We have not yet wholly finished with the embryology of our subject. It is only at a certain stage of religious evolution that the idea of divinity becomes sufficiently definite and clear to serve as a focus for many attributes and qualities. And recent research has made us aware of certain phases of vague religious consciousness in which the concept of a personal divinity with a complex character has not yet emerged. These phases are marked by the coinage of such names as Animatism, Animism, ‘Sonder-Götter’. The psychic feeling or emotion which these names connote must be called religious, for its dominant note is awe, the sense of the mysterious, and it prompts to real acts of worship; but it does not carry with it any clear perception of a High God, but at most only that of a ‘divine’ force or potency, dimly conceived perhaps as half-personal or conscious, immanent in some material thing or portion of nature or some department of human activity. As typical examples we may note the cults of Hestia or ‘Holy Hearth’ in Greece, or, in the Roman record, of Rust (Robigo), Money (Pecunia), Fides (Faith), Cardo (the Hinge), the separate powers that work in rust, money, and human faith, in the hinge of the door. These latter are some of the ‘Sonder-Götter’, or as we might call them ‘Monad-deities’, that have no life or power or character beyond the sphere of the thing or the activity after which they are named. We learn about them from Varro through St. Augustine; we are not sure that the account is true, and the controversy about them does not concern us here. It concerns us more to realize that Roman religion contributes less than most others of the civilized societies to our present inquiry. For even in its higher phases, while yet uncontaminated by the Greek, it remained nebulous in its religious perceptions, without mythology or the material basis for a theology, but with an unorganized system of ‘Numina’ or shadowy and vaguely conceived potencies, like Jupiter Optimus Maximus making on the whole for righteousness but with no clear-defined character or complex of attributes. It is true that our recent great Latin scholar, Warde Fowler, has emphasized and mainly convinced us of the superiority of the old Roman religious temperament as compared with that of the average Greek, in respect of awe, reverence, shy reticence, high seriousness, and trust. And he regards it as a misfortune for the Roman soul that the Roman state was captured by Greek polytheism and so lost the opportunity of developing a higher religion on its own religious experience. This may well be true. Nevertheless, Greek polytheism was a far more developed theistic system, and as it presents us with an organized world of deities with clear-cut personalities of manifold activities and complex attributes, it contributes far more to our present inquiry. An impersonal religion, a religion based on the idea of impersonal divinity, divine Law or Power or Order, even an ‘Eternal not-ourselves that maketh for Righteousness’, may be a source of strength to some rarely endowed thinkers, but has not yet played a vital part in our religious history or appealed with any force to the popular mind. Even Buddhism, starting with an inherent depreciation of personality and personal deity, has only survived as another form of personal theism. It was a keen feeling for the realities of religion that prompted Hooker's anger against the sect that called itself ‘The Family of Love’, who in his words ‘depersonalized Christ into a quality whereof many are partakers’.1 He would agree with the great Indian teacher of the sixteenth century, Tulsī Dās, who weary of the Absolute exclaimed ‘the worship of the Impersonal laid no hold of my heart’.2
Our inquiry then only begins to be fruitful on the plane of personal deities or Qeoi,, to use the Greek) name that has given us the scientific term ‘theism’. And if we may trust the anthropologic record of modern savages as evidence of the primitive stage of our race, we must say that the power of conceiving personal deities is a very ancient achievement of the mind of man. When we study the religions in which theism was most highly developed, the Hellenic, Zarathustrian, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic, we discern that it is in these that the personality of the deity becomes most complex, articulate, and enriched with attributes, qualities, or functions. And it is enlightening to contrast with the vagueness and comparative emptiness of the concept of the Latin Jupiter the characterization of Mahomet's Allah as expressed in the ninety-nine ‘good names’ given in the qur'an by which he is to be invoked, connoting the qualities and functions of Majesty, Creativeness, Justice, Mercy and Love, Wisdom and Truth.3
Starting then with personality as a basis of the divine attributes, we discern that a personal God must also be a conscious God; and though Buddhistic philosophy4 could conceive of unconscious Gods as higher in the scale of Being than the conscious, and though philosophers may refuse consciousness to the Absolute, neither the unconscious God nor the unconscious Absolute belong to the history of real religion. Moreover, as we realize that the ideas of personality and consciousness are derived from our consciousness of ourselves, we may be convinced that all personal theism is in a sense anthropomorphic. There is a pronouncement of Goethe's in this connexion—‘Man never knows how anthropomorphic he is.’ It may be even maintained that in its highest and most transcendental effort religion can never escape from anthropomorphism. For we can only conceive of God in terms of our own human faculties, and in the light of our human emotions and our moral, intellectual, and spiritual experience. And the imputed attributes of the Highest God are the glorified reflex of the attributes of the ideal man, though in straining to reach the highest concept we transcend our limitations of time and space. It is then no rebuke to religion to describe it as anthropomorphic; but we may condemn any particular form of anthropomorphism as narrow or trite or degrading.
There are two main senses in which we may speak of the concept of God as anthropomorphic. We may mean merely that the character qualities and functions of the deity are derived from human life; and this is ultimately true of even the most ideal theology; thus we may call the concept of the Creator or the All-Father anthropomorphic, for man knew of himself as a creator with power to make things and to beget life before he could impute such powers and attributes to God.
But a religion may be anthropomorphic in another and special sense, in that it may habitually conceive of and represent its God or Gods in purely human form and find this the adequate and only natural embodiment for the divine personality. Contrasted with this mode of imagining is that which has been called ‘theriomorphic’, the tendency to embody the divinity in forms borrowed wholly or partly from the animal world. As this has been frequently observed among modern savages, it has been assumed that the evolution of religion passed through a period of pure theriomorphism on its ascent to anthropomorphism. But we have no right to assume a period of pure theriomorphism or any such law of evolution. For wherever we find theriomorphism we find it blent with a strong element of anthropomorphism: and the savage mind, just as it imputes human faculties, human speech and action, to animals, can incoherently imagine the morning star at the same time as a young boy-God and as a deer.5 We find the same theriomorphic tendency at work in the religious imagination on a high plane of culture; in the Indian religion it has produced such forms as the elephant-headed God of Wisdom; in ancient Egypt it was specially uncontrolled in the creation of bizarre and to us repulsive shapes; it can be noted also in Mesopotamian and Anatolian religious art, and there are fainter traces of it even in the Hellenic. But in all these societies the anthropomorphic imagination was nevertheless dominant; in Hellenism it is imperious and triumphant; among the others it is unstable, drawing upon the animal as well as the human world for its varying image of the divine;6 and this might be justified by the feeling that certain animal traits, such as those of the eagle, the bull, and the lion, were able to express more strongly than any human the might and power of the divinity; and we even find such a typical Hellene as Plutarch justifying the Egyptian worship of the beetle on the strange ground that the beetle, having the unique power of self-production, was a higher and profounder embodiment of the eternal and self-evolving Godhead than the human form could be.7
Now the serious study of religions and especially of religious art convinces us that the history and character of any particular faith may vary greatly, in respect both of its theology and of its emotional and intellectual appeal, according as it is predominantly anthropomorphic or theriomorphic. With our Christian and Hellenic training we cannot divest ourselves of a prejudice against the animal-God, for both Hellenism and Judaism in different degrees were anthropomorphic; and our experience probably justifies us in the belief that upon the popular mind the divine idol with the head of jackal, elephant, hippopotamus, or ape has a degrading influence. Confronted with such forms it is unlikely that the ordinary worshipper will feel love for his divinity or impute to him the attribute of love. They tend naturally to inspire fear, and to suggest magic and a monstrous mythology. Indian religion and art are rank with bizarre medley of forms, but Krishna who inspired the most ardent affection was wholly human-shaped; and in Egypt, the classic] land of magic and theriomorphism, it was Isis, the goddess generally imagined as a beautiful woman, not the dog-faced Anubis, whom we know to have been beloved.
But the influence of theriomorphism on religion has not been wholly degrading. I have pointed out elsewhere8 its tendency to evolve a mysticizing theology or theosophy; for the higher minds, as they became discontented with the crude and naïve faith in an ape-God, would be sure to allegorize and to resort to abstract conceptions to justify such a Being, as we have seen that Plutarch justifies and finds a mystic meaning in the divine beetle. The proof of this connexion between theriomorphism and mysticism could only be given by detailed study, and I cannot elaborate it now. I may be permitted to repeat merely a passage that I wrote on the subject some years ago.9 ‘The most curious testimony (of the connexion between theriomorphism and mysticism) is borne by an inscription on an Egyptian lamp, an invocation of the God Thoth: “Oh Father of Light, oh Word (Logos) that orderest day and night, come, show thyself to me. Oh! God of Gods, in thy ape-form enter.” Here the association of so mystic a concept as the Logos, the divine Reason, an emanation of God, with the form of an ape, is striking enough and suggests to us many reflections on the contrast between the Egyptian theriomorphism and the human idolatry of the Greek. The Hermes of Praxiteles was too stubborn a fact before the people's eyes to fade or to soar into the high vagueness of the Logos, too stable in his beautiful humanity to sink into the ape.’
More interesting and impressive are the products of the anthropomorphic imagination. As was said above, it has stamped itself upon the great religions of the world. That God made man in his own image was a momentous dogma of far-reaching consequence, proclaimed by Judaism, inherited thence by Christianity and Moslemism, and attributed by Clemens to the Pythagorean sect.10 The Judaic religion is therefore in one sense as anthropomorphic as the Greek, and this is true also of the popular religious imagination of to-day, which is in silent accord with Michelangelo's words, ‘Nor hath god deigned to show himself elsewhere more clearly than in human forms sublime’.11 But the Semitic religious mind was shy and reticent, not venturing to picture to itself too vividly the figure of the human-shaped God. The Greek mind was more daring and more logical, and worked out all the corollaries of the anthropomorphic dogma with astonishing boldness and to an unparalleled fullness of detail.
But it is more important to note the striking similarity rather than the differences in the working-out of this idea in the various popular religions. Its off-shoots blossomed in prehistoric times and many survive in full vigour to-day, wherever in fact a popular religion maintains itself. For it is reflected not obscurely in many of the forms, ritual, and formulae of universal worship, which reveal, however changed the interpretation may be, the immemorial concept of a finite God, with the attributes and some of the needs of glorified man.
The full history of anthropomorphism would reveal the evolution of the concept of deity, presented in the first stage as the naïve and crude concept of the earthly king, with many of the weaknesses, tyrannies, jealousies of his human counterpart, demanding nourishment, gifts and bribes, and angry and vindictive on their omission; then among the progressive communities divested more and more of all human weakness and degradation until it approaches the ideal of human personality transcending the limits of time and space; until at last in the highest speculation or vision, the idea is released from all material embodiment, and God becomes pure spirit, but a spirit still in harmony with man's. This evolution is the record of thousands of years of man's spiritual history, and has been the work of poets, philosophers, and prophets, behind whom the popular imagination has always lagged. Some part of the statement that follows may reveal how far it Jags to-day. The general reflection just formulated can only be elucidated now by a few salient examples briefly set forth.
To the cruder conception of the attributes of the finite human God belong such beliefs as that the deity needs an earthly home or habitation and delights in images of himself, needs sacrifice as food or as an honorific tribute, needs followers, slaves and ministers, and, as anthropomorphism essentially implies sex, may need male and female companionship and the entourage of family life. The lowly origins and the higher progress of religious thought are conspicuously revealed in its dealings with these beliefs. No appendage of organized religion seems so natural and universal as the sacred house that we call the Temple or the Church. But the function it fulfils and its true meaning and value in the modern civilized community, and the function and meaning of its ancient prototype the temple of pre-Christian periods, may not be the same. The church was undoubtedly the successor and supplanter of the heathen temple, which it used often without destroying. And the older temple we naturally interpret as the house of the deity, just as Bethel means ‘the House of God’. And when Jahwé was no longer content with the moving ark or chest and ‘Solomon built him a house’, ‘the place where his honour dwelleth’, the Jahvistic scribe evidently regarded this as a religious advance, and we repeat his words in our service as noting edifying facts. As in the old Judaic religion, so in other areas of higher Mediterranean culture, we find traces of a period when temples were non-existent. The discoveries of the Minoan-Mycenaean civilization have revealed to us no clear traces of public temples, but only private shrines in the king's palace, too small for a congregation. Even in the Homeric period, though temples were evidently beginning, we have reason to think that few of the Hellenic communities had built themselves large God-houses, but that many were content with an altar on a sacred plot, by a sacred tree or fount. While the temples of Egypt and Mesopotamia may be traced back to the fourth millennium or earlier, we are informed by Herodotus that the Aryan Persians raised no temples but worshipped the High God on the free hill-top; and it seems that their cousins, the Vedic Indians, possessed none in their earliest period. The first historian of our Teutonic ancestors, Tacitus, records the same of them; and marks it as a sign of their nobler imagination that ‘they do not think it consistent with the majesty of the Heavenly Beings to confine their deities within walls or to fashion them after any likeness to the human countenance’:12 meaning that they had no temples or idols but only groves and woods for sacred places. We need not discredit Tacitus because our later forefathers both in Scandinavia and other parts of the Teutonic world had become temple-builders and, on a moderate scale, idolaters before the advent of Christianity. The records reveal a certain important truth about the early period of some of the Aryan and some of the Mediterranean communities. We must then consider whether, on the view that the idea of a God who needs a house is a product of a crude anthropomorphism clashing with the higher concept of divine omnipresence, the rise of temple-building in these communities was in some ways due to a degeneracy, a shrinkage in imagination. On the whole this would probably be a false judgement. Certainly we may feel that the ancient Persians were nobly inspired when they preferred to worship the Sky-God in the free open air under the blue sky. Perhaps they had been inspired by Zarathustra, who seems to have worked among them and upon them at a much earlier period than it used to be the fashion to believe. We may be more doubtful about our own ancestors, to whom no early prophet is known to have spoken. But what prevents us explaining this new fact in the equipment of worship as a falling away from an earlier, more ideal view is that the explanation of the origin of the temple as due to the feeling that the deity needs a house does not fit all the facts. Another effective cause was the same crude and primitive feeling, discernible among all the peoples above mentioned, as that which inspired the consecration of the sacred pillar, the sacred tree, and the altar. The early religious mind could not grasp the idea of the omnipresence of God, and needed special assurance that the deity would be present in the particular place where prayer and sacrifice were offered. Certain localities and objects in nature, the dark grove, an impressive tree, a spring, a strangely shaped stone, seemed fraught with a mysterious quality and suggested the haunting presence of the divine. The sacred stone could be shaped into the sacred pillar, and the pillar in some areas may have given rise to the altar. By elaborate methods of consecration the pillar and the altar acquire a strong magnetic power for attracting the divinity down or up.13 And the spot where they stand becomes holy and dangerous and must be fenced round against the approach of the profane or the unprepared; also, the temenos or ‘holy close’ that thus arises serves to preserve the worshipper from evil influences. The same feeling would prompt the construction of a hut or chapel to contain and safeguard the sacred object, and this could be amplified into the temple. Or the God's house—the ‘naos’ as the Greeks called it—might be erected behind the altar, to serve as a worthy shelter for the divinity and as an additional means of attracting him or her to the place of worship. All this is only the logical working out of the same idea of the finite and limited character and operative power of the Godhead. At this religious stage, how crude the anthropomorphism, combined with a high civilization, might be is revealed by certain Babylonian texts which express the belief that the deity's power was bound up with the particular temple and was reduced to impotence if that temple was destroyed;14 a narrowness of view of which there is no trace in Hellenic, Judaic, or Islamic religion.
But utterances of protest were sure to arise from the higher religious thinkers, who attained the conception of an infinite omnipresent God, against the naïve belief that tied God's power to a house or a place. We remember best the utterance in St. John's Gospel: ‘the hour cometh when ye shall neither at this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.… God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ Somewhat akin to this is the phrase of late Pythagorean philosophy: ‘God has no more fitting abode on earth than the pure soul’.15 It may indeed be urged that, as this higher and deeper conception of divinity was proclaimed by the apostles of Christianity, the intention of the early Christian church was in keeping with this; that it abandoned the narrow Pagan view of the temple as the house of God, and constructed its sacred edifice primarily as a gathering-place for the faithful, where private devotion might be quickened and intensified by the sympathetic emotion of the crowd. And it differed in one very important trait from the Pagan temple; unlike the latter, it included the altar within the building, this being used no longer for sacrifice but for sacramental communion.
But when Christianity became fully established, and the ancient temples were replaced by or transformed into the stately church, the old Pagan feeling came back to attach itself again to the new sacred edifice; and the Communion-table has gathered to itself the immemorial sanctity of the ancient altar as charged with the real presence. This idea has even grown more appealing in recent times among us, and is not aware of its kinship with the crude conceptions of the old world concerning a finite god.
To the same level of religious feeling belongs idolatry, a phenomenon of world-wide diffusion, for which more than one explanation can be suggested. Primitive thought could easily argue that as the earthly ruler might delight in seeing images of himself erected in his realm, so might the superhuman ruler or deity. For vanity is a deep-seated motive in man, and has frequently prompted his imagination when imputing attributes and emotions to his God. And something like this must have been in the mind of the Greeks when they called their statues ‘agalmata’, ‘things that the Gods delighted in’. Certainly a deity who was the primal source of Beauty might delight in a Greek statue; but this could hardly be said of those of most other nations. This, then, might be one motive appealing to an artistically gifted people. But primitive psychology suggests another which we may call magico-religious, the same that has been noted above, the desire to compel or attract the distant deity to visit the spot where his worshippers needed him. And the carved semblance could be regarded as a potent spell and could convince the anxious votary of the real presence, especially at that level of mind where the distinction between illusion and reality is blurred. We could prove this to be the dominant motive for the emergence of idolatry in Greece, if the theory that I tried to demonstrate long ago is now regarded as certain, that the iconic statue was evolved little by little from the sacred pillar; for this latter had long been held to be a powerful magnet for drawing divinity down and into itself, so that all that the earliest sculptor had to do was to allow certain forms of the anthropomorphic deity imprisoned within the pillar shyly to peep forth; until at last the pillar was wholly transmuted into a beautiful human shape. This theory of the origin of idolatry may have been true of other Mediterranean races that were devoted to pillar-worship, but must not be taken as universally true. The original motive for image-carving in Egypt may have been the desire to provide the deity with a material body, as the portrait-statue served that purpose for the deceased Egyptian. Thus, after Ptah, the Creator, ‘had made likenesses of their bodies to the satisfaction of their hearts’, ‘the Gods entered into their bodies of every wood and every stone and every metal’.16 But one general statement concerning idolatry may be confidently put forth, that, when the idol was established as an important adjunct of ritual, it meant much more to the early peoples and means more to many of the present day than a mere semblance of the divinity, more than an artistic expression helping the imagination to realize him more vividly. This is all that it need stand for in the minds of the more cultivated; and on this view it may be possible to reconcile to it the higher religious thought. But from ancient Greece, Rome, Asia Minor, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and Mexico, not to mention the innumerable records concerning modern and ancient savages, we have ample proof that the idol was regarded as full of the mystic essence of the deity, charged with his power and activity, and binding him to dwell among his people. Hence arose such practices as smearing the idol with blood or placing food in its hands or mouth to maintain its divine life, of clothing it with beautiful robes, washing and purifying it at intervals, chaining it to the spot to prevent it running away, carrying it about to visit the sick or the crops, flogging it, cursing it, or otherwise maltreating it when it failed to give aid, stealing it from the enemy so as to compel their deity in whom they trusted to desert them. All or some of these practices are recorded of the civilized races mentioned above, and some are being practised in Europe and India to-day.17 It is only this aspect of idolatry, not the philosophic view of it as a mere artistic semblance or symbolic expression of God's attributes, that explains the fierce hostility against it kindled in the minds of the early Judaic teachers of monotheism, a feeling inherited in its fullest intensity by Mahomet and Moslemism. We can distinguish two strains in this hostility: certain Biblical texts reveal the conviction that the idol is a magical imposture, leading the people away from the true God: ‘eyes have they and see not, ears have they and hear not’, and similar expressions are found in the Qur'an: there is also the conviction, arising from a sense of awe congenial to the highest religious consciousness, that the mystery of the unapproachable God was degraded and profaned by any representation of him in the form of man or animal.
Of the higher world-religions the only two that have remained consistently non-idolatrous are the Judaic and the Islamic. The same severity was imputed by some ancient authorities to the old Persian religion and to the inspired doctrines of Zarathustra; and modern Parsism is against the cult of images, of which we cannot wholly acquit their ancestors in spite of Herodotus' attestation. The history of Christendom in this matter has been strange and tragic. The early church upheld for a time the Judaic ideal; but the spirit of the Hellenic and Mediterranean idol-lover triumphed soon over the spirit of Moses; the resistance of the Byzantine iconoclastic emperors was futile; and the popular religion of Christendom, except within the shrinking borders of Puritan Protestantism, must to-day be called idolatrous. In this phenomenon, very obvious before our eyes, we may discern a proof that the popular mind is incapable of reaching or at least of abiding by the concept of an omnipresent infinite God; and only from the concrete image which we must call fetichistic can we gather a convincing perception of the helpful nearness of the deity. And if we must regard idolatry as deleterious to the more spiritual religion, we should recognize that in its most brilliant manifestation, namely in Greek polytheism, however it may have impeded the highest religious developments, it nevertheless bore fruit of rich value for the human soul. For it produced the most beautiful and noble religious art that the world has yet seen; an art which we must regard as a powerful and creative expression of the higher nature of the divinity, imprinting on its different forms of deity the ideas of peaceful power combined with dignity and wisdom, purity, gentleness, and at times even a radiant benevolence. It purified and elevated the popular imagination by banishing the grotesque and cruel forms of demonology, and thus while clarifying the polytheism, it undoubtedly helped to prolong its lease of life. Finally, among its fruitful religious effects, we may be allowed to reckon the prominence given to the idea in Greek and specially in Platonic philosophy that Beauty is one of the essential attributes of God. Nor were the temple-images that were the masterpieces of Greek sculpture used for any debasing magic. Even the Roman mind could be thrilled and uplifted by the spectacle of Zeus at Olympia, the world's masterpiece: it was felt ‘to have added something to the received religion’: it was felt, to use the words of Keats about the Elgin marbles, as ‘a sun, the shadow of a magnitude’.
Anthropomorphism, then, in its narrower sense, boldly worked out in art by a people of unique art-gifts, has contributed this at least to our civilization. It has also contributed through a long series of ages and in every society of man the ritual of sacrifice. To the cruder anthropomorphic imagination the sacrifice is not only a gift to placate the divinity, a bribe by which to win his favour, as the earthly ruler may be placated and bribed, but it is necessary sustenance without which the deity, like man, would perish. The Gods need the same sustenance as man, and where men were cannibals or where they had once been cannibals, human victims might be offered as a cannibalistic feast. It is not in the lowest savagery that this ghastly ritual has been found; it is most salient in the ritual of the Aztec culture in Mexico, where the idea that the sun and the other celestial beings had to be sustained by human blood prompted many of the Aztec wars, which were raids to obtain prisoners for human sacrifice. Of this grossest of all forms of the food-sacrifice, to which cruel and morbid ideas concerning the nature of the divinity inevitably attached themselves, no clear traces are to be found among the higher religions of the old world, whether Aryan, Semitic, or Mediterranean.18 But the food-theory of sacrifice, though usually in a somewhat refined or sublimated form, survived for long ages among them. In the Mesopotamian ritual ‘the gods throng like flies to the sacrifice’: the gods sniff the smoke of the sacrifice and the incense;19 and this suggested the less carnal view that it was only the immaterial essence of the burnt-offering that was conveyed by the smoke to the upper heaven.
The same crude idea of the divinity's needs governed the Hellenic and Judaic ritual whether of first-fruits or the animal-offering, though both forms contained other ideas as well which do not here concern us. Similarly, in India, in spite of the high pitch and lofty conceptions attained by many Vedic hymns, the worshipper, whether priest or layman, was capable of believing that the sun could not arise and fulfil his appointed task unless strengthened by the daily offering of soma: and this naïve belief is morbidly developed by the Indian imagination until at last the sacrifice is itself deified as a great divine power that sustains heaven and earth.
Wherever the food-theory of sacrifice was maintained or survived, or wherever offerings to the God, of whatever kind, were regarded as in some way necessary to supply his wants, the imagination was bound to the lower type of anthropomorphism, and the conception of an infinite self-sufficing Power was impeded. Therefore it marked a momentous progress in religion when protests against the theory and the practice began to arise. And protests arose independently from Greece and Judea from the sixth century onwards. Perhaps the earliest is the verse of Hosea, ‘I desired mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings’.20 The depreciation of the sacrifice and the fallacy latent in it were never more strikingly expressed than in certain passages of our Psalms: ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay thy vows unto the Most High.’21 And again: ‘Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required.’22 Among the utterances of the Greek philosophers of the sixth century we find protests against anthropomorphism in general, and among the fragments of Herakleitos scathing exclamations against the excesses of the Bacchic ritual, purifications from blood, and the folly of idolatry. The tendency of later Greek ethical thought is rather to humanize and moralize sacrifice than to preach its abolition. Thus Euripides denounces the wickedness of the Tauric immolation of the human victim and exposes the blasphemy of imputing man's evil nature to God: he also appears to have the same sentiment as Theophrastos expresses23 in regard to the blood-sacrifice, namely that it is less pleasing to a merciful God than the harmless oblations of cereals and liquids; in the same passage Theophrastos quotes an utterance of the Delphic Pythoness, conveying the same lesson as the Gospel narrative of the widow's mite, that the simple offerings of the poor are more acceptable than the pompous hekatombs of the rich.24 Finally one of the latest champions of Paganism, Iamblichus, renounces as unworthy the gift-theory of sacrifice, and justifies it only as a symbol of the friendship between God and man.25
It may be that the first strong stand against the whole ritual of sacrifice was taken by the great reforming prophet Zarathustra in the ninth century B.C.; but the evidence is not clearly stated by our recent authorities;26 it may be that his original thought on the question, giving the true ideal of sacrifice, appears in one verse of the Gathas: ‘As an offering Zarathustra brings the life of his own body, the choiceness of good thought, action, and speech, unto Mazdah;’ a thought which Moulton well compares with St. Paul's: ‘I beseech you… that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.’27
Of all the external acts of worship that which we arc considering has been by far the most momentous for its influence on religious thought and even on the economic life of man. Our moral judgement on it must be double-edged: so far as its forms were cruel and bloody and combined with magic practices, they were likely to engender dark and degrading thoughts concerning the nature and attributes of the deity: where they were refined and merciful, they assisted the higher conception of the Godhead as pure and merciful, such as that of the pure Apollo with the ‘pure’ altar at Delos, whereon no blood must be shed.28
The ritual of the gift-offering to God, either of the fruits of the earth or of the animal life, has not actually survived in Christendom as an orthodox act of worship. The destruction of the temple at Jerusalem made it impossible for the Jews, though they may still cherish hopes of reviving it if and when their Holy City is restored to them; and they still regard it as commanded them by Jahwé. And the early church, in its desire to break away from Judaism and in its abhorrence of the public ritual of Paganism, was under no temptation to maintain it; we have thus been delivered from the incubus of a ritual which has dominated mankind for thousands of years, and which, springing from a crude anthropomorphism, was always in danger of being associated with harsh or unworthy ideas concerning the attributes of God.
But, as we might expect, the feeling that inspired it has not wholly died out among us, and occasionally manifests itself among our own congregations in quaint and innocent ways: the flock may be appealed to for contributions to the poor or for some gift to the Church of furniture or vestment or decoration as if these were ‘gifts to God’. In religion, as elsewhere, what was once literal fact and literal thought, survives in our speech as metaphor; and the history of the word ‘sacrifice’, which has become a common word of our secular-moral vocabulary, is strangely interesting.
Far more momentous is the influence exercised by the pre-Christian ideas of the sacrifice on one of the fundamental dogmas of our traditional Christology, the dogma interpreting the death of Christ. To realize this, we must bear in mind that there were other types of sacrifice among the races of the ancient culture than that which has been occupying us above, and other ideas attached to them. A frequent ritual was the piacular sacrifice, the immolation of a victim whose life or whose blood an offended deity might demand or accept as a vicarious substitute for the life of a whole sinful community or one sinful member of it. Much has been written on this form, which is found in the history of all the higher religions and which has left the deepest imprint on religious thought. The working of it was deadly, for it prolonged by its fatal logic the cruelties of human sacrifice in comparatively humane societies long after the crudest and grossest form of it, the cannibalistic, had become impossible except in Mexico. There are various operative causes and therefore various possible explanations of human sacrifice: but doubtless of many of its examples the piacular is the true explanation; many Greek and some Roman legends are sufficient evidence. In normal circumstances an offended deity might be placated by an animal victim, and here the idea of expiation naturally blended with the idea of a gift; for we can expiate our offences against men by a valuable gift and according to the naïve anthropomorphic thought the bull or the ram or the pig was a valuable gift to the divinity. But when the sense of committed sin was strong, ancient thought was moral and logical enough to conceive that a just and angry God might not be satisfied with the blood of an innocent animal but might well demand a human life as sole atonement for human sin. At times the deity might be duped by a sham human sacrifice, and the fatal ritual might be maintained as a solemn mockery, which imputed a lack of intelligence combined with vindictiveness to the high power. But when some great sin had been committed or some dire peril was impending, a clear token of the wrath of God, the immolation of the actual human life might be peremptorily demanded by the priest or the people. And the more valuable and noble the life the better it could serve as a representative of the whole community and as an expiatory vicarious sacrifice for them. Therefore the King of Moab sacrificed his own son on the walls to his God, and Agamemnon his own daughter to the offended Goddess. For the societies of the ancient Mediterranean culture the evidence comes partly from prehistoric legend; but legend is often satisfying proof of ritual-fact. And well-attested record proves that the rite was practised on rare occasions and in a few cult-centres in this area even in the historic period and was not wholly extinguished until the second century of the Roman Empire, although for long ages it had become abhorrent to the higher moral sense. The morality underlying the rite and the conception of the divine nature involved in it are at the best crude and at one point savage. The leading idea is vindictive justice, working out the law still potent in our ethics and religion that death is the due punishment for sin. But where the cruel ritual is or has been habitually maintained, the popular mind is more likely to be evilly impressed with the vindictiveness than with the justice, and to become inclined to demoniacal views of the divinity.
Moreover, the idea of vicarious justice or vengeance is inherited from the savage stage of our race, when morality was tribal, communal, or corporate only, when the sense of individual responsibility had not arisen, when the sin of one affected the whole group, when the savage blood-feud was satisfied with the slaying of any member of the offending tribe although the individual slain may have been wholly innocent of the original offence. Therefore in accepting the vicarious sacrifice the deity is as undiscriminating as the savage; there need be no question of the guilt of the individual slain; only, the nobler and goodlier he is the more acceptable and expiatory he may be. Against this primitive law of vicarious vindictiveness the utterance of Ezekiel sounds as a challenge: ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die’. We have risen far above it in our secular law and ethics; but as religion with its instinctive conservatism is the stronghold of ideas extinct elsewhere, the vicarious sacrifice is still a prominent dogma in our religious theory. The origin, development, and effects of this idea in the Christology of the early, medieval, and reformed Christian Churches, have been skilfully and learnedly expounded by Dr. Rashdall in his recent Bampton Lectures.29 It belongs to our subject only because it concerns the attributes of God. And Dr. Rashdall has powerfully shown how the fundamental assumptions involved in it and the various corollaries drawn from it, for instance the grotesque and blasphemous thesis, that the Devil in bringing about the death of Christ, was cleverly tricked by God, have debased the orthodox and popular imagination of the divine character.
It is not merely through the utterances and authority of St. Paul, Irenaeus, and Augustine that such an idea, properly belonging to primitive anthropomorphism, has been able to survive and fructify in our higher theology: we must attribute much to the mentality of the early and later converts won to Christianity from the Pagan world, whose minds were full of the preconceptions deposited by the immemorial religious tradition of centuries. Among the most vigorous and vital of these was the value of piacular sacrifice, of the possibility of the transference of the sins of the community into the scapegoat or ‘the pharmakos, the efficacy of purification by blood’. They were ideas connected with a ritual repugnant to our modern sense and with the morality and religious imagination of the prehistoric tribe; yet they are all reflected in the teaching that came to be accepted as orthodox in the Church concerning the death of Christ. Various and subtle have been the attempts of theologians to spiritualize, humanize, and justify these ideas or to recommend them by what is called ‘re-interpretation’. Some such attempts have even made them the more inhuman, and have given us a characterization of God the most appalling that the human imagination has conceived; and none of them has succeeded in bridging the gulf that separates them from the higher conception of divinity satisfying the developed modern conscience.
Another product of anthropomorphism that has deeply influenced the history of religion is the attribution to the deity of the distinctions of sex. This was obviously inevitable in our lower phases; nor is it easy to see how advanced religious thought could avoid it, wherever the divinity was felt as an individual person; for all the words in every language denoting persons naturally imply sex and sex-distinctions. The modern religious man, who may not scrutinize his own imagination, and who would probably assent to the great Joannine formula that ‘God is a spirit’, habitually speaks of him, and the liturgical invocations and phrases in all our churches habitually present him as male. Also the highest and most operative of his attributes are attached to the idea of God the Father, and the concepts of fatherhood and sonship have inspired much of the theology of our race; nor dare we yet say that for the popular mind of to-day these terms are merely symbols or metaphors. They were reflected long ago upon the skies from the human family. The Aryan peoples were familiar with the Father-God at an early period of their history, and all of them, except the Romans, constructed their Pantheon on the type of the human family and mainly on the monogamic type. The Jewish imagination was singular in this respect: the personality of Jahwé is pre-eminently masculine, of robust virility, a strong patriarchal lord of the world: yet he holds himself sternly aloof from sex-life, though he is no ascetic and does not disapprove of it in men. Mahomet and Moslemism inherited this austere Judaic concept of God and have maintained it most tenaciously: in many striking passages of the Qu'ran, the prophet gives utterance to his abhorrence of the belief that God could have a son. In fact, Judaism and Islam are the only world-religions that have been able to keep out the goddess; and therefore they are the only religions that have been able to maintain themselves as pure monotheisms.
But ordinarily the anthropomorphic imagination, when free from sacerdotal or prophetic inhibition was sure to bring in the goddess, as partner or companion of the male god. The phenomenon is world-wide. There were many sources supplying ancient religion that made her inevitable. There was the tendency to construct the divine world on the lines of human society. There was also the observation of many facts and phenomena in the natural world that were explained most naturally as the manifestation of an unseen female potency: hence the emergence of the Earth-Mother and the female forms that embodied the swelling growths of the forest and field. And it was not mere licentiousness, but an imperious call, that stimulated so many communities of the old world to embody the mysterious power of love as a Love-Goddess. In the teaching of the Indian sect known as the Sakta the whole universe was explained according to the ideas of sex: ‘the female aspect is the more fundamental and there is no neuter God.’30 It was not left for modern psychology to discover the close affinity between the sex-impulse and religion. The imagination of early man was wayward and we cannot reduce it to fixed laws: such phenomena as sun, moon, and evening star he might imagine now as male now as female; but he imagined them in terms of sex, and much of his wayward work remains with us and in us. We need not wonder then that the goddess appears in most religions and in a few has been even predominant.
It has been specially due to the researches and discoveries of Sir Arthur Evans that we have come to realize how dominant in certain areas of the old Mediterranean culture, notably in the Minoan-Mycenaean, was the cult of the Great Goddess, the source of all life in heaven, earth, and sea, imagined now as Mother now as Maid.31 We may call her by the pre-Hellenic names of Rhea, Cybele, or Britomartis (‘the Sweet Maid’). We have reason to believe that Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis of Ephesus were her emanations, made familiar to us in Hellenic legend and cult, and that the Mariolatry of Christendom has drawn nourishment from the same source.
The prominence of goddess-cult has been supposed to have a sociologic importance as affecting the social position of women. This is a controversial question which I have dealt with elsewhere.32 We are here more concerned with the influence it may have had in shaping or colouring our conceptions of the divinity.
The evidence of comparative religion, so far as it has been gathered, justifies us in the induction that the goddess-cult works against monotheism, for the goddess is sure to attach to herself a male associate, whether as spouse or young lover or son: and we know that the monotheism proclaimed by Christianity becomes unreal where Mariolatry is strong. The goddess-cult affects therefore the structure of religion. We may also discern that it gives a peculiar tone and colour to the religious imagination. It may soften the austerities of religion and suffuse it with the spirit of tenderness and sentiment that attaches to the relation of mother and son. It may foster the growth of the ideas of divine mercy and pity, the Mother-Goddess serving as an intercessor between sinful humanity and the wrathful God, just as the human mother pleads often for the child against the anger of the father. Thus, we find in the prayer of Sanherib the expression of a hope that ‘Ninlil, the consort of Ashur, the mother of the Great Gods, may daily speak a favourable word for Sanherib, the King of Assyria before Ashur’.33 It may also produce certain social results of value, as it may help to strengthen the sanctity of the mother's tie and indirectly improve the position of women in the society: a fragment of Attic comedy of the fourth century gives interesting evidence—‘for those who have true knowledge of things divine there is nothing greater than the mother; hence the first man who attained culture founded the shrine of the mother’.34 Also, if and where the goddess is worshipped as virgin and the religious imagination broods on this idea, a strong belief may be quickened in the value of purity as an essential and one of the highest attributes of divinity; whence the dangerous corollary may be drawn that the life of the sexes is intrinsically impure. It will be more convenient to consider the divine attribute of purity later when we are examining the higher moral attributes of the deity.
As regards the general influence of goddess-worship upon religious history, we must note that it has by no means always proved itself a humanizing and progressive force. In many communities the goddess, who may be an untamed procreative nature-power with little care for settled life and morality, is found to be more cruel and vindictive than the God, delighting in human sacrifices, and to have a predilection for licentious ritual. Also, of this special anthropomorphic view of the divinity it was a not unnatural consequence that the relations between the worshipper and the deity were expressed in amatory terms; and we have the right to believe that the result of this on the religious imagination has been morbid and deleterious. The marriage between the mortal and the goddess or at times the god, such as was performed in the mystery-ritual of the Great Goddess of Phrygia and in a few Hellenic cults, might be enacted reverently and decently, but cannot be regarded as helpful to the highest elevation of religious thought.35 Such austere and ideal religions as the early Zarathustrian, Judaism, and Christianity, have worked healthfully in purging the religious imagination of sex-ideas; yet they are reflected in a few mystic or symbolic phrases: it has been found possible and legitimate to speak of the personified church or the individual consecrated nun as ‘the Bride of Christ’; in Hosea36 Israel is presented as ‘the Betrothed of Jahwé’: ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever;’ and in many prophetic passages Israel is said to commit adultery, when she goes after strange gods.
It is to this naïve anthropomorphism, imputing sex-life and sex-distinctions to the personages of the divine world that must be ascribed the greater part of that which seems to us repulsive or unworthy in the ancient pre-Christian religions and in some of the present day. In ancient and modern India, in ancient Greece, Anatolia, and Egypt—we may add perhaps, from faint records, ancient Scandinavia also—it has given scope to a licentious mythology. In India, Mesopotamia, and other parts of Asia Minor, though not in Greece, it also gave the cue to what is worse, a licentious ritual. Yet this is one of the many incongruities between religious ordinance and religious thought that such ritual could coexist with the most exalted conceptions of the divine nature, as the student of Indian or Babylonian religious literature is aware. And in spite of the licentiousness of Greek mythology, we find in real Greek cult many ideas of high value and in Homer and other Greek poets much profound and noble religious utterance. For a comparative study of the attributes of Godhead it is important to bear in mind that ‘the Mediterranean old-world religions, all save the Hebraic, agreed in regarding the processes of the propagation of life as divine, at least as something not alien or abhorrent to godhead.’37
Nevertheless, this sexual anthropomorphism applied too freely and naïvely to the divine world is a fatal stumbling-block to the more ideal conception of divinity. And mystic theosophy has usually regarded such terms as ‘male’ and ‘female’ as wholly inadequate to the characterization of the divine nature. ‘The Sire, Male, Female, Neither’ is a phrase typical of the subtle evasion of Indian thought on the matter.38 It may be that Zarathustra condemned the attribution of sex-distinctions to the Godhead,39 though the later Magi were addicted to it. We have noted the singular phenomenon in Judaism and Islam of a solitary High God, most virile and robust, but severely aloof from all sex-association; and this has been one of their grounds of bitter hostility to Christianity, which in Mahomet's view was playing with the looseness of Pagan thought in daring to imagine a Son of God.
We have observed that anthropomorphism, too literally and insistently worked out, brings with it certain grossnesses of imagination, which civilized religion always endeavours to escape. The first outspoken protest in our world-literature comes from the Greek philosopher of Kolophon, Xenophanes of the sixth century.40 ‘Mortals deem that the Gods are begotten as they are and have clothes like theirs and voice and form.’ ‘If oxen or horses and lions had hands and could paint with their hands and produce works of art as men do, horses would paint the forms of the Gods like horses and oxen like oxen, and make their bodies in the image of their several kinds.’ ‘One God, the greatest among gods and men, neither in form like unto mortals nor in thought.’ ‘He sees all over, thinks all over, and hears all over.’ ‘But without toil he swayeth all things by the thought of his mind.’
This protest of an early Ionic philosopher is of more value on its negative than on its positive side; for he does not clearly indicate how he imagines God. He appears to regard him as a Power working chiefly by thought and as possessing in a superhuman degree all our faculties but none of our sense-organs whereby we exercise them.
It is interesting to observe this and similar attempts made by the human mind to escape from the strong reflection of the human self—a confused but magnanimous effort. As the human form may appear to the earnest thinker inadequate for the high Deity, the religious imagination might express the transcendence of the divine power and nature by distorting and mis-shaping our type with symbolic intention; as, to take an example from Indian idolatry, by the addition of four or six arms to the human trunk, or, from the Egyptian, by the omission of ears, whereby the truth is proclaimed that God can hear without ears. But this crude symbolism, playing tricks with our given type, has always an evil effect on the religious imagination, tending to produce bizarre and monstrous forms and thoughts.
There is another and better escape for our imagination, while it is still conditioned by the necessity of embodying its deity in some form: namely to resolve the divine body into the vaguest and most immaterial substance, such as ether or light. It may have been an original thought of Zarathustra that Porphyra preserves when he gives it as a Magian dogma that ‘the body of Ahura is like the Light and his soul like Truth’.41 The thought in the Qur'an is not far from this, expressed in the verse ‘God is the Light of the Heavens and the earth’.42 Similarly in the musings of a Greek or Latin poet we may find the Highest God identified with the ether. But such embodiment of God, or such partial identification of him with some vast and pervasive cosmic element suggests a certain mode of thought that may tense towards pantheism, of which the issues and implications may have to be considered later.
Another escape from anthropomorphism, that is more in keeping with the highest spiritual view is provided by the dogma, of which the germ lay in early animism but which is an advanced achievement of human thought, that God is a disembodied personality, pure spirit; a perception of him made familiar to us through the Joannine utterance quotes above ‘God is a Spirit; and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’. And St. Augustine evidently regarded this as the highest and truest notion, when he confesses that in his unorthodox days ‘I did not know that God was a spirit, not One who hath parts extended in length and breadth or whose being was bulk’.43 He might have learned this from thinkers of other ages and creeds. The religious terminology of early Zarathustrianism implies it; for Ahura Mazda is Spirit or Mainyu. It appears in some Greek speculation both poetical and philosophical. That God is pure mind, possibly the same mind as the mind of man, is a thought that seems to have attracted Euripides, in two of whose utterances it appears—‘the mind in each one of us is God’,44 and again, ‘O Thou that stayest the Earth and hast thy firm throne thereon, whoso'er thou art, baffling to man's conjecture, whether thou art Zeus or the Necessity of Nature, or the Mind of Man’.45 Somewhat on the same plane is the Aristotelian definition of God, both that which is imputed to him by Sextus Empiricus, ‘God is incorporeal, the bounding line of the Heavens’ (giving them limit and form)46 and the fuller and more authentic definition in the Metaphysics—‘God is an eternal living personality, having perpetual energy, but without bulk (or spatial dimensions)’.47 The curious theologic concept expressed by Plutarch48 is in harmony with this view, namely that the divine soul or ‘psyche’ which is an element of the complex personality of God is the ‘organon’ of his whole Being, that whereby He fulfils his various functions, just as the material body is man's ‘organon’.
This idea of God as pure spirit has borne practical and vitalizing fruit in religion. It has not, indeed, been of much avail in diminishing ritual and ceremony or in restraining the tendency to erect shrines, as the speaker of the Joannine phrase and as Origen may perhaps have hoped.49 But it has undoubtedly quickened the feeling that man's relation to God is mainly a spiritual relation, and the deity's action upon man is mainly action upon his soul. Hence religion could become more inward and—as we say—more spiritual. This is the trend of its development in the prophetic and post-exilic periods of Israel, when we hear less about cornfields and vineyards and more about the heart and the soul. We mark the same trend when we trace out Indian religious thought from the Vedic period to the medieval and modern. We find it marked also in the Hellenic. That, God being spirit, all man's spiritual life, all his mental activity is an inspiration or influx from a divine source, is a natural, though not an inevitable, deduction which mature reflection may draw. It is strange to find it in so early a poem as the Odyssey already uttered in clear and impressive phrase—‘The mind (or the thoughts) of mortal men is even such as the Father of Gods and men brings to him from day to day’.50 It was long, however, before any thinker proved himself aware of the perplexing consequences that such a view might involve; for it contains the potentiality of such a dogma as that God is the source of our evil thoughts as of our good, a dogma repellent to Zarathustrian and Hellenic ethical-religious thought, but accepted by the later speculation of Jewish Rabbis. And it may be from Judaic sources that the prophet of Islam drew the conviction that ‘it is not easy for any person to believe save by the permission of God’51 and that ‘God leads astray whom he pleases and guides whom he pleases’.52 This idea crystallizes and hardens in Calvinism, where all the difficulties connected with predestination and free will are brought to a head.
Again, in proportion as the aspect of God as pure spirit, working upon the world of spirits by unseen spiritual agency, becomes dominant, the belief is sure to arise that He knows all the secrets of the heart of man and that sins of thought are equally grievous in his judgement as sins of action: hence human ethics may come to depend rather on inward than on outward standards; and purity of soul rather than outward prosperity will become the main object of prayer. And from the view that God is spirit and that ‘like is known by like’, the idea may naturally arise that, not by ritual or magic, but only by the power of the human spirit or soul does man enter into communion with God: a kindred and equally momentous consequence may be drawn that only in his own soul can man find final and satisfying proof of the reality of God.
The utterance of these ideas is broadcast among the higher nations. We have already noted one or two examples in Greek thought and literature: ‘the soul of each one of us is God’: ‘the soul is the dwelling-place of divine spirit’: ‘God has no more fitting abode on earth than the pure soul.’ We are reminded of the enigmatic Gospel-phrase, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’; and of the medieval injunction in te quaere. The Chinese philosopher Shas Yung (A.D. 1011) has expressed the idea in a verse that enriches our religious poetry:
The heavens are still: no sound:
Where then shall God be found?
Search not in distant skies—
In man's own heart he lies.53
The subject here adumbrated is too vast for us to pursue, and has only concerned us at this point, because in considering anthropomorphism and its various manifestations and implications it was relevant to consider the ways whereby certain higher religious thought has endeavoured to escape from its felt incongruities. And to deny that God has any substance like to our human, and to deny that he has any substance at all save pure spirit, appealed to many as a higher solution. Yet this mode of escape is by no means sure even for those who can tread firmly in the cloudland of abstractions. In imagining the deity as a purely spiritual power or personality, we may avoid the grosser, more material, anthropomorphism of the old world; but our conception of him may still be, as it is called, anthropopathic: we may clothe it with attributes of our own intellectual and emotional life, and may attribute to the High Spirit the potentialities of wrath, pity, love, and even suffering.54 In that case, in fashioning our divine ideal we have discarded the human body but have reflected upon it the human soul. In fact no one has ever been able to imagine a divine personal power that in its nature, attributes, and activity was wholly non-human; also, we find that the farther the ideal recedes from the human sphere the less is its value for real and practical religion.
By its votaries the high-pitched theory of God as pure spirit is probably unattainable; at least this would be no adequate account of the popular cognition of him in the great world-religions. It is needless to repeat that the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, India, Anatolia, Egypt, and Greece, strongly embodied their deities in form and shape drawn from the material world: the shape might shift and change, might be blent of human or bestial traits: but the deities that dominated their imagination were concrete and complex individuals with transcendent souls and bodies. This is equally true as an account of the Hebrew god of the earlier as of the more developed period. There is real truth and no mockery in the vivid appreciation of him in one of Heine's strongest poems, noted by Matthew Arnold, in which a Jew justifies his faith against a Christian—‘Our God is not Love… Our God, he is alive and in his hall of heaven he goes on existing away throughout all the eternities. Our God is a God in robust health, not pale and thin as sacrificial wafers.… Our God is strong. In his hand he upholds sun, moon, and stars: thrones break, nations reel to and fro, when he knits his forehead.’ On the whole this vivid account of the tremendous personality of Jahwé accords with the impression that the whole of the Old Testament makes on our imagination; and the same robust and virile personality dominates the Koran. And throughout medieval Christendom the old Judaic imagination of the severe, white-haired elder survived in at least the popular mind with by no means happy results for religious feeling and theology.
Therefore the Joannine dictum has been an esoteric dogma, available only for élite minds. The Stoic view of God as possessing substance55 was nearer to the popular perception than the Platonic or Aristotelian. And the Roman pontifex Scaevola showed a true judgement of the popular psychology when with the practical aims of a conservative he blamed Greek and Roman philosophy for proclaiming that ‘the semblances of deity fashioned by the different states are false, that the true God has no sex or age and no definite corporeal members’.56
So strong and so inevitable has been the influence of anthropomorphism on the human mind: nor can we imagine a vital religion that could wholly escape from it. It may appear that Buddhism in its purest forms succeeded, but only in so far as it dispensed altogether with a personal god. And a religion without a personal god has not yet been found to be a living and enduring force.
Works (ed. Keble), vol. 1, p. 148.
MacNicol, Indian Theism, p. 116.
Qur'an (transl. by Palmer), Pt. 1, pp. lxvii—lxviii.
Vide Keith, Buddhist Philosophy, p. 213.
Preuss, Arch. Bel. Wiss. 1908, p. 375.
Vide my Greece and Babylon, ch. iv.
De Isid. et Osir. p. 382.
Greece and Babylon, pp. 14–16.
Op. cit. p. 15.
Strom. 5, p. 662 P.
Sonnet LVI (Symonds's translation).
Germania c. 9.
Note the God drawn down to his sacred pillar on the Mycenean gem, published by Sir Arthur Evans in Journ. Hellenic Studies, 1901, p. 170.
Vide Greece and Babylon, p. 173.
Hierocl. Gomm. Carm. Aur. ad fin.
Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 46.
Note the account of the idolatry in the Çaiva faith of Southern India given by Pope, The Tiruvāçagam, p. xxxv.
There is a hint of it in the legends concerning the Zeus Lukaios ritual in Arcadia; but a different interpretation of it is possible: vide my Cults, 1, pp. 41–2. Cf. Greece and Babylon, p. 239.
Greece and Babylon, p. 241.
50. 12–14; cf. 51. 16.
Eur. Frag. 904; Porphyry, De Abstin. 2. 29.
Vide my Culls, 4, p. 210.
De Mysteriis, 5. 9.
Vide Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, p. 395, n. 1.
Yasna, 33. 14 (Moulton, ib. p. 360).
Vide Cults, 4, p. 253.
On the Idea of Atonement in Christian Theology, 1919.
MacNicol, op. cit. p. 189.
We must not, however, impute either to the old Minoan or to the later Phrygian religion any clear dogma of a divine Virgin-Mother: vide Cults, 3, pp. 305–6.
Arch. f. Relig. Wiss. 1904, p. 70, ‘Sociological hypotheses concerning the position of women in ancient religion’. Cf. also Frazer, G. B. 6, pp. 202–12.
Jastrow, Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, vol. 1, p. 525.
Alexis in Stobaeus, Florilegium, 79. 13 (Meineke, 3, p. 83). Cf. Schiller, Die Braut von Messina, Act 4:
Selber die Kirche, die göttliche, stellt nicht
Schöneres dar auf dem himmlischen Thron;
Selber die Kunst nicht, die göttlich geborene,
Als die Mutter mit ihrem Sohn.
For the question of this ritual in Mesopotamia, see my Greece and Babylon, p. 265.
Greece and Babylon, p. 282.
Pope, Tamil Texts, p. 57 (in the Hymn of Tiru Vāçagan, v. xxix).
Moulton, Early Zoroastr. p. 413, n. 3.
Diel's Fragments, 14–25; Burnett's Early Greek Philosophy, p. 119.
Vit. Pyth. 41.
Confessions, Bk. III. 7; cf. VI. 3.
Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. 1018.
~Upotup. 3. 218; pro.j Fusikou,. β, § 33.
Sept. Sap. Conv. p. 163 E.
Vide Inge, op. cit. 2, p. 195.
Od. 18. 136.
Qur'an, 10. 100.
Giles, Religion of Ancient China, p. 58.
It is curious to note how some of the leaders of the Gnostic heresy, while peopling their spiritual world with bloodless abstractions, sometimes attach to these gross sexual myths and sexual allegory: vide Legge, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity, 1, p. 178.
The Stoics' God is a noero.n sw/ma: vide Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics, p. 41. This Stoic view may have coloured Tertullian's doctrine: vide Kidd, History of the Church, 1, p. 329, quoting Tertull. Adv. Prax. c. vii: ‘Quis enim negabit Deum corpus esse, etsi Deus spiritus est.’
Aug. Be Civ. Dei, 4. 27.