Lecture 3. Summary of the Results of Physical Religion.
Outcome of Physical Religion.
BEFORE we proceed to an analysis of what is meant by Anthropological Religion, it will be useful to look back to see what has been the outcome of our last course of lectures. To put it as briefly as possible, it was this, that man, as soon as he began to observe, to name, and to know the movements and changes in the world around him, suspected that there was something behind what he saw, that there must be an agent for every action, a mover for every movement. Instead of saying and thinking, as we do at present, the rain, the thunder, the moon, he said, the rainer, the thunderer, the measurer. Instead of saying and thinking, as we do at present, It rains, It thunders, he said, He rains, He thunders, without caring as yet who that He might be.
Man could not help this. He was driven, as we saw, to speak in this way by a necessity inherent in language, that is, in thought. This necessity arose from the fact that his earliest concepts consisted in the consciousness of his own repeated acts, and that the only elements of conceptual speech which were at his disposal, the so-called roots, were all, or nearly all, expressive of his own actions. If this is true, and I do not know of any one who has seriously controverted it, it is clear that man in speaking of a rainer, a thunderer, a measurer, was unconsciously, or at least unintentionally, speaking and thinking in what Kant would call the category of causality. The rainer was not only a name for the rain, but a name for a rainer, the agent of the rain, whoever or whatever that agent might be. This category of causality which most philosophers consider as the sine quâ non of all rational thought, and as an indefeasible necessity of our understanding, thus manifests itself in the historical growth of the human mind as the sine quâ non of all rational speech, as an indefeasible necessity of our very language,
This is an unexpected coincidence, and therefore, if properly understood, all the more valuable and significant.
Origin of the Concept of Cause.
What is meant by philosophers when they speak of the category of causality as a form, and as a necessary form of pure reason, is simply thisthat, whether we like it or not, we cannot help conceiving whatever we conceive, except as cause and effect. Our reason knows of nothing, and tolerates nothing that is not either cause or effect. We may not always dwell on this side of our experience, when we speak of rain or thunder, of sunshine or storm. But we always imply that every link in our experience is determined by a preceding link, and will in turn determine a succeding link. There is nothing in the world without a cause, this is the fundamental article of all philosophical faith. Whether that faith is, as some philosophers maintain, the result of experience, is quite another question. I hold, of course, with Kant, that no experience could ever give to this article of philosophic faith the character of universality and necessity which it possesses, and without which it would cease to be what it is. Nay, I go further, and maintain that, if ever we were to find ourselves in a world not held together by causality, a mere chaos, we should still retain our belief in causality. The very name of chaos would prove our ingrained faith in causality, for it is a negation of causality, and we could not deny causality without first having conceived it.
But that is not the question at present. Our question is, how the human mind became possessed for the first time of that ineradicable faith in universal causality.
No one would venture to say that the human mind, though always under the sway of causality, was from the first conscious of it in its abstract form, as a law of thought. Historically and linguistically, what we now call cause, was first considered and named as an agent, nay as something like a human agent.
When I have used the argument that we are so made that whenever we see a movement, we require a mover, whenever we observe an action, we require an agent, I have been asked what I meant by we are so made. Other philosophers, from Plato to Kant, have answered that question, each in his own, and yet all in the same way, so that I thought I need not repeat their arguments. I preferred to give my own argument, namely, that our language is so made that from the very first we cannot even speak of anything except as a mover, an agent, a doer. This may to some seem an illustration only. To those, however, who know the true meaning of Logos, and who have perceived once for all the inseparableness of language and thought, it is a great deal more than an illustration, and perhaps the strongest and most palpable argument in support of the inevitable character of the concept of causality that could be adduced.
But let us throw a glance at one of the earliest arguments in support of our belief in movers in every movement, and agents in every act.
Plato on the Gods.
Plato, in the Laws (p. 893), begins his induction in proof of the existence of gods, by observing that all things either move or are at rest. He then distinguishes between what is able to move other things, but not to move itself, and what is able to move itself as well as other things; and he shows how self-motion is the oldest and mightiest principle of change.
When that motion is seen in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, we should call it life, and likewise when we observe in it what he calls psyche, and what we translate by soul. He then proceeds to show that what we mean by psyche is really the same as what is able to move itselfwhat I call the agentand that soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has been, or will be, while body, or what is moved, comes second and is born to obey the soul.
The soul, according to Plato, receives the divine mind and then controls heaven and earth and the whole world.
After these preliminary remarks, Plato proceeds to apply this reasoning to the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars. Every one, he says, sees the sun, but no one sees his soul. Yet there must be a soul, whether it is within the sun or without, and this soul of the sun should be deemed a god by every man who has the least particle of sense. And the same, he says, applies to all the other heavenly bodies, and to the months, and seasons, and years, so that we perceive that all things are full of gods1
You see that we have only to substitute for Plato's psyche, or soul, or what is able to move itself, what we call agents, and his argument for the existence of gods becomes the same as our own for the existence of agents, and, at last, of one agent behind all the phenomena of nature. And that we may do so, that. Plato really means by psyche, soul, that which is able to move itself without being moved, he has told us himself in so many words.
What Plato called souls, what I call agents, others who speak a more poetical and legendary language have sometimes called angels. But we all mean the same thing. Thus Newman writes (Apologia, p. 28): I considered the angels as the real causes of motion, light, and life, and of those elementary principles of the physical universe, which, when offered in their developments to our senses, suggest to us the notion of cause and effect, and of what are called the laws of nature. This may sound very childish to our ears, but it was a very common mode of expression in the early ages of Christianity.
Let us now return to our own argument.
First Consciousness of our Acts.
Psychologists tell us that the first manifestation of self-consciousness in man consists, not only as a fact, but by necessity, in the consciousness of our own acts. Even of our suffering, we are told, we become conscious only when we act, or react, against it, when we resist or try to escape from it. Mere sensuous impressions may come and go, unobserved, unnamed, unrecorded, but our own acts must always be accompanied by a consciousness that they are the acts of ourselves, the acts of a self different from other selves. I do not speak of purely mechanical or involuntary acts; they would. ipso facto cease to be what can properly be called acts.
If then we can well understand how our true consciousness begins with the consciousness of our own acts, whatever the impulse of these acts may have been, it would seem to follow that our true language also, as distinct from more cries of joy or pain, should begin with signs of our own acts. And this, as we shall see, which at first was a mere postulate of the psychologist, has now received the most complete confirmation from the Science of Language.
Some philosophers try to go back even further. They observe that breathing of a certain sort is crying, and that children have no language but a cry. As the muscles of a child increase in strength, he begins to gesticulate, and his cries diminish in proportion to the increase of his gestures. His cries become also more differentiated, and they accompany certain of his acts and wishes with such regularity that a nurse can often understand the different meanings of these cries2
. All this is true, and may throw some light on certain phases in the growth of the human mind and of human language. It may show the close connection between certain acts and certain sounds, but it does not touch the real problem, the historical origin and growth of language and thought, which must be studied first of all a posteriori
, that is, by an analysis of language, such as we actually find it, not by a mere synthesis of possibilities.
Postulate of Psychology fulfilled by Language.
Now an analysis of language, and more particularly of the Aryan and Semitic languages, carried on without any preconceived psychological theories, has clearly shown that what we call roots, that is, the real elements of speech which defy further analysis, are all, with a few insignificant exceptions, expressive of the acts of man. They signify to go, to run, to strike, to push, to find, to bend, to join, to rub, to smoothe, and a number of similar acts of a more or less special character, such as would be most familiar to the members of an incipient society. Much may lie even beyond this stage when the acts of men received their simple expression. But these earlier stages concern the biologist, possibly the geologist. They do not concern the student of language and thought.
With a small number of radicals, such as we find at the end of our analysis of speech, more particularly of Aryan and Semitic speech, it was found possible to express all that was wanted in an early state of society; while looks, gestures, cries, accents would, no doubt, have helped to supply what in more developed languages is supplied by grammar.
How these radicals arose, why they had one sound and not another, we cannot tell. Not even the most careful observations of children in their cradles can help us here. What Bopp said in 1833 is quite as true to-day. We shall never know why the act of going was signified by the sound g â, the act of standing by the sound sthâ. We can only accept the fact that they were felt to be natural expressions for the acts which they signified, or that they remained out of a number of cognate sounds which might have answered the same purpose. If I call, for instance, such a root as MAR, the clamor concomitans of the act of pounding or rubbing, I do not mean to say that this was the only possible sound that could have accompanied this special act, but simply that it was one out of many that did accompany that act, and that it survived in the struggle for existence in the Aryan family of speech.
I tried to explain how with such a root as MAR man might convey a command, asking his friends to pound or strike. He might also inform them that he was himself in the act of pounding and striking. Nay, he might point to a stone with which he pounded as a pounder, and to the pounded stones as the result of his pounding, as pounded or powder.
In this way the whole world of his experience would be divided into two spheres, what we call an active and a passive sphere. The result of an act, the pounded stones, for instance, would be passive, while whatever produces such results would be active. First of all, the man himself who pounded, then also his fellow-workers would all be active. Even the instruments they used, whether of stone, or wood, or metal, would have to be named as active, as pounders, as borers, or cutters.
Naming of Objects.
It has been urged with an air of triumph that it might be quite possible with a given number of active roots to express all that is active, but that this theory would break down, when we try to account for the names of objects, such as a stone, or a tree, or a knife3
. This, no doubt, is a difficulty, but when that difficulty has been fully discussed both by Professor Noiré and by myself, it is rather hard that we should be supposed never to have thought of it. It is true that we do not quite take the same view of the psychological process that led to the naming of objects. But we do not diffe as to the facts, and those facts are there to speak for themselves.
First of all, with regard to the naming of instruments, we find that even in our modern languages we still speak of scrapers, pincers, squeezers, borers, holders, etc., all conceived originally as active, though we are hardly conscious of it now. It was the same in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. Thus vomer, a plough-share, was really he who threw up; secures, an axe, was really she who cut; ζωστήρ was a girder, before it became a mere girdle. Even such words as ἐνδυτήρ, a cloak, was at first he who helped to clothe, just as in German, ein Überzieher, an overcoat, was originally he who drew over or covered. All this may seem strange to us, but it is still perfectly intelligible to popular poets. There is a famous German Volkslied, in which a soldier addresses his old cloak, and says:
Thou art thirty years old
And hast weathered many a storm
Thou hast guarded me, like a brother,
And when the cannon, thundered,
We two have never trembled.
In all these words, the masculine came first, then the feminine, and lastly the neuter.
But how were mere objects named, it is asked. Noiré has laboured very hard to show that, at first, they too could only have been named and conceived as our acts; that a cave, for instance, could only have become objective to us as our subjective act, viz. as our excavating. This may sound very unlikely, but here also language has still preserved a few faint vestiges of its former ways. Even now, how do people in a primitive state of society call a newly-opened mine? Our diggings, they say. The French maison, house, meant originally a remaining, Lat. mansio, a mansion. The venison which we eat was called venatio, our chase, our sport, and all such words as oration, invention, pension, picture, were names of acts, before they became the names of objects. After a time, no doubt, the human mind accustomed itself to look upon the actions as independent of the agents, the cutter became a ship, the cutting a slice, the writing a book. But the chain from the active root to the passive nouns was never broken, and every link is there to attest the continuous progress of human language and human thought.
The Agents in Nature.
If then we ask ourselves how, with such materials at their disposal as have been discovered by students in the lowest stratum of human speech, the ancient dwellers on earth could think and speak, of the great phenomena of nature, say the storm-wind, the fire, the sun, the sky, we shall see that, at first, they could name and conceive them in no other way but as active or as agents, and not yet as mere causes. What we now call the category of causality is no doubt at the bottom of all this, but historically it Manifested itself, first of all, not in a search for something like a cause, but in the assertion of something like an agent. The storm-wind, if it was to be singled out at all, if it was to be named with the materials supplied by the radical dictionary of that early period of thought, could be called in one way only, as the pounder, the striker, the smasher. And so it was as a matter of fact. From the root MAR, to smash, we found that the Âryas had formed the name Marut, the smashers, the name of what we now call the gods of the storm-wind, while to them it was no more at first than a name of the agents of the storm-wind.
We saw that the same process of naming the most prominent phenomena of nature led in the end to the creation of a complete physical pantheon. Not only trees, mountains, and rivers were named as agents, but the sea and the earth, the fire and the wind, the sky, the stars, the sun, the dawn, the moon, day and night, all were represented under different names as agents.
Transition to Human Agents.
It might be said that with all this we had only explained why every object of experience had to be named and conceived at first as an agent, and that we have not explained why it should ever have been conceived as a human agent. This is quite true. But if we consider that all roots were originally the expressions of human actions, and that they were predicated at first of human agents, it becomes perfectly intelligible how, when nothing but human agents were known as yet, other agents, having the same names as human agents, should have been conceived as something like human agents. Suppose that a strong man had been called a striker, and that he had spoken of himself as I strike, of others as thou strikest, and he strikes, was it not almost inevitable that, if the lightning was called a striker, he should likewise be spoken of as something like a man who strikes, and that people should say of that lightning striker, he strikes, and not as yet, it strikes.
Difference between Human and Super-human Agents.
No doubt a difference was soon perceived between the ordinary human strikers, and that terrible and irresistible striker, the lightning. And what would be the inevitable result of this? The striker in the lightning would by necessity be called a non-human striker, and from a non-human striker to a super-human striker the steps are small and few.
So far, I hope, all is clear, for the process is really extremely simple. Whatever in nature had to be named, could at first be named as an agent only. Why? Because the roots of language were at first expressive of agency. Having been named as agents, and no other agents being known but human agents, the agents in nature were, if not necessarily, yet very naturally, spoken of as like human agents, then as more than human agentsand, at last, as superhuman agents.
The True Meaning of Animism.
Consider now how different this is from what is generally understood by Animism and Anthropomorphism. The facts are no doubt the same, but the explanation is totally different, theoretical in the one case, historical in the other; nay, irrational in the one case, rational in the other. I cannot help calling it irrational when we are asked to believe that at any time in the history of the world a human being could have been so dull as not to be able to distinguish between inanimate and animate beings, a distinction in which even the higher animals hardly ever go wrong; or again that man was pleased to ascribe life or a soul to the sun and the moon, to trees and rivers, though he was perfectly aware that they possessed neither one nor the other. Even Mr. Herbert Spencer protests against this insult to the human intellect.
A knowledge of the nature of language explains everything, not only as possible, but as necessary. Human language, being what we found it to be, could not help itself. If it wished to name sun or moon, tree or river, it could only name them as agents, simply as agents, without ascribing as yet life or soul to them.
Here, it seems to me, we often do great injustice to the ancients, when we translate their language literally, but after all not truly, into our own. Thus Epicharmos, no mean philosopher, who lived in the fifth century B.C.
, is often quoted as having declared that the gods of the Greeks were the winds, water, the earth, the sun, fire, and the stars4
. The question is, were the winds and the water and the earth, the sun, fire, and the stars, to his mind mere things, dead material objects, or were they conceived, if not as masculine or feminine, at all events as active powers, possibly as something like what the so-called positivist philosophers would accept even now, when they speak of act and agent being one.
The transition from animate to man-like beings is much less violent, if we account for it not so much by the poetry, as by the poverty of language, which knew at first of no agents except human agents, and therefore had often to use the same word for natural agents and human agents, without thereby committing the speaker to the startling assertion that the sun and moon, the tree and river were, in the true sense of the word, anthropomorphous, or man-like. Later religious and mythological fancy, particularly when assisted by sculpture and painting, achieved this also, but that stage of thought was reached slowly and gradually, and not by the sudden impulses of what is vaguely called Animism and Anthropomorphism.
General Names of the Agents in Nature.
There was one more stop that had to be explained, namely, how these different agents, in or behind nature, came to be classed together and called by names which we, very glibly, translate by gods.
We saw how they came to be distinguished from merely human agents, as non-human and superhuman. And we also saw how from certain important features which all these superhuman agents shared in common, they were emphatically called deva, bright, vasu, brilliant, asura, breathing or living, and many other names. We saw how this word deva, meaning originally bright, was gradually divested of its purely physical meaning, and, instead of meaning brilliant agents, came to mean in the end great and good, or what we now mean by divine agents. The history of that one word deva in Sanskrit, and deus in Latin, disclosed, in fact, better than anything else, one of the most important channels of the historical evolution of the concept of deity, at least among our own Aryan ancestors.
Highest Generalisation or Monotheism.
When that concept of deva had been realised, it was at first a generic concept. It applied, not to one power, but to many. Even when the human mind tried to combine the idea of supremacy and therefore of oneness with that of deity, this was done at first by predicating supremacy of single devas or gods only, each supreme in his own domain. After this stage in which we find a number of single gods, neither coordinate nor subordinate, there follows the next in which all the single gods were combined into a kind of organic whole, one god being supreme, the others subject to him, but to him only, and standing among themselves on a certain level of equality. After these two stages, which I called Henotheism and Polytheism, follows in the end that of real Monotheism, a belief in one god, as excluding the very possibility of any other gods. We saw that this highest stage was not only reached by the most thoughtful and religious poets in Greece and Rome, but even by some of the Vedic poets in India.
These stages in the development of the idea of the godhead are not therefore merely theoretical postulates. They are historical realities which we may watch in many religions, if only we are enabled to follow their history in literary documents. Nowhere, however, can this be done more effectually than in India, where some fortunate accident has preserved to us in the Vedic hymns relics of the henotheistic stage in wonderful completeness. Only we must not imagine, as some scholars seem to do, that the whole of the Veda belongs to the worship of single gods. On the contrary, and this is what renders the Veda so valuable, we see in it all the three stages together, the henotheistic, the polytheistic, and the monotheistic, representing the different levels of religious thought that had been reached at that early time by different classes of the same society.
The Biography of Agni representative only.
But though the regular development of religious names and concepts can best be studied in ancient India, every country and every sacred literature presents us with more or less complete portions of the same intellectual evolution. Not only among Aryan and Semitic races, but among Negroes, Polynesians, and Red Indians we find a belief in and a worship of the divine representatives of the principal phenomena of nature. If the Maruts or Storm-winds rose to the rank of supreme deities in India, the same process, as we saw, raised Hurakan, our hurricane, to the supreme rank among the gods among the Quichés in America, and left Odin or Wodan as supreme in the pantheon of the Teutonic nations. I placed before you a very complete analysis of the theogonic or god-producing process by which the Fire rose from the humblest beginnings to the rank of a supreme deity in India. I meant this one analysis to be representative only, and nothing could have been more remote from my mind than to imply that all religion took its beginning from fire-worship. Over and over again I pointed out that by the side of this one, and, no doubt, very important stream of religious development, there were many other streams and rivulets, all starting from the observation of natural phenomena, and all ending with the recognition of powers beyond nature, named by the names of these phenomena, and in the end by a recognition of one Power, of one God, the creator of Heaven and Earth.
The God of the Sky.
This may seem a long road, leading to a belief in gods and in Godbut it was an inevitable road, and a road that it is even for us well to remember. The ancient philosophers never forgot it, and it would be difficult to sum up the results of Physical Religion, as treated in my last course of lectures, better than in the words of Maximus of Tyre: Let men know all that is divine, let them know it only! But whether the Greeks be roused to a remembrance of God by the art of Phidias, or the Egyptians by the worship of animals, and others by a river, and others by fire, I do not care for all these differences. Let men only know, let them only love, let them only remember the Divine5
Principles of Comparative Mythology.
Having traced this process through the fire and other elements, through storm-wind and thunder, through rivers and mountain-peaks, I thought I could have dispensed with going once more over what are, no doubt, the two most important theogonic processes of the Aryan nations, one leading to the worship of the god of the sky, the other to the worship of the god of the sun, though the two are not always kept distinct. I thought that after all that has been written on that subject, no one would call in question the fact that by the same theogonic process which we examined in full detail in the case of fire or Agni, the sun and the sky have been raised to the rank of Devas or deities in India, Greece, and Italy, and in many other countries. I could not imagine that it was possible to doubt any longer the identity of the names of Dyaus, Zeus, Jupiter, and Tŷr6
. But it seems that there is nothing that cannot be doubted, if only there is a sufficient amount of ignorance. Because etymologists have sometimes, or, if you like, have often been wrong, as astronomers have often been wrong, as chemists, geologists, and even anthropologists have often been wrong, therefore people seem to imagine that no etymology can ever be trustworthy, or, on the other hand, that any etymology is acceptable. They do not oven know why one etymology is wrong, another right. They do not know where the seat of authority lies. They have no idea that there are phonetic rules which cannot be broken with impunity. So long as we recognise these phonetic rules, we may discuss certain etymologies and try to discover whether they are right or wrong. But if these rules are ignored or their authority questioned, all discussion becomes simply useless.
Brisaya and Brisêis.
Let me give you an instance. When, many years ago, I found in the Veda the expression Brísayasya séshah, the offspring of Brisaya, and when that offspring was said to have been conquered by the gods before they brought light to many (Rv. I. 93, 4; VI. 61, 3), I thought that we might possibly have here the same name which we know in Homer as Brisêis, the offspring of Brisês, who has likewise to be conquered before victory could be brought to the Achaeans. But unfortunately I had neglected a very simple phonetic rule, that in Greek an original s between two vowels always disappears. I did not at all like to surrender my identification of Brisêis, and Brisayasya seshah, but there was no help for it. All I could say in defence was that Brisêis might possibly stand for Barseis, but even this was only an excuse; phonetically the equation was simply wrong, and had therefore to be surrendered. Here is a weapon for all scoffers.
Dyaus and Zeus.
On the other hand, ask any student of Comparative Philology what is the right form which such a word as Dyaus in Sanskrit must assume, if it occurs at all in Greek, and the unanimous answer will be Zeus. No one doubts this, as little as we can doubt that the sun, if it rises at all, will rise in the east.
No scholar ought to complain if men who are eloquent in the pulpit or amusing in the press, attack his conclusions or ridicule his facts. Only he should not be accused of want of courtesy if he does not reply when he is asked, why Jove should not be taken as a corruption of Jehovah or Jahve, or why God should not be derived from good, or from Wodan and Odin, or from the Persian khodâ, or from Sk. dyut, to shine. There are statements which it is simply impossible to discuss, such as that Baga, the Persian name for god, is derived from the Zend root vakhs, our own to wax; that the Persian Peri is found in our fairy; and lastly that Jupiter is really a contraction of ï ο̄ Piter, i.e. O Father. Would any classical scholar take notice of an antagonist who writes, We now use the vocative Jove for the nominative, because it was the form used when Jupiter was invoked, e.g. Jove=O Jupiter!
But while such outbursts may safely be ignored, what shall we say, if an author like Dr. Lippert, a man of considerable learning in his own subject, dares to write (p. 358): Whatever may be the meaning of the uncertain name of Zeus, I believe that it will more probably have to be looked for somewhere near Spirit or Lord than near the fetish-name of the sky. We must remember that the prevalent explanation of Zeus rests entirely on the by no means safe conjecture that a primitive word div means something bright, and must therefore signify the sky.
That dyaus (fem.) means the sky in Sanskrit, every dictionary will prove. That Dyaus (masc.) was an ancient god of the sky, any dictionary of the Veda will prove. That Zeus in Greek corresponds regularly to Dyaus in Sanskrit, that dyaus must be traced back to a root *dyu, and that dyu and div are interchangeable forms, any manual of Comparative Philology will prove. In spite of that, we are told that Zeus may after all be derived from ζῃν, to live, and may have, been originally a name for spirit.
I know that to many people a more etymology may seem of little importance. But what is of immense importance in all scientific discussions is the spirit of truth. To make light of a fact that has been established, to ignore intentionally an argument which we cannot refute, to throw out guesses which we know we cannot prove, nay, which we do not even attempt to prove, is simply wrong, and poisons the air in which alone true science can breathe and live. No amount of downright blundering does half the mischief which is caused by an assumption of supreme indifference as to the truth of any statement, even of an etymology. And there are etymologies on the truth of which depend the most momentous issues.
If I were asked what I consider the most important discovery which has been made during the nineteenth century with respect to the ancient history of man-kind, I should say it was this simple etymological equation: Sanskrit DYAÚSH-PITÁR7
=Greek ΖΕϒΣ ΠΑΤΕ Ρ8
= Old Norse TΥ̂R. Think what this equation implies! It implies not only that our own ancestors and the ancestors of Homer and Cicero spoke the same language as the people of Indiathis is a discovery which, however incredible it sounded at first, has long ceased to cause any surprisebut it implies and proves that they all had once the same faith, and worshipped for a time the same supreme deity under exactly the same namea name which meant HeavenFather.
This lesson cannot be taught too often, for no one who has not fully learnt, marked, and inwardly digested it, can form a true idea of the light which it sheds on the ancient history of the Aryan race. Ancient history has become as completely changed by that one discovery as astronomy was by the Copernican heresy.
And if we wish to realise to its fullest extent the unbroken continuity in the language, in the thoughts and words of the principal Aryan nations, let us look at the accents in the following list:
Ju-piter, or Jovis.
Here we see that at the time when the Greeks had become such thorough Greeks that they hardly knew of the existence of India, the people at Athens laid the accent in the oblique cases of Zeus on exactly the same syllable on which the Brâhmans laid it at Benares, with this difference only, that the Brâhmans knew the reason why, while the Athenians did not10
A scholar who ventures on the sea of ancient history, and more particularly of ancient religion and mythology, without having this short equation constantly before his eyes, is as helpless as an ancient mariner without a compass: he may weather many a storm, but he must be wrecked in the end.
But it is one thing to discover a truth, and quite another to make other people see that truth. Naturally, though perhaps unfortunately, the man who has dis-covered a truth, who sees it, knows it, and can no longer doubt it, is generally very indifferent as to whether other people can be made to see and to accept it. He knows it will conquer in the end, and he feels that he has more important work to do than to convert philological painim. Truth, he knows, is in no hurry. The Copernican theory was laughed at, it was anathematized, it was refuted by the highest authorities, but it lived on for all that; and, what is more wonderful still, it is at present accepted as gospel by millions, whereas the number of those who really understand it, and, if called upon, could defend it, might probably be counted by hundreds only.
But for all that, one cannot help feeling sorry, nay, even angry, when one sees scholars who in their own particular sphere deserve our respect and may claim considerable authority, speak of an etymology like that of Zeus and Dyaus as something that may or may not be.
It seems indeed as if his own conscience had smitten Dr. Lippert. After rejecting the only possible etymology of Zeus, and denying its connection with what he calls the sky-fetishjust imagine, if you can, what possible meaning can be conveyed by such a monstrosity as the compound sky-fetishhe seems to have remembered that, after all, sub dîvo in Latin means beneath the sky, and that if divum meant the sky, there might possibly have been some connection between divum and dius, and Dyaus and Zeus, and Jupiter. Let us see now how he quiets his qualms of conscience. Dîvus, he writes (p. 422), is a concept of the widest extension, and so is dîva. Whether this has any connection with the Greek διος-stem, does not concern us here. But no translation is so well adapted to all cases where it is used, as spirit, in the sense of soul, separated from the body. The German word Geist becomes inapplicable only because it has not, like the Latin word, both substantival and adjectival meaning. Whether the word goes back to the same root dus, from which the Slaves have derived their words for spirit, may be left to etymologists to settle. (No etymologist would for one moment even listen to this.) Certain it is from its use that of all synonyms it expresses more especially the concept of spirit, so that it can be prefixed to others as an attributive general name. Thus Divus pater means the father who continues to live as a spirit, diva mater the mother-spirit; and we also find divi famuli, and divi manes.
Latin does not distinguish in its usage between dîvus and dîus, as if both were dialectic forms of the same meaning. Particularly, and this is important, the manes are as often called dii manes as divi manes.
And again, p. 441:
The forms dîvi, dîi, and dĕi do not enable us to establish an essential difference between them. Divus pater and Diespiter (Jupiter) are so clearly synonymous that I cannot believe in any derivation of the former which would bring in the absolutely unconcerned sky. It would be extremely strange that beings dwelling on the earth or under the earth could directly or indirectly have been called divi, and in the words of Livy (i. 32), diique
terrestres vosque inferni, there would be an unaccountable contradiction.
But after Dr. Lippert has thus far tried to persuade others, if not himself, that the root div, which means something bright, could never have yielded names for the bright sky, or for the bright god of the sky, his conscience awakes once more. There is that troublesome expression sub dîvo, which means beneath the sky. And that expression, as he himself remarks, must have been in use before Cato's time. There is evidently a momentary struggle in Dr. Lippert's mind; but at last, with a supreme effort, he waves his own objection aside. There are too many witnesses against it, he says; and it probably arose at a time when Greek influence might have told on it.
If this is not mere forensic pleading, I do not know what is. If Dr. Lippert knows that sub dîvo means beneath the sky, he surely knows likewise that sub dio, sub diu, and sub Jove frigido are used in the same sense. He knows that in Greek diipétês means swollen by rain, lit. fallen from the sky, and that diosêmίa are portents in the sky. As dyaus in Sanskrit means not only sky and the god of the sky, but is used in the sense of day also, he knows that the Cretans used δία for ἡμέρα, and that dium fulgur was lightning by day which came from Jupiter. In fact, if by this time there still could be any reasonable doubt on the correctness of the common origin of Dyaus, Zeus, and Jupiter, the comparative study of languages might as well be banished from our Universities, the comparative study of mythology should be ostracised, and the comparative study of religions should take its place behind astrology and palmistry. Instead of forming the glory of the nineteenth century, these three sciences should be quoted in future, together with table-turning and spirit-rapping, as a disgrace to our generation.
Protest against Levity.
I am sorry that I should have had to use such strong language. I should gladly have remained silent, if it were a purely personal matter. I have always held that it matters very little who
is right, but that it matters very much what
is right. There are many things in every branch of scientific research which are doubtful. There are many questions in the study of ancient language, mythology, and religion which at present, and possibly for ever, must be left open questions. The exact spot, for instance, from whence the Aryan languagesI do not speak of Aryan peoplestarted, cannot be determined with any approach to certainty, unless we can gain possession of new facts. To speak on such a point, as if no difficulties existed, is unscholarly, and only shows that those who rush in are ignorant of the dangers which they ought to dread. But there are other questions that have been solved once for all, and to re-open them again and again, without a single scrap of new evidence, is simply to impede the progress of knowledge. Nothing has been produced to weaken a single link in the chain that unites the Dyaus of the Veda with the Zeus
of Homer. To say that Zeus may be derived from ζῃ̑ν
, to live, is simply to say that which is not. And thus to trifle with an etymology is to trifle not only with what is truethat is bad enoughbut with what is sacred11
. For the history of the past is a sacred thing. The knowledge that God has not left Himself without a witness in India as well as anywhere else, is a sacred thing. The evidence that the Âryas, before they separated, bad fixed on a name for god, and that a name, meaning the bright sky, is a sacred thing. In matters of such import true science has a right to say, Odi profanum vulgus et arceo
. A scholar who cannot grow indignant when he sees serious questions turned into ridicule12
by mere trifling, does not deserve the name of a scholar, and to my mind the identity of these two divine names, Dyaus and Zeus
, is with all its consequences as serious, as solemn, as sacred a matter as any article of our creed.