likewise were ready to try the gods of their neighbours. If
there had been in the Semitic race a truly monotheistic instinct, the
history of those nations would become perfectly unintelligible.
Nothing is more difficult to overcome than an instinct: naturam furcâ
expellas, tamen usque recurret. But the history even of the Jews is
made up of an almost uninterrupted series of relapses into polytheism.
Let us admit, on the contrary, that God had in the beginning revealed
Himself the same to the ancestors of the whole human race. Let us then
observe the natural divergence of the languages of man, and consider
the peculiar difficulties that had to be overcome in framing names for
God, and the peculiar manner in which they were overcome in the
Semitic and Aryan languages, and everything that follows will be
intelligible. If we consider the abundance of synonymes into which all
ancient languages burst out at their first starting--if we remember
that there were hundreds of names for the earth and the sky, the sun
and the moon, we shall not be surprised at meeting with more than one
name for God both among the Semitic and the Aryan nations. If we
consider how easily the radical or significative elements of words
were absorbed and obscured in the Aryan, and how they stood out in
bold relief in the Semitic languages, we shall appreciate the
difficulty which the Shemites experienced in framing any name that
should not seem to take too one-sided a view of the Deity by
predicating but one quality, whether strength, dominion, or majesty;
and we shall equally perceive the snare which their very language laid
for the Aryan nations, by supplying them with a number of words which,
though they seemed harmless as meaning nothing except what by
tradition or definition they were made to mean, yet were full of
mischief owing to the recollections which, at any time, they might
revive. Dyaus in itself was as good a name as any for God, and in some
respects more appropriate than its derivative deva, the Latin deus,
which the Romance nations still use without meaning any harm. But
Dyaus had meant sky for too long a time to become entirely divested of
all the old mythes or sayings which were true of Dyaus, the sky, but
could only be retained as fables if transferred to Dyaus, God. Dyaus,
the Bright, might be called the husband of the earth; but, when the
same mythe was repeated of Zeus, the god, then Zeus became the husband
of Demeter, Demeter became a goddess, a daughter sprang from their
union, and all the sluices of mythological madness were opened. There
were a few men, no doubt, at all times, who saw through this
mythological phraseology, who called on God, though they called him
Zeus, or Dyaus, or Jupiter. Xenophanes, one of the earliest Greek
heretics, boldly maintained that there was but 'one God, and that He
was not like unto men, either in body or mind.'[102] A poet in the
Veda asserts distinctly, 'They call Him Indra, Mitra, Varu_n_a, Agni;
then He is the well-winged heavenly Garutmat; that which is One the
wise call it many ways--they call it Agni, Yama, Mâtari_s_van.'[103]

[Footnote 102: Xenophanes, about contemporary with Cyrus, as quoted by
Clemens Alex., Strom. v, p. 601,--εἲϛ θεὀς ἒν τε θεοῖσι καἰ ἀνθρὡποισι
μἑγιστος, οὔτε δἑμας θνητοῖσιν ὁμοἳἱος οὐδἐ νοἡμα.]

[Footnote 103: 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' by M. M., p.

But, on the whole, the charm of mythology prevailed among the Aryan
nations, and a return to the primitive intuition of God and a total
negation of all gods, wore rendered more difficult to the Aryan than
to the Semitic man. The Semitic man had hardly ever to resist the
allurements of mythology. The names with which he invoked the Deity
did not trick him by their equivocal character. Nevertheless, these
Semitic names, too, though predicative in the beginning, became
subjective, and from being the various names of One Being, lapsed into
names of various beings. Hence arose a danger which threatened
well-nigh to bar to the Semitic race the approach to the conception
and worship of the One God.

Nowhere can we see this danger more clearly than in the history of the
Jews. The Jews had, no doubt, preserved, from the beginning the idea
of God, and their names of God contained nothing but what might by
right be ascribed to Him. They worshipped a single God, and, whenever
they fell into idolatry, they felt that they had fallen away from God.
But that God, under whatever name they invoked Him, was especially
their God, their own national God, and His existence did not exclude
the existence of other gods or demons. Of the ancestors of Abraham and
Nachor, even of their father Terah, we know that in old time, when
they dwelt on the other side of the flood, they served other gods
(Joshua xxiv. 2). At the time of Joshua these gods were not yet
forgotten, and instead of denying their existence altogether, Joshua
only exhorts the people to put away the gods which their fathers
served on the other side of the flood and in Egypt, and to serve the
Lord: 'Choose ye this day,' he says, 'whom you will serve; whether the
gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the
flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as
for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'

Such a speech, exhorting the people to make their choice between
various gods, would have been unmeaning if addressed to a nation which
had once conceived the unity of the Godhead. Even images of the gods
were not unknown to the family of Abraham, for, though we know nothing
of the exact form of the teraphim, or images which Rachel stole from
her father, certain it is that Laban calls them his gods (Genesis
xxxi. 19, 30). But what is much more significant than these traces of
polytheism and idolatry is the hesitating tone in which some of the
early patriarchs speak of their God. When Jacob flees before Esau into
Padan-Aram and awakes from his vision at Bethel, he does not profess
his faith in the One God, but he bargains, and says, 'If God will be
with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me
bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my
father's house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God: and this
stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all
that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee'
(Genesis xxviii. 20-22). Language of this kind evinces not only a
temporary want of faith in God, but it shows that the conception of
God had not yet acquired that complete universality which alone
deserves to be called monotheism, or belief in the One God. To him who
has seen God face to face there is no longer any escape or doubt as to
who is to be his god; God is his god, whatever befall. But this Jacob
learnt not until he had struggled and wrestled with God, and committed
himself to His care at the very time when no one else could have
saved him. In that struggle Jacob asked for the true name of God, and
he learnt from God that His name was secret (Genesis xxxii. 29). After
that, his God was no longer one of many gods. His faith was not like
the faith of Jethro (Exodus xxvii. 11), the priest of Midian, the
father-in-law of Moses, who when he heard of all that God had done for
Moses acknowledged that God (Jehovah) was greater than all gods
(Elohim). This is not yet faith in the One God. It is a faith hardly
above the faith of the people who were halting between Jehovah and
Baal, and who only when they saw what the Lord did for Elijah, fell on
their faces and said, 'The Lord He is the God.'

And yet this limited faith in Jehovah as the God of the Jews, as a God
more powerful than the gods of the heathen, as a God above all gods,
betrays itself again and again in the history of the Jews. The idea of
many gods is there, and wherever that idea exists, wherever the plural
of god is used in earnest, there is polytheism. It is not so much the
names of Zeus, Hermes, &c., which constitute the polytheism of the
Greeks; it is the plural θεοἱ, gods, which contains the
fatal spell. We do not know what M. Renan means when he says that
Jehovah with the Jews 'n'est pas le plus grand entre plusieurs dieux;
c'est le Dieu unique.' It was so with Abraham, it was so after Jacob
had been changed into Israel, it was so with Moses, Elijah, and
Jeremiah. But what is the meaning of the very first commandment, 'Thou
shalt have no other gods before me?' Could this command have been
addressed to a nation to whom the plural of God was a nonentity? It
might be answered that the plural of God was to the Jews as revolting
as it is to us, that it was revolting to their faith, if not to their
reason. But how was it that their language tolerated the plural of a
word which excludes plurality as much as the word for the centre of a
sphere? No man who had clearly perceived the unity of God, could say
with the Psalmist (lxxxvi. 8), 'Among the gods there is none like unto
Thee, O Lord, neither are there any works like unto Thy works.' Though
the same poet says, 'Thou art God alone,' he could not have compared
God with other gods, if his idea of God had really reached that
all-embracing character which it had with Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and
Jeremiah. Nor would God have been praised as the 'great king above all
gods' by a poet in whose eyes the gods of the heathen had been
recognised as what they were--mighty shadows, thrown by the mighty
works of God, and intercepting for a time the pure light of the

We thus arrive at a different conviction from that which M. Renan has
made the basis of the history of the Semitic race. We can see nothing
that would justify the admission of a monotheistic instinct, granted
to the Semitic, and withheld from the Aryan race. They both share in
the primitive intuition of God, they are both exposed to dangers in
framing names for God, and they both fall into polytheism. What is
peculiar to the Aryan race is their mythological phraseology,
superadded to their polytheism; what is peculiar to the Semitic race
is their belief in a national god--in a god chosen by his people as
his people had been chosen by him.

No doubt, M. Renan might say that we ignored his problem, and that we
have not removed the difficulties which drove him to the admission of
a monotheistic instinct. How is the fact to be explained, he might
ask, that the three great religions of the world in which the unity of
the Deity forms the key-note, are of Semitic origin, and that the
Aryan nations, wherever they have been brought to a worship of the One
God, invoke Him with names borrowed from the Semitic languages?

But let us look more closely at the facts before we venture on
theories. Mohammedanism, no doubt, is a Semitic religion, and its very
core is monotheism. But did Mohammed invent monotheism? Did he invent
even a new name of God? (Renan, p. 23.) Not at all. His object was to
destroy the idolatry of the Semitic tribes of Arabia, to dethrone the
angels, the Jin, the sons and daughters who had been assigned to
Allah, and to restore the faith of Abraham in one God. (Renan, p. 37.)

And how is it with Christianity? Did Christ come to preach a faith in
a new God? Did He or His disciples invent a new name of God? No,
Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil; and the God whom He
preached was the God of Abraham.

And who is the God of Jeremiah, of Elijah, and of Moses? We answer
again, the God of Abraham.

Thus the faith in the One living God, which seemed to require the
admission of a monotheistic instinct, grafted in every member of the
Semitic family, is traced back to one man, to him 'in whom all
families of the earth shall be blessed' (Genesis xii. 3, Acts iii. 25,
Galatians iii. 8). If from our earliest childhood we have looked upon
Abraham, the friend of God, with love and veneration; if our first
impressions of a truly god-fearing life were taken from him, who left
the land of his fathers to live a stranger in the land whither God
had called him, who always listened to the voice of God, whether it
conveyed to him the promise of a son in his old age, or the command to
sacrifice that son, his only son Isaac, his venerable figure will
assume still more majestic proportions when we see in him the
life-spring of that faith which was to unite all the nations of the
earth, and the author of that blessing which was to come on the
Gentiles through Jesus Christ.

And if we are asked how this one Abraham possessed not only the
primitive intuition of God as He had revealed Himself to all mankind,
but passed through the denial of all other gods to the knowledge of
the one God, we are content to answer that it was by a special Divine
Revelation. We do not indulge in theological phraseology, but we mean
every word to its fullest extent. The Father of Truth chooses His own
prophets, and He speaks to them in a voice stronger than the voice of
thunder. It is the same inner voice through which God speaks to all of
us. That voice may dwindle away, and become hardly audible; it may
lose its Divine accent, and sink into the language of worldly
prudence; but it may also, from time to time, assume its real nature,
with the chosen of God, and sound into their ears as a voice from
Heaven. A 'divine instinct' may sound more scientific, and less
theological; but in truth it would neither be an appropriate name for
what is a gift or grace accorded to but few, nor would it be a more
scientific, i. e. a more intelligible word than 'special revelation.'

The important point, however, is not whether the faith of Abraham
should be called a divine instinct or a revelation; what we wish here
to insist on is that that instinct, or that revelation, was special,
granted to one man, and handed down from him to Jews, Christians, and
Mohammedans, to all who believe in the God of Abraham. Nor was it
granted to Abraham entirely as a free gift. Abraham was tried and
tempted before he was trusted by God. He had to break with the faith
of his fathers; he had to deny the gods who were worshipped by his
friends and neighbours. Like all the friends of God, he had to hear
himself called an infidel and atheist, and in our own days he would
have been looked upon as a madman for attempting to slay his son. It
was through special faith that Abraham received his special
revelation, not through instinct, not through abstract meditation, not
through ecstatic visions. We want to know more of that man than we do;
but, even with the little we know of him, he stands before us as a
figure second only to one in the whole history of the world. We see
his zeal for God, but we never see him contentious. Though Melchisedek
worshipped God under a different name, invoking Him as Eliun, the Most
High, Abraham at once acknowledged in Melchisedek a worshipper and
priest of the true God, or Elohim, and paid him tithes. In the very
name of Elohim we seem to trace the conciliatory spirit of Abraham.
Elohim is a plural, though it is followed by the verb in the singular.
It is generally said that the genius of the Semitic languages
countenances the use of plurals for abstract conceptions, and that
when Jehovah is called Elohim, the plural should be translated by 'the
Deity.' We do not deny the fact, but we wish for an explanation, and
an explanation is suggested by the various phases through which, as
we saw, the conception of God passed in the ancient history of the
Semitic mind. Eloah was at first the name for God, and as it is found
in all the dialects of the Semitic family except the Phenician (Renan,
p. 61), it may probably be considered as the most ancient name of the
Deity, sanctioned at a time when the original Semitic speech had not
yet branched off into national dialects. When this name was first used
in the plural, it could only have signified, like every plural, many
Eloahs, and such a plural could only have been formed after the
various names of God had become the names of independent deities, i.
e. during a polytheistic stage. The transition from this into the
monotheistic stage could be effected in two ways--either by denying
altogether the existence of the Elohim, and changing them into devils,
as the Zoroastrians did with the Devas of their Brahmanic ancestors;
or by taking a higher view, and looking upon the Elohim as so many
names, invented with the honest purpose of expressing the various
aspects of the Deity, though in time diverted from their original
purpose. This is the view taken by St. Paul of the religion of the
Greeks when he came to declare unto them 'Him whom they ignorantly
worshipped,' and the same view was taken by Abraham. Whatever the
names of the Elohim, worshipped by the numerous clans of his race,
Abraham saw that all the Elohim were meant for God, and thus Elohim,
comprehending by one name everything that ever had been or could be
called divine, became the name with which the monotheistic age was
rightly inaugurated,--a plural, conceived and construed as a singular.
Jehovah was all the Elohim, and therefore there could be no other God.
From this point of view the Semitic name of the Deity, Elohim, which
seemed at first not only ungrammatical but irrational, becomes
perfectly clear and intelligible, and it proves better than anything
else that the true monotheism could not have risen except on the ruins
of a polytheistic faith. It is easy to scoff at the gods of the
heathen, but a cold-hearted philosophical negation of the gods of the
ancient world is more likely to lead to Deism or Atheism than to a
belief in the One living God, the Father of all mankind, 'who hath
made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of
the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply
they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from
every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as
certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His

Taking this view of the historical growth of the idea of God, many of
the difficulties which M. Renan has to overcome by most elaborate and
sometimes hair-splitting arguments, disappear at once. M. Renan, for
instance, dwells much on Semitic proper names in which the names of
the Deity occur, and he thinks that, like the Greek names Theodorus or
Theodotus, instead of Zenodotus, they prove the existence of a faith
in one God. We should say they may or may not. As Devadatta, in
Sanskrit, may mean either 'given by God,' or 'given by the gods,' so
every proper name which M. Renan quotes, whether of Jews, or Edomites,
Ishmaelites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Themanites, whether from the
Bible, or from Arab historians, from Greek authors, Greek
inscriptions, the Egyptian papyri, the Himyaritic and Sinaitic
inscriptions and ancient coins, are all open to two interpretations.
'The servant of Baal' may mean the servant of the Lord, but it may
also mean the servant of Baal, as one of many lords, or even the
servant of the Baalim or the Lords. The same applies to all other
names. 'The gift of El' may mean 'the gift of the only strong God;'
but it may likewise mean 'the gift of the El,' as one of many gods, or
even 'the gift of the Els,' in the sense of the strong gods. Nor do we
see why M. Renan should take such pains to prove that the name of
Orotal or Orotulat, mentioned by Herodotos (III. 8), may be
interpreted as the name of a supreme deity; and that Alilat, mentioned
by the same traveller, should be taken, not as the name of a goddess,
but as a feminine noun expressive of the abstract sense of the deity.
Herodotos says distinctly that Orotal was a deity like Bacchus; and
Alilat, as he translates her name by Οὐρανἱη, must have
appeared to him as a goddess, and not as the Supreme Deity. One verse
of the Koran is sufficient to show that the Semitic inhabitants of
Arabia worshipped not only gods, but goddesses also. 'What think ye of
Allat, al Uzza, and Manah, that other third goddess?'

If our view of the development of the idea of God be correct, we can
perfectly understand how, in spite of this polytheistic phraseology,
the primitive intuition of God should make itself felt from time to
time, long before Mohammed restored the belief of Abraham in one God.
The old Arabic prayer mentioned by Abulfarag may be perfectly genuine:
'I dedicate myself to thy service, O God! Thou hast no companion,
except thy companion, of whom thou art absolute master, and of
whatever is his.' The verse pointed out to M. Renan by M. Caussin de
Perceval from the Moallaka of Zoheyr, was certainly anterior to
Mohammed: 'Try not to hide your secret feelings from the sight of
Allah; Allah knows all that is hidden.' But these quotations serve no
more to establish the universality of the monotheistic instinct in the
Semitic race than similar quotations from the Veda would prove the
existence of a conscious monotheism among the ancestors of the Aryan
race. There too we read, 'Agni knows what is secret among mortals'
(Rig-veda VIII. 39, 6): and again, 'He, the upholder of order,
Varu_n_a, sits down among his people; he, the wise, sits there to
govern. From thence perceiving all wondrous things, he sees what has
been and what will be done.'[104] But in these very hymns, better than
anywhere else, we learn that the idea of supremacy and omnipotence
ascribed to one god did by no means exclude the admission of other
gods, or names of God. All the other gods disappear from the vision of
the poet while he addresses his own God, and he only who is to fulfil
his desires stands in full light before the eyes of the worshipper as
the supreme and only God.

[Footnote 104: 'History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature,' by M. M., p.

The Science of Religion is only just beginning, and we must take care
how we impede its progress by preconceived notions or too hasty
generalizations. During the last fifty years the authentic documents
of the most important religions of the world have been recovered in a
most unexpected and almost miraculous manner. We have now before us
the canonical books of Buddhism; the Zend-Avesta of Zoroaster is no
longer a sealed book; and the hymns of the Rig-veda have revealed a
state of religion anterior to the first beginnings of that mythology
which in Homer and Hesiod stands before us as a mouldering ruin. The
soil of Mesopotamia has given back the very images once worshipped by
the most powerful of the Semitic tribes, and the cuneiform
inscriptions of Babylon and Nineveh have disclosed the very prayers
addressed to Baal or Nisroch. With the discovery of these documents a
new era begins in the study of religion. We begin to see more clearly
every day what St. Paul meant in his sermon at Athens. But as the
excavator at Babylon or Nineveh, before he ventures to reconstruct the
palaces of these ancient kingdoms, sinks his shafts into the ground
slowly and circumspectly lest he should injure the walls of the
ancient palaces which he is disinterring; as he watches every
corner-stone lest he mistake their dark passages and galleries, and as
he removes with awe and trembling the dust and clay from the brittle
monuments lest he destroy their outlines, and obliterate their
inscriptions, so it behoves the student of the history of religion to
set to work carefully, lest he should miss the track, and lose himself
in an inextricable maze. The relics which he handles are more precious
than the ruins of Babylon; the problems he has to solve are more
important than the questions of ancient chronology; and the
substructions which he hopes one day to lay bare are the world-wide
foundations of the eternal kingdom of God.

We look forward with the highest expectations to the completion of M.
Renan's work, and though English readers will differ from many of the
author's views, and feel offended now and then at his blunt and
unguarded language, we doubt not that they will find his volumes both
instructive and suggestive. They are written in that clear and
brilliant style which has secured to M. Renan the rank of one of the
best writers of French, and which throws its charm even over the dry
and abstruse inquiries into the grammatical forms and radical elements
of the Semitic languages.

_April, 1860._

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